Four Things to Avoid During Infertility Treatment

Some things suck when you have infertility.  It is really hard to go along and get along with others’ requests and demands for attendance at events.  You might have enjoyed spending time with others in the past but now certain things can feel like a hot poker in your eye.  Isolating from the world is too much but being selective about what you want to do—or not—can bring you a sense of control.  Over something, anyway. I am happy today to offer you permission to say, “No.” Or “Nope.” Or “I don’t want to.”  Without any explanations.  Here are four things to avoid during infertility treatment:

  • Baby showers—I know that you know this one already. Baby showers are not happy and silly when you are aching for a child yourself.  #justsayno
  • Family gatherings with children—You know that someone is going to ask you to hold the new baby. Or talk about how cute children are and ask you when you are going to have children yourself.  I know that families can be tricky and demanding.  It is okay to beg off with vague excuses about not feeling well.  #throwingup
  • Anyone who tells you to relax, it will happen, or why don’t you just adopt—Sometimes this one comes out of left field or even from a trusted person. You are there for some chips and dip and a know-it-all has lots of advice for you.  You have permissionNobutton to let that person know that you are not having that conversation.  Then it’s okay to walk away.  #stopit
  • The baby section at stores—Well, duh. I hope that you will spend plenty of time in the baby section later but it’s just too much right now.  Thank goodness for the Internet.  If you need a gift for someone, go to the Web.  Or let your partner do the ordering. #noway

This is a short list.  There are many others.  Please share what has helped you.  Be as snarky as you feel the need to be.  What other types of things and people should others avoid?



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It’s Christmas and You are at the Infertility Clinic

The holiday lights are shining and Christmas carols drift through the air.  Everyone seems so happy. But it’s Christmas and you are at the infertility clinic.  Not so happy.  Maybe not so happy at all.

Infertility and its treatment can be confusing and particularly difficult at holiday time.  The fact that another year has passed without a pregnancy or another child can be very disheartening.  When the dreaded phone call about the latest unsuccessful treatment cycles comes at holiday time, feelings can feel even bigger and worse than usual.  Seeing others’s happiness may bring resentment or despair.  Even the simple act of shopping for gifts for others can be a trial.

Many families have many expectations about holiday traditions and rituals.  You get to exchange gifts with loved ones.  ‘Tis the season, put a smile on your face!  In the past, you might have loved the holiday traditions.  Maybe not this year.  This is even harder when there are children in the family but not in your house.  And Christmas tends to focus on children’s excitement and happiness.

Many of my patients feel overwhelmed by mandatory attendance at holiday events.  Not only is physical presence mandatory but emotional presence seems to be required as well. It is at holiday time that my patients come to me in tears.

“I don’t want to ruin the holidays for my family.  But I’m resentful and I feel left out because I don’t have children.  I don’t have it in me to pretend to be happy when my heart is breaking.”  


At the annual Midwest Resolve conference in the fall of 2014 in Minneapolis in, I gave a talk on depression, anxiety and infertility.  There was a lot of discussion among participants about how to handle the holidays.  You know what happened?  The fifty people in the room all said that they wanted to take a trip to somewhere, anywhere during the holidays. You can consider doing the same. Something different can help your relationship.  And it sure as heck can help you.

And what if you just don’t feel that you can attend holiday events but your partner feels just fine?  It is important to negotiate with your partner about what you can and cannot do.  Maybe you limit the amount of time spent at events.  Maybe you stay in a hotel. Maybe you have a secret signal between you and your partner that says, “Time out” or “Gotta go!” Maybe you spend a lot of time in the bathroom; people don’t follow you in there.  If you decline to attend, be as honest as you can with your family and your in-laws about why you are staying home this year.  Tell them that grieving people aren’t the best party goers and that your doctor gave you permission to take care of yourself.  Here’s an important tip for now and other times of the year:



If you can go to holiday events and you can enjoy something about them, by all means go.  Sometimes acting like things are okay makes it so.   It offers the opportunity to be a part of a treasured group. Maybe it would be feel good to do something that has brought you joy and peace in the past.  You could get the support you have needed. You could teach others about the infertility journey.  Maybe you can take some time off from infertility for an hour or two and just be yourself.

You don’t have much control about infertility.  You do have control over what you do with your time.  You can do what you want–or need–to do during the holidays.  However you do it, use this season as a time to recharge and heal a little.  You and your partner might come up with a new ritual that is just for the two of you.  It is important and even necessary to put yourself first sometimes.  You are always number one to me.


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5 Crucial Infertility Decisions

There is a general assumption that pregnancy will happen in the first month of trying to conceive. That actually is not the case. I know that this comes as a surprise to many. Under the best possible circumstances, people conceive 15 to 20% of the time in any given cycle, assuming that everything is healthy and working.  I was really shocked the first time I heard this statistic. When you are not conceiving easily or it’s taking time, it is crucial that you become your own advocate. There are many decisions to make along the way when you suspect that you have an infertility problem or when you are already in treatment. Here are 5 crucial infertility decisions for you and/or your partner to make that can make the road a little smoother.

1) If Your Intuition Is Pinging, Trust It.
Your intuition is pinging as you try to conceive but things are not going according to plan.  This may come as a sense or a whisper in your mind. It doesn’t always come with words that you can explain or that others can understand. So you check it out with others. Your OB/GYN, your partner, your friends, and others may tell you not to worry, that you have time, that you are young, that you just need to believe or relax or be positive, or that you are trying too hard. I am from a family with a lot of doctors. I like doctors. I am not a physician and I trust their training. However, I trust my intuition just as much as I trust their training. Please trust yours. For example, you know that there is a difference between menstrual cramps and excruciating pain when you get your period.  You are the only one who is living in your body. Intuition is an important type of data. Pay attention. Trust it.

