Books on Infertility
These are books I have read and reviewed on infertility and treatment (in no particular order). I hope they can be a good resource for anyone looking for more in depth information on this subject. Happy reading!
Published over 20 years ago this single book revolutionized female reproductive health. Toni Weschler rocked the established medical community and fought to educate women about their own bodies. She believed women could understand their own cycles, hormones, and symptoms at a time when any menstrual irregularity would be ’treated’ with a prescription for a birth control pill. Hormonal birth control pills have important uses beyond birth control but women aren’t usually taught about why their cycles may be irregular and providers are quick to ‘fix the problem’ without educating. As a reproductive endocrinologist - I learned more about the menstrual cycle from this book than my thick text books. My medical text books do a wonderful job of explaining the minutia but Toni writes in a way that any woman can understand and relate to her own body.
Thrilled to meet author and infertility warrior, Elizabeth Katkin, at the ASRM meeting in Denver. She recently published ‘Conceivability: What I Learned Exploring the Frontiers of Fertility’ and I love connecting with fellow authors and infertility advocates. Honestly, this was a tough read for me. Elizabeth shares her journey through 9 years, 7 miscarriages, 8 IVF stim cycles, 10 doctors in different countries to have 2 children via surrogate. She reflects on less than compassionate providers, mistakes in her care, and practices she feels were not beneficial for her. All stories are important to share but I do hope that anyone reading the book realizes that her journey is not the norm for all. I hope readers know that many people build their families with medical treatments from compassionate providers. I appreciate her willingness to share her story and appreciate the attention she brings to the infertility and miscarriage - common yet still not discussed issues.
Description: This is a guide for patients considering fertility treatments written by a former fertility patient. Bianca Smith states 'this is everything I wish I had known before starting my fertility treatments.' The content is readable and supportive. Bianca reviews tips on trying to conceive naturally, tips for choosing a fertility clinic, IUI vs. IVF, and alternative treatment options. She includes some fertility friendly recipes and a lot of tips for self care through the roller coaster ride of treatments. Bianca's passion for helping others comes through in her writing - the book reads like she is your fertility coach. She stays positive but gets real and leaves you with tools and resources to help you through.
Dr. Shahine says: Positive, supportive guide for fertility treatments. I appreciate her self care tips and her list of resources and websites is one of the best I've seen!
IVF Success: An Evidence-Based Guide to Getting Pregnant and Clues to Why You Are Not Pregnant Now by Dr. Raphael Kuhn
Description: This is a short and to the point review on current evidence surrounding many treatments in IVF. It is a wealth of information and I appreciated it as a provider - I agree with (almost) every point made in the book which is quite refreshing and reassuring as a medical provider. I can imagine that many patients may finish it wanting more. It may lead to more questions and further conversations between patients and providers which can be beneficial. It reads like an outline at times with bullet points. I very much appreciate the references provided and the description of studies. Too many authors make broad generalizations and state facts in medical books without referencing the research backing up their statements.
Dr. Shahine says: If you want a brief, evidence based review on IVF treatments - this is for you. Likely best suited for patients who have failed IVF cycles and are looking for options to review with their medical provider.
Description: This is a personal story of infertility and IVF from Australia's Olympic aerial skier, Jacqui Cooper. She spent decades training, competing, and succeeding in her athletic career but was humbled by her difficult journey to motherhood. She has personal stories woven with practical tips on choosing a fertility team, giving yourself injections, and managing the stress of career and IVF treatments. She has a positive, encouraging voice throughout the book encouraging people to 'stick with IVF - to stay on the roller coaster - hold on tight!'
Dr. Shahine says: If your looking for a positive, encouraging IVF memoir - this is for you.
Not Pregnant: A Companion For the Emotional Journey of Infertility by Cathie Quillet with Dr. Shannon Sutherland
Description: This book feels like a hug for anyone struggling with infertility and miscarriage. Cathie Quillet, independent marriage and family therapist, shares her own journey through family building and Dr. Sutherland provides brief medical descriptions through the book. Cathie described her motivation for writing Not Pregnant was to give people a book that she wishes she had as she was wading through the 'crashing waves of infertility.' She wanted to write a book about 'what to expect when you're not expecting.' It is not intended to be a medical guide or thorough explanation of diagnosis and treatment but an 'emotional companion to validate your emotional and relational burdens from the unexpected obstacles that too many women encounter.' It does just that by weaving Cathie's personal story with the stories of others that can connect with readers.
