We’ve all heard of drug testing in professional ball leagues, but one case now in the news comes with a surprising—and for many, upsetting—twist.
Indianapolis Colts linebacker Robert Mathis—a star player and six-time Pro Bowler—was suspended by the NFL for four games this upcoming season after he tested positive for drugs. But it wasn’t for the kind of drugs that probably first come to mind in such instances. Instead, the substance in question is Clomid, well-known for its application as a fertility drug.
More background: Robert and his wife Brandi are already parents to twin boys. But when Robert learned his mother was suffering from stage-four cancer and was given just a short time to live, the pair was eager to conceive another child that she could meet before it was too late. Because of what Robert’s sports management agency EAG calls “certain health risks associated with Brandi taking prescriptions,” the couple’s doctor instead prescribed a course of Clomid, which can increase sperm production, for Robert in the hopes of expediting fertilization.
Robert’s management company said further that the football star asked his doctor prior to taking the drug whether it would interfere with the league’s drug testing policies, and the doctor said it would not. However, it turns out that Clomid is actually banned by the NFL because it may enhance athletic performance.
In the end, the couple is expecting a new baby girl next month—so the Clomid appears to have served its intended reproductive purpose for Robert’s personal life, despite the controversy swirling around his professional life.
Rosie Pope is an amazing pregnancy concierge, fashion designer, reality star, and frequent Parents contributor. She gives great advice to pregnant women every day on what they can do to prepare for motherhood. But now the “Pregnant in Heels” star is opening up to Everything Pregnancy in the most personal way possible—talking about her ongoing struggles with infertility, which is a topic that is unfortunately still taboo.
Many women don’t want to discuss the feelings of pain, frustration and shame that come with not being able to conceive. It’s obviously a very personal choice, but Rosie and I feel that talking about it, and letting other women know that they’re not alone, is a powerful thing. Here’s my candid Q&A with Rosie, a true inspiration to women with infertility issues, as she’s the proud mom of three, and has another one on the way! She’s proof you can overcome it!
Why do you think talking about infertility and IVF is still so hush-hush? I think throughout our society there is this kind of stigma that to be a real woman you should be fertile and have babies. If we need extra help, somehow we’re less perfect or less of a person. As women, we can’t beat ourselves up about it. That’s why I think it’s important to talk about it.
Did you have infertility issues from the beginning or did you suffer from secondary infertility? I actually had a miscarriage first and it was pretty late on in the pregnancy. After that, it took about 8 or 9 months to get pregnant and then everything went smoothly. But when we were ready to try again, that’s when it became clear that I had a problem. In a nutshell, I never ovulated, and none of the doctors could figure out why. I sort of got bat around quite a lot until I got the right specialist and they discovered the reason why I’d had the late miscarriage, and the reason why I hadn’t been getting pregnant, was I had what they call a septum, which is a piece of tissue that divides the uterus, that can make it difficult for the baby to grow. So they removed that and then they hoped that everything would be fine. It wasn’t—I still couldn’t start ovulating and that’s when you get diagnosed, for me anyway, with “unexplainable infertility”. And that’s when I embarked on the journey of fertility treatments that ranged from taking oral medication to injectables and ultimately IVF.
I’m sure all of that was mentally and emotionally draining for you. Yes, you know, I always thought that because I got married young, and I started trying to have babies young, there would never be an issue. I had been told my whole life about how not to get pregnant that I never even considered, “What if you can’t get pregnant?” So it took a long time to deal with the shock and disbelief that I wasn’t getting pregnant. I blamed myself a lot in the beginning. I felt badly for my husband because there’s nothing wrong with him, and he had married me, and I couldn’t get pregnant when all my friends were getting pregnant. I was very fortunate to be in a relationship where my husband always considered us a team. It was never me by myself, which was really helpful. But you just feel really powerless.
It’s so hard when there’s nothing you can do, and every month you try and do every thing, especially when you’re the type of person I am—when you do all the research and you’ve got all the facts, like you’re supposed to be ovulating here and things are supposed to be happening, and when it’s not happening it’s very frustrating. And then for me the hardest thing was after a few rounds of IVF we actually did get pregnant, but we were pregnant with an ectopic pregnancy [one that occurs outside the womb, which can be life-threatening to the mother]. That was just so hard to finally be pregnant and then not be able to keep the baby. Having a baby is a miracle, and no matter what the modern scientific advances are, you just can’t always plan it, even if on paper it seems like it should work.
