This is your home for learning more about fertility factors--medical, emotional, and physical. Our team of bloggers, from physicians to nurses, financial counselors to patients, are all dedicated to giving you news, information and thoughts relating to the the fertility journey. Please explore and let us know if there other topics of interest to you.

What Sexuality?

Infertility can put a damper on our sexuality and for decades this issue of the has been brushed aside. No one really addressed the scientific understanding until recently. Read the following article from Relsove.

How is Infertility Affecting Your Sexuality?

Going through an infertility work-up can desensitize even the most sexually active couple. All of a sudden you are thrown into a situation where any sense of privacy is thrown out the window. Someone was recently recounting her hysterosalpingogram: the physician had trouble injecting the dye into her so at one point six people were in the room trying to figure out what to do. “Hello, anyone else want to join us in here, my uterus is on display.”

It is understandably difficult to go from that to making love with your partner. Naturally, infertility not only increases normal levels of stress, but it can put a damper on our sexuality. Men and women alike suffer the consequences of infertility treatment. When it becomes imperative to have intercourse at specific times, making love becomes baby making. What was once an intimate moment can become very clinical. Going into a sterile room with a cup, under the pressure of performance, can harm even the strongest ego. For decades this issue has been brushed aside. No one really addressed the scientific understanding until recently.

A study conducted at Duke University Medical Center, and presented at ASRM by Dr. Jennifer Norten, examined “sexual satisfaction and functioning in patients seeking infertility treatment.” Dr. Norten proved what many suspected, and in doing so validated our feelings. “The results of this study suggest that women undergoing infertility treatment experience significant changes in various aspects of sexual desire, arousal, orgasm, length of foreplay and frequency of intercourse.”

How can you feel sexually attractive when your body is full of hormones and bruised or sore from injections? You can keep the lines of communication open. Talk to your partner, try and laugh about it, and when you feel up to it, try and make sex romantic.

If you feel that sexuality or lack thereof is seriously jeopardizing your marriage, it is important to seek help and support. Individual counseling and/or support groups help you realize you are not alone. Sometimes it’s nice to hear someone else sharing the same problems. That alone may be enough to get you through this trying time.

 

Traveling With Friends

I’m a sentimental keeper of things. Deep in the back of my closet I have stashed a cotton baby blue sleeveless shirt that I wore the night I met my husband. There’s the black and red striped chenille sweater I wore the first time my husband said, “I love you.” And then, there’s the red cotton Michigan State hoodie that I wore the day we found out we were pregnant.

Every time I see that red hoodie, the memories flood back in full color. The day that changed our lives forever. It was 6 years ago. It was a Saturday, the day after Halloween. While a friend and I handed out candy to all the pirates and princesses, I wondered if I would ever be so lucky to trick or treat with my own child. My husband and I awoke early that Saturday with nervous stomachs. Part of me wanted to rush to the blood draw, but there was another part of me that really didn’t want to know. There was still hope in not knowing.

While we sat in the waiting room, I kept re-reading the texts my friends had sent me that morning. Even a simple emoji smiley face made my heart beat slow down. Throughout our journey, our friends had stood by us with both empathy and caring. Even when they didn’t know what to say, their belief and support spoke volumes.

The blood draw was quick and painless, but I remember I kept my fingers crossed the entire time. Going home meant just sitting there starring at the phone and waiting for it to ring, so we decided to go out to breakfast. Sitting in silence, we only talked once…and that was about our “plan” if this didn’t work.

When we arrived home, we uncomfortably pretended to watch TV. I’m not sure about my husband, but I kept trying to prepare myself for the worst. Preparing to start the medicine all over again. And even worse, preparing to tell my friend, Brooke, that when she had filled in for my husband and gave me my shots, they didn’t work.

The phone rang…finally! My husband answered and I tried to figure out what they were saying. All I could hear was “yes, we did.” Then there was a long pause. “Ok, thank you very much.” I looked at my husband and I could tell it was good news. He looked at me and yelled, “We’re pregnant!” Jumping up and down, I still didn’t believe it. I thought they made a mistake. “Are you sure they called the right people?”

