Mary Wong: “Conceivable! Reversing a Modern-day Dilemma” | Talks at Google

[MUSIC PLAYING] KAREN: Good morning. I’m Karen [INAUDIBLE], and
I’m a managing director here at Google in our Global
Partnerships Organization, and I’m also a
leader in our Women At [? Org. ?] And
here at Google, I have a passion for helping
women at our company realize the unlimited
potential in our professional and personal lives, and that
includes a future where we have more women leaders at Google,
especially at our director level and beyond, where
women are supporting each other to
thrive and to grow, and where women feel
empowered to live lives on their terms,
both professionally and personally being
their authentic selves, and finally, where women
feel confident building careers at Google through
various stages of their lives, especially when
they start families. And in today’s world,
it doesn’t seem like there is a standard
path to pregnancy. Those of us working on
starting our families– it’s important for us to
be educated and understand what those paths are. So when I heard about
Mary Wong and her talk, I was so proud to
see that Google is supporting
discussions like this and working on educating us
on challenges and solutions many face when there is a
desire to start a family. Mary Wong has been in practice
for more than 20 years, helping thousands
of couples conceive. She’s the founder of ALIVE
Holistic Health Clinic and was an expert panel advisor
to the Canadian government on infertility and adoption. As a Traditional Chinese
Medicine, TCM, practitioner and patient who struggled
with infertility, Mary has made it her life’s
mission to bring about change and improve people’s
health by bridging the gap between Eastern
and Western medicine. Through her new book,
“Pathways to Pregnancy,” Mary offers a moving
and eye-opening voice to the national conversation
about conceiving. She has been featured
on CTV’s “Your Morning,” “ON Times,” “Toronto
Star,” and Sirius XM. And with that, please help
me welcome Mary to Google. [APPLAUSE] And Mary unfortunately
hurt herself this weekend, so we’ll let you– MARY WONG: Oh, I have unmic’ed. Thank you so much. And thank you so much for
joining me here today, and I’m so pleased that
there’s people that showed up because I’ll tell you,
this conversation is a very private one, one
which touches my heart, and that’s why I’m here
with you talking about it. And not only is it because
I’m a practitioner, but as Karen said,
it’s because I myself had fertility challenges
with my husband, and it took us half
a decade before we had our little girl,
who I hope to introduce to you at the end of this talk. Oh, right, I’m
supposed to use this. And that’s what propelled me
to write my book “Pathways to Pregnancy.” And really, it’s
about dispelling the shame and the stigma
that is attached to it. And utilizing 15
personal stories of hope, I guide you through the
various different pathways, which can be wide and varied. Whether it’s natural or through
the integration of Eastern and Western medicine,
there is possibility, and you can create life. And the biggest piece for having
me here and to write my book was to really ease
and prevent the pain and suffering that women
and couples go through as they go through the
challenges of infertility struggle, as well as
preventing challenges if you’re just about to start
out, or maybe even one day thinking about
conceiving and creating a family for the future. So I want to tell
you a bit about what I’ll be talking about the
rest of this discussion here, and the very first thing
is what is infertility? How prevalent it
is in our society– and then I’ll tell
you a little bit more about my personal story. And then after, I’ll
look at some common myths that I will want to dispel and
then look at some solutions surrounding that. And so I’ll just name
some of the common myths– that your eggs are getting
older every single day, like they’re about to expire,
and it’s only a woman’s issue, and that it’s an
individual’s issue. And one of the very common
things, especially in New York, I find, there’s this
thing about egg freezing, and freezing your
eggs is the answer. So I’ll talk about that. And then the last bit, which
any woman trying to conceive will get, will be just relax
and you’ll get pregnant. So I’ll discuss all
that and hopefully provide some good,
sound advice for you that you can walk away with. And at the very end, I want to
invite my friend/patient who has been with me– oh, gosh, I don’t know– a while now. And she’s going to come and
tell you about her story. It’s a modern story
about family building, and I’m really pleased to have
her, and her name is Jackie. And then at the very end,
we’ll go through some Q&A, and if you have
more questions, you can certainly come up and ask. And due, again, to the
nature of this conversation, if you want to be
private about it, you can use the [INAUDIBLE]
just put your questions through anonymously. So before I talk
further, I just want to tell you a little story. That’s my grandmother
that you see. And in my youth, I
had always wanted to go into medicine,
meaning medical school. But in second year
of university, my grandmother fell ill,
and in the hospital, the doctor gave her
two weeks to live. So we decided to bring her
home from the hospital, and as a last resort, we went
to Chinese medicine, TCM. So I was the one assigned
to drive her to Chinatown through this herbal dispensary,
and she would get treatments in the back room, a tiny little
room with just one little treatment table. And I was fascinated by this
art-science that has been around for thousands of years. But even more than
that, it was miraculous that she recovered
within three months, and she was 86 at the time. She lived another eight years. So in that moment,
I’m like, oh, my gosh. How the heck did she
slip through the cracks? And I need to do
something about this. So instead of going to apply for
medical school, what I ended up doing was I just finished my
biological sciences degree, and then I went on to
study Chinese medicine, and I’ve never looked back. And so my goal was– I have to bridge that gap
between Eastern and Western medicine, and I want
to create that access, because why doesn’t
everybody know about this? So here I am, and
today in these days, it’s more in line with
the whole fertility bit. So that’s what we’re
going to talk about today. So infertility is defined
such as when a man and a woman has been trying to conceive
naturally for a year and they have no
success, and that’s it. So to me, I don’t
like that definition. I actually don’t like
the word “infertility.” I don’t use it in my practice
very much, although you’ll see it even on my slides. I like to call it fertility
challenged, so that it’s not like infertility is a
state of permanence, but rather, a state of being
in the moment right now. And I think that we’re human
beings capable of change and the ability to heal. So that’s where I come from. Either way, fertility
challenges are really prevalent, and I’ll speak specifically
to the United States. Currently, right now, 7 million
women– and probably more– are experiencing infertility
in their reproductive age, and that does not even include
those that have already gone through the
challenges, and it also doesn’t include those that
will have fertility challenges. So to put it in another
