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Episode 97 Transcript

Ep 97 Transcript | Navigating the Fertility Landscape: IVF, Environmental Factors, and Quality Care

Eloise Drane
Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh

Welcome to Fertility Cafe, the home for every conversation exploring alternative family-building through IVF, surrogacy, egg, sperm, and embryo donation. Our host Eloise Drane alternates episodes between educational shows, covering specific topics and guest narratives for further insight. For a mastery understanding and confidence in all things, alternative family, subscribe to Fertility Cafe.

Eloise Drane 00:29
Hey there, welcome to Episode 97 of Fertility Cafe!

The fertility world is filled with possibilities, it’s a broad and fascinating topic. Today’s episode is all about exploring the link between environmental factors and reproductive health. We’re talking about how lifestyle choices and everyday products can even impact fertility. And, of course, we’re also going to be delving into IVF to uncover its advancements, challenges, and its potential future. Getting into fertility treatments requires informed decision-making and self-advocacy. It’s vital to grasp your options, rights, and how to prepare yourself before seeking comprehensive care.

My guest on today’s show is the one and only Egg Whisperer, Dr. Aimee, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, she has been helping 1000s of people from all over the world to have babies since 2008. In our conversation, Dr. Aimee discusses her mission to help people bring more love into their lives by having the families they’ve always dreamed of. She also shares her thoughts on the impact of environmental factors on fertility, the role of technology in fertility treatments, and the importance of advocating for oneself in the fertility journey.

Dr. Aimee Eyvazzadeh is at Harvard-educated board-certified OBGYN, specializing in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. She has been featured in magazines like People and Marie Claire and has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Morning, along with a number of local and international newscasts. In her off-time. Dr. Aimee is a mom to four rambunctious young kids aged 8 and under.

Dr. Aimee, so great to have you here today joining me. I really appreciate it.

Dr. Aimee 02:30
Eloise, thank you for having me on today. I’ve been looking forward to this conversation for a really long time.

Eloise Drane 02:35
Well, Awesome. So first, let’s just kind of jump into a little bit of your background, because before I even got on the recording, and I was telling you how like you are Superwoman for me so. So, share just a little bit about you.

Dr. Aimee 02:53
Yeah, I’m a doctor that is on a mission. And that’s to help people bring more love into their lives and is through having the family that they always dreamed of. And it’s not just a mission that’s based on interacting with patients one on one here in my office, it’s also a mission of trying to reach out to people all over the world, to learn about their fertility, to ask questions to get tested before it’s too late, and to really advocate for themselves. And that takes a lot of work. So that means I’m running around all day long with my sneakers on. And, you know, I’m just so lucky that I love what I do. And I jump out of bed every single day doing it. And I’ve been doing this now in my private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area for almost 15 years, actually, over 15 years. I didn’t want to admit it to myself the other day. But I’m proud to say that I’ve been in practice now since 2008, helping 1000s and 1000s of 1000s 10s of 1000s of people have babies from all over the world. And I just got started.

Eloise Drane 03:54
Mm hmm. I love that. I love that. So, let’s you know, because I know the importance of education and really meeting people where they’re at and, I’m sure you saw recently where is now 1 in 6 people are dealing with infertility now. And that’s just what we know, what we’re guessing. I mean, this is, it’s studies and all of that, but it’s still an estimate that I don’t even know if it’s 100% true. And funny enough, I also started my agency 15 years ago in 2008. And when I started it was if I recall, it was either, 1 in 12, I think, now it’s 1 in 6. And I really do feel the environment has something to do with it. Just all of the things. So, I kind of wanted to get your perspective on that.

