Wednesday, December 11, 2013

It’s the Holidays…Again (and You’re Still Struggling with Infertility or Pregnancy Loss) By Guest Blogger Deborah Simmons PhD, LMFT

It’s that time of year again when everything is beautiful and everyone is happy.  It’s a time for pretty parties and get-togethers with family and friends.  It’s a time to be thankful for what you have.  Most noticeable is that the holidays are for children.  Lots of children.  They seem to be everywhere.

For those who are experiencing problems with infertility or pregnancy loss, it can be a confusing and difficult time of the year.  For many, the fact that another year has passed without a pregnancy or another child can be very disheartening.  Time and sensation seem altered, like walking around in a bad movie.  Even the simple act of shopping for gifts for others can be a trial.

There are a great many expectations about the holidays as well.  Many families have enjoyable traditions and rituals that can be traced back for generations.  It’s a time for good cheer and good will.  We exchange gifts with loved ones.  ‘Tis the season, put a smile on your face!  Boy, that’s a tall order for someone who is worrying about their fertility.  dreamstime_s_12019036

I get a lot of questions this time of year from my patients who are struggling with infertility or pregnancy loss about the rules of engagement with family and friends.  So often I hear that their presence is expected and even required at family gatherings.  Not only is physical presence mandatory but emotional presence is required as well. It is at holiday time that my patients come to me in tears, not wanting to ruin a good time for others but tired and resentful about having to pretend to be happy.  “We have been pretending to be okay for years,” they tell me, “and we are not.”

Sometimes acting like things are okay does work.  It offers the opportunity to be a part of a treasured group.  Since infertility can be very isolating, it can be helpful sometimes just to show up and be loved.  But often, others who know you well can tell the difference between sincerity and acting.  That can cause friction in some circumstances.  People who are grieving just don’t make very good partygoers.

I’d like to make a suggestion.  Just try this on and see how it feels to you.  Maybe the holidays are a good time to practice being an adult.  Let me explain.  We are required all day to act like adults, whether we feel like it or not.  At our jobs or our other roles, we make decisions, even difficult ones, and take responsibility for them.  We take risks and deal with the consequences of our actions.  We ask for help when we need to and we admit when we are too tired or too distressed to go any further.  Adults make their own decisions about that they would like to do, or not, as the case may be.  They choose who they would like to spend time with and under what conditions.

So why when it comes to setting good boundaries at holiday time do we forget all of our well-honed adult skills?  It’s as if we pack our adult selves away, in exchange for acknowledgment or approval.  We go along to get along.  We worry more about hurting others’ feelings than about our needs or our own distress.  Where does our ability to say “no” go?  “No” is one of the first words a toddler learns.  It helps to differentiate that child as a person who has wants and needs.  Why does “no” get replaced with “Yes (g-r-r-r-r-r)” at holiday time?

What if you are truly out of sorts and out of steam and cannot even consider attending one more social event?  What feelings does this raise for you?  Are you afraid that you will have to pay a price for your absence?  Unfortunately, in some circumstances, there will, in fact, be friction, guilt or some other manipulation that can make a person feel badly.  Is that enough to make you want to do something that you don’t want to do?  Could you suffer through it without feeling even worse?  Will your family or friends love you less because you need to do something different this year?  Answer truthfully.  It is more realistic that someone will be disappointed and miss you, if you or your partner do not attend.  Might you feel bitter or isolated, missing out on even more of your life?

Alternatively, might you get the warmth and caring that you need so badly just by showing up?  Would it feel good to be with loved ones, enjoying relationships that sustain you in good times and in bad?  Maybe it would be nice to put your worries aside, even if it’s only for a few moments.  It might be the right idea for you to be with others, sharing hope and dreams and healing some of the hurts inflicted by infertility.
What I am suggesting is that you have choices about how you would like to engage in the holiday season.  As with most things in life, it is important that you speak from your heart on these matters.  It is very important that you talk openly and honestly with your partner about what you can and cannot do.  Be prepared that you may each feel differently.  That is a very normal experience in the fertility treatment world.  You do not have to agree with one another but you must support your partner’s wishes.  It is what we count on in close relationships, that someone will have our back.  Maybe your spouse needs to explain to his family that you are just not up for things this year.  Maybe both of you need to make a pact with one another that a quiet time away developing your own ritual is in order.  The point is that you can decide what you need and when you need it.

Because this is what adults do.  We do our best to do what is right.  We try to live fair and just lives.  It’s okay to put yourself first sometimes.  Take a breather.  Let this season be a time of growth and peace for you.  You deserve it.

About Dr. Simmons

I am an expert in pregnancy loss & infertility counseling, including psychoeducation for donor eggs, donor sperm, and surrogacy, in the Twin Cities. I look forward to serving you. Call 763-546-5797, x 102 for an appointment today.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Known or Unknown? Which Sperm Donation Option is Viable? By Guest Blogger Michelle Patterson

There are many factors to consider when considering the option of sperm donation for conception.  Perhaps one of the biggest questions you might face throughout this process is that of whether to use a known or unknown donor for the sperm donation.  There are many advantages and disadvantages to both of these options, and this article will discuss some of those advantages and disadvantages.  Take these facts and examples into consideration when making your decision so that you can make a more informed decision.    Both are viable options, it’s simply a matter of weighing the pros and cons of each and making a decision that is best for yourself.

