Our Infertility Journey (1.2): Another Bump in an Already Bumpy Road

dating and relationships concept - stressed man with man outsideAfter a thrilling day working in the dermatology clinic looking at skin cancer and warts, I checked my phone for missed messages. A text from Dave simply said, “Call me when you get a chance.” So, being the loving wife that I was, I gave him a call…5 hours after he had sent the text! Dave’s phone went straight to voicemail, but I didn’t have to wait long to find out where he was. My phone rang. It was the Emergency Room.

Dave quickly calmed my panicked state of mind by letting me know that he wasn’t dying, but he then sheepishly informed me that he had seriously injured himself that morning. No, not to worry, he didn’t damage his male parts (Although, that would make this story even more intriguing). No, he had ruptured his pectoralis major tendon, the tendon that attaches your chest muscle to your arm. He had been doing declined bench presses in the gym during a quick break from rounding on patients in the morning. In the middle of his set, something popped, electricity tore through his arm, and his weights came crashing down. Sadly, the tear was so complete that he was able to diagnose himself by simply feeling that the muscle was no longer attached. He now had a case of “saggy boob syndrome.”

You may wonder why this had any impact on our fertility or why I should even include this in the story. Well, now our primary medical focus was no longer on infertility but on his shoulder. After a stat MRI confirming his injury, Dave was scheduled for surgery to reattached the muscle to the bone with bone anchors. It was a grueling recovery. He was in an immobilizing arm splint for six weeks and was only allowed to lift something as light as paper and pencil for three months. The recovery included hours of physical therapy and hours waiting in the ortho office. Because his dominant arm had been damaged, he was unable to do most things for himself for quite a few weeks (I even remember changing the tire on my car while he watched.)Honeymoon couple romantic in love at beach sunset. Newlywed happ

Needless to say, trying to make a baby is a little tricky when you aren’t supposed to move your upper body… at all…and you are in a fun arm contraption that starts to have a lovely aroma after just a few days. So, baby making efforts were pushed to the back burner. Months later, with his arm finally on the mend, Dave decided he was ready for surgery number 2…his varicocele. After all that he had been through, this surgery now seemed minor. The operation went smoothly, but we had to wait another three months before we could repeat the semenalysis. We held onto the hope that Dave’s sperm counts would top the charts. But, instead of chart topping numbers, the count was at an all-time low.

dating and relationships concept - stressed woman with man outsiI felt defeated. Our chances of getting pregnant on our own were now next to none. It was my turn to become the infertility patient, and the thought turned my stomach. The fear of the unknown crept over me. Would I ever be a mother? What would it take, and how much was I willing to give?

From The Mom in Me, MD

 

 

Life Saving Tips for your Teething Infant: Safety Update!

Mother Playing With Her Baby Boy Son On BedAs I was throwing some Burt’s Bees baby wash into my cart, I noticed a young mom holding a bottle of oral teething gel. Her screaming baby, with tears and massive amounts of drool pouring down his chin, flung his teething ring my direction. Grabbing the teething ring from the floor, I thanked the baby for providing me with a slobbery ice breaker. I couldn’t let this good intentioned mom leave the store with a medication that could potentially kill her baby! I was prepared for an awkward conversation, but the mom and the physician in me didn’t care.

Every mother wants to protect her baby. But, if a product labeled, “for teething infants” is sitting in the baby aisle at a mainstream store, even the most protective of moms could be misled. You may think that I’m overreacting or simply on an anti-big pharma kick. Unfortunately, neither is the case.

Instead of just going on a rampage about what not to do, I decided to also offer you some safe options to sooth your teething infant. Before we get started, remember that teething is temporary. It may feel a little miserable for both you and your fussy child, but teething doesn’t kill…oral gels can.

