I take pride in working for a company that is dedicated to empowering families as they make reproductive decisions. At CooperGenomics, we are well aware that a number of the patients who speak to our genetic counselors after a carrier screen or prenatal test have struggled or are struggling with infertility.

The CooperGenomics blog exists as a resource with information about fertility treatments, genetics, and how genetics can affect your health and family planning. When we first created the blog, we made it a goal to include the stories of women and couples who have experienced infertility, in their own words. So I set out to the blogosphere to find women who were connecting with others, sharing their stories and advice. I was floored.

Infertility support groups, blogs, and forums were new and unknown to me when I began my search. I stumbled into a world of hormone injections, countless appointments, charting, and periodic pregnancy tests– a world full of so much love, hope, and often heartache.

Although I have not experienced infertility first hand, I firmly believe all of us should understand and support this community, especially because there may be couples we know who are going through it in silence. Infertility affects 1 in 8 couples in the US. Infertility can be due to any number of factors, including polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, and  male factor infertility, which accounts for about a third of infertility cases. Even though certain risk factors for infertility are understood, still, twenty percent of cases are diagnosed as “unexplained infertility”.

Women and couples struggling to conceive can turn to fertility treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF), where sperm and egg are joined in the lab. There is also the opportunity to consider donor eggs or sperm, while some families choose surrogacy or adoption. However, cost and personal desires can be a limiting factor with any of these choices.

Celebrities like Chrissy Tiegen have spoken openly about their struggle to conceive and IVF, but not without judgment from the public. This should not be the case, knowing how difficult infertility and family planning can be. The best way to end the passing of judgment and rather share words of encouragement is to deepen one’s  understanding of this topic. We can all play a part in erasing the stigma surrounding infertility and family planning.

If you don’t yet understand infertility, get informed. What is infertility? What are all the different ways you can plan for a family? How long can this take? What kinds of emotions are tied to this process?

If you do understand infertility, as a member of the infertility community, share your story and encourage others to do the same. This is not easy. Infertility and family planning are very personal. I cannot imagine it being painless to open up to family and friends, let alone strangers. But so many women are out there feeling alone in their journey. You can help them get through it and you can help others understand, too.