A menopause site might seem like a strange place to introduce the topic of fertility, but it’s surprising how often these conversations overlap, from surprise pregnancies in perimenopause to women who just want to know what the possibilities are after age 40.
Gennev CEO Jill had a chance to sit down with Dr. Lora Shahine, reproductive endocrinologist and fertility specialist at Pacific NW Fertility, to talk about fertility, pregnancy loss, and the options women and couples have to start or complete their families.
Dr. Shahine explains what a “reproductive endocrinologist” is and why someone might seek out her care if they’re trying to start or add to their family.
How does a couple know it’s time to visit a specialist? Dr. Shahine explains the impact “Dr. Internet” has had on her practice and gives some guidelines around when it’s time to get help in getting pregnant.
What are the different fertility paths? How do you choose between IVF vs pills to promote ovulation vs insemination? Dr. Shahine explains both high tech and low tech treatments, as well as how she and her patients determine the roadmap to achieve desired goals.
How does Dr. Shahine judge where to start with a patient? It starts with the patient’s story from her own point of view – what she’s experienced so far, what she’s tried, what her goals are (soccer team? just one?). Hear from Dr. Shahine how new technologies have opened up lots of new options.
There are a lot of myths surrounding fertility and how much science can do to promote it. Dr. Shahine gives us the truths around making babies and the wonders – and limits – of technological intervention.
Making a baby requires having a good egg to start with. Dr. Shahine lets us in on what makes an egg “good.”
Where do you see innovation? Dr. Shahine explains the importance of mitochondria in reproduction and how new research may allow us to move healthy mitochondria from a young egg into an older egg to give the egg that youthful energy.
What is it with age anyway? Dr. Shahine explains why Mick Jagger can have a baby at 72 but most women’s peak reproductive years are over by age 40. Hint: it often has to do with chromosome imbalance, and the older the egg, the likelier the chance of miscarriage.
Dr. Shahine answers those questions you’ve always wondered about: How do sperm die, and what happens to them if they’re not ejaculated? What happens to unused eggs? Why don’t women who’ve been on birth control pills – and therefore not ovulating – have a “reserve” of eggs?
What about the emotional side? “My job has very high highs and very low lows,” says Dr. Shahine. She explains how she helps women cope with the feelings of shame, guilt, and failure that often (and wrongly) surround miscarriage. There are lots of reasons for hope, she says, and a big part of her job is convincing women and couples to stay positive.
So, how does she help women stay positive? Dr. Shahine is a huge believer in education and knowledge and grounding hope in the possibilities that science and nature provide. She talks about the importance of self-care and how women so often struggle to prioritize themselves appropriately.
Does stress affect your fertility? Dr. Shahine wants people to understand that while there is a mind-body connection, stressing about stress is the wrong focus. She gives great tips on how to shift thinking to healthfulness, mindfulness, and being present and positive.
Dr. Shahine wants to change the conversation from guilt and shame to knowledge, empowerment, and support. Awareness will lead to funding for more research and more innovation around fertility, so it’s important to have open conversations.
Your takeaway? There’s so much fear and pressure around fertility, says Dr. Shahine, yet there are options for those who are finding it difficult to conceive. Have hope.
You can find out more about Dr. Lora Shahine on the Pacific NW Fertility website or by following her on Twitter: @drlorashahine. Order her book Not Broken: An Approachable Guide to Miscarriage and Recurrent Pregnancy Loss.