Known donor

Using a known donor is a viable option if you are willing to weigh the pros and cons. A known donor can be anyone with whom you have a close relationship and trust to be a part of this process.  Some pros of using a known donor could include some of the following examples:  you know and trust this person enough to have them be a part of the child’s life, or you know them well enough to know that they would be a donor and not try to assume a parenting role.  Also, having a known donor that might not always be involved would make it easier on you if your child decides he/she wants to know the donor.  some cons could include causing problems with your relationship to the donor if the donor decides they want to change the agreement, or not provide help, etc.  The known donor might also want to fight for custody eventually, if they are a part of the child’s life currently.

Unknown donor

Choosing to use an unknown donor also has plenty of pros and cons to consider.  Some of the pros of choosing an unknown donor could be that there is no stress about the donor fighting for custody or wanting to be involved, which would mean less stress for you.  Another pro could be that you are left to raise your child on your own with your own value set, without having to raise them with someone else.  Some cons of choosing to use an unknown donor could also be that your child might be resentful or have hurtful feelings regarding not having a father in their life, or not knowing who their father is.  This could cause major issues between you and your child, which is something you would want to avoid.

As you can see, there are many pros and cons to using both a known and unknown donor for your conception.  Before making your decisions, weigh the pros and cons of both options in detail in order to make your choice.  Your choice should be a personal one, and the one that best suits your personal values and desires.

About the Author

Michelle Patterson is a nurse with years of experience in a sperm donation clinic.  She suggests checking out the California Cryobank website for more information regarding the pros and cons of unknown and known donors.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Save the Date Houston!! A Family of My Own is Coming to Town on November 9th!!

Houston Conference Sat Nov 9 2013   
Saturday, November 9, 2013 

A Family of My Own
Fertility & Adoption   Conference  

Returning to Houston! 
Connect with Fertility, Integrative/Holistic and Adoption Experts to discuss the most up to date topics in the family building field - Helping Make Parenthood Possible for You!  

Please join us for this must-not-miss educational event for those who wish to create a family of their own!   Attend Free

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Guest Post by Beth Waters: Cancer and Its Effect on Fertility

Cancer and Its Effect on Fertility

An unpleasant reality that many Americans have to face is the threat of cancer. This disease, characterized by an uncontrollable growth of cells, has remained the number two cause of death in the nation for decades now. Currently, there are over 200 known forms of cancer found in humans. Along with this growth in disease have come efforts to combat it. A variety of cancer treatments have been developed and used in different ways to target cancerous cells with the goal of eliminating them.

While these treatments are intended for good, particularly preventing the spread of new cells and ultimately saving patients’ lives, some come with negative side effects. Common methods of treatment often leave patients with decreased fertility.

 For both men and women, treatment can be detrimental to the reproductive system. The sperm count in males is decreased after cancer treatment and the menstrual cycle in women is often interrupted or ended. 

 No one wants to be left with the decision of saving their own lives or sacrificing it for a greater chance of creating a new one. A variety of treatments exist that offer cancer patients a possible end to the disease. Some common treatments include:

·         Surgery
·         Chemotherapy
·         Radiation Therapy
·         Targeted Therapy

These treatments all have an amount of risk attached to them. Surgery to replace bone marrow for example, as well as the methods that rely on the use of drugs, radiation or a combination of the two,  all damage the reproductive system as a result of their use. Although reproduction can occur in some cases, there is an increased risk of birth defects and miscarriages. 

The good news is that there are some options out there for those who want a bright future that includes children. Fertility preservation techniques are used to give individuals the choice to have children once they have completed their treatment. The process consists of extracting and freezing ovarian tissue prior to treatment for women. The equivalent is available for males. Sperm specimen is collected and frozen for later use. No one can predict their future, but fertility preservation techniques give the power of choice to patients.  Infertility no longer has to be a deciding factor in whether or not patients recovering from this life altering illness are able to experience the joy of a child.

If you or a loved one is dealing with cancer, make them aware that they do have a choice when it comes to having children after treatment.

Guest Author Bio:

Beth Waters is the mother of two overly energetic and wonderful children. She is both a freelance writer for medical companies such as Liberty Medical and a blogger at Carrots Over Cake. She enjoys writing about fitness and health while guiding others through her and her family’s journey to live a healthier life.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Guest Post By Deborah S. Simmons, PhD, LMFT: No Fellas, She Needs a Child, Too

WeepingI was reading the story of Hannah in the Old Testament this morning and I thought about the many hurts and indignities of infertility.  Hannah had not yet conceived and was distraught.  Her husband, Elkanah, had a second wife, Peninah, with whom he had conceived children.  This created endless problems.
When Elkanah offered a sacrifice, he would give portions to Peninah his wife and to each of her sons and daughters; but to Hannah he would give a special portion, for it was Hannah he loved, but the Eternal One had shut her womb.  Her rival would torment her constantly, because the Eternal One had shut her womb.  This went on year by year; when they went up to the House of the Eternal One, her rival would so torment her that she would weep and not eat.  Elkanah would say to her, “Hannah, why do you weep?  Why don’t you eat?  Why are you so unhappy?  Am I not dearer to you than ten sons?”
Well, Elkanah and other fellas, let me answer whether you are dearer to your partner than ten sons.  The answer is a big no.  She needs a child, too.  Real, real bad.
I am alarmed by the number of men who tell their spouses, and me, that they could take or leave parenting, while women like Hannah are hoping desperately to parent.  This causes women to collapse into depression and resentment.  So here are suggestions for the fellas to better understand their women:
1) If you really do not want to have a child, please be honest and speak up.  Please do not let this woman suffer for several years, only to find out that you are not really on the team.  This wastes her time and her biological clock.
2) If you think that you should both just keep trying, it will happen because you are optimistic, you have missed the difficulty that women experience, like Hannah, when others are gleeful with children.  Women suffer.  This is even worse if you and your partner have already had one or more pregnancy losses.  Miscarriages hurt physically and emotionally.  And no, your partner is not over it yet, even if her crying is really difficult for you.
3) If you are focusing only on the cost of procedures, you are panicking your partner and dismissing her distress.  I appreciate your concern about finances but, forgive me my bluntness, get over it.  Or let me put it to you more gently—explore additional values, like creativity and love, and maybe you’ll do some growing of your own.
4) If you think that a boat or a snowmobile are more important to your relationship than a child, come on now, really?  I don’t even know what to say to you about that.
5) If you are more interested in spending time drinking with your poker buddies or frat brothers than making or raising a child, you and your partner could benefit from some good marital therapy.  I am available.

