Tell us about you and your infertility journey?
From a very young age, I struggled with PCOS and endometriosis. At the age of 15, I was told by a specialist that, “it was very unlikely I would be able to have kids.” Those words haunted me for years. It was the most crushing, confusing thing to hear. As a child, I always wanted to be a mom. I never imagined that as a child myself, I would hear those devastating words.
It wasn’t until 2012, in my early 20’s, that my official infertility struggles began – after some time trying naturally and having no success, I went to my gynecologist who insisted that because I was “young and healthy”, that within 6 months of taking Clomid, I’d be pregnant. 6 months passed. Each month resulted in a negative pregnancy test and feeling a little more anxious and scared.
I ended up being referred to a local fertility clinic at the age of 23. They believed doing IUI would be my required treatment, but testing proved otherwise. After running the basic fertility tests, they were able to see 2 completely blocked fallopian tubes and a heart-shaped uterus with a septum. I was left feeling completely shocked and in disbelief. I went from being told “here take clomid” to “IUI” to “your only option is IVF”.
To date, I’ve had 7 laparoscopy surgeries, a hysteroscopy to reshape my uterus, and a bilateral salpingectomy – both fallopian tubes removed. I’ve gone through IVF cycles, 1 resulting in severe OHSS (daily monitoring, drainage, hospital visits, and complications for 3 months – all while pregnant). I’ve also done multiple frozen IVF cycles. It was a long journey to parenthood.
How did you decide to share your story and to create The IVF Warrior?
I was going through my 5th IVF cycle and 2nd pregnancy loss when I started The IVF Warrior. At the time, I felt lost and alone, like those around me didn’t understand the pain and heartache I was experiencing. I realized while navigating infertility, that fertility support and resources were non-existent. I started The IVF Warrior with a mission to change this. I wanted to provide a safe space for others to get support, feel empowered, and access expert resources for their journey. The past few years have been so fulfilling and being able to connect with people while providing hope, support, and resources, is very rewarding.
What support does someone suffering from infertility find at The IVF Warrior?
The IVF Warrior shares a lot of resources from fertility experts (from preconception health, nutrition, IVF, relationships, mental health, wellness, and so much more), personal fertility journey’s shared from community members, and an online community. We’ve also been working on expanding our support resources to give our community even more.
Tell us more about the impact of fertility treatments on mental health and the importance of self-care for infertility patients?
Mental health has always been fascinating to me and something I’m extremely passionate about. I studied counselling in school and landed a career as a women’s addiction and mental health counsellor. Focusing my career on women’s health and wellness wasn’t what I originally envisioned, but I can’t imagine having any other focus. It’s shaped who I am today.
Over the years, I’ve worked as an individual, group, and crisis counsellor supporting women with mental health issues and teaching tools to optimize wellness and overall well-being. I’ve created and led self-care courses as well. While struggling with health issues and then navigating an emotional and isolating fertility journey, my current platform – The IVF Warrior was born.
Prioritizing self-care and mental health are critical for fertility patients. I always say that self-care isn’t just bubble baths and spa treatments, it’s dealing with the hard stuff too. It’s setting boundaries, saying no, asking for help, and prioritizing your mental health.
1 in 5 will experience mental health issues in any given year. 1 in 6 will experience infertility. 1 in 4 will experience pregnancy loss. With infertility and loss comes a long list of mental health issues you’re more likely to experience, from PTSD, trauma, anxiety, depression, and postpartum depression and/or anxiety. My work has been crucial for bringing more awareness to this and helping to change the conversation about infertility, pregnancy loss, and mental health.
There are so many layers to infertility and loss that many don’t see. They can both cause lifelong mental health effects. My hope and goals are that others know they aren’t alone, that people understand how to better support someone struggling, and that over time, more people feel like they can speak up about their journey and struggles.
What advice would you give to someone going through fertility treatments?
There are so many important things to keep in mind early on. Here are my top 3:
- Find support. Support looks different for everyone and can be things like therapy/counselling, support groups, coaching, online communities, friends, or family. Support makes a big difference! Infertility is often a long, lonely road, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Find people that understand and support you.
- Prioritize your mental health. Mental health is often forgotten when going through infertility, but so many people struggle with high stress levels, anxiety, and depression. It’s crucial to prioritize your mental health and ask for help if needed.
- Advocate for yourself at appointments. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! So many patients are afraid to ask their fertility clinic and doctor questions, but it’s your journey, your finances, and your right. If you have a concern, raise it. If something is on your mind, say it. I encourage patients to write down questions ahead of time, so nothing is forgotten. Appointments can seem like a blur and sometimes they’re very overwhelming. Bringing a support person or partner with you can be very helpful too.
What does The IVF Warrior have planned for 2023!
We are working on expanding our support resources for both community and mental health. It’s something so many need for their journey. We recently launched a ‘Financing Fertility Treatments’ resource which shares fertility grants and financial articles for your fertility journey. We will also be campaigning to raise awareness for infertility and mental health soon. Our goal and mission are to give the fertility community more support and resources, so we are just getting started!
You can find The IVF Warrior at theivfwarrior.ca or on social media:
Fertility Friends Foundation is here to make a difference!