IVF- Its Overwhelming at Every Turn- The Guardian

Here’s something we all understand about conception: it’s a private thing. So what was most difficult about in vitro fertilisation (IVF), says Gareth Farr, was juggling issues around conceiving a baby in the midst of a busy working life – but when no one else knew what was going on. “I’d be in a meeting or teaching a class and I’d have to pretend I needed to use the bathroom so I could go off and find an empty room and take a call to find out how many embryos had been fertilised,” he says. “And then I’d have to phone my wife, Gabby, and tell her whatever crucial information had been imparted from the clinic, and then race back into the meeting or class and pretend nothing had happened.”

IVF is enormously stressful, but as a society we’ve not really begun to unpack what that means for an individual, for a couple and their relationship, or for wider relationships within a family. With assisted conception on the rise – 2% of all babies born in Britain are now conceived this way, and the number is increasing – it’s becoming more important for the issues to be understood and for us as a society to at least acknowledge them, and perhaps to do more to help couples through what’s involved. That’s Gareth’s view and based on his and Gabby’s five-year quest for a baby, and all they went through, he’s written a play that seeks to grapple with the issues – it opened this week in Birmingham before travelling to London.

I felt by turns emasculated, embarrassed, pathetic and ashamed
Gareth Farr
Like many couples, Gareth and Gabby thought that once they made the decision to have a child, one would simply come along. They’d met in 2003 at the Young Vic – she’s a theatre producer, he’s a playwright and drama teacher. He remembers mentioning, on a visit to his GP to talk about something else, that they’d been trying for a baby for several months. “She said 80% of couples get pregnant within a year of trying, just keep at it,” he says. “But then it got to a year and we were like, oh. Ok. So we’re in the 20%.”

When they embarked on infertility treatment, they decided not to tell family and friends. “For a long time we didn’t tell anyone else,” says Gareth. “We thought, this is all going to work out, and then there will be a baby and we don’t need to tell anyone how it all happened. So there was all this pain and anxiety and sadness in our lives, but we weren’t sharing it … I wasn’t sharing it with anyone because I was too proud.”

What they hadn’t realised – and this is one of the big issues Gareth aims to explore in the play – is how enormous the toll of that is on a couple and their relationship, as well as their work and career. “I felt by turns emasculated, embarrassed, pathetic and ashamed,” remembers Gareth, 38. “But I wasn’t sharing it with anyone, I was just desperately trying to cope. It’s a man’s role to support his partner, but while I was trying to support Gabby, I was crumbling inside. The IVF journey saps your energy, it takes you somewhere you didn’t even know existed. It’s overwhelming and shocking at every single turn. It’s a bit like going through bereavement or cancer, but no one knows what’s happening to you.”

IVF: ‘I had the dread feeling that I was part of some greater experiment’
Read more
The other major issue for Gareth, and again one he explores in the play, is how it feels when something that should happen in the most private and intimate arena of a life, moves instead to a hospital clinic, a sperm production room and a laboratory.

“It has a big impact on your sex life – in fact, at times you aren’t even allowed to have sex,” he says. “I used to have to mix Gabby’s drugs and then inject her and it absolutely wasn’t how I’d ever thought we’d be making a baby.”

Another issue, he says, is that although conception should be a shared experience, in IVF the focus – often for understandable and necessary reasons – is on the woman and her body, but that can make a partner feel redundant and uncertain about what’s required of him. “All the needles and the tests and the dropping your knickers at every turn was for me,” says Gabby, 39. “Gareth said quite early on: ‘I wish I could do my share.’ At least I felt I was doing something – it was very physical, there were all these drugs and needles and tests.”

“For me,” says Gareth, “it felt a bit like watching from the sidelines.”

You won’t find any pictures of our ‘perfect family’ on social media. I remember all too easily how that felt.
Gabby Vautier
The turning point for Gareth came when Gabby dragged him along to an infertility support group. “I thought, I’ll just sit in the corner and say nothing,” he remembers.