Let me be fair.  I also hear from a lot of fellas who want very much to be fathers but who are overwhelmed by their partner’s hurt, sadness, and depression.   I completely understand that and have compassion that you don’t know how to help.  That’s okay.  I know you are trying.  I can help.  You don’t need to do anything to fix it.  Just hold her and listen.  Fellas, she needs you very much…and she needs a child, too.

Written by Deborah S. Simmons, PhD, LMFT

Partners in Healing of Minneapolis    
10505 Wayzata Boulevard, #200
Minnetonka, MN 55305
o) 763-546-5797   FAX) 763-546-5754

Follow Deb on Twitter @DebSimmonsPhD and Partners in Healing of Minneapolis @PartnersHealing 

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Infertility Answers, Inc~Research is Key

If you are considering Egg or Sperm Donation, Surrogacy or Embryo Donation, research is KEY! There are so many facets to the Third Party Family Building journey that it's imperative that those seeking to be donors or surrogates do their research as well as Intended Parents looking for the services offered from women advertising themselves as "good candidates". You can find information regarding these issues and more, including medical and legal concerns world wide, on Infertility Answers, Inc.  This easy to navigate site is perfect for those just starting to understand the complexities of Third Party Family Building.

Wishing you all the best!
Sharon LaMothe

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Looking for an Affordable Surrogacy Consultant? Check out LaMothe Surrogacy Consulting, LLC

LaMothe Surrogacy Consultants are dedicated to giving Intended Parents and Surrogates the education and tools needed to make knowledgeable and fact based decisions regarding their Third Party Family Building Options. The old adage 'you don't know what you don't know' is very true in the case of surrogacy arrangements. Deciphering all of the overwhelming information, surrogacy programs, laws, and relationship concerns are what our expert consultants are trained to do. They will take the stress of figuring out how this 'whole thing works'.                                              
The key to many Intended Parents success in utilizing surrogacy as a family planning option is their Private In (your) Home Surrogacy Consulting which is offered to those who reside in Seattle, Washington, Rochester, New York, and Orlando, Florida (and surrounding areas for an additional travel fee). This comprehensive program is for those who desire to have the Surrogacy Process explained in the comfort and privacy of your own home. This program includes up to five hours of in-person consultation for up to 4 people and the materials to help with the decision to move forward with a Third Party Family Building Plan.

LaMothe Surrogacy Consulting is NOT a matching service. They do not match Intended Parents, Recipient Couples or Singles with Traditional Surrogates, Gestational Carriers or Egg and Sperm Donors. Instead LSC prepare Couples and Singles, based on individual needs, to find their way through the maze of Third Party Family Building Options. LSC works to provide information and education on how the surrogacy process works, who are the professionals that Intended Parents will meet and hire and the questions that they need to ask during each step of the surrogacy journey.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Offsetting the Cost of Building Your Future Family by Guest blogger Denise Steel

It is no secret  that when you are faced with having to find alternative ways to start your  family, there is often a financial obligation that goes along with whatever path  you choose to pursue. Before you decide to put your goal of building your family  up on a shelf, I want to share some ways that you may not have considered to help offset some of the related expenses.

When we began our domestic adoption process, I had educated myself of the costs involved and had set aside an allocated budget. Our private domestic adoption ended up costing us  a little over $45,000. That included the attorneys’, agency, licensing, travel,  and marketing fees. We also covered some of our birthmother’s living expenses
  which were required by State law. Depending on which State you adopt from in the  US, you may be required to pay some or all of the birth mother’s expenses. You  should be mindful that domestic adoption carries a risk both emotionally and financially; 30% or more of domestic adoptions do not end up completing. A birth mother has the right to decide to keep her  child even if she has indicated otherwise before her child is born. You  may potentially have to forfeit the fees and expenses you paid towards an incomplete adoption. Some adoption agencies will credit you, however, should you  decide to move forward with another domestic adoption. It varies based on your agency and/or firm.

In our case, the majority of our adoption-related expenses were due right before our son’s birth and shortly before our adoption was complete. Given that we had set aside savings for the adoption itself, we were able to absorb those costs without becoming overly burdened. I would encourage you to do the same if you are able. I kept copious records of all of our expenses and held onto every single receipt. That enabled us to claim all of our adoption expenses on our taxes which resulted in a substantial tax credit

With regard to our egg donor costs, we ended up paying about $30,000. Most of our costs were associated with egg donor agency, the donor and attorneys’ fees. Mercifully, we had wonderful insurance and were covered for up to 4 IVF cycles.

I will share a  cautionary tale, however. Even though we received the official paperwork that  stated we were covered for the 4 cycles, the day before our first IVF retrieval  was scheduled to take place, I was informed by our doctor’s office that the  procedure was denied by our insurance company. The bottom line was that if we  were going to move forward with the procedure we either had to pay it out of  pocket or get the claim approved by our insurance company. You can imagine my frustration. Since then, I have learned that this is a very common occurrence among those  who have submitted claims for their fertility treatments. In my opinion,  insurance companies try to throw up as many road blocks as they can to deter  people from making expensive claims. I imagine in some cases they succeed in defeating those who don’t wish go through the hassle and red tape of getting  their procedures approved.

