Burden of being barren

Frustrated couples bear pain of infertility

By Barbara Pierce

Pinkhasov
Pinkhasov

“I feel like a failure as a woman because I can’t have children,” says Katy Lindemann online. “I’m a feminist. So how have I become so utterly possessed by this fervent desire to become a mother?”

Actor Anne Hathaway recently came forward about her struggles getting pregnant because “infertility is really painful, very isolating and full of self-doubt. I went through that.” The 38-year-old Hathaway recently gave birth to her second child.

“You cannot understand this until you go through it. Period!” said Susan Bisno Massel on resolve.org.

A research study showed couples dealing with infertility identified it as the most upsetting experience of their lives.

“Struggling to build a family can be so isolating because people don’t talk about it enough. This silence makes people feel more alone and contributes to the stigma and shame associated with infertility,” said Betsy Campbell, CEO, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.

“Infertility is much more than just a medical condition. Hearing about a possible infertility diagnosis is overwhelming. Infertility can deplete your finances, affect your relationship, and have an impact on you or your partner’s emotional health,” she added.

Approximately one couple in eight in the United States has an issue with infertility, experts say.

If infertility is an issue, a couple attempting to conceive should have an evaluation for infertility if pregnancy fails to occur within one year of regular unprotected intercourse, Dr. Ruben Pinkhasov of Upstate Urology at Mohawk Valley Health System said recently about male infertility.

If she is 35 or older, the evaluation should begin after six months of trying unsuccessfully to conceive. By age 30, fertility starts to decline. This decline becomes more rapid once you reach your mid-30s.

The woman often carries the burden of infertility, though males often share responsibility, Pinkhasov said.

Fertility experts agree that, on average, 30% of the cases of infertility can be attributed solely to the female, 30% solely to the male, and 30% a combination of both partners. In 10%, the cause is unknown.

Timing is everything

Understanding when you’re ovulating can improve your odds of conceiving.

Ovulating is when an egg is released from the ovary. The egg can be fertilized for about 12-to-24 hours after release. Your chances of getting pregnant are dramatically increased if you have intercourse on the day of ovulation or two days before.

Knowing when you ovulate can help you plan for sex at the right time and improve your chances of getting pregnant. You can keep track of your menstrual cycles on a chart, in a diary, or on a free period-tracker app.

Consider trying an over-the-counter ovulation kit to take out the guesswork; it’s precise and easy to use. Walgreen’s in Utica carries the kit.

How treatable is infertility? Nearly 90% of infertility is treatable with therapies such as medication, surgical repair of reproductive organs, and assisted reproductive techniques such as intrauterine insemination and in vitro fertilization.

IVF is the process of combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish for fertilization. This combined sperm and egg are called an embryo. The embryo is transferred to the uterus for development. You should have a look at the directory here to know the kind of experts you can talk to in case you are having second thoughts.

“You don’t know how you’re going to feel about any treatment or any part of it until you get there,” said Massel. “One minute you may say ‘no way’ to IVF, and then you find yourself giving yourself shots and counting follicles.”

A weight loss of even 5%-to-10% may dramatically improve ovulation and pregnancy rates.

Recurring miscarriages and pregnancy loss may indicate underlying problems; however, 60% of women with miscarriages go on to have healthy pregnancies and births.

Coping with infertility can be extremely difficult because there are so many unknowns. The journey can take an emotional toll on a couple.

“Providing meaningful support for those struggling to build families is RESOLVE’s mission,” said Campbell. “It’s important to talk to others who understand what you are going through. Our virtual support groups have been very well received; most reporting that the meetings improved their sense of well-being and community.”

“Letting people in and talking about this pain can really ease the burden,” said Massel, who has since had a healthy pregnancy and birth.

Baby showers, baby pictures, and new moms should be removed from your life, she suggests. Allow yourself to feel jealousy and intense dislike, then move on.

Have talking points ready when people ask if you have kids or plan to, she added. “Mine were: ‘It doesn’t look like it’s in the cards for us.’ That seemed to make people feel a little bad for asking (which I have to admit I wanted) and let folks know we’d tried, which, for some reason, I also wanted.”

See RESOLVE.org for more helpful information on infertility.