Archive for the ‘coping with infertility’ tag
By Tracey Minella
March 23rd, 2017 at 1:10 pm
Are you the “all happy for the official start of spring” type? Or a crank who can’t adjust to losing that hour of sleep? (There’s no correct answer!)
Worn down by winter and overwhelmed by infertility’s challenges? You’re not alone. But spring is here now…at least on the calendar if not by the forecast. It’s time to change things up a bit.
The most frustrating thing about infertility is the lack of control over everything– your dreams, your life, and your body. The longer you live in this frustrated state, the greater the chance you’ll feel stressed or depressed. Your “fuse” gets shorter and the littlest thing that upsets your routine can…understandably…throw you off. Even that single hour lost may have affected your routine and added to your exhaustion and crankiness for days!
Why not turn it all back around to your benefit?
Start with a small block of time. Make a change for the better and take back some control this spring. Just a bit.
Imagine committing to even one small change in your day…one that you choose. One that you want. One that you… control.
No need to be drastic or crazy or set a lofty goal you can’t reach (which will defeat the purpose here). Pick something do-able and fun that is just for you. If it happens to have an added fertility-boosting benefit, that’s even better. But the main goal is that you feel better, either physically or emotionally, or both. And that you feel more in control of your life.
Here are a few examples of little things you can consider:
- Drink more water. You’ll feel and look better and the health benefits are countless.
- Make a “To Do” list before bed. You’ll sleep better knowing your next day is planned out and you haven’t forgotten something. Then, spend 15 minutes on your most important task first thing in the morning if you can, so you start off on a positive, less stressed note.
- Exercise…even for just 10 minutes each day. Even a walk to clear your mind will help. If that seems like root canal, just pick something fun that makes you move. Anything.
- Keep a daily gratitude journal. List 3 things you have to be thankful for. It will keep you grounded in positivity and give you an outlet for your feelings.
- Sleep more. Take a power nap at lunchtime of you’re feeling tired or treat yourself to an early turn-in at bedtime. Even 30 minutes would feel indulgent. Trust me.
- Meditate. It could be in a fertile yoga class or just grabbing 15 minutes of quiet, uninterrupted “you” time on your den floor– or outside if it ever warms up again. Why not come to Long Island IVF’s upcoming free fertility yoga event during National Infertility Awareness Week in April? Register here.
Of course, if you’re really feeling overwhelmed, you might consider a group or individual therapy session with Bina Benisch, M.S., R.N., our counselor who specializes in helping those suffering from infertility.
What kind of big impact could these small changes make for you? How about committing to one of them…or some other change that works for you? Let’s see what a difference a small change that you control can make in your life in 30 days.
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What is your “take control” action plan for spring?
By Tracey Minella
March 11th, 2017 at 10:32 pm
Let’s raise a glass to one of the few holidays that’s not focused on children!
Other than spotting those little scouts at a local parade, St. Patrick’s Day—or night—is a time where a good part of the country…legit Irish or wannabes…gets downright hammered. (Not that we advocate that or anything…wink, wink.)
So what are you going to do?
If you’re a cycling infertility patient, you’ll likely resist the urge to drown your TTC sorrows in a pint of green beer, sacrificing the party for the benefit of the potential life you’re trying to create. Hey, there’s no shame in being sober on St. Patrick’s Day! Be the responsible designated driver–it’s great training for all the parental responsibility and sacrifice that might be just over the rainbow for you.
So what about all that “luck o’ the Irish” stuff? As a half-Irish lass myself, and one who did my share of IVFs before having success, I thought it was a farce—a scam. C’mon, if I was really lucky, I wouldn’t have needed IVF to conceive. And, might I add, I’d have had a pot o’ gold to finance it all. But, nooo.
Do YOU believe in lucky charms for fertility?
There are more symbols associated with good luck and fertility than you can shake a shillelagh at! There are frogs, acorns, and of course, eggs. You can buy statues and jewelry of these and other symbols. I once bought a cheap pewter Chinese fertility symbol on a thin black leather necklace. Couldn’t hurt, right? Today, there are many fertility jewelry sites that make beautiful handmade items if you’re open about the struggle.
I also had a lucky charm. It was a gift from a casual friend from work who was moving out of state and knew of my infertility secret. She gave me a pretty mirrored compact with a little cameo angel on top…for luck. I had it with me when I finally had my IVF success. After my angel was born, I tucked it away, figuring I’d give it to my girl one day and tell her its special story.
But a few years later, I had a co-worker who was TTC and was moving to Florida. I thought of my lucky compact and everything suddenly became clear. I told her the story and gave it to her on the following condition: She was to use it as long as she needed it and then pass it along to someone else who was TTC, with the same instructions.
This travelling compact is touching lives and spreading love and luck throughout our sisterhood.
Now that’s worth doing a jig over.
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Have you given or received a lucky charm? What is it and what is the story behind it?
By David Kreiner MD
March 1st, 2017 at 12:20 pm
I don’t have to tell you that endometriosis can be a very painful illness and that it can cause infertility. It is often a reproductive lifelong struggle in which tissue that normally lines the uterus migrates or implants into other parts of the body, most often in the pelvic lining and ovaries. This leads to pain and swelling and often times difficulty conceiving.
If you have endometriosis, you are not alone. Five to ten percent of all women have it. Though many of these women are not infertile, among patients who have infertility, about 30 percent have endometriosis.
Endometriosis can grow like a weed in a garden, irritating the local lining of the pelvic cavity and attaching itself to the ovaries and bowels. Scar tissue often forms where it grows, which can exacerbate the pain and increase the likelihood of infertility. The only way to be sure a woman has endometriosis is to perform a surgical procedure called laparoscopy which allows your physician to look inside the abdominal cavity with a narrow tubular scope. He may be suspicious that you have endometriosis based on your history of very painful menstrual cycles, painful intercourse, etc., or based on your physical examination or ultrasound findings. On an ultrasound, a cyst of endometriosis has a characteristic homogenous appearance showing echoes in the cyst that distinguish it from a normal ovarian follicle. Unlike the corpus luteum (ovulated follicle), its edges are round as opposed to collapsed and irregular in the corpus luteum and the cyst persists after a menses where corpora lutea will resolve each month.
Women with any stage of endometriosis (mild, moderate, or severe) can have severe lower abdominal and pelvic pain – or they might have no pain or symptoms whatsoever. Patients with mild endometriosis will not have a cyst and will have no physical findings on exam or ultrasound. It is thought that infertility caused by mild disease may be chemical in nature perhaps affecting sperm motility, fertilization, embryo development or even implantation perhaps mediated through an autoimmune response.
Moderate and severe endometriosis are, on the other hand, associated with ovarian cysts of endometriosis which contain old blood which turns brown and has the appearance of chocolate. These endometriomata (so called “chocolate cysts”) cause pelvic scarring and distortion of pelvic anatomy. The tubes can become damaged or blocked and the ovaries may become adherent to the uterus, bowel or pelvic side wall. Any of these anatomic distortions can result in infertility. In some cases the tissue including the eggs in the ovaries can be damaged, resulting in diminished ovarian reserve and reduced egg quantity and quality.
The treatment for endometriosis associated with infertility needs to be individualized for each woman. Surgery often provides temporary relief and can improve fertility but rarely is successful in permanently eliminating the endometriosis which typically returns one to two years after resection.
There are no easy answers, and treatment decisions depend on factors such as the severity of the disease and its location in the pelvis, the woman’s age, length of infertility, and the presence of pain or other symptoms.
Treatment for Mild Endometriosis
Medical (drug) treatment can suppress endometriosis and relieve the associated pain in many women. Surgical removal of lesions by laparoscopy might also reduce the pain temporarily.
However, several well-controlled studies have shown that neither medical nor surgical treatment for mild endometriosis will improve pregnancy rates for infertile women as compared to expectant management (no treatment). For treatment of infertility associated with mild to moderate endometriosis, ovulation induction with intrauterine insemination (IUI) has a reasonable chance to result in pregnancy if no other infertility factors are present. If this is not effective after about three – six cycles (maximum), then I would recommend proceeding with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
Treatment for Severe Endometriosis
Several studies have shown that medical treatment for severe endometriosis does not improve pregnancy rates for infertile women. Some studies have shown that surgical treatment of severe endometriosis does improve the chances for pregnancy as compared to no treatment. However, the pregnancy rates remain low after surgery, perhaps no better than two percent per month.
