Clearing the “Fertility Fog” as a Means of Empowering Women – with Dr. Janelle Luk

Childbearing is hard enough when everything goes as planned, but when infertility is involved, then the difficulties are magnified and the hopes and dreams of a family are at stake. I’m talking today with a pioneer in the field of infertility and someone who has devoted her life to making this pathway easier and more achievable for many women.

Dr. Janelle Luk has devoted her life to the field of reproductive endocrinology and she specializes in creating individualized fertility treatments for her patients. She graduated from the Yale School of Medicine, completed her residency at Harvard, and completed her fellowship in Reproductive Medicine at Yale. She is the co-founder of Generation Next Fertility Clinic in NYC.

In this episode, Dr. Luk shares about taking the big leap in starting her own business, why women don’t have to relinquish control over their fertility fate, and how they can educate themselves about their own bodies, its capabilities, and its limitations. Dr. Luk also shares the “secret sauce” to choosing a great co-founder.

Her unusual background and career

Dr. Luk says it all starts with her mother, who was given away as an infant in Hong Kong because she was a girl. Education was always important in the family, so it was important to Dr. Luk’s mom to bring her to America, where the American dream was possible. She was afforded the best that American education had to offer, always with the goal of becoming a doctor. It was the natural choice for this young girl who loved math and science. She had a fascination with all things related to the biological clock, the menstrual cycle, the female body, and reproduction, so it was natural that obstetrics and gynecology became her focus.

Becoming an entrepreneur and choosing a co-founder

Only one out of three fertility clinics in NYC are owned by women. Dr. Luk always wanted to give the empowerment message to women, and she wanted to do things differently in terms of taking care of women and educating them in a unique way. Her approach is “patient-centric,” focusing on making the best laboratory for her patients and balancing top quality fertility care with empathy and compassion. When choosing a co-founder, she looked for a sensitive guy who aligned with her values and personality. They work well together and balance each others’ energy, creating a calm and supportive environment for patients and staff alike.

Wanting to be THE BEST

Dr. Luk was always driven to be the best: the best student in the best medical school with the best residency, becoming the best doctor. She absolutely never wanted to do anything else! She was laser-focused on her goals and dreams and found it hard to deal with others who didn’t want to be like her. Learning how to manage to her expectations for her staff was a challenge which she has taken on and mastered.

Why infertility is a “touchy” subject

Some people think the biological clock is unfair, but Dr. Luk likes to equate it with empowerment. Fertility declines as a woman reaches 25, 35, and 40, but women today can make choices about motherhood like never before. Technology is on our side! Fertility remains a hard topic for some to discuss because it may be connected to other sensitive topics like gender and equality. Dr. Janelle Luk is passionate in her belief that fertility education should start very early in life.

The stress of the infertility journey

This journey through infertility can be stressful physically, mentally, emotionally, and financially. You have to prepare yourself and your relationships for the struggle. Even visiting an IVF center can be intimidating and can make you feel alone on this path. There is so much anxiety and emotion around fertility, that support groups are crucial to the process. Women struggling with fertility can feel inadequate and lack understanding of the WHY of their situation and what comes next.

Managing the conversation around infertility

Infertility is not a disease! Everyone has different opinions about it and about how much you should reveal to those around you. Dr. Janelle Luk advises women to take the chance they are given to educate those around them. What we all want is control over our bodies, fertility, and lives. Infertility can hold such a stigma and is misunderstood by many. Dr. Janelle Luk calls this lack of awareness “Fertility Fog.” Her mission is to awaken anyone stuck in this fog.

Episode Highlights:

  • 3:13 – The origin of her passion for reproductive medicine
  • 4:18 – How the field of fertility is different than 20 years ago
  • 6:06 – Becoming an entrepreneur and choosing a co-founder
  • 10:45 – Managing the business with empathy and compassion
  • 14:48 – How the infertility process is treated
  • 15:54 – Challenges as an entrepreneur
  • 20:15 – Why fertility is a touchy subject
  • 27:24 – Tips on talking about infertility with family and friends
  • 29:42 – The stress of infertility on relationships
  • 32:29 – The relationship between fertility, motherhood, and having it all
  • 34:34 – Integrating infertility into professional conversations

Resources mentioned:

The Fem Five:

1. Favorite book for women?

2. Favorite self-care hack?

  • Making yourself a priority

3. Best piece of advice and who gave it to you?

  • “Everything is going to be OK in the end. If not OK, then it’s not the end.” – My mom

4. Female CEO or thought leader you are into right now?

5. One piece of advice you’d give your 5 years younger self?

“It’s ok if you haven’t reached your goal yet; eventually, you’ll get there.”

Last Time on The NextFem Podcast

DIY Science Fun – with Crazy Aunt Lindsey and The Fab Lab 

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