How did you and your husband get through it as a couple, when communication can shut down during such a difficult time? The thing that worked for us was humor. There’s really awkward stuff that happens on that road to getting pregnant. If you are going through IUI’s or you’re going through fertility treatment, your husband gets ushered off to a room and is given a whole bunch of porn to choose from, and then makes his sperm donation. That’s kind of weird as a wife… waiting in the waiting room while your husband does that! And everybody else waiting in that room with you is doing the same thing. I am very English and awkward about these things, so my husband would make endless jokes about the type of porn he chose and type of porn the person next to us probably chose, because it the whole scenario was just ridiculous. That humor opened up the conversation for us. If you can talk about that, you can talk about anything! That might not work for everybody, but I think whatever works for you and your relationship, you’ve got to keep doing that through the IVF process. If you really like being romantic, somehow you gotta incorporate that into your romantic life. It’s just important that you don’t stop being you as a couple because this is happening.
What’s the best advice you can give another woman going through this sort of struggle? Don’t get mad at your partner! In the early stages of it, you’re taking a medication like Clomid, to make you ovulate, and you get to the window when you’re ovulating, and you’re husband can’t get home from work early that day, or he’s sick, or has to take a work trip. I would get so angry at my husband when something like that would happen, like he was stopping me from getting pregnant. It’s not his fault. Life still has to go on.
What do you think was the key to you getting pregnant? Aside from the anatomy issues I had, I really think it was reducing my stress. I’m high strung, so for me what really helped was just diving into work and being busy. When I’m busy, I’m more relaxed because I’m distracted. And that wasn’t my tactic to start off with. I thought that I had to take it easy and focus only on getting pregnant, and that for me is a trap. It’s just too much pressure on a person.
How has your latest pregnancy compared with that of your first three children?Each one has been really different. My first was ridiculously easy, and I thought I could do this like a thousand times. My second one, after we had all those problems and finally got pregnant, it was very difficult. I was on bed rest for a pretty good portion of it. My third pregnancy was super easy. With this one, my body is kind of mad at me, and I’m just nauseous all the time!
Do you predict there will be live tweeting through this birth, like your last one? We’ll see. I recommend it! I was very distracted by it instead of just staring at the clock waiting for the birth to happen. I believe your birthing experience should be like the rest of your life. If you’re a busy Blackberry-Tweeting type like me, do that in the delivery room, If you’re not and you’re into yoga and massage, do that. You have to stay true to your personality because it’s only going to get heightened in the delivery room. So trying to make a calm environment with incense and massage for a high-strung person like me is not a good idea!
You told me your biggest fear with this birth is that you’d have the baby on the highway. Why’s that? I live in New Jersey now, but I’m delivering in New York with the doctor who has delivered all of my other babies, and each birth has been drastically quicker. My first took 26 hours; my second was 10 hours; and my third was only 4 hours! So who knows how quick this one could come out!
I know there’s no such thing as a miracle drug, but a new version of In Vitro Fertilization—dubbed the mini-IVF—sure sounds like a miracle procedure! It’s half the price of the usual IVF, with fewer doses required, and far less side effects. How cool is that?!
This new method of getting pregnant consists of a daily low-dose pill of the fertility drug Clomid—which helps kick-start egg production—for 10 to 12 days. During this time, ultrasounds are required every few days to check whether the eggs are developing healthily. Around 10 days later, once the eggs are large enough, they are removed with a 5-minute operation that is so minor it doesn’t even require general anesthesia.
According to a trial involving 520 women, which was showcased at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine conference in Boston, success rates in women over 35 were a third higher compared with those undergoing conventional IVF, and women in their 40s were twice as likely to have a baby compared to if they had used the standard IVF. In women 35 and under, success rates are about the same for both IVF and mini-IVF procedures, but researchers say women in that age range still would benefit from using the mini-IVF because it is cheaper and has fewer side effects (it is said to not cause pregnant-like symptoms, including mood swings, nausea or headaches that usually come with IVF treatments).
The Daily Mailreports that “one of the main reasons women in their 30s and 40s have problems conceiving either naturally or with IVF is that they do not produce enough healthy eggs capable of developing into an embryo, and eventually into a fetus.” Well, high-dose fertility drugs used in conventional IVF actually worsen this problem. They increase a woman’s egg production, but they also appear to change the DNA of the eggs, which can sometimes leave them defective. The mini-IVF does not.
While more research may need to be done in this area, all signs are pointing to the mini-IVF being a better alternative for women seeking fertility help.
TELL US: Do you think the mini-IVF sounds too good to be true? Or is it about time researchers found a cheaper, easier, more effective alternative to the standard IVF procedure?