In fact, they couldn’t shut him up – and as well all the poured-out feelings came the realisation, from talking to others in the room, that theirs was a universal experience. “I’m a playwright, so I’m always looking for human drama – and it was very clear I was surrounded by it,” says Gareth. “Also, this is a subject that hasn’t been much explored in the arts, especially the performing arts – and there are important issues here that deserve an airing.”

He’s also very aware, he says, that he and Gabby survived their IVF journey at least partly because they have a strong relationship – so how much harder must it be for a couple who are already feeling their connection is a bit ropey? Not to mention the fact that needing several rounds of IVF dents a couple’s finances big-time – another guaranteed relationship iceberg. “The couple in the play struggle, as Gabby and I struggled, with how IVF chips away at every bit of your life,” says Gareth. “Of course there’s humour, because there has to be humour in any journey you go on – you absolutely have to look for the lightness, you have to find it anywhere you can, because that can be a lifesaver.”

Gareth and Gabby and their twin daughters, Astrid and Florrie, now 18 months.
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Gareth and Gabby and their twin daughters, Astrid and Florrie, now 18 months old. Photograph: Frantzesco Kangaris for the Guardian
If you want to know the ending of Gareth’s play you’ll have to go and see it: but here’s the ending of his and Gabby’s real-life story. On the fourth round of IVF, having remortgaged their London flat (they live in Surrey now) and having survived the emotional rollercoaster of three failed attempts, Gabby’s pregnancy test was positive. “Gareth said straightaway: I bet it’s twins and I bet they’re girls,” she remembers.

It was, and they were. So now it’s Gareth and Gabby and 18-month olds Florrie and Astrid. “We’ve become exactly the sort of couple I always hated when I was going through IVF, the kind whose stories end like this,” says Gabby.

While their lives have gone through another seismic shift to parenthood – the shift they wanted all along – they both try very hard not to lose sight of the fact that many other couples and individuals are still out there, still on the IVF journey, still hoping, and still very sensitive to other people’s stories. “You won’t find any pictures of our ‘perfect family’ on social media,” says Gabby. “I remember all too easily how that felt.”

Accompanying the play will be two day-long fertility festivals, which aim to open up discussion on many of the issues explored in the play. “We want to give people the space to talk about these incredibly difficult issues,” says Gabby. Even when it’s over, it’s still there in the background. “It changes you – it’s left scars, and it will always be part of us,” says Gareth. “We’re different from the parents we would have been.”

He and Gabby know, too, that they are the lucky ones. Most people who go through IVF and experience all the emotional strain they experienced, don’t emerge with a baby at all. How much tougher, they ask, is the fallout likely to be for them?

The Quiet House by Gareth Farr is at Birmingham Repertory theatre until 4 June, and then at the Park theatre, London, 7 June to 9 July. The fertility festivals are on 28 May in Birmingham, and 11 June in London. For the full programme see fertilityfest.com

PCOS- Shady Grove Fertility

By Shady Grove Fertility • June 1, 2016 • 6 Comments
treatment for pcos
With nearly one-third of all infertility diagnoses in women, polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS, is the most common ovulatory disorder in women of reproductive age.

While myths persist that women with PCOS cannot get pregnant, the reality is that PCOS is highly treatable and nearly every women with PCOS should be able to get pregnant. In fact, many women will experience increases in fertility through lifestyle changes and modest weight loss. Others will find success with basic infertility treatments and medications. And for those that need additional help conceiving, in vitro fertilization (IVF) is a highly effective form of treatment for women with PCOS.

pcos: cause of infertility


PCOS affects approximately 5 to 10 percent of the population, and is most prevalent in Hispanics, African Americans, and Caucasians while some studies suggest that there is a rising rate in women of Asian descent.

Some of the most recognizable symptoms of PCOS include acne, excess hair growth, and absent or irregular menstrual cycles. While many people may consider obesity as a main symptom of the disease, approximately one-third of women with PCOS are normal weight or underweight.


Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is caused by hormonal imbalances that curtail or prevent ovulation—the body’s process of producing and releasing eggs from the ovary. Essentially, women with PCOS have an inappropriate production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). As a result, they experience limited egg development and an increase in testosterone and other typically male hormones (androgens).

