GIVF eNews

May 2010 eNews

Mother's Day During Your Infertility Journey
by Phyllis Martin, LPC

Mother's Day and the days leading up to the holiday tend to be quite a difficult time for women and couples during their infertility journey.  Many holidays are hard when coping with infertility, but Mother’s Day can be especially trying when you are working so hard to become a parent.  Complex emotions may surface as you see the celebration of motherhood unfold before you.  It feels as if the celebration excludes you because you are not yet a mom, yet it feels unfair because you are working so hard to become one.  I have always thought that even if you haven’t met your family building goals, your survival thus far, your effort, your hard work, and the challenges that you have overcome should be rewarded as well.  The status of motherhood should not be the only measure, the pursuit of motherhood should be acknowledged as well. 

Women often say that for years they thought of Mother’s Day as a day to celebrate their own mother's contribution.  Once the pursuit of motherhood begins; however, women may gain a new perspective on the holiday and begin to think of themselves and their future as a mother.  For a woman trying to become a mother, the Mother's Day holiday may morph into a very tangible reminder of what they feel they are missing and exacerbate their fears surrounding infertility.   

For many coping with infertility, Mother’s Day is like pouring salt into a wound.  Infertility often causes feelings of isolation, and the approach of Mother’s Day may emphasize feelings of envy of other women who are mothers.  It can seem like everyone else reaches motherhood so naturally and easily.  They already have the prized position of motherhood, and they still get to celebrate it out loud (with lots of Hallmark ads for weeks before and 1/2 off sales afterwards)!  Yet women facing infertility receive no recognition for all the hard work just to become pregnant and stay pregnant.  No pat on the back of congratulations for all that work, stress, and anxiety.  Unfortunately, the day can be a bitter reminder for those who have worked so very hard but have not yet seen their hard work manifest itself into motherhood. 

So as we approach Mother's Day (and the days that follow), prepare for it by educating yourself and taking proactive steps to protect your peace of mind:

  • Realize that grief may flair at various times.
  • Understand that grief can feel or look like:  feeling “out of sorts,” irritability, difficulty focusing, crying, loss of motivation, sleep disturbances, appetite changes, or the inability to enjoy things.
  • Remember that you are not alone and you are not going crazy if you feel sorry for yourself, envious of others, or even angry.  
  • If you plan to attend a religious service, speak to your minister or rabbi ahead of time to ask that he/she acknowledge all those who are TRYING to become mothers, not just those who are mothers.
  • Plan extreme self care for yourself that day, or after any event you may be obligated to attend, so that you have something to look forward to for yourself.
  • If you are spending the day with family and they know of your infertility challenges, enlist their support.
  • Know that you can feel happy for family and friends, grateful for your own mother, and still sad for you.  It does not make you selfish or a bad person.
  • Be proud of yourself for your effort and fortitude.
  • Make a concrete plan to do something that recognizes all of your hard work and effort such as a weekend getaway, massage, spa treatment, a funny movie, a picnic, or outdoor activity.  The sky is the limit and living in the Washington, DC area, there are dozens of free and fun things to do.

Lastly, for spouses concerned about how to handle this day, plan something for your wife that recognizes both the sadness of not being a mother yet, but more importantly the strength, effort, and survival skills she has utilized to get this far in your journey.  You may not be where you want to be yet, but your effort is commendable. 

Happy Mother’s Day to all Mothers and Mothers-To-Be!

Ms. Martin offers GIVF patients one-on-one counseling and support groups.

What's New at GIVF

Preserve your fertility with Personal Egg Banking™, available now at GIVF. Schedule a free consultation, learn more here.

Single IVF Cycle Pregnancy Guarantee™ is only available until May 31, 2010. Learn more about the best IVF option in DC here.

Cycle in the Summer™ is back by popular demand and has been extended until July 31, 2010. Learn more about the most affordable IVF option in DC here.

Concierge Services are now available for international and out-of-town patients planning to travel to GIVF. Our concierge can take care of all your travel arrangements and make your trip as smooth as possible. Learn more here.

