Last week, actress Anne Hathaway announced on Instagram that she and her husband Adam Shulman are expecting their second child.
In the same post, “The Hustle” star also opened up about her fertility struggles, sharing that her path to getting pregnant wasn’t so simple.
“It’s not for a movie… #2. All kidding aside, for everyone going through infertility and conception hell, please know it was not a straight line to either of my pregnancies,” the 36-year-old actress wrote. “Sending you extra love.”
Hathaway is not alone. Millions of women in the U.S. have trouble either getting or staying pregnant.
Although infertility has long been a taboo subject, Hathaway’s openness about her own challenges may help others realize that infertility is a very common health issue that so many people struggle with.
“I think the most important thing to realize is that celebrities in particular, when they discuss their struggles with fertility, humanize the process. It allows people to connect on a more personal level and to normalize what they are going through,” Dr. Jason Kofinas, a reproductive endocrinologist and the director of IVF and research at Kofinas Fertility Group, told Healthline.
About 13 percent of couples will have trouble becoming pregnant, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. And health experts suspect this number is likely much higher as infertility tends to be underreported.
A third of infertility cases are attributed to the woman, another third are linked to the male partner, and the final third are due to a combination of both partners or unexplained.
Women can be infertile for a variety of reasons, like endometriosis, fibroids, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or blocked fallopian tubes. However, age is the most prognostic factor when it comes to getting pregnant.
“It is known that the quantity and quality of eggs in the ovaries declines with age, and we see some changes in the mid-30s, and more significant changes in the later-30s and after age 40,” Dr. Beth Rackow, an OB-GYN and reproductive endocrinologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, told Healthline.
“These age-related changes in egg quality and quantity make it more difficult to conceive as a woman gets older,” Rackow added.
Trying to get pregnant is an extremely intimate topic: some people may feel embarrassed or ashamed that they can’t conceive and others may feel as though they’ve failed in some way.
Consequently, many people may opt to stay quiet about their fertility issues.
“Infertility for many couples is a silent struggle. People feel alone because it is not talked about as much as it should be,” says Dr. Tara Budinetz, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist with Abington Reproductive Medicine/St. Luke’s University Health.
But experts point out that once that silence is broken, people realize they aren’t alone.
People who are in the public eye have the ability to send a powerful message to many people.
By opening up about their difficulties in getting pregnant, celebrities can help reduce the stigma around infertility and create a more supportive environment for those struggling with it.
“When a celebrity is willing to acknowledge their infertility journey, it can provide comfort and support to all of those who are facing similar infertility struggles,” says Rackow.
That said, it’s crucial to keep in mind that sometimes celebrities only share part of their story or experience — and what works for one person may be vastly different from what works for another.
For example, while someone may share that they underwent fertility treatment to conceive after the age of 45, they may not disclose that they also used an egg donor.
This may give some women false hope that they, too, can conceive when the reality is that it’s near impossible for a woman over the age of 45 to get pregnant, Rackow explained.
It’s important to recognize that you may not be getting the full story, and it’s always best to talk to a fertility specialist to understand what your options are.
All things considered, the more we read and hear about other people’s experiences with infertility, the more comfortable people will feel accepting and opening up about their own fertility issues.
When it comes to infertility, don’t wait.
“My message is simple, do not delay getting evaluated,” Kofinas said.
In many cases, there is likely an identifiable and treatable condition that can be found and solved, says Kofinas.
If you’re 35 or younger, consult a fertility specialist after a year or so of trying. If you’re 35 or older, go around six months of trying, and if you’re older than 40 — or have irregular periods or endometriosis — seek help as soon as you can.
“Have hope,” Budinetz said. “Know that there are people in your corner who want to help.”
Actress Anne Hathaway recently announced that she and her husband are expecting their second baby. She added that her path to pregnancy wasn’t so easy and she struggled with fertility just as millions of women in the U.S. do.
By opening up about infertility, celebrities like Hathaway can help reduce the stigma surrounding infertility and remind women trying to get pregnant that they aren’t alone and infertility can happen to anyone.
Originally posted on Healthline on July 29, 2019.