5 teething Do’s and Don’ts for your baby

1. Don’t use Oral Teething Gels!!!!

Most oral teething gels, liquids, and swabs contain benzocaine. This medication is used as an anesthetic to numb your infant’s gums. Although this may sound like a great idea, these medications probably don’t offer your infant much pain relief because they slide off of the gums before the medication can take effect. In addition to not offering much pain relief, infant teething medications containing benzocaine are dangerous! Knowing what “dose” your baby is absorbing is a guessing game. Absorbing too much could cause your baby to have a seizure or methemoglobinemia, a medical condition where your baby’s blood doesn’t have enough oxygen. Methemoglobinemia can occur immediately after using benzocaine, or it can happen hours later. The symptoms can be somewhat generic (pale or grey skin or nails, fatigue, rapid heart rate, light-headedness, confusion, shortness of breath, headache) so some parents may not notice them right away. If methemoglobinemia isn’t treated right away it can lead to brain injury, organ damage, and even death. The FDA started warning about this back in 2006 and then reissued a warning in 2011, advising parents and physicians to avoid benzocaine teething medications. In spite of these warnings and the American Academy of Pediatric’s efforts to educate parents, the products are still on the shelves, and unsuspecting parents are still using them.

Fingers Of Newborn Baby2. Don’t Freeze the Teething Ring

Although cold teething rings are a great idea to help sooth and numb your infant’s gums, getting them too cold by placing them in the freezer can actually harm your baby. Frozen teething rings can cause a condition called fat necrosis where the extreme cold actually kills the fat cells under your baby’s skin. Keep the teething rings in the fridge, and your little one’s gums will be safe.

3. Don’t Brush Off a Fever (101 or higher)

Although teething can cause low-grade fevers, don’t automatically assume that a fever is due to teething…especially if it is 101 degrees or higher. If your child is fussy and has a higher temperature make sure to call your doctor. Your child may actually be sick rather than just teething.

NOW FOR THE DO’s: Adorable ten month old baby boy.

4. Do Use Cold Items or Even Your Finger to Sooth and Numb the Gums

Although you shouldn’t use frozen teething rings, refrigerated teething rings can help numb your infant’s sore gums. Letting your baby chomp on a cold wash cloth that you have wet, twisted, and then placed in the freezer or fridge can also be soothing. Yes, I said freezer! Unlike teething rings, wash clothes don’t freeze into solid, hard masses. These should not cause any damage to the skin or fat. If you are out and about without either of these options, wash your hands thoroughly and then give your baby a gentle gum massage over the swollen area. This simple trick can be very soothing. Even if your baby isn’t thrilled about the idea of your finger at first, he/she will probably start to like the idea after a few tries.

5. Do Use Tylenol in Appropriate Doses if Needed

If your baby just can’t handle the discomfort, a small amount of acetaminophen (Tylenol) can be helpful. However, even infant Tylenol does not tell you on the bottle how much to give an infant under 2 years of age. Call your doctor to make sure that you are giving your baby a dose that is appropriate for his/her weight. The last thing you want to do is overdose your infant on Tylenol causing liver damage or worse. Never give your baby aspirin! This can cause a life threatening condition called Reye’s Syndrome. 

Next time you walk down the baby aisle and spot someone about to grab the oral teething gel, make sure that the mom in YOU is ready to speak up! As parents, we are all doing our best with the knowledge that we have. Sharing what YOU know may just save a baby’s life.

From The Mom in Me, MD

 

 

Extra Cute Baby Shoes for Those Little Twinkle Toes!!!

BROOKS14PINK_1I already dished on one of my favorite baby shoe brands, Livie and Luca. Now onto another favorite…See Kai Run. This brand makes some super cute early walkers called, Smaller, in addition to their standard toddler and kids shoes. The Smaller collection is soft soled, but these early walkers have supportive grip in just the right places. The toddler shoes have a full firm sole and KRISTINS14NAVY_1are great for running and playing. Ayla thinks they are extra comfy, and most of them can be worn without socks as long as it isn’t too hot and humid outside. Oh, and they have received the Seal of Acceptance from the American Podiatric Medical Association! That means that they are medically good for your little one’s twinkle toes. You can find these online, at Nordstrom, and at Nordstrom Rack (yeah, for sale items!!!). Check them out and let me know what you think! The pics are all taken directly from the See Kai Run webpage. Click the hyperlinks for more great options. RENNAHS14SILVER_2FELIXS14CAMEL_1ASHERS14GRAY_1

