Dr. Alice Domar and Dr. Elizabeth Grill are reproductive psychologists with an impressive list of achievements. Dr. Domar is considered one of the world’s top experts on the relationship between stress and infertility. She’s also a practicing psychologist and director of integrative care at Boston IVF, the executive director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health, and an associate professor, part time, at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Grill is Director of Psychological Services at the Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine, Associate Professor of Psychology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University, and an Assistant Attending Psychologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.
Together, they created the FertiCalm app, a helpful resource for women in the exact moment they feel distress, whenever and wherever they are, by providing them with coping techniques for many common scenarios they face on their family building journey. I loved getting to know Alice and Elizabeth – they shared with us the inspiration behind the app, how it helps users gain an increased sense of control over their bodies, relationships and family building efforts, as well as helpful advice for those just beginning their journey.
A Preview of the FertiCalm App
1. You both have a wealth of knowledge as reproductive psychologists with over 45 years of combined experience at two of the most prominent infertility centers in the US. Can you share a bit about your professional journeys: what inspired you to work in this space and what brought you together to create Ferticalm?
Dr. Domar: Well, for me it was definitely parental influence! My parents experienced both primary infertility (it took them seven years to conceive my older sister) as well as secondary infertility (another five years to have me). So growing up my mom talked a lot about how depressed, anxious, and lonely she was during that time. And since all her friends were having four or five children (which was the thing to do in the 50’s), she was completely excluded from their lives. Oddly enough, when trying to conceive my sister, the doctor finally gave her the equivalent of valium and presto, my sister. Which led to my interest in the stress/infertility connection.
Dr. Grill: I always wanted to work in women’s health and while completing my internship at the VA Hospital in Manhattan, I became friends with another intern who was receiving reproductive treatment at Cornell. I was fascinated listening to her discuss the much needed support services that were being offered at Cornell and contacted the psychologists there to inquire about job opportunities. I applied to their fellowship program and was fortunate to not only complete my fellowship but to get hired full time afterwards. Over twenty years later, I continue to love my work helping people cope with the myriad of challenges during the family building process.
We were inspired to create FertiCalm when patients continued to tell us about the generic apps they were using for relaxation that had nothing to do with the specific stressors or coping strategies related to infertility. Then, one night at a RESOLVE benefit, we sat down to discuss the concept of a fertility coping app and FertiCalm was conceived.
FertiCalm’s Brilliant CoFounders Dr. Alice Domar and Dr. Elizabeth Grill
2. What is so unique about the FertiCalm app and how does it support those experiencing infertility throughout their journeys?
Although there are likely hundreds of apps in the infertility space, there are none which do what FertiCalm Pro is designed to do – to provide psychological solutions to use in the 50 situations which are the ones we identified as being most stressful for our patients. So for example, let’s say that you are in your doctor’s office and something happens which upsets you; you can go to the app, push the button which says “Upset at the clinic” and there are six possible ways to treat your distress- behavioral techniques, cognitive techniques, 10 pre-recorded relaxations, self-nurturance, humor, and social solutions, which are scripts to use when people says insensitive things to you.
The FertiCalm app provides support in stressful situations during infertility
3. What are a few of the more common situations you see patients or intended parents experience as well as the coping mechanisms that tend to work best in those scenarios?
There are so many triggers for those trying to build their families- friends or family giving unsolicited advice which can come across as disapproving or cruel, disagreeing with your partner about how to proceed, getting unwelcome test results from your physician, and the constant barrage on social media of others who conceived easily. The main concept of FertiCalm is to provide a variety of different mind/body techniques for each of the identified stressful situations. We are trying to help the users gain an increased sense of control over their bodies, their relationships, and their family building efforts.
The FertiCalm app helps you ‘stay calm, content and in control during infertility’
4. What is your advice for new intended parents on GoStork, who are just beginning their own family building journey?
Well, to be perfectly honest, anyone just beginning the journey needs to be aware that it can be a bumpy road. Most people do experience some anxiety, distress, and irritability. The stakes are high. But one also has to be aware that there are so many things which one can do to decrease that distress, some of which are in the app. You are climbing a mountain with the most amazing gift on the top: a healthy baby. FertiCalm is the walking stick.
Thank you, Dr. Domar and Dr. Grill for providing this much-needed and incredibly supportive resource for fertility patients and intended parents on their family building journey!
Learn more about FertiCalm and its over 500 coping solutions here.