FSH is responsible for stimulating the growth of follicles in the ovaries that contain the maturing egg. A lack of FSH for an extended period of time will prevent the follicles from maturing, keeping them as small, resting follicles within the ovary.

Increased levels of LH cause the body to produce too much estrogen and male hormones (androgens), including testosterone, which can cause the endometrial tissue in the uterus to get very thick, resulting in heavy and/or irregular periods. The increase in androgens is also responsible for the excess hair growth and acne.

Another cause of PCOS is an insensitivity to insulin, which is responsible for an excess of male hormones. This, many times, results in increased weight gain and obesity that places the patient at higher risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


All Shady Grove Fertility, patients undergo basic fertility testing including day 3 blood testing and ultrasound. The ultrasound can determine if ovaries are enlarged and contain immature resting follicles, a prominent symptom of PCOS.

In addition to basic testing, your medical team will determine if there are any physical signs of excess androgens present, as well as the quality of ovulation through the length and regularity of your menstrual cycles. Once your physician has a complete picture and can make a diagnosis, he or she will work you to create an individualized treatment plan.


For overweight women with PCOS, weight loss is often the first step to increasing your chances of pregnancy. The benefits of weight reduction include improved ovulatory function, improved chances of conception, a safer pregnancy for both the mother and baby, and—if needed—better response to fertility medications. Studies have shown that by losing just 5 percent of body weight, a woman can actually restore her menstrual cycle and ovulate on her own. Weight loss has also shown to reduce other symptoms such as hair growth, acne, and balding.


For women with PCOS who are actively trying to conceive, it is advised to consult with your OB/GYN or a fertility specialist, since many women with PCOS are not ovulating. Your physician can prescribe medication to help stimulate ovulation.

Oral fertility medications like clomiphene (Clomid or Serophene), which have been available for many decades, continue to be widely used to produce an ovarian follicle containing an egg. Clomiphene acts by blocking the action of estrogen in the brain (the hypothalamus and pituitary). As a result, there is an increased production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) causing the development of one or more follicles. If ovulation is still irregular, an additional medication, metformin, may be prescribed. Metformin helps to decrease glucose production and make the body more sensitive to insulin, thus leading to more regular ovulation.

It is only recommended to stay on a medication-only protocol for three to four cycles, after which, chances of this protocol resulting in a pregnancy decrease.

medication study for pcos


Depending on the initial testing, a fertility specialist may recommend a patient start with timed intercourse or intrauterine insemination (IUI) (with medications to induce ovulation)n that can be scheduled around the development of the follicle(s), provided that the Fallopian tubes are open and the sperm counts are normal. The typical success rates with IUI are about 15 to 25 percent per cycle; a woman’s individual success rate with IUI is largely impacted by her age.

If after a few attempts with IUI, or if the patient is presenting with other factors, such as blocked Fallopian tubes, her physician may recommend in vitro fertilization (IVF).


Women with PCOS have a very good chance at conception. Patience and dedication may be necessary to allow an adequate amount of time for lifestyle modifications to enhance fertility naturally, as well as being proactive about the appropriate amount of time to proceed with medical therapy. With the proper treatment, PCOS can be managed for the long-term and patients can live relatively symptom free.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in September 2011 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness as of June 2016.

Todays Parent- All about Infertility



It can be devastating to deal with infertility. But it’s incredibly common: one in six couples have difficulty conceiving. We’ve created a resource of information and personal stories in the hopes of making this process a little less daunting.


    Melanie's Story


    Ellen's Story


    Tara's Story


    Erin's Story


    Could we be Fertile?LEADING CAUSES OF

    Causes of InfertilityHOW INFERTILITY AFFECTS

    How Infertility affects your Relationship


    5 Reasons of Not Getting PregnantHOW TO MANAGE

    6 Ways to cope with Infertility Stress




    What to Expect with Treatment


    Secondary Fertility






    Egg Quality


    Sperm Quality


    Advice for People struggling with Infertility


    Things not to Say


    When a friend can't get Pregnant


    IVF Don't Work

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Demystifying Infertility- Dr. Dan Nayot- TRIO- The Social

Starting a family is one of the most exciting times of a couple’s life. But for roughly one in six couples in Canada who have trouble conceiving, it can be frustrating and exhausting.

So, how do you know if you’re infertile? And when is the right time to seek professional help? Doctor Dan Nayot, an infertility specialist at the Toronto Centre for Advanced Reproductive Technology, stopped by to help answer these questions and more.

How is infertility defined and when is the right time to see a specialist?

  • Infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after 12 months of unprotected sex
  • But issues that come up before the end of a year can also contribute. An irregular period is a common reason that patients may want to see their doctor to make sure that everything is in check.
  • For healthy, young women, we generally recommend seeing a specialist after 12 months of trying; if you’re over 35, after six months of trying.
  • However, if you suspect you may have difficulty conceiving or are even just interested to learn more about your reproductive health, any time is the right time.

What exactly do ‘old eggs’ mean?

  • Early to mid-30s is a good estimate of when your fertility potential really starts to decline.
  • The decline is more significant in your late 30s to 40s.
  • Women are born with a set number of eggs and both the quantity and quality of these eggs decrease as women age. On the contrary, men are constantly producing new sperm (it takes about two-three months for sperm to be made), and so age is much less a factor for men.

What are the common fertility treatments and how much do they cost?

  • Fertility treatments can range from the simple (such as monitoring the menstrual cycle and helping the couple properly time their intercourse) to the more involved (such as in vitro fertilization).
  • The costs depend on the treatment, and partially on the province you live in. In Ontario, the majority of the initial testing, which may include the bloodwork, ultrasound and the consultation, are covered by OHIP.
  • Before you proceed with any fertility treatment, you need to consider several issues: What is the chance this treatment will work? What are the risks associated with it (i.e. side effects from the medications, the risk of having twins)? What is the cost? What are the alternative options?

What are the success rates for the different treatments?

  • When talking about treatments, we usually speak in “cycles,” which refers to monthly ovulation.
  • The number of cycles really varies depending on your personal situation. Sometimes all you need is a single cycle to get pregnant. I have even had the good fortune of meeting a couple for a fertility consultation and finding out that they were in fact pregnant and didn’t know.
  • Just to put things into prospective, for a young healthy couple just starting to try to get pregnant, their chance to conceive is about 15-20 per cent per month. Some fertility treatments have success rates over 30 per cent per cycle, but again this depends on the patient and their partner.
  • Choosing the right treatment is critical. Of course, the goal is to have a baby, but doing so in the safest way possible is key. You and your doctor need to discuss which treatment makes sense for you.


Fertilized Human Egg Emits Flash of Light- CBC

Fertilized human egg emits microscopic flash of light

When an egg is fertilized, the rapid release of zinc creates a spark

By Jillian Bell, CBC News Posted: Apr 27, 2016 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Apr 27, 2016 5:00 AM ET

In vitro fertilization is seen in this file photo. The size of 'zinc sparks' has been linked to an egg's quality and ability to grow into a viable embryo, which could improve the selection process for in vitro fertilization.

In vitro fertilization is seen in this file photo. The size of ‘zinc sparks’ has been linked to an egg’s quality and ability to grow into a viable embryo, which could improve the selection process for in vitro fertilization. (Dr. Thomas Hannam)

When you meet someone who ignites your passion, it can feel like fireworks going off. New research by Northwestern University researchers, published in the journal Scientific Reports, shows that when human sperm meets an egg, it can also set off sparks.

For the first time, scientists have proven that when a human egg is fertilized, it releases what are called zinc sparks. Upon fertilization, calcium increases and zinc is rapidly released. When this happens, the zinc joins itself to small, light-emitting molecule probes. In other words, it creates a microscopic flash of light.

The scientists were unable to fertilize eggs with sperm for this study due to legal issues surrounding research with human embryos. Instead, they injected the eggs with a sperm enzyme, triggering the egg activation process and causing the increase in calcium and release of zinc.

