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Onda Foundation's latest White Book features a chapter dedicated to "Parole Fertili"

09 December 2020

Declining birth rates are one of the most urgent challenges facing Italy.
With the support of Farmindustria, Fondazione Onda, the Italian national observatory for women’s health and a gender-orientated approach to health, has therefore chosen to dedicate the seventh edition of its Libro Bianco (White Book), published by Franco Angeli, to the topic.
Entitled ‘La salute della donna – La sfida della denatalità’ (Women’s Health: The Challenge of Declining Birth Rates), the book was presented on 26 November during an online press conference.
In the latest edition of the book Cristina Cenci - founder of DNM-Digital Narrative Medicine talks about the Parole Fertili project, carried out with IBSA Farmaceutici’s unconditional contribution.
After the baby boom in the 1950s and ‘60s, Italy saw a drop in births. In 2019, only 67 people were born for every 100 who died. Ten years ago, this figure was 96 births for every 100 deaths. Couple’s lifestyles and plans have changed, especially when it comes to women, who arrive late to motherhood.

As Cristina Cenci, anthropologist and Founder of DNM Digital Narrative Medicine, explains in the chapter of the Libro Bianco entitled ‘Parole fertili: viaggio alla ricerca di un figlio’ (Parole Fertili: the journey in search of a child), times have changed in terms of social and working life, and it seems there’s always some reason to delay having a child. From being central to social life, maternity and paternity have become components of a difficult and ambivalent negotiation between individuals and the community. They are born from an individual desire, but remain a social ‘duty’, whilst also interfering in our life and/or work plans. A veritable melting pot of contradictory values and unspoken rules.

Parole Fertili clearly highlights this contemporary dissonance between life plans, social values and individual and collective desire for parenthood.
Difficulty or impossibility in conceiving is a huge taboo topic. Unlike other pathologies, it doesn’t have a primarily and predominantly biomedical definition. You only become a ‘patient’ when you decide you want a child. If you don’t want a child, you remain fertile, even if you’re medically sterile. It’s the desire to have children, the identity need for a maternal/paternal role, that marks the separation between normal and pathological.
It’s therefore hard for both women and men to talk about their difficulties, the path of medically-assisted procreation (MAP), the emotions and the fears. Hiding your desire to have children on social media, with friends and with loved ones helps you not to present yourself as ‘sterile’, ill, inferior or guilty.

The storytelling space offered by Parole Fertili allows people to get out of their loneliness, to share their choices, concerns, problems and hopes with those who are facing the same journey. Online interaction allows an anonymous intimacy that facilitates the expression and sharing of experiences of infertility. The shared story allows people to reappropriate their own story of a life impacted by the threat of sterility.

Parole Fertili in Fondazione Onda's Libro Bianco

“Parole Fertili is a project that represents a new way of talking about fertility and parenthood,” explains Patrizia Puppi, Corporate Communication & CSR Manager at IBSA Farmaceutici, “and we’re proud to be part of its growth. In 2018, three short films were made and a book was published with Mondadori Electa and distributed in MAP clinics. In 2019, the stories inspired a theatrical production. With the COVID-19 emergency, in March 2020 the #LettureFertili project was created, offering a daily session for the Facebook community in which a story would be read out loud together. In 2021, Parole Fertili will enter into the treatment sphere, with a digital integrated drama therapy activity at a MAP clinic. We won’t stop and we’ll continue to believe in the metaphor of the ‘gift’ of a person’s life story, their feelings and of how you can always keep feeling fertile.”

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