Angela* will never forget the night she went to dinner with her husband at her favorite restaurant. They had gotten to know the owner over the years; during that time, they had seen her become pregnant several times. On this particular night they came for dinner, they learned she was pregnant again. Although overjoyed for her friend, Angela broke down. It had been years of struggling to become pregnant herself, and it felt unfair that it wasn't happening.
"Like many couples, my husband and I met in our late 20s, got married in our early 30s, and wanted to wait a few years before having children," Angela says. "I was about 34 when we really started trying — casually for the first year by stopping birth control, then we got more strategic in year two."
It was the beginning of year three when Angela saw an infertility specialist. By definition, infertility is the inability for a couple to conceive after 12 months of regular intercourse without the use of contraception in women younger than 35, and after six months in women 35 and older.
"Infertility is a unique medical condition because it involves a couple, rather than a single individual," explains Dr. Ray Pourang Kamali, an OBGYN with Sharp Community Medical Group who practices at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
According to Dr. Kamali, there are many resources available for couples.
"Couples facing infertility should speak with their gynecologist or family practitioner so a unique treatment plan can be put in place. This may include addressing family history or genetics and blood work to evaluate hormone levels," explains Dr. Kamali. "Depending on the findings, a treatment plan is formulated and may include a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist."
For Angela, a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist proved to be exactly what she needed. Her doctor started her on intrauterine insemination (IUI); when that didn't work, he advanced her to in vitro fertilization (IVF).
"The other moment I'll never forget is the phone call I got from my doctor," Angela remembers. "All I heard were cowbells and shouts of 'Congratulations! You're pregnant!'" Today, Angela is the proud mom of a daughter, 9, and son, 8.
For couples on the journey to conceive, Dr. Kamali recommends the following to improve their chances of pregnancy:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle — obesity remains a major cause of infertility
- De-stress — increased stress levels have been shown to interfere with ovulation
- Have intercourse two to three times a week from the end of menses to the time of ovulation to ensure timely fertilization
- Limit alcohol and don't smoke
- If you're not becoming pregnant, talk to your doctor about a referral to an infertility specialist
As someone who has been through it, Angela has advice of her own: Don't be defeated.
"You'll feel defeated, but at each step of your infertility journey, you gain the acceptance needed to move on to the next," Angela says. "There's a sisterhood among us with people to talk to and options like adoption. I believe the heart of the person willing to take this on is big enough to consider those options."
*Name changed to protect privacy
For the news media: To talk with Dr. Kamali for an upcoming story, contact Erica Carlson, senior public relations specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.