Zinc sparks had previously been seen in animal studies, but the discovery that they also occur in humans could have significant ramifications for assisted reproduction technology. This is because the animal studies, where the eggs could actually be fertilized, have shown that the size of the zinc sparks is a direct reflection of the egg’s quality and ability to grow into a viable embryo.

In vitro game changer

Currently, during the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process, doctors don’t know how viable a fertilized egg or embryo is until pregnancy occurs. But if scientists are able to develop a way to measure zinc sparks without harming the zygote, it could be a game changer.

“This means if you can look at the zinc spark at the time of fertilization, you will know immediately which eggs are the good ones to transfer in in vitro fertilization,” Teresa Woodruff, one of the study’s senior authors and a Northwestern University professor of obstetrics and gynecology, said in a news release.

Using only the most viable embryos could save a lot of time and heartache for IVF patients, while sparing them from the potential risks of extended embryo culture (keeping the embryo in a culture medium from the third day of fertilization on, which has been associated with pre-term births) and multiple embryo transfer (which increases the risk of becoming pregnant with multiple fetuses), the study says.

New 2016 Census- Fertility Matters

2016 National Census – Let’s make infertility count!
Many of you have received the national census questionnaire and about to respond. This an opportunity to have an accurate picture about infertility in Canada and we’re counting on you to help make this happen.

One out of four households will receive the long questionnaire and will have a chance to raise awareness about infertility. In the section about Activities of the Daily Living, question 11 f) allows the respondent to specify a health problem or long-term condition that has lasted or is expected to last for six months or more. We are encouraging you to answer “Infertility”.

Having accurate statistics can go a long way in having more open discussion about infertility in our lives and in our society. It can also help us advocate for better access to affordable, fair and safe medical treatments. Good luck!

Jewish Couple doesn’t give up hope- CoLive

A Jewish couple who gave up hope on having a child rolled into Chabad of Nepal. What happened next will deeply move you.

Mrs. Chani Lifshitz, her husband, and children, are Shluchim of the Rebbe in Kathmandu, Nepal. The following was published onChabad.org and translated by Esther Rabi:

For several days, Limor sits, silent and thoughtful, in the Chabad House. Once in awhile, she asks about this or that, but most of the time she sits, mute, observing the joyous youths around her with a bleak countenance.

Her husband Amir sits at her side, frowning and serious. We never hear him speak.

Everything was so good at first, the whole world awash in the colors of their hopes and dreams. And then their troubles began. They looked with yearning at the families around them. Why did everyone else have a baby, but not them?

“It wasn’t for lack of trying,” she explains. “There wasn’t a specialist that we didn’t consult. There wasn’t a treatment that we didn’t try. Everyone said the same thing: It’s not going to happen.”

Before abandoning their sinking marriage, they decided to make one last effort. They stopped the injections and the treatments and dismally loaded their backpacks “to clear our heads and to get as far away as possible,” she says.

“First, to Nepal, and then afterwards, to India and maybe also China. If travel wouldn’t help us recover what had been destroyed, then there was no hope.”

The tears fall as she cries out that even this didn’t help! She buries her head in my shoulder, sobbing.

“Limor. I want you to come with me to immerse,” I tell her, putting my hand on her hand. My stomach is churning. To immerse? Where did I get such an idea just now? She leaps back, away from my touch.

“To immerse? Like, in a mikvah? Why should I all of a sudden want to immerse in a mikvah?” She rises from the couch. “I already immersed in a mikvah before our wedding. That was enough for me. No, thank you!”

“But you don’t understand! Come with me to immerse. Perhaps this will help you have a child!”

She looks at me, angry and disappointed. “How can you say such a thing? For 10 years, I’ve been going from doctor to doctor, and not one of them could help me have a child. You know me for a minute-and-a-half, and you think you can help me?” The pain in her hazel eyes pierces my soul. She strides hastily to the door.

A moment before she can grab the doorknob, I catch her hand. I look deep into her eyes and ask her to listen to me for just one more moment.

“We don’t have a mikvah here, Limor,” I explain. “We immerse in the river. It’s an hour-and-a-half ride, and then it takes another hour to climb the mountain to get to a freezing river! We break the ice! Literally!”

Tears roll down my cheeks. “I want you to come with me to immerse,” I plead. “I want you to help me break the ice, and in this merit, may G‑d bless you with a child!”

Her cold hands slowly warm in mine. The look in her eyes softens. “Where have you come from, Chani?” she murmurs. “How have you gotten to me? Enough. We’ve already given up. And … and … what about Amir? He’s not at all religious. We don’t believe in those things. What am I going to tell him?”

I calm her, tell her not to worry. My husband Chezki will talk to Amir.

Her inner turmoil slowly subsides. The sun shining through the window streaks her face. “Come, Chani,” she tells me. “Let’s go to the river.”

I tell her now is not the time. First, I want to be sure that she understands the magnitude and sanctity of the mikvah, as well as the requisite laws.

She comes to my home for the next couple of weeks. We sit and talk about what purity means. We talk about the power of the Jewish woman, and her own power. Limor’s eyes are still. She barely touches the coffee or the cinnamon buns I set out for her.

Her husband, Amir, was opposed at first, but when the day comes for her to immerse, he comes to our house to wait for her return. Limor follows him in, wearing a white dress, with such a light in her eyes! A light that I’m sure Amir himself hasn’t seen for a very long time.

A sputtering motorcycle rickshaw takes us to the bus station. We’re on our way to the village where “our” river is. The windows of our old bus have no panes, and a stubborn wind whips our faces. The road twists and turns.

Several times we find ourselves hanging over deep gorges, with only a step between us and oblivion. Each time that happens, I sneak a fearful glance at Limor, but she’s beaming. None of this disturbs her.

I’ve accompanied tens of women who were initially wary of immersion up the steep grade I’m climbing now with Limor. Their hearts melt when they hear stories of righteous women breaking the ice to immerse in the river. This natural feminine experience is enchanting. It’s just them and their Creator, while the mountains surrounding them whisper their prayers.

It’s pitch-dark when we get there, but I know every rock and could walk here with my eyes shut. Limor’s face shines like the moon. We hardly need the miner’s flashlight that I wear on my head.

“Come, Limor,” I say before we reach the river. “Come, sit with me for just a moment. There’s a song I love to sing before immersing. Listen to the words.”

The babbling waters of the river sing with us. The birds are silent. “May this hour be a time of mercy, a time in which Your heavenly will accompanies us.” Limor sings after me, word for word. Her head rests on my shoulder. We hold hands. “A time of mercy, a time in which Your heavenly will accompanies us … ”

I take an axe from my pack and go to break the ice on the river. Limor shivers, not just from cold. A soft cry escapes her as she enters the water. “It’s freeeeeezing!” Her cries rise straight to G‑d’s throne. When she steps out of the river, the stars descend to meet her.

I honor the pure, silent moment, and neither of us sully it with speech. I just hug her and pray. We sit on the steep path. Two women in the center of creation.



The next day, she sets off with Amir to India, and from there to China. We lose touch. I try every which way to find out what has become of her, but can’t. She is just … gone.

Until, 10 months later, the phone rings. Limor is on the line. At first, all I can hear is crying.

Then she tells me they experienced a miracle yesterday. They had a baby girl. They are calling her Nesyah (“miracle of G‑d”).

Baby Nesyah, Photo: Chabad.org

Baby Nesyah, Photo: Chabad.org

The river that serves as a mikvah for the women of Katmandu

The river that serves as a mikvah for the women of Katmandu

Living with Secondary Infertility- Huffington Post

Is he your only child?” she asks. I nod, hoping that will end this line of questioning. But it doesn’t.

“You don’t want to have another?” she asks pointedly.

“We don’t come by them easily,” I say as nonchalantly as possible. “But the one that we have is a fantastic kid.” I smile, as if to say: And that’s that. No more questions. It’s a response I’ve used before when other casual acquaintances have touched on this sensitive subject. Often it works. But today I’ve encountered a persistent one.

