A few years ago, I was teaching my favorite reproduction activity to a class of middle school students. We walked through a “normal” 28 day menstrual cycle, showed ovulation happening around day 14 or 15, and talked about what might happen if sperm were present in the fallopian tubes at the same time as an egg. A student asked “So if a sperm is there and an egg is there…a pregnancy will happen?”
I took a deep breath before I answered the student with “yes, that is when a pregnancy is possible.” The key word there was ‘possible’. What would go down as unfortunate timing on my part, I was teaching a lesson about pregnancy the same day I found out that I myself was (once again) not pregnant.
It has been almost four years since I started trying to get pregnant with my husband. In that time, I have dabbled all throughout the pregnancy and infertility world: listened to podcasts, read various books, and dove deep into infertility internet spaces. Throughout it all, the most universal storyline amongst people trying to conceive is having to unpack what was originally taught to us about pregnancy.
For so many, learning about reproduction as a kid consisted of abstinence-only fueled messages that told of pregnancy as a consistent outcome of penis-in-vagina sex, something that could (and would) happen easily and often. That living with a uterus meant that you were certain to carry the capability to get pregnant and it was a certainty about your body that you could count on.
The universal theme to these stories is one of shame and grief. What else can someone feel if they are seeking pregnancy and their experience is so different from what they were told it would be?
A more inclusive and compassionate approach to teaching reproduction would strive to represent a wider variety of people’s lived experiences with pregnancy:
- Sometimes pregnancy loss happens. A miscarrage is a ‘spontaneous loss’ of a pregnancy. Here spontaneous means out of nowhere, or for no known reason. When someone miscarriages, it is not their fault, rather the pregnancy was not healthy enough to keep growing.
- People terminate pregnancies for a variety of personal or medical reasons. An abortion is the use of medication or a medical procedure to end a pregnancy. There are many reasons that lead to someone making this choice. A person might choose to have an abortion if the pregnancy is unintended, or if it is a high-risk pregnancy that is endangering their life or the life of the fetus.
- Sometimes people use assisted reproduction. Assisted reproduction is when a person uses medication or a medical procedure to get pregnant. Procedures can help with fertilization or implantation; individuals might use donor sperm or eggs; or in some cases carry the pregnancy through a surrogate.
- Not everyone can get pregnant. There are biological and medical reasons that prevent some people from being able to reproduce. Sometimes medical providers can explain why, and sometimes it is called “unexplained infertility”. People who are unable to get pregnant might use a surrogate, adopt, or decide not to become a parent.
Thank you for reading. When I chose to write this post, I wanted to hold space for all those who have experienced infertility and pregnancy loss. I hope you join me in striving for a more inclusive and compassionate approach to teaching about pregnancy and reproduction.
This microblog post was a featured post in #slowchathealth’s #microblogmonth event. You can search for all of the featured posts here. Please do follow each of the outstanding contributors on social media (including Emily Zien, the author of this post) and consider writing a microblog post of your own to be shared with the global audience of slowchathealth.com
Pair this blog post with the following:
Being an (Female) Athlete by Emily Zien