Remember You are not Alone- EmpowerHER.com

Relationships are tough enough as it is — throw infertility into the mix and they can become even more complicated. When struggling with infertility, a couple’s time, thoughts, and finances tend to all revolve around one goal: taking home a healthy baby.

I’m no stranger to the heavy toll infertility can take on a relationship. My husband and I are now in our fourth year of trying to have a baby. During that time, I’ve had four miscarriages, seven IVF transfers, three IVF retrievals, and lost twins during delivery. Needless to say, it hasn’t been easy.

According to a recent survey conducted by the nonprofit organization HealthyWomen, nearly one-fourth of the women surveyed said that infertility had a negative impact on their relationship. Frankly, I’m surprised it was that low.

It takes two to make a relationship work — especially when battling infertility. To keep your relationship going strong, here are six things your infertile partner needs you to know:

1. I need you to step up.

I can’t do this without you. I know we have our own ways of handling and coping with our infertility, but I want to see that you’re also taking a proactive approach to finding a solution.

How to do it: Men and women approach infertility struggles in very different ways. Dr. Robin Roberts, a licensed clinical social worker, explains in an interview that women tend to take the lead when it comes to fertility issues.

Part of this is because of their biological clock, and the other part is because the female body is the site of most or all of the medical intervention — regardless of the source of infertility. Instead of letting your partner be the source of all of your information, seek to educate yourself by attending appointments and doing your homework. Dr. Roberts suggests reading the following books:

2. I want to have a conversation.

I know it seems like this is all I ever want to talk about, and that the infertility discussion can seem endless. But I want to step down from my soapbox and have a conversation where we both contribute.

How to do it: Whereas men often believe that women only ever want to talk about infertility, women fall into the trap of believing that men don’t want to talk about infertility — neither of which is actually true.

Dr. Roberts suggests trying what she calls the “20 minute rule.” Set aside a certain amount of time to have a focused discussion on your infertility. This keeps both parties from talking about infertility all day long and ensures each person is given ample time to speak and be heard.

3. I want you to attend appointments.

I know you have other obligations (i.e. a job), but I want you to attend every doctor’s appointment that you can. You’re my partner and you have a stake in this process. I want you to attend to learn more about our options firsthand and to ask your own questions. And having you by my side for moral support doesn’t hurt either.

How to do it: It’s one thing to not attend your partner’s doctor appointment because you have work — that we get. It’s another thing entirely to not attend an appointment because you’ve “seen one, seen them all.”

It’s a commitment to attend these appointments, a commitment both parties need to strive to make. If you simply can’t make it, be sure to ask about it later or give your partner a list of questions you’d like the doctor to answer.

4. I don’t want to lose intimacy.

Sex. It might seem like I have zero sex drive — and maybe, for the moment, I do — but I don’t want to lose the level of intimacy we have. The last thing I want is for sex to become a chore for us both. But I need you to understand that sex can be emotionally painful; it’s a reminder of what isn’t working. I want to overcome that, but I need your help.

How to do it: With timed intercourse, ovulation tests, and one goal in mind, it’s no wonder why sex can sometimes feel like a chore for couples trying to overcome their infertility. As a result, couples begin to lose their sex drive, find it hard to achieve an orgasm, experience erectile dysfunction — in short, infertility robs them of any and all pleasure. And that’s no fun.

To bring intimacy, romance, and pleasure back into the bedroom, don’t make every month a treatment month. Dr. Roberts put it perfectly: “Make it about connection, not conception.”

She also suggests getting out of town on occasion. After weeks, months, or years of failing to conceive, the bedroom can become associated with tension and stress. Getting out of town for a weekend can make a world of difference.

5. I need to talk to someone.

As much as I love and value your advice and opinion, I need to occasionally talk to someone other than you and our doctors. And so do you.

How to do it: When it comes to dealing with the social stress that accompanies infertility, it’s important for both men and women to have someone to talk to outside of their relationship. According to Dr. Roberts, these “allies” can serve as valuable outlets and support systems during uncomfortable social situations.

It can also help to talk to a mental health professional who specializes in infertility. They know and understand the emotions that accompany infertility and how to best process and overcome them.

6. Thank you.

Above all else, I want to thank you. I know that this isn’t an easy journey we’re on, but we’re on it together. I need you to know that I appreciate every hand squeeze during doctor appointments, every question you think to ask the doctor, every hug when the emotions overtake me — all of it. I couldn’t do it without you.

