5 Fertility Health and Wellness Tips

Trying to get pregnant should, theoretically, be THE MOST FUN THING EVER. At the start of the COVID19 pandemic, many women delayed child bearing plans, and many infertility clinics were shuttered. But, as the COVID19 pandemic now drags on, thousands of women across the country are trying to figure out how best to protect themselves and their chances of conceiving. Trying to get pregnant is, in fact, valuable training for parenthood. When it comes to having kids, you will never have complete control again (much like everything about living through a global pandemic).

At ART Compass, we guide the “TTC” (trying to conceive) journey, so we decided to put together the top fertility tips from our experts. Once couples decide it’s time to have a baby, having to wait is quite frustrating, whether you have lost a job, income, health insurance related to COVID19, or you’ve been trying for a year or for a month and you’re still not pregnant yet.

1. Take your Prenatals, Folic Acid, Vitamin D, and CoQ10

Folic Acid is the single most recommended substance, because it prevents major birth defects in the developing brain and spine of your baby. Many different studies have pointed out the ability of Coenzyme Q10 supplementation, 600 mg/day for 60 days, to improve the ovarian response to stimulation. Although the data for vitamin D and fertility is not entirely conclusive, several studies have found that vitamin D blood levels of 30 ng/mL or higher are associated with higher pregnancy rates.

2. Track Your Ovulation like a Stalker 

Recently, Harper et. al. looked at over half a million ovulation cycles worth of data collected via the FDA Approved Natural Cycles app to enhance our understanding of the key stages of ovulation. The results demonstrated that few women have that textbook 28 day cycle, with some experiencing very short or very long cycles. The findings show that an average cycle lasts for 29.3 days and only approximately 13% of cycles are 28 days in length! In the entire study, only 65% of women had cycles that lasted between 25 and 30 days. It is very important to time your intercourse correctly when TTC. Knowing your fertile days is the first step! 

3. Have a Preconception Check Up

Have a complete physical, including a pap smear and breast exam, because it’s much easier to diagnose and treat problems before getting pregnant. You can have your fallopian tubes checked to make sure they are “open”, your uterus checked to make sure you don’t have fibroids, scar tissue or ovarian cysts. A semen analysis will tell you the health of your partner’s sperm. You may even have the three hormones that regulate fertility, FSH, Estrogen and AMH checked!  Antimüllerian hormone (AMH) is an indicator of how many eggs you may have left. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) is produced by your pituitary gland and signals your ovaries to release an egg every month. Estradiol (E2) is another female sex hormone produced in the ovaries that rises around ovulation.

4. De-Stress with Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Work

Does stress lead to infertility? Probably not but stress leads to binge eating and weight gain, drinking more, using nicotine and THC, and poor sleep and many other things that DO affect fertility. Recent research on women diagnosed with infertility, and if they take part in stress and relaxation methods—like mindfulness, some forms of yoga and other mind-body exercises— have demonstrated an actual difference in the time it takes them to conceive. 

5. Know that it Can Take Up to One Year… 

Focusing too much on what you don’t have (yet!) can become an obsession, and the more you dwell on the negative, the more you open yourself up to the possibility of depression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, unworthiness and more. In general, a fertile couple has a good chance of getting pregnant within a year, as out of 100 couples trying to conceive naturally:

20 will conceive within one month;
70 will conceive within six months;
85 will conceive within one year;
90 will conceive within 18 months;
95 will conceive within two years.


About The Author

Dr. Carol Lynn Curchoe is the founder of the ART Compass App. She is also a reproductive biologist practicing clinical embryology.

Her PhD. research focused on animal cloning at the University of Connecticut and her postdoctoral fellowship (The Burnham Institute) focused on human embryonic stem cell research.

Her active research interests span reproductive biology, from basic embryology to cutting edge artificial intelligence applications for IVF.

Menopause Happens: My Take On the “The 7 Habits” and Menopause

Menopause!!! No one likes to talk about it, but it happens whether we talk about it or not. We whisper about the “m word” and only feel comfortable when we are around another woman having a hot flash. Then we exhale, let our guards down and bond over our shared misery. 

The “peri” aspect of menopause sucks and can be a long, drawn out, crazy, topsy-turvy time of hormonal fluctuations with physical, mental and emotional health manifestations; many of which impinge on your quality of life. It’s like puberty (hello pimples, irregular periods, mood swings and hair in weird places ) all over again except you have a mortgage, job and a lot of responsibilities. Unfortunately , the “moody” menopausal woman doesn’t have the luxury of brooding in her room. For many women in their late forties and fifties, this is a time of full career commitments while sandwiched between raising children and caring for aging parents.

Menopause was early for me (like it was for my mother) and fortunately the “peri” lasted less than 2 years. My biggest symptoms were drenching night sweats, horrid hot flashes worse with coffee and wine (my favorites) and insomnia, which may have made me a tad irritable at home and at work. I was single during my transition so I didn’t have to worry about the impact on my sex life which I know many women have to contend with. For many women, symptoms are more severe and the mental health impact goes beyond mood swings. Depression and anxiety can occur. These are serious and should be discussed with a professional. 