way, that’s about one in six women having fertility
challenges in a lifetime. And then to put that
into perspective, you have to know that when
you walk into the Starbucks next time or go into a meeting
room and there’s 24 people, you’ll know at least four people
are currently experiencing, have experienced, or will one
day experience infertility. So that’s really prevalent. And so who are these
faces of fertility? Well, it can be you. It can be me. It is me, or was me. And it can really be anyone. And it also can be
even celebrities that you’ll recognize on
this screen here, 12 of which here I show, but there are
many more who came out and told their story, which I’m so
proud of because they’re also helping to lessen the
shame and decreasing that taboo around it. And this includes
Mark Zuckerberg, who last year– was
it last year now? When he announced the
pregnancy of him and his wife, it was so awesome
and inspiring to see that he revealed that him
and his wife had issues. They had multiple miscarriages
before they gave birth to their child. So again, the point
is you’re really not alone if you’re currently
experiencing this, and there’s certainly
nothing to be shameful about. However, it is still private. And I’ll tell you, coming
from experience, that when you have a non-pregnancy
month in, month out, trying to conceive and getting
that no every month, it kind of wears on you as a human being. And I decided to look up what
the definition of a woman is, and I just googled it online. And dictionary.com
puts this out. “Adult human being who is
biologically female that is capable of bearing offspring.” And I’m like, whoa. I think it’s a little outdated. However, when you’re a
woman that conceives, great. Fine. Or if you choose to not have
children, that’s fine too. But what if you are
that person that has been struggling to conceive? That kind of gets you to a
place where, oh, my gosh. And I’m not saying everyone
does this, but I’ll tell you, there were moments in
my life where I’m like, am I not good enough? Am I not a woman? It’s not a great– not an empowering place to be. So I should have been
a fertility goddess, and the reason why I say this
is because I have literally helped thousands of women
and couples conceive. So really, there was
actually a pressure on myself to be able to be
that person like– [FINGERS SNAPPING] –goes like this
and gets pregnant. And in fact, I would
say that growing up, for most women and
most kids, you’re basically told to avoid
getting pregnant at all costs when you’re young. So really, when the time
comes, you’re like, oh, yeah, it’s going to happen. So that’s where I was. And certainly, I
thought, I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I live a really healthy life. I help other people. Both my grandparents– both my
grandmothers had children at 46 naturally. So for sure, it was
going to be a breeze. But yet, when I was 38, my
husband and I were trying, and even when we went
to the fertility clinic, everything looked great. But it wasn’t until
finally, somehow, this other fertility doctor
I went to, a second one, decided to do an x-ray of
my reproductive organs. And that’s called a HSG,
hysterosalpingogram. And what I saw on that
fuzzy screen in front of me as I lied down on that
exam table blew me away. And I was shocked because
instead of the fallopian tubes that you see on
this screen like this, my fallopian tubes were
really gnarled and tortuous and basically irreparable. And believe me, I tried. We did everything under the
sun to try to help my tubes. But unfortunately, there
comes a point in time when there are just
instances where it may not work naturally. So it was a really
difficult concept to grasp, because, again, I came
from a very natural place. I could heal myself, but
yet, in this instance, it’s like, oh, my gosh. My husband’s sperm
and my eggs will never meet up unless we have
great intervention. No amount of relaxation
was going to do it for us. So I had to think long and
hard and evaluate our life. It’s like, can we, and could
we, just live child-free? Because you know what? We had a great life. I had a great job. I love my job. We travel. We can do anything, anytime. And yet there was
this deep desire that is just inexpressible. And it’s just innate
want and desire that just could not be fulfilled
unless I just went for it. And so instead of– oh, let me backtrack. If you asked me 15
years prior to that if I would ever consider doing
IVF, which is fertilizing my eggs outside of my body
and then putting it back in, I would say absolutely not,
because I never even took an aspirin. So yet, when I was confronted
with this challenge where it’s my eggs and his sperm would
not meet up, all of a sudden, I changed my tune. And then instead
of looking at it like, oh, this is
a horrendous thing, I looked at it as an
opportunity and thought, wow, I can actually do
this at this day and age. There’s technology
that can help. And so that’s what we did. I surrendered to it. We surrendered to it,
and not just once, unfortunately, but
multiple times. So I don’t want to go on
and on about my story. You can read that in my book. But I am really, really,
really grateful and blessed that my husband and I
ended up having our child– her name is Zoe– and again, who I hope
you’ll meet at the end. She’ll be turning
five next Monday. So that’s our story,
and the reason why I tell you this is because
the first thing that I learned was you know what? I’m human, and I’m not
immune to life’s challenges. And so there is
no shame in that. And I tell you, my story
also is that there is hope, no matter where you’re at. And– ooh. I didn’t expect to get
a little emotional. So yes, I really want
to be able to help. So when we conceived, I was 44. So I want to talk to this
myth about your eggs are getting older every single day. So I’m not going to say that
there’s no truth behind it, because absolutely, the
probability of conceiving does decline with age. And for those of you– actually, you know what? Can I invite everyone to close
their eyes just for one moment? Because I want to ask
something, and of course, this is private conversation,
so I want to be respectful. So can you all just close
your eyes for one moment and raise your hand
if you’re over 35? OK, so definitely more than
half the people in this room. And also, who here in
this room has children? Raise your hand. OK, a third of the room. OK, great. Thank you. And you can open your eyes. So for those that are over
35 and do not have children, I don’t want you to panic
looking at this chart because it looks really
kind of horrible, because what you’ll see and
witness is that this graph will show that after the
age of 35, there’s a decrease of probability
of trying to conceive. In every cycle,
there’s less chance. And simultaneously,
there’s a higher incidence of miscarriage. And I’ll tell you, if
anyone here has ever been to a fertility clinic,
as soon as you walk in and you’re 35 and over, the
first thing they’ll tell you– without looking at your chart
at all, just based on your age, they’ll tell you you are
of advanced maternal age. You better go straight
to IVF because that’ll increase your chances. And then the other thing they’ll
tell you is reproductively speaking, you are a geriatric– very, very bad thing for them