From The Mom in Me, MD

Our Preemie Journey: Delivery Day…8 Weeks Early!

young pregnant woman sitting on the windowMy mind was fuzzy, my vision blurry, and my body on fire from the magnesium! I felt like I was going to burst like a water balloon from even the tiniest poke. I could barely move my fingers due to the swelling, and I was scared. I was terrified for my unborn child and for myself. Preeclampsia had taken over. It didn’t care that I was just shy of 32 weeks pregnant. It didn’t care about what I had already gone through just to get pregnant! It was mocking my plans for a perfect delivery. I asked myself, “Who attacks a mother and her innocent unborn child? How could a disease be so sadistic…so ruthless?”

I waited for Dave to arrive for what seemed like hours. I was alone, alone with my unborn baby…uncertain of what was going to happen next…uncertain if my child would survive…uncertain if my body would fail me…uncertain of what the future held. A sense of relief washed over me when Dave walked into my hospital room. He hadn’t realized the severity of the situation until he saw me. I was barely recognizable from even the night before. Dave had raced from work, stopping at the house to take the dog out and to throw some overnight clothes together. Little did he realize that our overnight bag would need to get us through the next nine weeks.Fetus 7 Month In The Womb. Visible Head And Arms

The next several hours were filled with ultrasounds from Maternal Fetal Medicine, discussions with the neonatologist (NICU doctor), and constant blood pressure checks and rechecks. I was reassured that 32-week old babies can do very well. They can still have major complications including bleeding in the brain, respiratory distress syndrome, vision problems, and much more; but according to my Ob/Gyn, making it to 32 weeks was a great accomplishment. It didn’t feel like an accomplishment. It felt like a failure. My body was failing my baby and me. Once again, my best efforts could do nothing to change the situation.

Because our baby’s lungs hadn’t gotten the chance to fully develop, I was stabbed with the first of two steroid shots to speed up the process. A plan had been put in place. We were going to wait for my 24-hour urine protein to come back, and we were going to try to get both steroid shots in before delivery (these had to be spaced out by 24 hours).

I was a little nervous about a C-section, but I was willing to do whatever it took to keep my baby safe. Because my blood pressure was so incredibly high, an attempt at a vaginal delivery was out of the question. Starting an induction would be too hard on the baby and on my already stressed body.

The minute that my 24-hour urine protein results arrived the conservative timetable was thrown out the window. I was loaded into a wheelchair and told that the C-section was happening NOW! My urine protein was the highest that my Ob/Gyn had ever seen. The baby was starting to have some dips in her heart rate, and we couldn’t wait any longer. Delivery was the only “cure” for preeclampsia. My leg was stabbed too early with the second steroid shot in a last ditch effort to give our baby’s lungs every chance to mature. The magnesium and blood pressure medications continued to run into my veins, in an attempt to prevent me from having a seizure or stroke.

As the nurse wheeled me down the hallway, I pleaded desperately with God. He had answered my heart’s longing for a child. I had watched my belly grow with awe, wonder and gratitude. This baby was my answered prayer. He had to protect her! If not, then why had he given her to me in the first place? I loved this little being that I had never met more than my mind could comprehend. He couldn’t take her from me now…not after we had made it this far.

The spinal was more unpleasant than I had imagined. For some reason the idea of a huge needle poking into the nerve track in my back freaked me out more than just a little. I wasn’t worried about having my belly cut open with a scalpel, but a giant needle wasn’t my idea of fun. I hunched, I hugged the pillow, and I hunched some more. After three attempts, the needle was finally in the correct position. I was transferred to the operating table, and prepped for surgery. I had assisted in numerous emergency C-sections during residency. I had reassured many panicked mothers that everything would be “just fine”. Now I was the panicked mother, and I found that my own advice fell flat.

