Why Has Infertility Been Such a Source of Stigma for Females?

The Stigma of Infertility 

Infertility can carry many feelings, including frustration, fear, and isolation due to the social stigma surrounding it. This experience may feel incredibly lonely as it is often an arduous, confusing, and expensive process to identify the root cause of one’s infertility – let alone begin to treat the problem. 

It can feel as if you are entirely alone in dealing with this grief and frustration; however, according to the World Health Organization, there are one hundred and eighty-six million individuals living with the ongoing effects of infertility.

In heterosexual couples trying to get pregnant, both partners may experience infertility stigma. Even amongst more progressive circles, infertility may be discussed as being one or the other partner’s “fault” without much thought given to the word’s connotation. Though males often experience stigma relating to infertility, this article seeks to understand why, on average, females experiencing infertility have often experienced a greater sense of stigma than their male counterparts. PubMed estimates that infertility affects roughly ten percent of the global population of females. 

The Root of the Stigma

Historically conservative societies, especially those with laws preventing females from having any political standing or property outside their connections to male family members, have been fading out of more progressive regions of the western world. However, the evolutionary baggage still exists in many cultures around the globe today, including the too-often misogynistic system in the United States.

A female’s societal status has historically been tied to their ability to produce viable heirs to inherit property and maintain their family’s social status for generations. Dating back centuries to the Bible is the figure of Sarah, who is often remembered as a “barren” wife, unable to provide a family for her husband Abraham until the age of 90. Although religion takes a less prominent role in many Americans today, and religious text is interpreted far less literally than in centuries past, religious ideology is at the root of many American values. With that often comes the association of females with family.

For example, a large faction of females in the United States primarily associate their purpose with being a mother to their children and a wife to their spouse – as opposed to their individual characteristics or interests. Even Hilary Clinton, the former US Secretary of State, has the following Instagram bio: 

“Doting grandmother, among other things.” Young females often grow up in the United States with role models who consistently define themselves with others instead of by their passions and careers.

Quips about biological clocks ticking and terms like “spinster” carry far more shame than the equivalent “bachelor” used for male counterparts. As male infertility is not as broadly associated with age, men are not shamed in the same way that females may be for causing their infertility issues by not settling down soon enough or not being a desirable enough partner to find the right match. It is no wonder that there is so much social stigma placed on females unable to produce a family.

The Stigma of Miscarriage 

In addition to females experiencing infertility in the form of an inability to get pregnant, millions of females globally hold the grief and loss of their pregnancies that terminated in a miscarriage.  Healthline estimates that ten to fifteen percent of pregnancies result in a miscarriage. 

Those who have not experienced a loss like this can often underestimate the social stigma of treating this pregnancy loss as the death of a child, which, to many females, is how it feels. One such person is Amy Pittman, who beautifully described her loss experience with humor and grace in her Modern Love piece The Internet Still Thinks I’m Pregnant. If you are grieving your miscarriage and feel alone, we hope this resource may be of help. 

The Impact of Stigma

Many females are reluctant to reach out for support or even share the details of their infertility with their broader circle of supporters due to the social stigma associated with it. These feelings of shame in the face of repeated inquiries about when they might start building a family can lead to social isolation and withdrawal, which may result in depression and anxiety. 

According to research conducted by the Isfahan Fertility and Infertility Center in Iran, this social stigma led to lower self-esteem and feelings of inferiority compared to participants’ broader social network of females who did have children. The inability to have children heightened fears about the potential of divorce and further social exclusion. 

Though we often underestimate the physical toll that these more emotional or social influences can have on us, Professor Canli at Stony Brook University discusses the direct correlation between loneliness and the long-term risk of cognitive decline and eventual risk of Alzheimer’s and other serious health concerns in his research on How Loneliness Can Make you Sick. These physical impacts of social isolation can even exacerbate pre-existing infertility issues as they negatively impact the health of patients undergoing fertility treatment.

How to Combat the Stigma

Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility has previously addressed three major forms of stigma ranging from societal to personalized to enacted. It has provided seven recommendations on how to help overcome them. In this article, you will find suggestions ranging from seeking out support groups to empowering yourself through education on the topic of infertility. If you are investigating the right place to begin your journey with fertility treatments, we hope that you will consider contacting our clinic to see how we can help you.

If your loved one is experiencing infertility and you are looking to support them through this experience, we hope that you will find this article helpful as you aid them through their journey.