The news was so hard to wrap my head around. I had been living in this infertility world for so long and now I had to switch to the pregnant world.

I called my lifelong friend and told her the news, and she started to cry. At that moment I realized that we hadn’t traveled this journey alone; we traveled it with many supportive friends and family. My friends tears reassured me that the pregnancy road would not be traveled alone either. We were going to be ok. We were going to be more than ok, we were going to be loved and supported.

Jen is mom to two amazing boys, thanks to the help of the Center for Advanced Reproductive Services. She’s also a middle school teacher and a peer support leader for Resolve. She credits her incredible husband for his support through their journey together.

A Veteran Dad

Family PhotoLOWOn September 6th, 2001, I joined the Navy. I enlisted for 4 years, which had me see service during both Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, referred to as the war in Afghanistan. On June 12, 2005 just before my 3rd deployment, I was in a diving accident. This incident left me a quadriplegic.

A few years later, on March 21, 2008, I met my future wife, Christi-Anna, at a housewarming party. We discovered we had actually gone to the same high school, but had never met previously. We married on September 27, 2009. Shortly thereafter, our fertility journey began.

We met with Dr. John Nulsen, reproductive endocrinologist at The Center, along with Dr. Honig, our urologist. The first step was to go through the sperm retrieval process. Once that was completed, the sample was frozen and stored. At the same time, the beginning of October 2011, my wife started the beginning steps of the in vitro fertilization process.

When the time came to thaw out my sample, the decision was made to obtain a fresher sample on the day of her retrieval to enhance our chances of success. So on October 18th, Christi-Anna went in for the retrieval process. A total of 15 eggs were fertilized. Now the first waiting began…5 days to see how many would survive. Fortunately, of the 15 that were fertilized, 3 withstood the 5-day incubation period. So on October 23rd, we returned to the Center, choosing to implant one blastocycst, and cryopreserve the remaining 2 embryos.

And so started our next period of waiting. But on October 29th, something happened that took our minds off the wait. Storm Alfred aka the Halloween no’easter aka “snowtober.”  We, as everyone else in the state, was now preoccupied with power outages, snow and storm damage. But as the sun shone brightly a couple of days after the storm hit, my wife gave me the news that I had been waiting all my life to receive…”Congratulations Daddy” she said!

About the Author:
Corey Lee is a Navy veteran who was part of both Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. He served aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt as a Machinist Mate 3rd Class Petty Officer in the Engineering Department.  He and his wife Christi-Anna are proud parents of two-year old Josiah.

Infertility in Veterans

Veterans returning home from their tour of duties have suffered an increase in injuries that affect fertility. Here are some of the latest statistics.

  • Pentagon figures show that more than 1,830 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have suffered pelvic or genital injuries since 2003 that could affect their ability to reproduce.
  • According to a study of Veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), or elsewhere during the same time period, 15.8% of women and 13.8% of men reported that they had experienced infertility.

The Center is proud to offer a Reduced Cost Fertility Program for eligible military veterans and their spouses. This a new program provides for discounted fertility medications as well as reduced fees for IVF. More information here.

Call us at 860-679-4580 for more details on the program and to review eligibility, or fill out the contact us form on our site.

BetterCT Video: New Veteran's Program

Dr. Nulsen and Corey Lee, a veteran and former patient of The Center, were on the BetterCT show to announce The Center’s new Reduced Cost Fertility Program for military veterans.

The new program for U.S. military veterans and their spouses that provides for discounted fertility medications as well as reduced fees for IVF. See the video below.

WFSB 3 Connecticut

Call us at 860-679-4580 for more details on the program and to review eligibility, or fill out the contact us form on our site.

Announcing New Reduced Cost Program for Veterans

The Center for Advanced Reproductive Services is proud to offer a Reduced Cost Fertility Program for Eligible Military Veterans and their Spouses.

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This is a new program for U.S. military veterans and their spouses that provides for discounted fertility medications as well as reduced fees for IVF.

We are offering the EMD Serono Compassionate Corps program, whereby veterans and their spouses may be eligible to receive free fertility medicine. The Center is adding to this a reduced price of $7,500 for comprehensive IVF services through the IVF Possibilities Plus Program for up to 2 cycles per year.

