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“Infertility is not just about not being able to get pregnant,” explained Heather Huhman, 31, the creator of the weekly podcast Beat Infertility.
“It’s about not being able to have a child. Being pregnant is only step one.”
Huhman is no stranger to infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss. She has had four miscarriages, and also lost her twins during delivery.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infertility is defined as the inability to get pregnant after a year of unprotected sex.
Around 12 percent of women ages 15 to 44 suffer from infertility in the United States, the CDC said.
In addition, recurrent pregnancy loss is defined as a condition where a woman has had at least two miscarriages before reaching week 20 of pregnancy, according to the Society for Reproductive Medicine.
“In four years, I have been pregnant five times,” Huhman said. “So let’s say each of them had ended up in a baby that I was actually holding, I would still be considered infertile, because there was almost a year in between each.”
Huhman first started her journey to motherhood in 2011, and her first major experience with infertility began with a miscarriage on Mother’s Day.
“We hadn’t told anybody yet and it was pretty awful,” Huhman recalled. “That was the first month that we were trying. It’s all very, very difficult. Holidays like that are, I think, particularly painful.”
However, she really didn’t start getting truly frustrated until her second miscarriage.
“That’s really when I sort of noticed how much time had passed,” Huhman said. “I mean, I had wanted to have a baby for many, many years. I sort of was in baby mode right when we got married, which was 10 years ago.”
At first, they didn’t try anything particular to get pregnant, and weren’t intent on trying different tips and tricks until after the second miscarriage.
“It’s always frustrating to hear people say, ‘well, if you just don’t think about it, you’ll get pregnant,’” Huhman said. “Well, I didn’t for a really long time.”
Despite Huhman’s ability to get pregnant, she still doesn’t have any children, so it’s upsetting to her when people focus on the pregnancy aspect.
“I don’t think the fact that I’ve gotten pregnant a few times has really benefited me … the goal for all of us is to go home with a healthy child, and I have not been afforded that opportunity yet,” she said.
In fact, she adds that getting pregnant is usually not the difficult part — there are so many treatment options, including in vitro fertilization, to help that part of the process.
Battling Infertility: Choosing IVF
Huhman is still determined to have a child, and her treatment of choice is in vitro fertilization (IVF).
According to the American Pregnancy Association, IVF is a type of assisted reproductive technology (ART) where an egg and sperm are combined in a laboratory dish in order to complete the process of fertilization.
The embryo is then transferred to the uterus.
There are other treatment options as well, including gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) and zygote intrafallopian transfer (ZIFT), according to the association.
For Huhman’s situation, in vitro seems to be the best treatment option, considering she has five different factors that are contributing to her infertility, including endometriosis, MTHFR gene mutation, luteal phase defect (LPD), ovulation complications and ovarian cysts.
IVF isn’t cheap, but it’s very much worth the cost for Huhman.
Bringing Awareness to Infertility
Throughout Huhman’s experience with infertility and her IVF treatments, it’s been clear that there are many misconceptions about infertility.
“It’s not something that we caused,” Huhman stated. “It’s not just a mental issue. It is a very physical disease.”
Huhman wants other infertility sufferers to know that it’s OK to have deep feelings and emotions throughout the process.
“Feel what you need to feel, and know that the pain does get better over time,” she said. “I mean, you’re never going to forget what you’ve been through, even when you’re one day successful and you’re holding a baby in your arms.”
She believes taking a lot of time off of work helped her come to terms with the loss of her pregnancy with twins. She didn’t think it was fair to her work to come back as an empty shell, so she came back when she felt work was important again.
Eventually Huhman was also able to add exercise back into her life, and she has more energy now and feels better about herself.
She believes it’s important to take care of yourself number one, especially when you’re dealing with loss.
“You can grieve, but you don’t want to stop living,” she said.
Birth of A New Idea
Drawing from her many experiences with infertility, Huhman eventually developed her podcast Beat Infertility, for women living with the condition.
“Many people just aren’t ready to openly address what they’re going through,” Huhman said. “People feel so much shame and embarrassment and a myriad of other feelings that they don’t need to be feeling, but that’s how they feel. Feelings sometimes can’t be explained.”
She has experts featured on the podcast, as well as everyday women, and the creation of the podcast has truly helped her throughout her infertility process.
“Talking to all these people, both the people who are still struggling and the people who have had success, it’s really turned everything around for me,” Huhman said.
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Huhman, Heather. Phone interview. June 20, 2015.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infertility FAQs. Web. July 27, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/
American Society for Reproductive Medicine. What is recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL)? Web. July 27, 2015. http://www.asrm.org/uploadedFiles/ASRM_Content/Resources/Patient_Resources/Fact_Sheets_and_Info_Booklets/recurrent_preg_loss.pdf
Reviewed July 28, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith