In the new podcast Baby or Bust, Fertility Doctor and Influencer Dr. Lora Shahine assembles medical experts and former infertility patients to guide anyone trying to conceive. Baby or Bust premieres on January 19th on Apple Podcasts and most other places you can listen to podcasts.
Dr. Shahine and her guests will work to shatter myths around fertility and miscarriages while providing emotional support for everyone’s individual journey. The show isn’t afraid to ask uncomfortable questions with a warm intimacy and a sense of humor. Some questions discussed include the price for various fertility treatments, how common miscarriages really are and what affects male infertility. Baby or Bust explores everything from what foods or substances should be avoided during conception and pregnancy, to what to say when rude friends or family members ask prying questions about egg freezing.
“The roller coaster ride of infertility can be a mix of emotions and conflicting advice,” Dr. Shahine says. “As a reproductive endocrinologist and former fertility patient myself, I not only help patients build families every day, but I also remember what the ride was like for me.”
Dr. Shahine is a double board-certified reproductive endocrinologist, bestselling author and Professor at the University of Washington. She has spoken on the topics of infertility in the Black community in hopes of increasing awareness and making resources more accessible. Dr. Shahine has also spoken about how public figures such as Michelle Obama have begun to shatter the stigma around talking about their miscarriages and opting for IVF to start a family.
I spoke to Dr. Shahine about why she chose to create Baby or Bust. We also discussed how the stress of the pandemic and vaccine hesitancy has affected fertility patients.
Risa Sarachan: What was the impetus to create this podcast?
Dr. Lora Shahine: We wanted to create a resource combining evidence-based information from professionals in the field of fertility with real-life stories of those struggling with infertility. Baby or Bust uses the art of storytelling to educate and connect this incredible community.
Sarachan: What topics will you explore in your first season?
Shahine: The first season is full of incredible interviews and real-world reflection, including:
- The impact of toxins on fertility, with Dr. Shanna Swan, author of Countdown
- Sperm donation history to present day, with the founder of the first sperm bank in the U.S., Dr. Cappy Rothman
- Mental health and emotional wellness through infertility, with world expert and Harvard professor, Dr. Alice Domar
Mixed in are stories and poignant firsthand experience with:
- Male factor infertility, from founder and author of Infertility Man, Jon Cooney
- Fighting stigma for family building for the LGBTQI+ community, with If These Ovaries Could Talk co-hosts
Sarachan: Do you have a favorite episode you’ve recorded?
Shanine: I loved each episode for many different reasons, but if I had to choose – I love the one where I interview Kaci Aitchison. She is a former patient and current infertility advocate with a serious sense of humor on her own tough journey to build her family. She is so raw and open about her struggles but leaves the listener with hope.
Sarachan: What are some of the most common myths surrounding infertility?
Shahine: There are too many to count, but here are a few:
- Infertility is uncommon – 1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility, and 1 in 4 clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.
- We’re in control of our reproduction – this is true for how well contraception works but not so much for baby-making. Conceiving can be easy for some (these are the people who seem to talk the most about it) but not for all (these are the people who this podcast is reaching out to)
- Infertility is the woman’s fault – 30-50% of couples with infertility will find some aspect of male factor as a part of the issue
Sarachan: I loved how Baby or Bust not only shares advice from medical experts, but it also talks about the feelings involved in the journey couples go through with infertility. Why was it important to include this?
Shahine: Because learning about infertility is more than science, medical treatment, and technology – the mental and emotional part of the journey is as (or even more) important to understand, connect with, and learn from. We want our listeners to know they are not alone on this journey.
Sarachan: At what point should couples who are trying to conceive look into fertility treatments?
Shahine: Anytime they have questions or concerns, but specific recommendations are:
- More than 12 months of regular intercourse with monthly, predictable menstrual cycles for a couple
- More than six months if that couple has a female partner age 35 years or older
- Sooner for many reasons: unpredictable cycles and ovulation; known diagnosis of PCOS, endometriosis, or chronic illness that may impact fertility; LGBTQI+ couples; single mothers by choice; exploring fertility preservation options like egg freezing
Sarachan: The age of women wanting to get pregnant is statistically much later than that of previous generations, with many buying more time by freezing their eggs. What do you generally find when women come in wanting to begin later in life? Are there feelings of regret or empowerment?
Shahine: Every person is unique in their feelings, and it can be a mix of both empowerment and regret for past choices. There is no one right way or normal way to feel about fertility preservation, but the majority of my patients who do egg freezing feel a sense of relief and hope after they do it.
Sarachan: What would you say to couples feeling the stress of trying to conceive right now?
Shahine: It is normal and common to feel stress around family building. We have many expectations and misconceptions around this process. Acknowledge the stress and anxiety, forgive those feelings, and advocate for your care moving forward.
Sarachan: Have you found that patients are anxious about the vaccine affecting their cycle?
Shahine: Yes – there is a tremendous amount of misconception and miseducation surrounding the vaccine. This has led to hesitation and fear.
In the beginning, we didn’t have the evidence to share with patients about the vaccine and menstrual cycles, fertility, and pregnancy – we now do have that information and can recommend everyone get fully vaccinated in most circumstances.
Sarachan: How did the pandemic generally affect the work that you do?
Shahine: There has always been anxiety, stress, and emotional ups and downs with fertility care – all emotions and feelings have been amplified in the pandemic. We are all collecting grieving the way life was pre-pandemic, and it permeates all aspects of work, life, and relationships. In fertility care, the anxiety has elevated significantly.
Sarachan: How do you hope Baby or Bust impacts listeners?
Shahine: We hope Baby or Bust leaves listeners feeling validated in their feelings, connected to this fertility community, educated on important topics in the field, and more hopeful moving forward in their family-building journey.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Baby or Bust can be listened to here.