A Big Thanks to Our CureTalks Infertility Heroes – Infertility CureTalks Roundup –
With 2016 almost coming to an end, it is the time of the year when we look back and reflect on why we are doing what we are doing.
Being an infertility survivor myself, I am painfully familiar with the feelings of helplessness, grief, and inadequacy, that one has to fight through when dealing with infertility. Infertility to me was like a “dementor” that sucked up all the hope and happiness around and pulled me down the abyss of depression so deep, that I lost all confidence in self, and found myself incapable of being successful at anything – be it a job, a relationship or just sustaining life. I stopped working, stopped socializing and making friends, and stayed at home, thinking that probably this is the only way that will take my guilt away and make me feel that I am giving my 100% in trying to make a baby.
Sadly, 2006-2010 National Survey of Family Growth, CDC, shows that 1 in 8 women are going through similar pains of not being able to conceive or sustain a pregnancy to term and build their families, and the figures remain the same in 2016. With the hope of giving hope to those going through the pains of infertility, and doing our bit to help those searching for related valuable information – we launched our CureTalks series on Infertility in July 2014, where we discuss topics ranging from medical issues involved, to the emotional aspects of infertility, with our invited experts and panelists.
With new year around the corner, as the host of the CureTalks infertility shows, I want to take this opportunity to thank our infertility heroes – our featured panelists and experts – for helping us create such useful resources for people looking out for reliable information on this topic. Our CureTalks experts are specialists who are at the top of their games, leaving no doubt about the authenticity of the information they share on our show. All our CureTalk panelists are men and women who are pillars of positivity, whose stories compel the audience to pull themselves up and say “If they can, I can”.
Risk Factors for Male and Female Infertility
Since fertility affects men and women equally, we launched our fertility CureTalks with a discussion on risk factors for male and female fertility with Dr. Mousa Shamonki. Fran Meadows, the author of “The Truth Behind The Secret Infertility” led the panel consisting of BraveIVFMama, and Kimberley Logan.
Dr. Shamonki, a recipient of the Patients’ Choice Award and America’s Top Doctors Award, answered our questions on the various factors that may affect fertility like biological age, lifestyle choices, immune status, hypothyroidism, PCOS, and uterine tuberculosis infection in females and sperm DNA fragmentation in males. He also answered queries related to unexplained infertility and symptoms/risk factors that might suggest earlier intervention.
Even though The WHO, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recognize infertility as a ‘disease’ which impacts millions of lives around the world, many insurance companies still do not cover the cost of infertility treatments. To address the apathy of the system towards infertility community, Resolve – the national infertility association, a non-profit charitable organization, hosts Advocacy Day annually in Washington DC, around the month of April or May – to advocate for policy changes to provide financial relief and support family building with legislative representatives.
Most of our panelists are infertility advocates and active members of Resolve.
Emotional Aspects of Infertility
Infertility is a roller coaster of emotions and since it still remains a taboo topic in our society, we felt the need to address the emotional aspects of infertility via a 2 part series on emotional & psychosocial aspects of infertility with psychotherapist and hypnotist Helen Adrienne – who says that we can “use our mind to train our brain.”
In the first part Helen told our audience about her tested mind-body techniques that have helped many come out of the guilt and depression of infertility and live a life again. Also, Amy Demma, a New York licensed attorney, enlightened us about the legal and ethical aspects of deciding the fate of the remaining embryos created after an IVF procedure.
Helen says “Communication can be learned. One of the most gratifying aspects of this work for me is when I am working with a couple who really even without infertility don’t have the role modeling and therefore don’t have the tools to communicate lovingly with each other and for me to come in and to show them. We deconstruct their style of communication. We teach people how to do something that gets them to the end where they are not only communicating better, but they are in a much better position to be appropriate, loving parents and role models for their child.”
In the second part Helen emphasized on ways to kill the emptiness that comes along with infertility or with loss of a baby, and ways to move on to bring out the creativity in us while waiting for the miracle to happen.
Fran Meadows and Candace Wohl , the panelists for these shows came up with great questions from their personal experiences with infertility, which many people dealing with the issue could relate with.
Infertility and Miscarriages
Almost half of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage. We talked to Dr. Kristin Bendikson of USC Fertility to understand the causes of recurrent miscarriages and the latest developments in treating them.
Dr. Bendikson explains “It is important to understand that day-to-day stress and anxiety that is part of normal life is not thought to cause miscarriages. Its unclear if extreme levels of stress can increase the chance of miscarriage. Certainly, there is very clear data that suggests that having a miscarriage in and of itself can be emotionally traumatic, and it can take longer to heal from a miscarriage mentally than actually physically.”
She says “After many years, in my practice…I really noticed a profound lack of centralized resources for these patients; and I felt compelled to take action and create a center where patients could receive care from professionals who specialize in different treatment modalities in a coordinated fashion and so, therefore, that’s the reason that I am launching the USC Center For Pregnancy Loss.“
Going beyond her medical duties Dr. Bendikson strives to personally guide her patients through the trying and difficult journey of infertility.
Infertility in Older Women
As our modern day lives push us more and more towards building our careers and having everything else in place before we even think of starting our families, more and more couples are choosing to set on a path to parenthood beyond the age of 35 or 40. Dr. Richard Paulson, who specializes in reproductive aging, told us about latest developments in this field.
Dr. Paulson advices “We know that fertility starts to go downhill at 35, and that is a statistical statement. So, I think that somewhere between 30 and 35 is the correct age and maybe a better way to say it would be that women should at the age of 30, if they are concerned about their own fertility, look around and say, I am 30 now. Am I in a position now to start having a family and will I be done having my family by the time I am 35 and if the answer is yes, then great, then get on with it and do it. If the answer is no, my life is not in a position where I think I am going to have my children by the time I am 35, then I think its very reasonable for those women to go in and to freeze her eggs.”
Gray Haired Mom who joined us on this panel from NYC, gave birth at 51 to her first and only son after donor-egg IVF treatment. My cohost for this talk Alia Paige is an author and blogger who struggled with infertility herself and now educates people about it via her blog from the “girlfriend’s’ perspective.”
Legal Aspects of Family Building via Artificial Reproductive Techniques
Artificial reproductive techniques (ART) comes with their own share of legal issues. In this discussion, New York attorney Amy Demma talked in detail about the importance of consent forms to be filled before undergoing an ART procedures and educated our audience about the new laws being framed around to address the increasingly complex legal issues arising as a result of advent of ART.
Amy told us “Tennessee Supreme court held in 1992 that embryos are property entitled only to be handled in a careful manner and that embryos occupy an interim position, entitling them to special respect because of their potential for human life”
She explained that the courts say that “Embryos are not property, nor are they fully formed human being. So, whatever the phase is between property and human being is a very vague area where embryos reside, but if your listeners and my colleagues can take away this notion of embryos having the potential for human life, I think that’s the better understanding of what an embryo is.”
Alia Paige led the panel consisting of Wendie Wilson Miller and Nancy Block, who as founders of egg donation and surrogacy agency, provided a great perspective on how the profile of an intended parent is changing under the increasing influence of news of more and more legal battles being shared on social media. Wendie is also a cofounder of Fit-4-Fertility – which raises money and awareness for non-profit support and educational groups in assisted reproduction.
Infertility in Men
Men are famous for neglecting their health issues, more so if it is a sexual health issue. To encourage men to be more watchful of their health and come out and talk about their concerns about infertility, on this show we invited Dr. Jamin Brahmbhatt who urges men to give as much attention to their health as they give to their cars.
Dr. Brahmbhatt is a board certified urologic surgeon and male infertility specialist who along with his partner organize the Drive 4 Men’s Health, a 10 day, 6,000-mile, public engagement road trip encouraging men to eat better, get active, and engage in preventative medical screenings.
Dr. Brahmbhatt said “One thing that I always like to mention in the beginning is testosterone. I see a lot of young men that are taking testosterone replacement therapy. I am not even sure who is prescribing it to them, but they come in and they are infertile. Well, when men are taking exogenous testosterone, what essentially happens is it shuts down, your body basically thinks it has too much. So, it shuts down its natural mechanism of creating testosterone, which at the same time shuts down its natural production of sperm because both essentially go hand in hand. So, the things you may be doing for vanity to help you at the gym may be causing a major emotional burden on your overall family.”
Kristen Darcy, a fertility coach and a motivational speaker cohosted the show. I am especially thankful to Jonathan Boldt to come up on the show to share his story. While most men hesitate to share their feeling about infertility, Jonathan, a writer and a journalist, coauthored a book ‘Shooting Blanks: A Husbands Perspective on Missing the Mark and Dealing With Infertility‘ to encourage other men to talk out their emotions. Sara Naab who is a co-founder of Sandstone Diagnostics also joined us and provided great insights to the discussion.
Upcoming Infertility Talks in 2017
As more and more people are vesting interest and faith in cryopreserving their genes for later use, be it in form of eggs, sperms or embryos, beginning 2017, Fertility CureTalks will emphasize more on these issues along with discussions on other topics like Endometriosis, PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease), Müllerian Agenesis (absent uterus), Anatomical abnormalities leading to male infertility, including talks on legal/ethical issues around medical tourism, surrogacy and other family building options.
So, stay tuned to listen us talk with reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh and sociologist Dr. Kylie Baldwin on Social Egg Freezing on January 19th 2017 at 5 PM EST along with Valerie Landis and Shalene Patricek.
If you have a topic you would like to hear on CureTalks, please post it as a comment here or use our ‘Request a talk‘ option to let us know.
Wish you all happy holidays and a great new year!