SAN ANTONIO – Infertility creates enough stress as it is, causing anxiety, depression, and isolation. Add in a pandemic, and those feelings are elevated.
It’s something KSAT Digital Journalist and Reporter Erica Hernandez knows firsthand.
“After about a year and a half, and there’s a lot of tests, it came back that we had unexplained infertility,” she said.
Hernandez said the confusing results caused even more stress for her and her husband, Ryan.
“I had other friends or family members who knew what was wrong. They either had endometriosis, or their sperm count wasn’t good. You had an answer. For us, there was no answer. It’s just not happening,” she said.
Two years ago, the couple decided to foster, and they adopted their daughter, Leanna, last month.
“Now that we’ve done the parenting thing now, we’re, like, let’s try again,” Hernandez said.
She is about to start fertility treatments in the middle of a pandemic.
“While before you could meet in person with people in support groups, now it’s not possible anymore, so you’ve become even more isolated. If you want to go to talk to a doctor or specialist, you cannot go with your partner,” said Dr. Linda Strano Burton.
Strano Burton is a fertility coach and licensed counselor who, in her spare time, runs multiple free infertility support groups, including one specifically for Black, indigenous and people of color.
Strano Burton said clients in all of her groups bring up many stressors associated with the pandemic, including the COVID-19 vaccine.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s latest recommendation is that the “COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for women who are contemplating pregnancy or who are pregnant in order to minimize risks to themselves and their pregnancy.”
However, women trying to get pregnant have sent in questions and concerns to KSAT, explaining the difficulty of making that decision despite those recommendations.
“In our support groups, we discuss our worries our anxieties, but we also discuss, ‘What are ways we can become more educated? Let’s look at journals. Let’s look at the latest research,’” Strano Burton said.
The advice she gives to her patients and clients, regardless of the pandemic, is “get social support. Go find a community, a group where you can be embraced, a group who understand what you are going through because they are either going through it or have gone through it.”
Strano Burton also said the most courageous thing families can do is ask for mental health help.
“Find a mental health specialist that really can help you, figuring out tools and strategies to go through this journey,” she said.
Both she and Hernandez talked about the stigma associated with infertility.
“A lot of women don’t want to talk about it or are afraid to talk about it or are embarrassed to talk about it,” Hernandez said.
Strano Burton said that can often be because people close to those experiencing infertility aren’t educated either.
“Answers from people that might be said or done in good faith, may be received from those who are struggling as insensitive. Somebody might tell you, ‘Just relax.’ Or, ‘Have you thought about adoption? Have you thought about IVF? Did you try that new oil?’ Yes, they have thought of that. They have tried,” Strano Burton said.
“I think the more people hear about it, the more they understand it and know that maybe we shouldn’t always ask people, ‘When are you going to have a baby?’” Hernandez said.
She said opening up about her own journey has provided a sense of calm and relief, and she hopes to inspire others to do the same.
“There’s nothing to be ashamed of,” Hernandez said. “You’re definitely not alone.”
Hernandez will be a guest Wednesday during the livestream town hall called Pregnancy and Infertility During a Pandemic. KSAT anchor and reporter Courtney Friedman will host the event.
A panel of four experts will discuss many subjects, including the vaccine during pregnancy and fertility treatments, delivery protocols, breastfeeding, and mental health.
You can catch it on www.ksat.com or on the KSAT TV app, anywhere you stream.
If you have any questions for the panel of experts, submit them below: