When Amy Klein reflects on her fertility journey, she recounts 9 rounds of IVF, 10 doctors, 4 miscarriages, and 1 daughter. “My fertility journey came to an end with a reproductive endocrinologist who helped me carry my first pregnancy,” Amy said. While Amy isn’t currently trying to conceive, she’s still passionate about sharing her fertility story and supporting other women through their experiences. Back in 2012, when Amy began going through infertility, no one was really writing or talking about it. As a health journalist, Amy sought to change this. She started writing a New York Times column about her journey called “Fertility Diary,” and after she had her daughter, she wrote her book, “The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind.” (Penguin/Random House.) She strives to inform her readers about the patient experience of infertility.
While Amy was trying to conceive, she was disappointed in the lack of readily available, reliable information. “I was surprised that there was no one talking about this. I couldn’t find any information anywhere, but it seemed like so many people had been through this,” she said. As a health journalist, she had the advantage of being able to go through scientific studies, and still felt that there was a huge lack of information. “It was very confusing,” she said.
Amy knows firsthand how overwhelming and confusing trying to conceive can be. She wrote her book to help people navigate the healthcare system, know what questions to ask, and better understand what can happen along the way. “I was trying to explain what the patient experience was. I don’t think that doctors really understand, when it comes to IVF, miscarriage, or making decisions, how confusing it is and how hard it is,” she said. “I don’t think doctors understand what it’s really like unless they’ve been through it.” While she can’t provide medical advice in her book, she interviews doctors, scientists and therapists in each chapter, and she offers guidance about the kinds of questions to ask. She wants to help women learn how to be advocates for themselves. She believes it’s important for women to understand their bodies and their needs. “It’s hard to find the protocol that’s going to work for you. I always tell people, if you’re working with a doctor who believes there’s only one way to do things, maybe that’s not the right doctor,” Amy said. She believes that every woman will have a different path to success, and the most important thing is for women to learn about how their own bodies work.
Amy released her book during the COVID-19 pandemic, so the experience has been different than she’d expected. However, she’s had the opportunity to connect with readers and doctors online. She wants her book to be a source of support and advice for those going through infertility, as well as a reflection on the patient experience. “The whole point of my book was to create something I wish I had while I was going through it. Something to tell me how to deal with my boss, or my mother in law, or tell me what secondary infertility could feel like,” she said. Amy wanted her book to cover not only what fertility treatments are like, but the emotional side as well. She discusses how infertility affects marriage and relationships, how to deal with friends’ baby showers, and when it’s time to switch doctors. She talks about how to best take care of yourself.
In her book, Amy answers the questions she gets asked all the time. What stands out the most among these questions is how to deal with others’ expectations. There’s a lot of assumptions made about women and couples, about how they should feel after they get pregnant or have children. People expect you to be overjoyed, and that puts pressure on the experience. The reality is, if you’re pregnant but you’ve gone through infertility or miscarriage, you may not be as excited. “Infertility robs you of certain experiences,” Amy said. Sometimes women can’t have that “regular” pregnancy because they feel nervous. Some have postpartum depression after IVF. Amy believes it’s important to accept your emotions for what they are. “There’s a lot of telling women how to feel. But there’s not only one way - you have to just feel what you feel,” Amy said.
Amy believes that information is power when it comes to fertility and reproductive health. “The one thing I want younger women- and women of all ages- to do is to understand their bodies,” Amy said. “I’ve met so many older women who have had trouble getting pregnant due to problems that could have been dealt with earlier, like fibroids or endometriosis. Knowing what is going on with your health, fertility, and hormones gives you more control over your choices- whether you want to get pregnant now, later, and even if you’re not sure. “I want people to have all the information they can, so they can make educated decisions. You don’t have to decide right away if you want kids- but know your body,” Amy said. She uses the example of women who have endometriosis, but don’t know it. Many of these women experience extremely painful periods, but they don’t know why. Awareness and understanding their condition would allow them to better manage their symptoms, and plan their futures.
“If you are going through fertility challenges, the important thing is to treat yourself kindly and with care,” Amy said. “Show some compassion, give yourself some space to deal with everything.” No one expects to go face challenges in their fertility. Amy believes that compassion, education, and support can make a big difference for those experiencing infertility. “If you know someone going through fertility issues, it’s about being there for them- without offering suggestions, or miracle stories, or tips. It’s just about being there for people,” she said. Through her writing, Amy supports women in understanding their health and becoming better advocates for themselves. She serves as the ambassador for Hadassah’s re-Conceiving Infertility initiative to combat stigma and advocate for change. Amy supports the fertility community by raising awareness, and sharing her story.
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