“At the Center, our goal is to help every patient in need find a way to pay for their care,” stated Dr. John Nulsen, Director and a Lead Physician at the Center.  “We are pleased to be part of EMD Serono’s Compassionate Corps and Compassionate Care programs and to be able to add additional value to that program with IVF discounts.”

To be eligible for the Compassionate Corps program, patients must be a retired member of the military or the spouse of one; be a veteran or the spouse of a veteran who is infertile due to a service-related injury, not otherwise insured for infertility medications; have been properly screened and diagnosed as infertile and requiring in vitro fertilization/advanced reproductive technology.

For those veterans not eligible for this program and active duty military members, discounts ranging from 25% to 75% off EMD Serono fertility medications are available through the Compassionate Care program.

Call us at 860-679-4580 for more details on the program and to review eligibility, or fill out the contact us form on our site.

 

Watch BetterCT Tomorrow

Watch WFSB TV’s BetterCT at 3:00 tomorrow—Veteran’s Day!

We’re celebrating veteran’s week by kicking it off with a new veteran’s program from the Center. Dr. Nulsen and Corey Lee, a veteran and former patient, will be on the show to announce it.

There’s still time to reserve tickets to the show, click on the Better CT link below: http://www.wfsb.com/category/246559/get-tickets-for-better-connecticut

Men Need to Talk About It

In this REDBOOK “The Truth About Trying” video, Greg Wolfe talks about the difficulties and emotions of being an infertile man.

The Truth About Trying,” is an online video campaign to start an open conversation about infertility. Here you’ll find infertility stories from celebrities and women like you. The message of those speaking out: It’s not always easy to get pregnant, and there’s no shame in that.

Story of Giving & Receiving

Below is a nice story from the New York Times about two couples, friends, that were trying to have a baby. One had the solution for both.

02MODERNLOVE-master495It Was in Giving That They Received

(Published in the New York Times by Ilana Kramer)

As the subway train shot out of the tunnel into the twilight of Brooklyn, I pressed “play” on my doctor’s phone message, feeling an ominous quiver in my gut.

“We have some bad news,” she said in a thick Russian accent. “You have almost no eggs left. I don’t know if you should even try.”

I was in shock. I had just turned 31. This was the last news I expected. Throughout my life I had maintained a strong sense of my own femininity, and tied into that was an assumption of my fertility. Trying to hold back tears, I turned to my wife and said, “I’m never going to have a baby.”

She listened to the message. “Of course you are,” she replied. “We’re changing doctors.”

Soon after that worrisome call, we sprang into action with doctors’ appointments. The only problem was, we hoped to use a donor who was a friend, someone known to us, but we hadn’t found anyone yet and now time was short.

For us, as a same-sex couple, creating a family was exciting but complicated. We had spent more than a year deciding if a known or unknown donor was the right path. Ultimately we decided we preferred the challenge of our child grappling with too many people rather than with too few in the biological questions that were bound to arise. We also knew we wanted something that might be impossible: a donor whom we already valued as a familiar man in our lives whom our future child could have a nonparental relationship with.

I got second opinions about my fertility from other doctors who had better bedside manners but conveyed the same message: Time was running out.

A month later, as I walked down the fruit aisle of our local food co-op, I received a call from my college friend Angela, who lives in California. We had studied abroad together for a semester, where she was the friend I confided in as I struggled in my coming-out process. She inspired me to be braver and to get at the truth of my desires. For that reason, I again confided in her when I learned of my fertility challenges. I knew she could empathize with wanting a child because she had been trying to conceive with her husband for the last two years.

“Did you get my message?” she asked. “I was worried Wilson and I weirded you out.” Now a yoga instructor and an H.I.V. social worker, Angela was married to a sweet man named Wilson who was a middle-school teacher.

“No, I didn’t.”

She laughed, sounding relieved. “Well, I told Wilson about your fertility issues, and his response was, ‘I want to be their donor.’ So, what do you think?”

Wilson is a lanky, beautiful man with blue eyes, sandy hair and a gentle personality. I would have welcomed a child with any resemblance to him.