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The Truth About Assisted Hatching

The number of couples struggling with fertility issues is larger than you think—as many as 15% of couples. Certain fertility treatments, like IVF and assisted hatching, offer hope and provide alternatives that can increase the likelihood of successful conception. If you’re considering IVF and your doctor has suggested assisted hatching, you may have heard that it increases the possibility of twins. We’re here to set the record straight and give you all the information you need to understand whether or not assisted hatching makes sense for you and your situation. 

Graphic with blue background and abstract yellow and white patterns on the side with text that reads "We aim to help deserving people meet their parental ambitions with science-based, clinically-proven fertility counseling.

What is assisted hatching? 

Assisted hatching can be performed as an additional step in IVF or in-vitro fertilization to increase the chances of successful embryo implantation along the wall of the uterus. The process involves creating a small hole in the shell of the embryo (zona pellucida), increasing the probability that the embryo will hatch. Hatching refers to the process of the zona pellucida thinning and cracking open so that the embryo can emerge and implant within the uterine wall. Creating a minor defect in the zona pellucida helps the embryo implant into the uterus and is believed to improve pregnancy rates. 

Who are the primary patients for assisted hatching? 

Not all patients undergoing IVF treatment should consider assisted hatching. This procedure is typically recommended for patients that have not experienced success with IVF on multiple occasions for unexplained reasons or in specific circumstances such as:

  • Are 35+ years old (esp. 38+ years)
  • Have mild elevations in their third day FSH levels
  • Have experienced multiple failures with assisted reproductive technology
  • Have embryos with unusual shells

Does assisted hatching increase the chance of twins? 

While IVF treatment on its own can increase the chance of twins, do remember that the number of embryos transferred during the treatment process directly influences the chances of twins. In plainer terms, when more than one embryo is implanted in the uterus, the potential for a twin birth increases. These days single embryo transfer is more common, which means that conceiving twins through IVF is less common. 

There is a slightly increased risk of identical twins through assisted hatching. If the defect created on the zona pellucida is not the right size it can increase the chances of having identical twins, or in some cases, decrease the chance of pregnancy. 

Do we recommend assisted hatching? 

The short answer is no, we cannot recommend this treatment process. The assisted egg hatching process has not truly been clinically-proven. According to Dr. Gelety, there has only ever been one peer-reviewed study that showed any kind of success in the procedure. This review led to the oft-thought notion now that this procedure is best for women 37 or older. However, this procedure inherently decreases the quality of the embryos, causing a higher likelihood of unsuccessful or damaging procedures. We do not endorse procedures like assisted hatching that scientifically and statistically do not produce high-quality embryos. 

According to Dr. Gelety, another gimmicky procedure offered as an add-on to IVF is preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A), which is used to test for chromosomal anomalies. Like assisted hatching, there is little scientific evidence that these additional IVF add-ons as part of the IVF process have improved a woman’s chance of getting pregnant.  In fact, PGT-A has even been proven to harm women’s chances of pregnancy. It’s also important to note that many of these add-ons like assisted hatching and PGT-A are very expensive due to the process and technology used, making them lucrative services for many clinics while not substantially increasing pregnancy odds.

What is Arizona Center for Reproduction and Endocrinology’s alternative? 

Photo of Dr. Wu in a white lab coat next to two smiling parents and a young child in the fertility office.

At Arizona Center for Reproduction and Endocrinology, we believe reproductive health cannot be a one size fits all approach. Rather than offering expensive, gimmicky procedures that do not have a high likelihood of success, we are committed to our patients first. This means that we will work with you to create a fertility treatment plan that considers and eliminates any problems that might be interfering with implantation. We understand that the desire to have a baby can be so strong that hopeful parents are often willing to try as many available solutions as possible, like assisted hatching. At Arizona Center for Reproduction and Endocrinology, we aim to help deserving people meet their parental ambitions with science-based, clinically-proven fertility counseling.  

When you work with our fertility specialists, we will explore alternative treatments that provide the best outcome for you and your situation. Dr. Timothy Gelety, the Director of Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in Tucson, AZ, has helped countless people make their dreams of a child come true. Our services are open to all people regardless of their gender preference or sexual orientation because we believe every deserving person should have the opportunity to raise a child of their own. If you have any questions feel free to call us at (520) 326-0001, or if you’re ready to set up a consultation, fill out this form, and we’ll get in touch with you soon. 