What else do you need your partner to know when it comes to your battle with infertility? Leave a comment below!

6 Important Things Your Infertile Partner needs you to Know- Huffington Post

Relationships are tough enough as it is — throw infertility into the mix and they can become even more complicated. When struggling with infertility, a couple’s time, thoughts, and finances tend to all revolve around one goal: taking home a healthy baby.

I’m no stranger to the heavy toll infertility can take on a relationship. My husband and I are now in our fourth year of trying to have a baby. During that time, I’ve had four miscarriages, seven IVF transfers, three IVF retrievals, and lost twins during delivery. Needless to say, it hasn’t been easy.

According to a recent survey conducted by the nonprofit organization HealthyWomen, nearly one-fourth of the women surveyed said that infertility had a negative impact on their relationship. Frankly, I’m surprised it was that low.

It takes two to make a relationship work — especially when battling infertility. To keep your relationship going strong, here are six things your infertile partner needs you to know:

1. I need you to step up.

I can’t do this without you. I know we have our own ways of handling and coping with our infertility, but I want to see that you’re also taking a proactive approach to finding a solution.

How to do it: Men and women approach infertility struggles in very different ways. Dr. Robin Roberts, a licensed clinical social worker, explains in an interview that women tend to take the lead when it comes to fertility issues.

Part of this is because of their biological clock, and the other part is because the female body is the site of most or all of the medical intervention — regardless of the source of infertility. Instead of letting your partner be the source of all of your information, seek to educate yourself by attending appointments and doing your homework. Dr. Roberts suggests reading the following books:

2. I want to have a conversation.

I know it seems like this is all I ever want to talk about, and that the infertility discussion can seem endless. But I want to step down from my soapbox and have a conversation where we both contribute.

How to do it: Whereas men often believe that women only ever want to talk about infertility, women fall into the trap of believing that men don’t want to talk about infertility — neither of which is actually true.

Dr. Roberts suggests trying what she calls the “20 minute rule.” Set aside a certain amount of time to have a focused discussion on your infertility. This keeps both parties from talking about infertility all day long and ensures each person is given ample time to speak and be heard.

3. I want you to attend appointments.

I know you have other obligations (i.e. a job), but I want you to attend every doctor’s appointment that you can. You’re my partner and you have a stake in this process. I want you to attend to learn more about our options firsthand and to ask your own questions. And having you by my side for moral support doesn’t hurt either.

How to do it: It’s one thing to not attend your partner’s doctor appointment because you have work — that we get. It’s another thing entirely to not attend an appointment because you’ve “seen one, seen them all.”

It’s a commitment to attend these appointments, a commitment both parties need to strive to make. If you simply can’t make it, be sure to ask about it later or give your partner a list of questions you’d like the doctor to answer.

4. I don’t want to lose intimacy.

Sex. It might seem like I have zero sex drive — and maybe, for the moment, I do — but I don’t want to lose the level of intimacy we have. The last thing I want is for sex to become a chore for us both. But I need you to understand that sex can be emotionally painful; it’s a reminder of what isn’t working. I want to overcome that, but I need your help.

How to do it: With timed intercourse, ovulation tests, and one goal in mind, it’s no wonder why sex can sometimes feel like a chore for couples trying to overcome their infertility. As a result, couples begin to lose their sex drive, find it hard to achieve an orgasm, experience erectile dysfunction — in short, infertility robs them of any and all pleasure. And that’s no fun.

To bring intimacy, romance, and pleasure back into the bedroom, don’t make every month a treatment month. Dr. Roberts put it perfectly: “Make it about connection, not conception.”

She also suggests getting out of town on occasion. After weeks, months, or years of failing to conceive, the bedroom can become associated with tension and stress. Getting out of town for a weekend can make a world of difference.

5. I need to talk to someone.

As much as I love and value your advice and opinion, I need to occasionally talk to someone other than you and our doctors. And so do you.

How to do it: When it comes to dealing with the social stress that accompanies infertility, it’s important for both men and women to have someone to talk to outside of their relationship. According to Dr. Roberts, these “allies” can serve as valuable outlets and support systems during uncomfortable social situations.

It can also help to talk to a mental health professional who specializes in infertility. They know and understand the emotions that accompany infertility and how to best process and overcome them.

