Listen to the podcast above, or check out the transcript of Dr. Fitzgerald’s interview below.

Joanna: I’m Joanna.

Katherine:
And I’m Katherine.

Joanna:
And you’re listening to Faces of Fertility, by Knix

Katherine:
So Joanna, our next guest is Dr. Jennifer Fitzgerald from Conceive Health.

Joanna:
Okay.

Katherine:
She’s a naturopathic doctor I met a little while ago when I was doing some research. Do you remember the story about the woman who lost several pregnancies?

Joanna:
Yes, I do, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katherine:
So she’s in studio today. She’s going to shed some light on her personal journey, but also her experience as a fertility doctor and the things that women don’t know about their bodies.

Joanna:
Oh, cool.

Katherine:
Jennifer, can you describe a little bit about what you do?

Jennifer:
I’m a naturopathic doctor and I have a special interest in fertility, specifically integrative fertility. I co-own a preconception healthcare clinic called Conceive Health and we work in a fertility clinic called TRIO Fertility. So we work mostly with IVF patients or any fertility patients in general. So anything from trying to get pregnant on your own, IOI patients, IVF patients and kind of everything in between. So what I do mostly is what we call pre-conception healthcare and that involves that period of time prior to getting pregnant where we can effectively make changes in both egg and sperm quality and just in general health. So for example, changing the uterine environment for a woman that wants to conceive will give you an outcome and higher pregnancy rate. So that’s what our main clinical focus is and then we pair that with integrative support for women that are actually going through fertility treatments.

Katherine:
Okay, so you have your naturopathic doctor certification or degree.

Jennifer:
Yeah, so I have my naturopathic doctor license.

Katherine:
License.

Jennifer:
Technically naturopathic doctors don’t specialize because we all have the same training, but I basically dedicated all my continuing education and personal studies and all of that to fertility specifically.

Joanna:
Oh, interesting.

Katherine:
And what about fertility was calling you?

Jennifer:
I think there are many things. So when I was young, my mother was a labour and delivery nurse. So I just kind of grew up thinking [the process of] pregnancies and babies were totally normal [straight forward]. So when I became a naturopath, I was pretty interested in pregnancy and fertility in general and I started out more with pregnancy and I became a doula and I would attend births and doing acupuncture and naturopathic medicine and things like that during labour. And then I got married and started trying to have my own kids and in the meantime, I would just get all of these fertility patients. It just seemed like every other person that walked through the door had fertility issues. And then when I started to try to get pregnant, I started to have issues myself. So from a professional and personal perspective, it just really sparked my interest and I started doing more research and digging around and that’s kind of how it began.

Katherine:
And you met your co-owner of … Your clinic’s called Conceive Health Inc. Your co-owner, Dr. Tracy Malone.

Jennifer:
Yeah, Tracy. So we actually went to naturopathic college together. So we met in our very first year of naturopathic college.

Katherine:
Okay. And then you started to reach out to traditional fertility clinics and create this integrative program?

Jennifer:
That’s right. Yeah, so we initially started practicing separately and then a series of strange events that happened, babies and mat leaves and whatnot and we both decided that we needed to work and live in the same city. So we started a practice together at a different location and in that time we basically created our pre-conception healthcare program that we do now. And so once we had that launched, that’s when we were creating a relationship with a fertility clinic and serendipitous events again. The clinic that we were working in was closing. The fertility clinic said, “Why don’t you come here and we’ll do this together and see how it goes?”

Katherine:
I think what was interesting when I met you, I was interviewing a doctor from a fertility clinic and I didn’t know there was this integration and he dragged me up … He’s so persistent. He’s like “You have to come upstairs and meet this team.” So I met you and your co-founder, Tracy. And everyone was like “Jennifer has this story, Jennifer has this story related to fertility,” and it came out later that you were approaching this pretty profound anniversary around the time we were launching this fertility campaign.

Jennifer:
That’s right. It was on October 1st, which was the first day of pregnancy and infant loss awareness month, that was the anniversary of, the 10 year anniversary I should say, of my very first pregnancy loss.

