A major concern that couples are faced with is fertility. During the holiday season, couples are sometimes burdened with family members anticipating pregnancy news. Oftentimes, families don’t realize the struggle and stress couples experience trying to get pregnant.
Couples wanting to celebrate the holidays as a joyous occasion may be faced with distressing circumstances when a grandmother or other relative began providing unsolicited advice. In fact, 1 in 8 couples facing infertility in the United States (U.S.) receive unsolicited advice from relatives or friends.
Although couples experience unsolicited advice, a survey conducted through Merck’s Plan for Someday found that 78 percent of struggling couples receive supportive advice from family and friends. However, facing the burden to explain to relatives about the challenges of trying to conceive can be difficult. According to the survey, half of couples reported that telling people they are not planning to conceive is easier.
The guilt and stress that couples experience because of infertility makes it hard to openly discuss. Dr. Ali Domar, Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF specializes in the emotional stress surrounding infertility. According to Dr. Domar, “infertility patients report high levels of anxiety, depression, isolation, and physical symptoms such as insomnia, headaches, and fatigue.” Thus, it is important for patients to become emotionally and physically healthy when pursing infertility treatment.
In an interview conducted, Dr. Domar offers detailed advice for couples facing infertility.
What is Domar Center’s philosophy?
Our philosophy is that the best way to practice medicine is to care for the whole patient. We offer only integrative care modalities which have research to document the efficacy. Our motto is "Grounded in science, Inspired by compassion.”
What was your inspiration behind starting the Domar Center?
The idea behind the Domar Center was to offer patients the best of all aspects of health care, in other words to offer the ability to care for both the patient's mind and the body. Infertility causes extreme levels of anxiety and depression; 71% of infertile women feel flawed and 50% of men feel inadequate. Our goal is to allow them to continue to pursue cutting edge infertility treatment while feeling emotionally and physically able to do so.
In your practice, how do you assess to determine if someone has a fertility issue?
We leave the diagnosing of the actual medical condition to the reproductive endocrinologists at Boston IVF, where the Domar Center is housed. In general the rule of thumb is that if the woman is under 35 years of age, she can try on her own for a year before being considered as having a fertility problem. If she is 35-40, she should see an infertility specialist after six months of trying and if she is over 40, she should only wait three months. The sooner the person sees an infertility specialist, the more likely they are to conceive a healthy baby. In our recent survey with Merck, we discovered that 91% of infertility patients wished they had seen a specialist sooner.
This history could include for the woman a history of irregular periods, endometriosis, a history of previous infertility, a history of a ruptured appendix or a pelvic infection, etc. For the man it could include a history of previous infertility, having had mumps as an adult, or a history of an undescended testicle.
If couples seek treatment and are still unable to conceive, what’s the next step?
There are a whole host of options for couples these days. If treatment with their own eggs and sperm are not successful, they can look to donor eggs or donor sperm. They might need to consider using a surrogate if the woman's uterus is not normal. And adoption is an option for many.
How do couples deal with the guilt and embarrassment of infertility?
Good question. Infertility is incredibly common; about one in eight couples struggle with it. So in all likelihood, couples know someone who also has the same issue in their life. Although 61% of couples don't tell friends and family about their infertility, most of those who do tell find that it was positive and get support.
How can family be supportive to couples experiencing infertility?
Ask the couple what they need, don't offer advice unless asked, don't give unasked for opinions, and read up on the medical and psychological aspects of infertility (info for family and friends also available from Resolve.