Sixteen per cent, or one in six couples in Canada experience infertility – a number that has doubled since the 1980s as per government records.
In 2007, Fertility Matters Canada launched Canadian Infertility Awareness Week – between April 22 and 28 this year – to raise awareness and hope for the many struggling with fertility issues.
Despite its prevalence, the topic of infertility is still shrouded in stigma, with feelings of shame and guilt keeping many silent.
Hoping to break the silence, authors and publishing professionals Caroline Starr, Allison McDonald and Ariel Ng Bourbonnais launched the16percent.ca — an online forum for people to share their stories and lend support.
All three founders have struggled with infertility and pregnancy loss and felt the need to create a space where people going through similar struggles could have open and honest conversations.
“People feel shame about it … and I think by opening up the conversation you remove that feeling of being alone and feeling that you have anything to be embarrassed about, because you don’t,” says Caroline.
She adds that the forum is also a way for people to open up about their problems within a supportive network and let their families know without answering invasive questions.
Along with the website the three co-founders have released a book called Through, Not Around, curating essays from 22 different contributors.
“This book gives people a bit of extra insight into what (other) people are going through. It’s also a comfort for people who are going through this and don’t want to feel alone,” says Starr.
In addition to helping those dealing with infertility issues, support from outside the community is also important, but Starr says it is often well meaning but misguided.
Watch the video below for what not to say and how to be supportive of people experiencing infertility: