The Start of the Next Health Crisis
It turns out that when you get rid of vaccines, you bring back infectious diseases that otherwise wouldn’t rear their ugly heads. For instance, we’re seeing outbreaks once again of diseases such as measles or whooping cough. While the conversation around vaccines is complicated, seeing the benefits of vaccines is not: vaccines protect individual and public health by eradicating harmful diseases.
So that’s where this starts.
I was reading an article recently on the anti-vaxxer movement, and I started thinking about all the shitty advice individuals and the media dole out when it comes to fertility and whether we are witnessing the start of the next health crisis.
Because we’ve definitely moved from the Louise Brown, IVF-as-a-last-resort phase into an you-can-always-do-IVF ideology. In fact, it’s become so commonplace — this thought of getting assistance to conceive — that we now have egg freezing parties. Egg freezing parties. I mean, I’m all for egg freezing, especially if you need egg freezing because you’re not currently in a space for family building or you are engaging in a therapy that will compromise your fertility.
But when did we take our fertility out of the doctor’s office and into the cocktail bar? Or to a random woman’s living room as if our ovaries are a Tupperware container? Is the casualness we’re bringing to the discussion creating the next anti-vaxxer-like situation; where we’re going to need to live the outcome of our choices down the road?
It’s one thing for a doctor to discuss the possibility of egg freezing with a patient, knowing her situation. It’s another for a business to encourage women to freeze their eggs so they don’t feel that silly pressure to… you know… build their family.
Is all of this — the mainstreaming of IVF or egg freezing — really going to ensure that more people can become parents? I really don’t know. I think that it will help certain individuals become parents whom without egg freezing or the like would find the task impossible. But I think collectively, in terms of public health, we’ll see lives changed by this conversation. And not in a good way.
At least, that is my fear.
Did we know how those first celebrities would affect public health when they first took to Twitter or gave interviews with their anti-vaccination comments? Probably not. And I don’t think we know now how articles like this one will inform a woman’s decision to delay child-bearing. (Really? “Whether it’s a case of art imitating life or the other way around, the over-40 baby boom shows no signs of stopping. Check out which celeb mamas haven’t let their biological clocks get in the way of important family business.”) Or whether celebrities like Maria Menounos are helping or hurting when they actively promote egg freezing.
It’s complicated, and the two situations are not comparable. But I do think that we should look hard at the messages of yesterday and how they affect the reality of today. It will help us to speak carefully today in order to not negatively affect tomorrow.
There is enough infertility in this world without adding more people to the statistic by making them believe that their biological clock will keep ticking as long as they wish it to tick. Fertility has a shelf life, and we need to talk about that, even if I love the fact that Kim Kardashian can talk about doing IVF and no one bats an eye. That is a good side to the you-can-always-do-IVF ideology. Sometimes it feels wrong to kiss one cheek while slapping the other.