I remember the tugging and pulling during the c-section, and that the spinal was just as unpleasant as patients have described. My blood pressure dropped fairly rapidly at one point, causing me to vomit.

My C-section!

The C-section felt like an eternity. Just as they were pulling the baby out of my belly, my blood pressure dropped precipitously from the anesthesia, and I began to vomit. I vaguely remember the attending physician showing my baby to me before she was whisked to the resuscitation table. Her skin was dusky. She wasn’t crying! Was she breathing? I couldn’t see. What was happening? And, then I heard her. I heard her first cry. It was a small cry, but it was fierce. She was a fighter. She was in the lightweight division at 3 pounds 2 ounces, but she was a fighter!

My baby was born at 3 lb. 2 oz. She was whisked away to be resuscitated.

Ayla in the Delivery Room being Resuscitated

Before I could catch another glimpse of my precious baby, she was rushed to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit with her daddy close behind. I felt physically sick, helpless, and alone. I was her mother, but I had yet to hold my baby. I wanted to be at her side, but I could barely keep my eyes open. I wanted Dave at my side, but I knew that he needed to be with our baby. My mind was heavy, clouded by painkillers, anesthetics, and magnesium. As the last stitch was placed in my belly, I drifted off. When I awoke to a soaring blood pressure and splitting headache, I realized that I was in a fight for my life. Preeclampsia was still my master, and it wasn’t finished with me yet. Delivery had only made it more determined to destroy me, but I was a fighter too!

From The Mom in Me, MD

Bumper Be Gone: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Update!

Fingers Of Newborn BabyAs I was standing in Pottery Barn Kids innocently looking at crib sheets, I overheard the lady behind me who was purchasing a gift ask the sales clerk, “Are you really supposed to use bumper pads? I thought that they weren’t safe.”  To my dismay, the sales associated responded, “Oh, I think it is really up to you. They should be safe; otherwise, we wouldn’t sell them. And, they keep babies from getting their legs and arms stuck in the cribs.” The family physician and public health specialist in me was fuming! I wanted to correct her. I wanted to set the record straight. I wanted to grab the bumper pad from her hands and say, “Don’t buy it!” I debated with myself for just a little bit too long. I didn’t want to sound rude or all-knowing, but I wanted her to know that bumpers can contribute to Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths (SUID). By the time I had built up the courage to add my two cents, the purchase had been made, and the innocent gift giver was out the door.

Every décor savvy mom longs for a beautiful bumper to complete her infant’s crib. Well, keep on longing! I have created a beautiful nursery for our daughter…bumper free. It sounds cliché, but “SAFTEY FIRST” should be every mom’s motto. Let’s review the updated recommendations to reduce the risk of Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths. If you are already following them, give yourself a pat on the back. If not, then now is the time to start.The first steps of the kid

Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths are deaths that occur suddenly, and unexpectedly in infants under one year of age. These deaths do not have an immediately obvious cause. But, after investigation, most of them fall into one of three main categories: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), accidental strangulation and suffocation in bed, and unknown cause. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 4,000 infants die each year in the United States from SUID, and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the third leading cause of all deaths for infants.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated its recommendations on safe sleep environments for infants in an effort to reduce SIDS and sleep related deaths. Here is a breakdown of the key recommendations, but be sure to look at the hyperlinks in this article for more detailed information.

