Disclaimer: This post discusses infertility.
This post is not intended to offend any group or cause. I have always supported women — with and without endometriosis — who experience infertility. (I was told that I would never have children but was able to conceive. And I’ve sat beside someone very dear to me as she suffered a heart breaking still birth at 5-months and 8 separate miscarriages.) Nor do I feel groups hosting events to spread awareness for a cause always do so to further their own agendas and turn a profit. This post is intended merely as food for thought…
An interesting press release crossed my inbox today (March 9th) via Google Alerts: “Fertility Clinic Promotes National Endometriosis Awareness Month.” Press releases for endometriosis awareness events, new drugs (or more prominently “miracle vitamin supplements”), and frequent women-seeking-advice postings on message boards hit my daily Google Alerts. Usually I skim through message board postings (by the time I get an alert the question has been capably answered — bravo women out there!). I may read about drug trials, but choose not to write about them. Seeing as many of these medications are either A) in the first round of testing or, B) sadly, only for masking a symptom, I don’t waste my time or yours with a post. Believe me, if a Google Alert popped in my in box about a medication to eradicate endometriosis, I would be interviewing its investigating team and bringing you the scoop.
This brings me to the idea of March being Endometriosis Awareness Month, though. This is the month to host an awareness event and publicize both your company and the disease. For gynecologists or specific endometriosis clinics and foundations, this month is a major time for donations and awareness. It is the easiest time to garner media coverage for your cause, as well.
But I have seen an increase in companies that indirectly deal with endometriosis promoting awareness. And it makes me wonder if they are doing so for the good of their clientele — i.e. an infertility clinic helping those who may be infertile due to endometriosis, or just hopping on the monthly cause bandwagon. Do they go all pink in October? How about red for heart disease? (Please read Chronic Healing’s post about Yellow Washing — for endometriosis awareness — and Pink Washing — for breast cancer awareness. She provides links to other sources, as well.)
And I bring this up because endometriosis is not the only disease/illness that gets a month. According to WebMD, some chemotherapy treatments, especially those used for breast cancer, can cause temporary or permanent infertility. Do we see fertility clinics going pink? And according to a University of Hawaii study, infertility may signal a risk for developing heart disease. Will clinics go red?
Again, I am not implying that Dr. Levi’s specific clinic is guilty of using endometriosis to self-market. I don’t know Dr. Levi and have never been to that clinic. I’ve never even been to Connecticut. But it is not unheard of for organizations to take advantage of chronically ill populations. Two years ago a health clinic near my home held a women’s breast cancer event. On paper it appeared very unbiased — come get a breast exam, learn about the signs of breast cancer, have some wine, etc. In reality, it was just an opportunity for the clinic to market its doctors and new mammogram equipment. There was more focus on the facility and less on the patient.
This press release, and many like it that have arrived in my Google Alert feed over the past year, triggered this post. Nothing Dr. Levi or his staff put in the press release.
According to Dr. Levi:
… women with mild to moderate endometriosis are able to conceive without assistance within three years. For the remaining women who are not able to conceive without assistance, surgical and medicinal methods may increase their opportunity to become pregnant.
I would like to note that while Dr. Levi states that women with mild to moderate endo can have children within 3 years, that is not always the case. I have interviewed and known women with Stage I and Stage II endometriosis who experience infertility. Alternatively, there have been Stage III and Stage IV women who have conceived naturally. The unpredictability of this disease makes it frustrating.
With all the awareness balls, galas and awards… all the money exchanging hands and celebrities smiling for photo ops as they talk about their history with endometriosis, seeing a doctor’s office tackle endometriosis related infertility is refreshing. I have seen the topic of infertility in endometriosis create a chasm between those who can conceive and those who cannot.
Often celebrities — with access to expensive (and sometimes secret) fertility treatments — don’t help bridge this gap, either. They make getting treated and living with endometriosis look like it’s a piece of cake. Celebrities say they were cured in one surgery, when they actually had several laparoscopies and must still seek treatment. Or they have not been officially diagnosed, yet they tell their fan base they have endometriosis anyway. And other celebrities have a laparoscopy and don’t take enough time to heal before returning to a vigorous, active work schedule.
Women look up to these media heavy weights. And when they have infertility treatment and — rightfully — either don’t divulge that information or don’t discuss how many treatments were required, other women with endometriosis may think it will only take one time to conceive a baby. No matter what the doctor says.
So, if a doctor’s office insists on hosting endometriosis awareness events to spread awareness, do you feel the focus should be on how the disease affects fertility or on the disease itself and how the clinic can manage the disease to improve fertility? Or both?
And, if you entered an event hosted at a fertility clinic and found the program geared in one of the above manners, how would you perceive it? Would you view the company as hopping on the endometriosis bandwagon or truly wanting to help its patients?