Dr. Aimee 04:55
Yeah, I mean, what I teach my patients is 100% of us will have infertility. And the reason is that, we will all run out of our eggs as women. And the key is to not run out before your desire to have more babies has run out. And that’s, the hard part is you meet these patients as well. So, women whose eggs have run out, but the desire has not because it doesn’t happen at the same time. That’s a hard thing is, why are we running out of healthy eggs before it’s too late? And the reason is age, genetics, and then the environment. And then why hasn’t our society caught up with what’s biologically happening to us as women, you know? You’ve probably heard all these things. If men run out of sperm, there’d be a cure, you know, oh, yeah, you know, we just, you never heard one negative story around Robert De Niro having a baby in his 70s. Not one person, not one person got on TV and said, what was he thinking? He’s too old, how irresponsible is that? But for some reason, as a woman, even in your early 40s patients are shamed. And they’re made to think that you’re so irresponsible, don’t you know when you’re going to die? Do you know how old you’re going to be when your child is in college. And I just call that bullshit. You know, they’re just so incredibly unfair, that we have this fertility, gender gap. So, I just find myself just getting more and more fired up every single day about what I can do to help women when they’re at that time in their life where no one else is believing in them. And then I’m like, I see you as a fertile person, I see you as a person you want to be seen. But aside from age, I do think we’re being poisoned from the minute, we are a tiny little embryo. And even for generations before that. Our mothers were poisoned, our grandmothers were poisoned. I mean, it’s just unreal, that we find plastics, and placenta microplastics. You know, so that just speaks to our fertility decline is happening, even before we’re born. That goes for sperm quality, and egg quality, and it’s just gonna get worse over time. So, I predict a time where 100% of people are going to be freezing their eggs and sperm. By the time they’re 25, if we want to continue to survive as a society, just because of how we’re poisoning ourselves. But I do get excited about certain technology, you know, you hear about the nuclear mitochondrial transfer, MNT technology like the three-parent IVF. You know, there was a recent study just published out of the U.K. about that, and they were, they’ve done it successfully and women who went through IVF, who didn’t have normal embryos. I’m very excited about a clinical trial right now, at Columbia University looking at a drug called Rapamycin to reverse ovarian aging. It’s just pills you take. I mean, wouldn’t that be incredible? If a woman could take pills, and then you would have more eggs? And then you I mean, you and I do egg donor, you know, we specialize in creating family-building. But wouldn’t it be incredible to, you know, obviously, there’s going to be families that need it, like, you know, the two-daddy couple, like they’re always going to, there’s always going to be a need for egg donors, as long as I live. But I think it would be great for like that 37-year-old woman who still isn’t able to make a healthy embryo to be like, take this prescription, you know, wait three months, and then we’re going to do your IVF. And we’re going to see healthier embryos. Or maybe you’re even going to be taking that drug before your IVF cycle. Or even your egg freezing cycle. Maybe it’s going to help be a preventive measure. For women who even you know, maybe they want to delay menopause, who knows. So, I’m really excited about the fact that a university like Columbia has this clinical trial, it just means to me we might be seeing more of this kind of stuff in our future. Hopefully.

Eloise Drane 08:45
Hopefully. Yeah, hopefully. You mentioned the plastic, and how this is quite frankly, a generational issue and stemmed probably infertility have stemmed from just our moms and our grandmothers and everything else. And I think, as we are now kind of taking up the charge and kind of making ourselves the educators on these subjects and talking about it, I think it’s also something that’s important for us to begin having the discussions with our own children and preparing information out there for our grandchildren. I’m a mom of five I don’t have any grandchildren yet, although they could come at any point. No rush. And, but I do think about my children and my grandchildren, and luckily thank God none of them have any infertility issues that we know of, although my daughter did have an ovarian torsion and had some issues there but going to the idea of having to, because now I just lost my train of thought. You know what, this menopause shit is real!

Dr. Aimee 10:03
I think we’re the same age. How old are you Eloise?

Eloise Drane 10:05
I’m 48

Dr. Aimee 10:06
Okay, I’m 47. We’re the same age. That’s so funny.

Eloise Drane 10:09
I’m like, oh my, like I literally was on track with something, and I totally forgot what the hell I was just talking about. But anyway, so my point is we’re talking about the past, history, but let’s kind of talk about the future and the responsibility that I think we as a society needs to start talking to children now, not just about sex education, but about overall reproductive health, and then how to help now, before your fertility and then what you can do in the future.

