Infertility. Just one word that can strike fear and a whole host of other emotions into the heart of hopeful moms-to-be everywhere. And it’s not just the frustration of not being pregnant after another month of trying, it’s the embarrassment, the shame, the grieving, the stress…and on top of all that, we’re suffering in silence. Because the reality is that most women who are affected by infertility don’t talk about it.
So let’s talk about it. We had Tara Brandner on our latest podcast episode, Fertility Challenges and Why You Shouldn’t Have to Go Through It Alone to talk about what steps you can take if you suspect you might be dealing with infertility. Tara is a doctorate nurse practitioner and fertility coach. She also works as an advocate for increased access to care for infertility and fertility preservation and has also dealt with her own infertility and traumatic birth after infertility.
It’s estimated that one in eight women will be affected by infertility, and that it is the fourth leading cause of trauma in women. Other estimates show that 61% of those women don’t even tell their friends and family that they are diagnosed with infertility. So over half the population of women who are dealing with this massive trauma aren’t even telling their closest friends and family. They’re suffering in silence.
So what should you do?
First, don’t wait. Tara says you don’t have to wait for a full year of trying like a lot of doctors recommend. “If something is off with your body and doesn't feel right, that is when you go to seek treatment. Do not wait for six months or a year if your periods are abnormal or you just feel like something isn't right. Or if you just want a preconception workup to make sure everything's okay. Go for that. Do it like a well-female exam and have a conversation.”
Find support. Find the right resources to support you and your mental health. There are a lot of resources for women and men dealing with infertility. “So a big thing we did with Everlasting Hope, the non-profit, was put together a resource page from attorneys to chiropractors, to any special lawyers that deal with and understand infertility, so you're not having to sit and re-explain or be met with resistance when it comes to terminology or understanding. They can click that and find somebody in that area that serves them without having to explain everything or put themself in a position where that person may or may not understand it.” Brandner adds.
Find a provider that makes you feel heard. No concern is too small. You might think a symptom is crazy or unrelated but you deserve to be heard and not dismissed. “I’m always like, no, let's look at it, let's explore it. It might not be me, but I can find someone who understands that and we can bring them into our circle.” You deserve to be heard. You know your body best and when something just doesn’t feel right, it’s not “all in your head” or just chalked up to “anxiety.” Plus, it could be a symptom of a larger issue affecting your fertility.
Gather your healthcare team. Tara believes in a fully integrative approach to her fertility treatments. Whether that’s bringing in chiropractic care, acupuncture, supplements, naturopathic doctors, or physical therapy, it’s all in the name of your full and complete health. “Let's create a health care team, let's acknowledge we don't know it all, and there are other providers out there that do know little pieces of the puzzle that could help, there's not one big thing that's going to help with this, it's multiple little pieces of a puzzle coming together.”
Look at your lifestyle. It could be stress, sleep, diet, or inflammation causing some of your struggles. Hormone testing can look at your cortisol levels and other hormone levels in the endocrine system, which works with your ovaries. Or you could find out that the oats in your morning breakfast are causing inflammation in your body which is triggering a stress response internally.
Be your own best advocate. In the end, it’s up to you to be your own champion. You know your body better than anyone else on this entire planet and you know when something isn’t right. Find a provider that will partner with you and support you. Infertility doesn’t have to be something you just suffer through alone.