to say to you because it, again, is not helpful at all,
doesn’t help, especially if you’re going in. You’re asking for help. You walk out deflated
and depressed, right? And oftentimes, again, in
the nature of our society, we’re going in in
our 30s and 40s. So it’s a very tough
state to be in. So when I tell you
to look at this, please take it with
a grain of salt and know that you are a dynamic
human being and you can change. And there are things
that you can do, and I’ll discuss that further. And so what I always
say is it’s not like your eggs are in a sack
of marbles in the ovaries. It’s not going to just
come out every month like that marble just
sitting there, ready to go. But rather, if you look
at this, a brand-new car– that 22-year-old
actually still has a one-in-four or -five
chances of getting pregnant every cycle. So really, if you do your
math, which isn’t basic– but we have a higher chance
of not conceiving than you do conceive at any month. So if you have a 35-
or 40-year-old car and you don’t do anything
to it and you say, OK, let’s go for
a drive, well, you might be having a
hard time with that. However, if you take care of it,
you check under the hood and– oil and do your
overhaul, then maybe, maybe, you can actually
take it for a drive. And that’s not that much
different for our bodies. So there’s a saying
in Chinese medicine where we say if you cultivate
the soil before you plant your seed, anything can happen. So looking here, you
have a little seedling growing into a bud and then a
flowering stage of a flower. So that takes time. And now, going to our
reproductive organs– and this is a
follicular genesis, meaning the development of
our eggs within our body. Well, we think about
it– oftentimes, we think that when we
ovulate per cycle, that’s it. It’s that one little cycle,
maybe a 14-day window depending on your
menstrual cycle. But really, our eggs don’t
start as already ready to go. They actually
start out as a germ cell, and this resting
germ cell– it’s inert. Nothing’s really
happening, so they’re OK. So it’s really the environment
that it develops in that we can potentiate. And if you give it lots of
love, and oxygen, and nutrients, and supplements, and
good, positive self-talk, all that can impact
the state of yourself. So I say for you, look at
your pre-conception health and take care of
it now, and that’s through lifestyle and
dietary habits, so much more. And I’ll actually
adjust that too, but I want to talk about this as well
because while I’m here talking about eggs, and we really
relate to fertility as a woman’s issue– but in reality, men are
completely and equally likely to have
fertility challenges. And although we don’t
really talk about it as women, about how
challenging it is, well, it’s even less
of a conversation– it’s a non-conversation
when it comes to male factor infertility. And the way I see it is this. There’s like this
male stereotype. You’re a man, and
if you’re virile, and you can spread your seeds
and populate this Earth, right? So when you don’t have that,
if you’re shooting blanks, or if your sperm’s going
around doing back floats, it’s going to be questionable. So of course they’re not
going to talk about it. But I’m going to put
it to the forefront because it’s a huge issue. And as you see here,
the American Society of Reproductive
Medicine actually stated that male
factor comprises 40% of infertility challenges. So when a couple
cannot conceive, it’s not just
necessarily the woman. And so 30% of it is solely male
factor, and then 10% of the 40% is male and female combined. So that’s very prevalent. So we talk about age. Age does impact
male factor as well. So again, there’s this myth that
we think that male sperm can just go on and on and on. Well, to a degree– but really, after a
certain age, there are studies definitely that are
showing now more and more where the age of the male sperm
can impact and cause higher incidences
of pre-term delivery as well as higher
incidences of miscarriage. And see? When we think of
miscarriage, we always blame the woman somehow, right? And really, we have to look
at both sides of the equation. And then here, when
I talk about factors affecting both male and female
fertility, there are so many. So it’s way beyond just the age
that people are thinking about. So there’s a genetic
and birth defects, and autoimmune factors,
hormonal imbalances, STIs, which are Sexually Transmitted
Infections, the primary of which is chlamydia. And then there’s people that
go through cancer treatments at a young age. Just chemo and
radiation, that impact. And, you know,
through technology we’re surviving
cancer, but then we may not be able to conceive
after all our treatments, and that’s very sad. Then there are the lifestyle
factors, which includes things like cigarette smoking
and heavy alcohol use, and drugs, and even exposure
to environmental toxins, or even the food that
we eat, you know, it’s not as wholesome and
as good as it used to be. The pesticides, the hormone
additives, like everything. Plastics from our water. Everything contributes
over time, cumulatively. And I’m not saying that
you can’t get pregnant with any of this,
it’s just that we have to be wary, and let’s
decrease that as a factor. Right? One last common one is
the unhealthy weight, because in the United States,
unfortunately, there’s a high incidence of
obesity, and obesity is a contributing factor. And obesity is also tied into
diabetes, blood sugar levels. That impacts fertility. And on the other side
of the coin for females, it’s also unhealthy
weight being– having too low of a
BMI, body mass index. That contributes. So there are other
pathologies or fertility issues that are
strictly for women, and these are conditions
of endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, other
menstrual irregularities. Anyway, I just don’t want
to keep going on and on. So then there are
also male factors, specifically varicocele, which
is basically varicose veins in the testicle area. And then vasectomy. And then reversal of
vasectomy for men, for example, who had
children, gets a vasectomy, and then they go and
have a second marriage and then they want
to have children, and sometimes the reversals
don’t work either. Impotency, this
is always of note, in my opinion, so
prescriptions, even over-the-counter
prescriptions, where men are taking like
Rogaine for hair loss, that can impact sperm; FYI. Vanity doesn’t pay sometimes. And then the other
very important thing for males to consider is about
the testicular temperature. Even if your testicles
raise 1 degree, 1 degree, it can impact your
sperm formation. The good news is that if
you change that lifestyle, like eggs, they have
to develop, right, so within a certain amount of
time, it can regulate as well. So when you’re
wanting to conceive, you do want to look at
your lifestyle factors. So, looking at all those
factors that affect and impact fertility, I do have to say
that it could be very scary, and it’s like, oh, my
gosh, how does anybody get pregnant at all? But thankfully people do. And do know that
whatever your diagnosis, it doesn’t mean that you
cannot have a baby; you can, and there may be ways
that you can help it. So, again, it’s not something
that is set in stone, and you can dynamically change,
and you’re capable of it, and really my advice for you,