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Fighting the Stigma of an ICSI Procedure

There’s no denying a stigma exists around male infertility. If you or someone you know is struggling with male factor infertility, they should know that they aren’t alone and that it’s far more common than they might think. About 1 in 6 couples struggle to conceive, and 40-50% of infertility cases are related to male factor infertility. Male infertility does not mean that your chances of conceiving are gone, it just means that there are more roadblocks along the way. Luckily, fertility treatments have advanced enough that there is a way to make pregnancy more likely. ICSI is a procedure that can improve the chances of pregnancy by increasing the likelihood that the sperm will fertilize the egg. 

Who can benefit from ICSI? 

ICSI may be recommended to you if you are experiencing male factor infertility. What impacts male factor infertility? The condition is caused by several issues including, abnormal sperm production, motility, blockage of delivery of sperm, or low sperm production. 

Graphic showing 6 bullet points on how the ICSI procedure can help men who are struggling with fertility issues.

What does the ICSI procedure involve?

ICSI is short for intracellular sperm injection and is an additional procedure performed as part of IVF. As part of the ICSI procedure, sperm is collected either through microsurgical epididymal sperm aspiration (MESA) or percutaneous epididymal sperm aspiration (PESA). Although Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility does not offer this specific service, we can refer excellent doctors and resources that will help you.

After the sperm is collected, the next step is to inject the sperm into a mature egg. Once the sperm fertilizes the egg, we transfer the embryo into the woman’s uterus to begin the pregnancy process.

Please note that, like all fertility treatments, success is not 100% guaranteed, however, ICSI is a very effective treatment. For reference, this procedure fertilizes 50% to 80% of eggs. 

What are the risks of the ICSI procedure? 

While ICSI is an incredible procedure that has helped countless couples successfully conceive, there have been some misconceptions about the level of risk associated with it. Research conducted about the risks of ICSI found that there is a slightly increased risk of birth defects. Though, this risk can be comparable to the risk associated with IVF without ICSI. In both cases, the risk of birth defects is marginally higher than natural conception. Additionally, we can conduct comprehensive prenatal genetic testing to ensure the quality of the embryo and provide the safest, most effective fertility solutions. However, it is the position of Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility to not push for this testing, unless something runs in the family that makes it a justifiable pursuit. 

When you visit us at Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility in Tucson, AZ, you can feel confident that you are receiving the highest quality service to address your individual situation. One of our favorite aspects of our job is helping hopeful parents-to-be experience the beauty and joy of parenthood. Our fertility experts train for years to make sure they offer you the best advice and treatment. We focus on pinpointing the issue, walking you through your options, and providing reliable solutions. If you have any lingering questions about the ICSI procedure or IVF, set up an appointment today by calling 520-326-0001. We are here to discuss your situation at length so we can help you discover the best path to pregnancy.

IUI vs. IVF: What Are the Differences?

Over 6 million people across the U.S. struggle to conceive each year. Fortunately, fertility treatments can help aspiring parents make their dreams of parenthood a reality. Two popular options are intrauterine insemination (IUI) and in vitro fertilization (IVF). People often confuse the two, but an easy way to keep them clearly defined in your mind is to remember that the fundamental difference is in how the egg gets fertilized. Understanding the distinctions between IUI and IVF can help you determine which option might suit your situation the best. 

What is the IUI Process? 

IUIs are considered a less invasive form of fertility treatment, which is why many people may choose to start their fertility journey with IUI. The day of the IUI procedure is selected based on ultrasounds, the woman’s cycle, urinary LH tests, and the status of the developing follicle. The IUI begins with placing washed sperm, which is sperm separated from semen, directly into the uterus using a speculum. This treatment process can begin during a woman’s natural fertility cycle, though it is often performed with fertility medication that increases ovulatory function. By placing the sperm directly into the uterus, the sperm does not have to travel as far to fertilize the egg. 

The Benefits and Drawbacks of IUI

IUI can be a great option for those dealing with PCOS, other anovulation or cervical mucus problems, or sperm health issues—including in same-sex couples; single mothers by choice; and patients with unexplained infertility. IUI is fast, effective and affordable, especially compared with other techniques. The process is pain-free and relatively easy, with low chances of complications.

