Is Dr. Stein more procreative than ibn Saud?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 6, 2012 by infertilerevolutionary

You’ve heard of David Koch, right? You know, that billionaire who funded Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s holy war against workers.

You may also have heard of his philanthropic passions, which include natural history, opera and infertility research.

Yup. You read correctly.

I just came across a 2009 Koch interview with the Archeological Institute of America.  In what is an otherwise remarkably coherent conversation, Koch responds to the interviewer’s comment about the increasing focus on physical science (at the expense of genetic science) as follows:

My wife and I are a major supporter of a fertility clinic in New York and it’s incredible what they’ve done to create normal adults from infertile people. They have an understanding of how eggs develop, that’s why they’ve been so successful.

The head guy over at New York Presbyterian Hospital is responsible for about 15,000 normal healthy babies. I used to think ibn Saud was a hell of a guy. He was the founder of modern Saudi Arabia and he had 700 children. But I told the guy at NYPH, you’re up to 15,000 and counting. You’ve got ibn Saud beat by a mile.



Raise your hand if you want an international dialogue about infertility

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2011 by infertilerevolutionary

I was psyched to read Amalia Rosenblum’s argument against the glorification of biological parenting in Ha’aretz yesterday. One of her several provocative points is that we’re too disconnected from the natural world to be attuned to our biological clocks, if those much-ballyhooed things exist at all.

She asks, “How is it possible that, in every cultural context, most people aspire to have the exact number of children that will raise their social status without deviating from what is considered the bounds of good taste?”

She’s right, of course, that fertility rates are dictated by historically and socially specific conditions. In many parts of the world–like Gaza, to take an example from Ha’aretz’s region — the average woman will bear six or seven babies in her lifetime. It’s about needing kids to work, to take care of you in your old age and the reality of high child mortality. Ending Israel’s economic blockade of the strip would probably impact fertility rates more than making IUDs freely available.

By the same token, privileged westerners tend to have fewer kids. We usually wait longer to conceive. When we run into obstacles, we spent the gross domestic product of Kerala state on high-tech treatment and build a blogging career around our experiences. (Who, me?)

Seriously, though: Infertility impacts people everywhere. It must — even in places like Gaza where fertility rates are breathtakingly high. Maybe the causes of infertility are different. Maybe residents of fishing villages who eat a lot of mercury-laced seafood, for example, have different types of fertility problems than Manhattan women who delay childbearing because of their careers.

How do rural Cambodians deal with barrenness? What happens to Himba boys in northern Namibia who are born without testicles? Maybe they have something to teach about how to deal when you just can’t biologically produce “the exact number of children that will improve your social status,”  to use Amalia Rosenblum’s words. Or not. But I would like to know either way.

When I Googled “infertility blogs Cambodia” I got a bunch of adoption sites targeted at Westerners. Argh.

The year 2011 saw some exciting developments in the online infertility community — Redbook‘s “The Truth about Trying” campaign is just one. I hope that in 2012 we can make this conversation more international and inclusive.

Finally! A smart article about stress and infertility.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 10, 2011 by infertilerevolutionary

Has an ignorant friend, coworker or mother has ever offered you this seemingly innocuous fertility advice: “relax”?

Now, instead of wasting calories with a spoken response, you can pass on this article.

One of the author’s many good points is that stress is a too-convenient explanation for a mostly inexplicable–and therefore scary–problem:

Infertility, like autism, remains one of modern medicine’s greatest mysteries. Fertility doctors know why a 45-year-old woman can’t get pregnant, but they don’t know what’s wrong with up to one-third of their patients who are struggling to conceive—causing them to diagnose them with “unexplained fertility.” As a society, we wonder if we’re suffering from lurking environmental toxins or secret sexually transmitted diseases. But stress is an easy explanation.

People always try to find reasons why you’re suffering and they’re not. This isn’t necessarily because they’re bad. Randomness is scary, and most of them simply want to believe that they have earned their health or good fortune. For better or worse, that’s rarely the case.

File under “too absurd to be true”

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2011 by infertilerevolutionary

On Tuesday Mississipians will vote on whether to amend their state constitution to define the term “person” to include zygotes — the single cell that is formed when an egg is fertilized.

Initiative 26 is particularly scary, as the Ms. blog points out, because it opens the doors to criminalize women who’ve had miscarriages. That’s right, not only abortions — but miscarriages, too.

If it passes, I’m sure the consequences will be borne most heavily by the women who already lack access to basic reproductive services–like women on Medicaid who lack abortion access because of the Hyde Amendment,  or women in prison.

On another note, I would like to know what the drafters of this initiative think the consequences could be for political representation and governance. Would they like to count frozen embryos in the census? Will they let us count them as dependent children in food stamp applications or to claim tax credits?

Maybe before they get to those questions, they should ask themselves why Mississippi’s child poverty rate is 33 percent — the highest of all 50 states.

Do your embryos need a check up?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 18, 2011 by infertilerevolutionary

This is impressive.

Biopsy of cells from a blastocyst stage embryo


Posted in Uncategorized on October 13, 2011 by infertilerevolutionary

A couple of days ago was the one year anniversary of my “one year anniversary” post. I am sad that this post seems to represent the apex of my blogging career. I wish my infertility anniversaries continued to provide literary material. Now they are just tiresome.

Other than #occupywallstreet, the most exciting thing in my life these days is bed bugs. I found one on my shirt one week ago. It was a cinematic moment.  I had rolled over to turn off my reading lamp. There it was, perched on my shoulder in the weak yellow glow. I’d never seen a live bed bug before, but I knew. Things were about to change.

It was probably a good thing that I had a very early miscarriage only days before that, because the amount of toxic chemicals I proceeded to spray in my apartment would’ve killed anything weighing less than 75 lbs.

I bought mattress and box spring protectors. I threw out pillows, old clothes and the frame backpack that came with me on the travels that characterized the decade of my 20s. I had spent hours sewing souvenir patches on that ratty thing: a Bolivian cocoa leaf, a Berlin crest, the stone structures of Machu Picchu.  I put it in a garbage bag and left it among my neighbors’ detritus in the alley.

The exterminator’s name was Raul. The landlord sent him. We had to leave the keys with the superintendent because he would only come when we were at work.  He ripped the sheets off the bed and upended the futon mattresses. He left his card on our little hallway table.

When I called, he said he had seen nothing: no eggs, no fecal stains on the mattress. But within days, I had found more: tiny, struggling creatures, desiccated and dying. Only one was turgid with blood. I taped them to the back of an envelope and put them in a yogurt container marked “bed bugs.”

Raul came again. This time he said the bed bugs that I’d saved were gnats. It was a relief, in a way. But I think I am still ready for war.

bed rest

Posted in Uncategorized on September 5, 2011 by infertilerevolutionary

It drives me crazy that my clinic instructs 48 hours of bed rest following embryo transfers.

I’ve scoured the Internet for a medical journal article that lends credence to this practice. As far as I can tell, there are none. I did find an abstract of a Czech study suggesting the opposite:  that IVF patients subjected to 24 hour hospital bed rest tended towards worse outcomes than those who were not.

If anything, post-transfer bed rest seems grounded in Victorian myths of female bodies.  One of these myths is that that the vagina is a hole that things fall out of if you’re not lying down.

When your uterus wants to get rid of something – endometrial tissue, dead embryos, live fetuses – it usually has to work hard to do so.  How can we be so compelled by a myth that experience proves false?

It’s nice to take days off from work. It’s nice to nap all day. It’s nice to be catered to. But I find it uncomfortable to rely on pseudoscience –least of all pseudoscience that deploys sexist anachronisms – as an excuse.