no matter what stage you’re at, is do early testing. So be aware of where you’re
at, reproductively speaking. Go to your doctor, your GP. Get checked out, hormones
and all the rest of it. But then also find a
complementary practitioner to see where you’re at
in your overall balance, because, again, that helps. One thing that I
say to people, when they do IVFs, the
medical doctors, the medical profession,
what they’re good at and what they aim for is to try
to increase the number of eggs. So that’s the
quantitative approach. Whereas in Chinese
medicine, what we want to do is we want to help
the qualitative part. And to me that’s more important. Like who cares if
you’ve got like 100 eggs if they’re all bad. So look at things in
your life that if you can do to help the quality
while you simultaneously build more eggs. Great, maybe we can
optimize your chances. So it’s really about integrating
Eastern and Western medicine and then looking at your
lifestyle and dietary habits, as well as, if you’re
not even anywhere near trying to conceive,
being fertility aware, like know about your
periods, your menstrual cycles. I mean, a lot of people don’t
even know when they menstruate, when they ovulate. So check that out. There’s even fertility awareness
groups and practitioners that do that. So I like to bring
this image up, because it’s like you don’t
have to necessarily have little raisins shriveling
up every month. Really, with time and with lots
of love and care and nurture, maybe you will have like
really juicy, awesome, grape-like eggs. So, the next one
I want to cover, which really no one speaks
about and I want to bring it up, is that infertility is
an individual’s issue. And, listen, I’ve
been told, it’s like oh, you should have
started earlier, and, you know, my mother, in fact, before we
got married, when I was single, she said, well, you could
just have a baby like now before you’re too old, because
likely people are getting divorced all the time anyway,
you might as well just do it now and the kid will
know that you love her. So, anyway, I didn’t
opt to do that, but it was in my mind for sure. But it’s really not just
an individual’s issue because it’s a
socioeconomic one. Right? Because when you’re
young, we’re taught to further our
education so that we can have a really good
career, and having that good career,
first of all, we have to get up that
corporate ladder to pay off our
student loans and then be financially stable
enough so that only then can we look at building families. And by that time, most of us
are like in our 30s and 40s. And that’s a really,
really common thing that I see in my
personal practice. And, again, I don’t want
to beat this to death, here’s another graph. So the fertility rate
does decline as we age. And, as I just
said, we’re starting to conceive when we’re
in our 30s and 40s when the rates are
on the decline. So that’s just fact. And then it’s also
a worldwide issue. So it’s not an
individual issue, it’s also a trend that’s across
the board that, again, no one talks about. So I will acknowledge
that of course there’s overpopulation in this
world, but there’s a real imbalance, because as
much as there is overpopulation in most– a lot of developing
countries, there are 83 countries in
this world right now, that’s 38.25 countries in this
world right now experiencing a decline in fertility rates. And to below replacement
fertility rate means that one woman is
having two children or less in their reproductive lifespan. And in the United States
right now, the rate is 1.89. And in Canada it’s
even lower, 1.6. And we certainly know
that in Europe it’s even lower than that. And surprisingly
I found that there were certain places
in Latin America, even in Asia and the
Caribbean, they’re all having and experiencing
lower fertility rate. So the reason for
this is, of course, as I just mentioned this
socioeconomic climate where we delay our
childbearing years, and with also the increase
of actual childlessness. And the other bit
to this, of course, is our access to birth
control pill, which is a very good thing
because there’s a lot less teen
pregnancy right now. So back in ’91, there
was over half a million, whereas now, 2014, there was
just under a quarter million. So that’s a decrease of 61% with
the use of birth control pill. And lastly, another reason
for the fertility decline is that there’s a trend
toward smaller families. And again, partly due to
the socioeconomic climate. So what’s the implication? Well, again, people
don’t talk about this. So with the rapidly
declining fertility rates, without migration, what’s
happening is this– the baby boomers are getting
older, they’re retiring, and there’s a heck
of a lot of them. So we’re experiencing
a lot of older people dependent on a lot smaller
number of young people who are in the workforce to pay
for their social services and pensions and also to
drive economic growth, which is like, wow, I never thought
of that, but some places are. And there are
health care coverage in place in some countries
that recognize this issue, and this health care
coverage is for IVF. So places like Australia,
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Netherlands, Spain, the UK,
Israel, and in Canada, just Ontario, one province,
which I actually sat on the panel who made this
recommendation, by the way, we fund IVF. And then I like the
Nordic countries, so they’re actually taking one
step further and subsidizing education and daycare
care for those so that it can encourage women
and couples to start trying to have children younger. So fine and dandy if you’re
actually in a couple situation, but certainly not
so if you’re single. And the other last
bit as a solution, there are some workplaces,
progressive workplaces, such as Google,
so I’m really keen and I’m very proud to be
here because you guys are one of the most
progressive workplaces. So I hope that other small
companies will follow suit– well, big and small
companies will follow suit– most places so that we can
really support this cause. And so there are packages with
perks, so those of you that work at Google, you might
want to check out with your HR what there is as
support, but I’m pretty sure IVF
and IUI is funded, and certainly egg
freezing is funded. And the other part of it is
even the holistic medicine bit, so go get your
acupuncture and all that. So the funding also
includes egg freezing, so I want to address that. The myth around egg
freezing is that it’s your ticket it’s
a guarantee, you don’t have to worry about
it because once you have those eggs in the freezer, you
can go on with your career, you’re totally
empowered, you don’t have to worry about the
pressure of making a baby, and you certainly
don’t have to think about your biological clock. And the one really good one
that I actually like and love is that if you’re a person
who are confronted with cancer and you need to go for
chemo and radiation, you can have the option to
freeze your eggs before you do your treatments. Now, the reality is that egg
freezing is merely an insurance policy, so it’s not
guaranteed in stone, and it’s really more
of a lottery ticket. So it’s an expensive
lottery ticket because it’s about
$20,000 per cycle. And from where I sat, I
don’t have it listed here, but when I calculated it out,
one of the most recent studies, although certain fertility