  1. Infants should be placed on their BACK every time they sleep
  2. Use a firm sleep surface-a firm mattress with a tightly fitted sheet
  3. Keep your infant in your room, but not in your bed (this can reduced SIDS risk by 50%!!!)
  4. Keep soft bedding and loose objects out of the crib (no stuffed animals, pillows, blankets, or BUMPER PADS)-there is no evidence to say that bumper pads prevent injury, they do, however, raise the risk for suffocation, strangulation, and entrapment according to the AAP. Sleep sacks are great to use instead of blankets. They keep the baby warm without the risk of suffocation.
  5. Avoid infant smoke exposure during pregnancy and after the infant is born.
  6. Breastfeed if possible for at least the first 6 months
  7. Offer a pacifier at naps and bedtime. Even if it falls out, its use has been linked with SIDS prevention.
  8. Avoid Overheating-Don’t over-bundle your infant for sleep
  9. Immunize your infant
  10. Avoid devices sold to “prevent” SIDS, including positioners. These are not considered safe.
  11. Do not use home cardiorespiratory monitors to prevent SIDS. These have not been found to lower the risk.
  12. Make sure to incorporate supervised awake tummy time for your infant. This helps strengthen neck muscles.Mother Reading  Book Baby In Bed Before Going To Sleep

Although this may seem like a long list, most of you are already complying with many of these recommendations. They aren’t always convenient, or baby décor conscious, but what could be more important than your infant’s safety? Sudden Unexpected Infant Deaths are not all that “common”. But, if SUID only stole one infant’s life each year instead of 4,000, and that life was your child’s….? Don’t tempt fate. Protect your child. Reduce their risk of SUID.

From The Mom in Me, MD

 

 

Our Infertility Journey (1.1): Who’s to “Blame”

A man and a woman on a pierCrumpled up in a ball on the sofa, I stared at the television with heavy eyes. I was exhausted, but I had that strange high that sleep deprivation brings. Although I had been up for 36 hours, my adrenaline high had yet to fully fade. I had delivered several babies, coded a patient in the intensive care unit, and admitted over 20 patients overnight. I could never go right to bed when I made it home. My body longed for sleep, but my mind wanted just a few minutes to unwind. My usual routine on post-call days was to hit the sofa for an hour of mindless TV before trudging up to bed.

Lately I had been following the reality television show, Giuliana & Bill. On this particular post-call day, the show revealed that G&B’s only option for having their own child was to pursue In Vitro Fertilization. My heart sank for them, and then I thought of myself. What if that was our only option? What if we really couldn’t get pregnant on our own after all? I tried to shake the fear. I dismissed it as emotional irrationality from exhaustion. But, the next morning after a good night’s sleep, that same sickening feeling lingered in my stomach. What if?

My husband is an eternal optimist. I love him to death, but sometimes he doesn’t just see the glass half full, he believes that it’s overflowing! When he started to question if something was wrong with our ability to conceive, I knew that the sick feeling in my stomach was more than just paranoia. It was time to get some answers.Three Hands Pointing

Dave had been diagnosed with a varicocele in college. Many men have these harmless dilatations in the blood vessels in their groin, and they are usually nothing to worry about. In general, they don’t lead to infertility if they are small, but larger varicoceles can potentially heat up the testicle, leading to damaged sperm. Countless hours of standing in the operating room with gravity as his enemy had caused Dave’s varicocele to become rather large and uncomfortable. Because this was the most obvious issue contributing to our baby making struggles, he decided it was time to get it reevaluated. Part of this evaluation included a semen evaluation.

This was Dave’s first journey into the uncomfortable world of infertility. Our medical center had one small room for sperm collection (aka male masturbation station). The idea just seemed dirty, but it guaranteed the most accurate specimen. After uncomfortably waiting his turn for the room and accomplishing his mission, Dave transported his own sample to the lab where his swimmers were scrutinized for quantity, quality, and movement. Now we waited.

I remember Dave’s voice of concern laced with optimism when he called me with the results. His genetic components were great, his sperm movement was great, but…his count was incredibly low. I tried to sound positive, masking my dismay. I didn’t want him to feel worse than I knew he already did, but the sickening feeling in my stomach was so strong that it made me want to throw up. Something was wrong! Although my mind was racing in a million different directions, I managed to ask, “So, what now?”unhappy heterosexual couple

The plan was to repeat the count just to make sure that it wasn’t a lab error. When the repeat number was worse than the first, I was devastated but optimistic at the same time. Varicoceles could be surgically corrected! And, the urologist told us that we could still get pregnant on our own; It would just be more difficult. We decided that surgery was worth a try, and we didn’t want to waste any time. But, before we could schedule the operation, I received a call from the emergency room that changed everything!

