Can Reimagining Sex Education Tackle the Root of Infertility Misinformation?
There’s no question that anyone dealing with infertility needs a supportive community. But what if there was a specific resource that not only offered support, but also helped people trying to conceive (TTC) advocate for themselves by providing science-backed information and education?
Enter Rescripted, a social network and digital pharmacy that provides articles, podcasts, videos, and support groups for the 6.7 million Americans who struggle with infertility. Rescripted launched in July 2021 as the brainchild of two IVF moms (both of twins!) and friends, Kristyn Hodgdon and Abby Mercado. Less than two years later, Rescripted now reaches about 9 million people on a monthly basis across all its platforms, with its free community boasting 150,000 members. While Hodgdon and Mercado knew providing support was imperative to their audience, they also understood that beyond a virtual shoulder to cry on, Rescripted needed to offer sexual education and empowerment.
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Despite infertility being a common occurrence – one in five women experience infertility, and one in four pregnancies are lost – Mercado and Hodgdon were baffled by its ongoing stigma. Eventually, they discovered that numerous people lacked substantial sexual education, which further impeded their understanding of infertility. “We realized that the root is in sex ed in America,” Mercado tells SheKnows. “Why are we taught about pregnancy prevention when we really should be taught about fertility awareness? It’s so much more than putting a condom on a banana.”
“Why are we taught about pregnancy prevention when we really should be taught about fertility awareness? It’s so much more than putting a condom on a banana.”
The biggest a-ha! moment for Hodgdon and Mercado was when they learned that 40% of women don’t know what ovulation is, nor do they understand the role ovulation and menstruation play in conception. Because you can’t productively try for a baby if you don’t know when you’re ovulating.
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“When I was 27 and came off the birth control pill after 10 years, as a college-educated professional woman, I didn’t even know that I had to be ovulating in order to get pregnant,” admits Hodgdon. “So many women just think they can get pregnant at the drop of a hat any day of the month, so it all comes back to education.”
Education is key, of course, but not everyone wants to read articles filled with medical jargon and little else. That’s where Rescripted comes in, a site that provides, in Mercado’s words, “science-backed content and the voice of your best friend over brunch.” Hodgdon also notes that many infertility-focused articles can’t acknowledge where someone might be in their journey, and therefore they come off as impersonal. “We incorporate that emotional component and meet our community where they are in what we call the reproductive life cycle.”
In addition to in-depth articles that balance an emotional connection and thoroughly researched facts – as in, not only how often you should have sex if you’re TTC, but when (Psst! During your fertile window!) – Rescripted has numerous offerings in the short-form video space. For those times you’re just not in the mood to read an entire article, Rescripted provides plenty of humorous and/or science-backed minute-long clips on every topic from periods to how infertility drains the fun out of sex on YouTube, TikTok, and Instagram.
Mercado and Hodgdon also have several projects in the works, including “Lessons” – 60-second-long, quick-hitting videos on subjects important to their audience. Such as, how to work out based on your menstrual cycle. “Your body should be moving differently depending on whether you’re ovulating or in your luteal phase,” says Mercado.
In addition, Rescripted is increasing its podcast roster: “Sorry for Apologizing,” with creator/strategist Missy Modell,claunched in early April. “It’s about women’s health at the intersection of culture and politics,” explains Mercado. “We’ll be talking about the devastating Dobbs decision, we’ll be talking about the pain gap, the pleasure gap, the money gap – all the things we’re not sorry for apologizing for.” Mercado also currently hosts “The Future of Fertility,” which focuses on the “entrepreneurs and innovators changing the face of family-building.” Plus, on “Dear (In)Fertility,” Hodgdon, along with a fertility expert, offers advice on fertility, infertility, and pregnancy loss.
But what Hodgdon and Mercado are most excited about is their “state of sexual education” report, which is an upcoming collaboration with several brands in the sexual health and wellness space due out later in 2023. Rescripted is currently collecting data on this subject via an online survey, which is open to anyone.The goal of this report is to go beyond the “40 percent of women don’t understand how ovulation pertains to pregnancy” statistic.
“If you don’t arm yourself with education and you don’t actively advocate for your health,” says Hodgdon, “you won’t get any answers.” Hodgdon’s personal experience was a substantial motivation behind Rescripted’s education mission: Hodgdon has both polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and Hashimoto’s disease. PCOS is a condition that causes small cysts to grow on the ovaries, while Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disorder that affects the thyroid gland – which can lead to a decline in hormone production. But prior to her Hashimoto’s diagnosis, Hodgdon initially waved off her symptoms, thinking that her exhaustion stemmed from having toddlers, or maybe long COVID. Looking back, she acknowledges that “women are conditioned to dismiss those things.”
When asking Hodgdon and Mercado why it’s so important to provide sexual education to the TTC community, the question does feel strangely reductive. Aside from the basic idea that, well, “It’s science!” — which both Rescripted co-founders echo vociferously — having this information on hand gives people who are trying to conceive a better understanding of their options. “Ovulation, fertility, and declining-with-age male fertility — if only more people just knew about those three things, then they can seek the treatment they need,” says Hodgdon.
That and, sometimes, “literally, truly how to have sex to get pregnant is actually something women have to learn,” observes Mercado. And she’s not just talking about sexual positions: Rescripted offers articles that walk women through ovulation testing, fertility diet and position myths, and pregnancy test guidelines.
Comprehensive sex education — as in, beyond abstinence — in schools is critical. But for those in the TTC community, one could argue that “comprehensive sex education” isn’t comprehensive enough. “We’re not taught about our bodies, we’re taught how to prevent pregnancy,” says Hodgdon. Rescripted is combatting this problem by positioning itself as the go-to resource for Gen-Zers ‚ young adults who still need pertinent reproductive health information.
Hodgdon offers a grim reminder that it can take seven to 10 years to be diagnosed with endometriosis: “If you’re 25 and have painful periods, that’s not normal,” she warns. By arming this generation with an expanded version of sex education, the Rescripted co-founders hope these people won’t be caught off-guard – and will seek medical treatment if necessary – when they do start trying to get pregnant.
“Knowing about your body starts here,” Hodgdon says. “By getting ahead of their sexual and hormonal health, the better off Gen-Zers will be when they’re ready to start a family.”
Before you go, check out the mental health apps we love for re-learning how to take care of our brains:
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