clinics are claiming otherwise, but what I found was that it
takes about 21 eggs retrieved and frozen to have one
take-home baby and that’s a lot. because if anyone’s
ever done IVF, it’s a lot to be able to get
21 eggs, no matter what age. And the other bit
to that is it’s not as easy as just walking
into your doctor’s office and say, hey, just
suck out my eggs right now, because it’s
an orchestrated procedure. It takes a lot. You have to go and do
like injectable drugs, you have to go into the
fertility clinics day in and day out, do trans-vaginal
ultrasounds, blood work. It’s like a whole
orchestrated event, and before they even take
out your eggs surgically. So it’s not as easy. And the bit that
really scares me is that when you think that
you have these eggs in the bank and that it’s a
guaranteed success, it may delay our
child-building years even more. Right? Because you’re like,
oh, yeah, no problem, I can just keep on
going with my career, and the next thing you know,
you wake up and you’re 50 and it’s like, oh, it’s OK,
I have my eggs in the bank. But then if you thaw them
out, and, by the way, this science isn’t
that old, it’s only been off the experimental
phase since 2012, so it’s really new science
of testing and research bit, and we don’t really know what
will happen when the eggs are in the freezer for 20 years. I don’t know. But they claim
that it will work, so maybe in time it
will be really great, but I’m just a
little weary myself. But that’s my own
personal opinion. So if I haven’t
scared you off at all and if egg freezing
is still your ticket, fine, I’m totally great with
that because this is your life and I don’t get to
be part of your life. But, I will say this,
if you choose to do egg freezing, please,
please consider that you can affect
your eggs by utilizing pre-conception treatment
and taking care of your pre-conception health,
again with the whole lifestyle and dietary measures and
using things like acupuncture and Chinese herbs. By the way, acupuncture,
we know as a fact, increases the blood
flow to your ovaries and reproductive organs. And with that, you’re going
to increase oxygenation. That blood flow will increase
nutrients, take away debris. So it’s all good. And you have the side benefit of
causing a relaxation response, which is really necessary
when you’re going through this because it’s a very
stressful process. All right. So then that comes
to this– just relax and you’ll get pregnant. And I’ll tell you,
when a woman has been trying to
conceive for a while, you really don’t
want to hear this. And for me, where my eggs
and my husband’s sperm did not meet and no one
knows anything about our case and they say just relax,
it’s like, uh, OK, I’ll try, but I don’t think
it’s going to happen. So if you’re sitting on the
other side of the fence, please don’t say that. However, there is truth
to this, a big truth, in that when a lion chases
an animal in the wild, they will not reproduce. Right? I mean, they’re like busy
running for their lives. They’re in survival mode. Because the energy
and the blood flow will be directed to where
it’s necessary for survival, which is the heart, the brain,
and then your limbs to run. So the ironic part is when
you’re trying to conceive, especially if you’re
like 30 or 40, and you have lots of layers
of stress in your life, like maybe ailing
and aging parents, you have more
stress on your hand because at work you have so
much more responsibility, and then on top of that
trying to conceive month in, month out, I say there’s
a heck of a lot of stress, and that can, in fact, impede
your chances of conceiving. And there are tests and
studies that show that. Now, there is a study that
also says the opposite, where, oh, gee, you can have stress
but you can still get pregnant. Well, that is also true
because really, it’s actually not
necessarily the stress that we have in our lives
that impacts our ability to conceive, but it’s really
how we respond to our stress. So Alice Domar, who was the
one who actually said and did studies on this
extensively, she’s, I think, based out of Boston, anyway, she
says that fertility treatment can be at a level comparable
to the stress associated with serious illness. So that equals the
stress of one going through this kind
of thing, fertility, is like that one of going
through cancer or heart disease. And that’s something. Because– I don’t know
if I should say this, but I’ll say it– when a woman is trying to
conceive it’s in silence, nobody knows about it,
so that causes stress. And then if you’re at work
and in an unsupportive work environment and you’re
fearful of losing out on your next promotion to
another male colleague, you don’t say a word. You have to pretend and
keep that smile on your face and you have to
try to go to work. And that’s tough, especially
if you have a 9-5 job and you’re going to a
fertility clinic which requires you to go into
those clinics every morning, which takes about an hour
and a half, two hours. And the clinic I went to, it
took probably like three hours. But imagine navigating that and
trying to get to work at 9:00. Well, first of all,
you’re not even going to get to work on time. And then pretending that you
care, well, you do, but you can’t when you’re so focused in
trying to get to work on time, it’s just this cycle of stress. So what do you do? Do you go on a mountain
and like you meditate for a couple of months? I don’t think that’s
feasible, considering that our socioeconomic
climate where you have to pay your rent. So I say– there’s a lot
of things I say, but here’s a couple of pieces of advice. If you’re in a
relationship, please focus in on your intimacy. What ends up happening
is that people have this baby-making sex,
really contrived, not so fun. And for those who
are already doing it will get it because
it’s like, OK, you have sex and then you’ve got to put
your feet up in the air, you’ve got your pillow
under your butt, and it’s like don’t
even touch me, go away. Right? There’s zero intimacy left. So I say, wait a minute. There’s actually something
to creating that intimacy after you have– in fact, you don’t
even have to have sex. Just like be intimate by
holding hands, for Pete’s sake. Talk to each other,
communicate, because that helps those natural
reproductive hormones, that love hormone will
have your body say, yes! Aside from me because
I have blocked tubes, but that’s beside the point. So, there are other
things, though, right? So other things that help are
nice feel-good hormones that has our body say yes would
be things like exercise. And I’m not talking like
running a marathon, which requires too much
energy, but things like just walking,
connecting with nature and doing yoga or dancing. Pole dancing, if you’d like. Right? Whatever suits you. And then I added
meditation and hypnosis, but I also realize that Google
or maybe a lot of places where women can be that type A
or what I call AAA personality, it may be torturous to think
about sitting down and going om and meditating. Right? And that’s not really relaxing. So you can’t force
yourself to do that. So, what you can do is what
I call a walking meditation or an eating meditation. Just being in that
present moment to take that edge off of your
adrenals so that it’s not like [buzzing]. You just want to calm it down. Even if it’s for five