6. Thank you.

Above all else, I want to thank you. I know that this isn’t an easy journey we’re on, but we’re on it together. I need you to know that I appreciate every hand squeeze during doctor appointments, every question you think to ask the doctor, every hug when the emotions overtake me — all of it. I couldn’t do it without you.

What else do you need your partner to know when it comes to your battle with infertility? Leave a comment below!

Campaign uses social media to raise awareness about infertility- Winnipeg

Campaign uses social media to raise awareness about infertility

WINNIPEG — There are thousands of Canadians that want to have children, but struggle to conceive. This week is National Infertility Awareness Week which recognizes the challenges that many people face when it comes to starting a family. It’s an issue that is not often discussed, but has a huge affect mentally and emotionally on many Canadians.

“I think it was my third miscarriage through IVF, and getting the subsequent transfers that I decided I had to reach out for help,” said Kathleen Boht. “It was just getting to the point of depression honestly.”

Boht has since had two children through in vitro fertilization. She said the journey has been challenging both mentally and financially, but worth it to achieve her dream of having a family.

“The second time it happened and I found out it was viable it was a total relief,” said Boht. “I know that’s what a lot of people feel; total relief, pure joy.”

According to the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, one in six Canadian couples are affected by infertility. Despite these numbers, many people still feel there is a stigma attached to it.

“A lot of people don’t consider it a medical issue, and a lot of people don’t like talking about it,” said Paula Chorney at the Infertility Association of Canada.

Using the hashtag #1in6, to represent the number of Canadian families struggling with the same issue, the association is sharing stories of couples who have undergone treatment. They want them to know that help is available.

“We’re just breaking the silence about infertility and sharing their stories is a good way of doing it,” said Chorney.

© Shaw Media, 2015

5 Frustrating Facts about Unexplained Infertility- Huffington Post

When it takes longer than it should to get pregnant, the first thing you what to know is why. So you go through the full diagnostic process, from researching family medical history to physical examinations to hormone tests — the whole shebang. And yet, some women aren’t any closer to discovering the reason behind their infertility.

If it’s not you, and it’s not him, then what’s keeping you from getting pregnant?

Dr. Allison Rodgers of the Fertility Centers of Illinois explains in an interview that an unexplained diagnosis is actually a good prognosis. It’s better to find nothing than to find something seriously wrong — even if that means extra guesswork for you and your doctor.

Here are five frustrating facts about unexplained infertility and how to cope:

1. Approximately 20-30 percent of infertility patients receive a diagnosis of unexplained infertility.

As a representative of the Type A members of society, there’s nothing more frustrating than not knowing all the answers. So, what does “unexplained infertility” actually mean?

According to Dr. Kara Khanh-Ha Nguyen, a physician at the Reproductive Medicine Associates of Philadelphia & Central Pennsylvania, “The diagnostic testing we have available will only identify the major reasons why a couple may have a difficult time getting pregnant but it certainly can not identify all the reasons.”

She goes on to explain that no tests exist for “subtle infertility factors” that could impact fertilization, such as poor egg quality.

Hope to cope: Not knowing the root cause of infertility means that all options are possible and you’re really only limited by your own ambition and available resources.

Dr. David H. Barad, director of clinical art and senior scientist at the Center for Human Reproduction, explains: “Everything is unexplained unless you make the effort to try to explain it. Until you begin an investigation, you are unexplained.”

2. Although the average chance of falling pregnant any given cycle among fertile couples is 20 percent, patients with unexplained infertility have only a one to four percent chance without treatment.

That percentage doesn’t offer much hope to those with unexplained infertility. With what seems like daily Facebook pregnancy announcements, it can feel like no one else shares your struggle to get pregnant. But, as it turns out, it can be difficult for even the most fertile among us.

How to cope: Before jumping into invasive treatment options, start off with minimal intervention treatments. According to Dr. Rodgers, “There’s a good number of patients who can get pregnant with more minimal interventions. The only way to know for sure is to try.”

Of her patients, typically one-third will get pregnant with medications and inseminations alone, which proves that sometimes minimal interventions can do the trick.

3. After three years of “expectant management,” the pregnancy rate for women with unexplained infertility is about 30 to 60 percent without intervention.