Joanna:
Wow.

Jennifer:
Yeah.

Katherine:
That is so serendipitous.

Jennifer:
It was. And so I had been talking about sharing my story. I hadn’t really shared my full story to the public. Very few people knew, or my patients didn’t really know. And then you showed up on my doorstep wanting to hear it and it just all kind of worked out with good time.

Katherine:
And after that story came out, did you get any feedback-

Jennifer:
I got a lot of feedback.

Katherine:
You did?

Jennifer:
So I shared it on my own personal social media and I know my business shared it on our social media pages and things like that. And from complete strangers to people I’ve known my entire life to my parents, I don’t think anybody had ever heard the whole story.

Joanna:
Wow.

Jennifer:
And so even my dad called me and said “Oh my goodness. I had no idea. I totally cried when I read your story.”

Joanna:
Even your dad?

Jennifer:
Yeah.

Joanna:
Oh my gosh.

Jennifer:
So I understand it’s a very complex and heart string pulling story, so I get it. But it was interesting to hear that perspective because I’ve kept it inside for so long.

Katherine:
Yeah, but your memory was really-

Jennifer:
I remember it like it was yesterday. For sure.

Katherine:
Yeah. The first loss?

Jennifer:
Yes.

Katherine:
So when I came to see you, I think we sat down for two hours or so and we went through Jennifer’s story, which I think, correct me if I’m wrong, you’ve had nine pregnancy losses?

Jennifer:
Nine pregnancies in total. I have two live children and I had seven miscarriages.

Katherine:
Seven miscarriages.

Jennifer:
Yeah.

Katherine:
Over a period of?

Jennifer:
It took me eight years from when I first trying to get pregnant until I had my second baby.

Katherine:
So all the while you are treating people and trying to get people pregnant and then dealing with this cruel irony that you’re not able to maintain a pregnancy yourself.

Jennifer:
Correct, yes. Yeah.

Katherine:
And you’re still smiling today. This woman is an inspiration.

Jennifer:
Well, I’m one of the lucky ones. I came out on the other side, I have two beautiful kids and I’m still all in one piece, you know? So I had a lot of support and a lot of help. I was in the right spot at the right time. I was working in a giant fertility clinic. Where else could you be if you were having those types of problems?

Katherine:
Right.

Jennifer:
So it worked out well, but certainly, it was challenging as I was going through it. It’s one thing to say that now, but it was another thing going through that time for sure. You’re happy for your patients that get pregnant and are successful. Internally it’s “Ugh, why not me? When is it going to be my turn?”

Katherine:
Exactly. And none of your patients knew, I don’t think you said, right?

Jennifer:
Most of them did not know. I had told a very select few women. I think once you hit three, four, five miscarriages, you don’t really know anybody else that’s been through that. So sometimes during certain conversations, I would kind of let it slip a little bit. Like “I know where you’ve been,” or “I kind of know how you’re feeling a little bit, so I can relate.” And that kind of makes them feel a little bit better too.

Katherine:
Okay, so we’re going to backtrack a little to your first pregnancy loss.

Jennifer:
Yep.

Katherine:
You had seven pregnancy losses, but this one was really-

Jennifer:
This one was the furthest along. It was also my very first pregnancy. So I was kind of blind to what could potentially go wrong. I was in la la land a little bit.

Joanna:
How far were you?

Jennifer:
I was almost 17 weeks.

Joanna:
So in what people would deem as-

Jennifer:
To quote unquote “safe zone.”

Joanna:
Yes. Exactly.

Jennifer:
Everybody knew. We’d already announced it. I was showing.

Katherine:
So what to me and I think Joanna as well really stood out about this was how kind of terribly you were treated when the loss happened at the hospital.

