Subscribe to receive exclusive news, workouts, giveaways and more!

Fertility By the Book

CNN correspondent Kyra Phillips knows that getting pregnant doesn’t always just happen. In 2011, at the age of 42, she had twins (a boy and a girl) via IVF—and learned how involved pregnancy prep can really be.

“I realized that there was so much more I could have been doing in my life, years and years before I even thought about getting pregnant, that would better my chance,” she says.

Now, armed with her hard-earned knowledge and the help of Dr. Jamie Grifo, director of the NYU Fertility Center in New York, Phillips is sharing her findings in her new book, The Whole Life Fertility Plan (Harlequin). She is intent on giving women the tools they need to understand what affects and aids fertility—from medications to diet to sex strategies to makeup (you might want to rethink that red lipstick).

We chatted with her about her story, the motivation behind the book and how making healthy daily choices can play a major role in pregnancy success.

Q: You realized later in the game that you wanted children. Did you think you would get pregnant quickly?

A: All I felt at that aha moment was panic. My mind just started swirling. I had to take a deep breath and really think about what I wanted, and that was a family. I didn’t have anybody in my life to do that with so I thought, I have the capability in front of me to do this on my own and I’m going to go for it. Once I released all expectations and just started to go through the fertility process on my own, it was so empowering. I knew I was doing the right thing because I got excited thinking about the fact that I may have a chance at having a family even though it’s not the traditional way. Within that time period I met my wonderful husband and he was open to having a family with me.

Q: How long did it take from beginning to babies?

A: Two years, two miscarriages, one really bad experience with all my eggs being over-stimulated. They had basically given me too much of a powerful regimen and so all my eggs weren’t any good. I had made a lot of eggs, but the quality was horrible. That whole try went south and my next two tries I miscarried. That’s when one of the other doctors who was monitoring me said, you know what, let’s see if you’ve got MTHFR [a genetic condition in which the body can’t metabolize folic acid properly]. Sure enough it was as simple as just needing to up my folic acid so I could carry the baby.

Q: How did you approach the entire project?

A: I had to do it in the most educated and best way possible. I had to be really smart about it. So if it meant moving on to another doctor, I was going to move on to another doctor. If it meant totally changing up the way I was living my life—eating, sleeping, exercising, all of those things—than I was going to keep changing it up in order to give myself a better shot of being successful.

Q: The Whole Life Fertility Plan talks about “optimizing the environment for pregnancy.” Is that the theme of the book?

A: It is why I really wanted to write the book. It’s not just the older woman going through IVF like me, but it’s for the young woman who just discovered her sexuality and she can start reading about what she eats and drinks and smokes and the impact of unprotected sex and STDs. We go into every single detail—even the air she’s breathing in her home, the cosmetics she’s wearing, stuff she’s using to drink out of and cook in, cleaning supplies. If you’re aware of what everything can do to your body—and that means your hormones, your ovaries, your eggs—you can live an overall more healthy life, but be thinking about preserving your fertility along the way.

Q: What surprised you?

A: I was shocked by the levels of lead in lipstick. I had no idea that certain candles, when you burn them, release chemicals that rival the toxicity of cigarette smoke. I always thought that if you had your hips in a certain position after intercourse, or even stood on your head or had your legs up in the air, that that actually improved your chances of getting pregnant. It’s an absolute myth.

Q: And what about men?

A: Everybody thinks this is the woman’s fault. That something is wrong with the woman. But we address the male aspect, as well. Who knew that processed meats, like sausage and bacon, could impact your sperm count?

Q: Had no idea! Any findings on exercise?

A: Your BMI and your body fat make a huge impact on your ability to have a baby. Of infertility patients, one in eight have low body fat or they over exercise and one in four are overweight. I thought that was really interesting. We kind of knew that being overweight was not great for getting pregnant. But I had no idea that over-exercise could be so harmful. I always thought the skinnier you are the healthier you are the less fat. Actually, no. That can be unhealthy.

Q: What would you like to ultimately get across to your readers?

A: I want women of all ages to feel empowered. This is not a book to scare anybody or create anxiety. We already feel, as women, the pressure of family and bearing children and am I getting too old and I better hurry up and I better get busy, my biological clock is ticking. I want to get rid of all that fear and I want women of all ages to be empowered and know that there are things that they can do now to preserve their fertility and to actually stop that biological clock from ticking for a while. And if you are going through IVF like I had to go through, it can actually be a very beautiful and empowering experience.

Q: And simply another way to have a baby, right?

A: I want to break down the stigma and the stereotype and let women know that it’s O.K. It’s a fantastic option and we should embrace it and take advantage of it.


Add your comments