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Overcoming the Odds

Even as infertility becomes less stigmatized and more openly discussed, it’s still a difficult road to go down. But the region’s experts in reproductive medicine are here to help individuals struggling to conceive a child—even when it seems like all hope is lost.

For many, the dream of growing one’s family is a natural progression building on previously checked-off personal milestones like coupling up, establishing a career and putting down one’s roots.

But for those hopeful parents whose dreams of having a biological child have been thwarted by infertility, that indefinite pause can seem like an interminable, heartbreaking slog through invasive questions, expensive treatments, and cautious optimism dashed by reality month after month.

Fortunately, the Central Florida region is home to some compassionate and capable doctors well-versed in innovative, effective methods for helping local families grow by two tiny feet, no matter the difficulties they’ve faced along the way.
According to data from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an estimated 9% of men and 11% of women in America have experienced fertility problems. To further break down that impact on couples trying to conceive, the NIH notes that there’s an even split among the root cause of infertility: It can be attributed to the male partner, the female partner, or a combination of both partners and unknown factors with equal frequency.
Despite infertility happening to roughly one in 10 men and women, it is a fairly new development for the issue to be openly discussed rather than swept under the rug like a shamefully guarded family secret. And as the area’s professionals are quick to explain it’s a health issue that can be caused by factors beyond a couple’s control, its stigma is an underserved one.
Dr. Zamip Patel, a urologist at Orlando’s Southeast Male Infertility & Urology practice with fellowship training in andrology/male infertility, adds that it’s an even newer development for men to not only discuss but also consider their role in a couple’s difficulty to conceive a child, emphasizing that “you’re no less of a man” when complications like low sperm counts, abnormal sperm function, past injuries or chronic health problems are at play.
And with social media, shifting societal norms and increased education about what causes infertility all contributing to more open exchanges about a journey that a surprising number of people can keenly relate to, he hopes to see that trend of vulnerable honesty continue on its promising trajectory, especially since conversations can help set a precedent to normalize something that’s more common than previously realized.
“The stigma in general of infertility, it is becoming less and less of one as IVF [in vitro fertilization] has become more and more accepted and, by extension, infertility in general tends to become something couples talk about more, which they certainly didn’t before,” says Dr. Patel. “This isn’t something wrong with you or something that you did wrong. … Generally speaking, the thing I try to remind a lot of men of is that all of our ancestors had this problem before, it just wasn’t talked about as much and we didn’t see it as much because men reproduced earlier on in life and now, of course, since both men and women reproduce later, we start to see much more of these things.”
Dr. Zakia Lachgar is a licensed acupuncture physician who also holds a doctorate in Oriental medicine and a master’s degree in biomedical science. She combines her training and expertise in both Eastern and Western medicine to care for her patients holistically while also identifying the exhaustively personalized treatments that will help them get the most from the acupuncture treatments that have been shown to help with infertility in both men and women.
In fact, she notes that acupuncture’s benefits in the area of reproductive medicine extend to regulating menstrual cycles, increasing blood flow to both the uterus and the ovaries, and reducing overall stress, in addition to improving implantation rates and providing additional support to patients undergoing assisted reproductive treatments such as IVF.
“We use acupuncture for balancing all of the hormones, particularly lowering the cortisol levels as we get more endorphins released, and it also helps with blood flow, which would increase the uterine lining so it helps with the latching when a patient is trying to conceive,” Dr. Lachgar begins. “There is no one cookie-cutter treatment. Every single treatment is based on the patient’s needs, so we look at their lab work and we also look at their lifestyle, we look at their body composition, we look at what they tend to be deficient on and what they need more help with. … We work a lot with fertility doctors directly, so our program goes hand in hand with what they’re doing through treatments like IVF or IUI [intrauterine insemination].”
Treating infertility with artificial insemination procedures, especially IVF, is an incredibly timely topic both medically and socially. As hotly contested debates about when life begins have already influenced legislation in Alabama, they’ve also made national headlines and sparked conversations about reproductive challenges, education and freedom across the country—and, as Dr. Patel points out, with 2% of all births now being the product of IVF, “everyone has been touched by IVF, whether you know someone who’s done it or you’d had it done yourself.”
“It’s a hot-button topic with the Alabama ruling and a threat to IVF across the nation that I don’t think that the general public, or even a lot of lawmakers, really have a firm grasp on,” he notes. “But I think that that’s part of the problem, that you have a lot of people in key decision-making positions who really don’t have the scientific background or the understanding of where this is heading, what it means and what the actual implications are. … The first IVF done in this country was in ’96, and at that time, it was a crazy environment because lawmakers didn’t know what to do with it. I remember hearing the phrase ‘playing God’ a lot, but that’s not what happens here: You have an embryo and that embryo is a potential life—yes, it’s a potential life, but it’s a potential life like a seed is a potential tree. It’s likely, but it’s not guaranteed. It would be wonderful if every embryo made it, but that’s not even close to the truth.”
And while there are still challenges ahead, whether it’s achieving the scientific breakthroughs that will yield even more promising numbers for couples trying to conceive or effectively cutting through the static of misconceptions to fight for individuals’ reproductive rights and safety, there is always hope for couples who think infertility is a life sentence—and plenty of opportunities to correct the misinformation that still plagues the world of reproductive medicine.
“We discuss everything from food therapy to lifestyle to exercise to stress management, all of which have an effect on our body and our health in general, because your lifestyle and your stress matter—people think that because everyone is stressed that it doesn’t matter, but that stress might affect you differently and, after a while, that chronic, low-grade stress does have an effect on your cortisol level, which will have an effect on your progesterone, which will have an effect on your fertility directly,” Dr. Lachgar says. “It all comes down to educating patients in what we can offer and what we can do, and what would be the benefit of acupuncture for them. I think education is key for patients to reach their goals, especially when it comes to infertility. Infertility can be a long road, which is why they need to feel comfortable in really addressing their core issues. In a lot of cases, we can help but sometimes we can’t, but our patients know that we’re 100% invested in helping them reach their goal.”

Acupuncture of Orlando
Orlando  |  (407) 440-2808

Orlando Health South Lake Hospital Center for Women & Babies

Southeast Male Infertility & Urology
Orlando  |  (407) 995-6827

Tree of Life Birth & Gynecology
Altamonte Springs  |  (407) 878-2757