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The Fertility Mentor

Let me help you navigate the process.

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TIP OF THE DAY: Get Ahead of the Paperwork!!

Posted on March 26, 2012 at 2:06 AM Comments comments (30)
It sounds so simple to say, but getting ahead of all of the paperwork involved in infertility treatments - no matter what path you take towards parenthood - is a great way to beat some of the stress.
I used to say, "If I see one more clipboard, I'm going to scream!!" Every time I did another IUI or IVF cycle, or had any sort of test or procedure, there was always a bundle of new paperwork to fill out. What a waste of paper, when you think about it. I mean, why can't they just use the same information from a previous cycle?!
But more than that, think of the time and energy spent filling out these forms. For me, I worked full-time and on my lunch hour, I dashed back & forth to the doctor. Constantly checking my watch, I realized I was spending a big chunk of time during my visit filling out more forms.
I decided that my time was worth more than that. So, whenever I did another IUI cycle, I'd grab a stack of the forms to have at home. I'd fill it out at my leisure, for each additional cycle, and just bring it with me to my visit. Or, I'd call the IVF nurse and ask them to send me whatever paperwork I would need for an upcoming cycle. Not to assume there would always be a next cycle, but I just wanted to be prepared. Better to spend this time when I'm not so harried and crazed. Whatever the situation, NO ONE has endless time to sit in a waiting room to fill out a bunch of paperwork. My time, like yours, is precious, especially in this delicate situation.
Better to spend your time with your doctor and nurses, rather than wasting time with paper. Call ahead and fill out what you need in advance. Who knows, in the time you save yourself by having completed it all, maybe you'll make a new friend or support person in the waiting room. I mean, since your head won't be buried in a clipboard and all.
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Fertility Acupuncture...Does It Work?

Posted on February 19, 2012 at 2:21 AM Comments comments (23)
Let me just remind you that I am NOT a medical doctor. I'm not a scientist. Never conducted any research or ran a clinical trial of any sort. However, I spent 6 years trying to have a baby, and have tons of personal experience on the topic.
I will start this post by saying that I have NO idea what the statistics are in terms of whether or not there's proof out there in the universe that acupuncture helps with fertility treatments. I know for myself, having gone for bi-weekly treatments consistently for 2 years, that it helped with something.
Having gone to 2 different fertility docs over 6 years, I will say that both specialists said the same thing: they couldn't prove whether or not acupuncture "worked" in conjunction with fertility treatments, however they had plenty of business cards and referrals of reputable acupuncturists to recommend, in the event that I - and dozens of other patients - were interested in trying it. They also said that "it can't hurt." My large network of friends and acquaintances also swore by their acupuncture treatments. I figured it was worth trying and that I had nothing to lose.
My acupuncturist would tell me that she helped bring blood to my reproductive system in order to help flush out toxins. Or, she would unblock or unclog energetic fields so my systems worked more harmoniously. Or, she was helping to balance my hormones. Or, she was relieving my stress. Quite honestly, I never challenged what she did, mostly because I was so desperate at that point, and I would have tried anything to get pregnant and hold onto the pregnancy long enough to have a healthy baby.
My acupuncturist had a large practice of primarily fertility patients. Often times, as I lie still with 15-20 needles positioned in my body at any given point, I would hear conversations with other patients, who would describe where they were in their treatments, cycles, procedures, fertility meds, etc. I started to hear patterns over time, and she would tell me each week how many patients were pregnant. She had a notebook with people's stats, following their progress from pregnancy test through birth. It was encouraging.
I will say from personal experience, that if nothing else, my stress was reduced drastically, and as a former needle-phobe, I was shocked at my ability to allow all of those needles to be inserted in various points of my body, and lay there for a 1/2 hour for the best naps of my life. Deep, relaxing, rejuvenating, restful sleep. Dare I even say, at times, that it was better than a trip to the spa. Even if all it did was lower my stress and anxiety levels, it was totally worth it, and then some.
Check with your human resources department and see if your employee benefits include acupuncture treatments. Some'll be the best time ever spent during fertility treatments, hands down.
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Thinking of Adoption?