Dr. Shahine says: Cathie pours her heart into this book and her passion for helping others walk through infertility comes through. I also appreciate the appendices that she and her husband write focused on the male perspective. This can help many people feeling isolated in infertility. If you are feeling alone, ashamed, anger, grief - you are not alone and this book may help you understand some of the emotions you are going through.
The Infertility Cure: The Ancient Chinese Wellness Program for Getting Pregnant and Having Healthy Babies by Randine Lewis, Ph.D., 2004
Description: Randine Lewis was truly at the forefront of integrative fertility care when she published this work in 2004. She has a unique background from Western medicine (2 years of medical school) to Eastern Medicine (Chinese medical school) and ultimately a Ph.D. with a dissertation on addressing and treating fertility issues with traditional Chinese medicine. She shares her own journey to parenthood through hormonal problems and miscarriage and maintains a positive outlook and voice throughout the book. She does an good job of explaining the different approaches to fertility care and presents a balanced approach.
Dr. Shahine says: Excellent resource for anyone interested in an in-depth look at traditional Chinese medicine approach to fertility care. This was written in 2004 so some of the information on IVF and Western treatments are dated and should be taken in context. I appreciate her positive approach and faith in natural conception even for women who have struggled for years and even failed high tech Western treatments like IVF. Surprised at how some of the things she discussed in 2004 are now getting a lot of interest like C0-Q-10 to improve egg quality.
Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility by Sami S. David, MD and Jill Blakeway, LAc, 2009
Description: New York based Reproductive Endocrinologist, Sami David, and Licensed Acupuncturist, Jill Blakeway, come together to write about maximizing fertility with both an Eastern and Western medicine approach. They define five fertility types (tired, dry, stuck, pale, and waterlogged) inspired by patterns seen in Chinese medicine and describe ways to maximize fertility based on a patient’s personal fertility type. They review nutrition, some supplements, acupuncture, herbs, and Western medicine techniques for each type.
Dr. Shahine says: I like the concept of ‘a healthy body gets pregnant’ and the focus on a 3 month ‘pre-mester’ during which patients can change life style and nutrition to maximize fertility. There are good tips for better health within all fertility type treatment plans.
It Starts with the Egg: How the Science of Egg Quality Can Help You Get Pregnant Naturally, Prevent Miscarriage, and Improve Your Odds in IVF by Rebecca Fett, 2014
Description: The author is a patent litigation attorney in New York with a degree in molecular biology and biochemistry who used her background in science to review the research in genetics and egg quality to help her own fertility journey. She wrote this book to share her current understanding of egg quality, genetics and egg health and the potential to improve chances of healthy pregnancy with supplements and lifestyle changes.
Dr. Shahine says: This book is extremely popular – my patients read it, blogs mention it, friends recommend it to each other. It is a clearly written, easy read walking patients through the research behind the most popular supplements such as Co-Q-10, DHEA, melatonin, antioxidants. As a fertility provider, I appreciate having this resource because patients ask me about supplements and ways to improve egg health every day. As a scientist and researcher, this is definitely written for the public – easy to read, no details about studies like number of patients included or statistical significance. The presentation of supplements can be one-sided for example there are studies that show no improvement in egg quality with DHEA and studies that show DHEA can have negative impact on implantation if taken at too high a level while trying to conceive naturally – but these are not mentioned. I refer to this book and very much appreciate it but I warn patients daily that more research is needed. FYI: there is no policing or governmental regulation of supplements like the FDA for prescription medication. Patients need to be very careful about what they are taking, review with a medical provider, and more or something is definitely not always better.
Fertility Walk: A Fertility Nurse’s Guide Along Your Journey by Tamara Tobias, 2015
Description: The author states that her intention is to walk with patients through the fertility journey and help them better understand their ultrasounds, menstrual cycles, treatment options and procedures along the way. Seven chapters include a description of the first fertility consultation, an overview of anatomy and the menstrual cycle, understanding ovarian cysts, uterine polyps and fibroids and treatment options. The author does a wonderful job explaining abnormalities that may be found in the fertility evaluation and reviewing answers to frequently asked questions. A unique feature of this book are the ultrasound photographs with explanations. Patients undergoing fertility treatments can often have many pelvic ultrasounds which at first look black and white and grainy - this book has several images of normal and abnormal findings on pelvic ultrasounds that can help patients understand what they are seeing.
