Most families on Long Island know someone that has dealt with infertility, but many do not realize what it really entails. It can take a physical, psychological and financial toll. “It took awhile to accept that nothing about getting pregnant would be natural for me. I never believed I wouldn’t ever get pregnant, but it’s mentally very hard,” says Saralyn, mother of a toddler. The Long Island Mamas Network spoke with local women that shared information on places they went to and recommended for treating infertility on Long Island.
“All babies are blessings. It doesn’t matter how they got here.”
– Shari, mother of one
Definition of Infertility
Infertility is the inability to achieve a pregnancy after a year of unprotected, timed intercourse. Most infertile couples are not truly sterile; it means that there are typically other complications that impact the ability to conceive. Worldwide, 10-15% of all couples struggle with infertility.
One common myth is that infertility is the domain of older individuals. While it is more likely that people in their late thirties and forties will experience infertility, younger people may deal with it as well. “I was surprised to learn that even women in their twenties could experience fertility problems,” mentions one Long Island woman who was twenty-five when she started to seek medical assistance.
Historically, women were blamed for childlessness, but in reality close to half of all infertility cases are due to male issues. Some couples have multiple obstacles to overcome in order to achieve a pregnancy. Both parties will be screened thoroughly to determine the best course of treatment.
Long Island Practitioners
Some early tests for infertility can be done by an OB/GYN, but more in-depth work is the domain of a reproductive endocrinologist. Couples that require assistance to achieve a pregnancy may want to investigate one of the groups listed below:
Cornell Center for Reproductive Medicine – Garden City
Genesis Fertility & Reproductive Medicine – Hewlett
Gold Coast IVF – Woodbury
Long Island IVF – Melville, Lake Success, West Islip, Stony Brook, East Patchogue
North Shore LIJ Center for Human Reproduction – Manhasset, Mineola, Smithtown
Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York – Garden City
Reproductive Specialists of New York – Mineola, Stony Brook, West Islip
Common Medical Treatments
The journey from infertility into parenthood will vary for each couple. Treatment will vary by diagnosis, and every case is unique. These are some of the typical routes a physician may take.
Fertility Drugs – There are several medications that can be prescribed to women to aid ovulation and/or balancing hormones. Some are taken orally and others are injected.
Surgery – Some structural issues can only be treated by surgical procedures.
IUI – Intrauterine Insemination: Healthy sperm are collected and placed directly in the uterus around the time of ovulation.
ICSI – Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection: A single healthy sperm is injected directly into a mature egg, and then placed into the uterus.
Micro In Vitro Fertilization – This is similar to traditional IVF, yet with fewer medications and/or lower doses. Also, fewer embryos are used at a time. This process lowers probability of multiple births.
In Vitro Fertilization – From the Latin meaning “In Glass,” IVF is the process in which eggs and sperm are retrieved from the body. Eggs are fertilized. They are then cultured and allowed to grow before being returned to the mother’s body.
Like any other protocol, a professional should monitor all the treatments listed below. Many people combine medical and alternative treatments successfully.
Acupuncture – Acupuncture is the insertion of ultra-thin, sterile needles into specific pressure points that can help regulate the way the body functions.
Chinese Herbal Medicine - Originating in ancient China, this approach has evolved over several thousand years. It involves the use of herbal supplements and acupuncture, but is not limited to these practices.
Chiropractic Care – Chiropractic care is health maintenance of the spinal column, discs and related nerves. Chiropractors adjust misaligned joints of the body, particularly of the spine. This promotes health by reducing spinal nerve stress.
Diet and Lifestyle Alterations – Smoking, obesity, an unbalanced diet and recreational drug use can impact fertility. Breaking bad habits, doing regular exercise and eating healthy are especially important for couples that hope to become parents.
No matter how supportive and loving friends and family may be, it may be challenging for “typical” couples to truly understand the experience of someone dealing with infertility. Couples dealing with infertility may want to seek additional support.
Websites and groups are great ways for couples to connect with others in similar situations. “I think my group of friends, who I met by chance, was my hand-holding, shoulder-to-cry-on when I needed it. They were always there to understand me. That was huge during my two-year struggle. Find support. That is key,” Says Nicole, Long Island mother of two.
Some of the groups listed below are online only, while others require in-person participation. Volunteers run some groups while others are led by professional counselors. Contact the specific group for more information on the facilitator.
Individual and Group Counseling Options for Men, Women or Couples:
RESOLVE Support Groups
Reproductive Services of New York Support Groups for Patients
Infertility Support Center Long Island
Two Week Wait
Tips for Friends and Family of Infertile Couples
Be Prepared to Listen…Or Not – Some couples or individuals will need to rehash their story in depth; others prefer to keep details and feelings to themselves. Accept their wishes.
Think Before Speaking - Phrases like, “I hated being pregnant,” advice like “Just relax,” or overused proverbs like, “If it’s meant to be, it will be,” can be unintentionally wounding.
Don’t Compare – Infertility brings a unique brand of pain to a couple. It cannot be weighed and measured against another situation.
Gossip is Not Okay - A couple undergoing treatments will have no choice but to share some of the most private details of their lives with strangers. The decision to share intimate details with others should be theirs.
Understand that the Couple is Grieving – Most people think that conceiving a child is a fairly straightforward process. It isn’t for everyone. A grieving process for their lost dream is understandable and expected.
Success rates vary by case, but many couples that deal with infertility ultimately become parents. The women interviewed for this piece all reiterated the importance of staying positive. Regardless of the outcome, they remind other couples that life will never be the same.
“I am a different person from when we started – in some good ways and some bad. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. I don’t know how we kept going. But saying it was worth it is the understatement of the century. They are my miracles,” says Gina, Long Island mother of twins
By Rachel Minkowsky