Jennifer:
Yeah. Yeah, they weren’t really prepared for that. I showed up in emergency. My water had broken in the morning and my friend drove me to the hospital and when I got there, I got out of the car and I realized I was saturated with blood, like coming through my jeans and so there was a button you could press at the emergency room door and I pressed it and the nurse came out and yelled at me and told me it was for heart attacks and serious emergencies. So I was like “Um, sorry, but I’m bleeding through my clothes. Can you get me a pad or something then? I don’t know what to do.” So she looked at me and then dragged me in and lied me down in a room and whatever. So she realized that it was probably more of an emergency than she had realized. But then they didn’t really speak to me when they came into the room to examine me. So they were kind of talking to each other and not to me.

Katherine:
And you were alone. Sorry to interrupt, but you were alone-

Jennifer:
I was alone. Yeah, so my husband was working downtown Toronto. I had called him and told him to come, but it was rush hour. He was a good hour and a half away at least. And so he was trying to get to me and my friend had driven me to the hospital but I didn’t want her to stay. I felt really weird and nervous and scared. So I told her to leave. And she did hang out in the waiting room for quite a period of time and came in to check on me at one point. But I think she knew I just needed not to be around people I didn’t really know that well, I guess. So then the physician had been kind of pressing down on my tummy a little bit and he kind of pushed down really hard and all of the contents of my uterus just came out and so I kind of knew at that point in time what had happened, but I was in shock. I was really-

Joanna:
No warning.

Jennifer:
Out of touch.

Joanna:
He didn’t tell you he was going to do this?

Jennifer:
No. And so then the nurse got really weird and quiet and she left the room and came back and … Anyway, to make a long story short, the doctor came in and said “Yeah, you have miscarried and not sure if you want to see the baby or not.” And I said “Yes, I do.” And they brought me a green kidney pan with one of those cheap brown paper towels that you get in public bathrooms?

Joanna:
Yeah.

Jennifer:
That was kind of draped over the top of it. And so he flips it back and there was my little baby girl in this green kidney pan that people pee and poop in when they’re sick in the hospital. It was pretty horrifying.

Katherine:
That’s awful.

Jennifer:
Yeah, it was pretty awful. So I had to have a D and C that afternoon a couple of hours later. So the placenta didn’t deliver. It was still attached and so a lot of risks and bleeding and things like that. So I had to go into surgery. I was by myself because they don’t let your spouse come in with you. Basically, they walk me into the OR and the nurse had said to me in the hallway “So you’re having a D and C. I heard you had a baby.” And I said, “Yes, I had a baby at 17 weeks.” And she was like “Okay.” And so she walks into the OR and announces to everybody in the OR “This is Jennifer and she had a baby 17 weeks ago.” And I said “No, no, no. I had a 17-week old baby two hours ago.” And then she literally realized that she had just shoved her feet so far down her throat she’d never be able to retrieve them again, but she felt horrible. But the damage was done. The whole room just went stone silent and nobody knew what to say.

Katherine:
And no one said “Oh, that’s terrible. I’m sorry that happened to you.”?

Jennifer:
I don’t even remember.

Joanna:
Yeah, yeah.

Katherine:
You don’t remember.

Jennifer:
To be honest with you, I was just so taken aback by what she had said, I can’t even remember what happened after that. I remember them strapping me down to the OR table and then I remember waking up and that’s pretty much it.

Katherine:
Mm-hmm (affirmative). So you had mentioned earlier that when you shared your story, a lot of people came out of the woodwork and were really proud of you and they thought it was brave that you shared it. Could you talk to us about a few of the other miscarriages you had? I know you had a couple of chemical pregnancies.

Jennifer:
I did.

Katherine:
Can you explain what those are?

Jennifer:
Yeah. So after that, I had a couple of first trimester miscarriages. So I had one that was about 12 weeks.

Joanna:
Still pretty far.