I was adamant about moving forward with the procedure. Interestingly enough, this was the cycle that lead to us learning I was completely infertile; all 3 of the embryos that grew had massive chromosomal disorders and we were unable to move forward with the transfer. Once the process begins, it is counted by the insurance provider (even if they don't approve/pay for it). But I was determined that our insurance company WAS going to pay. I began by contacting my husband’s HR benefits coordinator. I then connected with a case manager at our insurance provider. In addition to my  efforts, it also took our doctor’s office resubmitting a great deal of paperwork before the close of business. After much anxiety, the procedure was approved and we went in for our retrieval that next day.

As an aside, you have to really  work at being connected with those case managers. If time  is of the essence, (and it often is in these situations) my advice to you would be to ask to speak to a case manager as soon as you connect with a customer service representative.  Customer service reps are able to handle general questions but when it comes to something as important as getting a fertility treatment covered, that requires someone who has the adequate authority to make that call. The customer service rep will probably try to prevent you from speaking to a case manager so be polite yet firm. Once you do connect with the case manager, don’t let your emotions get the best of  you. The more polite/calm you remain, the better your chances are to convince  that case worker that they should advocate on your behalf. They will most likely have  to state your case to a physician who is employed by the insurance company; the  insurance provider’s physician will be the ultimate decision maker in determining  whether your procedure will be covered or not.

There is a lot of talk about potential changes to federal laws
which may affect how fertility treatment claims are handled. The best advice that I can give you  on this topic is continue to seek out the information as it becomes available. I will do my best to post related articles on the Hope4Fertility Facebook page.

Whether you are considering adoption or infertility treatments, you should start researching   your insurance coverage, the types of benefits your employer may offer for adoption and begin thinking about a preliminary budget you may be able to allocate towards building your family.

If you feel that adoption or fertility treatments are just beyond your reach, there are programs available to those who quality to help absorb some of the associated costs.

Educational Conferences: A Family of My Own
hosts conferences in several different States that provide the latest information in the field of family building. Check the site for conferences closest to you. The site also provides links to adoption and fertility grants.

Domestic Adoption Fee Estimates:
has a great article on estimating the  potential fees for domestic adoption. Also, please check out the Child Welfare Information Gateway site. There is  more in-depth information about navigating the ways  to underwrite the expenses  of adopting.

International Adoption Fee Estimates: Given that I did  not adopt internationally, I have no personal data that I may share.
has another great article on estimating the  potential fees associated on International adoption, however.

Fertility Treatment  Fee Estimates: Fertility treatments
are a little more difficult  to ballpark because there are a lot of variables in the equation. Depending on  the diagnosis, varied treatments are recommended. Each procedure is billed  differently and fertility drugs are prescribed based on each patient’s treatment  plan. State laws also impact how insurance companies cover fertility procedures  and prescriptions. 

Navigating the Costs of Infertility:
 ·5 Tips to offset IVF costs
 ·Financing Your Infertility Treatments, by Mindy Berkson
 ·Can You Afford Fertility Treatments?

Infertility Procedure  Grants:
 ·Jude Andrew Adams Charitable Fund Application
 ·Links to grants from Creating a Family ·Links from RESOLVE
Adoption Grants:
 Includes a long list of grants available to hopeful families

I hope you find these  resources helpful. In addition to these, you may find even more by simply typing  in “adoption grants” or “fertility grants”.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Secondary infertility: Why can’t I get pregnant again? By Melissa Chapman

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Melissa Chapman regarding my experiences with secondary infertility for Pregnancy and Baby ( Although secondary infertility was very frustrating to me I was one of the lucky ones who eventually had my 2nd child without the help of an infertility Dr. My daughter is 9 1/2 years younger than her brother and we are grateful every day to have her in our lives!

Sharon LaMothe
Infertility Answers, Inc

Secondary infertility: Why can’t I get pregnant again?

By: Melissa Chapman

If you're dealing with secondary infertility, you are not alone in your struggle with trying to get pregnant again. When my daughter was two and a half, the barrage of questions as to when we were going to have another kid came fast and furiously. Initially I did not mind, however after nine months of trying to conceive the old-fashioned way—and even incorporating some romantic accessories to take the drudgery out of our mandatory “lovemaking sessions” -no amount of hot wax or fur-lined handcuffs were able to procure us a viable fetus. We went the route of meeting with a reproductive specialist, who flat out told me that I’d be unable to conceive without intervention.

Unable to fathom the information, being that our first stab at conception happened almost by accident, we chose to get a second opinion. Unfortunately the physician diagnosed me with secondary infertility and advised us that our best odds at conceiving were via medical intervention.

For my husband and I, the whole process of dealing with our diagnosis of secondary infertility and the battery of tests which ensued; having my fallopian tubes essentially snaked and his sperm scrutinized—months of painful injections, blood test, sonograms and insane mood swings all took a very heavy toll on our marriage. I also vividly recall wanting to deck every friend and family member, who during those difficult months- endlessly questioned me about when I was going to expand my family. In fact I even toyed with the idea of blurting out- on more than one occasion to a handful of relatives this very statement; “Well I’ll tell you how our next insemination goes, after my husband ejaculates into a cup and we rush it over to our doctor's office.”

Secondary infertility diagnosis

According to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association over three million Americans are affected by the painful experience of secondary infertility. Dr. John Rapisarda of the Fertility Centers of Illinois says infertility, whether primary or secondary, is defined as one year of attempting to become pregnant without success. Evaluation is often recommended for individuals over 35 who have been unable to conceive after six months.