Dr. Shahine says: Wonderful book for the basics and a quick read. The images of ultrasound findings are unique and valuable. I’ve used the images in the book to show patients images of normal anatomy or abnormal findings to compare to what we are seeing for the patient’s own pelvic ultrasound. I hope this is the first in a series – the author could go into depth in some areas like IVF in the future.
Pathways to Pregnancy by Mary Wong R.TCMP, R.Ac, 2016
Description: Personal stories and practical advice for your fertility journey. Mary Wong is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner in Canada who describes switching her own path from Western medical school training to TCM after her own grandmother was told she had 2 weeks to live with cancer from a MD and recovered fully with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. Her practice centers on fertility now and she reports helping many couples optimize their health and conceiving with TCM.
Dr. Shahine says: Randine Lewis, PhD, L.Ac says in her forward of the book that Mary picks up where she left off after publishing her landmark book, The Infertility Cure, in 2004. The book weaves success stories and personal accounts with education on optimizing fertility. Mary recommends reading cover to cover and I agree – it would be difficult to flip through and find information about specific questions - but there is a lot of good information in the pages and leaves the reader with a sense of hope!
The Art of Waiting: On Fertility, Medicine, and Motherhood by Belle Boggs, 2016 updated (originally published in 2012)
Description: Part personal fertility journey memoir and part reflection on different aspects of fertility's impact on society, Belle Boggs intertwines her own fertility treatment with her own reflection on the history and impact of fertility treatment for all. She reviews the history of IVF from the first IVF baby, Louise Brown in 1978, to today’s fertility business industry and includes reflection on eugenics, zoo animals, and research into ‘baby fever.’
Dr. Shahine says: Unique read. Not a manual for fertility treatment and not an intimate personal journey but an interesting journey through Belle Boggs’ journey and reflection.
Empowered Fertility: A Practical Twelve-Step Guide by Claire Hall with Dr. Devora Lieberman
Description: This is a book primarily written by Claire Hall, a counselor and life coach, with a guide to IVF by Dr. Devora Lieberman, a fertility specialist. The introduction clearly states that this book will not ‘get you pregnant’ but it will ‘assist you to become the person you need to live to be a happy and complete life, as a mother or not.’ The steps include ‘Accepting what is’, ‘Letting go of expectations’, and ‘Releasing control.’ Claire writes clearly and it’s an easy read with practical tips for creating your own mantra, setting your own expectations, and making your fertility journey a more empowered experience.
Dr. Shahine says: This is a wonderful resource for anyone struggling to complete their family. The author addresses key emotions like feeling isolated from friends and families with babies and all the stages of grief associated with failed treatments. She puts things in ways that I haven’t read before like ‘control is like a drug: it gives us a sense of feeling good. It’s easy to get hooked on this false sense of security.’ And ‘stress and control are close cousins. The more you stress, the greater the need for control.’ I especially like the chapters on how to deal with family and relationships along the fertility roller coaster ride.
Cracked Open: Liberty, Fertility, and the Pursuit of High-Tech Babies, A Memoir by Miriam Zoll
Description: Miriam Zoll writes a raw, brave account of her journey through failed fertility treatments. She compares fertility treatments to a board game or fertility casinos and refers to herself as a fertility junky. She weaves her present struggles with failed treatments with past experiences with family and childhood. She is brutally honest about financial costs, personal doubts, marital strain, but manages to remain somewhat hopeful and she does leave the reader with a happy ending to her story.
Dr. Shahine says: This was difficult to read at times but important for me as a fertility specialist. It’s a good reminder of how difficult the path towards family can be for some of my patients.
Description: This is the only IVF guide I know of written by an embryologist which makes it heavy on some lab information and light on other topics typically found in an IVF guide. There are sections on choosing a clinic, diagnostic testing, and treatment options.
Dr. Shahine says: I appreciate the descriptions of embryo development and lab techniques and this would have been a helpful guide in 2010 when it was first written. The technology and protocols change so quickly in IVF that this is no longer an up to date guide.