We’ve just come out of Infertility Awareness Week (April 18-24, 2021), and I for one saw a number of friends posting intimate glimpses into their fertility journeys as a way to give others hope. In that same spirit, we reached out to Dr. Chris Allemand of ART Fertility Program of Alabama at the Women’s Medical Center at Brookwood Baptist to learn more about this all-too-common challenge and what options are available in Birmingham.
Meet Dr. Allemand
Originally from Texas, Dr. Allemand, his wife and three children have been happy to call the Birmingham area home since 2006.
A heartwrenching experience during a med school oncology rotation helped him see that he was “not well suited to working with young women with terminal diagnoses.” Thankfully, a fertility rotation gave him a taste of the joy that happens when a patient becomes pregnant. From there, his new direction became clear, and he’s been working in fertility ever since.
“I like helping people have babies who can’t otherwise have them. Fertility patients are desperate to have families. I have three children of my own, and I want everyone who wants children to be able to have that experience too. I know that every one of my patients is going to be a fantastic parent. It’s about loving and wanting that child and raising and caring for it.”Dr. Chris Allemand
Removing the stigma of infertility in Birmingham
I asked Dr. Allemand to talk with me about what becomes possible when the stigma and shame around infertility are lifted for the patients he sees.
“It’s sort of a silent suffering for so many women and couples in this situation, because they don’t tell anyone what’s going on. Some share with their family or friends, but a lot of times, people don’t, and it’s extraordinarily painful.
I have so much respect and admiration for patients who post pictures and stories about their journey because it really does help others see that they’re not alone, and that infertility is more common than you realize.”
Ways to get past the stigma
- Talk about it in a fertility clinic with compassionate staff and doctors.
- Connect with others in the waiting room of a fertility clinic.
- Find others in similar situations in online support groups or through hashtags like #infertilityawareness.
Reasons why people go to a fertility clinic
After we talked about stigma, I wanted to know who finds themselves in a fertility clinic.
- Couples who have been TTC (trying to conceive) unsuccessfully.
- Women and men with fertility-related issues and a few more general reproductive system-related issues not directly tied to fertility.
- Same-sex couples who would like to become parents.
- People who want to preserve their fertility, whether because they are about to begin cancer treatment or for some other reason.
Sometimes patients are referred by a doctor, family or friends, and sometimes they make an appointment for themselves. A referral is not required.
What happens once you decide to go to a fertility clinic in Birmingham
- Make an appointment and fill in medical history forms.
- Come into the office 30 minutes before the appointment.
- Visit with the doctor in his office for a fully clothed 30-minute(ish) consult.
- The doctor begins to make a plan.
After the initial consult
- The doctor takes the patient(s) to a room.
- An all-female team of nurse practitioners, nurses and medical assistants steps in.
- The woman goes through a physical exam, ultrasound and bloodwork.
- If there is a male partner, he may go through a semen analysis in the men’s portion of the clinic.
- The patient (male and/or female) may be given prescriptions or a surgery date, if applicable.
- After all the procedures, patients schedule a followup visit to talk about what’s next and why.
“What they’ll find is that between me and the nurse practitioners, we will bond with them, and they’ll get to know us, and everyone gets very involved in these cases because it’s a very personal field of medicine.
After that first visit, very often that anxiety level about coming to the office comes down some. The anxiety about whether they’re going to be able to get pregnant does not go away until they’re pregnant, and then ultimately when they’re well down the path of having their baby—that’s really the only fix for that.”
Sometimes, the results are life-changing
When you visit ART Fertility Program’s Facebook, you’ll see loads and loads of healthy humans from newborns up to adults. One of the stories that struck me was Veronica Wehby-Upchurch’s. She told me “Chris Allemand is our second favorite person ever because he got our favorite!”
Here’s what she wanted other people to know about her experience:
“No one wants to be told they need assisted reproductive technology to have a baby, but Dr. Allemand and the entire staff at ART showed us so much compassion and encouraged us so much along our journey.
Along all of the ups and downs of our treatments, miscarriages and even a death in our family, Dr. Allemand was there for us. I’ve had experiences at other clinics and I can say without a doubt that ART is the best around.”