ISTUD Foundation collaborates with the Centre of Physiopathology of Reproduction and MAR of the St. Anna Hospital (Turin) on the Narrative Medicine project PRESERVIAMO. The project is dedicated to women undergoing the intervention of cryopreservation of oocytes before facing treatments potentially harmful for their reproductive capability, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and others. After five months from the start of the collection of women and their carers’ narratives, we host the interview to Alberto Revelli – supervisor of the Service of Physiopathology of Reproduction and MAR (Medical Assisted Reproduction) of St. Anna Hospital (Turin) – who first promoted the project, with the aim to correctly inform about this treatment option.
Q. Why did your expert centre for fertility preservation decide to promote a Narrative Medicine project dedicated to women undergoing this treatment?
AR. Since several years, our centre has been a reference for women wishing to preserve fertility in cases in which life events may represent a dangerous condition. We decided to realize this project mainly to inform and sensitise patients and healthcare operators about the enhancement of fertility. In our centre we address to who is in a particularly dangerous condition for fertility preservation, but we believe that fertility is precious for anyone, even when we have the possibility to express it, and not only when we are losing it. Furthermore, since often we don’t have the possibility to obtain a feedback by people who addressed the centre, we wanted to create an opportunity to collect feedbacks on our work. It’s a courageous choice, because doing so our team is called into question, but we believe that this passage is important to reflect on care quality we offer and to identify areas of improvement and enhancement of our activities.
Q. Why did you decide to extend the collection of narratives also to these women’s carers?
AR. Our aim is to make information and awareness to all, including operators, primarily oncologists. The collection of narratives has been extended to carers, mainly with the aim of sensitising other professionals through the testimonies of who already daily work for the enhancement of fertility. We hope that by reading what their colleagues have done, other professionals can begin to be sensitive on the subject. Also because the best information for patients must be filtered through their doctors, oncologists, GPs, gynaecologists, who often have followed these women for years and can guide them better than internet. These figures can be a “bridge” and a reference for women facing treatments for fertility preservation, and accompany them in their choices. Currently, however, often it happens that the patients themselves have to be “a bridge” between different medical specialists, taking very difficult decisions alone and, sometimes, caught between conflicting opinions.
Q. Which value do these stories have, in your opinion?
AR. The main value lies in the authenticity of received testimonies, stories of actually experienced situations and, as an adage says, it’s always better to give examples rather than advices. Narratives are the best way to encourage other people to follow examples in the future. In particular, in addition to the narrative research report, we want to create a publication containing the collected narratives, in order to raise the information level. We expect a lot from this project.
Q. In a moment in which the theme of fertility preservation, before a “taboo”, has suddenly exploded in a controversial way, which can be the correct way to inform and sensitise on these treatments, in your opinion?
AR. The Fertility Day was misunderstood. The aim was that of promoting motherhood, rather than preserving it, in a historical moment in which women deciding to give priority to motherhood are considered as “second class”, as if work and motherhood could come into conflict. Actually women should have access to policies helping them to integrate these two aspects, while what happens today is that many couples renounce to have children even if they are old enough to do it, because they aren’t in favourable social conditions. In a society in which couples in their thirties are still heavily dependent by their families of origin and cannot become autonomous, it’s hard to take the decision to make a new family. We are becoming one of the oldest countries in the world, many young people go abroad and we continue to favor other policies. We must recover the sense of reproduction. This was the substance and significance of the Fertility Day, I am not discussing the form. Having been part of the organizational team of the day, I remember very well the contents we discussed, as an opportunity to make serious information that would help young people in particular. What is “taboo” is the theme of enhancement of fertility, rather than the conservation, because its meaning is distorted. The Narrative Medicine project we are realizing wants to convey correct information and sensitise through the most delicate manner possible, that is through narratives.