Jennifer:
Yeah, so I think somewhere between 11 and 13 weeks. I think it was around 12 weeks and that was my second one. And then I had another one at about nine weeks. And then after that, I had my son. So there was a bunch of interventions going on and things like that. And then after I had my son, about two years later we decided we would try again and we thought we had it all sorted out and the very first pregnancy I had was an ectopic pregnancy, which is just kind of dumb luck. You can’t really predict or prevent an ectopic pregnancy. They just kind of happen. They can happen to anybody. They’re awful, but-

Joanna:
Can you tell us what it is for people-

Jennifer:
So that’s when the embryo implants somewhere besides the uterus. So it can plant in the fallopian tube, it can implant near the ovaries. Sometimes strange places, like abdominal wall and things like that.

Joanna:
Oh really? Okay.

Jennifer:
Typically these can never survive. There’s not enough blood supply and things like that.

Katherine:
Does that happen because the egg just didn’t fall to the place it should have? Or-

Jennifer:
Pretty much. Yeah, it just didn’t make it to where it was supposed to go. And so luckily I didn’t lose my fallopian tube. They were able to save my tube, I guess, is what we would say, which a lot of women-

Joanna:
It can be dangerous, right?

Jennifer:
Yeah, exactly. It can rupture and you can have so much damage in the fallopian tube that they have to actually physically remove it. So I was fortunate, but even when they don’t remove the tube, there are considerations that you have a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy in subsequent pregnancies because the tube has been damaged even though it’s still there.

Joanna:
Okay.

Jennifer:
So if you’re trying to get pregnant and you had an ectopic on your left side and we see you have a left-sided follicle, then we may or may not tell you to not try that month because the risk is higher for you.

Katherine:
Okay. Because the eggs come from alternative sides, right, generally speaking?

Jennifer:
Generally, one month will ovulate from the right then the left. It doesn’t always work that way.

Joanna:
And then what’s a chemical pregnancy?

Jennifer:
So a chemical pregnancy is when you get a positive pregnancy test and so it’s standard practice in a fertility center to retest the pregnancy hormone after 48 hours. And so in that 48 hours, the number should double. And a chemical pregnancy means that the number doesn’t double or it drops, typically. So implantation occurred, but for whatever reason, the pregnancy’s not continuing.

Joanna:
Okay, and that happens earlier.

Jennifer:
That happens, early, yeah. So in a fertility clinic setting, you’re having your pregnancy test when you expect your period to come. So you know earlier than most women would probably recognize. So it’s quite early. And so at that point in time, you just kind of wait for the levels to go back to normal and then you’ll start cycling again.

Joanna:
So seven miscarriages, and for your profession you have to be this ray of sunshine and hope, helping other people with their own journey.

Jennifer:
Right. And I felt like a professional failure for a long time. Here I am trying to get all these women pregnant and I can’t even get myself pregnant. Like how does that work?

Katherine:
I can’t even imagine. Yeah, really, really tough. You are a ray of sunshine though.

Jennifer:
Oh, thank you. I feel the same about you.

Joanna:
You said a couple of other things. In your story, you talk about cervical incompetence and a weak cervix. What does that mean?

Jennifer:
What they figure happened with my very first pregnancy is they said I have an incompetent cervix or a weak cervix. So that means-

Joanna:
Sounds kind of mean.

Jennifer:
It does, right? It’s like blaming, judging my poor little cervix. It’s not your fault. Anyway, I love my cervix.

Katherine:
Especially incompetent. I don’t know. Sorry.

Jennifer:
I know. It’s a bad name. I agree. And so basically what that means is once there’s a certain amount of pressure inside the uterus, the muscle isn’t strong enough to hold the pregnancy in, so you go into pre-term labour.

Katherine:
Hence why your water broke.

Joanna:
Hence why your water broke so very early.

Jennifer:
Right. Yeah. And so that means I would have already started dilating and all of that.

Joanna:
Wow, okay.

Jennifer:
The treatment for that is called a cervical cerclage and it’s basically a type of stitch that they put in the cervix once you’re pregnant. And so they usually wait until the end of the first trimester so you know you’re not going to miscarry for genetic or natural reasons. And then they basically suture your cervix closed until you’re full term.

Katherine:
And then they go in and they take the stitch out?