Some physicians advocate medical suppression with a GnRH-agonist such as Lupron for up to six months after surgery for severe endometriosis before attempting conception. Although at least one published study found this to improve pregnancy rates as compared to surgery alone, other studies have shown it to be of no benefit. The older a patient is, the more problematic post surgical treatment with Lupron will be as it delays a woman’s attempt to conceive until she is even older and less fertile due to aging.
Unfortunately, the infertility in women with severe endometriosis is often resistant to treatment with ovarian stimulation plus IUI as the pelvic anatomy is very distorted. These women will often require IVF in order to conceive.
As endometriosis is a progressive destructive disorder that will lead to diminished ovarian reserve if left unchecked, it is vital to undergo a regular fertility screen annually and to consider moving up your plans to start a family before your ovaries become too egg depleted. When ready to conceive, I recommend that you proceed aggressively to the most effective and efficient therapy possible.
Women with endometriosis and infertility are unfortunately in a race to get pregnant before the endometriosis destroys too much ovarian tissue and achieving a pregnancy with their own eggs becomes impossible. However, if you are proactive and do not significantly delay in aggressively proceeding with your family building, then I have every expectation that you will be successful in your efforts to become a mom.
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Do you suffer from endometriosis? How has it impacted your fertility journey? Do you have any advice for others who are suffering?
Photo credit: Ryan McGuire at http://www.gratisography.com/
By Tracey Minella
February 14th, 2017 at 12:13 pm
Most holidays are hard on those struggling with infertility, but Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to be one of them. It’s one of the few holidays that are focused on couples, not children. You’re expected to be alone as a couple…no family gatherings to endure.
While a fancy dinner, candy, roses, or even diamonds can’t substitute for the gift you really want to give or receive from your partner today, try not to focus on the baby quest for just this one day…or at least for a good part of it…and instead focus on your partner.
Battling infertility can make you lose sight of pretty much everything else. It can make you understandably cranky and depressed. And it can make you take your loved ones…especially your partner…for granted.
If you’ve fallen into that rut, today is the perfect day to change things. Start by stealing a moment and clearing your mind of everything else. Then, make a list of five things you love about your partner. If you need help getting started, think about how he/she is right beside you in this battle. What have you weathered together already? Remember how much he/she can make you laugh or the special inside jokes only you two share?(Consider telling your partner you’re doing this and ask them to do the same so you can exchange lists over dinner tonight or wait until you’re together tonight and make the lists together.)
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to cost a lot, especially when financing infertility treatments. If you do want to go out, kick back and enjoy yourself knowing that most places will be child-free tonight.
Of course, a great Valentine’s Day doesn’t need to cost anything at all. A quiet and simple dinner at home may be all you need to spiritually reconnect. Candles and the right companion can make even mac and cheese incredibly romantic. And those lists of what you love about each other will be treasured keepsakes to look back on later. Trust me.
And having walked many miles in your shoes let me tell you a little secret…
Infertility can be a gift. A twisted kind of gift on nobody’s wish list, of course. But it’s a gift that is often not realized until after the battle is won. If it doesn’t break your marriage, infertility can make your love stronger than you ever imagined it could be. Every tear and painful loss or setback can be cement for your union. Many infertile couples look back and feel that if they got through infertility together, they can handle anything else the future may throw at them. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, as they say.
So this is a night to give thanks for…and celebrate… your soul mate and your union. Focus on that. Reconnect. It will strengthen you for when you resume the battle again tomorrow.
Now, pencils ready…
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How do you celebrate your love when battling infertility?
photo credit: OZphotography/freedigitalphotos.net
By Tracey Minella
January 18th, 2017 at 11:35 am
What if the idea of “doin’ it” just ain’t doin’ it for you?
Like a winter storm, battling infertility can beat a couple down over time. Hot on the heels of navigating the winter holidays without children and facing another New Year’s without the baby, is the coming pressure of Valentine’s Day and all its sexy hype.