Causes of secondary infertility

Although they are pretty similar to primary infertility, Dr. John Rapisarda admits that age factors play more of a significant role in individuals with secondary infertility relative to those with primary infertility. These causes are broken down into three main categories such as male factors, hormonal factors and pelvic/tubal factors.

Male factors include: Changes in sperm quality may occur due to medication use, changes in health or in testicular function, or may be the result of hormonal or environmental changes.

Hormonal factors in the female include: The natural decline in ovarian function that occurs with age, other hormonal imbalances such as hypothyroidism, lifestyle changes, and change in weight, change in health or certain medications.

Pelvic/tubal factors can be the result of infections that damage the Fallopian tubes (sexually transmitted/ruptured appendix), endometriosis, pelvic or abdominal surgery that can lead to scarring in the pelvis or uterus, cervical surgery and growth of fibroids or polyps in the uterus that may interfere with implantation.

Secondary infertility treatment options

Depending on the factors that have been diagnosed Dr. John Rapisarda says there are several medical interventions to help couples experiencing secondary infertility. These include:

Surgery to remove scar tissue, excise endometriosis, or remove fibroids/polyps

Hormonal therapy to correct ovulation disturbances, or other hormonal imbalances

Fertility medications, such as clomid, to increase egg production in someone who is suspected of having reduced egg quality, or with unexplained factors.

Insemination for mild sperm abnormalities.

IVF to bypass pelvic/tubal abnormalities, for severe sperm related abnormalities, or for someone who has failed other interventions

Use of a sperm or egg donor.

Emotional toll of secondary infertility

“Infertility always takes an emotional toll on those experiencing it, whether primary or secondary. It is stressful and frustrating and often associated with a sense of a loss of control," says Dr. Rapisarda. “Those with secondary infertility are always grateful that they have a child(ren) at home, but when they begin their attempts at becoming pregnant again, they have the expectation that they will be able to add to their family without a problem. When this doesn’t happen it can lead to the above feelings as well as a feeling of guilt that they might have waited too long, or done something else to cause their secondary inability to conceive. Physically, the treatments may lead to weight gain and other symptoms associated with hormonal changes.”

According to Sharon LaMothe, co-owner of Infertility Answers, Inc., who, after experiencing her own bout of secondary infertility, gave birth to her second child and went on to become a gestational surrogate twice.

“I was put on Clomid (which made me very moody and emotional) and told to chart my temperature. That's when it starts to take a toll on a marriage,” says Ms. LaMothe. “I have to say that my husband was really great about talking about anything that I felt like talking about but mostly he said that he was grateful for whatever we had in the way of family.“

Ms. LaMothe admits that having her husband take the pressure off of her to "perform my god-given duty to populate the earth" was the best gift he could give. However she believes that as women we do put a lot of pressure on ourselves and when we can't have children we can sometimes feel worthless.

“No matter when you are infertile in your life it is still a heart breaking experience. You can't have what everyone else has "naturally". You have to "work at it" and spend money on "it" and talk about "it" and IT becomes a huge elephant in the room," says Ms. LaMothe. “And the reason why the elephant becomes so big is because we feed it our resentment, our grief, our money, our time, our anger, and sometimes our marriage and for sure we feed it parts of ourselves.

Five tips to ease the impact of secondary infertility

Sari Eckler-Cooper LCSW a sex therapist s well as a sexuality educator who has been in private practice for 18 year offers these tips to deal with the social and emotional impact of your secondary infertility:

Dealing with feelings of guilt: Many couples, experiencing secondary infertility struggle with the guilt they feel about wanting another child since they already have one. It pushes their “buttons” of feeling too selfish, and not feeling grateful enough for the child they have. I would first have a talk with yourself, write in a journal, and discuss these feelings with your spouse so you can figure out where your beliefs stem from (parents, religion, and culture). Then articulate a response to these held beliefs which help you to feel at peace with your decision to pursue the second pregnancy. Write them down if you need to, memorize them and have them in your back pocket.

Dealing with personal questions: The first part is to discuss with your spouse/partner who in your circle of family and friends you want to share the details of what is going on. You may have differing views around this and may need to negotiate a compromise. Once you do this stick, with the agreement, it will minimize tension in your relationship and at times like this you need to be as supportive a team as possible. Once the rules or boundaries are set it will be easier to say the following:

“I’m a very private person and I don’t discuss personal issues like this with anyone outside my immediate family”. With this comment you’ve actually drawn a circle around your intimates with whom you have shared details of your infertility treatment (like your spouse, sister, best friends) and let the person in question know that these are your boundaries. You could also say: “We’re working on it and that’s the most I’m willing to talk about at this time”. If they take this as a tempting opportunity to dig for more information you can say: “I would ask you to please respect my boundaries as I respect yours”.

Dealing with the emotional toll on your marriage: A husband/partner not going through the physical symptoms may just not understand how frustrating and emotional the pursuit and the medications are to your body and mind. The other point is that sometimes a spouse is ready to give up trying before you are. You need to talk things calmly and slowly and try to come to an agreement about how much money, time, and pain you’re each willing to invest and then come to a compromise. Talking with a therapist about these issues is extremely helpful and can clarify the issues more calmly.

Check out our trying to conceive and infertility message boards to connect with other women going through the same struggles.

Take a mini-vacation from the topic: Just as you have to be aware of timing and schedules when you go through the process of trying to have another baby, you can carve out time not to think or talk about the process, a mini-vacation so-to-speak from the topic. This allows you, your spouse and your child the opportunity to focus on other events and activities in your life that are also important. Your child feels that you are genuinely “present” with him/her, not distracted by worries or thoughts about the baby you’re hoping for.

