The FertileGirl site aims to destigmatize pregnancy troubles.
Women need to start saying the “F” word more.
Fertility can be a sensitive subject for those who are struggling with getting pregnant coupled with the emotions of feeling ashamed and alone. One new mom who had a hard time conceiving made it her mission to destigmatize the conversation with FertileGirl, a pre-pregnancy nutrition site and empowering forum for women to share their bumpy journeys to motherhood.
“After I got married my husband and I couldn’t wait to start a family, but after months our excitement gave way to anxiety,” Allison Kasirer, founder of FertileGirl.com, tells Moneyish.
“I was leading a stressful life. I was traveling every week for work and I was having trouble getting pregnant. It was my first real work-life balance issue,” she recalls.
Kasirer, 30, took a leave of absence from her finance job in New York City at JP Morgan in 2015 to focus on what she calls a “lifestyle overall” of changing her diet, exercising more and de-stressing — basically mothering herself before becoming a mom.
She tried in-vitro fertilization and a diet of plant-based protein, healthy fats and superfoods, but her first pregnancy ended in an early miscarriage.
“I was devastated,” Kasirer says.
She’s far from alone. One in eight couples in America struggle to get pregnant, according to the National Infertility Association. And more than 85,000 women in the US undergo in-vitro fertilization annually. The high cost of a single IVF procedure estimated by the American Pregnancy Association is between $12,000 to $17,000. And if the first treatment fails, many women can’t afford a second.
In a “fresh” IVF cycle, eggs are harvested transvaginally after a closely monitored period of ovulation-inducing medications and then mixed with fresh sperm. A few of the best-resulting embryos are then transferred to the uterus by way of a thin catheter. Consultation and testing fees range from $1,500 to $3,500, and medications typically run from $2,500 to $4,000 per treatment cycle. The national average for IVF with donor eggs is $28,000, according to AdvancedFertility.com.
Kasirer’s treatment was covered through insurance, but she says it would have cost upwards of $30,000. Medication made her sick and other side effects started to take a toll.
“The emotional burden was much harder, and I ended up seeing a reproductive psychiatrist who was helpful during that time,” Kasirer says.
The conversation about infertility still has a stigma but some are making it easier for women to feel comfortable sharing their stories. Actress Gabrielle Union detailed her emotional experience with a number of miscarriages in her new memoir, Kim Kardashian has been vocal about using a surrogate to carry her third child with Kanye West, and John Legend and wife Chrissy Teigen are open with their struggles of conceiving naturally.
Kasirer surrounded herself with women who were going through a similar experiences and formed a support group via her blog FertileGirl.com, which allows women to vent to their #FertileFriends about their pregnancy mishaps. The free site is geared towards millennial moms, also provides nutrition information with options to buy superfood bars that promote fertility, recommended medical treatments, IVF options and resources like an actual fertility consultant. Leyla Bilali, a pediatric nurse and advisor to the site, offers a class on how to prepare for IVF injections and cope with side effects. There’s also self-help content under the tab “Real Talk,” like a blog post for balancing work and fertility, along with lighter notes like how not to toss your phone when Instagram is filled with baby bumps or how to relieve the anxiety of being the only one in your friend group not pregnant.
It’s free to subscribe to FertileGirl.com. Similar sites like AttainedFertility.com and Resolve.org also work to connect users with support groups and provide ways to seek funding for medical treatments with infertility finance programs.
FertileGirl generates revenue through its namesake nutrition bar subscription service. Kasirer started whipping up health food bars packed with superfoods and nutrients omega 3s, calcium, iron and plant-based protein coupled with tasty ingredients like cinnamon almond, maca, and goji — all the right stuff to promote healthy eating when trying to conceive.
While there’s no magic diet that can ensure a woman will get pregnant, there are certainly factors one can control when trying to conceive. Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health found that women who consumed “good” fats, whole grains and plant protein improved their egg supply, while those who ate “bad” fats, like refined carbohydrates and red meat may make fewer eggs, increasing the risk for ovulatory infertility. They suggest choosing complex carbs like brown rice, oats or quinoa and good fats like avocados, nut butters and olive oil. They also advise implementing more plant-based protein into diets.
“My doctors always told me it’s best to get your nutrition from real food,” says Kasirer.
Now she sells the bars on her site ($45 for 12), and a portion of the net proceeds go to Baby Quest, a non-profit charity granting financial assistance to those who can’t afford the high cost of fertility treatments like IVF, egg, sperm donation and gestational surrogacy.
Kasirer recently welcomed twin boys with her husband and is now looking forward to helping other women get pregnant too.
“So much is out of your control when you are trying to conceive, taking control of those lifestyle changes can be empowering,” she says.
“FertileGirl allowed me to shape my negative experience into something that can help and inspire other women.”
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