Who needs a night of chocolates, flowers, satin sheets, and lacy lingerie when all you really want is a night of Dominoes® home delivery, spit-up soaked sweats, and colicky midnight feedings?
So how do you keep the passion in lovemaking even when baby-making is challenging?
Long Island IVF’s own psychologist and infertility specialist Bina Benisch, M.S., R.N. is hosting a workshop specifically designed to help infertile couples navigate the challenges of feeling sexual and loving and keeping their passion alive while battling infertility.
The free workshop will be held on Thursday night, January 26, 2017 at 6:30 pm at the Long Island IVF office at 8 Corporate Center Dr., Melville, New York.
All are welcome to attend—no need to be a patient of our practice. Can’t get your partner to come with you? Bring a friend or come alone. Pre-registration is required so secure your spot and sign up here now.
Let us help you dig out of the depression of scheduled sex, negativity, self-criticism, and fear and rekindle the romance and spontaneity that’s buried under that pile of negative pee sticks.
You love your partner and you are in this together. Let us help you reconnect…because reducing stress and rekindling romance can only help in the end.
Is that Dominoes® at the door?
We hope to see you there! Register today.
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Are you coming to the workshop? Do you have any specific questions or topics you’d like addressed at the workshop?
By Tracey Minella
January 16th, 2017 at 6:01 pm
As Americans celebrate the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we usually remember his most famous quotation from his 1963 speech for racial equality.
“I Have a Dream…”
Those trying to conceive a baby live by these same words. They are the mantra of the suffering, infertile woman.
To be clear, infertility is not on the same “life-and-death” level as the civil rights movement. Yet there is no mistaking the parallels that do exist between the passion MLK Jr. felt for his cause and the passion infertile women feel for their quest for motherhood.
When you are infertile, you are ever-aware of a different unfairness and inequality in the world. How fertile couples take their fertility for granted. How others have what you’ve been denied. You suffer unimaginable pain and despair at what is effectively a denial of your right to the pursuit of happiness. And you passionately dream your dream…of a day when you will hold a baby in your arms.
MLK Jr.’s peaceful protesting of the injustices of segregation and racial inequality ultimately changed a nation. But for the infertile woman, there is no protest that can make that dream of motherhood come true. Sure, we can and must demand the government do more to help infertile women… such continually advocating for legislation mandating more comprehensive medical insurance for infertility treatment. But ultimately, your plight is based on individual circumstance, not oppression by others. New legislation may help financially, but it alone won’t guarantee you get pregnant. So how do you deal with the frustration over the situation? How do you keep your dream alive?
Dr. King…a spiritual man and motivational speaker…gave us more than that one famous quote. Here’s another one, which speaks to the heart of the infertile woman:
“Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
So when you remember the courage of this great man, think about becoming an advocate for political change that will advance the cause for infertile women. Keep the faith.
And never give up on your dream.
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How do you keep your dream alive? What’s the biggest obstacle?
By Tracey Minella
December 29th, 2016 at 11:38 am
And so we move on toward yet another new year. Another supposed-to-be Happy New Year.
Holidays aren’t happy when you’re trying to conceive. They just aren’t. And sticking the word “happy” on them only adds to the stress. Isn’t it enough to have to face another year without a baby? Now you have to be “happy” too?
The passing of time is unsettling and the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve can be panic-inducing in a way that’s hard to describe. It’s like the world sees a regular clock and infertiles see a biological one. Clocks and other reminders of the passage of time are not welcome to many infertiles. How many of us have morphed into hermit couples over time? There is actually a pattern to it.
One year, you’re typical party-goers hoisting champagne at some big, loud gathering and confidently proclaiming to all within earshot “This year is the year we’re having a baby!”
Time passes. It’s New Year’s Eve again. The crowd you’re celebrating with has dwindled to a few close friends or family and the scene is more low-key. You trade in the bubbly for an alcohol-free toast because you’re doing everything you can to make that baby wish come true and maybe, just maybe, you’re even pregnant right now. You no longer say out loud that “This is the year”. You’re still hopeful, but uneasiness dampens your party spirit.