Unsure how to respond, I sputtered, “Wow, that’s so generous of you two.”

As soon as I told my wife, though, she said, “Oh, my God, they’d be perfect.”

We all agreed that Angela and Wilson would be almost like aunt and uncle types, without Wilson in a paternal role, emotionally or financially. Moreover, we felt strongly that they both were our donors. Because Angela had facilitated this incredible mitzvah, it seemed obvious to include her as a “donor” as well. After all, she was the one who said to me: “If we can’t get pregnant, I’ll just be glad his genes are out in the world. He’s got some good DNA.”

A month later, with a written agreement negotiated and signed, I flew out to the West Coast to begin inseminations.

It was February, but their California town was already busting out in flowery glory as New York shivered. I relaxed at my nearby friend’s home, making corn-griddle cakes for breakfast, drinking wine with lunch and sitting on her sun-soaked porch. On the day my signs showed a “go” for insemination, my friend and I drove to Wilson’s house.

I had packed some corn-griddle cakes with black beans for Wilson, thinking it could be funny but also seem like a sweet barter exchange. My friend kept the car purring at the curb as I paced outside Wilson’s stoop until he emerged, handed over the jar with its precious contents and gave me a quick hug. Then off we went, my friend peeling out as I pushed the jar under my shirt for warmth.

Back at her place, with my hips hoisted on pillows, I used an oral syringe to inseminate myself. Devoid of any sexual act, I felt like an amoeba trying to reproduce itself, or a teenager experimenting with a bizarre science project. I didn’t feel like an adult or mother. I certainly didn’t feel like this could ever result in a gorgeous, sweet baby.

Thirty minutes later, my friend knocked on the door. My wife, back in New York, had asked me to stay with my hips elevated for four hours. It was a little over the top, but we were desperate and wanted to increase our odds any way possible. My friend and I watched hours of “Parenthood” in bed together, like a girls’ sleepover. That night I dreamed of children on a playground, none of them mine.

I still couldn’t fully absorb the generosity of Angela and Wilson. Despite their own fertility problems, they had this gracious desire to help us grow our family. The next day he and I repeated the process. I gave him a chocolate bar. He gave me a jar and a hug. I awkwardly stumbled over my thank-yous, raced home with the jar under my shirt and hoisted myself in bed.

While I was away that February, my wife (a video journalist for The New York Times) bought me a miniature Meyer lemon tree, to grow my favorite California fruit. Two weeks after my return to New York, the first white blossom opened into the smallest dot of yellow, and we took a pregnancy test.

“Get in here,” I said, squinting at the pink double line. As on our wedding day, she kissed me before I kissed her and didn’t let go. From that day until our son’s birth, we called him “lemon” and watched as he and the lemon tree seemed to grow in tandem.

We called our donors first. I tried to temper our excitement. After all, how would Angela feel, having tried with Wilson for two years to make a baby and then watching another woman conceive with her husband’s sperm in two months?

When they embraced our happy news, all I could think to say was, “I hope your karma comes back to you.”

After that, I didn’t hear from Angela for weeks and worried that her “I’ve been traveling” explanation was a signal of her need for distance. When we finally did speak, she said she hadn’t been feeling well. Then she asked, “Can you promise to keep a secret?”

“Yes,” I said.

“I’m eight weeks pregnant!”

I was 10 weeks. We cried, we screamed. We believed in the universe’s large, messy, beautiful plan.

Throughout our parallel pregnancies we had the distance of being on separate coasts yet also the closeness of Skype dates and baby gifts. We called after doctor appointments, each healthy visit a victory for us all somehow.

In my last trimester I started to awaken in night terrors, my belly hoisted high above the little me down below. What will my son make of his life, I wondered, created from his mother and her college friend’s husband? Will he resent two mothers and see in their place a gaping hole? Will he find it cruel that we chose to know his donor and keep him close but not close enough?

On such nights, as I burrowed into my wife’s shoulder and open arms, she would say, “What could be wrong about our child coming from a great act of selflessness?”