Jennifer:
The stitch out at about 37 weeks. And I had those in both of my full term pregnancies.

Joanna:
Right, okay.

Jennifer:
And so the first time it’s typically done under a local anesthetic, so you’re awake. Sorry, I guess it’s not local, but it’s like an epidural.

Joanna:
Yeah, right.

Jennifer:
So they freeze you from the bottom half down and I felt every single thing.

Joanna:
Like you physically felt it?

Jennifer:
I physically felt it. The tugging and the pulling and pain and contractions and things like that and I started to panic a little bit on the table. And the anesthesiologist just stood right in my face and talked to me and calmed me right down. So he was amazing. And then the second time I had to have that procedure done, I told the anesthesiologist … I was freaking out just before the procedure because I was like “Oh no. This is going to happen again. It was so awful.” And he was like “You know what? We’re not going to do that this time. We’re putting you to sleep and we’ll wake you up when it’s over.” And that was way better.

Katherine:
You were like “Yes, please.”

Jennifer:
Yes please, yes.

Joanna:
Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Jennifer:
Exactly.

Katherine:
Yeah, because why have the added anxiety and stress on top of potentially feeling it?

Jennifer:
I think it goes both ways. So one of the risks of having the cerclage put in is that they can essentially induce a miscarriage by accident. So you’re either you wake up and you’re not pregnant anymore or you wake up and the stitch is in. So the first time around I thought I’d rather be awake and know what was going on than wake up and somebody tells me something awful had happened.

Joanna:
Right, yep.

Jennifer:
I didn’t think that anymore after the first time.

Katherine:
Right. I want everyone to read the story in its entirety, but there are a couple more things that you touched on that I just wanted to talk about. So one thing when you were sharing your experience around your second pregnancy, you didn’t take any pictures. Like you didn’t celebrate it.

Jennifer:
No.

Katherine:
Can you talk about the emotional side of how you were feeling through that?

Jennifer:
I did not want to get too attached because I knew what could happen and I was just waiting … I had basically one of everything that you could possibly think of when it comes to miscarriages and I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop the whole time. Like what’s going to happen this time? So I was in denial for a really long time. I didn’t buy any baby clothes, I didn’t … Not until I was so far along that I knew that if I went into pre-term labour that this baby would likely survive. So that was when I was about 30 weeks, I started to relax a little bit into it.

Katherine:
I have one miscarriage so it’s not seven, but I know for this pregnancy, up until my NT scan, every time I went to the bathroom, I held my breath.

Jennifer:
Yep, checking, checking, checking.

Katherine:
Every morning when I woke up, checking, just waiting for it to not work, you know what I mean?

Jennifer:
Yep. And then I hear so many stories because of what I do, you know? You hear the stories about the women that lose their baby during childbirth or the day before their due date and all of these crazy things that can happen and you’re like “Is that going to be me next? Is that the next thing that’s coming?”

Katherine:
You know all of the scenarios.

Jennifer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katherine:
You’ve heard every story.

Jennifer:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Katherine:
And do you find that your experience makes you a better fertility specialist?

Jennifer:
I think it does. I mean maybe some people would argue with me about that. But I feel like I can relate to a really large population of my patients. People ask is it better to not be able to get pregnant or is it better to be able to get pregnant and then lose the baby and I don’t think there’s easy infertility. I think they’re all equally traumatizing. Having just that much grief to carry around from both sides of it is so overwhelming, you know

Joanna:
Do you treat couples now?

Jennifer:
I do.

Joanna:
You do? Can you share a little bit about that and sort of your perspective on that?

Jennifer:
Yeah, when you really think about the cause of miscarriage, we often think about the women. And when you actually boil it down, it can come from the egg or the sperm. It can come from the embryo. It can come from the environment in the uterus. There are so many different facets and causes of miscarriage. But we know that about 50% of miscarriages technically can be male factor origin.

Joanna:
50%.

