The number of Australians turning to fertility clinics for help conceiving children is increasing, yet the stigma of needing that assistance remains quite strong - particularly in regional areas.
After two years of trying to conceive a baby naturally, Rachel, 31, and Nick Rawlinson, 30, said they had little hesitation about seeking help from an IVF clinic in Orange. They wanted to be parents and would do anything to achieve that dream.
"When we found out we could do IVF it felt like a beacon of hope to us. Finally there's something we can do which hopefully can get us a baby," Mrs Rawlinson said.
"It was a very hopeful, exciting time for us to start that journey."
But when they mentioned this decision to some people and family members in their small community of Rylstone, 60 km outside Mudgee, they were met with some surprise.
"Sometimes people are a bit shocked if you say it. We have always been very open about [IVF] because it's nothing to be ashamed of," Mrs Rawlinson said.
"We chose right from the beginning to be very open with anybody that we spoke to - particularly our family and friends because [going through IVF] is something you need support [for].
"You need your friends and family around you to talk about it. And I feel quite passionately that... [IVF] shouldn't have a stigma - it's so common."
The couple's openness about their IVF journey and refusal to accept infertility as something shameful began prompting others who were enduring similar struggles to reach out for help. Some of them they didn't even know.
"The number of people who have reached out to me... wanting to talk about it, not knowing where to turn because there is that stigma," Mrs Rawlinson said.
Genea Fertility, the local IVF clinic which helped the Rawlinson's realise their dream of being parents - first with Charlie 17 months ago and now with a second baby on the way - is hoping to fight that stigma by educating children as well as teenagers with a children's picture book.
"For some children their parents needed a helping hand," Genea Fertility's General Manager Kathleen Waite said.
"We want everyone to recognise that families are created in lots of different ways."
According to recent data from the Australian New Zealand Assisted Reproduction Database, by 2023 it's likely one child in every Aussie kindergarten classroom will be conceived via IVF.
"One in every six couples struggle so let's not set the expectation that conception is always easy," Ms Waite added.
"We want to acknowledge that it can take a little longer or they need a helping hand to create the family they've always wanted."
In the more immediate term, Mrs Rawlinson hopes that a change in society's attitude will see her own children not growing up where IVF or infertility are stigmatised.
HAVE YOUR SAY
- Send us a letter to the editor using the form below