Nowadays, I talk about the menopause transition, laugh at myself and even offer advice to friends going through menopause. I have read the Steve Covey book, ”The 7 habits of highly effective people” a few times and try to apply the habits in my daily life. As a confident post- menopausal woman, here is my take on The “Covey 7“ and menopause. These 7 habits are broken into personal victories (habits 1-3), public victories (habits 4-6) and renewal/sharpening the saw. 

1. Be Proactive: Since we know menopause is inevitable, you can start planning. The median age for entering menopause is 52 years but maternal history matters. If you have access to your mom’s age at menopause that is helpful. Menopause usually doesn’t happen suddenly, in the absence of surgical or other therapy induced menopause. You actually will have time to research symptoms of perimenopause, best management options, what to expect. Research natural ways to manage symptoms. Talk to friends who have gone through menopause. Talk to your health care provider or gynecologist about what to expect and the best ways to manage your symptoms. Talk to your spouse or partner about what may happen as the process begins. They deserve a heads up about fluctuating thermostat settings, a libido that may be cool and damp sheets that may come from excessive sweating!

2. Begin With the End in Mind: The perimenopause- menopause period (pun intended) however short or long it seems will be done soon enough. The drenching night sweats, hot flashes and mood swings will stop. Your concentration and libido will return though you may emerge a few pounds heavier. Soon enough, you’ll be able to talk about it, laugh about it and drink wine without breaking into a sweat. You will be able to travel without tampons or pads, no more PMS and you never have to worry about unintentionally getting pregnant.  *Infectious Disease (ID) doc alert – you still need condoms to protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and consider prophylactic treatment (PrEP) for HIV prevention if you are not in a monogamous relationship. 

3. Put First Things First:  This is about YOU. Yes, millions of women go through menopause each year but they are not you. Focus on yourself.  Are you healthy? Are your symptoms just menopause or is something else going on. How is your mental health? Make sure your health screenings are up to date. Schedule and complete your routine health exams like knowing your body mass index (BMI), getting your Colonoscopy, mammograms, gynecological exams and checking on your bone health are especially important if you find yourself considering hormone replacement therapy. This is a time to prioritize your self care and what you need to make yourself comfortable. If you need special expensive sheets to help with the sweats or to feel cooler at night,  get them. If massages help, then treat yourself guilt-free. Your mental health is important too. If you need therapy, get it. Eating healthy and exercising helps to attenuate the weight gain. This is about YOU. 

4. Think Win Win: When this is done you will be post-Menopausal. This is a new stage for you and the start of the next phase. Benefits – no periods, no possibility of pregnancy and you will save so much on tampons and period care products. It is also a time of maturity and growth where you can pursue hobbies and interests with renewed vigor. Embrace this as becoming older and wiser with so much to offer the younger generation.

5. Seek First to Understand then be Understood: This is a tough one to do… realizing that people who have not gone through menopause may not understand. Some women who had little or no symptoms may think you are overreacting and may not be as empathetic. People only see the outward manifestations. This means they react  to your irritability or mood swings without understanding what’s going on. For close people like spouses, partners or grown up children, a heads up or talk could help. Many times, once they know what’s going on, they are more likely to want to “get” to know how you feel. My daughters teased me about the hot flashes but that just brought some levity to the situation. 

6. Synergize: Bond with other women in the perimenopause or menopause stage and unite forces. Share tips on things that helped you as you transitioned to this new phase. Share recommendations and resources knowing that it’s not a one- size fits all. Stop whispering about menopause, it’s a natural part of living and aging… No shame or stigma. Take all the hugs you can get.

7. Renewal: This is emerging from the transition as a confident, older and wiser woman who is now post-menopausal. This is you taking care of yourself. Reflecting, renewing, refreshing, restarting, resetting as you embrace this new stage in life. You are amazing and have so much to conquer and accomplish. 

Change is hard EVEN when it is inevitable. The transition can be rough but you’ve got this sis !


About The Author

Toyin Falusi, MD is an infectious disease physician, author, and podcaster. Follow her on IG: @doctortfal

Her book is “The Decade After: Thriving after Divorce”


Podcast: “10mins with TmFal” is on iTunes/Apple/Spotify/Anchor 

Eggs Over Easy: Black Women & Fertility

A couple of years ago, during my annual exam, my gynecologist looked at my chart, smiled and said, “You have a birthday coming up. Your eggs are turning 40! Do you want to do anything with them? It’s not too late for you to have a baby, but we’d need to start now.” That one jarring question became the catalyst for Eggs Over Easy: Black Women & Fertility, a documentary that focuses on Black Women, our fertility options, and the reasons we don’t talk about it. 

