By fertility advocate Oana Gharbi
I never planned to become a fertility patient advocate. In all honesty, I had no idea this was even a thing when I embarked on my most unwelcomed secondary infertility journey. To say my diagnostic took me by surprise would be an understatement.
I have two kids from a previous marriage and I just had a recent second trimester loss in my actual relationship-a cervical incompetency issue, unrelated to fertility. I was 39 and got pregnant right off the bat after stopping the pill.
So how come all of a sudden I couldn’t get pregnant anymore? It was as if someone switched off my fertility button, saying: that’s it, you’re done!
It’s precisely about the “no warning” part I would like to talk to you about.
It’s 2022 and women still have “no warning” when it comes to fertility.
Our society still focuses on contraceptive education, which is brilliant. I truly support the idea that regardless of the fact that any child is a blessing and a joy, family planning is the responsible way to become a parent.
But what about the people who will eventually found out they can’t conceive? Who prepares them for the news?
We take fertility for granted, as if it was the easiest thing in the world. And sometimes it is. But sometimes it’s not.
And when infertility hits you, and you know nothing about it, confusion adds to shock, frustration, sadness, stress and the first question that comes to mind is “now what?”
It’s 2022 and we have access to all sorts of social media content. We see celebrities getting pregnant at 50+ and we believe IVF is a magical wand that helps families grow overnight.
This puts our minds at ease somehow, and we tell ourselves it’s all right, we still have time, no need to rush it, no need to worry.
Yet sometimes, when we need to face our own infertility battle, we bitterly realize that there was more than meets the eye behind that 50+ pregnancy (maybe some eggs that were frozen many years ago, maybe a younger donor) and that the chances of success for IVF are roughly around 25% per cycle, which is, ironically, the exact success rate of timed intercourse in a natural cycle for a healthy couple.
I became a fertility patient advocate because by the time I realized I had to stand up and advocate for myself, I was already 7 IVF and 6 IUI cycles deep in my infertility journey
Don’t get me wrong: I am a veteran journalist and communications expert, with 25 years of experience under my belt. I am anything but shy, and I definitely am able to express my feelings and concerns.
Yet each time I was standing in front of one of my (four) REs, I would freeze, nod and obey. Although I knew it in my gut that there was something wrong in them pushing the same protocols over and over again, and increasing my doses of stimulation meds which systematically led to my ovaries producing less and less eggs.
What was it that didn’t allow me to speak my mind? I was uneducated. Knew nothing about it, and was therefore, embarrassed to voice my opinions.
Even when I avidly started reading medical studies and scientific articles, I still was unsure whether to speak or not. Will I be taken seriously?
My infertility journey has come to an end, after 3 years of battle, without a positive outcome
But I started another journey: one where I help women like the one I used to be, navigate the unsettled waters of infertility. I hold their hands, I talk to them about options and I make sure their communication with their healthcare providers is better than the one I had.
My job wouldn’t exist in a perfect medical system, where the patient’s voice would be actually heard
My job wouldn’t exist in a perfect educational system where young people would be taught that infertility has been on the rise in the last decades, no one is guaranteed to be exempt, getting pregnant after 35 is more difficult, male factor accounts for almost half of all infertility cases, and unexplained infertility cases are sent the IVF route without much ado.
I started working for Proov two years ago, and people say I am biased, when I talk about home testing.
I like to joke and say that I am working for a home testing company precisely because I am biased!
I’ve had 5 early losses before and in between my two successful pregnancies.
“That’s fine, you’re very young, never mind a loss, losses are so frequent-after all, 1 in 4 pregnancies ends up in miscarriage”
A loss is a loss, and mine were all due to low Progesterone, gone undetected because blood testing is flawed, with levels fluctuating a lot and offering snapshot like results.
Proov invented a urinary progesterone metabolite test that helps you confirm ovulation and also makes sure your levels are high enough to support implantation
I wish I had this when I needed it, but I am happy women have access to it know, and that empowers them with priceless data about their cycles, their menstrual health and their hormonal balance.
Knowing your body and your options is the first step to becoming your own advocate.
Because (excuse my cliché) knowledge IS power, and with the right information in her pocket, a woman is unstoppable.
Learn to listen to your body, educate yourself, don’t be afraid to express your opinions and your wishes when talking to your healthcare provider and be sure that’s the right way, that’s the future of healthcare: involved, educated patients and a personalized medical approach to fit you and your needs, like a glove!