image of Sabrina and Sofia

Alumni Spotlight: Sabrina Teles and Sofia Mirzazada

When an individual or couple begins their fertility journey, there are several health-care professionals they can expect to encounter on their path to parenthood. At Tripod Fertility, Sabrina Teles (Class of ‘22) and Sofia Mirzazada (Class of ‘22) are bringing their knowledge and skills as occupational therapists to a team of physicians and nurses working to support the overall well-being of clients who are undergoing fertility services, prenatal and/or postpartum care. 

As students in the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MScOT) program, Sabrina and Sofia completed a LEAP (Leadership, Emerging, Advocacy, Program Planning and Evaluation) placement at the fertility clinic, meaning the clinic did not already have an occupational therapy program. They knew there was a growing occupational therapy presence within maternal and women’s health and they saw an opportunity to establish a program within the fertility and pre-conception care space. They self-initiated a placement at Tripod Fertility clinic where they developed an occupational therapy program designed to address all areas of their clients’ health: physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual and environmental. During their placement, they demonstrated the value of occupational therapy services, which helped them to secure full-time roles at the clinic and further develop the program. 

The role of occupational therapy in fertility and pre-conception 

Sabrina and Sofia say the team they work with has been very welcoming and open to embracing their services. At the clinic, they work with physicians and nurses to get an understanding of a client’s fertility journey and treatment plan. When an individual or couple is experiencing fertility challenges, it can have a significant impact on their physical and mental well-being. This can present as anger, frustration, guilt, avoidance, grief, and decreased self-esteem. The added stress that comes from starting fertility treatments can affect other areas of their daily life, roles, and routines. Sabrina says, “This is where our background and role as occupational therapists come in. We provide a holistic lens to help our clients reflect, cope, and move forward in their fertility journey. In our roles, we offer clients a wide range of services like stress and anxiety management, counselling, pain management, fatigue management, sleep hygiene, routine development and adjustment and much more.” 

For example, one of their clients, Samantha*, was referred to Sofia by one of the clinic’s physicians. Samantha had been struggling to conceive naturally due to a health condition and experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety as she prepared for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). During their consultation, Sofia asked Samantha about her daily routine and learned that the stress and anxiety was affecting her ability to function at work, communicate with her partner, and was disrupting her sleep. Sofia worked with Samantha to create an individual treatment plan. Their therapy sessions gave Samantha a space to share how she was feeling and learn self-management strategies to cope with her stress and anxiety. Over the course of two months, Samantha showed improvement in her overall well-being and felt better prepared to start IVF and embark on her fertility care plan. 

The growing need for occupational therapy in fertility care 

Over the past several years, more and more public figures have shared their personal stories of their fertility journeys and the challenges they have experienced. Sabrina and Sofia say they have both known people in their personal networks who have experienced challenges on the path to parenthood. “This inspired us to self-initiate our placement at Tripod Fertility. We saw there was a gap in fertility care that we knew occupational therapy could help support,” says Sabrina. 

“We were also inspired by the stories, challenges, and feedback shared by the clients we worked with through one-to-one and group interactions. They endorsed the value and positive difference occupational therapy was making to their care during their fertility journey,” says Sofia. 

From the classroom to the clinic 

“The MScOT program prepared us for this role in insurmountable ways,” says Sofia. “Specifically, the Occupational Therapy Practice III course encouraged us to develop the skills to advocate for our services and engage in program development planning. As part of this course, we created a project proposal for our LEAP placement at the fertility clinic – which led to our fieldwork placement and subsequent employment at Tripod Fertility. Overall, this program encouraged us to be change agents and advocate for our profession to further enhance client care across a variety of practice settings.”  

*name changed for confidentiality