As we conclude our series on the realities of infertility, we wanted to provide you with answers to some of the thoughtful questions we received from many of you over the week.
Our expert providing these answers is Dr. Lora Shahine, a reproductive endocrinologist (fertility doctor) with Pacific Northwest Fertility in Seattle. She is also the director of the Center for Recurrent Pregnancy Loss there and serves on the board of the Baby Quest Foundation, a non-profit organization that donates grants to people struggling with the cost of fertility treatments. Shahine is also the author of Not Broken: An Approachable Guide to Miscarriage and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss and co-author of Planting the Seeds of Pregnancy: An Integrative Approach to Fertility Care.
India asks: What are (your) thoughts on “unexplained infertility?”
Shahine: There is still so much we need to learn about reproduction, and it can be so frustrating when all the testing is “normal,” but you are still not having the family you are trying for. Testing is very basic – blood tests are a reflection of ovarian reserve (egg quality and quantity), but there are so many factors that go into having a successful pregnancy – the right egg, the right sperm, the right uterine environment. It can get overwhelming when you think about how many factors are involved in having a successful pregnancy – just remind yourself that it can happen.
Stephanie asks: Is IVF expensive?
Shahine: Average cost of an IVF cycle nationwide is quoted as $12,000, but that may not include all the testing, medication, and other services like genetic testing of embryos. Cost really depends on what is done for each patient.
Lynice asks: When I went through them 26-27 years ago, medical insurance did not pay for them. Do they pay for it now?
Shahine: Washington is not a state that requires insurance to pay for fertility treatment. There are several local companies that pay for fertility care, and people get creative with finding ways to pay for care: fertility grants like Baby Quest and crowdfunding.
Annie asks: I think it would be interesting to get your expert’s take on acupuncture, nutrition, and lifestyle changes affecting infertility. Curious about the clinical vs. holistic, which sometimes is seen as west vs. east approaches to fertility care.
Shahine: An integrative approach to fertility care is essential. Fertility can be a reflection of one’s overall health and taking positive steps to improve your overall health and wellbeing will improve chances of conceiving naturally or with fertility treatment. Western medicine can only do so much, and Eastern medicine can only do so much – having a team approach can be beneficial for patients.
She recommends a book she co-wrote with licensed acupuncturist Stephanie Gianarelli, Planting the Seeds of Pregnancy: An Integrative Approach to Fertility Care.
Shahine also recommended the following lifestyle changes that can impact fertility and overall health:
1. Optimizing a healthy weight
2. Decrease toxin exposure: tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, BPA, and phthalates
3. Make sleep a priority
4. Manage stress. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can learn to cope and care for yourself. Find resources on her blog.
Debbie asks: Is having invitro fertilization (IVF) painful?
Shahine: Usually no. The shots can be uncomfortable, and recovery from the egg retrieval can be crampy, but most patients say, “IVF wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be,” afterwards.