Jennifer:
Between 30% and 50%, depending on how you’re looking at it. And so there’s a DNA imprint of that sperm is just as important as the DNA imprint of the egg. And so they’re both of equal importance in terms of the health of the embryo. And then women do have a higher percentage in terms of they have both egg quality potential concerns as well as uterine concerns. So if you look at infertility from who’s got it worse, male or female, women tend to be the culprit more often because we can have both of those factors, where men we’re just kind of reliant on the sperm.

Jennifer:
So I talk to them about that. From the male perspective, a lot of them find it really difficult. Their wife is going through all of these things. They’re the ones getting all these tests, poked and prodded and vaginal ultrasounds like four times a week sometimes and going through the hormone treatments and the losses. And they’re kind of sitting there, holding their hand and trying to be supportive, but they’re like “What can I do?” And so what they can do is do all the things that she’s doing. They can do the vitamins and the exercise and eat well and be healthy and take care of their mental health and all of these other things and that alone is very supportive of her because she’s doing it too, and if you’re eating kale salad and running on the treadmill and your husband’s going out drinking beers and smoking weed, it doesn’t seem very fair does it?

Katherine:
That’s true. It can create that divide of well I’m doing all this and you get to have fun.

Jennifer:
It can create resentment.

Katherine:
Totally.

Joanna:
I’ve seen that with friends, for sure, for sure, for sure.

Jennifer:
We say that women become mothers either the instant we’re pregnant or when we want to become pregnant and that men become fathers when the baby is born. I do see that in some couples, but I also see men that are super keen to do whatever they can do.

Katherine:
Yeah, I like that advice. A big part of your job is counselling, right?

Jennifer:
It is. Yeah, you know, we book longer appointments and we talk about everything. We do a thorough history, we talk about diet, we talk about nutrients and we talk about stress, what’s going on in your life, things that could be contributing. There’s a lot of research out there that’s controversial. Stress affects fertility, stress doesn’t affect fertility. It certainly doesn’t help. And how I like to explain it is when we’re stressed, our body goes into what we call sympathetic mode or kind of fight or flight. So we’re either going to fight for your life or run for your life kind of thing. The blood flow goes to the brain and heart and lungs and muscles and you either have to run or fight. So that’s where the blood’s going to pool. If you are relaxed, that’s in parasympathetic nervous system mode and your blood flow goes to your rest, your digest, and reproduction. So when we’re relaxed, that’s when we’re going to get the most benefit from our reproductive tract.

Joanna:
How do you not get stressed out? When you want something so badly, how do you help people not be?

Jennifer:
Stay balanced?

Joanna:
Yeah.

Jennifer:
You’re never going to eliminate every type of stress, but there’s positive stress and there’s negative stress. Work stress can be positive or negative. If you’re motivated and you’re busy and you love what you do, that can be considered a positive stress versus if you hate your job and you’re miserable, that’s going to be interpreted as a negative stress. So that’s just one example, but we do what we can to remove any type of negative stress. And then we coach and teach different ways to manage stress because we can’t take it all away. So that might be journaling for some people. It might be some type of religious prayer for somebody else. It might be a yoga class, a bubble bath. It can be a facet of different things depending on your personality and your lifestyle.

Katherine:
Another thing that you guys coach your patients on is … Well, not coach, but how you improve their egg quality-

Jennifer:
Quality.

Katherine:
So what are some things that you can do to improve your egg quality?

Jennifer:
So I think there’s a lot of things that we can do to improve our egg quality. So there are things that we can control and things that we can’t control when it comes to egg quality. So we can’t control our age. We’re the age that we are and we can’t really change that. But we can do things that make our bodies act younger sometimes. So if we’re taking better care of ourselves, so if we’re at ideal body weight, if we’re eating good, nutritious, healthy foods, if we’re hydrated, if we’re lowering our stress levels, if we’re exercising. All of those things. Self-care, basically. Be kind to yourself. Feed your body the things that it needs. That will affect everything in your body, including your egg quality. So those are the main things. And then there are supplements. There are nutrients. There are vitamins that we would tailor depending on the case. So if you’re a woman with say PCOS, or polycystic ovarian syndrome, your supplement profile might be different than the woman that’s 40 with age-related concerns, or the 28-year-old woman with endometriosis. Because all of those things will affect egg quality in a different way.