“This may be none of my business, but it’s my experience that only children are more unhappy than ones that have siblings,” she says. I take a deep breath and pretend to listen as she prattles on about her own two sons. I resist the urge to tell her about hours spent having blood work and sonograms at the reproductive endocrinologist’s office, nightly progesterone shots for pregnancies in jeopardy, two miscarriages, a stillbirth at seven months. Instead, I listen politely and wait for an opportunity to change the subject.

As a parent living with secondary infertility, I know how fortunate I am to have a smart, funny, all-around-awesome child. I also know the beauty of watching a young child learn and grow. I long to have that experience again with another child.

Our basement is filled with toys, strollers, car seats and clothes our son has outgrown. They are symbols not only of our son’s infancy, but also of a future we had imagined for our family. A future we now fear may be out of reach.

Secondary infertility is in many ways an invisible issue. Outsiders often assume that because we were able to have a child once, we can do it again — that we are a one-child family by choice. Couples struggling with primary infertility understandably see our good fortune, rather than our pain. We are the lucky ones.

Yet, when we see the brothers across the street playing catch together, the soccer moms on the sidelines with strollers and diaper bags, our son eager to play with his baby cousins, inquisitive about when we can welcome a sibling to our home… We feel the ache for what we wish we could give our son — and ourselves.

In our house, the joy of parenthood and the pain of infertility live side-by-side.

When you’re facing infertility, a synagogue can be the most painful place to go. Let’s change that.

When I stood before my congregation, I had been asked to be one of 100 Jewish leaders giving sermons at their synagogues on the subject of infertility.

I could have talked in the abstract to my congregation at Ohev Sholom, as if infertility is something that other people experience. The idea of saying anything personal was nerve-wracking.

But one of the biggest challenges that couples face when they struggle to conceive is loneliness. That feeling that you’re the only one going through it can be hard to bear.

So this past Shabbat, I told my community: I had two miscarriages, before my husband and I found out about the chromosomal problem that was preventing us from having a healthy baby. I went through IVF.

And now that I am blessed to bring my infant son to our synagogue, I know that faith communities can do so much more to support members who are struggling with infertility.


Infertility is a long and aching experience. Each month crawls by, as the couple waits to see: Will this be our month? Will we finally get a positive test? Will the treatments work? Will we finally get to share the good news?

And for members of a faith community, there is another layer to these questions: Will we finally get to celebrate with our congregation?

At my synagogue in the District, which is called the National Synagogue, we are blessed to have so many babies born in our community, and so many opportunities to celebrate, at brises for boys and simchat bats for girls.


But for every baby that is born, there is at least one person in the room desperately wishing it was happening to them. While my husband I were struggling through our two miscarriages, uncertain of what the future held, being in a synagogue was very painful. There were so many times that I stood with families welcoming new babies, happy for the new parents, but also with tears in my eyes as we sang because it hurt so much and I so badly wished that I was the one celebrating.

And if one in six couples deals with infertility, then I know I was not the only one.

So how can faith communities be more supportive? How can we be a more sensitive space that helps make those couples feel less alone?

We cannot control biology. And we cannot stop celebrating births. But we can strive to be a community that is able to hold both of these needs together.


When we know that someone is suffering from something that we cannot fix, many of us react by disengaging, because we don’t know what to say. It’s much easier to be a community that celebrates births, without considering the babies who are not born. It’s easier to enjoy happy moments without recognizing that those times may be sad for others.

But if we value all members of our community, independent of their status as single or married, parents or not, then it is incumbent on us to reflect that in our actions.

To not make assumptions about why someone may or may not have children.

To not say to someone “Oh, I see you decided to stop after two children.” After all, we know that infertility doesn’t only affect people trying to have their first child.

To invite people in all different life stages, not just families, to our homes for Shabbat meals.

To remember that at our times of celebration, there are some in the room who are in great pain, and to take extra care to engage.


It is also important for clergy to get involved in this issue. At the National Synagogue, we have taken extra steps to ensure that the attendants at our mikvah — a Jewish ritual bath — are as sensitive as possible to those who come to use the bath. Our most recent attendant training a few weeks ago focused exclusively on infertility sensitivity. We have rituals for healing, and there are women who have used our mikvah after experiencing a miscarriage. We are building a page of our website that is devoted to fertility resources. We are trying deliberately to make our community one that offers support to those who really need it.

