If you’re looking for advice about options surrounding fertility, pregnancy or counselling, always consult your doctor.
Sex and the City gave women of the world so much. Frank relationship advice, fashion trends, permission to experiment sexually, even a new vocabulary. Tackling so many issues that play a central role in women’s lives, Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte showed us that a woman’s lifestyles can be so many different things.
But one of the most important recurring plot lines on the 90s hit show was that of Charlotte’s struggle to have a baby. From an almost fairytale-like optimism and the dark reality of infertility, to building a family, and everything in between, we can learn a lot from Charlotte’s experience with infertility.
Infertility can heavily impact mental health
Over the many series of Sex and the City, we watch as Charlotte’s blind, almost unrealistic expectation of having children changes after realising it may never happen for her. Upon discovering her chances of conceiving with Trey were very low, Charlotte began to struggle with her mental health and sense of self-worth, something which Genea fertility expert, Dr. Devora Lieberman says is extremely common in women dealing with fertility issues.
“Coming up against infertility can really shake a woman’s core belief in herself,” she says. “Many of my patients will feel like they’ve failed, and it’s quite shattering to self esteem.”
“This manifests in struggling with work, feeling quite stressed, feeling a loss of control… [it] permeates every aspect of their lives.”
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From watching Charlotte struggle with the reality of her infertility, to accepting it and building her family in other ways, we learn that it’s OK and perfectly normal to struggle with your own mental health when experiencing infertility, and that there is light at the end of the tunnel, a sentiment Dr. Lieberman shares.
“Women are so hard on themselves,” she says. “Self-care, to look after yourself is so important. Imagine that it was a friend going through what you’re going through, how would you treat them? You owe yourself nothing less than that.”
Infertility doesn’t discriminate
Charlotte York is the character that has it all. An amazing career, an enviable figure, a relationship with an established man and wonderful friendships. She’s young and healthy, yet she can’t get pregnant.
“No matter how fit and healthy you look on the outside, your ovaries are quite oblivious to that,” says Dr Lieberman. “Being healthier will not make you more fertile, and [young women] think that with fertility, they hear things in the media and think it won’t apply to them.”
This is certainly true for Charlotte, who never even considered the possibility that she might struggle with having a baby - it's her lifelong dream, and when it didn't happen naturally for her right away, she struggled to understand why.
"When I sit there and explain the challenges and the hurdles [of infertility], [women] often are quite surprised," Dr Lieberman says. "They think that if I work hard enough, it will happen."
Friendships are both sources of support, and anxiety
Central to Sex and the City is female friendship. The characters of Carrie, Miranda, Samantha and Charlotte feature heavily in each other's lives, providing support, advice, love and laughter. But when dealing with infertility, it can be debilitating to see those closest to you having success with the one thing you can't do.
"I have patients who really struggle to see their friends and family who have children, many are isolated and alone," says Dr Lieberman.
When Charlotte saw a recently-pregnant Miranda in the street, she turned the other way, finding it too difficult emotionally to see her friend who accidentally got pregnant with Steve. After keeping her emotions secret from her closest friends, it took courage for Charlotte to eventually open up and share her struggle. But it's these conversations with our loved ones that are essential in helping the people we love through infertility.
"Everybody's living an Instagram life," says Dr Lieberman. "It takes courage to open up and be vulnerable to friends and say 'this is what I'm going through', 'this is what I need', or 'it's hard for me when you say...', 'it would be better if you...'
By starting open conversations with friends about your struggle with infertility, those around you can best support you.
IVF isn't everything
In Sex and the City, Charlotte tries just about everything to get pregnant. From IVF to acupuncture, lying down and an ovulation calendar, Charlotte is desperate in her mission to start a family.
"IVF is not a fix-all," Dr Lieberman says. "IVF is a very effective treatment for all sorts of infertility, but the chance of success will decline with [factors like] age and egg quality."
"Getting information and getting an action plan from medical sources rather than blogs and forums is important, knowledge is power."
Although Charlotte does eventually fall pregnant in the first Sex and the City movie (something which Dr Lieberman attributes to "a matter of time"), she first pursues adoption, which is another incredible way to create a family.