This takes focus and organization on your family’s part. It will also help in the bedroom since sex has now most probably become solely about getting you pregnant and lost some of its fun, relaxing qualities that are so important in releasing tension and bonding you and your partner. If you feel you’re not being understood, that you’re fighting too much of the time or slowly losing connection then it's time to seek help from a counselor or therapist.

The next step - adoption or surrogacy: This answer is only yours and your partner’s to make. Some clients of mine stop after one IVF and others have had 5 before either deciding not to have the second child, adopting, or go through the surrogate route.

“My last piece of advice is to seek out a spiritual path or practice that helps you keep you present, focused and calm,” says Ms. Eckler-Cooper. “It helps to imbue your path with meaning that resonates for you. Whether that’s the religion you were brought up in, meditation or a new practice, your soul is as much a part of this process as your mind and your body.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

When is the Right Time to Use Donor Eggs? By Guest Blogger Denise Steel

I met with a group of people last week who were considering using donor eggs to start or grow their families. My impression was that they were all in various stages of the decision-making process. One of the questions that came out of the discussion was, “When is the right time to use donor eggs?”

If you read my post
Egg Donor Cycle—Originally Deemed a Failure Results in Twins there was no doubt that in order for my husband and I try to have children who would share his DNA, donor eggs were a necessary component. My husband and I had gone through 1 IVF cycle; 3 embryos resulted from the retrieval but all had massive chromosomal abnormalities. Given that our first pregnancy resulted in a Triploidy child, there was little doubt that my egg quality was extremely poor. While the reality seemed harsh and unfair to me at the time, I see now that we were fortunate to have a definitive answer so that we could move forward in our endeavor to have children. What struck me last week was that so many of the wonderful people sitting in front of me were in a very grey zone.

Donor egg IVF is generally used in women with significantly
diminished egg quantity and quality.
This includes women with:
The first step in assessing whether donor eggs are necessary in building your family is to meet with a Reproductive Endocrinologist. These doctors are specially trained to diagnose and treat those who are having difficulty becoming pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.

If your R.E. recommends using donor eggs, you (and perhaps a partner) will make the final determination whether it is right for you and your family. As with IVF and other fertility treatments, there are no guarantees, unfortunately. Donor eggs do increase the likelihood of pregnancy with women who are diagnosed with poor egg quality, however.

SART, The Society for Reproductive Technology, offers an informative 
database of success rates for ART (assisted reproductive technology) cycles. I ran the report for 2010 and compared donor cycles to patients using their own fresh embryos. The donor egg showed a 55% success rate for live births (it did not break out the ages of the mother/carrier). The reason age is not relevant is because the majority of donor eggs are retrieved from women who are young (typically in their 20’s and very early 30’s). Conversely, the fresh non-donor embryos resulted in 12.6% of live births for women between the ages of 41-42. For women over 42, the success rates for live births from fresh non-donor embryos were reported to be 4.2%.

Going back to the original question, the live birth statistics offer a stark reality that is difficult to refute. Beyond that, I think the bigger question may be, "How much longer can you wait to be a parent?" If you have already experienced miscarriage(s) another question might be, "How many more are you willing to potentially endure?" I have a friend who has lost 5 pregnancies. Every time she shared that she had miscarried, I would privately wish that she would seek help from an R.E. It broke my heart to see her in such pain and I felt that she deserved to know the potential reasons for her heartbreak.

The decision to move forward with donor eggs is extremely personal and requires a great deal of consideration. If you opt to use donor eggs to try to become pregnant, accepting the fact that you will not be genetically linked to your future child/children is the first of many hurdles you will face. In future posts I will touch on the following:
  • Choosing a donor bank
  • Choosing an egg donor 
  • Contemplating the issues surrounding disclosure (to your child, family and friends)
  • Handling the legal matters that pertain to having a child through egg donation and selecting an attorney
I realize that I have oversimplified this very complex issue. It is not my intention to try to persuade you to move forward with a donor egg cycle. While I have been blessed with 2 children thanks to an anonymous egg donor, the decision was extremely difficult for me. I definitely wanted children but was afraid to go through another pregnancy. I am merely sharing some data and resources that may be useful to you and/or your partner.

Whatever path you choose to build your family, I hope you find great success and happiness in the end.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Surrogacy Contract: Issues to Consider

Below are just a few of the issues and concerns that are incorporated into a surrogacy agreement between the Intended Parents and a Surrogate and her partner. Each case is unique however these are the most common items that are discussed and agreed upon. Remember a contract is a MUST! Not an option. Hire a reproductive lawyer to give you the best advice and guidance.

All Parties have the right to independent legal representation.

All Parties need to agree to psychological and sexually transmitted disease testing.

Agree to the number of embryos to be transferred and the number of attempts at IVF.

Agree to help in whatever manner necessary to get the Intended Parent's names on the birth certificate.

Agree to HLA Paternity Testing if/when necessary.

Agree to drug testing and criminal background checks if requested by the IP's, IVF Clinic or Agency.

Surrogate must agree to notify Intended Parents at the first signs of labor. All contact numbers should be listed in the contract.

All parties must waive the right to medical confidentiality and execute the appropriate medical releases.

The Surrogate must agree to adhere to all medical instructions given to her by the attending physicians.

Amniocentesis should be agreed to as well as under what circumstances it may be requested.

Fetus loss must be addressed. Selective reduction, miscarriage and termination must be referenced with an agreed upon medical management plan.

The custody of a child that isn't genetically linked to the parties needs to be addressed.

IP's must agree to accept responsibility for a child born with birth defects.