When our son was over 3 months old, we flew out to California for a cabin weekend with friends, including Angela and Wilson. We met their daughter and they our son, born just four days apart.

Before my wife walked in, she hugged our son to her chest, kissing his soft cheeks, and said, with perhaps a flicker of uncertainty, “You’re mine.”

Wilson and Angela delighted over him, though Wilson kept a respectful distance.

Right before we left, my wife said to Wilson, “You can hold him.”

As he lifted our son and they stared at each other, Angela said, “Oh, they’re so cute together.”

Watching them, I held back a burn of tears, not because of all the things this man couldn’t give my son but because of everything he already had.

We laid our baby on the ground next to theirs, we four parents cooing more than the two of them. But one thing was clear: Angela and Wilson’s daughter was undeniably theirs, and our son was joyfully our creation.

In Defense of Egg Freezing

One woman’s opinion that companies, such as Apple and Facebook, who cover egg freezing are taking a huge step in the right direction. Read Renee Whitworth’s story below from the Huffington Post.

IVF Confessions: In Defense of Egg Freezing

When the media reported earlier this month that Apple and Facebook are covering egg freezing as a benefit for female employees, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of vicarious relief. Though some questioned whether such a benefit might make career women feel as though they must postpone childbearing, and others pointed out that the procedure is not the remedy some think it is, I chose a different outlook. This simply would give women options we never had in the past, an option I would have wanted. But more important to me on a personal level, if we are now talking openly about freezing eggs at the prime of fertility for future use, then maybe it’s a good time for me to share what it feels like at the other end of a successful egg retrieval.

Every fall, I get a bill for $1,200 for freezer storage — not for frozen eggs, but embryos. They are a reminder of what I have and the responsibility that goes with it. For me, the road from recurrent miscarriage to two healthy children was a six-year journey through the heartbreaking labyrinth of IVF that ended with these embryos in a freezer.

These are not hypothetical children. They are waiting to be born into my family or someone else’s, should I have the courage to give them up. They also embody all the reluctance I have about opening up about my journey. I hate that people think of women like me as career-hungry, selfish, medically ignorant women who decided too late to start and family and then simply wrote a check. I started at 36, yet it took so long that here I am at 43 with a toddler and 9-month-old baby. I feel a strong sense of responsibility to “use” the other embryos I worked so hard for. If I don’t, will people who don’t understand think I am selfish, or worse, discarding life?

If, like me, you are lucky enough to be a mother of two, and one child is a boy and the other a girl, I bet you wish you had a nickel for every time someone said, “One of each. Great. Now you are done.” Personally, those nickels would pay for my freezer bill. Why we, as a society, feel like two kids, one of each sex, is the ideal requires a lot more examination. But when most people see that family equation, they say, “So, you are done now, right?”

Such a loaded question. Here is what I have learned about loaded questions. In this situation, the answer they are looking for is, “Oh, definitely.” Because they are done, and they want others to relate. It’s human nature to want to relate. So, when people ask, “Are you hungry?” they are hungry. Unless it’s an Italian grandmother, she wants to stuff your face either way.

So, am I done? Well… yes and no.

“Yes,” because I am overwhelmed with peace and joy. With two healthy, happy and adorable kids that I almost never had. I am filled with gratitude. I look them in the eyes every day and tell them how much they made my dreams come true. How much I love them. When I have just put my head on the pillow, only to hear one of them cry out, I always remind myself that I begged to be a mom, that I actually insisted on it.

“No,” because there is still potential life to be considered — embryos in the freezer. I don’t take that decision lightly. It is not based on how tired I am of diapers, how many bedrooms we have in the house, not wanting a minivan or not wanting to be “outnumbered,” as others advise.

It is absurd to me that I am even in this position, because I was not supposed to ever go this route. At my bachelorette party, at age 35, I can hear myself saying, “I’ll never make a test tube baby.” All my friends had one, two or more kids. To my knowledge, no one had any fertility treatments or miscarriages.

