What would you be willing to do to have a child?

Article contributed by:
Lindsay Thomason, WHNP
Piedmont Reproductive Endocrinology Group, a participating WINFertility Provider Network

What would you be willing to do to have a child? Would you cut back on some things financially to afford the proper treatment? Would you commit to taking shots? Would you undergo a surgical procedure? While you may find it easy to answer “yes” to these questions, most people find it very difficult to actually commit to it by proceeding with in vitro fertilization (IVF). Possibly one of the hardest decisions our patients have to make when faced with infertility is whether or not to take this important step. After a doctor has reviewed test results with you and your partner to determine the severity of your case, many patients prefer to start out more conventionally with treatment cycles of timed intercourse or intrauterine insemination (IUI). While this is certainly a reasonable first step, the fact is that many patients with fertility issues won’t have success with these treatments.

Heather Blackmon, our embryologist states, “IUI offers only a 16% pregnancy rate for the BEST prognosis patients, defined
as those with young eggs (under 35) and a normal semen analysis. IVF utilizing ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection, or manual fertilization of eggs by sperm) provides a 60% pregnancy rate for the WORST prognosis patients.” The problem our patients run in to is putting too much time, money, and emotional investment into intercourse or IUI treatments only to find out it hasn’t worked for them. Therefore, in most cases of 2-3 failed IUI cycles, we encourage you to move to IVF. This can ultimately be the best step that you take to fulfilling you dream of becoming a parent.

Becoming a parent is a serious decision and so is pursuing IVF treatment. It’s no wonder many patients have difficulty when faced with the decision of whether or not to pursue this option. One of the main reasons it is such a difficult decision is the financial aspect. IVF is certainly not cheap. There is not only the cost of the procedures in the office to consider, but also the cost of medicines. Just like buying a house or a car, IVF can seem out of reach at first. However, there are many options to explore that can help make IVF much more attainable. Many patients take out loans, just like they would to buy a house, in order to pursue IVF.

Another option is PREG’s Fertile Help program that offers financial assistance to patients based on their income. There are even programs that aid medication costs like Compassionate Care, which provides some medications free of charge. Many patients that never would have imagined that they could afford IVF are able to make it work with the help of these programs. Stephanie Martin, our IVF financial counselor, helps patients everyday make this seemingly farfetched idea attainable. While timed intercourse and IUI cycles seem significantly cheaper, when you consider the medications, office visits, and procedure costs of these treatments and consider that many patients do those treatments 3 to 6 times, the costs do add up very quickly, making IVF seem like an even better option. Another reason that patients have difficulty deciding to move to IVF is their limited knowledge of what they will go through during the process. When patients think about shots and egg retrievals, it can all seem very scary and overwhelming. Although there are shots involved, most patients only require about 2 weeks of injections for treatment and our staff makes sure you or a loved one feels comfortable with them before you proceed with IVF. The egg retrieval itself is a very simple procedure that takes place right in our office. Because it is performed vaginally there are no scars or incisions to worry about. The procedure is done with very light IV sedation and lasts only 10-20 minutes. Many patients wake up from what seems like a great nap, completely unaware that the procedure is even over. Although there may be some light cramping or spotting that day after the procedure, much like what you would experience when having  a period, patients commonly don’t have any other problems. If you keep it in perspective that should IVF be successful you will be carrying a baby for nine months and eventually facing a delivery, two weeks of injections and a simple outpatient procedure don’t seem as daunting. Talk to someone you know who has done IVF or one of our staff members (who if they haven’t done IVF themselves, hear from patients every day about what it’s like). For the many patients who are able to fulfill the dream of becoming a parent as a result of IVF, I’m sure they would tell you they would have done it ten times over if they had to.

Fertility treatment is extremely draining emotionally and can certainly take its toll on you as an individual or on your relationships. It is, therefore, important to your emotional health to seek the treatment that is going to get you the result you want as soon as possible. Most patients seeking treatment have already had a year or more of disappointment and possibly failed treatments with their OB/GYN. While it would seem “easier” to continue with intercourse or IUIs, it is actually much easier to get pregnant from IVF. It is important to take in to consideration not only the finances and the logistics of IVF treatment, but also how long you can hold on emotionally before you have to throw in the towel. It is much easier to take on IVF with an open and optimistic state of mind if you are not already drained from other treatments. Infertility is a devastating diagnosis, but the quicker you find the cure, the easier it is to face.

IVF is the most successful treatment of infertility. To consider it simply, when seeking treatment for any diagnosis, wouldn’t you want to pursue the option with the highest success rate? Pursuing IVF is a difficult decision, but it is also very difficult to watch our patients go through failed treatments month after month. We see a lot of heartache. But what makes it all worth it is getting to make the phone call that a pregnancy test was positive, or getting to be in on the first ultrasound when they hear a heartbeat. And instantly, in that one moment, all of the heartache is practically forgotten and replaced with pure joy. What started out as what, to many, feels like a death sentence, becomes a miracle.

Working at PREG has helped me see that all of our patients have hope to fulfill their dream if they are willing to take the right steps to attain it.