A little over six weeks ago life was terrific until this one day. We were incredibly excited when we announced that we were pregnant with our first child. We had just crossed the first-trimester mark and then suddenly, everything changed with one ultrasound.
At 13 weeks and three days, we lost our baby. It’s been an incredibly tough period trying to accept reality. This was an IVF baby, so we didn’t understand how this could happen when the embryo was genetically normal. That being said everything in medicine is not in our control. The baby was found to have a condition that affects 0.04% of the population. There were months of preparation leading up to that point. IVF means daily blood draws, ultrasounds, injections, and procedures. Most mornings, I would wake up at 4:30 am, rush to the laboratory to get blood drawn in order to make sure I was there on time for my first patient of the day.
Other days, I was counting turnover times and checking my cases to find time to make it to doctor’s appointments during the day. I would set alarms on my phone to make sure I took my injections on time. I carried a cooler of medications wherever I went. I administered my medications in airport bathrooms, restaurants, and locker rooms. IVF is a marathon that tests you mentally and physically. The medications make you feel hormonal, fatigued and bloated. For me, the emotional aspect was the toughest. With every doctor’s appointment, we prayed that these efforts would give us a healthy baby.
My IVF Journey
When I started my IVF journey, I felt very lonely and isolated. I was lucky to have a supportive husband and family, but I desired to connect with women who had been through the same process. One day, I was scrolling my Instagram feed, and I found @yoga_doc_md’s page. Anita Patel is a pediatric critical care physician who had decided to pursue IVF to prevent the passage of the BRCA-1 gene to her children. We connected on social media and instantly became friends. We would text each other daily to check up on one another. I was grateful to connect with someone who was going through a similar process as me. I have found a sisterhood of women is supporting me through my journey. Through social media, I have met hundreds of women in medicine who have struggled with infertility.
According to Resolve: the National Infertility Association, 1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant or sustaining a pregnancy. According to a Hungarian study, rates of infertility in medicine are twice the national average. One in 4 women in medicine has infertility. According to recent surveys, these rates are even higher depending on specialty. According to the American college of surgeons, 32% of female surgeons reported fertility difficulty. I hope that my story will help those who are suffering from infertility, miscarriage, and pregnancy loss.
Remember this: you are not alone.
Through social media, there is a community of physicians both men and women available to support and educate us. There are many more resources available to teach than ever before. Infertility physicians on Instagram like Natalie Crawford MD have created a podcast called “As a woman” which uses real data and scientific studies to educate woman about infertility and women’s health. It’s time to educate the younger generation of physicians about their fertility. Let’s get uncomfortable and have the conversations that need to be had. As Melissa Parsons MD, co-founder of www.shemd.com says, “Let’s say the F word.”
There is never a convenient time to have children in medicine, but I want women to understand their body and their options. If you think now is the right time to have children, you should go ahead. Your career will be there, many times your biological clock would not wait.
If you decide to have children later in life, I want you to understand that there are options available to protect your future ability to conceive such as cryopreservation. If you are having trouble conceiving, you should not be ashamed to seek the help of a fertility doctor.
We need to do more research to understand our rates of infertility and establish favorable policies that will give women in medicine opportunities to pursue IVF or cryopreservation (if required). My journey with infertility will continue, but I am stronger than ever before. I appreciate the support and help of the community around me, including my colleagues who have filled an absence for me. I have an incredible husband and family that supports me. To all the women and men who are suffering, we are in this together. Let’s continue the conversation so that we grow together; we can heal together and educate the next generation of women. #saythefword
Amita Kundra MD is a practicing cardiothoracic anesthesiologist in the New York area. You can find her on Instagram @ask_amita