Posted on February 15, 2012 at 1:48 PM Comments comments (30)
No matter what path you're currently on in your infertility journey, at some point, you might find yourself considering adoption as one possibility towards parenthood. While it is certainly a costly undertaking, consider how many costly IVF cycles you may have tried, unsuccessfully.
While no one can guarantee anything in life, adoption may ultimately give you more bang for the buck, if you will. In other words, if your funds are limited, pursuing adoption will more likely result in a baby, than continuing endless cycles of IVF. Some employers even have benefits that cover some of the costs of adoption. As always, check with your human resources department to find out what coverage your employer offers in this area.
Of course, in this country, no one just hands over a baby to you. There are painstaking processes in place that you must go through before you can adopt a baby. Registering with an agency (or 2 or 3, etc.). Finding a reputable adoption attorney. Having the necessary home studies, background checks, drug testing, fingerprinting, HIV testing, and basically a probe into your entire personal life. All in the interest of finding the right home, and parents, for a baby.
The wait for an adopted baby could take weeks, or months, or even years. Depending on your criteria for a domestic or international child, or a preferred sex, race, religion, or geographic location. Your agency and/or your adoption attorney can help you navigate the logistics. When the right baby finds its way to you, it will all be worth it in the end. You'll see.
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To Blastocyst or Not...That is the Question

Posted on January 30, 2012 at 2:08 AM Comments comments (14)
When undergoing IVF, there might come a time when you are faced with the decision to "go to blastocyst," or not. Simply put, this refers to whether you opt to culture your embryos in a Petri dish for 5 days in the lab, before having them transferred back to the uterus.
There are serious consequences to doing it or not doing it, so this decision must not be taken lightly. Not surprisingly, embryos fare much better living inside the uterus, as opposed to living outside the body. The reward to waiting 5 days is that as the cells continue to divide while in the Petri dish, there is an increased chance of implantation, once they are transferred back into the uterus -- IF the embryos can last that long. The risk is that they could die before 5 days is up and you might not be able to transfer any of them back to the uterus.
Also, keep in mind that if the embryos are still thriving by day 5 and can be transferred back to the uterus, there is a real chance too that more than one embryo can "take." It's not just the decision about whether or not to attempt blastocyst. It's also the question of how many embryos to use. If you are lucky enough to produce more than one to culture, you will need to discuss with your partner AND doctor, just how many to transfer, considering the possibility of having multiple embryos implant.
Decisions like these are by no means easy. Do you risk having multiple embryos implant? Do you risk having all of your embryos die? Do you risk not attempting blastocyst at all, having however many embryos transferred back, only to wind up having none of them implant at all......again, perhaps?
The daunting thought of having to make this call can be severely overwhelming. Make sure you and your partner are on the same page, no matter what you decide to do. Also, make sure your doctor is on the same page with both of you. And if not, go find a doctor who is. This is a life-changing decision that you need to make all together. Your doctor is there to support you medically, but you and your partner need to resolve any ethical or religious aspects BEFORE proceeding this way.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments that I may answer here.
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Infertility Doesn't Care About Holidays

Posted on January 2, 2012 at 4:58 PM Comments comments (13)
I will start this post by wishing everyone a happy and healthy New Year. Not just because it's the cliche thing to say this time of year, but because I really wish you happiness and good health this year. By happiness, I mean the fulfillment one feels when realizing their goals. By good health, I mean whatever it takes to be happy, while taking the best care of the body, mind and spirit.
Whether your family building happens biologically, or through a donor egg/sperm, or through a surrogate, or adoption, I wish for you that it comes true this year, in whatever form it takes shape.
Over the holidays, many of you spent days or weeks continuing your quest for a family. Or maybe you took a hiatus. Maybe you spent your holidays close to home, while enduring another IVF treatment. Maybe you spent time with your families, dodging questions about why you're not with child yet. Maybe you were preoccupied, waiting for your adoption attorney to call you with good news.
To someone undergoing fertility treatments, the holidays represent the best and worst time of year. The best, because once a child blesses your life, you can't wait to share all of the traditions and experiences that the holidays represent. The worst, because without a child, the holidays are just filled with tension and stress (OK, even with a child, the holidays can be stressful, but let's just get there first!).
I hope whatever your situation, that your holidays were also a reminder of the importance of family and friends, and how comforting their presence can be during darker times. Lean on them as much as you are comfortable doing, and pull strength from wherever you can. Most of all, be kind to yourself. It's the best gift you can get.
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TIP OF THE DAY: Cutting Corners to Get to Your Fertility Specialist