While the probability of success differs from case to case, IUI boosts the monthly conception rate from 1-3% up to 5-10%. It is worth noting that IUI can be less effective than other methods like IVF. However, it is a great starting point for many starting to use assisted conception. Usually, when IUI is deemed appropriate, a few attempts are made before moving on to alternative, more complex procedures. 

What Does IVF Involve? 

During IVF, the egg gets fertilized in a lab, and the resulting embryo gets transferred back into the woman’s uterus. Typically, patients receive ovary-stimulating medication that causes the body to produce multiple eggs in one cycle. During these 8-12 days, the patient will be monitored with ultrasounds and bloodwork to ensure the process is going smoothly. Then the egg can be fertilized conventionally or through ICSI, intracytoplasmic sperm injection, where a single sperm will be injected directly into an egg. 

The Benefits and Drawbacks of IVF

IVF is one of the most popular forms of fertility treatment. It is a great option for same-sex couples and couples who have not been successful with IUI. The procedure allows doctors to bypass the fallopian tubes, which makes it helpful for patients experiencing blocked, damaged, or absent fallopian tubes. During IVF, the ability to use ICSI, a fertilization process that only requires one sperm cell for each egg, means that the chances of fertilization are higher even among severe cases of male infertility. 

IVF is one of the most successful assisted conception methods, but it is also more expensive than IUI. You should consider age, budget, insurance coverage, and your individual diagnosis when choosing between IVF or IUI. Consulting with one of our fertility treatment specialists is one of the best ways to decide whether IVF or IUI is right for you.

At Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology and Reproductive Fertility, we work with all people, regardless of gender preference and sexual orientation, to resolve the challenges of getting pregnant. We will guide you every step of the way to help you make an informed decision that will give you the best chance at conceiving. Give us a call at 520-326-0001, and our specialists will discuss your options at length and help you set up an appointment. Start your fertility treatment journey today.

The Emotional Side of Becoming a Surrogate

Surrogacy can be immensely rewarding for many women who choose to be surrogates. Giving the joy of a newborn child to a couple who were unable to conceive on their own is a priceless gift of immeasurable value. Any pregnancy can be an emotional journey with highs and lows. However, surrogacy, whether gestational or traditional, comes with its own emotional hurdles. While every surrogacy experience is unique, it can be helpful to understand what to expect.

Before Pregnancy

Women who decide to become surrogates must first apply through a surrogate agency. The application includes a detailed screening process, which will determine whether you are physically and emotionally ready for the surrogacy experience. During this time, you might ask yourself: 

  • Will I be prepared to be pregnant with someone else’s child?
  • Will I be able to commit to the lifestyle required to carry out a healthy pregnancy when it isn’t my child? 

If you believe surrogacy is right for you, you’ll then need to decide if you would prefer gestational surrogacy or traditional surrogacy. Gestational surrogacy includes carrying and delivering a child who has no biological genes of the surrogate. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate provides the egg used for conception and carries out the pregnancy for another couple. Your preference will play a part in matching you with the intended parents. 

The next part of the process includes additional medical screening and legal contract review. Once approved, you will attend monitoring appointments to determine when your body is ready for embryo transfer. 

During Pregnancy

When you become pregnant, you are an important part of a hopeful couple’s journey to parenthood. You experience the shared joy and excitement that comes with conceiving. Prospective or first-time surrogates may be worried that they will form an emotional attachment to the baby they’re carrying. Others may be concerned about their lack of emotional attachment. Everyone’s surrogacy experience is different. 

Surrogates may still feel the emotional ups and downs of hormonal fluctuations common with pregnancy. But, many surrogates find they are better at managing their emotions because they have not bonded with the child in the same way. Often, mothers-to-be struggle with their emotions because of fears that they won’t be a good parent, won’t know how to parent, or don’t know how the child will behave. Since surrogates do not have to worry about the challenges that come with raising a child, they may be better able to separate their feelings for the child they’re carrying from feelings they have for their child. Some even choose to view their pregnancy as “babysitting.” Establishing a bond with the intended parents can help ease the transition both for you and the baby. 

Even if you feel comfortable with surrogacy, there may be times when you have conflicted feelings due to hormone fluctuations. While you can’t control your hormone changes, the feelings can be disorienting, so speaking to someone you trust, whether that includes a surrogacy professional, trusted friend or family member, or therapist can help. 