minutes at a time. That will help you. That has your body
go OK, all right. And that’s not
just for fertility, that’s for overall health. And lastly and very
importantly, because most of us are at work more
than we are at home, so I think it’s really important
to have a supportive workplace. And if you’re not in
the supportive workplace and you can’t help that, then
at least tell one person. Have some support
somewhere in your life, whether it be with a colleague
or a manager, friends, family, something. And then consider
proposing things that will make it
less stressful at work like telecommuting,
or flex hours so that you can go
to a fertility clinic and get those treatments
if you need to. And so the fact is 57% of women
participate in the workforce. So we really need to
look at our workplace. Right? Compared to the ’50s where
only 34% of us are there. So I say to you and
all those employers out there that supporting
conception is good business. There was a paper
that was written by Andrew Oswald and
friends, and they wrote a study called
Happiness and Productivity. And I think that’s where
Google got this from. I’m not sure if someone
can tell me otherwise, but they recognized
that a happy employee is a productive employee. So that means there’s higher
productivity, higher sales, Higher creativity, and much
less incidences of wanting to leave an organization. And I tell you, when I see
patients day in day out, when I see patients that
don’t have that supportive environment, do you
know what they do? I have witnessed women
have to leave work, or they’re so stressed out,
they have to go to the doctor, and the doctor says,
hey, you need time off, so they can go on stress
leave, sick leave, unpaid leave just to
try to have a kid. But if we transform
our society where we create that
support around it, I’ll tell you, as a woman
having gone through this, there’s nothing better
than having a distraction because when you’re
trying to conceive, that’s all you can think about. So if you’re in a happy
workplace and it’s supportive, it’s like, oh,
thank goodness I can go to work so I
can like not have to think about my
fertility challenges, even for like a minute. So that’s why I
allude back to Google, and I think that’s probably
one of the reasons, amongst many reasons,
why you are considered the number-one workplace,
not just one time but seven times in 10 years. And that was rated right
from “Fortune Magazine.” So, again, I
really, really would love to see other
companies, big or small, adopt this scenario to help
our future children be created so that they can
impact this earth. So my final thoughts is that
for you as an individual, let’s take charge of
our fertility early, and let’s focus in on
our preconception health. And then, also, a
very, very big piece is that no matter what
your diagnosis, please know that there is options, and
just be open to opportunity, because you never know
the possibilities. And before I introduce
you to Jackie, I just really want to
acknowledge some people, and it’s not in
my book, but it’s those of you who
are out there who have gone through this
journey and decided to get off this road. I honor you. And it’s not
necessarily the path that you have chosen initially,
but I say that you are fertile, fertile in your life
because you make a difference in this world. You are a mother in this
life, mothering nature, mothering animals, or the
communities, or the workplace, but you do make a difference. So now I’m just going
to say one last thing. They say it takes a
village to raise a child. Well, I say it takes a
village to create a child. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] I’m going to blame it
on my bum leg, that’s why I’m so weepy today,
but I’m really, really, really thrilled and honored
to have my patient/friend who has come all the way from
Toronto to join me to tell you her story. It’s inspiring. It’s hopeful. And this is Jackie, who is so
lovely to bring me a tissue. And before she
starts talking, she came to me when she was in her
early 40s, wanting to conceive, and I don’t want
to spoil her story, but it’s an awesome
one to share with you. I do want to note that she’s
actually not in my book. There are 15 stories, and
she’s not one of them. And it’s not because
I don’t like you, but it’s because there were
actually a lot of stories, and at the time it
just didn’t come up, but she’s so awesome to be
able to share her story, which, of course, again,
it’s private, right, and she’s willing to share. So thank you. Jackie. JACKIE: You’re welcome. Hi, everyone. It’s an honor to be
here today at Google, but also an honor to be asked
by Mary to come and talk about my story. I decided a while ago mostly
I wanted to support Mary, but I also thought it was
really important to share what has gone on in my life,
because I thought maybe it’s validating for those of
you who are out there to hear someone else and what
they’ve gone through and hear the emotions and the
ups and the downs of everything that I have experienced. So I was probably in
my late 30s, maybe 38, I was dating a guy
for a few years and we split up
when I was about 38. I had never really thought
so much about children. I wanted them at some
point in my life, but I was so career-minded. I was what Mary called a AAA
career person personality. And so when we split
up, it all of a sudden became an issue that
really was important to me. So I decided, I think I
can do this on my own. So my first reaction
was to think, now, how am I going to
do this on my own? And because it was so
recently after we split up, I started calling
up my ex and saying, hey, you want to get
together, and it was usually right around my
ovulation cycle, and so we did that for a few
months, didn’t work. Then I thought, now I’ve
got to reach out to someone and figure out how am
I going to get someone to donate some sperm to me. So I went through
an entire process, and I won’t share
that with you now, but happy to talk about
it with you after. But found someone. And I used my donation sperm and
went to a specialist in Toronto and asked him, here I
am, I’m approaching 40 and I really want to have
children, what can I do? So he immediately
gave me the speech that Mary talked about– well,
you chances aren’t pretty good, I don’t know what
to tell you, we’ll try this, let’s skip
everything else, we’ll move right to
the final stage, which is called IVF in
vitro fertilization, where we take your eggs
and we match them up, and we’ll try and
put them back in you, and we’ll hope for the best. And I think he even
crossed his fingers. So we tried that. And I had always lived
a very healthy life. I didn’t really take
a lot of meditation. I thought, I should be OK
to do this the first time, it shouldn’t be an issue. Sure enough, I got my bag
full of fertility drugs and started injecting at work
in the bathroom, like you’ve heard the stories. I got my egg count so high
that at the first time I retrieved 28 eggs. They took these 28 eggs
and they fertilized them in their laboratory. And five days later, they had
these embryos, and only five of them lasted five days. So they took two of them,
because in Canada you can only do two at a time, put them back,
and they hoped for the best. So I waited those two
weeks very hopeful that this is going
to work because I’m a very healthy person. And so at the end
