A fertility coach can help navigate a patient through their fertility journey. Often when a patient is struggling with infertility they feel lost and overwhelmed.
Hello and welcome to Dreaming of Baby; we are happy to have with us here today Dr Kimberley Thornton who will be discussing fertility treatment options, including fertility coaching, infertility treatment and fertility preservation. Dr, would you be so kind as to tell our readers a little about yourself and what you are currently working on?
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: I am both a board-certified OB/GYN and Reproductive Endocrinologist and Fertility specialist at Reproductive Medicine Associates in NY (RMA NY). I help couples who are struggling to build their families as well as patients who are interested in preserving their fertility for the future. Recently I have also paired up with the Glow Fertility Program, which is a program that helps alleviate some of the emotional and financial burdens of fertility treatment for patients.
CJ: Very interesting, from what I understand Glow Fertility program also offers fertility coaching, this is something I think our readers would be interested in learning more about. I would like to start by asking you what a fertility coach provides and for whom is a fertility coach useful, is it only for people with infertility issues or is a fertility coach useful in other situations?
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: A fertility coach can help navigate a patient through their fertility journey. Often when a patient is struggling with infertility they feel lost and overwhelmed. Many patients don’t know where to begin or who to turn to. A fertility coach can help give guidance on finding a fertility clinic. Fertility treatments can seem very confusing and having someone to talk to about this can be invaluable. Traditionally most fertility coaches work with infertility patients. However, as more women are preserving their fertility for either elective or medical reasons these coaches can also be valuable for these situations.
CJ: Fertility treatments for infertility as well as fertility preservation can be quite costly, how does consulting a fertility coach or going through a fertility program help with this? Is there an increase in financial burden when using a fertility coach?
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: Fertility treatments can be quite costly. While a few states have mandated fertility coverage, the majority do not and many insurance companies do not cover fertility treatment. Additionally, the costs for various services vary from clinic to clinic, and frequently patients may be surprised by additional costs that they may encounter as they begin treatment. In addition to providing useful information and support, the Glow Fertility Program can also help identify potential costs so that patients are fully informed as they embark on their fertility treatment path.
CJ: That is excellent, so would being part of the fertility program include having a fertility coach or is this something separate?
Dr.Kimberley Thornton REI: For Glow this is part of being in their fertility program, which is one of the great things about it. Patients can get both support and financial savings. I cannot speak for all fertility coaching programs as I would imagine it varies.
CJ: Excellent, that is good to know and is there a cost to being in the Glow fertility program?
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: There is no cost to join the Glow Fertility Program.
CJ: Sounds great. I’d like to understand a little more about how a fertility coach helps a fertility patient. Can you walk us through the journey for a couple that is trying to conceive, I am looking to understand how one would benefit from joining the program early on such as at the initial diagnosis stage. Many of our readers are only just starting their journey to parenthood and I think highlighting some of the big decisions and steps involved will make the benefits of a fertility coach clearer.
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: It’s a great idea for patients to speak with a fertility coach prior to a consultation with a physician. Since many patients are confused or overwhelmed by the process, a fertility coach can help provide an overview of what to expect during an initial consultation and assist in the preparation for their first visit. Generally speaking, a fertility evaluation is warranted if a couple has been trying to conceive for a year with no pregnancy for a woman under the age of 35 and after 6 months for women 35 and older. Typically an initial evaluation consists of going through a couple’s medical history, a physical exam, and some basic fertility testing. These fertility tests commonly consist of a gyn ultrasound, some blood tests to evaluate hormones, a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) or “dye test” to see if the fallopian tubes are open, and a semen analysis. Depending on what an evaluation shows will determine which type of treatment a physician will recommend.
CJ: Would I be correct in assuming that it is after the physician’s recommendation that a patient would most likely require the aid of a fertility program?
Infertility is something many people do not talk about and it is common for couples not to even know when they should be evaluated. A fertility program can help couples understand when it is time to see a physician and ease the anxiety of going for an evaluation.
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: Not necessarily. For many patients, the hardest step is walking through the door of a fertility clinic. Infertility is something many people do not talk about and it is common for couples not to even know when they should be evaluated. A fertility program can help couples understand when it is time to see a physician and ease the anxiety of going for an evaluation. Finding a physician can also be confusing for patients. Having someone to guide you on reputable places is also important. The Glow Fertility program only partners with top clinics in the U.S. that have high success rates and can help connect patients to clinics close to them that are appropriate for their specific situation.
CJ: Wow ok, so the program is something that should and could be looked into as early as pre-diagnosis; which as you stated above is a year for a woman under the age of 35 and after 6 months for a woman 35 and older. I believe the program also helps with fertility preservation. There is a lot of debate with regards to the reasons patients are opting for fertility preservation treatments. The main reasons identified so far are career planning, known medical conditions and not having found the right partner. Can you walk us through the process of fertility preservation and some of the guidance a fertility coach may be able to provide?
Egg freezing is a great option for single women while some couples decide they want to freeze embryos rather than eggs.
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: Egg and embryo (a fertilized egg) freezing are great options for women wanting to preserve their fertility for the future. If a woman is interested in learning more about these options she should schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist. Typically testing to look at a woman’s egg reserve is done. This usually consists of a gyn ultrasound and a blood test called an AMH. The process of egg or embryo freezing requires a woman to take injectable medications called gonadotropins in her belly for approximately 1-2 weeks to grow the eggs. Don’t worry the injection needles are small and not as scary as they sound! Once the potential eggs appear ready, they are retrieved through a needle in the vagina while a patient is under some light anesthesia. After that, the eggs are either frozen for the future or fertilized with sperm to form an embryo. Egg freezing is a great option for single women while some couples decide they want to freeze embryos rather than eggs.
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: A fertility coach can help guide a patient in finding a physician as well as provide support for the treatment process. Programs such as Glow even offer egg freezing packages to help patients save money ($3,000 on average).
CJ: That is excellent so what a fertility coach and fertility program provide is someone like you with experience that can help guide a potential patient through the entire process and save them money along the way whilst ensuring they are choosing the right clinics for their needs?
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: Fertility coaches are not MDs, but they have professional and personal experience with infertility and/or fertility preservation. The fertility coaches are not meant to replace a medical professional but are meant to advocate for the patient and provide a support system as they are navigating the fertility treatment process. Fertility coaches also work with pharmacies to ensure that patients are receiving the best care and prices on medication.
CJ: Having this experienced individual not only saves the patient money but also ensures they get the treatment they need and are well informed; this I am assuming also helps with the emotional component. In your experience as an REI, how much of the stress is caused by patients traveling into the unknown? I know to me the idea of having so many decisions to make with little to no knowledge would be stressful and somewhat terrifying.
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: Struggling with infertility or undergoing fertility treatments is one of the most stressful experiences, many patients go through. Infertility patient’s stress level has been shown to be equivalent to patients going through cancer treatment. I think the unknown is one of the worst parts. Having someone to talk through the process and make it a little less scary and unknown always eases stress.
CJ: On behalf of our readers I would like to thank you for having this important discussion with us, the path to parenthood varies for each and every couple. We understand that infertility can complicate the process and it is a privilege to have you here with us and to help our readers find ways to untangle a very complicated process by having the right support in place. Thank you for the work you are doing and for being such an excellent guest. In closing is there anything you would like to tell our readers that are dreaming of baby?
Dr. Kimberley Thornton REI: For anyone who is struggling with infertility, just know that you are not alone and that there are many support programs and fertility specialists who are here for you!