After Pregnancy

Many surrogates feel excited for the intended parents after the baby is born. However, everyone is different. If you find yourself needing support post-birth, do not be ashamed to reach out to your surrogacy support team. Pregnancy is a difficult but incredibly rewarding experience and giving another couple a chance to raise a child of their own is honorable. Seeing the intended parents’ happiness when they meet their baby for the first time is a moment you will never forget.

We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the unique happiness of raising a child. Our core mission is to guide couples every step of the way to create a treatment plan tailored to their unique situation. We offer a wide range of services that cater to every woman no matter where they are in life at the moment. Learn more


Top 5 Reasons to Become an Egg Donor

A significant number of couples struggle to conceive each year. Visiting a fertility clinic like the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility can provide alternative ways to get pregnant. One of these options is IVF or in-vitro fertilization using donated eggs. Egg donation is life-changing all around. It’s a process that gives a couple or a single woman struggling with infertility a new opportunity to start a family. It is a chance to play a key part in bringing new life to this world while giving another woman the experience of pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, even when her own eggs are not a viable option. 

Here are the benefits a potential egg donor should consider before deciding whether or not egg donation is right for them: 

1.) Help Others Start a Family

Infertility can be soul-crushing news and even more difficult to bear when paired with the added stress from previous efforts to get pregnant. This diagnosis can seriously shift a family’s hopes and visions for the future. But through egg donation, you can significantly alter a couple’s life by playing a part in their journey to parenthood and giving them the ability to conceive. Egg donation is a truly selfless act that helps couples achieve their dreams of having children and experience the joys of parenthood. The gift of a chance to give birth is priceless and is something that will have a lasting impact for years to come. 

2.) Gain Insights into Your Fertility

If you decide to undergo the process of egg donation, you will need to complete several medical and physical tests to ensure your health. These tests may seem like a lot of work, but after completing the tests, you will have comprehensive insight into your own health and fertility which will better equip you to prepare for your own future — whether that includes children of your own or not. 

3.) Preserve Eggs for Yourself Too 

Many women are not ready to have children yet but may want to have the option later on in life. When you choose to donate eggs, you may be given the option to freeze some of your eggs for yourself. Since the retrieval process is the same for egg freezing and egg donation, it may make sense to consider doing both at the same time. 

4.) Access to Free Health Screenings 

Again, the process of egg donation requires multiple health screenings and physical tests. These include screening for STIs, chromosome analysis, identifying inheritable diseases, and psychological examination. These screenings and genetic testing processes may otherwise cost thousands of dollars but are free of charge to you as a donor. You will be receiving free health screenings with the added benefit of gaining more knowledge about your health, genetics, and fertility.

5.) Receive Compensation 

For many couples, the chance to experience pregnancy and childbirth is priceless, but monetary compensation for egg donation can go a long way toward helping you financially. In addition to receiving medical testing and examination free of charge, donors may receive a number of other medical and financial benefits. Some women can earn up to thousands of dollars donating their eggs. The amount of compensation varies depending on the vitality of the eggs,  previous history of successful pregnancies, and donor demand.

Egg donation is a decision that will have a significant positive impact on aspiring mothers-to-be struggling to conceive. Any woman in good health from the ages of 19 to 29 can be an egg donor. To see if you qualify for our egg donation program, please submit an online application. If you are interested in learning more about egg donation, visit our website
At the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we believe that all couples deserve to know the joys of raising a child. Give us a call at 520-326-0000. We are happy to discuss your unique situation at length and help you discover the most suitable solution to meet your individual needs. We offer a wide range of services that cater to every woman no matter where they are in life. Learn how we can help you.

What Can I Do to Boost Fertility?

Studies show that about 1 in 6 couples struggle with fertility. If you are one of the many who run into this issue, there are a few things you can do to potentially boost fertility and increase your chances of getting pregnant. While there will always be factors beyond your control, making lifestyle, diet, and behavior adjustments are a few natural and easy ways to try and increase fertility. 

Track your period

First and foremost, period tracking can help you figure out and understand your menstrual cycle better. Being aware of when your cycle occurs can also clue you in to when your body is ovulating. Just like menstruation, ovulation varies month-to-month based on environmental and internal factors like stress, diet, and exercise. By tracking your period, you will be better able to time your conception efforts more easily. 