Saturday, May 8 is our 24th annual GIVF Baby Reunion. Each year, we look forward to this joyous celebration in honor of our patients and their families. For more information, email babyreunion@givf.com.

Are Sperm Numbers Falling?
by David Karabinus, PhD, HCLD

Declining sperm production in humans has received much media attention recently; however, in reality such reports are not new. As far back as the mid 1970s there have been such reports in scientific literature, but the results of studies from around the globe do not present clear cut evidence that sperm production is declining in humans. Some studies found slight decreases while others found no change at all, or even increases in sperm production. Why the inconsistency in reports? There are indications that geographical differences in sperm production may reflect variations in diet, environmental exposure, pollution, etc.

Is there anything we need to be concerned about? Maybe. Sperm production can be affected by a multitude of things such as medication, illness, trauma, and stress. Exposure to environmental pollutants, extreme heat and/or extreme cold can also impact testicular function. The chemotherapy or radiation that kills cancer and saves lives can eliminate the testes’ ability to produce sperm. Alcohol and recreational drug use also have adverse effects.

While there is no evidence that males are becoming inherently less capable of producing adequate numbers of sperm, we do know that lifestyle and environmental factors can impair sperm production. Avoiding risk factors and practicing healthy habits such as eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, taking a multi-vitamin, and avoiding environmental toxicants is important for healthy sperm production.

Pre-Conception Genetic Screening
by Harvey J. Stern, MD, PhD

When was the last time you thought about your genes? Chances are, not lately, but if you’re planning to start or grow your family, genetic screening could help you avoid inherited disorders in your children.

The human genome contains approximately 30,000 genes, many of which when altered (mutated) can lead to serious genetic disorders. All humans carry between 7 to 10 genetic alterations that do not produce illness in the individual. However, these genetic alterations can cause your children to have serious medical disease if both you and your partner pass on alterations in the same gene. In most cases when this occurs, no other family members are affected with the same condition and therefore no one is aware that the condition “runs” in the family until the first affected child is born. Genetic liability is the chance that individuals carry genes for genetic disorders and is dependent on family history and specific ethnicity.

Although genetic diseases are relatively rare individually, in aggregate they represent a significant risk for newborns and infants. Children born with genetic disorders place a large emotional and financial burden on their family. Children with genetic diseases typically have multiple hospitalizations; in fact, studies in the US, UK, and Canada show that they account for 25% to 40% of admissions to pediatric hospitals.

Over the past several years there have been dramatic developments in the use of microarray technology, which can identify individuals who are carriers of various genetic conditions. The ideal time for couples to undergo genetic screening is prior to pregnancy (pre-conception). This allows couples the most options for family building with the lowest genetic risk. In established pregnancies, options are limited to genetic testing and interruption of affected pregnancies.

In the past, pre-conception genetic screening usually involved testing for only a small number of genetic conditions based on family history or ethnicity. These tests were done as stand-alone analyses often at a cost of around $300 per test. Examples include testing for α or β-thalassemia in Asian populations, or sickle cell disease in Africans. A US company called Counsyl has now developed a DNA chip-based universal genetic test that can screen for over 100 genetic conditions for the cost of a single DNA test. Available at GIVF, the Counsyl test represents the beginning of a new era for genetic screening where advances in DNA analysis translate to improved ability to analyze more human genes. Test results provide patients with a “list” of their genes that carry alterations that is then checked against the mutations in their partner. In cases where both parents are carriers of the same genetic condition, this type of testing provides the opportunity for couples to fully explore their reproductive options including preimplantation or prenatal testing, or use of donor gametes to avoid genetic disease. GIVF strongly recommends counseling with a genetics professional for couples planning to use the Counsyl test. To learn more about Genetic Services at GIVF, click here.

The Genetics & IVF Institute (GIVF) regularly releases an informative newsletter featuring the latest infertility news and developments. The newsletter is sent electronically via email. To subscribe, click here.