Getting to Baby, Birth and Beyond
Starting a family can be, for many, a challenging and emotional process. Navigating the options and the steps to take can be daunting and each woman’s fertility journey is unique. How do we know what the right path is for each of us? Enter Wellhatched. Founder Holly Singh has given those who are seeking guidance a much-needed place to embark on this journey with individualized advice, support and resources. We sat down with Holly to hear all about Wellhatched and its inspiring mission to help individuals’ dreams of having a family become a reality.
Food + Mood NYC: Can you tell us what inspired you to create Wellhatched?
Holly Singh: Wellhatched was conceived as I personally struggled for years to conceive, and found myself leaving doctors’ appointments disappointed, frustrated and overwhelmed. Time after time, I couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a platform for support, resources and guidance to help me make educated decisions about my treatment. Given the emotional, physical and financial toll of fertility treatments, I realized I couldn’t be alone in my need for an informed and holistic approach to tackling the fertility journey, and the seeds for Wellhatched were planted!
When we decided to try for a second child, I encountered new hurdles – and some part of me thought that in two years, surely someone must have created the solution I needed earlier! Yet the more friends, friends of friends, and colleagues I spoke to, as I shared my growing base of knowledge, research and data with those who found themselves on fertility journeys, the more it became clear that I had to create the solution I was seeking!
F+M NYC: What does Wellhatched offer and what makes it unique?
HS: One of the first big hurdles hopeful parents-to-be on fertility journeys encounter is not knowing their options, which can create a sense of loss of control, and hopelessness. Wellhatched recognizes that no two journeys are alike, and helps you explore your options and educate you through the process to allow you to make better informed decisions.
In my humble opinion, what makes Wellhatched unique is the approach we take to supporting the fertility journey. Educating our clients by explaining the roadmap and timeline of their journey empowers them, allowing them to navigate more confidently. As we employ data and an informed decision-making process to help you vet clinics and select resources, the approach is holistic and comes from a place of empathy for how lonely and draining the experience can be. Ultimately, educated and empowered by our support for as long as you need it, our goal is to help you embrace your fertility journey, whatever it may look like.
F+M NYC: What are some of the more innovative advancements in fertility treatment?
HS: This is a really good question! Egg freezing is definitely high on the list. Egg freezing was considered experimental until just this past decade, and the development of the flash-freezing technique vitrification is largely responsible for that change.
Genetic testing of embryos has also dramatically improved – with the ability to screen becoming more mainstream, affordable (relatively speaking), and reliable. With PGT-A (pre-implantation genetic screening for aneuploidy), viable embryos that you’ve created are biopsied. An embryologist determines if the embryo is chromosomally normal or abnormal. PGT-A allows your physician to select the embryo most likely to result in a higher chance of pregnancy and lower chance of miscarriage.
PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) on the other hand, uses the same process to detect a specific disorder that has a high probability of being passed down from parents to their offspring. PGD allows IVF to help couples who don’t have an infertility diagnosis, but may be carriers of genetic diseases they don’t want to pass on to their children.
Male infertility has seen notable improvements as well, particularly for men producing little or no sperm. A technique called micro-TESE involves identifying areas of the testicle that have the best sperm production and then microsurgically removing those sperm for use with procedures like IVF.
F+M NYC: Fertility and adoption are challenging to begin with. Has the pandemic caused any additional fertility challenges?
HS: Unfortunately, it absolutely has. When the pandemic hit, reproductive services were not immediately deemed essential, and a number of patients were left in the middle of IVF cycles. Retrievals and transfers had to be canceled, and there was a grief surrounding that hope for a family or additional child in 2020. Fortunately, clinics have been able to reopen, but as anyone who has struggled with fertility can tell you, months can feel like years on this journey.
A global pandemic that has led to travel bans, court closings, and stay-at-home orders has also taken its toll on prospective parents hoping to expand their families via adoption. Court closures have stalled domestic adoptions, job losses as a result of the pandemic have impacted some families’ abilities to adopt, and closed borders and travel restrictions are complicating international adoptions. And, hospitals’ restrictions on individuals accompanying the birth mother have impacted how adoptive parents meet their baby, often only after they successfully cross state borders and quarantine. The bottom line is that families are still being created, but an already emotional and intense time has become much more stressful.
F+M NYC: What would you recommend for women who are starting to move into menopause. How can they prepare for the journey around that?
HS: Firstly, recognize that symptoms of menopause actually often begin years before you’re officially in menopause. It is often confusing to many women to start experiencing hot flashes, mood swings, fatigue and sleeplessness years before they expect to be or are medically in menopause.
Data is unfortunately sparse, but some research indicates that one in every four women in perimenopause and menopause struggle with symptoms severe enough to have a profound impact on their daily lives. Yet, there are limited practitioners dedicated to treating women in menopause. As a result, recognize that you will likely need to be your own advocate in your menopausal journey.
This can start with a list of questions for your OB/G at your annual visit, or for your PCP at your annual physical. You should feel confident that your current provider will be able to support you through the journey around menopause. You could begin with questions including:
– Do you treat a lot of women my age?
– What should I think about as I get near menopause?
– What do you recommend for women my age who have a lot of trouble with menopause symptoms?
– What are your opinions about hormone therapy?
– Are there alternative therapies that can help me if I don’t want prescription drugs?
I would advise listening for:
– Familiarity with menopausal issues
– Current knowledge of the field, including the latest information on the risks of hormone therapy
– Comfort as they talk about this area of health
– Willingness to hear your concerns
– Flexibility in making health decisions, including alternative therapies
If you aren’t finding the level of support or confidence you need, this is a good time to seek recommendations!
Finally, there is a mental health component of perimenopause and menopause that is important to acknowledge. Again, this isn’t a topic that is given a lot of air time, but that has to change. If you don’t have friends or family members that can relate or you feel comfortable speaking to, a mental health professional can be extremely valuable in navigating the journey and helping to handle the complex emotions that may accompany the physical changes.
F+M NYC: How do you support yourself around food + mood?
HS: I try to take my own advice, and eat a balanced diet with minimal processed foods and sugars – easier said than done in these last few months! But there’s an undeniable connection between my clarity of mind, productivity and sense of well-being and an anti-inflammatory diet – well, between my food and mood!
I also move daily, ideally in the morning – the pandemic has forced me to get creative, so in addition to walks with audiobooks or podcasts, I’ve also started the Peloton strength and yoga workouts (a nod to building up bone density early!) and love assembling a menu of different classes so I can’t get bored. Finally, I’ve discovered the be.come project this year, and I’m in love! It’s body-neutral, a new workout every week, and an amazing combination of pilates, yoga and dance, with excellent music to boot. There’s an element of self-care and self-love that leaves me more positive after every workout!
To learn more about Wellhatched and how they can support you on your fertility journey visit wellhatched.co.