More time passes. It’s just the two of you now. You don’t want to be out with others. Maybe you’ve suffered losses or are frustrated by financial roadblocks to necessary fertility treatment. You’re depressed and are simply too exhausted to pretend you’re happy…especially when surrounded by people who don’t understand your totally understandable depression. You’re tired of saying “This will be the year” only to find another year goes by and you’re making the same wish over and over. Maybe you’re kicking yourself over all the years you did say it out loud or are just consumed with the thought that if you don’t get pregnant by March, you won’t have a baby in 2017 at all. Time is twisting your mind and manipulating each moment. You’re hope is dangerously depleted and you officially loathe New Year’s with all its shallow celebratory nonsense. Prolonged infertility has stolen your happiness.
It’s okay. It really is okay not to be happy on New Year’s. There are plenty of people who are down or are fearful of what lies ahead.
But it is not okay to lose hope. You need to keep hope alive. Nourish whatever bit is left. Breathe life back into it. Even if there is only a glimmer remaining. Find a way. Because your dream needs hope…and more…in order to come true. Depending on your circumstances, it may also need some combination of action, money and/or a miracle to come true.
So, from someone who ushered in about a decade of consecutive frustrating infertile New Year’s here’s some advice on how to make the best of a tough night.
- Don’t think of yourselves as alone. Remind yourself of why you chose and love this person and reconnect. Realize the power couple you are. You’ve been blessed with each other to get through this journey and, hard as it is, it’s making you stronger. When you finally do have a child, you will be ready for anything life throws your way. Take the night to make a written plan for 2017. What is the next step going to be? What do you need to get there? And how will you get it? Real steps. In writing. Make the plan.
- Acknowledge the elephant in the room…the baby that is not here yet. Instead of focusing on what’s missing, why not play a game? Similar to the movie “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”, you and your partner can brainstorm on the character traits you imagine your future baby will have. Boy or girl? Good at soccer or music? Quiet or loud? And so on. Positive visualization can do wonders. If you write it all down, safeguard it to look back on someday.
- Offer to babysit. For those up to it emotionally (and it’s okay not to be), consider offering to babysit for a friend’s baby or children overnight. You get a real taste of parenting and you get to help out a friend who may want to go out. When you have your own baby, maybe they’ll return the favor!
- Have a plan for an outing. If you are venturing out into the fertile, celebratory world you need a plan. If you’re with people who know you are trying, tell them up front that the topic is off limits tonight. If not, try to have a planned response ready for any possible nosy comments so you are not caught off guard. Have a secret “signal” with your partner that means “It’s time to leave…NOW!” Preparation is the best defense.
Wherever you are, kiss at the stroke of midnight. It’s the best way to enter the New Year. And it’s bound to fill your heart with hope.
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What are your plans and tips for New Year’s Eve?
By Tracey Minella
December 24th, 2016 at 9:37 pm
I was never very patient and infertility only made that worse.
At the risk of sounding like a spoiled child, I wanted what I wanted—a baby. And I wanted it, well, now. Actually, more like yesterday.
Why should I have to wait? I already did all those things I planned to do before starting a family. School. Career. Marriage. Wild newlywed life. Travel. House. Got off birth control and onto prenatal vitamins. Ditched the booze, briefs, fast food, hot tubs–basically all the fun stuff.
The pre-parenthood bucket list has been checked off. Hello, Universe? Let’s go already.
The winter holidays always make the impatience worse. Not my year to buy a Baby’s First Christmas ornament. Not my turn to drop a wailing infant into the lap of a creepy mall Santa. Not my moment to see two lines on the stick.
Just not my time. Again.
There’s the two week wait. Waiting on lines in stores. Waiting in the doctor’s office. Waiting for the ball to drop on another New Year’s without the baby. Again.
I’m sorry you have to wait. And I’m sorry your wait is longer than you expected—longer than you ever imagined. I know how hard it is to wait because my own wait took several years.
But I also know how worth the wait it can– and hopefully will–be once it’s finally over.
Wishing you peace and patience during once of the hardest weeks of waiting for your dreams to come true.
