Infertility: Personal Recommendations, Diagnosis & Emotional Health

 

Tell us about yourself, your personal experience, and your work at Fertilust

I didn’t always know that I was going to be into the fertility space. Just like most things in life, it takes a personal experience and a personal challenge to to have an aha moment and that’s what happened to me. I had been in corporate brand marketing in the auto and hotel spaces for almost two decades. I started dealing with infertility while I was at my last corporate job, and I felt very isolated and alone, particularly because I was working at a male dominated company industry.

It was one of those things you never talked about growing up. I just figured that getting pregnant and having a family would be a given. When it didn’t start happening for many years, I thought “Wow, what’s wrong with me?” I was embarrassed and ashamed, because I felt like I can do all these other things, but I can’t make this happen. I don’t want anyone to know that there’s actually something wrong with me. And there wasn’t something wrong with me. I’m just part of that 1 in 8 couples that struggle with fertility. 

I was in the corporate space, felt very alone, and put together a sort of a hidden blog that would really only speak to people that were in the community. I didn’t want anyone I worked with to know about it, but I figured what is happening to me must be happening to other people. And so I ended up hitting the Launch button on the blog.

Strangely enough, I ended up getting pregnant after my third IVF two months later. Liberating my shame and liberating the burden on my shoulders by launching the blog, from an emotional mental standpoint, did so much. 

I probably struggled with infertility before I had my first. I’ll always be infertile. It’s an ongoing issue, and it doesn’t just go away. I wish it would. My first two IVs sadly didn’t result in any embryos, so it was a non starter.  My third IVF resulted in my miracle daughter, which was amazing. I had two embryos that were viable and she’s now two and a half.

That whole entire world really inspired me to want to give back to the community that helped me so much during my journey. Finding it was a bit of a struggle, but now it’s incredible. It really helped me heal, even during my most recent IVF and I wish it had been around a lot earlier, but I’m so glad it’s here now. I’m very excited about continuing to work and support the women’s reproductive health space.

How has your relationship with your body changed throughout your journey with infertility?

For my first two IVFs, it really just felt like I was separate. My body was separate from my mind and my body was just there. I didn’t pay much attention to it. It’s like when I had a great figure, I didn’t appreciate it. I still thought it was so flawed so I just didn’t want to deal with it. When it comes to fertility, it took me until taking a break between my second and third IVF cycles to get back in touch with like a mind body connection. I tried not to beat myself up anymore. I really just tried to give myself a pep talk and kept saying it and saying it until I believed it.

What advice do you have for couples that are struggling to conceive?  

First and foremost, if someone is facing fertility challenges, they’re not alone. It feels so lonely and you have to start reaching out to try to find those resources. It could be something as simple as checking out the community on Instagram. You don’t have to jump on a platform and talk all about it until you’re ready. 

It Starts With The Egg is an incredible resource book. That was one of the first things that I read when I started the journey, and I realized that I had to have an active role and it wasn’t just my doctor that was going to help me get pregnant. I had to do my part too. That book gave me the excitement about wellness and nutrition and really inspired me to want to take care of myself. I became certified as a holistic health practitioner, so that I could teach myself nutrition. I did programs at Cornell to try to better understand what nutrition would look like because there isn’t a specific guide, but having resources like It Starts With The Egg as a platform to tailor your own program is incredible. You have to really be dedicated to taking care of yourself first. It’s not even about the end goal of having a baby. It really needs to be the end goal of overall health and wellness and feeling good.

What is your experience on diagnosing reproductive health disorders? 

There’s a procedure that is called an ERA, an endometrial receptivity array, which is effectively a biopsy and they take a little piece of your uterus to see what the right time for transplantation of an embryo would look like.

There’s now an incredible ERA called receptiva. It checks for the protein strain of endometriosis. It does all the typical stuff for any ERA, it checks for the right time to do the transplant. But it also checks to see if there is any inflammation. And interestingly enough, I found out I had endometriosis, and all of a sudden, everything made sense. 

All of the painful periods, the migraines, the strangulated bowels, they attributed it to an appendectomy. In reality, iit was likely endometriosis. I had this big aha moment.

Sadly, because of my newfound diagnosis, even though I was eating all the things in the anti inflammatory diet, my doctor recommended protocol that actually was an induced menopause. I took Lupron depot,nwhich is effectively a cancer drug. I did that for three months and then we did the transfer. 

Those kind of tools are so important now. The individual really also needs to see what kind of ERA works for them. Just because your doctor is telling you to do an ERA doesn’t mean it’s right for you. You have to do your own research to make sure that’s going to work and be your own best advocate. That’s also something I learned on this journey.

What are your thoughts about the efficiency of reproductive healthcare in the US?  

! have a lot of respect for the healthcare space. But I think we can do better. I think they can do better.

 

Women in general, especially in the university style clinics, feel like cattle. I felt like I was a number. It was really, really frustrating. I have a lot of Doctor friends and I respect what they do, but this is such a personal process. In terms of overall research, representation, and mental health in the healthcare space, clinic practices need to get better. It all starts with us and this community and I’m advocating for that.

What do you recommend if women have trouble getting a correct diagnosis?

We should always go with our gut. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. It’s so very important to be able to, to identify that, sure your doctor is an expert, but you’re an expert at your own body and you know your body better than anybody else. If you’re questioning some diagnosis or protocol, go seek a second opinion. Do what you need to do to fill your own cup so that you can have the headspace to make the right decision for you.

I realize in retrospect, that there were so many times that things didn’t feel right for those first two IVFs. The reason why I left my first doctor was because he wanted me to have surgery right off the bat. That may have been the right decision at some point, but at that time, my gut said it wasn’t so I followed it. I’m glad I didn’t have that surgery for many reasons, but going with the gut is huge, because then you won’t have to second guess yourself.

What is the one thing that you wish you knew when you started the fertility journey? 

I wish I knew I wasn’t alone. I wish I had the community that I have now. Granted, the community wasn’t as apparent or easy to find. It’s still not easy to find, but we didn’t have as many sort of organized groups as we do now. Community would have been key because that extra weight of carrying that hardship mentally and emotionally finds itself into other aspects of our life.

You’re not alone. This sadly happens to one out of eight couples and there’s a whole community waiting for you. Infertility is the club that no one wants to join. But it has the most amazing members.