From The Mom in Me, MD

Baby Shoes to Drool Over! (for kids and moms too)

petal-sky-blue-spring-2014-9Does every outfit start with the shoes, or do the shoes just make the outfit? YES and YES!! Babies have the best little feet. If we have to hide them with shoes, we better do it in style! Here is a glimpse into one of my favorite shoe brands for Ayla. In addition to baby sizes for boys and girls, they also design children and women’s shoes. baby-merry-bell-light-blue-summer-2014-3

baby-bloom-gold-summer-2014-3I stumbled across this brand quite by accident, but once I looked them up, I was hooked. WHO ARE THEY? None other than Livie & Luca. Here’s a sampling of shoe pictures taken from their website. Beware, you might fall in love too. If you find them to be a little too pricy, you can also find them on Zappos usually at a discount. Those may be last season, but really, who cares? Cute baby shoes are cute baby shoes!baby-minnie-navy-patent-summer-2014-3baby-zebra-cream-spring-2014-3toi-toi-red-patent-spring-2014-9

 

From The Mom in Me, MD

Our Infertility Journey (1.0): Before the Diagnosis

Worried woman looking at a pregnancy test in the bathroom.Another period. Another period of time. Another period of menstrual cramps. Another period of grief, heartache and loss. Another period of infertility. As I stared into the toilet, my heart plummeted  into my belly.  I had hoped that this month would be different. I wanted to be that girl who said, “Whoops, guess what honey? We’re pregnant!” Instead, I was the girl who was having scheduled sex, holding my legs over my head in hopes that just one sperm would decide to make love to one little egg. I had wasted countless pregnancy tests only to see the all too familiar solitary line. That single line mocked me as thought to say, “Yes, there is just one of you not two.” My romantic version of getting pregnant was being flushed down the toilet along with the physically and emotionally painful reminder that I was not going to be having a baby in nine months.

It’s strange how things start out as a plan and then become a devastation. Although I had been married at the age of 24, my husband and I had decided to wait to have children. We were smart. We were mature. We wanted time together to enjoy marriage before we added another being into the mix. In addition, we were medical students with residency on the horizon. Grueling hours studying, rounding, and then studying some more just didn’t seem like ideal parenting times. And, although we were right about our circumstances not being the best for bringing a child into the mix, we didn’t anticipate that by waiting we might be giving up our ability to ever have children.

Empty Swings 2

We had a plan. We wanted to be great parents. We wanted to have enough free time to raise our own baby. We wanted a support system. We wanted to wait for the ideal time. Unfortunately for us, the ideal time came and went. For a while, we said that we wouldn’t necessarily “try,”  but we would let nature take its course. For those months, I waited expectantly for a missed period only to be disappointed by cramps, tampons, and panty liners. Then, we decided that we needed to take things seriously…make a schedule…map my cycles, etc.etc. We were doctors, by golly, who better to know the menstrual cycle!

Although we were connoisseurs of the menstrual cycle, we were not its master. Our planning, and scheduling, and mandatory sex just didn’t seem to make a difference. We weren’t worried quite yet…but maybe just a little.

From The Mom in Me, MD

destigmatizing infertility in a baby booming culture

Beautiful young woman with pregnancy test. In bathroom.

In my previous blog I alluded to the fact that the inability to get pregnant is laced with stigma and shame. People put autism puzzle stickers and breast cancer survivor stickers on their cars, but I have yet to see an “Infertile Couple” awareness sticker. Is the diagnosis of infertility any less of a diagnosis? Insurance companies lead us to believe this by their lack of coverage for medically necessary infertility services (a blog for another day).  Although infertility may not be life threatening like breast cancer, it is a painful and limiting condition that profoundly impacts many lives.