But I proudly proclaimed that should anything go wrong with having a baby naturally, I would accept it, adopt (as my parents did for me) and not go crazy raiding my ovaries for eggs and mixing up a baby in a petri dish. Guess what? Both my babies are IVF kids. I actually did get pregnant easily, but something always went wrong. And in the end, I just could not help longing for a successful pregnancy. I was also woefully naïve and uninformed about adoption. Though I am adopted myself, that did not make me an expert in the topic, nor did it give me an E-ZPass through a mountain of red tape. It was faster, easier and cheaper to do IVF than to go through most adoption processes.

Make no mistake, however; doing IVF three times absolutely turned us inside out and left us emotionally and financially spent. For starters, I resorted to IVF after three years of a combination of natural pregnancies, pregnancies with the help of less invasive fertility treatments and even unexpected pregnancies in the middle of planning for IVF, all ending in miscarriage (doctors attributed most of it to declining egg quality due to maternal age). For me, it was not merely trying for a few months and then graduating to IVF. It was a grueling three years of the most invasive tests imaginable, early morning doctor visits before work, canceling vacations and missing important family functions based on my cycle.

The only time I was not in treatment from 2008 until 2011 was when I was pregnant or recovering from a loss. And with all these appointments came countless disappointments. One night after work, we were planning on having an embryo implanted the next day. It was a summer night and we waited anxiously by the phone for instructions. The call we got was that in a 12-hour period, all the embryos had arrested (died). As I hung up the phone in sheer shock, we heard a gunshot outside our window. Both of our hearts stopped in panic. A police officer was standing over a dead deer about 15 feet from our front door. The deer had been hit by a car and he was putting it out of its misery. I will never forget looking at my husband and asking “What the hell was life doing to us?” I could not even sit in that room for weeks. Everything became about missing out on life or worse — losing life — while in pursuit of life.

Harder still, unless you want everyone to know your business and give you unsolicited advice, then you suffer in silence. I have been the host — not just the guest — of many baby showers only days after a miscarriage or negative pregnancy test. I used to curl up on the floor and cry so hard that I would stop breathing and drool would come out of my mouth. The kind of cry that toddlers do that crushes your heart. It was such a bad time for me that I did not even want to recall it for this article. Thank God — and I mean THANK GOD — that is behind me now.

So, I think it is fair for me to assume that it would have been easier to freeze my eggs at 30 when I had not yet met my future husband. It could have meant that Mother Nature and her ticking clock did not fast-forward our relationship towards marriage. And it could have meant that once our family was complete, only eggs would be left unused, not actual embryos. Which is what I face now.

I hope that anyone who sees how lucky this once very unlucky girl was never assumes it was effortless. People who don’t know my saga meet me and say things like, “Oh my friend is trying to get pregnant at 39 and not having luck. I’m going to tell her that you did it at 42.” I immediately tell them that I am no example of luck. I am just an example of never giving up, though I did have to give in. After thinking that if I got pregnant on my own I did not need IVF, I eventually gave in.

I guess that’s why I feel a tremendous responsibility to tell other women about my story. We are blowing the lid off of photo retouching, and we should do the same on fertility retouching. At the very least, we need to be able to talk about it openly. If you have ever sat in a waiting room at a reproductive endocrinologist’s office, you know that this is sort of an epidemic. Hundreds of women every day are sneaking in for blood tests and ultrasounds at 6:30 a.m. so their work is not affected and they can keep it a secret.

While I do not think that we need to rewrite the fairytale as girl meets boy, boy commits to girl, girl needs IVF, I do think that only half of our expectations have changed. I believe that Apple and Facebook have tuned into the dilemma that career women face — of having a family when your eggs are most ready versus having a baby when your life is ready. We have started to teach our young girls that they can be anything, do anything. But there is still a limit for us that men don’t have. Until then, we must not only be open to starting a family in nontraditional ways, we must provide the emotional and financial support for families of all types to do so. That is why I think that companies who cover egg freezing are taking a huge step in the right direction.

It took me so long to write this, with a 2-year-old and the baby, who wakes up every hour and 45 minutes each night. So I already know how unrealistic it would be to add a third child right now. But I dare not make that decision cavalierly. I also know that should another baby be something my husband and I are open to, I would prefer all my kids to be out of diapers before I am in them. The clock ticks.