Dr. Aimee 10:44
Yeah, I mean, I think as soon as a girl starts her period, she should be taught about everything. She shouldn’t be talking about all the gynecologic conditions that can happen like, and even teach her about her menstrual cycle, the different phases of her cycle, she shouldn’t wait until she’s like 35 and trying to conceive and then realize that, oh, I only ovulate one day a month. This is when it is, this is how you track ovulation. I shouldn’t be making a diagnosis of PCOS for someone who’s been suffering for, from PCOS for 15 years, when they’re 38 years old. You know, I mean, those things shouldn’t happen. So, if we did a better job, just educating young people about all the things and it’s really easy, like there’s PCOS, Endometriosis Fibroids, you know, you can run out of eggs early, you can have an autoimmune condition like Thyroid. So, let’s just get educated about our bodies and not to sidetrack but this is why I love that idea of everyone joining my Egg Freezing Party once in their life, because an Egg Freezing Party isn’t about selling egg freezing, it’s about teaching about your body as they go through all that stuff. So that’s why I started Egg Freezing Party back in 2014. It wasn’t because I wanted to freeze people’s eggs. It was part of my mission to educate people about their fertility. And I captured the young, younger audiences, women between 20 and 25. And that was really great for me because I they listened because those women have now frozen their egg. They just had someone reach back out seven years ago, you told me if I hadn’t frozen my eggs by the time I was 32, I should freeze my eggs. I’m ready now. I’m 33, you know, when can I come in? So, I’m like, wow, am I that old? People are listening to those messages now. And it’s very rewarding and satisfying. But I totally agree. We got to get the message out to the young people, you know, before they graduate from high school.

Eloise Drane 12:26
Can you talk about your Egg Freezing Parties?

Dr. Aimee 12:28
Oh absolutely. I mean, they’re, they’re a fabulous way to learn about fertility I now do them mostly online. I do them for corporations like Amazon or you know, a company like I’m doing one for like a Medical Society, like a, like a club, different clubs, or university, you know, universities will invite me in, and they’ll just educate about fertility. It’s like a 20-minute slideshow, you know, scientific presentation, basically, and then a live Q&A. And I can usually predict, like what, I know what questions people are going to ask at this point. And sometimes people share one on one personal stories with me as well, or through the live chat. So, it’s a just a fun opportunity for me to kind of travel without traveling anymore. But I used to give them all over the country. And I used to have people from all over the world come in for these parties to just cover them and then share them with their own country.

Eloise Drane 13:14
And do the Egg Freezing Parties, is it about educating one on, you should freeze your eggs. How does the process work? What would that look like? Who should consider freezing their eggs?

Dr. Aimee 13:29
Yeah. All that I mean, I basically talked about how it’s an, it’s an insurance policy that you can guarantee yourself another chance, that’s it. It’s not an insurance plan. It’s an insurance policy for a future chance. And that is all, because there’s so many gimmicks out there, that you can have it all, and like girl, let me tell you cannot. You can’t, and I’m gonna have to break it to you, that egg freezing doesn’t work all the time. Yeah, and a lot of times it doesn’t, a lot of times people aren’t freezing enough, and then they decide to use their eggs when it’s too late. And then they haven’t frozen. So, I always tell people, if you’re going to freeze, let’s say at 33, and you’re gonna plan on using them at 46, freeze again before you run out of eggs, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen when you thaw them.

Eloise Drane 14:12
What do you think of, you know, I know we were talking a lot about women. And a lot of times we kind of, when we think about infertility, we instantly think that it’s always a woman’s fault, and not necessarily the man. And there are environmental factors that affect men as well. We don’t really talk about that.

Dr. Aimee 14:32
Yeah, I mean, I always say it’s always nice to have sperm on ice. So, I highly recommend sperm freezing. So, my boys will have their sperm frozen when they go off to college. It’s just going to be done for them. It’s obviously a lot easier for guys to do than for women, because of how it’s done. And you know, the prediction is everyone’s going to need IVF maybe in two generations to come because the sperm count will be too low for people to make a baby in bed. So, IVF is going to be the only way people will be able to reproduce because of how we’re being poisoned from the minute we implant.