Compensation for living expenses (base fee) must be addressed. The total fee should be deposited into a trust account before the transfer is performed.

Term life insurance policy of at least $250,000 must be provided to the Surrogate by the IP's.

There must be an estate plan or guardianship in place to provide for the infant should an IP die after pregnancy is confirmed.

There must be an estate plan or medical guardianship in place to maintain the Surrogate on life support should she suffer trauma and determined to be brain dead after pregnancy is confirmed. The OB will provide guidelines on when to order life support for purposes of maintaining a pregnancy.

The Parties should agree on what is expected during the labor and delivery. Generally, IP's are permitted to attend delivery.
The amount of post discharge contact, including photographs, needs to be agreed upon.

These topics and more can be found on Infertility Answers!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How Many Eggs Do You Have Anyway??

Just how many eggs do we women have anyway? Have you ever wondered? I never have. I just figured that I had what I needed and left it at that. I never gave my husbands sperm a thought seemed to be there when it was needed (and sometimes even when it was not! BTW male fertility drops to 70% in their 50's) But I never had a sit down with girl friends and chatted over how many eggs we had left or where they all came from. We might have talked about their expiration date but we used the word 'menopause' to describe those topics!
I watched a presentation by Dr. Adamson a couple of years ago and he showed a slide that said this: In Utero (aprox at 5 months) an unborn baby girl has about 4 Million Eggs. At birth that same baby girl will have about 700,000 eggs and at puberty a young girl would have approximately 350,000! And just so you menopause the number is about 1000 eggs and they are not doing well! Most of these eggs are lost to artesia, not ovulation which means that they are lost to the cells dying.

As you can see, we are born with all the eggs we will ever have. Amazing to know but now the question is just what will we do with those eggs?
Sharon LaMothe Infertility Answers, Inc. LaMothe Services, LLC *Please note: Sharon LaMothe is not a MD, is not an attorney nor does she hold a mental health degree. All advice given is solely the experienced opinion of Ms. LaMothe. If you have any medical, legal or psychological questions or concerns, please contact your own Doctor, Attorney or Mental Health Professional.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Dealing with Insensitive and Hurtful Comments During Infertility by Guest Blogger Denise Steele

Let me be the first to say that before infertility smacked me in the face, I may have hurt or offended others by asking insensitive or even ignorant questions about their fertility struggles. I want to say how deeply sorry I am for whatever words I may have spoken or actions I may have unknowingly taken that hurt you. Clearly, I was stupid and unaware back then and now I know better.

So let’s start with that, our family and friends desperately want to try to help us but they fumble at times. That happens whenever we are faced with a major challenge and it definitely applies to infertility. While their intentions are good, they make mistakes and sometimes don’t even realize that the words they choose may be hurtful and biting. For those that have never been through what we have, there is a lot of curiosity and sometimes questions leave people’s mouths before they ever consider how their words are being received.

I am writing this in part to try to educate those around you. Feel free to send my blog to your entire network so that nobody feels singled out; I am happy to be the bad guy in this situation.

I have personally been on the receiving end of obtuse comments. This narrative exemplifies what we sometimes experience as parents who have built our families through creative measures…

After our twins were born, we went as a family to an annual 4th of July celebration. Our friends knew about our struggles and were elated that we had finally completed our family. We wanted to share our happiness and our adorable little guys with everyone. At the time, our twins were 8 months old and our eldest was 20 months old. We had a great day. However, just as we were leaving, one of my husband’s oldest friends and I were chatting and he asked me a question that still irks me to this day. Given our close relationship, he knew all about our losses and how we created our family. In fact, he was at the party that I wrote about in an 
earlier blog entry where I had a mini break-down. On that glorious 4th of July afternoon, he literally said to me, “So the twins are Brian’s but not yours, right?” The impact of this question was so stunning to me that it felt like he had punched me right between my eyes. My first inclination was to slap him as hard as I could, drown him with whatever beverage I was holding, and scream, “ALL of my kids are mine! I nearly died giving birth to MY twins and if you think for one second that they aren’t mine, you are a BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP, BLEEP idiot!”

Mercifully, I composed myself and simply said, “ALL of my kids are mine. They don’t happen to share my DNA but you better believe that they are MINE.”

Now seems like the appropriate time to share some phrases that one should NEVERsay to someone who is facing infertility or has created their family through alternative methods:

  • Who are his/her/their REAL parents?
  • Do you wish you could have had your OWN?
  • So, they aren’t REALLY siblings then, right?
  • Well, at least you already have one!
  • Are you going to try to have your OWN children?
  • Why did their adoptive mother/family give them up?
  • Who is their adoptive family? Where do they live? ETC.
  • Who is the egg/sperm donor? Where do they live? ETC.
  • Maybe God doesn’t feel this is your time/or that you should have children. (Someone actually said this to me. She is an Atheist, by the way. I am still working on forgiving her that one, but very major, transgression.)
  • Maybe this isn’t the right time.
  • Try to focus on other things
  • How much did your baby cost?

Now, if you are in the process of researching alternative ways to build your family and you connect with others who have been down the same path, always start by saying, “Are you comfortable sharing your story…?” Speaking for myself, my goal is to provide you with as much information as I possibly can so that you may find your parental path posthaste. If you ask me a question that falls outside of the parameters that I mention above, you will definitely be forgiven. As I said in the beginning of this post, I am SURE that I asked questions during our discovery phase that probably annoyed or even offended others. I was so curious and I wanted a baby so badly that my questions were often asked with little regard for those sitting opposite of me.Boy, I am having to apologize a lot in this entry! Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!
On the other hand, if you are on the receiving end of this blog from someone who is struggling with infertility, I hope this entry has provided you some insight. Clearly, you want to do whatever you can to support your friend or family member during this tumultuous time. I am sure your heart is breaking for him/her/them. My only advice is to be mindful of the words that you choose. Sometimes, words that are meant to be encouraging can actually cut and unknowingly damage the relationships that we hold so dear.