I assume that the stigma of infertility in part stems from the fact that SEX is broken. Who wants to admit that their sex doesn’t “work”? And, although Sarah Jessica Parker may have normalized talking about explicit sex over the dinner table, many of us don’t want to share the intimacies of our relationship with friends, let alone strangers. In my mind, one of the beauties of intimacy is that it is something shared just between my husband and me. And, although I don’t shy away from joking about sex with friends now and then, I don’t make it a habit to share what I do in private. Talking with girl friends about periods, child-birth, and boobs is no big deal. But, infertility doesn’t naturally or comfortably fall into that “normal” girl talk.

Our culture is inundated with sexuality, but the idealized kind filled with Victoria’s Secret Angels, Tatum Channing physiques, and Ryan Gosling charm (okay, and physique!) Infertility is poor performing sexuality. Who wants to talk about that? Not men, and not most women. No, men hate bringing up (sorry for my choice of words here) their struggles with erectile dysfunction. Most aren’t even able to verbalize their complaint. Instead, they just point at their crotch and stutter, “I can’t, umm,” followed by a fill in the blank. And, in the past 15 years I have only had one woman come to me concerned over her lack of orgasmic ability.

Thus, infertility falls into the hush, hush sensitive topic category. It is sensitive, but the shame and stigma associated with it prevent women and men struggling with infertility from getting the resources and support that they need. Breast cancer used to have a similar stigma associated with it. Women should not openly talk about their breasts! How improper! Yes, it was cancer, but the “unmentionable” kind. Thankfully, the shame that used to accompany the diagnosis of breast cancer has been diminished due to proactive campaigns encouraging and empowering us to embrace our womanhood, “feel our boobies,” and kick cancer in the butt. This change in culture has led to life saving advancements in breast cancer research and treatments.

Can a similar cultural revolution transform how infertility is viewed? Yes, but only if people are willing to step outside of their comfort zones. If thirty year olds still refer to their genitalia as their “junk,” how are we going to have a real conversation about infertility. Using real words and talking about real life problems is a good starting place. Acknowledging that the human body often fails us, and that infertility is one of these physical and biologic failures that is out of our control, lessens the stigma, even if slightly. Normalizing the idea that infertility is incredibly common may also empower men and women to open up more readily about their struggle toward parenthood. The more that people talk about this culturally uncomfortable issue, the less uncomfortable it will become.

Reducing the stigma of infertility will positively and powerfully impact the infertility world. Infertile couples will have a larger support system if more people are willing to share their stories. This in turn will lead to increased social networks and social capital. With increased unity focused on the cause of infertility, more money will be raised for research, leading to improved infertility treatment options. Additionally, awareness campaigns may lead to political activism, forcing insurance companies to take infertility seriously and cover necessary treatments. Imagine a world where people have increased fertility because of improved infertility treatments and insurance coverage! If population control is your thing, then this may not excite you. But, for those of us hoping to add to the human race, this thought is utopia!

From The Mom in Me, MD

Sex at its Worst

Distressed Couple Finding Out Results Of A Pregnancy Test

The worst sex is baby-making sex. It starts off romantic, even inspired, but it quickly loses its charm. Some lucky couples may be exempt from my assessment. For example, the “oops couple” may have been having the time of their life only to find out that they are unexpectedly pregnant. Or, the “let’s stop the pill for one day and see what happens couple” may really enjoy the added benefit of being off of a medication that has a tendency to stifle orgasms and intense sex drive. For most of us, baby-making sex is timed, routine, get it done sex. It is layered with the stress of, “Will I ever get pregnant?” It may start off fun because the thought of making a baby together is beyond incredible, but when months start to pass and periods keep coming, the giddy gitters are replaced with a nervous question, “Will it ever happen?”