Katherine:
Do you men or women come in and you just know you can’t help them?

Jennifer:
That’s a good question. You know, I’ve had older women that realistically, if you look at the statistics, the chance of them getting pregnant on their own is very low. So you know if you’re over 46, the pregnancy rate is essentially less than 1%. Does that mean every single 46-year-old woman can’t get pregnant? No. I’ve actually had 46-year-old women spontaneously conceive in my practice. But that’s not typical. There’s always something. And so that would be a conversation about perhaps considering egg donation, adoption, maybe letting go. There can be a variety of things. It’s a difficult conversation for sure. But I also think it’s important to have that conversation because sometimes they just need somebody to tell them that. They’re fishing for information and they’re grasping at straws or they’re very hopeful, which is fantastic, I want them to be hopeful, but I also want them to be realistic. And if you want to be a mom and you’re, say, 45 or even younger than that or older than that with specific health concerns or whatever, it might not be your egg, or it might not be your husband’s sperm, or you might need a donor of either. And there are 101 ways to have a baby.

Joanna:
Yes, there are. Yeah. I love that.

Jennifer:
And you just have to be open-minded. And so if that’s your dream, we can make that happen. You just have to accept that it might not be in a traditional way.

Katherine:
Is the information not getting to some people about as you get older your chances are lowered?

Jennifer:
I think it’s improved, but I still think people are not getting it. I think women in their 30s are totally blindsided when they can’t get pregnant. We think 40 is the number. We don’t think 33 is the number. We don’t think 36. We don’t think 37. But there are some women out there that we already see those egg changes by that time. So anybody over 32 gets automatic egg quality treatment in our practice. If I have a 20 something-year-old friend, they must think I’m nuts because I’m always like “Freeze your eggs, freeze your eggs, freeze your eggs.”

Joanna:
I’m becoming that person.

Jennifer:
You have no idea what could possibly happen. It’s always good insurance. It’s not necessarily feasible for every woman and all those types of things, but if you have the resources, I 100% recommend doing that in your 20s.

Katherine:
Any time? Like the mid-20s?

Jennifer:
So the best time to do it is before you’re 32, I would say.

Katherine:
Okay.

Jennifer:
Yeah, we see most changes after 32. But 20s is ideal.

Katherine:
Because something I learned when I came to your clinic is women spend so much time getting an education and progressing in their career during this period that is their most fertile.

Jennifer:
Right, we spend the majority of our fertile years trying not to get pregnant.

Joanna:
Oh, totally. I think that’s a whole thing too, right?

Jennifer:
It’s our generation. We all … You can’t just get a job out of high school anymore. You’re going to university or college. My mom was done having her kids when she was 24. I was a full decade older when I was trying.

Joanna:
And also just this mindset or almost convenience culture mindset where we want things instantaneously, you spend so much of your life being like “Don’t get pregnant, don’t get pregnant, don’t get pregnant.” “Okay, now I want to be pregnant.”

Jennifer:
And we think it’s going to happen right away.

Katherine:
You think you just pull whatever contraception you’re using and it will happen.

Jennifer:
Exactly. And which is mostly not the case.

Katherine:
Sometimes, but not-

Jennifer:
Sometimes, yeah. For sure. It’s funny because when you work in a fertility clinic for as long as I have, you forget that people get pregnant on their own most of the time. It’s like this little bubble. And when I hear like “Oh my goodness. You had intercourse and you got pregnant. Wow, that’s amazing. Good for you.”

Katherine:
That still works. That’s a thing? Taking it old school.

Jennifer:
Yeah, exactly.

Katherine:
I think for so long we’ve treated fertility as this weird, black box that we don’t know that much about but we’re learning so much now.

