Chrissy Teigen’s IVF backlash

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When it comes to the uterus, people tend to have incredibly strong opinions. In fact, many of the people with strong beliefs don’t even have a uterus of their own. I would venture even further to say that if you asked many of these “opinion-havers” where the uterus was in a woman’s body or exactly what its function was, they would have no idea.

Yet, here we find ourselves, 44 years after Roe v. Wade legalized abortion for women across America, still arguing over whether a woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy. Again we have to fight for organizations such as Planned Parenthood to exist, despite the preventative and affordable care they provide to both men and women nationally. Still, we must argue that it is not up to our employers and large corporations to decide if women can have access to contraception through their health insurance. And apparently, we even have to defend our right to have children by any means necessary to the public who look down on assisted reproductive technologies.

In case you are unfamiliar with her, Chrissy Teigen is a supermodel and TV personality married to another celebrity you may have heard of: actor-singer John Legend. At age 31, Teigen has been married to her husband since 2013. By her own admission, she tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for many years and struggled with miscarriages and infertility. This is a very common problem; it is estimated that about 12 percent of women experience infertility during their lifetime, and 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a viable pregnancy. In medicine, this is known as a common occurrence, and does not hold the same stigma in a clinic as it does in a social circle. Knowing she was far from alone in her difficulties, Teigen became vocal about her journey to becoming pregnant. With a famous face and public persona, an admission like this can be very intimidating, but was mostly met with support and sympathy from fans who had similar struggles.

After undergoing IVF, she was able to conceive. By this time Teigen had already been open about her process, and admitted to choosing a female embryo for transfer. She was assaulted on the Internet for picking her child’s’ gender and not doing things the “natural” way. Although nobody outside of Teigen, her husband, and their doctor should have been giving any opinion or advice about their family planning, the wide world of the web felt very differently. With time, the outrage subsided, and her baby girl was born.

This brings us to present day, when Teigen and Legend were asked about future plans for another child. She responded that she would have a baby boy next, a statement that is very much fact not fiction, as the remaining frozen embryo she and her husband have is male. What ensued on her Twitter account, which she has deleted in the past due to harassment, was as outrageous and infuriating as it was, unfortunately, unsurprising.

One user commented, “Did you give it a minute to try naturally or are you avoiding ‘the act’?” This comment does a few things: It suggests that Teigen is taking a supposed “shortcut” to getting pregnant, assumes to know what her private sex life with her husband might be like, and clearly judges her decision to move forward with another pregnancy through IVF. This is a woman who has been incredibly open about a personal subject which many people wont discuss with their closest friends. She has made it known that she did try “naturally” by doing “the act” for years to no avail. And even if she hadn’t made these facts so abundantly clear, it’s really nobody’s business.

The problems that women face in the United States, and society in general, are innumerable and I cannot deign to speak about most of them. However, when it comes to what women do with their own bodies, whether making babies or preventing them from being made, everyone seems to have an opinion. The most popular culprit is, of course, abortion. People tend to have very strong opinions one way or another about terminating pregnancies, and I’m sure this argument will never go away. Next up is usually contraception, which many people oppose for the same religious reasons they disdain abortion. However, if you’re going to make abortion illegal (in the pro-life ideal world), you should really consider letting the fight against contraception go. If women would be forced to keep their pregnancies, shouldn’t we have the ability to prevent them in the first place?

While the controversies I just outlined have become commonplace, the backlash that Chrissy Teigen has faced with her IVF journey is truly shocking to me. Not only are women demonized for having abortions and slut-shamed for wanting contraception, but now we are at the risk of judgment if we cannot get pregnant “naturally”? At what point should we forfeit all control over our uteruses and ask the masses when we should menstruate this month? Women hold the immense power to create life, should they want to, and this amazing gift has also become a curse. I hope that in my career as an OB/GYN the control of a woman’s body will finally and fully be her own. My hopes continue to dwindle, though, at the hands of a society unwilling to move forward.

Jessica Celine Morgan is a medical student.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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