National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW)

When Is NIAW, Why We Need NIAW, and What You Can Do to Raise Awareness

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National Infertility Awareness Week is the time to talk about infertility to friends, family, and your representative in congress. Sam Edwards / Getty Images

What Is National Infertility Awareness Week?

National Infertility Awareness Week (NIAW) is a project of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. The goal of the week is to raise awareness about infertility, to encourage grassroots advocacy, and help couples with infertility cope with their disease.

The week provides a time for those with infertility to "come out" to their friends and families, if they wish. It encourages the fertility challenged to not feel ashamed.

RESOLVE typically hosts a number of activities, both online and off, for those that wish to participate. Most activities focus on advocacy and public education. Of course, there's no wrong or right way to celebrate NIAW.

When Is National Infertility Awareness Week?

In 2019, NIAW is April 21st to 29th. It is usually during the last full week of April, timed to occur slightly before Mother's Day in May.

Why Do We Need National Infertility Awareness Week?

Infertility is a frequently misunderstood condition. The media tends to focus on the extreme, like the "Octomom" or "Kate Plus Eight" stories. Also, many newspapers and magazines report poorly on infertility or present a skewed picture.

For example, feature stories often focus on the female side of infertility. But infertility isn't only a female problem, it affects men as well. In fact, almost half of all infertile couples deal with male factor infertility.

Another problem is that news reports primarily focus on age-related infertility (which makes infertility look like only a "career-woman" problem). Fertility can impact men and women of all ages.

Another common problem with how the media covers infertility is they will oversimplify causes and treatments. This is especially true when it comes to studies on stress or diet and their relation to fertility.

For example, in 2018, a study on diet and fertility found that women who ate very little fruit (one or fewer servings of fruit per month) and more fast food tended to take longer to get pregnant than women who ate fruit three or more times per day. Almost all the headlines reporting on this study implied that fast food made it harder to get pregnant—but, when you looked at what the study actually found, that "increased" time to pregnancy was just two weeks. Also, none of the women in the study experienced infertility. Another issue was the study was comparing those who ate very few healthy foods and a lot of unhealthy food to those eating a much healthier, balanced diet. The truth is, most people tend to fall in the middle, and not in the extremes.

Someone looking at the study headline and just skimming may get the impression that fast food causes infertility or serious delays in getting pregnant. Some headlines even said things like "Fast Food Increases Risk of Infertility." That's not what the study found at all.

Another example, in 2010, a study on fertility and stress led to headlines stating that "Stress Causes Infertility." While the study did find some connection between stress hormones and fertility, the study did not show that stress causes infertility. Only that stress might possibly lead to a couple more months of trying to conceive. However, the media spun the research in a way that fed into a common infertility myth.

NIAW is also needed to spread awareness of infertility to the general public. With infertility affecting 1 in 8, it's likely that everyone has at least one friend or family member living with infertility. When the general public understands infertility better, fertility challenged couples will be freer to talk about their condition, possibly experience less shame, and receive more support.

Infertility and Advocacy: Fighting for Insurance Coverage

NIAW is also needed to let lawmakers know who we are and what we need from them. It lets them know that we are voters that matter. Insurance coverage for infertility is only available in 15 out of 50 states in America.

Many lawmakers believe that including fertility treatments would raise the cost of insurance for everyone. When, in fact, paying for fertility treatments may actually save money.

When fertility treatment is not covered by insurance, couples may choose treatments that have a higher risk of triplets and other high-order multiples. IUI, for example, is cheaper than IVF, but comes with a higher risk of multiples.

Also, because IVF is expensive for couples, when insurance does not cover treatment, patients and doctors are more likely to transfer more embryos per cycle than they should. They do so in hopes of having success quickly, despite the higher risk of multiples. With single embryo transfer, many IVF patients can get pregnant with one baby at a time.

However, because it may take a few cycles to achieve success, families are often unable or unwilling to give it a try when they are paying out of pocket.

Researchers have found that in states that cover fertility treatment, the number of high-order multiples is lower.

Because high-order multiples are often born prematurely, this makes for a huge savings to insurance companies. Hospital preemie care is an extremely expensive. According to the March of Dimes, one preterm baby costs the United States, on average, $51,600. One set of twins would be just over $100,000 together. In 2005, that added to up $26.2 billion. That far exceeds what it would cost to cover fertility treatment instead.

There have been situations where laws meant to target abortion have threatened fertility treatment. Other times, laws targeted fertility treatment itself.

Just after the Octomom story broke, some lawmakers tried to pass legislation to prevent a future super high-order multiple birth from happening in their state. Unfortunately, because their understanding of infertility and fertility treatment was poor, the laws proposed threatened successful treatment for all infertile couples.

What Can You Do for National Infertility Awareness Week?

During NIAW, RESOLVE hosts a number of activities, including blogging challenges and awareness walks. Check out the RESOLVE NIAW website for more specific information.

Other things you can do to raise awareness include:

You can also try sharing any of these links on Facebook, Twitter, or via email:

Also be sure to check out these 10 things you can do to advocate for infertility any time of year.

NIAW Yearly Theme: Read, Write, and Share

As a part of National Infertility Awareness Week, RESOLVE selects a yearly theme to help drive the conversation. In 2019, the theme is #InfertilityUncovered.

Along with the yearly theme, RESOLVE hosts a yearly contest. Bloggers write on the theme, in whatever way they interpret it, and then send a link of their post to RESOLVE. The posts are online for other people to read. A selection of blog posts are chosen by RESOLVE staff, and they are posted on the website for a vote. 

The winner of the yearly contest receives the Hope Award for Best Blog and are honored in New York City during the Night of Hope Awards

Of course, you don't have to participate in the contest in order to get inspired by the yearly theme. You can just use the theme as a writing prompt and privately share with your social connections.

The yearly theme can also inspire social media posts and help you connect with others on social media during NIAW. 

Other Fertility-Related Awareness Days/Weeks/Months

NIAW isn't the only time of year for fertility and reproductive health awareness.

Here are some more dates to be aware of...

  • Cervical Health Awareness Month: January
  • Endometriosis Awareness Month: March
  • National Woman's Health Week: May 8th to 14th
  • World Infertility Awareness Month: June
  • Men's Health Month: June
  • Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Awareness Month: September
  • Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month: September
  • Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month: October
  • Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day: October 15th

A Word From Verywell

Participating in awareness events can give those struggling with a disease a sense of empowerment. Awareness days and weeks give individuals an "excuse" to talk about an issue, without needing to necessarily share the details of their particular story (if they don't want to.) Awareness weeks also allow friends and family to talk about a disease that affects their loved one. Whether you decide to participate on a private level or go more public in your National Infertility Awareness Week activities, you and others living with infertility will benefit.

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Article Sources
  • Yale University (2011, April 5). Fewer multiple births in U.S. states with insurance coverage for infertility. ScienceDaily.
  • Prematurity Costs. March of Dimes.
  • Grieger JA1,2, Grzeskowiak LE1,2, Bianco-Miotto T1,3, Jankovic-Karasoulos T1,2, Moran LJ1,4, Wilson RL1,2, Leemaqz SY1,2, Poston L5, McCowan L6, Kenny LC7, Myers J8, Walker JJ9, Norman RJ1,10, Dekker GA1,2,11, Roberts CT1,2. "Pre-pregnancy fast food and fruit intake is associated with time to pregnancy." Hum Reprod. 2018 Jun 1;33(6):1063-1070. doi: 10.1093/humrep/dey079.