I remember well the exact moment that I wanted to become a mother. At the time I didn't so much correlate the literal, pull at my womb to motherhood as far as pregnancy, but ultimately they are two in the same. I heard the exciting news of another's new pregnancy, and it happened - my body physically responded with what I can only describe as tug at my uterus. I was 27 and in just over six months later, what had been the topic of oxytocin infused pillow talk was becoming a reality. We were having a baby.
We were young (ish), excited, and also nervous. In the early weeks of the first trimester and we excitedly moved into a home with more space, we had a scare. I started spotting, and through the course of the weekend, thanks in part to Dr. Google, and anxiety, convinced myself I had miscarried. We were devastated. Come Monday morning, the pulsating visual of a heartbeat confirmed, in fact, I had not. Also, that when they tell you not to participate in heavy lifting in the first trimester, they are referring to couches.
However, I learned two significant things that weekend. 1. the heartbreak one feels when you lose something so special that you don't yet have, while it hails in comparison to an actual miscarriage. 2. all babies conceived, carried to term, and delivered healthy are miracles. Conception, pregnancy, and delivery are fascinating feats that our body performs in which a host of variables must come together in synchrony with precise timing. It's nothing short of amazing.
What's even more incredible than the anatomical process of creating life is the help we have from our modern world to help us achieve it if need be. When it came time to expand our family a few short years later, things didn't fall into place nearly as quickly. We tried for a solid six months, without success, due to difficulty nailing down ovulation - a problem solved painlessly with the use of store-bought ovulation predictors. What a time to be alive, I thought! That experience, again, gave me just a glimpse into the frustrating reality that growing a family can be for some couples. I have known couples who have fought the discouraging battle with fertility, seen marriages strained, and wiped the tears of mothers who have felt the pang of pregnancy loss.
Fertility and its role in our society are quite intriguing to me, so when I received an invitation to learn about what Reproductive Medicine Associates of Florida and Dr. George Patounakis have planned for the families of central Florida, I jumped at the bit. Once again, the phrase that came to mind several times during Dr. Patuounakis' presentation was "What a time to be alive."Reproductive Medicine Associates of Florida and Dr. George Patounakis have planned for the families of central Florida, I jumped at the bit. Once again, the phrase that came to mind several times during Dr. Patuounakis' presentation was "What a time to be alive."
As women, there is no other time in history where we can actively choose to preserve our fertility for a later, more convenient or financially stable time. Or have options available to us that allow us the safest most successful way to "build our family," a phrase that RMAFL uses to define their mission. Opening in Lake Mary, Florida December 11th, they are changing the face of the average fertility clinic here in Central Florida. Through fertility preservation (think: freezing your eggs), and the most refined method In-vitro fertilization, their primary goal (and definition of success) is one healthy baby.
They have refined the process of genetic testing, and the timing of the embryo transfer to increase their success rates of the delivery of one healthy baby. It's such an exciting opportunity to have the medicine of this caliber in Central Florida available to us, and I caught up with Dr. Patounakis afterward to get some words of wisdom to share with you before their official open in December.
1. What is it about Reproductive Medicine that you feel passionate?
I love helping patients during every step of the process to achieve their goal of growing their family. Many patients, when they initially see me, are frightened about the unknowns which may lie ahead during their journey through infertility. I am committed to both comforting patients emotionally while offering them the latest scientific breakthroughs to help them achieve their goal.
2. What advice do you have for women who want to start a family in the next few years, but are concerned they might have trouble conceiving?
First off, 85 out of 100 women (85%) of reproductive age probably won’t have a problem conceiving. It is the other 15 out of 100 women (15%) that have an infertility issue, though. The problem is you don’t know which category you are in (fertile 85% versus infertile 15%) until you have started to try. If the concern with having trouble conceiving keeps you up at night, then please schedule an appointment with an infertility specialist so you can discuss what options are available for testing and what the limitations are of that testing. As infertility specialists, we don’t have a crystal ball to predict fertility in patients that have not started trying yet, but we can use all the tools we currently have available to give you some insight.
3. Are there any preventative measures that women can take to protect their reproductive health (i.e.. lifestyle choices)?
Some lifestyle choices we recommend for overall general good health also help avoid infertility. Following a well-balanced diet along with regular exercise to achieve a healthy weight can go along for avoiding infertility and minimizing pregnancy complications once you are pregnant. We also strongly recommend that patients stop smoking because smoking can reduce the quality of eggs (and sperm). Another lifestyle choice that can help prevent infertility later in life is practicing safe sex to avoid acquiring a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Certain STIs can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes which leads to blockage keeping the egg and the sperm from interacting.
4. In your opinion, what top 3 criteria should women must consider when choosing a reproductive specialist?
The top 3 criteria for choosing a reproductive specialist are the reputation of the provider/clinic, success rates of the clinic and the right fit regarding personality that matches what the patient desires.
Whether or not you suffer from infertility, you have to admit that advancements in science like this, happening in our back yard is pretty cool. And for women and families personally affected- it has the potential to be life-changing.