of the two weeks I went in for my
blood test, and I couldn’t wait till the afternoon
was over, phoned them up, and unfortunately
they didn’t take. I went through this
two or three times, putting back the ones that
worked, and waited the two weeks, and unfortunately
it didn’t work. I went through this
IVF cycle five times. And as I got to the end
of it, the number of eggs were less and less, but it just
wasn’t working well for me. I decided at this stage,
I was well into my 40s, and I thought, I’m going
to give this one more try, but what I’m going to do is I’m
going to not worry about it, not stress about it, and I
decided this is my last one. But at the same time
I’m going to keep trying to live this work-life
balance that these people talk about, and I’m going to
enjoy some of the things that I had in the past. So, when I was younger I
played some competitive tennis, and I decided to sign
up for tennis club. When out, started
playing tennis, started looking at
places to travel, planning trips, doing
different things. And I thought if
this doesn’t work, at least I’ve now
developed a personal life. So I went out and started
going through this cycle. Right before I started the
cycle, I made a decision, I’m going to go and
see every person that can give me good advice. During this process, someone
had recommended Mary to me. And I started going to
Mary for acupuncture to help make myself
more fertile, probably stress relief, too. So we went and we tried
to develop my ovaries and to develop my
nest to create eggs. I started playing
some more tennis. I started socializing more. I tried to cut back on work. And so I thought, this
one’s going to work. As a very strong
safety measure, I also came here to New
York City, and I thought if I can go and
get an appointment with one of the best fertility doctors
and get their advice, for sure that’s going to work. So I went to, and I don’t
know if I can name-drop here, but I went to the doctor
that Celine Dion used. I thought, if it works for
her, it’s going to work for me. So I went there and we
had a complete workup and he looked at
everything, and, ironically, his protocol was
exactly the same as what I was doing already at home. So I went home, I
tried it one more time. This protocol took two months. So I had sort of a ramp-up
of one set of drugs and then another set. Started playing tennis. Went away on a trip. Enjoyed myself a
little bit more. And ironically, an
interesting thing happened. I was playing tennis, and
during my second or third tennis lesson, my tennis
pro asked me out. And I thought, hmm, OK, why not? Something to occupy my mind. So we went out on a few
dates and we started dating. Keeping in mind that through
this whole dating process, I’m injecting fertility drugs
and taking all this stuff in order to have kids. So it came time to the implant,
and it was about a week away, and I called up the
doctor and I said, is there any way we
can postpone this? And he said, well, you’ve
been taking the drugs for two months, I think you’re going
to have a really good chance, I think we should do this. So I decided I’m going
to go ahead and do it. So one evening I
told my boyfriend what I was going
to do, and I said, this is something
I really want, I’ve been using sperm
donated from a friend, it’s something I
really want to do and it’s really important to me. We stayed up the
whole night talking. And by the next
morning, he had offered to introduce him as the
donor instead of my friend. So we rushed to the
doctor’s office, he runs through all the tests,
the blood tests, the samples, everything, and at the last
minute we switched it out and we put it in, and
I thought, maybe this is the one that’s going work. Put it back in. Waited my two weeks, which
was really, really painful. And went in for my blood test. Later that afternoon I phoned. It was negative. So I decided that
I’ve met a nice guy. I’m going to live the rest
of my life with this person, and I’m going to
enjoy my life and I’m going to have better
work-life balance. So about a month later, I wasn’t
feeling well and I went to Mary and I said, Mary, I’m
just not feeling great. Can you help me out? And so we tried a couple
of different things. I still wasn’t feeling well
for a couple of months. And then I went to
the doctors and they said can you run some
tests because maybe it’s the effects of the drugs and
I’m a little bit worried. So they did a bunch
of blood tests, and a couple of days later
the doctor phoned me up and he said, I’ve got
some bad news for you. And I said, what is it? And he said you’re
eight weeks pregnant. So as it had turned out, the
advice that Mary had given me all along while I was
in treatment with her, was sometimes drugs just
don’t work for people. Sometimes medical intervention
is just not the right thing for some people’s bodies. So what I had to do
was wait till after I had gone through that
whole process of my life to find out that
it just would have worked the old fashioned way. So ironically,
the way it happens is that as we had a child,
a very healthy child. And I’ll tell you
something interesting. When I was pregnant and I went
in for my delivery and all of my appointments, at
that stage I was 44, and they referred to me
as a high-risk pregnancy. And I said, why are you
referring to me as high risk? It’s been a very
easy pregnancy, other than being sick all the time. And they said, well,
anybody over the age of 38 is just deemed high risk
because they don’t think you can get pregnant again. So you automatically get
categorized as high risk. So that’s already a negative
feeling the whole time you’re carrying your pregnancy. So ironically, when
my son was about one, my boyfriend at the time, we
were about to get married, made a decision that
parenting was just too big of a responsibility for
him, so as of the age of one, it then became me and my son. So it kind of is a full-circle
story that it ended up being me and my beautiful son that
lived our lives together. So that’s my story. I hope it means
something to some of you, whether it was
validating, inspiring, just made you feel
better, I hope I was able to do that for you. And I’m so thankful to
Mary, who not only helped me through acupuncture,
but just changed the whole process of what I
was feeling to be positive and encouraging and
helpful and inspiring, and I can’t thank
her enough for that. So thank you very much. [APPLAUSE] MARY: I see a
couple of kids here. Shall we invite them? JACKIE: Sure. MARY: Do you want to meet them? Zoe and Tristen, would you like
to come on stage for a minute? Is that OK? [APPLAUSE] JACKIE: They don’t take
stairs, they just climb up. MARY: It’s not a contest. It’s not a contest. Hi. JACKIE: Hi. MARY: Hi, sweetie. All right. So that concludes our talk,
and sometimes this happens. JACKIE: Do you want
to say hi, Google? TRISTEN: Hi, Google. MARY: Do you want to say hi? ZOE: Daddy! Daddy! JACKIE: OK. You want to get off the stage? We’re going to do Q
and A. Thanks, guys. Thank you for coming. MARY: Thank you. [APPLAUSE] MARY: All right. There’s a couple of questions,
and we want to get to it very quickly because we
just have five minutes. So, what questions
should you ask a reproductive
endocrinologist when they advise you to go to IVF
instead of other methods? Well, as Jackie just mentioned,
the first line of defense is IVF. Let’s go straight to IVF because
