This blog addresses various emotional aspects of experiencing infertility. It is written by a clinical psychologist who specializes in infertility counseling. Thank you for reading, and best of luck with your journey!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Infertility Therapist gets cranky, part III: a study of dubious usefulness

Perhaps I'm just in a cranky mood, but I was shocked to open my January 2013 issue of Fertility and Sterility and discover an article entitled, "Attractiveness of women with rectovaginal endometriosis: a case control study" (Vercellini, Buggio, Somigliana, Barbara, Vigano, and Fedele).  I first thought that surely the article couldn't be about what I thought was about, but a closer examination revealed that I was correct.  The authors spent considerable time and effort to compare women with different types of endometriosis--rectovaginal, ovarian and peritoneal, along with women with other gynecological conditions--on the variables of BMI, breast size, waist to hip ratio, and age of first coitius.   They were also evaluated for attractiveness by a panel of four judges.  According to the findings of the study, it turns out that women with rectovaginal endometriosis are considered to be significantly hotter than the women with the other conditions.  So ladies, if that's you, you have my congratulations.

Can someone out there in the blogosphere please enlighten me as to 1) why this study was conducted in the first place and 2) why it was accepted for publication in a major scientific journal?  The study authors argue that different types of gynecological disorders might be due to different genetic phenotypes, which would cause women to have different types of appearances.  But is that really going to be helpful to science?  Are doctors really going to start diagnosing the type of gynecological disorders a patient has based on how attractive they seem or when they lost their virginity?  Especially when we can already diagnose these disorders using things that seem a bit more reliable, like ultrasound images, DNA testing, or surgical reports.

Endometriosis is a complicated disorder that causes a great deal of pain and suffering.  Heck, I even have it myself (although not, as you may have guessed, the kind that makes a girl look appealing to a panel of four trained judges).  Isn't there a better way to work on finding a treatment and a cure?  In my opinion, infertility patients deserve better than an objectifying and demeaning study like this one, which seems to serve no one's interests.


  1. What a brutal study. A total waste of money. Shame on them!

  2. Hard to believe it got funded. Pardon the reverse sexism, but one has to think the funding body was largely composed of men.

    The only other reason to do this study I can think of, aside from the most plausible reason, which you discuss in your post, is if the authors are somehow trying to link it to STDs. Perhaps being more attractive leads to earlier and more sexual encounters, which in turn leads to rectovaginal endometriosis. It's far fetched, but I'm just wracking my brain thinking of why such a study would be funded and published.

    Anyway, I continue to be a big fan of your blog, even if my commenting is sporadic. Thank you, Lisa.

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  4. omg that study was sooo done in Italy, right? Im just assuming from the names listed. I know I'm extrapolating from my one relationship with an italian man, but seriously, cultrually, what nation is more capable of not being self refleixive about the way it commodifies women as sexual objects to be measured and judged?
    in any case i LOVE your blog. you should write a book about this, there is a distinct need for one. (or at least an article in that same journal!)

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