Posted on November 20, 2011 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (10)
How many times have you heard, "Oh, just relax. It'll happen [getting pregnant] when you least expect it. Why don't you go on vacation in the meantime?"
Fertility specialists notoriously tell you that you need to try on your own for a year before making an appointment to see them, so they can weed out the people who "just need to relax" from those who are truly infertile. The definition of infertile, is basically anyone who has tried to get pregnant on their own for a year, unsuccessfully.
Now, I'm not condoning lying, by any means. But, in the interest of time (which is code for your biological clock is ticking...LOUD), sometimes you don't have a whole year to wait. Or waste. Such was the case for us. I will simply say that no one has a lie-detector test hooked up to the phone when you call to make an appointment, nor do they rig you up to it once you're there.
Don't let the reason why you're not getting pregnant be because you waited too long to get help from a fertility specialist. At age 34, I thought I had all the time in the world to get pregnant. Little did I know that it would take 6 years to happen. Had I looked into a crystal ball, I would have said anything to get to a fertility doc sooner. I'm just saying...
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The Weak Link Between Stress and Infertility

Posted on November 8, 2011 at 3:01 PM Comments comments (10)
I found a great article that talks about the link between stress and infertility. Someone
once said to me, "(studies have shown that) stress doesn't cause infertility, but
infertility DEFINITELY causes stress." Truer words have never been spoken!
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Advice for your first infertility appointment

Posted on November 1, 2011 at 3:06 PM Comments comments (14)
I couldn't agree more with this article from on how to prepare for your first infertility appointment. It is right on point! 
I would just add that it would serve you extremely well to keep a small notebook that you bring to these appointments as well. First, a list of questions you don't want to forget to ask your doctor. Second, to take notes on anything they tell you that is important to follow up with and understand. 
Although the entire realm of infertility is beyond your control, any iota of control you can muster will make you feel enormously better. Trust me. I'm a certified control freak myself!
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Follistim AQ Injection Instruction Video

Posted on October 31, 2011 at 2:33 PM Comments comments (66)
Here is an instructional video clip I found, which illustrates the correct way to administer Follistim AQ; a subcutaneous injection (under the skin). 
A few comments of my own:
1) The areas of the body they show for the injection site are the upper/outer thigh area, the abdomen (always stay 2" outside the belly button area), or the back of the upper arms. I recommend only using the abdomen area, as you want the medication to stay as close, and concentrated, to the reproductive area as possible. If using the upper arms, for example, the medication has a long way to travel to get to the ovaries. By the time it reaches where it has to go, it might not be as strong. Just make sure to rotate the injection site within the abdomen, as the area will likely bruise, become irritated, itch, burn, etc. Perhaps your protocol also requires patches, so I would save the thigh or arm areas for those. As always, double check with your IVF nurse first.
2) I highly recommend using an ice pack with Follistim injections, depending on your pain tolerance. You may have a high tolerance for pain and not need it at all. I had zero tolerance for pain, so the ice pack completely numbed the area and I didn't feel these shots at all. Keep in mind that this is 1 of a few shots you will likely need to take subcutaneously in this area (perhaps you're also on Lupron, Menopur, Repronex, Ganarelix, or others), so plan accordingly with ice packs and rotating your injection sites.
3) As compared to Progesterone in oil shots, where the medication is thick and can congeal with ice, Follistim is much thinner and can disperse much easier/quicker. Also, the needle on the Follistim pen is much smaller/thinner and doesn't go in nearly as far. These shots should be a piece of cake, relatively speaking, of course. Even with the fine needles on the Follistim pens, and the other subcutaneous medications for that matter, the discomfort lies mostly AFTER the injections are given. There's physical discomfort (irritation, bumps, bruising, pain, itching, burning, swelling, bloating) and also the emotional discomfort (moodiness, crankiness, irritability, feeling "blue," having an overall short fuse, etc.)
There's no way around it. Going through IVF will no doubt turn you into a human pin cushion. Utilizing ice packs as part of your routine (except for Progesterone in oil shots, where a heating pad is key!), will make this part of the process go a lot smoother.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility

Posted on October 30, 2011 at 1:35 AM Comments comments (7)
Here is an article from RESOLVE - The National Infertility Association, on basic FAQs about infertility. Chances are, if you're on my web site, you or someone you know is already aware of what it is, but this will clearly break it down for you anyway. A good link to pass on as well.
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