Episode 66: Becoming Mrs. Nevada and an Infertility Advocate
There’s nothing that sounds more glamorous and extravagant than being in a beauty pageant, and while it can certainly be rewarding, it can also be a very vulnerable experience. Opening yourself up to the world and sharing intimate details of your life can be incredibly daunting.
In today’s episode, we hear from Amanda Klein, a 2019 Mrs. Nevada contestant and winner, who while preparing and planning for pageants, was simultaneously fighting her own battle with infertility. After experiencing three devastating pregnancy losses, Amanda discovered she had a bicornuate uterus, a condition involving a “heart-shaped” uterus and an increased risk of miscarriage. We’ll hear her story of trying to find the right doctor, coming to terms with the idea of using a gestational surrogate, and finding the courage to share her story.
After winning Mrs. Nevada, Amanda not only won a title, but also a powerful platform. From traveling to Washington, DC with RESOLVE to meet with senators and congress members to hosting a community health fair with over 200 attendees to documenting her infertility journey on her blog — Amanda has become an infertility advocate that is vocal about her own experience and dedicated to creating change for others.
We also hear from Dr. Whitten, a Reproductive Endocrinology & Infertility Specialist at the Nevada Center for Reproductive Medicine, who educates us on the normal functioning of a uterus, the impact of a bicornuate uterus on fertility, and the various uses for gestational surrogacy.
Guest: Amanda Klein, USOA Mrs. Nevada 2019
Expert: Dr. Scott Whitten, Nevada Center for Reproductive Medicine
Host: Shannon Zuber, Communications Associate at Progyny
In case you missed it, here are past episodes we’ve released on pregnancy loss:
- Episode 2: The Toll of Multiple Miscarriages and Learning to Cope with the Physical, Emotional, and Mental Side Effects
- Episode 17: Miscarriage Awareness: A Real Housewife’s Story of Pregnancy Loss – Emily Simpson
- Episode 18: Miscarriage Awareness: The Causes, Treatments, and Future
- Episode 53: Miscarriage Awareness: Speaking about the Unspeakable, a Pregnancy Loss
For more information visit Progyny’s Podcast page, RESOLVE, and Progyny’s Education page for more resources on how to best handle a miscarriage.
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:
Understanding a Bicornuate Uterus
5:23 – 9:31
Shannon Zuber: Amanda mentioned that she has a bicornuate uterus. To help us get a better understanding of this, we sat down and spoke with Dr. Scott Whitten from Nevada Center for Reproductive Medicine.
Dr. Scott Whitten: The primary purpose of the uterus is to carry a pregnancy – it is where implantation takes place and what houses the pregnancy. A bicornuate uterus is one that did not complete its formation during fetal development within the female genital track. A uterus grows from two pieces – called horns – that then join in the middle and fuse. A bicornuate uterus is when the two come together but did not fuse completely, so there are two cavities that funnel into one cervix.
Most people won’t know they have one as the cervix and genitalia look normal, but it can be detected through imaging such as ultrasounds, MRIs or standard testing during fertility treatment. Most patients can even get pregnant with a bicornuate uterus. This can slightly increase chances of a pregnancy loss, because it can limit blood flow to the embryo.
Pursuing Pageantry and Discussing Surrogacy
10:38 – 15:50
Shannon Zuber: It was during this break from trying, and after experiencing a miscarriage, that Amanda decided to pursue pageantry.
Amanda Kline: I was feeling down, had gained weight, then found out a co-worker was competing in Mrs. Nevada. She sent over the director’s contact info and immediately started feeling like myself once I knew I was going to do this. I started feeling more confident, got back into shape and met a bunch of incredible women I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Pageantry has been huge for me in terms of changing my life and my confidence level!
Shannon Zuber: Pageantry proved to be a great fit for Amanda, and she and her husband decided that they were ready to start trying again.
Amanda Kline: I got pregnant again, and the same thing happened, around seven or eight weeks along. We didn’t hear a heartbeat and went to the ER. But they couldn’t verify anything, so I miscarried naturally.
Shannon Zuber: Amanda was willing to accept that one miscarriage was normal, but after experiencing a second miscarriage she started searching for answers.
