Finding Your Voice: #OHIP4ivf #onpoli Advocates for Greater Infertility Awareness

Since sharing our miscarriage story over the past couple of months, we have been touched, and a bit overwhelmed, to hear from so many families who are struggling with infertility. 1 in 6 people struggle with infertility. Almost everyone knows someone who has been struggling publicly or privately. Recently, I participated in a fundraiser with Hanlon Lain Photography to raise funds and awareness for families who struggle to conceive.

It was a chilly day in October, but the sun was bright and our hearts were full of joy as we set out to photograph women, families and children who were struggling, had triumphed and some who have given up.  My eyes were opened to the incredible financial hardships that these families undertake when fertility treatments and in vitro fertilization become their only hope at having children. The strength and determination of these women was incredible, and we shared hugs, tears, laughter and stories about where our journeys have taken us. 

The fundraiser was a full day of photographing families, couples, children, and individuals who were ether struggling with their own infertility challenges, or simply wanted to support others who were going through a difficult journey to become parents. Not for a calendar, a special promotion for the clinic or anything of the sort. We wanted to honour these families and respect where they are in their journey. Some released balloons to their angel babies, while others breathed in a moment of peace and comfort. 
With the holidays approaching, it is important to note just how difficult they are when you are struggling to conceive. A loss is a loss, whether it be an unborn baby, a parent, or the dream of becoming a parent. It weighs heavy on your heart, and during the holidays there are constant reminders of what should be there celebrating with you. 1 in 6 people struggle with infertility and infertility has been recognized as a complex health care issue by the World Health Organization. In fact, 75% of Ontarians support public funding for IVF treatments, costs of which begin (on average) at $1000 for the very first visit and range as high as $10,000 for in vitro fertilization. These families take on the financial hardship alone, often mortgaging homes, taking out loans, second jobs, and adding to their stress while trying to pay for their IVF treatments.

Quebec, Belgium and Australia have all demonstrated successful funding models for infertility treatment. In doing so, each of these countries and provinces managed to trim their health care costs by millions of dollars. They have also shown commitment to maternal and infant health care. In provinces where couples spend $10,000 and take on three jobs just to pay for the fertility treatments they need, infertile patients are more inclined to ask for multiple embryos to be transferred. That leads to higher numbers of high risk twins and triplets. Twins and triplets are a blessing, but they also carry higher lifetime health and medical needs placing a burden on already overtaxed health care systems. In Quebec the province has saved money by funding IVF and mandating single embryo transfer. The result is healthier babies born to healthier families.

At the recent local fundraiser, we were able to donate just over $2000 to Southern Ontario Fertility Technologies to be put into the compassionate care program to help couples pay for medications, treatments and health care. Not nearly enough, but something at the very least. Infertility impacts everyone; family members, couples, workplaces and support systems. The journey is difficult, emotional and financially draining. What this journey has taught me is to never give up hope, and to raise your voice. There are people struggling. There are people stressed, going into debt and in some cases families being torn apart because of their struggles with infertility. We can change that. We can stand together and raise a voice for government assisted funding for IVF treatments

Find your voice. Share your story. Conceivable Dreams is an Ontario group of infertility patients advocating greater infertility awareness and seeking public funding for IVF. To find out more about Conceivable Dreams, please visit their website.

Follow them on twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. The conversation on social media never stops. Follow the hashtags #OHIP4ivf #onpoli to join in.

Disclaimer: I am a valued member of the Conceivable Dreams blog team. I have been paid for this post. My opinion, advocacy and story are 100 % my own.