It would be nice to tie a bow around fertility and say that most of us have it. Realistically, one in eight couples struggles with infertility according to The National Survey of Family Growth from the Centers for Disease Control. That indicates that if more than eight of you are reading this, at least one of you is struggling with or will struggle with infertility. Not to rain on the stork’s parade, but this is something that women should be aware of so that they aren’t blindsided in their journey toward motherhood.

Knowing that you may struggle with infertility may be hard to acknowledge, but it may push you to seek help a little more quickly. Many women have embraced the career path, pushing back their nesting days into their thirties. In our culture this is more the norm than the exception, myself included. Although the typical rule of thumb is to try for at least a year before worrying about infertility, this doesn’t apply to those of us with ticking fertility clocks. Those of us desiring to enter the motherhood arena past the fertility prime of our twenties should be aware that the timetable is quite different. Women in their mid-thirties should actually consult an infertility specialist after only six months of unsuccessfully trying to make a baby the old-fashioned way based on current recommendations.

Although this may seem like a very short time to let nature take its course, the infertility workup path can be quite protracted. Many infertility clinics are booking out several months down the road. Completing a full infertility workup takes at least a month for all of the blood work, testing, follow up appointments, and decision making on how to proceed. So, if you haven’t gotten pregnant in six months, you most likely won’t even start infertility treatments for several months more. And, who is to say how many infertility treatments you will need before you actually get pregnant? Going into baby making in your thirties or forties with this knowledge may improve your chances of getting pregnant by encouraging you to be more proactive in investigating your fertility status sooner.

On a side note, some of you may be offended that I mention your twenties as your prime fertility years. Don’t start chewing me out. Biology and genetics are the ones running the show. I’m only stating the facts. Besides, it’s not like I’m in my twenties either. It is a confirmed fact that our ovaries have fewer and fewer healthy eggs with each passing year. Acknowledge it. Accept it. Embrace the fact that you are no longer in your twenties!

In addition to seeking an infertility evaluation sooner, knowing that one in eight couples struggles with infertility may also make you feel just a little bit less broken. People who are getting pregnant share the news. This is why it may seem like you are the only one not getting pregnant. People who are infertile often keep it to themselves. Infertility is a heavy word. It is weighted with shame, embarrassment, and feelings of inadequacy, despair, and desperation. Even the most optimistic couple can’t help but feel a little defeated when faced with this diagnosis. The possibility that parenthood may never be in their future can be world shattering. Knowing that you aren’t an anomaly can soften the blow…just a little bit. And, in the midst of an infertility diagnosis, any softening helps immensely.

In addition to knowing you aren’t alone with your infertile status, being aware that infertility is common (6.7 million women in the United States alone struggle with infertility according to the Centers for Disease Control) may nudge you to find a support system sooner than you would have. When my husband and I realized that making a baby the natural way was most likely unattainable for us, I struggled with the reality that I was an infertility patient. I went to most of my appointments alone, and even though I was in a waiting room filled with other women struggling with similar experiences, an uneasy silence filled the space between us. This silence was laced with pain, fear, and cautious hope. Why we didn’t reach out to each other always confused me. I assume that we wanted to respect each other’s privacy. We didn’t want to overstep the invisible barriers that each of us had build around us. Looking back, I would do things differently. I would risk a little more. I would trade in my pride for the support that these women could have offered. Maybe they didn’t need me (doubtful), but I needed the support that they could have offered. I now realize that enormous support exists for those of us carrying a diagnosis of infertility including online support groups such as Resolve, community support groups, and wow, probably one of our eight friends who is in a similar predicament. If we would be willing to share our story with others, they may just be willing to share their story with us.

If you find that baby making sex isn’t your forte either, embrace the fact that you can throw your birth control pills down the toilet for good! Sex can be entirely recreational and for passion and love’s sake alone. And, although the infertility journey may be the most difficult one that you take, starting the process sooner may increase your chances of success. You are not alone in this journey. Reach out early, and the stamina and strength you garner from other women’s stories may surprise you. Nothing is more powerful than women empowering other women in their journey toward motherhood.

From The Mom in Me, MD