June 2013 eNews
Proposed Legislation Advocates for Veterans and All Americans with Infertility
by Maureen Hanton, RN, MPA
Last month I had the privilege of working among a group of dedicated volunteers when I spent the day lobbying lawmakers to recognize infertility as a disease and support legislation that would help more people obtain treatment. The day was organized by RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. In particular, the emphasis was on two pieces of legislation: The Family Act (S881/ HR 1851) and the Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act (S131 / HR958).
The Family Act creates a tax credit for middle-class individuals diagnosed with infertility. This is similar to the Adoption Tax Credit, but with a 50% cost share. This means that a woman who spends $10,000 on IVF treatment would be able to get $5,000 of that money back in tax relief. (There is an income cap that begins to phase in starting at $189,000).
The Women Veterans and Other Health Care Improvement Act simply states that IVF would be added as a covered benefit for post-9-11 service members injured in the line of duty and, as a result of their injuries, would require the use IVF to have a child. The servicemen and women who have sacrificed so much have a simple yet profound expectation: They wish to resume their lives when they return home. For many this expectation means having a family. If passed, the bill would mean that these brave men and women would not have to forfeit their hope of having a family because of injuries sustained on duty.
One can’t help but be in awe while walking the halls of the Senate and House office buildings. It is exciting and fascinating to see the inner-workings of government up close and personally. However, the day wasn’t about politicians nearly as much as it was about passionate supporters of the cause of infertility awareness. I can’t begin to describe how positive and uplifting it was to spend the day around women and men who came together to share their stories and convince lawmakers to support these two bills.
Many of the women I spoke to that day had resolved their infertility, either by successful treatment, adoption or deciding to live child-free. Each and every one of their stories was humbling and inspiring. I have been an infertility nurse for over fifteen years and hearing these people talk about everything they went through brought tears to my eyes. Perhaps it was because we were lobbying for a veterans bill as part of the day’s agenda, but after hearing these brave women talk about what they went through, the only word that seemed appropriate was “warriors:” People who are going through or have gone through infertility are warriors.
The grit and determination necessary to keep fighting for a cure for infertility is awesome. People often talk about their “fertility journey,” but now I consider the experience from start to finish to be more aptly described as a “fertility battle.” In a sentiment echoed by every last one of the women I spoke to that day, there is nothing more worthy of a fight than to fight for one’s children, whether these children have been born as a result of IVF, adopted, or not-yet-conceived.
By showing up at Advocacy Day, these women and men continued to fight, this time on behalf of others. They sacrificed their time and shared their deeply personal stories with total strangers in order to increase infertility awareness and support key legislation. The goal and the hope of the day was that those who are diagnosed with infertility will have better access to the treatment that can resolve their life-altering condition. I was honored to join the cause and look forward to returning to Advocacy Day again next year.
Contact Congress today to lend your voice in support of this important legislation.
- Donor Egg IVF Seminar on Saturday June 29th in Towson, Maryland. Two patients will win $5000.00 credit towards treatment. Click here for details.
- RESOLVE’s Walk of Hope was a tremendous success in raising funds and awareness for the infertility community. Hats off to GIVF “Team EggsTreme” for ranking among the top ten fundraising teams! This money was part of the overall tally of $70,000 raised! The money will go for support of local programming, public awareness initiatives, and advocacy efforts to ensure that all family building options are available to all. The weather was perfect and hundreds turned out in support of those facing infertility. We look forward to next year’s Walk of Hope! GIVF wishes to thank our friends at RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, for their tireless work on behalf of those dealing with infertility.
- GIVF launches Fairfax EggBank nationwide. The Fairfax EggBank joins its sister company, the Fairfax Cryobank, as a trusted name in donor gametes. Click here to learn more.
Men Feel the Pain of Infertility
Interview with Phyllis Martin, LPC
Most of the talk surrounding infertility is centered on women's experiences and their perspective. What about the men? Phyllis Martin, Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), notes that men feel the same emotions with respect to infertility as their wives, but that, “it looks different.” She explains: “Sadness, grief, anger at something or someone –- he doesn’t know where to put it. It can be confusing, especially because it’s the woman who is the patient, no matter what causes the infertility.
It is the female partner who takes the injections, goes through most of the procedures and is the primary focus of most of the medical attention. One of the effects of this is that men feel helpless. They are unable to either take the burden from their partners or 'fix the problem'. "
In her practice as a counselor who specializes in treating patients who are battling infertility, Ms. Martin often makes specific recommendations to her male patients:
- Get it out physically. Swinging a golf club or a tennis racket, running or playing any sport can help release some tension.
- Distract yourself. Avoiding the pain isn’t healthy, but neither is dwelling on it. Sometimes we all need to turn to a different channel in our brains. Some occasions can make us feel left out or feeling that we're unable to truly join in the celebration. This time is difficult, but it won’t last forever. For now, it’s okay to decline an invitation to a first birthday party or Father’s Day cookout if you’re just not up for it.
- Talk to a friend. This is usually harder for men than it is for women. A trusted listener, be they a friend, sibling, or parent, can be a wonderful ally when battling infertility.
- Know that you are not alone. Infertility affects men and women deeply. Many mental health professionals have likened the emotional impact of an infertility diagnosis to that of getting a life-threatening diagnosis such as cancer. GIVF has support groups that meet regularly, led by Phyllis Martin. Many patients find that it comforts them to talk with others who are going through a similar experience. Joining a group may give you just the support you need as you go through your journey. For more information about the support groups at GIVF please visit our website.
In addition, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, has a plethora of resources designed to educate and support. One of their most impactful tools is their peer-led support groups. Click here for Resolve’s article on how to know if a support group might be right for you.
- If support groups aren’t your thing, consider independent research. Amazon and Google are awash with great information and support. A note of caution however: Any Internet search on the topic of infertility will invariably produce plenty of bad information. Keep a critical eye out for dubious products and websites. Reading other people’s personal accounts of their fertility treatments can be helpful in terms of emotional support; however someone else’s experiences should not be substituted for medical advice. Every patient is unique and most clinics will differ somewhat in their approach to treatment.
- Consider short-term counseling. Because couples have different approaches to dealing with grief, they each can end up feeling isolated, as if they are the only ones present in the crisis. The woman is more likely to want or need to talk and connect on an emotional level, whereas oftentimes the man will channel his feelings into some form of action or problem solving. This does not signify a lack of feeling; on the contrary it reflects his deeply-held emotions and his intense desire to resolve the problem and end his wife’s pain as well as his own.
Talking about infertility and taking steps to resolve the problem are both good and necessary approaches to a painful situation. Every fertility patient is dealing with a life-changing diagnosis. Feelings associated with infertility run deep and can negatively affect self-worth, spousal relationships, social interactions and financial well-being. Taking a proactive step to seek short-term counseling often addresses the need to talk as well as the need to act. Overall men and women experience the same emotions; however, not necessarily at the same time and they are not expressed in the same ways. Acknowledging these differences can help couples cope as a team.
The Genetics & IVF Institute (GIVF) regularly publishes an informative newsletter featuring the latest infertility news and developments. The newsletter is sent electronically via email. To subscribe, click here.