It is heartbreaking to know that for most women who suffer from infertility, the choice to carry a child is virtually non-existent if they don’t have a six-figure income because insurance companies don’t provide coverage for infertility treatment. So, instead of being able to pursue the traditional routes towards motherhood, these women stay silent… and take care of nieces or nephews or cousins whose own parents can’t take care of them. This is such an interwoven concept in our community that we rarely even look at it as “adoption”, even though it is.

The actual act of having IVF (in vitro fertilization) and Oocyte Cryopreservation (Egg Freezing) isn’t as “taboo” as discussing it is. In the Black community, we tend not to talk about fertility. Period. Since slavery, there’s been an idea that Black women are naturally fertile. The price of a woman of childbearing age was more than that of a woman post-menopause on the auction block. So, of course, there are 400-year-old stigmas attached to our fertility in the US but also in our own community. These deeply rooted notions keep mothers and aunts from talking to their daughters about fertility issues like Fibroids, which affect 80% of Black women by age 50. 

So, we don’t talk about fertility. In addition to the historical implications of fertility conversations, there is also another, bigger elephant in the room: Costs. Infertility treatments are not covered by most insurance companies, unless a company requires a fertility rider for their respective staffs. This means that the average middle class woman can’t afford a $20k IVF cycle, which may or may not require multiple cycles to achieve a successful pregnancy. This means that the average woman doesn’t have an extra $15k to freeze her eggs. And by the time she reaches a salary level that can support the weight of these out-of-pocket costs, she’s late 30s or early 40s, which greatly diminishes her chances at a successful process because of the dramatic drop in egg reserves after age 35. [The suggested age for Egg Freezing is before 36]. These costs affect women of every race, but when compounded by the fact that Black women earn 61 cents for every dollar earned by white men, the goal of motherhood seems all the more difficult.     

There is a range of available fertility treatments for a range of medical conditions. IVF is a process whereby an egg is removed from a woman’s body and turned into an embryo using sperm taken from a man’s body. There are less invasive processes, like IUI and Clomid pills for women who don’t need advanced treatment to conceive. Egg Freezing is the recommendation for women who aren’t at a place in their lives where they are ready to have a baby, but still want to be able to conceive when the time is right—even if that time is later in life. For Black women who are climbing the ladder in their careers or waiting later for marriage, this is a viable option—if they can afford it.

And for women who are fortunate enough to be able to afford infertility treatments like Surrogacy, IVF or Egg Freezing, they are then met with almost complete erasure from medical offices that have few patients who look like them and even lesser representation in brochures or commercials. The thought is that black women don’t have fertility problems, so we’re marginalized and rarely given a second thought within the reproductive industry.

Over the course of this past year, I have spoken with women who have experienced the full range of fertility challenges. Did you know that women who are childfree by choice have some of the most agonizing conversations with their own mothers who want to see them birth a child? It takes courage to be childfree these days. Did you know that you should never ask a woman whether or not she’s planning to have a baby? You have no idea what her struggle may be. And, it’s none of your business if you aren’t her spouse or physician. The documentary addresses this topic with women who suffered debilitating symptoms from fibroids– including infertility, as well as doctors, both board certified and holistic, on what treatment options work best. One of the more astonishing topics focuses on women who suffer miscarriages and the stigma that causes many of them to suffer alone. They don’t talk about it because, in many cases, they feel ashamed

Great strides have been made in the space of fertility, which is evidenced in so many celebrities bucking the norm and having healthy pregnancies past the age of 40, but the reality for many women without millions in the bank is that the process to motherhood is sometimes a daunting one. 

Take-Away: Don’t wait to have the conversation with your physician about your reproductive options. Ask for a fertility test if you don’t know your numbers. Specifically, ask for an AMH, FSH, and antral follicle (ultrasound) test. These tests are simple blood tests and an ultrasound. This will let you know the state of your egg reserve. Knowing these numbers will help you navigate your priorities in regards to becoming a mother. Also, don’t panic! There are many ways to become a mother, if that’s your desire. You can adopt children. You can also adopt donor eggs and embryos if you want to carry a child. The goal is to be equipped to make decisions about your body, which means that knowledge is power. For any woman over 25 who may one day want to be a mother, be proactive in gaining knowledge so that you can make informed decisions about your future. This means that maybe you choose to work for a company that provides fertility treatments in their insurance plans, instead of a company that doesn’t. “Prepare for your body the same way that you prepare for your career.” (~ Phylicia Fant, Executive Producer Eggs Over Easy Film)


About The Author

Chiquita Lockley is producer and director of the forthcoming documentary, Eggs Over Easy: Black Women & Fertility (2020). She is also the producer of the award-winning documentary Kunta Kinteh Island: Coming Home Without Shackles. She holds a BA in English from Spelman College and an MA in Film Studies from Emory University. She currently resides in Atlanta, GA where she continues to give back by serving on the Boards of AIR Serenbe (an artist-in-residency program) and the Black Women Film Network.

You can follow the film’s progress and join the conversation at: www.EggsOverEasyFilm.com, www.facebook.com/eggsovereasyfilm or IG: @EggsOverEasyFilm.