2) Don’t Wait to Go to a Doctor.
Many people live in a place of denial about their fertility. The idea of having a fertility problem can be frightening. It can be difficult to get your mind around it. I understand. Here’s the problem: denial makes problems worse. A lot worse. Denial wastes time that you won’t be able to get back later. I understand that going to a doctor can make a potential problem feel very real and very scary. Make a phone call anyway. If your partner is the optimist and you are more of a realist or pessimist, make an appointment with a doctor. Just do it. Make the phone call. Get some blood and semen testing. It is good to have data, even if you do not like the results. If you are near 40, run to the infertility clinic. If you are in your 20s and you are having trouble conceiving, run to a clinic as well. The decisions we do not make intentionally are the ones that become what I call “non-decision decisions”. Those lead to a lot of internal regret later on.

3) Go to the OB/GYN AND the Infertility Specialist. Get a Second Opinion.
People usually think about going to an OB/GYN when there is the possibility of infertility.  OB/GYN’s take care of “female problems”, right? Well the answer is yes and no. OB/GYN’s are terrific at caring for you when you are pregnant. However, most just dabble in infertility treatment. People will usually start with an OB/GYN because of insurance coverage. That’s fine. It is a good place for an initial conversation. However, going to the OB/GYN can also be affected by your own sense of denial. Denial can become an unintended self-fulfilling prophecy. Let me put it to you this way: if you are having a heart attack, a family practice doctor can probably take care of you. However, you would be better to go to a cardiologist, don’t you think? Unfortunately, people stay too long at the OB/GYN’s office, wasting crucial time that could have been spent better at the infertility clinic. Get a second opinion with an infertility specialist. It is not personal. Your OB/GYN will not be offended; if he or she is offended, you might consider finding a different doctor. This is about your journey, getting to the root of the problem and finding an appropriate solution that will get you pregnant and bring home a baby.

4) Be Flexible About Trying Different Infertility Treatment Options.
It is not uncommon that someone will go through different levels of infertility treatment. You start with Clomid or Letrozole, both oral medication. That doesn’t work so you add intrauterine inseminations (IUIs). That doesn’t work so you drop oral medication and you at injectable ovarian stimulation medication to the IUIs. That doesn’t work so you do in vitro fertilization (IVF). That doesn’t work so you consider donor eggs, donor sperm, donor embryos, working with a gestational carrier (i.e., a surrogate), or choosing to adopt. The many different starts and stops of family building are painful.  They create the hope/uncertainty/devastation roller coaster. Unfortunately, this can be part of this very difficult journey. Fortunately, there are a number of choices. You do not have to like anything about this process. That is a fact. But here is the truth—the people who are the most flexible about trying different family building options are the ones who end up being parents.

5) Know When to Keep Going, When to Rest, and When to Stop.
Family building can feel like a never ending treadmill.  Sometimes you can keep up with it.  Sometimes you just feel like you are running and running but not getting anywhere.  Sometimes you can hardly hang on.  You don’t have to power through this, even though you wanted be a parent years ago. Take your time to think things through.  Plan the journey whenever you can.  Decide the best doctor or clinic.  Decide when you want to start something new.  Decide when it is time to take a break.  I know that taking a break can feel like a defeat or that you are losing time, but it is not.  It is time to regroup and recharge.  People going through chemotherapy take a break in between treatments to catch their breath.  Do the same with infertility treatment.  You can also decide when it is time to stop.  This is not giving up.  This is when you get to stop banging your head against a wall that is not yielding.  Stepping back from the process may be painful or it may be a relief.  Again, it allows you to catch your breath, observe, and gain some perspective on where you have been.

There are many other decisions to make along the way.  I’ll be writing about that as well.  For now, know that you have some control over decisions on this journey.  Use your wise mind and your intuition to find the best path at any given time.

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Dr. Simmons Speaks at RESOLVE Infertility and Adoption Conference 11/8/14

Struggling with infertility?  Considering adoption or surrogacy?  Not sure how to pick a doctor for infertility testing?  Come here me speak on November 8, 2014 at


Exploring Paths of Hope: 30th Annual Resolve Infertility and Adoption

Family Building Conference

Calvary Lutheran Church

7520 Golden Valley Road

Golden Valley, MN  55427

I’m speaking on:

  • Infertility 101
  • Depression, Anxiety, & Infertility:  How Do I Get Through This?
  • Surrogacy and Gestational Carriers
  • Letting Go of the Biological Dream:  Moving on to New Dreams

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Infertility Support Friday with Dr. Deborah Simmons

It’s Infertility Support Friday with Dr. Deborah Simmons, a time when you can ask me any question about infertility and infertility treatment.  This includes unexplained infertility, the mood and physical effects of medications, IVF, donor eggs, donor sperm, surrogacy, PCOS, recurrent miscarriage, and many more important topics.  I’ll give you a compassionate, knowledgeable answer.  What’s on your mind?

Answers on infertility and infertility treatment, IVF, donor eggs, donor sperm, and surrogacy.

And download my free 10 Tips for Surviving Infertility.  Have hope!

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#NIAW Infertility Awareness Week on Instagram: Fantastic!

It’s National Infertility Awareness Week #NIAW this week, April 20-26th, and something FANTASTIC is happening.  The #NIAW photos on Instagram have been personal, real, and have moved me to tears.  Here is a sampling.  Amazing.  Tell me your story at and I’ll post it here  on my blog.  We can teach the world together about the struggles of infertility.





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