By Tracey Minella
December 5th, 2016 at 9:36 am
There’s a funny Christmas song that parodies “The Twelve Days of Christmas” called “The 12 Pains of Christmas”, by Bob Rivers. It starts out calm and as the verses go on repetitively, the frustration escalates. My favorite parts are the lines about rigging up the lights (“One goes out, they ALL GO OUT!”), facing my in-laws (“She’s a witch, I hate her!”) and sending Christmas cards (“I don’t even KNOW half these people!”).
But when you’re suffering from infertility, the holiday season is particularly hard and just about everything having to do with it is frustrating. It’s hard to be festive at office parties when that water you’re drinking is sure to prompt smirks or comments about the pregnancy your co-workers think you must be hiding. Maybe you don’t feel like decorating a tree or attending a cookie swap. The idea of facing the toy stores for the kids in your life’s wish list is simply daunting.
And don’t get me started on the cards. The photo cards. The perfect little baby photo cards. The deluge of pictures of families that flood the mailbox. Every. Single. Day. It hurts to receive them. And it hurts to have to send your own out without a baby photo on it—again.
And it hurts to feel guilt and sadness over feeling how you’re feeling.
So in a small attempt at levity, I propose the following song—an anthem if you will—“The 12 Pains of Christmas with Infertility”, set to the same tune as The 12 Days of Christmas:
The first pain of Christmas with Infertility is…
1- Hiding Your Infertility;
2- Pregnancy announcements;
3- Nosy in-laws’ questions;
4- Specimen collection;
5- FIVE GRAND IN MEDS!!!
6- Facing Toys R Us®;
7- Booze-free office parties;
8- One line on the pee stick;
9- Photo cards with babies;
10- Daily injections;
11- Hiding blood work bruises;
12- Aunt Flo comes to visit.
I’m offering you hope and humor, strength and peace this holiday season.
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What would you add to the list?
By Tracey Minella
November 26th, 2016 at 8:49 pm
Is it common for those born through IVF to grow up to grieve their “sibling embryos” that were not born…either because they were never transferred or because they failed to survive the transfer or at some point thereafter?
As an IVF mom, an article I read about a woman who grieves her lost embryo siblings really got me thinking. The woman complained that no one understands her overwhelming grief… including her own parents… and that there are no appropriate support groups for IVF children who feel like she does. Will my IVF children feel this way someday? Is there anything I can do to prevent that from happening?
I wonder how many IVF children suffer from this grief and guilt. If given a name, would we call it “Survivor Embryo Syndrome”? Does it occur more often in only children born through IVF…children who may be longing for a sibling? Or is it extremely rare and that’s why support groups don’t seem to exist?
There are countless grown women and men who were conceived long ago through this miracle technology and could possibly be struggling with such feelings.
These adults were conceived before today’s recommended single or double embryo transfers…probably back when four embryo transfers were the norm. Imagine being the only one out of four embryos that survived? Wouldn’t it seem natural to often wonder “Why only me?”
Then again, sometimes all four embryos survived. In past decades, selective embryo reduction was often used in high order multiple pregnancies. A difficult and personal decision (and a controversial topic not without its own risks) selective reduction may be used to reduce the number of a high order multiple pregnancy, from quadruplets to twins or from triplets to a singleton, for example. It’s hard to imagine the conflicted feelings some of the surviving children of such cases might experience.
Why am I here and they are not?
Hopefully, IVF parents who may understandably be blinded to the plight of their lost embryos by their extreme thankfulness for the one that did survive will be mindful that their miracle may grow up with some survivor guilt issues.
If my own IVF daughter shares these feelings with me someday, I will certainly acknowledge them and help her process them in the same way we’ve always discussed how she came into this world. Age-appropriate information shared in many open discussions that always focus on our determination to have a baby and how very much we loved her even before she was born.
I’d tell her that it was fate that she was the one we were meant to have at that given time, even if it’s sad that so many other embryos with the potential for life did not come to be. I’d tell her there is a reason she is here and to live her life to the fullest, use her talents, be happy, be charitable, and do good things. And if she still needed more help than I could give her, I’d encourage her to talk with a professional counselor with experience in infertility-related issues, such as Long Island IVF’s Mind-Body Program specialist, Bina Benisch, MS, RN.
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What do you think about this survivor guilt issue? How would you comfort your IVF child or what would you do to prevent them from feeling any guilt over being survivors?