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Debunking 5 Common Fertility Myths with Dr. Lora Shahine of Pacific NW Fertility

Posted on The Fresh Chalk Blog • by Yaprak DeCarmine • Wednesday July 10th

One important thing we've learned in the process of creating Fresh Chalk is just how much impact professionals can have on our lives. Sometimes they practically become a member of our family, and sometimes they go so far as to help us build our family. Fresh Chalk user Dr. Lora Shahine is just that type of professional.

Originally from North Carolina, Dr. Shahine has called Seattle home since 2009. She completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California in San Francisco and her fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Stanford University before developing her practice at Pacific NW Fertility in Seattle. Dr. Shahine explains that she chose her field due to “The combination of exciting innovation in technology with caring for people during an extremely vulnerable time in their lives.”

Dr. Shahine’s own struggles with infertility help her relate to her patients’  internal and external pressures around getting pregnant.

When my patients tell me about how frustrated, angry, or sad they feel through their fertility journey - I can relate to the emotional roller coaster ride they describe. I think this personal experience has contributed to the doctor I am today.

Anyone familiar with infertility, whether it’s their own journey or a loved one’s, knows there are good and bad days. “While success rates are improving all the time, we’re not guaranteed good news every day. The lows are really low in my job because not every patient has success with every fertility treatment, but the highs of helping patients build the family of their dreams are really high!” says Dr. Shahine.

When asked how she copes with the lows, she opens her “sunshine drawer” and takes a peek. A desk drawer dedicated to photos and holiday cards from her previous patients help maintain her contagious optimistic attitude.

In addition to helping families grow, Dr. Shahine is passionate about changing the narrative surrounding infertility and miscarriage from one of shame to one of support and empowerment. As Clinical Faculty at the University of Washington and Director of the Center of Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at Pacific NW Fertility, she cares for patients every day, does academic research, and regularly speaks at medical conferences across the country. As an author of patient-focused books and her active social media presence, she aims to highlight misconceptions about fertility and shatter the stigma around miscarriage.

I want to bust the negativity and myths that cloud people’s minds about infertility and miscarriage any way I can.

Dr. Shahine graciously answered our questions and shared 5 common myths about fertility she’d like to expose.

When should people seek out a fertility specialist?

If under the age of 35, people most often think about seeking a fertility specialist if they have been unable to conceive for a year. If over the age of 35, seek a fertility specialist after 6 months of trying. However, anyone with questions about starting a family should schedule a consult. Both men and women should be proactive about reproductive goals.

What is the most important question everyone should ask a fertility doctor?

Ask for a specific recommendation for your family building plans. The fertility doctor will take into account the patients’ age, fertility test results, and family goals when making a long term plan.

Are there resources and practices you would recommend your clients?

I’ve recently added all of the professionals I refer my Pacific NW Fertility clients to Fresh Chalk. You can access the full list of professionals I trust in adjacent fields  here: https://freshchalk.com/PNWF

In addition to the above, I think patient-run fertility awareness websites like resolve.org and fertilityiq.com have great information and shed a brighter light on the differences between companies.

5 common myths about infertility

❌ I've had a baby before, so I’m fertile.

This is a common misconception for both women and men. Secondary infertility means difficulty conceiving after a previous pregnancy. Many people wrongfully assume that if they have already had a baby or a pregnancy in the past, then they must be fertile. Couples who have easily conceived their first child often take the longest time to seek help when struggling to add to their family. Don’t wait to get an evaluation or ask questions!

❌ If I do IVF, I'll end up with twins.

With advancements in technology like genetic screening of embryos, patients can have a high success rate with a single embryo transfer without taking the risk of multiples. Many twins and triplets do well--but a multiple gestation pregnancy is higher risk for the mother’s health and the babies’ health. The goal should be one healthy baby at a time.

❌ Testosterone improves male fertility.

Giving a man testosterone is like giving a woman birth control pills. Men’s body sees exogenous testosterone (patches, shots, creams) and gets lazy: the testicles stop making their own testosterone and guess what else they stop making? SPERM. Chronic testosterone use will decreases sperm counts. I’ve seen men in my practice that are azoospermic (no sperm at all) after taking testosterone.

Most of the time, sperm production will come back, but, it can take 3-6 months and sometimes more for sperm production to get back to baby making levels. Do NOT take testosterone if you are a man trying to conceive!

❌ I can wait and do IVF later.

IVF doesn’t work for everyone. While it’s amazing technology and I wish it was 100% successful, it’s not. Be an advocate for yourself, learn about your options, and make no assumptions about what IVF can do for you.

❌ I'm healthy and fit, so I must be fertile.

Healthy people should have a fertility evaluation if they are not conceiving just like everyone else after 12 months of trying (or 6 months if you're 35 years or older).

It’s important to note that someone’s personal definition of ‘healthy’ might not be optimal for fertility.

  • Strict vegetarians (although I'm a huge fan of plant-based eating) may be missing important nutrients in their diet.
  • Looking great in clothes may feel good –but– a low BMI may not be optimal for fertility.
  • Men bulking up can feel great and be more muscular with testosterone supplements but a side effect is decreased sperm production.
  • Exercising is wonderful but extreme exercise may be too much for your fertility.

To assist in your fertility planning, you can also check out books authored by Dr. Shahine.

Do you know other great professionals who specialize in infertility? Recommend them on Fresh Chalk today.