Keep in mind that period tracking apps can’t give an exact date on ovulation, but that doesn’t mean the information isn’t useful. Period tracking apps can provide a good basis for understanding your body better. Beyond being a pregnancy aid, tracking your period has a host of benefits that we discussed in a previous blog post

For more accurate and detailed ovulation detection, try tracking basal body temperature, breast sensitivity, and cervical mucus. You can even purchase ovulation tracking kits at your local pharmacy.

Maintain a healthy diet

As mentioned previously, diet is one factor that impacts your menstrual cycle and ovulation. There are certain foods that you can incorporate into your diet that have been shown to increase your fertility. Eating antioxidant-rich foods may help boost fertility in both women and men. This includes foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and grains which are packed full of beneficial antioxidants like vitamins C and E, folate, beta carotene, and lutein.

Aside from antioxidants, be sure to incorporate healthy fats like avocado and olive oil. Avoid trans fats commonly found in hydrogenated vegetable oils, margarine, fried foods, processed products, and baked goods. Trans fats have been found to negatively impact ovulation levels. Studies have found a correlation between a diet higher in trans fats and lower in unsaturated fats and infertility for both men and women. 

For women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), following a low-carb eating plan can help improve hormone levels and increase the odds of getting pregnant. Minimizing refined carbs can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower levels of testosterone and insulin, hormones that contribute to infertility. 

Opt for full-fat dairy instead of skim and low-fat dairy products. Studies show a connection between consuming full-fat dairy and fertility. Women who had consumed one or two servings of high-fat dairy products had been found to have higher chances of getting pregnant than those who consumed low-fat dairy.

Cut the caffeine

Many of us cannot live without our daily cup of coffee, but consuming too much caffeine may make conceiving more difficult. Studies have not conclusively proven that caffeine has a direct effect on fertility, but consider limiting your caffeine intake to one or two 6- to 8-ounce cups of coffee a day to err on the side of caution. 

Avoid alcohol

Alcohol has been proven to negatively affect fertility and decrease the likelihood of pregnancy, though it is unclear how much alcohol needs to be consumed for this effect to take place. Though a few sips of alcohol here and there are okay, most doctors will likely recommend avoiding alcohol completely or at least avoiding excessive consumption. 

Exercise caution when exercising

There is such a thing as too much exercise. For women trying to boost fertility, vigorous daily exercise can decrease the body’s production of the hormones that stimulate ovary function. This can cause the ovaries to become less active and stop producing eggs and estrogen. This risk increases with exercise duration and intensity. Moderate exercises like walking, yoga and barre that are low intensity are great ways to stay active, while high-intensity exercises like running, cross-fit, and spin classes should be avoided for the time being. 

Reduce stress and increase relaxation

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a while, you may have felt more stressed out than normal. The added stress of trying to conceive can increase levels of cortisol, which can cause irregular cycles. Take the time to sit back and relax. Engage in more activities like meditation, deep breathing exercises, or even cognitive behavioral therapy. Find activities that help you unwind like doing yoga, watching your favorite movies or shows, drawing a bath for a nice soak— basically whatever helps you. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help 

Although there is no singular cure-all to boost fertility, making a few lifestyle changes can increase your chances of getting pregnant. Still, many couples struggle to get pregnant at no fault of their own. Reproduction is a complicated process that requires getting the timing right in balance with other bodily systems. Sometimes, unknown factors can make pregnancy more complicated. If you have been trying to conceive without success for more than a year, you might consider seeking fertility treatment. At the Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we offer a wide range of services to meet every woman’s individual needs. Learn more.

5 Reasons Community Support is So Important During Infertility Treatments

Having a support system in place as you go through fertility treatments is so important. You don’t have to brave the stress and the ups and downs of this journey alone—because you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), out of 100 couples in the United States, about 12 to 13 of them have trouble becoming pregnant


While friends and family will do their best to support you, sometimes you need to turn to, talk to, and vent to people who deeply understand exactly what you’re going through. At Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, our team is always here to lend and ear and support you, but we’re no match for a true infertility support community. Here are five reasons we recommend finding and connecting with a community while you’re in the process of trying to have a baby.

You’ll receive validation of your feelings and experiences

There is powerful validation in knowing that other people share your experiences. Hearing stories that parallel you own gives you a sense that you’re not alone. Communing with others going through infertility treatments may validate your worries, sadness, and frustrations as well. On the flip side, it may also give you hope, strength, and encouragement you’ll find only through hearing the stories of people in situations similar to yours. Plus, when you share your own stories you’ll feel a unique sort of empathy as you validate the feelings of others.