Eloise Drane 15:11
Are there certain environmental factors that are more harmful to fertility at different stages of life?

Dr. Aimee 15:17
Yeah, I mean, not necessarily different stages. But I would say like the, the big ones are pollution, and then lifestyle stuff like smoking. Some people are exposed to secondhand smoke from the time they’re born until they leave their homes, and then they deal with early menopause, low sperm. The good thing about cigarettes on sperm, though, is that it’s fairly, it’s for the most part reversible. So that’s good, because of the sperm lifecycle, but I would say the biggest environmental factors that I see in my practice that affect fertility are obesity, smoking, drug use, like alcohol use, and then all the stuff that we’re, just like the pollution everywhere.

Eloise Drane 15:55
And plastics, and yeah,

Dr. Aimee 15:58
Yeah, the micro plastics, all the environmental toxins, definitely.

Eloise Drane 16:02
So, let’s discuss real quick the Endocrine Disruptors, which some listeners may be unfamiliar with. So, would you mind sharing a little bit about what that is?

Dr. Aimee 16:13
These are things that are in our everyday products that can affect our hormones. They can also be considered carcinogens. So, sadly, it’s, it’s a hard word for me to pronounce. But, and there, I love the company I don’t know if you’ve heard of that company, million markers. So, they have a urine test that actually can test your plastic level in your urine. And one of the things that I also love about their website is if you go to their website, you can actually look at all their approved products. So, shampoo, deodorant, lotion, everything, makeup. And I know the, the CEO of the company, I think she’s fabulous. And so, I trust everything that she says. So whenever someone asked me like, what shampoo should I use? What lotion should I use? She makes me look smart, because I know she’s already done the homework. So I just go to the website, I say, these are the products you should use. So, she’s done a great job making it really easy to understand and actually recommend that test to so many patients who are really concerned about their plastic exposure.

Eloise Drane 17:15
Wow, I’d never even know that that website existed. Yeah. Okay. I’m definitely going to put that on the show notes to

Dr. Aimee 17:22
You should talk to her, Doctor Jenna Hua.

Eloise Drane 17:25
Yes, yes. Definitely something to have a discussion about. So, I know we’ve been talking about the environment and patients having to deal with infertility. But then you finally find out you have infertility issues, or you have problems or whatever, and you need to see a reproductive endocrinologist and then you find one, and they don’t help you. Yeah, or they give you the runaround, or the experience you’ve had so far has been horrible. Right. And that, unfortunately, seems to be a theme right now.

Dr. Aimee 18:00
I mean, my thoughts are things have definitely shifted. I would say five years ago, people would have like signs in their office, like, don’t go to Dr. Google or like I’m better than Dr. Google or something like that, like don’t google. And I feel like now our culture has shifted, where doctors are considering questions as nagging. And then, they wonder why you haven’t googled it. Like, why are you even asking me when you can go to Google? And I feel like now it’s almost going to get worse because people have chat GPT. Yep. So, why are you asking me that question, you could have put it in chat GPT and read the answer, like, why are you even bothering me? And I think in my head that maybe there’s going to be a time where a clinic is going to market themselves as we are AI free. We answer all your question without AI. But I feel like they’re, I think patients have this assumption that doctors know everything about them. And we don’t, you have to advocate for yourself, you have to present your information. When you’re a new patient, you are responsible for getting all your medical records, if you want to be a really good patient, summarize those records ahead of time. Like if I see a patient, I’ll be like, oh, you had this surgery? And she’s like, well, I also have this other surgery and I’m like, oh, well, I’ve really liked his medical records. I’d like those op reports. Well, why didn’t you get them? Like but you didn’t, I didn’t know you had them. You didn’t tell me you had them. How would I know, I just thought you know you have a system where you can just see everything, but that’s just unfortunately not how our healthcare system works. But I think sometimes people just assume that that’s the case. So, the way I practice is with each contact with the patient, I provide them a summary of what we talked about what the plan is, they also always know their diagnosis, their prognosis, and their treatment plan they know what they’re doing and why and I deliver that information in several ways; through email, through you know, in person, through the phone. So there, hopefully if there is a confusion, they always know what, you know, they can refer to the notes are always reached out to me and ask. But when I hear these stories of people going into clinics, and no one knows who they are, they have no idea why they’re there. So, I feel like patients need to present a companion like some sort of document that says, like, just here’s my summary. And I’m trying to create that. I’m trying to create that right now with the company, an A.I. company, so that when patients go into a fertility clinic, everyone knows who they are, and it’s going to all be right there, they’re really beautiful and summarized, and maybe patients can even upload like really cute pictures of themselves that with animation, you know, so people can remember them with their cute puppy or whatever their hobby, or whatever it is they do. So, we kind of have to, you know, step it up a little bit to take really good care of patients, because of the massive amount of patients that clinics are seeing.

