Episode 65: Endometriosis and Fertility: The Intersection Between Endometriosis and Sex
March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. Endometriosis is a common condition that is often extremely painful, hard to diagnose, and can affect a woman’s fertility. This year, we’re back with a special series to bring awareness to this disease.
In the last episode, we heard from Dr. Tamer Seckin, co-founder of Endometriosis Foundation of America, who broke down the painful and often problematic symptoms of the condition. In this episode, we hear from Carli Blau, who has experienced those symptoms firsthand.
Carli, a sex and relationship therapist in New York City, was diagnosed with endometriosis at 14 and is very vocal about her journey with endometriosis and infertility. She shares her story of being sexually active at a young age, reaching a diagnosis after months of painful symptoms, getting surgery to remove the infected tissue, and ultimately utilizing IVF to start her family.
We’ll also learn how Carli uses her career to support individuals who struggle with infertility, endometriosis, and sex–related issues. She continues to be an endometriosis advocate through her work with the Endometriosis Foundation of America, where she speaks about the intersection between endometriosis and sexual functioning.
Guest: Carli Blau, Sex and Relationship Therapist
Host: Dr. Georgia Witkin, Head of Patient Services Development at Progyny
In case you’ve missed it, here are past episodes we’ve released on endometriosis:
- Episode 30: Endometriosis & Fertility: Jessica Smith-Payne
- Episode 31: Endometriosis and Fertility: Trying IVF Before Being Diagnosed
- Episode 31: Endometriosis and Fertility: Trying IVF After Being Diagnosed
- Episode 32: Endometriosis and Fertility: Promoting Awareness through Endo What?
- Episode 33: Endometriosis and Fertility: Finding Support Through a Facebook Group: Nancy’s Nook
- Episode 64: Endometriosis and Fertility: The Purpose of the Endometriosis Foundation of America
To learn more about endometriosis, check out Progyny’s What is Endometriosis Infographic.
Be sure to follow us on Instagram, @ThisisInfertilityPodcast and use the #ThisisInfertility.
Have a question, comment, or want to share your story? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some highlights from this episode:
Endometriosis: The Early Signs
7:27 – 9:49
Carli Blau: At a young age, sex was painful, and my periods were debilitating to the point where my mom thought I was making it up to not go to school. But I was in so much pain that I would curl up in a fetal position and bleed heavily. We finally went to the doctor and I explained the ways I was feeling, but endometriosis was not the social phenomenon then that it is now. The doctor wanted to monitor it before giving me a firm diagnosis.
At 18 and with a committed boyfriend, sex continued to be very painful, especially before my period, and we went to the doctor who believed it was symptomatically endometriosis. I had my first surgery and the biopsy came back positive for endometriosis.
Dr. Georgia Witkin: Carli was lucky, she received an early diagnosis and treatment for her endometriosis, but so many people don’t get there like Carli until they’ve experienced decades of pain and damage to their reproductive system.
Endometriosis, PCOS, and Fertility
13:07 – 16:26
Carli Blau: For me, wanting a child was a lifelong experience. I went off my birth control pills after my wedding and experienced very irregular periods. I decided to see a fertility specialist to see if this was indicative of something bigger.
I wasn’t ovulating and ended up doing nine rounds of medicated cycles, an IUI and then turned to IVF.
Dr. Georgia Witkin: It turned out that Carli didn’t just have endometriosis, she also had PCOS. PCOS causes a hormone imbalance that in turn causes women to skip cycles. But since Carli had been on birth control for so long, she didn’t realize she was missing periods, until she was trying to have a baby. After several failed rounds of medicated intercourse and IUI, Carli decided it was time to try IVF.
Going “Public” and Becoming an Advocate
17:01 – 20:16
Carli Blau: By the time I got to IVF, I was ready for it. I remember the day I “went public” on Facebook. I had always been a resource of education and an advocate for other women, although I was really nervous to put myself out there, I knew I had this community and wanted to help whoever needed it.
Becoming a mother taught me that I need to love myself first and take care of myself first.
Dr. Georgia Witkin: Since you can’t relive the past and you can’ pre-live the future, just focus about what you can do about endometriosis today. Since you will need your strength to manage your endometriosis, take care of yourself for the long run.
Carli’s journey dates back to when she was first diagnosed with endo at age 14. As time went on, she dedicated her life to women’s health and sexual wellbeing. Now she includes being an advocate for endometriosis awareness and not just with her social media contributions, but she has also worked hand in hand with Dr. Seckin and the Endometriosis Foundation of America.
Dr. Witkin is also an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Ob/Gyn and Reproductive Sciences at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and Director of Psychological Services for RMA of NY. She is the author of 12 acclaimed books, including The Female Stress Survival Guide, The Male Stress Survival Guide, and Stress Relief for Disasters Great and Small, and is a prolific writer of research articles about women, stress, and reproductive medicine. She has been honored by the AIA, AFA, Resolve, and City of Hope. She has also served as a health reporter/host for CNBC, WNBC, and the Fox News Channel, and has been featured as a guest expert on 20/20, The Today Show, Good Morning America, CBS Evening News, The Oprah Winfrey Show, and CNN.
Carli is a licensed therapist in New York City who specializes in sex and relationship therapy with individuals and couples. Carli is certified in Maternal Mental Health and focuses her clinical research on women’s health and infertility, but has other interests such as endometriosis, sexual esteem as well as self-esteem among individuals in the dating world.
Carli received her B.S. from Syracuse University studying communications in relationships, her M.A. in Television, Radio and Film from S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications where she taught, hosted and produced a college TV show called Honestly Naked TV about sex, relationships and dating.
Carli received a Master of Social Work from Columbia University where she worked at Bellevue Hospital in the Emergency Department, a Master of Arts in Sex Education from Widener University and is now a Ph.D. Candidate at Widener University, studying clinical sex therapy with a focus on infertility and sexual esteem. Carli also lectures for the Endometriosis Foundation of America regarding endometriosis and sexual functioning. In her free time, she enjoys dancing with her daughter who is an IVF baby herself!
Music From This Episode:
Track: Merfolks Song
Artist: Philipp Weigl
Track: Western Shores
Artist: Drake Stafford
Artist: Steve Combs
Track: A VItal Piece of Music for All Your Soundtrack Needs
Track: Dawn I
Track: Dawn II
Artist: Lee Rosevere
Track: I Wanted To Live