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The Best Shows, Books, and Movies About Infertility

Written by Erin Feher

Photography by Private Life via Netflix

One in six. That’s a statistic any woman struggling with infertility knows all too well. One in six couples trying to get pregnant will have trouble doing so. Yet when you’re up against infertility, it can feel like you are the only ones in the world. All around are growing bellies, gurgling babies, and happy parents. Not to mention the glowing mamas-to-be on omnipresent screens—TV, film, social media—who make getting pregnant look easy as pie. And while stories of infertility may be few and far between in popular media, when they do appear they can have a powerful impact. So, whether you want to laugh, cry, or do a little bit of both, these books, movies, and TV shows all thoughtfully tackle the subject of infertility and help remind us that baby-making is rarely a simple, straight-forward business.

Private Life
Watch It: Netflix
This film from 2018 follows Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti), both 40-something writers living in New York, as they tumble through the cyclical process of hope and heartbreak trying to grow their family. The specifics of their struggles with infertility are shown up close and in emotionally wrenching detail, from rounds of unsuccessful IVF to a sudden (and expensive) surgery to treat a sperm blockage to dashed adoption prospects. But the real story is the scars the process leaves on their marriage, as well as the way the people around them react to this couple in crisis.

Sex and the City
Watch It: HBO and Amazon Prime
Sex in the City is the gift that keeps on giving. While we may have related to wildly different aspects of the show when it debuted more than 20 years ago (what?!), others ring even truer to our older and wiser selves. Charlotte Yorke’s seasons-long struggle with infertility is definitely one of them. Over the years, we watch Charlotte deal with impotence, infertility, adoption, and miscarriage—as well as the pain and awkwardness that results when her BFF accidentally gets knocked up. Really, what didn’t Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda teach us?

The Snow Child
Read it: Amazon
Eowyn Ivey tells the tale of a couple who yearn for a child so much that they build one from snow in front of their Alaska cabin. When suddenly a real girl appears, magic enters their life in more ways than one. This sad yet whimsical novel captures the loss and despair that accompanies unfulfilled dreams, while showing how hope and joy can arrive in unexpected ways.

Watch It: Netflix
If all you remember about this ’90s sitcom hit was Ross and Rachel, it’s time for a refresher. In season 4 Phoebe offers to serve as the gestational surrogate to her brother and his wife (although the story line is more about laughs than reality). But season 9 deals a little more seriously with the subject, as Monica and Chandler struggle to get pregnant and eventually end up adopting twins. The couple’s conversations around infertility feel true to life, but the messy details of  IVF treatments and the adoption process are glossed over, and the couple are proud parents by season 10—a timeline that most will recognize as wildly unlikely.

Sing You Home
Read It: Amazon
The first chapter of this novel by Jodi Picoult pulls no punches: After losing a baby in the third trimester of her pregnancy, Zoe Baxter is forced to deliver her stillborn child. Our hearts break alongside hers as her marriage promptly falls victim to the pain of loss and the struggles of infertility. The story that unfolds following her tragedies is one about self-discovery, and how love, marriage, and parenthood can feel inextricable from our identity.

This is Us
Watch It: NBC
This show jerks the tears from almost every angle possible, and the story of Kate and her tandem struggles with obesity and infertility are no exception. At the end of season 2 she suffers a miscarriage and season 3 opens with her and her husband visiting a fertility specialist, who says the combination of Kate’s weight, age, and diagnosis polycystic ovarian syndrome doesn’t bode well for her chances of conceiving. On top of that, her fiancé, Toby, is dealing with low sperm count due to taking antidepressants. Kate gives IVF a try and (spoiler alert), it works on the first try. But the most recent episode that aired ended with Kate’s water breaking three months early and her being rushed to the hospital. So…stay tuned.

Fuller House
Watch It: Netflix
For those who grew up with Stephanie and DJ Tanner, but haven’t tuned in to the reboot, here’s a storyline that might pique your interest. Neighbor and forever-friend Kimmy Gibbler steps up to be a surrogate for Stephanie when she can’t carry a baby herself, and family and friends chip in crowd-funding-style to help cover the costs IVF.

One More Shot
Watch It: Netflix
Maya and Noah are a young, attractive, married couple. They are also filmmakers. After more than two years of struggling with infertility, they decided to turn the cameras on themselves. The resulting documentary captures three years of pain, disappointment, potential joy, and thousands upon thousands of dollars spent. Their own story is complimented by varying stories of other families on the same high-stakes journey.

Little Fires Everywhere
Read It: Amazon
Being a mother is complicated business, and this best-selling novel by Celeste Ng lays out that premise in a myriad of ways. There is a woman born without a uterus; a college student who acts as a surrogate—until she doesn’t; a desperate mother who abandons her baby at a fire station; and another who wants that baby more than life itself after years and years of failed fertility treatments. There are also grown sons and daughters who slip in and out of relationships with the maternal figures in their lives, proving parenthood is never a sure thing.

The Sacred Thread
Read It:
This highly personal memoir from Adrienne Arieff follows her journey to build her family through surrogacy. After three painful losses, she traveles to Anand,  a remote rural pocket of India near the Pakistani border, where she meets Vaina—the woman who would carry her twin girls. The fascinating and emotional story takes place between San Francisco and the Akanksha Infertility Clinic in India, and chronicles all of the minutiae involved in the couple’s choice, including their fears and deep gratitude for and connection to Vaina. Arieff writes, “no matter how far apart we are geographically, Vaina, my daughters, and I will always be connected by this sacred thread.”

The Help
Watch It:
Think current societal standards make it hard to be a childless married woman? Try being a childless woman in the South in the 1960s. In the film adaptation of The Help, Jessica Chastain plays Cecelia Foote—a blonde bombshell who struggles to fit in with the high-society ladies in town. More privately, she struggles with infertility—she has suffered numerous miscarriages, and her grief and guilt are palpable and infiltrate every aspect of her character.

For more on the subject, check out our stories on How to Support a Friend Through  Infertility, 8 IVF Myths Busted, and 10 Miscarriage Stories.

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