Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Is This the World's First Infertility Postage Stamp?

Portugal, 2008
Is this the world's first
infertility-themed stamp?

In March, 2008, Portugal's postal authority CTT Correios de Portugal, S.A. may have made postal history when it issued the stamp shown on the left. It is thought that this stamp was the first ever stamp specifically issued to raise awareness of the struggles of infertility. In a March, 2008, article in Linn's Stamp News, the de-facto industry standard for philatelic news, suggests that this is, in fact, the first stamp on this topic.

Infertility is the inability of a couple to conceive a child or, if conceived, the inability to successfully carry the child to delivery. The condition is usually associated with strong emotions such as angst, grief, anger, a sense of incompleteness, and depression. The emotional impact to the affected individual or couple can be devastating.

For years, there were only three primary options available to infertile couples. One was to try home-remedies and "quack" cures, which had successes rates attributable to simple luck. Another was to accept their childlessness, which many did reluctantly. The last, and in my opinion, most noble option, was adoption.

As doctors searched for additional options for this debilitating illness, a new technique, called in vitro fertilization, or IVF, was successfully pioneered by British doctors, Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards. On July 25, 1978, their technique led to the birth of Louise Joy Brown, the first baby to have been conceived outside of her mother's body.

Louise's parents had tried for a number of years to conceive a child, but with physically blocked Fallopian tubes, Louise's mother was unable to conceive through natural methods. By removing her eggs, fertilizing them outside of the body, and then implanting them, Louise's mother was finally able to become pregnant and bear a child.

This event became a watershed event in the efforts to find a cure for infertility. It meant that couples who had previously been unable to conceive due to physical impairments stood a much-greater chance of conception. While in the best case, it offers about a 50% success rate in younger women, such a percentage is a marked improvement over the miniscule success rates without IVF. It offered a ray of hope and led to more attempts in finding a cure for the illness.

Unfortunately, the high cost of in vitro fertilization has kept the procedure out of reach of many infertile couples. But each year advances are made and many procedures have come down in cost.

The stamp issued by Portugal is beautifully designed and conveys the hopes of infertile couples with its imagery. The stamp shows a stylized silhouette image of a man and woman embracing a child. The image of the child is almost ghost-like in appearance, symbolizing the hope for the child, yet at the same time highlighting the fragility of conception for infertile couples.

The stamp is denominated as 0.30 Euro (approx $0.47 USD). It is currently available for purchase from Portugal's postal authority.

As an interesting side note, Louise Brown, the first in vitro baby will turn 30 years old on July 25, 2008. She currently works for Great Britain's Royal Mail postal authority. I wonder if she collects stamps?


Childless (for now) said...

As a woman who has been suffering from infertility for 5 and a half years, I just wanted to say that there is *no* such thing as "quack" therapies. There is a reason for everything that us infertile couples do. I also wanted to say that having a child is never a "stroke of luck", it is *always* a God-thing, *especially* when a couple has dealt with infertility.

Tony Servies said...

I will take issue, respectfully, of your statement that "there is *no* such thing as 'quack' therapies." I beg to differ, as I recall well-meaning, but misinformed, people telling infertile people to "quit trying so hard" and "just relax" or "just adopt and then you'll get pregnant." I would call these "quack" cures, since they do nothing for those that are physically infertile (blockages, altered luteal phases, etc.). Any success through those suggestions would be attributable to blind luck. (Although, I use the term in the common sense of the word -- I, like apparently you, do not believe in luck.)

Raggedy Ann said...

I was thrilled to read this post and discover that our stamp is the first in the world to touch on infertility. As a member of the Portuguese Fertility Association & Coordinator of its Network of Support Grupos, I am so honoured that all the dedication put into this project paid off. This was the product of a competition entry in the Portuguese Postal Services & we thank them as well for giving people a chance to voice their concerns on issues that affect our society. We work very hard to bring dignity to an illness that afflicts 500,000 thousand couples in our country. Thank you for horouring our cause in your blog post.

Anna Pires

NiNa said...

I strongly agree with childless. I'm thrilled that Portugal made this stamp. So many people need to hear about the unspoken of IF.

Waiting for a baby said...

It's about time.
Wonder when America will wake up to the pain of IF. Guess there too busy promoting Viagra.

Amber said...

As a woman who "Suffered" from infertility, I have heard it all. Inclusing quack therapies, truth of it all is I tried for 7.5 years with no success and finally thought to myself, that's enough, it's not ment to be. I am the very proud parent of an 11 year old terror ...and guess what? It happened when I least thought about it.

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