There’s nothing more frustrating than being told to “just wait it out” (another product of being Type A). If only it were that easy. Unfortunately, for many women, the “wait and see” approach doesn’t often end with a baby. After all, most of us are infertile for a reason — whether it’s explained or not.

Hope to cope: Instead of solely taking the “expectant management” approach, try a number of at-home techniques. One such technique is switching up your diet to include more fertile foods and/or supplements, such as organic, grass-fed meat and dairy, cold water fish and high-fiber foods. Not only does a fertility diet support your body in its reproductive efforts, but also it has shown an 80 percent decrease in infertility due to ovulatory disorders.

Mind-body exercises can also help reduce fertility-related stress and even help achieve fertility success. If you’d like to learn more about mind-body techniques as they relate to infertility, I highly recommend listening to my interview with Joanne Verkuilen, founder of Circle+Bloom.

4. Unexplained infertility often leaves IVF as the only treatment option.

In fact, a randomized trial of couples with unexplained infertility called FASTT (The Fast Track and Standard Treatment) showed that couples who are unsuccessful after three cycles of Clomid and intrauterine insemination (IUI) should then try in vitro fertilization (IVF) as the next step toward a successful pregnancy.

Hope to cope: The upside of IVF is that it can sometimes reveal subtle infertility factors other diagnostic processes miss, such as inadequate egg quality and embryo development or implantation issues.

What’s more, the success rate of IVF is actually pretty impressive. In women under the age of 35, nearly half (47.7 percent) of transfers resulted in live births. While that percentage does decrease with age, it’s still reasonably high for women between the ages of 38 and 40, with 28.5 percent of transfers resulting in live births.

5. Nearly six percent of women with unexplained infertility issues have celiac disease.

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, “When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.”

In other words, it may not be your reproductive organs causing your infertility.

How to cope: If you’ve struck out at the reproductive endocrinologist for an explanation of your infertility, try seeing an allergist. Your baby prayers might be answerable with a simple diet change.

There’s no denying that these facts are frustrating for those dealing with unexplained infertility. But we are not statistics. Don’t let these numbers define you and your struggle. Instead, let them motivate you to be the exception, not the rul

Small Wonders in the Canadian Jewish News

Ben Feferman, his wife Abby and their twin boys.
When Rachel was struggling to get pregnant and suffering through infertility treatments, the toll it took on her physically was only half the battle.

“Seeing people with babies, seeing people pregnant, it was very, very hard for me,” she recalled.

“In the Jewish community, everyone wants to know if you’re pregnant, and they look you up and down, they make you feel uncomfortable. You’re going to shul, you’re going to events, and being in that tightknit community, it was very awkward and hard for me.”

Rachel (not her real name) said she didn’t think she would ever have trouble conceiving because her menstrual cycles were regular, but after trying for seven months with no luck, she decided to seek medical advice and have her hormone levels checked.

After discovering a hormonal irregularity, Rachel began cycle monitoring, and later, intrauterine insemination, but when these approaches led to a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy – a dangerous abnormality that occurs when an embryo implants outside the uterus – she and her husband decided to try in vitro fertilization (IVF).

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After the first IVF cycle at the age of 30, she conceived, and now has an infant daughter.

But beyond the physical challenges Rachel faced in trying to get pregnant, she said the social aspect of infertility was also a big stress on her and her husband.

“My friends would get pregnant and not tell me, and I would find out through Facebook, and when I would say, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’ I got every single excuse under the sun. I was starting to be treated differently, I wasn’t invited to kids’ birthday parties because I didn’t have a kid, so I felt like the odd one out. All my friends were having babies and I wasn’t included in that,” she said.

She said she also got a lot of unsolicited advice from well-meaning friends and family.

“My boss knew, and she said to me, ‘Well, why don’t you just adopt? Don’t even go through all of that.’ That didn’t sit well with me,” Rachel said.

“I had people telling me to go to the mikvah [a ritual bath], it will help you get pregnant. Well, I tried that. It didn’t work. I was told go to a bris and hold the baby – that will help you. That didn’t work.”

She said although her family was very supportive, she felt a lot of pressure and negativity from her in-laws.

“My mother-in-law thought something was wrong with me. She didn’t believe what was going on and thought it was ridiculous and would say, ‘How come you can’t get pregnant? I’ve never heard of this before.’”

For 31-year-old Ben Feferman, it took him and his wife, Abby, some time to feel comfortable enough to speak openly about their three-year struggle to conceive.

