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I am a member of the Conceivable Dreams Blog Team. I believe strongly in this issue. I receive compensation as community manager for this group. My opinion is all my own.
Meet Adam Bekhor, father of two, infertility advocate/ support person and owner of a successful business called WineWire.ca Bekhor volunteers as a support person for couples struggling with infertility in Toronto area. His wife was diagnosed with stage four endometriosis. Subsequently, they were unable to conceive. Bekhor relates to the male partner’s journey through infertility and is clearly experienced in the realities of all the costs associated with this health care issue.
Emotional. Financial. Relational. Social. Mental and Physical. Infertility leaves no area of your life untouched. Once you have journeyed through this complex health care issue you are quite simply changed. Bruised, broken, elated, drained. Sometimes you end up with a child at the end of the path. But even when that happens, many infertility advocates like Adam still say there is much to be reformed about how the health care system approaches the topic of infertility.
“I have lived through this process and it doesn’t matter how you have a child. The thing that bonds people is how you get there.”
Bekhor and his wife went through nine in vitro fertilization attempts. They have two healthy, loved, children now. Their daughter is 4 and their son is one. But the process to get there was challenging and the path through systems when you first are diagnosed is neither simple, nor patient friendly, Bekhor says.
“There really should be someone at the other end stating: ‘This is the path. This is where you go. This is what you need to do. It takes years to figure that out. It’s very frustrating. If I knew then what I know now about infertility and health care, the journey would have been much shorter.”
Time, when you are infertile, is not on your side. A woman’s fertility actually peaks at 28, much younger than many realize. Many couples and singles are not financially established or secure enough in career at that point of their life and very often they start trying to conceive when they are well into their 30s. If problems arise, months can quickly become years and before you know it the biological window to conceive has narrowed extremely.
The emotional struggle of this complex health issue is further compounded by financial stress in Ontario says Bekhor. In vitro fertilization (ivf) is often medically prescribed as the most effective course of action to help conceive. But IVF in Ontario is only covered by OHIP (Ontario’s health care plan) when both Fallopian Tubes are completely blocked. IVF is a process by which egg and sperm are introduced in a laboratory and an embryo then is transferred into the female partner’s uterus.
“I agree 100 % that coverage should be there for IVF in Ontario,” says Bekhor.
In Quebec, patients are covered for IVF treatment. Their program has been very successful building healthy families in that province while cutting health care costs as well. In fact the Quebec Ministry of Health has just released a report on their assisted reproductive technology program which indicates multiple rates have dropped from 30 % to 5 %. Other regions like Belgium also boast very successful ART programs that have public support and save health care dollars. The health care savings is realized by reduction in multiple births. The success of the Quebec program is undeniable and it will remain in place there, to also be reviewed regularly with an eye to continuously improving.
The cost of a round of IVF in Ontario can be $10 to $13,000 with medications. When a couple, or individual, in Ontario is paying that much out of pocket, taking out a second mortgage or a second and third job to pay for medically prescribed treatment of IVF, they often request that fertility experts transfer more than one embryo in the attempt to maximize their chances. While twins and triplets are adorable, they often come at great cost to the health care system. Many multiples have a greater lifetime risk of health issues and many are born prematurely. This potentially also puts maternal health at risk as well.
In Ontario, a patient advocacy group named Conceivable Dreams, has been advocating for better awareness of infertility issues and for public funding for treatment when it is the medically prescribed course of action. Adam Bekhor supports the Conceivable Dreams advocacy intiatives and recognizes that while he and his wife were able to pay for their in vitro fertilization procedures (Adam previously worked for CIBC and his wife ran a baby food business) not everyone can afford to pay $10,000 to try to have a baby. He often talks to men in infertility support groups about the differences in the male experience of infertility and the stresses on a marriage.
“Infertility is a very isolating experience.”
Bekhor is clear that this process came perilously close to ruining his marriage. The financial and emotional stress is compounded when one member of the marriage or relationship reaches their limit emotionally, well before the other member does.
“On our fourth attempt I had reached my limit. My wife had not. She reached her limit way before that, but then she worked through it and was clear through to the other side.”
Adam Bekhor says they had to decide early on in the process whether they were going to be open and let friends and family members in on the journey.
“We decided to tell people. It takes a lot of energy to devote to this journey. You need time from work for the appointments sometimes. You need an understanding family to comprehend you might not always be feeling like attending an event. It can take a lot of energy to hide.”
The male part of this journey is often unspoken, says Adam Bekhor. “Much of the treatment is focused on the female.”
Men process so much of the infertility experience differently, says Bekhor, offering insights into the male perspective on infertility. It is a common thread for males to want to fix things and women tend to feel the need to talk about them and work through them. As well, women, Adam Bekhor says, travel through this process faster emotionally. They work through things quicker. The gaps and differences make things challenging and frustrating. The support of a good infertility network can be crucial.
“The other thing I think that is very important to communicate is that infertility is the kind of disease that impacts people in their youth.”
The health care system, from a policy perspective, must take reproductive health seriously, says Bekhor. “Infertility is an extended roller coaster for a couple.”
Without public funding for IVF, couples will continue to transfer multiple embryos and doctors will continue to offer that as an option. With funding, Bekhor says, doctors will have clear guidelines of single embryo transfer. Fewer multiple births has to be the goal to save money for the health care system.
“The stress on the medical system down the road is so much greater when the government doesn’t provide any funding for IVF.”
visit http://www.conceivabledreams.org/ to learn more.