The Many Paths to Parenthood

Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine

The World Health Organization notes one in every four couples in developing countries is affected by infertility. It defines it as a disease of the reproductive system that can result in disability. Hadassah is raising awareness about infertility with its newest initiative reConceiving Infertility. In this episode, host Benyamin Cohen talks with Dr. Hananel Holzer, Director of the R.E.I. and I.V.F. Departments at the Hadassah Medical Organization.

About this episode

Dr. Hananel Holzer is currently the Director of the REI (Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility) and IVF (Invitro Fertilization) Departments and the Associate Director of the Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Hadassah Medical Organization. Born at Hadassah Hospital, Dr. Holzer graduated in 1992 from the Hebrew University Hadassah School of Medicine as valedictorian and completed his Ob. Gyn. residency at Hadassah Hospital. In 2010, he was appointed as the Medical Director of the McGill University Health Centre Reproductive Centre and later as the Director of the Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Division. He is currently serving as the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Israeli National ART Registry and is a member of the Ministry of Health IVF Standards Advisory Committee. Dr. Holzer is the author of many publications in the field of infertility, a member of editorial boards of several journals, and a highly regarded speaker around the world.

About the Episode

Dr. Hananel Holzer has a special affinity for Hadassah Hospital. Not only is it where he was born, but it’s also where he witnessed the birth of his three children. So, perhaps it should come as no surprise that he's now the head of the fertility department at the Jerusalem hospital. And that after launching our reConceiving Infertility initiative at Hadassah, designed to raise awareness and confront taboos, we'd definitely want to speak with him about all things fertility.

Holzer and his team of doctors are on the cutting-edge of fertility research. At the start of the global coronavirus pandemic, fertility treatments were temporarily put on hold so that hospital resources could be allocated to COVID-19 patients. But now that the curve has flattened, Holzer has restarted helping his patients. "Infertility is a disease and the treatments, which IVF is one of them, are time-dependent," Holzer explained. "If we wait too long, then the success rate decreases."

He’s now back to delivering the cutting-edge care he's used to administering. That includes studying the myriad causes of infertility: genetic issues, ovulation disorders and environmental concerns, just to name a few. As Holzer explained in this episode, even exercising too much can be a red flag for couples looking to have a baby. He recalled one patient in particular. "I looked at her and said, 'Are you over-exercising?' And she said, ‘No, I'm not running more than 60 miles per week.' And I said, 'Well, when you exercise that much, you have more endorphins released into the system and this suppresses ovulation.' It's good to maintain a healthy lifestyle. But everything should be done in measures."

Hadassah offers several treatments to its patients – everything from sperm donation and egg banks to in vitro fertilization. One area where they are making headlines is called cryopreservation. It's the fascinating work of freezing the eggs of pediatric cancer patients, so that the chemo treatments they're undergoing now won't impact their fertility later in life. "We could remove parts of the ovaries or whole ovaries sometimes for people who are as young as a few months old and freeze it. In the future, if they're infertile because of the treatments, we can transplant pieces of ovarian tissue and then they would be fertile again."

As for Holzer, his own children may be following in his footsteps. His daughters have given talks about fertility and his son is in medical school. "My son had a patient in the emergency room, a child that he treated. And the mother said, 'You don't happen to be the son of Dr. Holzer who helped me conceive this child?' So yes, it's part of their life as well."

Further reading:

Preserving fertility after cancer

Hadassah's "reConceiving Infertility" initiative

Video: How to help people struggling with Infertility during COVID-19

Video: Hadassah patient on her journey from breast cancer to motherhood

Video: What not to say about baby making

Infertility: Get the facts

Hadassah’s “reConceiving Infertility” initiative

For too long, infertility and the struggles toward parenthood have been topics of hushed conversations and quiet suffering. From the matriarchs and patriarchs of biblical times to present day, the Jewish community knows these challenges all too well. At Hadassah, we're reConcieving Infertility, with a new initiative to bring members, units and communities together to raise awareness and confront taboos while driving policy change and empowering patients to advocate for their health. At the same time, we'll be helping our communities expand their definitions of what it means when we talk about family.

Read a transcript of this episode.

"Hadassah On Call: New Frontiers in Medicine" is a production of Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America. Hadassah enhances the health of people around the world through medical education, care and research innovations at the Hadassah Medical Organization. For more information on the latest advances in medicine please head over

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The show is hosted by Benyamin Cohen and edited by Skyler Inman and the team at the Hadassah offices in both New York and Israel.

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