On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, we read the story of Hannah in Chapter 1 of the Book of Samuel. Hannah is unable to conceive, and she weeps, and God eventually grants her a son. This story can be a source of pain to those having trouble conceiving, because it ends with a miracle pregnancy from God, which leaves many wondering where their own miracle is.

But there is one part of the story that speaks to the truth of infertility across the ages. And that is the way that Hannah was so alone in her pain. Another woman taunts her for remaining childless. Her husband cannot understand why she is so anguished by her lack of a child. A priest, seeing her silent weeping, does not know she is praying and instead accuses her of being drunk.

It is a cautionary tale for all of us, a warning never to make assumptions about anyone else. It also reminds us of the importance of having resources available to help those who are in pain. We can only imagine how different Hannah’s experience would have been if there had been anyone with her to support her.

Faith communities have a responsibility to remember this pain, so we can support the Hannahs in our own midst.


How to deal when everyone else is pregnant- Sachs


Patricia Sachs, LCSW-CWritten by: Patricia Sachs, LCSW-C

They’re at the mall. They’re in your neighborhood. They are your friends and your family. They’re everywhere! When you have been struggling with infertility, it suddenly seems like everyone around you is getting pregnant. Everywhere you go you see pregnant women and big bellies. You can be out enjoying yourself and then you are unexpectedly confronted by this traumatic event. You feel as if you want to “flee” the situation. Especially if you are at an age when your friends and relatives are also getting pregnant and starting their families, it may seem as if everyone else is getting pregnant quickly and easily, and can’t understand why you have not.

The reality is that it is extremely painful to be faced with the visible success of others when you want this so much for yourself and feel so vulnerable and helpless. Seeing or even hearing about pregnancies can be a stimulus that triggers feelings of anger, sadness, and jealousy. You may be left feeling out of control and overwhelmed.


There are some strategies you can do to help with coping with other people who are getting pregnant or who are already pregnant that allow you to regain control of the situation and your emotions. Here are some questions to ponder and some possible solutions:

  1. Have you told any of your close friends or family members about what you are going through, even if not in a lot of detail? Letting a few close allies in on your situation can sensitize them to how difficult seeing/hearing about pregnancies can be for you. Think about what you may want from them. Do you want them to tell you about pregnancies right away, or to wait, or have someone else be a “reporter?” Would you prefer NOT to receive baby shower and birth announcements? Chances are if you can speak privately with a friend/relative about these issues they will understand and there will be fewer hurt feelings. If you simply cannot go to a baby shower, tell your friend that it is just too difficult for you to be in that kind of group setting. Maybe there will be another way to have some special time with your friend in the future. It may seem as if these relationships will be strained, but once your situation changes (and it WILL, one way or another) they can be repaired. You are not a bad person because you can’t “be there” for your friend’s pregnancy and most likely, if you express these feelings, she will understand.
  2. Take notice of when mothers and young children are most likely to be at the mall, for example (mornings, daytime, not at night!)and don’t go then. This will cut down on unexpected encounters with pregnancy.
  3. Recognize that jealousy is a normal feeling associated with infertility. Chances are you are not typically a jealous person, but this situation is bringing out these uncommon emotions in you. It is normal to feel frustrated when faced with infertility, especially as getting pregnant seems to come so effortlessly to others. These feelings of jealousy towards your friends and family members will ease in the future when your own situation has been resolved.
  4. If you are going to a party or family gathering where you know there will be a pregnant person, enlist the help of a partner, spouse, or friend. Agree on a signal or cue you can give if you are starting to feel uncomfortable and want to leave. There is no reason why you have to suffer through an experience that will set you back emotionally and leave you feeling depressed and defeated.
  5. Last but not least, consider joining a support group of others experiencing infertility. You will find that many people face similar emotions and concerns as you and that your feelings are completely normal. Having a safe place to share and strategize about coping with infertility will help you to feel empowered to deal with the “outside world.” You may even make some new friends, which can help you feel less lonely and isolated, knowing that you are not alone in this struggle