Table of Contents
From the Editor
Jane recently added a post on the Forum. titled, “Research Request”. The post is an invitation to join a study “to determine how much genetic carrier screening information a recipient would prefer to receive about their potential egg and sperm donors. The study will also aim to identify factors that influence an intended parent’s choice of donor based on genetic screening results.”
This got me thinking about my own experience. It wasn’t until I was going through fertility screenings that I learned I carry the gene that causes sickle cell disease. I had no idea.
I had no qualms about choosing a donor who did not have the same gene, even though doing so removed whole ethnic groups as potential donors. This brings me back to the study. What would you want to know about your potential donors at the genetic level? Addiction, color blindness, obesity, Down syndrome, Alzheimer’s, cancers, MS, even infertility are thought to have a genetic link. Would you want to conceive as naturally a possible, including taking chances on the genetic predispositions your donor might pass down? Or would you take full advantage of the technology at your disposal?
Stops Along The Way: Questions From The Journey
One SMC Thinker posed the perfect question on our Forum, one that many of us agonize over, no matter where we are on the this journey: Is My Village Too Small?
We know we’ll need help at some point along the way, but how much can you plan for help from others? This mom wonders how you did it:
… “were you able to build a network with other moms while pregnant/when your kids were babies? Did you find yourself in the sandwich generation, taking care of both kids and parents (without help from a partner)? Do you just find ways to make it work because you want it so much?”
And how has your village grown as your child has grown? Here’s another question: For mothers of sons, have you made a special effort to include male role models in your village?
Forum post reference: https://forums.singlemothersbychoice.org/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=26183
Part of this journey is the unknown. Read that again. Of course part of this journey IS unknown, but that is a different thing entirely than THE Unknown. What falls into the category of The Unknown:
You or him? What’s causing your negative pregnancy tests? Is it you or the donor? The lack of a definitive answer can be maddening. To save yourself some sanity, when do you let go of your favorite donor and try someone new? “Should I change donors?” tackles that question head-on.
Forum Post reference: https://forums.singlemothersbychoice.org/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=26181
Also part of the Unknown is not knowing when your child/children will grasp that your family may not be like everyone else’s. One pre-schooler informed his SMC that he wants a daddy and a brother. Uh-oh. Now what?
The first thing to remember: Do not take it to heart. The second to remember: It happens. The thing to remember: We are here for you!
Ask the Doctor
“Ask the Doctor” is an exciting new feature in our Newsletters. The column is written by experts who are affiliated with the wonderful sperm banks and fertility centers who are our long-term advertisers. If you have a question to ask our doctors, please send it to SMCemail@example.com.
This Issue, we are featuring a Q & A with Dr. Spencer Richlin, of Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT).
Q: What can I do to prepare for pregnancy while I am still considering single motherhood?
A: Women do not need to finalize their family building plans before starting to prepare for pregnancy. There is clinical evidence that suggests that oocytes (commonly referred to as women’s eggs) age more quickly when they are susceptible to adverse environmental factors, such as oxidative stress, obesity, smoking, alcohol, and psychological stress. Improving lifestyle habits such as diet, exercise and sleep can counter these stresses for oocytes and improve a woman’s fertility in just 90 days.
Below are my top four tips; for a complete preconception check list, go to http://www.singlemomstobe.com/prepare-for-pregnancy/how-to-have-a-healthy-baby/.
1. Make an Appointment with Your OB/GYN
If you’re considering getting pregnant in the near future, you should check your fertility and reproductive health today. Make your annual appointment with your OB/GYN for a physical exam and blood tests, which should include an anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) test. AMH is a protein secreted by small follicles in the ovary that decreases gradually over a woman’s reproductive years; the level of this hormone is one of the best markers of a woman’s fertility potential.
2. Boost Folic Acid
Nutrition and eating habits impact every aspect of our bodies. The more educated we become about nutrition, holistic health and epigenetics (how the environment and foods we consume may affect our individual gene expression), the better. This knowledge can empower us to make better decisions about our diet. If there is only one change that you make to your nutrition prior to conception, increase your folic acid intake. This has been clinically proven to significantly reduce the incidence of birth defects and neural tube defects such as spina bifida, which occurs when the spine and back do not close during development.
3. Get more sleep
Sleep is the body’s natural healer. During sleep, the body rejuvenates, repairs, grows, and promotes optimal immune system functioning. When we deprive ourselves of sleep, the body grows increasingly stressed, damaged, and more prone to illness.
4. Take CoQ10 Supplements
There is strong evidence that CoQ10, which is a coenzyme that the body produces naturally, improves the quality of the oocyte as well as the energy available for cell division and other functions. A recent clinical study published in Fertility & Sterility links oocyte health with mitochondria, which are the “powerhouse” of cells. Mitochondria provide energy and maintain cell growth in oocytes; later, this is important to embryos, which rely on mitochondria for cell growth with normal chromosome development and cell turnover that propels embryo development to sequential stages. While more research is being conducted to affirm that CoQ10 can improve mitochondria health, there is no medical downside to taking CoQ10 now.
Even while a woman is still considering her options for single motherhood, there are several important, non-invasive habits that she can proactively start. This can help give mom and baby the best possible chance of a healthy pregnancy and healthy child.