You’ll be a part of destigmatizing infertility

Being a part of a group that can openly talk about their experiences with infertility helps destigmatize some of the issues with reproductive health. It shifts the narrative from something that’s taboo (as society often treats it) to something that’s normal, quite common, and nobody’s fault. When conversations surrounding infertility and the general complexities of trying to conceive can exist out in the open, the shame and judgment that often surround it will begin to dissipate.

You won’t have to worry about judgement or uncomfortable questioning

Even the most well-intentioned family members or friends may unknowingly overstep a boundary, say the wrong thing, or ask something that feels a little judgmental. A community who has gone through or is going through the same thing you are will not judge your circumstances or situations. They also won’t ask you intrusive, stressful, or otherwise inappropriate questions. Again, you’ll be able to share your thoughts and feelings pretty openly, without the fear of being judged (or stigmatized).

You’ll experience better mental health

The right community will make you feel genuinely understood, listened to, seen, and supported. Without the worry of facing stigmatization or judgement, you’ll be able to open up and really connect with others. Having a community in and of itself is key for a healthy mental state, but having a community where you can lay out all your stress and anxiety does even more to boost your mental health. With a community of support, you’ll be able to better build the resilience you need to get through difficult treatments and potential heartbreaks. (However, it’s important to note that even the best of communities cannot replace the help of a therapist; if you are experiencing severe mental health issues, like major depression or anxiety, we encourage you to talk to a therapist.)

You’ll have more people to turn to for support

When it’s difficult to turn to family and/or friends, people dealing with infertility will often rely on their partners for support. While the two of you may be going through this journey together, it doesn’t mean you’ll both experience the same feelings or cope the same way. Reproductive difficulties can affect relationships in a variety of ways, sometimes even causing resentment, communication issues, or emotional distance. You might find that speaking to people other than your partner to be incredibly helpful—not just because others may possibly relate more closely to what you’re going through, but also because they can share perspectives that pave the way for more open and encouraging conversations with your partner.

Our team at AZCREI is always here to help you connect with a group and answer any questions you may have about infertility and your reproductive health. If you’re having difficulty getting pregnant and want support or more information, we can help. You can contact us or make an appointment by visiting us online or calling (520) 326-0001.


Sex Ed: What You Should Know About the Menstrual Cycle

When was the last time you really thought about the menstrual cycle? Our guess is high school sex ed or health class—at least until fertility became a struggle. The fact is, the menstrual cycle, which is far more than just a monthly period, plays an important part in fertility for people with uteruses.

Understanding the different phases of the menstrual cycle and knowing where you are in yours can be helpful in many ways. During your initial consultation at Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we’ll ask about your medical history, which includes information about your menstrual cycle, as irregularities can be a sign of a reproductive health condition that can hinder a pregnancy, like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Tracking your cycle is also important when it comes to insemination and similar procedures.

For that reason, here’s what you should know about the menstrual cycle—from its purpose to phases.

The Basics

The main purpose of the menstrual cycle is to prepare the body—specifically the uterus—for the possibility of pregnancy. Each month, follicles in the ovaries are stimulated, an ovary releases an egg, and the menstrual cycle begins. Once the last phase of the cycle ends, the first one begins again, and the cycle continues—until a pregnancy occurs or until menopause (which is the end of the menstrual cycle).

The menstrual cycle can last between 24 to 38 days, with an average length of 28 days. And it can be impacted by several factors, including age, lifestyle, health conditions, and hormonal birth control.

The Phases

Menstrual cycles can be broken into four phases: the follicular phase, ovulation, the luteal phase, and the menstrual phase.

The Follicular Phase

The follicular phase starts on the first day of your period and ends with ovulation—around 14 or 15 days later (based on a typical cycle). During this phase, the pituitary gland releases two hormones, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones stimulate the ovary to produce around five to 20 follicles; the first one matured is then released as an egg, or ovum. The immature follicles that haven’t developed enough for ovulation are reabsorbed and die off. While this is all happening, the body’s levels of estrogen increase, which prompts the uterine lining to thicken in preparation for implantation.


Ovulation is the next phase, and only lasts one day. This is when one of the ovaries releases a matured egg for possible fertilization; then fimbriae, which are finger-like tendrils along the fallopian tubes, move the egg through the tube and into the uterus. The five days leading up to and the day of ovulation are considered your “fertile window,” when chances for conception are the highest.