Lastly, remember that once a person or couple makes it over to the other side and becomes a parent, that child is theirs regardless of the how they were brought together as a family. Asking questions about how that child came to be can sometimes be very intrusive. For children who are adopted or have come by way of a donor, their birth story is theirs and it should be protected until he/she decides to share it. People ask me all the time about our eldest son’s birth family. My simple reply is, “If Brandon chooses to share the specific details about the amazing woman who gave birth to him, that is his choice and his alone.”

My intention in writing this entry was to enlighten all of us. Infertility is a subject that leaves many battle scars. Let’s try to support each other, as best we can, while we are waiting to celebrate the birth of your future children.

Denise Steele is a proud mom of 3 boys thanks to private domestic adoption and a successful anonymous egg donor cycle. You can read more of her fantastic blog here!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Donor Sperm Quality: The little cells that make a big difference. Written by:Charles Muller, PhD HCLD

Charles Muller, PhD HCLD is Laboratory Director of Male Fertility Lab at the University of Washington and a key member of the Advisory Board for European Sperm Bank USA. His research is in fertilization, male reproduction, and prostatitis.  

Customers focus on the attributes of the donor they select, but the quality of the donor’s sperm cells are equally, if not more, important. Every man may have different quality sperm, due to natural variation. At European Sperm Bank USA, we do everything we can to be certain that our processes deliver the highest quality sperm cells at the time of use.

Sperm cells are fragile, susceptible to prolonged exposure to air, to chemicals in air and solutions, and to chemicals leached from containers. That’s why we only use solutions (‘media’) and containers that have been tested for their ability to support fertilization and sperm survival. It is why we control the environment during sample processing, run procedure quality checks, and ask for feedback on the outcomes of use of the sperm.

The greatest challenge for donor sperm is the process of freezing and thawing the sperm cells. Water in the cells will form ice crystals that would kill the cells if freezing and thawing is not done correctly. Luckily, sperm have relatively little water compared to most cells and this allows fairly simple techniques to be used to cryopreserve (freeze) them. Glycerine is one of the components, along with special buffers that help prevent ice crystal formation and cell damage. The cryopreservation method requires that a prescribed routine be strictly followed to achieve the best results. Even so, many of the sperm cells do not survive the process. Some of this loss occurs at thawing, so it is essential that the clinic or lab thawing our samples exactly follows the technique detailed in our instructions.

Sperm cells that are processed for Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) prior to freezing undergo additional challenges but the result is a convenient product that has only highly purified, highest quality sperm cells. Sperm cells must be separated out of semen, since semen contains undesirable natural compounds (such as prostaglandins that would cause very painful uterine cramps), poor quality sperm cells, and contaminants (such as white blood cells, bacteria and broken-down cells). These compounds and contaminants would naturally be eliminated when sperm swim through the cervical mucus into the uterus. Thus, an unpurified sperm sample is suitable for vaginal or cervical insemination (“ICI”), but not for IUI. However, some cryobanks simply centrifuge the semen to collect most of the sperm for freezing and offer these preparations as “IUI Ready”. Those preparations include the poor quality sperm and contaminating cells. A microscopic examination of the thawed specimen can reveal this.

At ESB-USA, we use a “density gradient”-type of preparation (sometimes called a “sperm wash” but this is a misleading term since it also can be applied to the simple centrifugation method). The density gradient separates sperm cells from seminal plasma, as does a simple centrifugation, but it also separates the high quality sperm cells from the contaminating cells and poorly motile sperm cells. The purified high quality, highly motile sperm are known to be the most fertile sperm. They represent a small fraction of the original total number of sperm cells. During freezing and thawing, some of these sperm also will not survive but the ones remaining will be survivors of the best possible selected population. Since these cells are already selected and purified, they are ready for insemination immediately upon thawing. In fact, they may be more sensitive at this point to mishandling than “ICI” sperm samples. It is critical that thawing be performed exactly according to our directions, and that insemination occur as quickly as possible (within about an hour or less) after thawing.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Please join us in supporting The Family Act National

Please join us in supporting The Family Act National
Call-In Days November 27-29
We are asking that anyone who is struggling with infertility, or have friends/familymembers of anyone struggling with infertility, contact their U.S. Senators and Congressional Representatives about the The Family Act.
About The Family Act
The Family Act of 2011 (S 965/HR 3522) will potentially help thousands of people
 seek medical treatment that otherwise would be out of reach for them by creating a tax credit for the out-of-pocket costs associated with IVF and fertility preservation after a cancer diagnosis.
The IVF tax credit will be available to patients with a household income of less
than $220,000, and will provide tax payers the ability to receive a credit of up
to 50% of their out-of-pocket costs up to a lifetime max of $13,360. It is estimated
that this tax credit will increase the number of patients accessing IVF medical
treatment by 30% which may result in the birth of approximately 30,000 babies.
What can you do?
The Family Act is currently being reviewed by the House and the Senate and it's
your right to contact your Senators and Congressperson. The Family Act will not
be passed unless we tell our legislators that it's important to us.
• Call. Watch an actual call being made and then follow this easy script.
• Write. Click here for an easy email template you can complete.
• Share. Spread the word Ask your friends and family to call and write.
Please make your voice heard on Capitol Hill!
Please join us during the National Call In Days                         
Tuesday, November 27
Wednesday, November 28
Thursday November 29