that’ll give you your chances, increase your chances. And, again, in her case, it
was actually the opposite. So it’s not always
the best answer. And if you– and, again,
this is not my journey, this is your journey, and
if you feel confident enough and if you haven’t tried it– if you haven’t given it enough
of a shot, it’s like, well, why not try more naturally? Sometimes they may add a little
bit of drugs, and that’s OK, but you could still do
timed intercourse with that. So you can ask
them, if you’re not comfortable with
full intervention, you can say, hey, what’s the
lowest amount of intervention I can do? Maybe we could even just
do cycle monitoring, which is literally looking
at your ovaries developing over the course
of your menstrual cycle and let that be enough
of an intervention. So I hope that answers that. You know, everyone’s different. And some people want
to go straight to IVF. And, again, that’s not
necessarily the best answer. It is for some, but
not for everyone. So second question. A common myth for egg
freezing is the procedure may cause early menopause. Is this true? Wow, that’s a great question. Again, egg freezing,
as I had mentioned, is a very new science. But I would say that no– I’m not sure. And certainly if you
just do one IVF cycle, I don’t think it’s
going to cause that. Now, I’m going to tell you
something that is very true. I did many, more than five,
six IVF cycles with drugs, and I am in early menopause. So I’ll be in– I’ll be 50 this year,
and I was already in menopause last year
or the year before even. So is it due to IVF? Not 100% sure. But it is early. JACKIE: But conversely, I
did many, many processes, and I’m turning 54 this year
and I’m not in menopause yet, so hopeful. MARY: So, yeah, right. And everyone’s an individual. We all respond differently. OK, third, your
presentation was the first I’d seen with a 120-day
egg development cycle. I was treated for an ectopic
pregnancy with Methotrexate, and they said I could start
trying again after 120 days. Should I wait longer
than three months, based on your development chart? Again, I mean, this
depends on your scenario, and are you working
with someone? Are you taking pre-conception
health treatments? Methotrexate is a
cancer drug, so you do want to get that
out of your system, so that’s probably why
they say that anyhow. Right? But then taking a
little bit of extra time to really help, again,
the quality, rather than, oh, my gosh, every
month is a missing month and I have to do it. That doesn’t necessarily
work, because, to me, it’s much better to have a better– to have your body
in a better place, rather than trying in
month in, month out and then maybe even getting
more failed miscarriages. You’d rather have one
that counts, right? I mean, having that take-home
baby is much more important. So what are your thoughts
on autoimmune specialists and infertility
following multiple five- to seven-week miscarriages
with PGS normal embryos? My RE recommended an
autoimmune specialist, but I can’t find much
scientific evidence that this may make a difference. What would you do following
these miscarriages? OK. So, in my book I actually
have a chapter on autoimmune. How much time do I have left? Does someone– I don’t know. OK, fine. I’ll just go. So autoimmune is there, and
there are some specialists that claim that they
can help, and I’ve witnessed some women that
did some crazy, wild things, like go to Mexico to do
these autoimmune treatments. And it is controversial,
but I have seen it work. So, again, you’d have to see. But then on the other
side of the picture, I’ve also witnessed people that
have autoimmune markers, which they can detect through
blood work, and yet over time and even just having
themselves be in a more balanced place, those– by the way, one of
those autoimmune markers is called natural killer cells. So how horrible is that, going
through life thinking about oh, my gosh, I’m killing my
cells, I’m killing embryos, I’m a killer. Right? Not very empowering. So it’s like, well,
look at your life and let’s see about
aligning it in a way that our body, instead of
producing autoimmune response, will actually say, yes, I
want this, I love my embryos, and then you’ll get pregnant. And I actually have
seen this So, again, you can go either way. No hard-fast rule. Many miscarriages are caused
by chromosomal abnormalities. How much does a man’s health or
well-being, stress, et cetera, impact the eventual
health of an embryo? So I took care of
that earlier when I talked about male factor. It does contribute. If I had a previous
ectopic pregnancy and salpingectomy,
salpingectomy means taking out the fallopian
tube, how much at risk am I for ectopic? Well, you are more at
risk, because chances are when a person has
one ectopic pregnancy, there’s a higher incidence
of another ectopic, which means implantation of embryo
developing in the fallopian tube. Do you advise that I move to
ART to prevent another rupture? Well, the first thing is
that you don’t necessarily have to have a rupture. When you get pregnant, you
go and do early testing to see where you’re at. You have to visualize that
it’s actually in your uterus. And if it’s in
your uterus, great. But, again, in Eastern medicine,
one of the things that we do is we want to create
lots of love, luscious, juicy endometrial linings
so that your embryos can stick in that uterine lining
and prevent the fallopian tubes from– for, sorry,
migration of embryos. How much does endometriosis
prevent pregnancy? It depends on the
case, but it certainly doesn’t have to preclude you
from getting pregnant at all. And certainly there are
cases where it’s so severe and you’re getting like
lots of scar tissuing that really blocks all the
different reproductive organs. But, again, depending
on the severity, it can be helped either
naturally, or sometimes with intervention, like medical
surgical removal of tissue, adhesions. So, can you mitigate
with homeopathy? So I cannot really address
homeopathy because I don’t practice
homeopathy, but perhaps. But certainly I can speak
to naturopathic medicine and Chinese medicine, and
they can potentially help. And lastly, what are the most
important dietary changes you recommend in preparing
for an IVF cycle? Do you recommend cutting
out alcohol completely? Well, I would say yes. And it doesn’t have
to be for life, but, again, as I talked about
when leading up to there’s 90 to 120 days of
egg development, so you really want to give it
the best environment possible. So why not? And the other question,
actually I relay it back to you, ask yourself, if I don’t get
pregnant in this IVF cycle, am I going to blame it on
that one drink that I had? Now, on the opposite
side of the coin, I also don’t love it when people
are like so strict and anal about their diet and lifestyle
that it becomes an impediment and stress-building
in and of itself because, again, increased
stress can impede and decrease our chances of conceiving OK, I think that’s it. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

6 comments

  1. The power of this talk is how thorough and accessible you make the information Mary ! Its feels good to have so many of my experiences and feelings validated on such a public forum. Thanks for your courage !

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