“After about a year and a half, we started seeing a fertility doctor, and it was still unsuccessful and very challenging, very demanding – all the tests and injections – it really is a full-time job,” Feferman said.

Feferman and his wife were told they had unexplained infertility, a diagnosis given to patients who don’t exhibit any physical or hormonal reproductive abnormalities.

“That may have been even a little harder because there was no answer,” he said.

About a year and a half into their infertility treatment, they learned about a Toronto-based, non-profit organization called Small Wonders, which helps Jewish couples cope with infertility by offering financial, emotional, medical and halachic support.

“But we were too embarrassed, we weren’t ready to approach an organization and say, ‘You know what, we’re going through infertility and we don’t even know what we need. We don’t know if we need someone to talk to, if we need medical advice. We don’t know if we need financial help,’” he said.

But eventually, they reached out to Denise Levin, Small Wonders’ couples director.

Levin explained that while the organization, founded in 2002, funds up to 50 per cent of treatment costs for up to two babies – which can cost upward of $15,000 per IVF cycle – Small Wonders is also a source of support and guidance.

“We offer all our other services, like emotional support where we hook people up for peer-to-peer support, professional support – we try to find them someone to speak to if they need to,” Levin said, adding that the Bathurst Street office has a discreet back entrance for those concerned about privacy, as well as a lounge area with private computers for research.

There is another organization that Jewish couples can turn to for financial assistance called Jewish Free Loan, which offers interest-free loans.

Although the Fefermans’ story ends happily – they welcomed healthy twin boys a couple months ago through IVF – he expressed frustration about the cost of fertility treatments in Ontario.

“If you need to terminate a pregnancy for whatever reason, the government covers the cost, but if you want to create a life, if you want to get pregnant, there is no help,” he said.

Jan Silverman, a reproductive health educator and counsellor, and an advocate for people who are struggling with infertility, said her passion is to speak for “those who are afraid to get on a soap box and say this isn’t fair… It’s not fair in terms of funding. It is not fair that what an infertile person needs to make their family can be ridiculously expensive.”

Silverman said the Ontario government announced last year that it would fund one IVF cycle per couple, but has yet to make good on the promise.

“The prices can be prohibitive without the government recognizing it and saying, ‘Let’s regulate, let’s make it fair, let’s make it comfortable,’” she said.

“How long do you wait when your own biological clock is ticking louder and louder?”

Anxiety, helplessness and desperation are feelings Silverman is very familiar with, having experienced them herself when she was trying to conceive 35 years ago.

“I’m a counsellor, but I started in the field because I am infertile and I was infertile before anyone was talking about it… I started as a grassroots activist because no one was talking about it 35 years ago. No one was doing anything about it, and women with fertility issues were left completely on their own, afraid, ashamed, embarrassed to talk about it,” Silverman said.

“The options are so much greater now than they were then, but what hasn’t changed, remarkably, is there is still that sense of not talking about it, of shame, of embarrassment, of silence.”

Rachel said there were times she would bump into religious people she knew at the clinic where she was being treated, and they would often act embarrassed or awkward.

“And there is nothing to be embarrassed about. You’re getting the best care, so what more can you ask for? If you need a little bit of help, then you need a little bit of help,” Rachel said.

She suspects that those who associate feelings of shame with infertility do so because they think that conceiving a child through IVF is unnatural.

But Rachel’s advice for those who are having difficulty getting pregnant or are close to someone who is going through infertility, is to educate themselves.

“The science behind it is really amazing. I was able to watch from the moment they retrieved my egg, to the fertilization, to the embryo being on the screen on video, to it being implanted. I got to watch. It was the coolest thing ever, and being able to watch was very special to me,” Rachel told The CJN, as her four-month-old daughter napped in a stroller beside her.

Levin said that at Small Wonders, they understand how difficult it is to talk openly about it, and to be surrounded by peers, friends and family who are having babies.

“We have people who can support our clients and try to tell them, ‘We’ve been through it, and this is how I got through it…’ To know you are not alone is very important.”

Levin’s advice is to seek support, find a good team of doctors and lean on your spouse.

“Make sure you are mentally prepared for the road ahead. It’s a difficult one. It changes the relationship between yourself and your spouse, and that’s very important to be cognizant of, and [you have] to focus on that because you need the support of a spouse when you go through this.”