The Luteal Phase

The last phase of the cycle is the luteal, or secretory, phase—which lasts about 14 days. In this phase, the ruptured follicle (that released the egg during ovulation) transforms into the corpus luteum, which increases progesterone levels and thickens the uterine lining to make it a receptive home for a fertilized egg to implant itself. If pregnancy does occur, the corpus luteum will continue to produce progesterone and the implanted embryo will begin to produce human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is what pregnancy tests use to determine a pregnancy. However, if fertilization does not occur during this phase, then progesterone levels will fall again and your period will start.

The Menstrual Phase

This is the time of your cycle when your period, or menses, occurs; this phase typically lasts four to seven days. Your period is a visual marker that helps you distinguish the beginning and end of ovulation. When you have your period, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease and your body sheds the uterine lining that was created during the previous cycle.

If you have any questions about your menstrual cycle, we are here to answer them! We want you to feel knowledgeable and confident in what’s happening in your body, and how it may be affecting your fertility. You can make an appointment for a consultation by calling us at 520-326-0001 or visiting us online.



What is the ‘Rhythm Method’ for Family Planning?

You may have heard of the ‘rhythm method’ in regards to birth control, but it can be used to promote fertility as well. In fact, as birth control, it’s highly ineffective for preventing pregnancy, but when the principles are reversed—to determine your fertile window, or peak fertility days—it can be very helpful.

When couples or people with uteruses are struggling with getting pregnant and come to visit us at Arizona Center for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility, we always ask them about their menstrual cycles and history. With the rhythm method—regardless of how you plan to use it—it’s extremely important to keep close tabs on your cycle, and therefore can help you relay crucial information to our team.

Here’s what you should know.

What is the Rhythm Method?

The rhythm method, which is also sometimes called the calendar method or the calendar rhythm method, is a form of natural family planning. It can be used as a way to promote fertility or as a method of contraception, by helping you determine the best days to have or avoid unprotected sex. When you’re trying to get pregnant, you can use the rhythm method to determine when you’re at your peak fertility, and should be having intercourse.

(In contrast, you could also use the rhythm method to avoid pregnancy, using it to determine which days you’re most fertile and avoid having unprotected sex on those days. Some women choose to use the rhythm method if a medical reason limits their traditional birth control options, or for religious reasons. It’s important to note, however, that several factors, including medications, stress, illness, and underlying medical issues, can affect the exact timing of ovulation. This is why using the rhythm method as a form of natural birth control can be ineffective, especially if your cycle is irregular.)

How It Works

Using the rhythm method to achieve a pregnancy requires careful record keeping and persistence. For the most accuracy, you must keep detailed track of your menstrual history in order to predict when you’ll ovulate. Again, this helps you determine when you’re most fertile and most likely to conceive. This is how you’d do it:

  1. Record the length of six to 12 of your menstrual cycles. Use a calendar or notebook to write down the number of days in each menstrual cycle, beginning from the first day of one period to the first day of the next period. There are also several period tracking and fertility tracking apps that can help you record these dates.
  2. Based on what you’ve tracked, determine the length of your shortest menstrual cycle. Then subtract 18 from the total number of days in your shortest cycle. This number represents the first fertile day of your cycle. For example, if your shortest cycle is 24 days, subtract 18 from 24; your answer is six. In this example, the first day of your cycle is the first day of your period, and the sixth day of your cycle is the first day of your fertile window.
  3. Now, determine the length of your longest menstrual cycle. Subtract 11 from the total number of days in your longest cycle. This number represents the last fertile day of your cycle. For example, if your longest cycle is 35 days, subtract 11 from 35; your answer would be 24. Again, in this example, the first day of your cycle is the first day of your period, but the 24th day is the last day of your fertile window.
  4. Plan for intercourse during your fertile days.

For the most accuracy using the rhythm method, it’s important to update your calculations every month, since the length of your cycle—which affects your fertile window—can change.

Relying solely on the rhythm method to achieve a pregnancy doesn’t work for everyone—especially if your cycles are irregular or if you’ve tried to conceive for several months with no success.

At AZCREI, we want to help you realize your dreams of having a happy, healthy baby, and we have several options to help you do so. If you’d like to discuss the rhythm method as a fertility or birth control method or to get started on your fertility journey, schedule an appointment with our team by calling (520) 326-0001 or visiting us online.