Time for a European game-changing movement on infertility

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Fertility Europe – the umbrella organisation for infertility patient associations – is launching the 3rd edition of the European Fertility Week from 5-11 November 2018 to raise awareness about the issues faced by all those experiencing infertility.

Satu Rautakallio-Hokkanen is the chair of Fertility Europe and secretary of the Finnish Infertility Association Simpukka. In this interview, she talks about the European Fertility Week.

Can you tell us more about what is behind the European Fertility Week?

Infertility affects one in six couples worldwide, 25 million citizens in the European Union only. Every year, the number of people referred to infertility centres increases by 8-9%. Yet, despite there being over eight million people worldwide born thanks to in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), patients still face stigma and battle with a lack of information and barriers to access equal, fair and safe treatment and funding.

Every bit of support is needed to change this, from friends, families, employers, society and policymakers in particular. The media is one of the best tools to achieve the change. This is what the European Fertility Week is about: raise awareness of fertility and infertility and the issues faced by people with infertility, making sure the voice of those 25 million European citizens is heard. Since 2016, the year of its launch, the European Fertility Week has been taking place annually during the first full week in November. During the week of action, various events are organised by Fertility Europe and Member associations both on social media and in their respective countries.

What will the campaign’s focus be this year?

We are kicking off the 2018 edition of the European Fertility Week with the launch of Fertility Europe’s #HappyBirthday campaign, celebrating the 40th anniversary of Louise Brown, the first baby born as a result of in vitro fertilization (IVF).

How many times a year do we say, text or type the words “Happy Birthday” without much thought? For those who wish to have a child, but struggle with infertility, the phrase has a deeper meaning. We want to highlight the significance of birthdays for families who have overcome infertility and share stories of encouragement with those still hoping to become parents and those who remained childless.

We have been asking people what they know about fertility and infertility issues. Their answers, together with patients testimonials, will be at the core of our grassroots campaign to explain why we are demanding urgent action.

What can people do if they want to support Fertility Europe and the campaign?

We are encouraging everyone to follow #fertilityweek2018, join the conversation online and share their stories and birthday wishes. But raising awareness is only half of the picture, we are asking people to call on their politicians to help improve the lives of everyone who is dealing with infertility. As part of the European Fertility Week 2018, Fertility Europe is therefore launching a Call to Action asking policy-makers across the European Union to:

  • recognise the right to try to have a child as a universal right across the EU;
  • ensure equal, fair and safe access to infertility treatments;
  • provide public funding for all lines of infertility treatments;
  • engage the public sector in providing better information about fertility and infertility; and
  • implement communication campaigns to remove the stigma associated with infertility.

The Call to Action has already been endorsed by several Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from across political groups and nationalities. It is now up to national politicians to follow their example. Everyone can help to bring our effort to their attention by sharing the Call on social media.

Will the campaign also run at the national level?

While EU policy-makers have a big role to play, we know that individual countries also bear a lot of the responsibility when it comes to making sure infertility issues are addressed. This is why, in addition to mobilising our community on social media, our member associations have a lot of activities planned at the local level. Raising awareness is key to unlocking support. From a roundtable in Romania to outdoor campaigns in Croatia and Poland, from a photo exhibition in Serbia to the distribution of children and cartoon books in Spain and Croatia.

What are the next steps for Fertility Europe?

The European Fertility Week was created to bring to light the rarely talked about fertility dilemma in Europe. While these activities give voice to the many facing fertility issues, there is still a long way to go to achieve universal access to equal, fair and safe treatment. This is why we are working hard to make sure every week is a step forward in achieving safe, fair and efficient treatment for all those in need.

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Fertility Europe is a pan-European organisation affiliating 24 patients associations from 22 countries who are dedicated to raising infertility awareness through education, advocacy, communication and partnerships. In their 10 years of activity, they have worked to ensure the right to access to equal, quality, holistic care for infertility patients. For more information, please visit www.fertilityeurope.eu or contact office@fertilityeurope.eu

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