Eloise Drane 20:42
Right, and there lies the problem. Not that, you know, you don’t want a clinic to exist, but the fact that there is massive people having to come to fertility clinics now, because of all of the things that are going on environment, you know, cancer, whatever it might be, and then you end up having to finally make that decision, like, Okay, I need to go and see a fertility specialist, and then the overall experience sucked.

Dr. Aimee 21:11
And the clinics unfortunately, they’re not as, when it comes to that kind of situation, it’s not a big deal. Because for that one patient that’s pissed off, you have 500 patients that are waiting to get in. So, for me, I’m just such a, I can’t handle that kind of stuff. So, like we, you know, I go above and beyond with each interaction, at least I try to if someone doesn’t like me, I can’t say that I didn’t try. Right. I know, there’s gonna be people that find me irritating. My sister certainly does.

Eloise Drane 21:40
Well, I got plenty of those. And yeah. Likewise. So, what are some recommendations for how people can protect themselves from dangerous exposures, but then also advocate for themselves when they do, finally like, Okay, I am going to have to go see a specialist and figure out what’s going on.

Dr. Aimee 22:04
So, when you’re saying dangerous exposures, do you mean like, environmental stuff. Yes. Sorry, for environmental stuff. I mean, I think it’s just so hard because no matter what you do, you’re always going to be exposed to something. So, there’s a condition, it’s called orthorexia. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it before. So, it’s kind of like think of, it’s basically an obsession with everything being organic, you know, like, it’s a, it’s a disorder. And I feel like there’s so many fertility patients that have that, like, I had a patient call me once. And she was like, I’m, I’m at the restaurant, they gave me bread that was not gluten free, should I throw it up. And I’m like, what I mean, like, that’s how disturbed she was because like, she’s been controlling everything. And it was so disturbing to her that she had something that she thought that was going to poison her. And her fertility that she was going to make herself throw up. We’ve kind of gotten there are a lot of fertility patients, a lot of fertility, patients are just obsessed with products, they use fragrances. I mean, I think the easiest things to do are just put a filter on your water at home, make sure it’s filtered. If you want to get one of those air purifiers, that would be great too, for your home. You know, look at your fragrances, look at your shampoos and stuff that you’re putting on your body all the time, like your deodorant, and just see what you can just easily switch out. But at the end of the day, like putting on a little bit of perfume on occasion is, is not going to harm you. I would just say to people, just be gentle with yourself, when it comes to that kind of stuff.

Eloise Drane 23:40
And simple things too, of just, you know, not using plastic and changing, you know, the tupperware at home instead of plastic use glass.

Dr. Aimee 23:48
Totally, absolutely use glass, don’t microwave plastic and, you know, reheat stuff in plastic.

Eloise Drane 23:55
So, what do you think are the steps for a successful IVF journey?