Amanda Kline: We went to a few different specialists and by the time we got to the third, I feel like I found someone honest, kind, and patient. One of the previous specialists told us to try again naturally before pursuing IVF and I really wish we didn’t listen. We tried that third time and miscarried again. I believe that trauma could have been avoided had we been with our current doctor now.
Shannon Zuber: At this point Amanda found a new doctor, one that she really connected with.
Amanda Kline: She talks to you in a way that you understand. She’s wonderful, when we went to go see her, she said that she needed to look at how bicornuate my uterus was, and then we’ll go from there.
Shannon Zuber: It can’t be overstated how important it is for people to find the right physician for them. This is why the Progyny network includes a wide range of fertility clinics and doctors for our members. All reproductive endocrinologists want to do what’s best for their patients, but everyone is different. It’s important to find the right fit.
Amanda’s new doctor wanted to do some tests to see exactly how bicornuate her uterus was.
Amanda Kline: They also call it a heart shaped uterus. In most cases it’s fine, but my birth defect is so concaved that no matter where the embryo falls there isn’t enough blood supply to the fetus. I woke up from surgery and she said I just don’t think it’s safe for you to carry if it’s even possible. I think if you want to move forward, you’ll need to consider a surrogate.
Shannon Zuber: For most, the news that IVF may be needed in order to have a baby comes as a shock, but the idea of surrogacy can be an even bigger step that many aren’t ready to accept, and the initial conversations between a doctor and a patient about this topic can be extremely difficult for all parties.
As a Communications Associate, Shannon works with media, supports communications strategy and helps to bring this podcast to life at Progyny! Having studied Journalism and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies while at Penn State University, Shannon now fuses her passions to highlight the intersection of women’s health and storytelling. In her previous role, Shannon worked as a publicist for clients across spaces including health, fintech, real estate, and others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Amanda’s platform, Smart Barbie, is dedicated to the advancement of women in our society. She inspires others to hold public office, run companies, cure disease, and act as role models for a new generation – all without apologizing for being a woman. She enjoys mentoring and recently launched a fashion line that benefits Project Marilyn, which provides feminine hygiene kits to students in Southern Nevada.
As a national advocate for infertility awareness, Amanda encourages women to talk about their journey. She does this by sharing her story of three miscarriages, seven surgeries, two rounds of in vitro fertilization and ultimately hiring a surrogate to carry her child. She has traveled to Washington D.C. to meet with Congress and lobby for a number of bills focused on access to care. She is currently working on an infertility bill for the 2021 Nevada State Legislature.
In May, she hosted the Rock4Health Women’s Day, which provided infertility education and resources to more than 200 women. Amanda was honored to have Emily Simpson from Bravo TV’s The Real Housewives of Orange County as their guest speaker. As a volunteer for the American Cancer Society, Amanda helps save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer. She lost my mom to breast cancer in 2009 and continue to fight in her honor. Amanda has personally raised more than $50,000 in the last two years to support the mission of the American Cancer Society.
Dr. Whitten has committed his life to helping couples achieve their goals of parenthood. It brings him great joy to see his patients overcome their infertility and celebrate the gift of life with them. He enjoys the lifelong relationships he builds with his patients. He is a board-certified subspecialist in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility.
Raised in northern Nevada, Dr. Whitten obtained his Bachelor of Science from the University of Nevada Reno. He continued his education in Nevada and obtained his Doctorate of Medicine from the University of Nevada School of Medicine. His training took him to Phoenix, Arizona where he performed a four-year residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center.
During residency, he received multiple awards for clinical excellence in patient care and teaching. He then moved his family to Alabama for a three-year fellowship in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. While in fellowship Dr. Whitten presented his research at multiple scientific meetings. At the completion of his training, he was fortunate to be able to return to northern Nevada to practice at NCRM. He enjoys spending time with his family and frequenting Lake Tahoe on his days off.
Music From This Episode:
Artist: Doctor Turtle
Track: Curse You Fingers
Artist: Andy G. Cohen
Track: Oxygen Mask
Track: Space Full
Track: Land Legs
Artist: Kai Engel
Artist: Sergey Chermisinov
Track: When You Leave
Artist: Chris Zabriskie
Track: Your Mothers Daughter
Artist: Steve Combs
Track: A Vital Piece of Music for All Your Soundtrack Needs
Artist: Philipp Weigl
Track: Even when we fall