Jennifer:
Absolutely. And I think that this fantasy fertility treatment, IVF, or IUI, or whatever route you go, people think that’s a sure thing.

Katherine:
They do, I know.

Jennifer:
And if I can’t get pregnant, I’ll just go do that, no problem. It’s not that easy. Even in the best fertility clinic with the best of conditions and the healthiest of patients, they can’t really get the pregnancy rate more than 50%.

Katherine:
I don’t think people know that.

Jennifer:
No. So-

Katherine:
And same with egg freezing.

Jennifer:
And that’s with technology changes and they’ve really mastered the art of whatever we can do to improve egg quality and all their techniques and procedures, which is not my forte, but you know, they’ve got that stuff mastered. We can freeze eggs and embryos and sperm and thaw it out and it keeps on ticking. It’s amazing. But if you don’t have the eggs or the sperm or they’re not good quality, then IVF is not helpful. IVF was designed initially to treat patients with blocked fallopian tubes. It wasn’t designed as like an “Oh my goodness, you’re 40 and you ran out of time” solution. That’s not what it was for. That’s what we’ve evolved it into as a society. So IVF does not correct egg quality problems, it does not correct sperm quality problems. It does not affect uterine problems. It simply brings together sperm and egg in a controlled environment so we can see if it fertilizes and grows into an embryo and then we put it back in the woman’s body and it’s up to nature again.

Katherine:
Not a sure thing.

Jennifer:
Not a sure thing. No, unfortunately. I wish I could say it was.

Katherine:
Well, I just want to say I think that what you’re doing is amazing and I think that your fertility story and the journey has been a bumpy one, but I can only imagine that it makes you such a better person on the other side. I think about the way that you would approach things compared to the way that that first doctor approached things.

Jennifer:
Yeah, exactly. That will never happen in my office.

Katherine:
That will never happen. Absolutely.

Joanna:
I hate that.

Katherine:
Exactly. And just a huge thank you for sharing your story and also for answering all of our questions. We had a lot of them.

Jennifer:
Of course. Yeah. Yeah. And just to throw it out there to the ladies who are experiencing these types of issues, get support. There is the pregnancy and infant loss awareness network, and PALS [pregnancy after loss support]. When I was going through in the early days, most of these things didn’t exist, or I didn’t have access to them. I didn’t know about them. And like I said, it can be a really lonely place and so get some support because that’s probably the most important thing you can do for yourself.

Katherine:
The Internet’s a great place for that.

Jennifer:
Yeah, and it can be anonymous if you’re not comfortable sharing your name and meeting people face to face. I’m on some of these pregnancy and infant loss forums and it’s nothing for somebody to say like “Hey, is anybody in downtown Toronto and available for a coffee sometime? I really need somebody to talk to.” Or “Can I direct message you and have a conversation? We have a similar story.” Women are always reaching out to each other to be supportive and you just need to ask.

Katherine:
Yeah.

Joanna:
Yeah.

Katherine:
I love that.

Joanna:
I just got chills.

Katherine:
Me too. Well, thank you so much, Jennifer.

Jennifer:
Thanks for having me.

Katherine:
From Conceived Health Clinic. We will put up everything in the show notes so people know how to follow you guys.

Jennifer:
Great.

Katherine:
Okay, thank you.

Jennifer:
Thank you.

Joanna:
Thank you.

Joanna:
And that wraps another episode of Faces of Fertility by Knix.

Katherine:
Thanks for listening, guys. We will be here next week so make sure to download the next episode.

Joanna:
There’s one way that you can never miss an episode and that’s by subscribing.

Katherine:
Yes.

Joanna:
Wherever it is that you get your podcast and we are always looking for interesting stories and upcoming guests, so feel free to reach out to us. We’re at Knixwear on Instagram. We would love to hear from you.

Katherine:
Share your stories.

Joanna:
You’re listening to Faces of Fertility by Knix.

If you have any questions or would like preconception support, you can learn more on our website or drop us a line to book your initial appointment. 

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