‘You are not alone” with Infertility warrior Dr. Preyasi Kothari
An Emergency Medicine Physician and an Infertility warrior herself, Dr. Preyasi Kothari was kind enough to share her own experience with Urvi Shah of Desi Girl Magazine. On this infertility week, Dr.Preyasi spoke to us, hoping at least one woman out there takes heart and feels less alone in her infertility journey.
“We as Indians tend to not talk about Infertility. But it’s high time we added our voices to this conversation so that our friends and family who are going through it don’t feel alone.”
We hear about people going through Infertility, but we never talk about how they feel. So this week is all about talking about how to support our friends and ourselves in this process.
Preyasi’s Infertility journey:
I’m now 36 years old. I got married in 2016. After 6-7 months of trying hard to get pregnant, my husband and I got help from a fertility specialist. At the clinic, they did several bloodwork and ultrasounds. But they couldn’t figure out the actual reason for my difficulty in getting pregnant.
My older sister was blessed and was lucky to get pregnant quickly. So I hadn’t anticipated any problems for myself. I was only 32 when we started trying for a baby. I was shocked that it was not easy. But I soon learned that many people go through it, and talking about it will help me feel less alone and isolated.
Taking that first step…
In our community, we rely greatly on our parents and family for advice and support. When we told them we were going ahead with IVF, my family asked, “Why are you rushing into it?”, “Why don’t you try taking more time?”. They had a lot of opinions.
But as a woman, you have an intuition, and you just know. You know deep in your heart when you need to seek help. The very first step of deciding to go to a fertility clinic was the most difficult. Opting for IVF was the first time I felt that I had to decide on my own because no one else was going through it.
What is the right age to get pregnant?
It’s up to the couple. It’s hard to face the Indian societal pressure. Our generation needs to fight that because we don’t want our kids to grow up under that pressure. A woman can get pregnant at 20 if she’s ready or at 40 or 42 if that’s what she wants. My only advice is to get all the info about your fertility health before deciding either way.
There’s nothing wrong with checking what your numbers are, what your fertility health score is, even long before you are thinking of having kids. Down the line, if it takes longer than you expected, you’ll have more information and be prepared.
How to determine our fertility health?
Your Ob-Gyn can run tests to check your ovarian health and ovarian age. They usually do Ultrasound to see how many follicles your ovaries have. And they’ll check your hormone levels. And run through the basics of your regularity and length of your period cycle.
Male factor infertility is also quite common. For men, a semen analysis helps determine sperm count, motility, etc. Both of the partners are equally important. Both of them need to get checked to determine the next step towards a successful pregnancy.
Preyasi’s IVF experience:
Not only was the thought of getting pregnant all-consuming, but it also was very time-consuming. It required a lot of appointments, doctor visits, and blood draws. You need to get ultrasounds and blood works done at the beginning of your cycle. Then while taking the injectable drugs, you might have to go in almost every day for at least an hour for ultrasounds to check how you are progressing. These doctor visits would be for seven to eight days in a cycle. Then the egg retrieval process begins.
What other options are there before IVF?
There are a couple of things one could try before going for IVF.
Timed intercourse: Drugs like Clomid or Letrozole or injectable medications, make sure you are ovulating that month. Then, they’ll monitor your ovulation to check when you need to have intercourse.
IUI: IUI is the next step. Clomid or Letrozole helps you ovulate. Then, instead of intercourse, they’ll inject your partner’s sperm right into your uterus.
Were there any food restrictions during the Infertility treatments?
A healthy diet with moderate carbs and lowering your sugar intake is ideal. If you have Hypothyroidism or PCOS, they might ask you to follow a specific diet. Mostly, it is sufficient to follow a clean and healthy diet.
Does being overweight cause Infertility?
If being overweight is an indication of unhealthy food habits and lifestyle, then it does affect fertility. Sometimes, it could indicate underlying conditions like Hypothyroidism or PCOS, which might again affect fertility. Making lifestyle modifications like eating healthy food, exercising regularly, and giving up smoking or excessive drinking will help.
How did it affect your marriage?
It wasn’t even a year since we had gotten married when we started this journey. This infertility journey was the first thing we were going through as a couple. It was new for us, something we were experiencing, both as a couple and individually. Carrying the burden by yourself is very stressful. Talk it out with your partner because you are in this together as a team. It was a challenging experience that taught us a lot.
“Most of the time, we hear advice like “Wait. Relax. Relax.”. And for someone trying to get pregnant, that’s the last thing you want to hear. It’s like asking someone not to look over the shoulder when all they want to do is look over their shoulder.”
How to handle stress?
Stress affects both fertility and our overall health. We need to figure out our coping mechanism. Exercising and journaling always helped me cope. Figure out your distressing mechanisms and rely on those. And don’t forget that there’s a fertility sisterhood out there. It’s so strong, and people are waiting and willing to help you.
Coping with pregnancy announcements:
During my very infertility journey, five or six of my friends got pregnant. First and foremost is to allow yourself grace. It’s ok to feel sad. It doesn’t mean you aren’t happy for your friend. It’s just that you are sad for yourself. And that’s acceptable and normal. So give yourself the grace to feel that way. The way I coped with it was by reminding myself that nobody knows someone else’s journey. I constantly reminded myself that it might look easy for some, but it might not have been.
Dealing with social media..
Social media is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we have this platform, like Desi Girl Magazine, to talk about Infertility and raise awareness. On the other hand, mindless scrolling could expose you to stress-triggering news. As a consumer, you need to decide what you want to be informed about. Honor what your body, mind, and soul needs.
How to deal with nosy questions:
People will always ask questions like, “When are you getting married?” “Why aren’t you married yet?” “Why aren’t you dating anyone?”, “Why ARE you dating?” “When’ll you have kids?” “Are you trying to get pregnant?”. I responded to the ones posed at me with, “When God wants me to have a baby, I’ll have a baby.” You can be as honest as “We are trying. But it’s not easy.”
How to stay strong through your Infertility journey?
First and foremost, give yourselves and your body grace. Allow yourself to be kind to yourself. The hardest part of going through Infertility is the self-loathing and shame that comes with it. I used to think it was my ‘fault’. But remember, it’s nobody’s fault.
Second, cry when you need to cry. But don’t forget that there’s a community out there that wants to support you. People can DM me any time, and I’ll respond to their questions. Because it’s something, I wish I had had the first time around.
Preyasi’s advice to women dealing with Infertility:
In the US, 1 in 8 couples goes through Infertility. In India, 1 in 6 couples goes through it. 1 in 4 women in the medical profession experiences infertility.
“You are not alone. It’s a lot more common than you think. Reach out. Stay strong. Figure out what you need to destress. And always find your way back to the person you are and want to be. Mostly be kind to yourself.”
You can get through it. The pathway to motherhood is not linear. It’s definitely not the same for everyone. It’s unique for every individual. Just remember that you can overcome it.
To read about more such inspiring women, go to Desi Girl Magazine.