Dr. Aimee 24:01
I mean, the first thing even before you start, start getting educated, you know, go online, take a class, like you can take one of my IVF classes, I have them through Okay, there’s so many different ways of learning about IVF. Just get a little bit of knowledge before you go in. And then even before that, get some tests done, right. And if it’s been a while since you’ve had tests, do them again, so FSH, Estradiol, EMH, make sure you’ve had your carrier screen if you think you should have a chromosome test, do that, semen analysis, if you need to do more advanced sperm testing, do that. And then I would sit down and make another consult with your IVF doctor. Like, a lot of times what people do is they’re not talking to their doctor, well with me they are, but they’re in a clinic setting where they just tell the nurse they want to do IUI, they’re doing IUI and then all of a sudden, they go to IVF and then they start IVF, but they haven’t sat down and talked to the doctor. Because you want to talk about, you know what kind of prep you should be doing before your IVF cycle; what supplements should you be doing, should you be changing certain medications that you’re on, should you be seeing a medical endocrinologist? Should your husband or sperm provider, you know, see a reproductive neurologist, you know, these are all the things you want to do pre cycle – before the IVF cycle. And then once your cycle is done, you want to talk through how to prepare for your transfer, don’t just go right into transfer. I mean, you can, but you need to have the conversation as like, what are the do’s and don’ts? Are there any extra tests I should do? Does my cavity look clear? You know, what protocol do you have me on? If this transfer didn’t work, is there another protocol you should consider? Maybe we should consider that protocol first. Do I have enough embryos for the family size that I want before I do my transfer. And then when you’re ready for your transfer, make sure you’re not going to say this, this really wasn’t a good time for me to have done the transfer, I probably should have listened to myself. And I hear that all the time. We’re, well not with me as a patient, as a doctor, because my patients won’t do that to me. But I always say just if this transfer doesn’t work, will you say, I wish I hadn’t transfer because this is a really stressful time in my life. You have to be able to say, I’m very excited to transfer, everything is going very smoothly right now. I will have no regrets if I put this embryo in and it doesn’t work. Okay. And then if the cycle doesn’t work, follow up with your doctor. Don’t expect so for me, if a cycle doesn’t work, you’re getting a call from me that day, we’re doing a follow up call the next day or as soon as you’re ready. But within a week, at the very latest, you’re talking to a therapist, like that’s something that I have all my patients do. And we’re making a plan. But I think I hear from other patients who are not mine. No one called me. No one set up an appointment. And like, you have to advocate, you pick up the phone, you say I need to talk to the doctor and my cycle didn’t work. Sadly, people are being booked out two or three months later. And I’m like, how is this happening? But you have to advocate for yourself and say that’s not acceptable. So those are kind of like my overall tips for someone as to like how to have a of course not every cycle is going to be successful. But the key is to have it be a successful experience. So that you can’t look back and say, I wish I had this knowledge before I did my cycle. So, if you go through all these steps, you’re gonna have all the knowledge before you start.

Eloise Drane 27:17
Yeah. And again, it goes back to advocacy, and advocating for yourself. And that is part of advocating for yourself is doing that pre-education, right, in preparation, so that you are fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into.

Dr. Aimee 27:33
So, I call it pre-planning the plan, pre-plan the hell out of your plan. Don’t just plan, pre-plan your plan.

Eloise Drane 27:39
Yeah, that’s right. That’s right. Well, thank you so much for your time. And I really appreciate all that you are doing and helping to educate society, quite frankly, on all things reproduction.

Dr. Aimee 27:54
Thank you, Eloise, you’re so fabulous. And thank you for all the things that you do with your business, making people parents.

Eloise Drane 28:01
I appreciate it. Thanks for joining me.

Dr. Aimee 28:02
Thank you, Eloise.

Eloise Drane 28:07
Thank you so much for listening. If you found this episode helpful, please rate Fertility Cafe on your favorite listening platform and share this episode with anyone you think could benefit from hearing it.

Tune in next week for another amazing episode on Fertility Cafe.

Until then, remember, “love has no limits – neither should parenthood.”