Spencer Richlin, MD
Dr. Spencer Richlin is Surgical Director and a Partner in reproductive endocrinology at Reproductive Medicine Associates of Connecticut (RMACT). In addition, he is Division Chief of Reproductive Endocrinology at Norwalk Hospital. Dr. Richlin is board-certified in both Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility and Obstetrics & Gynecology. In addition to treating couples Dr. Richlin has enjoyed helping single female patients navigate their path to starting a family over the years. He will recommend the best course of treatment that will lead to successfully taking home a baby, whether that treatment is minimally invasive or involves more medically-advanced forms of assisted reproductive techniques (ART).
Dr. Richlin is a 2011 US News Top Doctor, Castle Connolly 2015 New York Metro Top Doctor, 2015 Fairfield County Top Doctor and a 2015 Castle Connolly Top Doctor.
Dr. Richlin has published numerous abstracts, articles and book chapters. His most recent contribution was as a writing member of The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology PROLOG Seventh Edition for Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility (2014). PROLOG is a personal study resource for the practicing obstetrician-gynecologist. It is used as a study tool, reference guide and a way of obtaining up-to-date information in the specialty of reproductive medicine.
In 2015, he received The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Council on Resident Education in Obstetrics and Gynecology National Faculty Award.
My Only Regret Is That I Waited So Long
I’ve always wanted to have children, always wanted to mother. I’ve been an au pair to other families, spent time with all of the kids of friends and family. I hoped and assumed, of course, that I would have a family of my own when the time came.
I suppose that’s the tricky part – that time thing. Like many, I’ve been in a series of long relationships that have not withstood the tests of time. A long medical training that I started when I was twenty-eight ended ten years later. And there I was, at thirty-eight, for the first time seriously thinking of having a child on my own.
So many questions came to mind – how could I do it? How could I make it work in time and money and love? And most importantly, would it be, could it be fair to bring in child into the world who would not know his or her biological father? These are tough questions, and every SMC I know has struggled with them. But at the time, now almost nine years ago, I was just plain sad that I did not have a partner to undertake this endeavor. What I had always imagined – love, marriage, baby – hadn’t happened for me yet, and there was a melancholy quality to my view of single motherhood. I knew that a heavy heart could not care for a infant or child, could not offer the kind of life I would want to give to my child. So I waited. Threw more baby showers. Held more babies. More time went by, another relationship developed and sadly faltered around the issue of having children.
Single again and now pretty secure in my career as a psychiatrist, I asked those tough questions again, and decided to move. It took about a year from the time of my decision to try to have a child to pregnancy. A long, scary year filled with the statistics I knew about, somewhere in the back of my brain (after all, I was in medicine) but had really avoided. After some tough sessions with a wonderful reproductive endocrine group, I decided to jump right in and try IVF. The chances of having a healthy baby using my own, 43 year-old eggs, they told me, were about 7% (who knows where that number came from, but I swear that’s what I remember).
There is much I could say about the decision to proceed given the tremendous cost IVF and low odds of success, about the process of two rounds of IVF; these can be tough, tough times for women and couples. But there was a meaningfulness in it for me, because I was finally doing something that I had wanted for so long.
Pregnancy was easy, and that was just plain good fortune – those hormones were just right for me! I received warm and enthusiastic support from friends, family and professional colleagues. My daughter was almost born on the Bay Bridge, because, the obstetrician announced admiringly, I had the uterus of a twenty-year old.
I have the warmest memories of pregnancy and delivery, which is probably both a statement about dumb luck and the distortion inherent to memory. My daughter is now two and a half years old, and my only regret is that I waited so long. Life is very, very full.
There is much I could say about the experience of parenting, and parenting without a partner. I am incredibly fortunate to be so supported in my professional life as well as my personal world. My professional life is very, very busy: days and nights seem to fly by. But every parent of babies and toddlers struggles to fit everything in. I had years in which time was spent on myself – this very different time is filled with a joy and a wonder that all the night life, swell San Francisco cuisine and great culture couldn’t really bring me.
To do it all again – I’d still prefer to have had a partner, I struggle with how my daughter and I will discuss and understand her biological father (an anonymous sperm donor). But this is absolutely the sweetest time of my life. And this little girl – her own kind of miracle.
What’s The Buzz?
Please join us in welcoming our newest CP’s!
Sarah Ensor (New Zealand); firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashleigh Emerick (San Francisco, CA); email@example.com
The Things Kids Say!
Ah, the freedom to tell it like it is and have people think it’s cute, like these little ladies who had absolutely no time for niceties!
One mom recalls a time when first grade was starting and she was completing the “tell me about your child” form for her daughter’s teachers:
“I asked Sophie, “What are you interested in?” and she said, “I’m interested in getting an iPod.”
Miss Cristina wanted to be clear on what she expected from kindergarten. Recalls her mother, “We were talking about what she would be learning in school. I said that she would learn lots of things, that she would learn how to read books.
She said “I don’t want to learn how to read books, I just want to learn how to read minds!”
We’d like to warmly welcome our newest members!
We’re sending congratulations and well wishes to SMC Melissa in Virginia who has shared with us her wonderful news:
I am pleased to announce the birth of my daughter, Alice, born January 13, 2016.
Alice is a beauty, and we are all so happy for you, Melissa!
If you’d like to include your announcements in our next issue, please send any information to our wonderful editor, Bridgette at firstname.lastname@example.org