Health,  infertility,  parenting

Infertility Is Not a Choice – Unexplained Infertility #IVF4ON #onpoli

Danielle Xavier, Conceivable Dreams board member, 30.
I proudly wear this button on my blog and I will tell you why. Building safe families, healthy families in the province of Ontario is an issue that should be non partisan. It should be front and centre every day. It should be the most important item on every party agenda. Plain and simple. Families are economic engines, building blocks, voters and future voters.
This week a flurry of articles and TV segments ran on infertility – they framed the issue as one impacting only women. Families and men were absent from the picture. Grandparents and grandparents in waiting also were not shown at all. The CBC framed it, as an issue mostly impacting women who Wait Too Long, which shocked me because I support CBC with my taxes. I expected more. Anyways the articles that ran featured women waiting to become Moms and choosing in vitro fertilization, as if infertility was a choice. As if women sitting around working on their careers hit 40 plus, suddenly wanted to become Mommies and they chose that so, “suck it up buttercup you better be prepared to pay $15,000 to become a parent.”

I have been working as community manager for this amazing and accomplished group called Conceivable Dreams, the patient led support group advocating for more awareness and seeking public funding for in vitro fertilization in the province of Ontario. I have interviewed many people and told their stories here over the last six months. Amedeo and his wife were clearly not interviewed in the CBC story. This Mom, my infertile friend, also not interviewed. Both of these examples were in their 30s when they began trying to have a family.

The Xaviers, are young, athletic and healthy, but cannot conceive. Also not interviewed. I had hopes a CBC piece might strive for accuracy in representing people who really are living with infertility. Danielle Xavier is a committed and fierce advocate, a board member who is clearly aware that time is running out for them: “Several years of trying and our next step is IVF. Along with the emotional roller coaster and debt now comes the uncertainty and the possibility of never having a child. With full time jobs, a mortgage and paying off previous fertility treatments how can we possibly manage to save enough to before we become another statistic.”

Xavier and her husband are young, with unexplained infertility and they’ve already been trying to conceive for several years. Karma Brown, has written for Conceivable Dreams blog team also. She was in her 30s when cancer robbed her of her chance to conceive. Her story is here in the link above.

Cancer, endometriois, unexplained infertility, blocked Fallopian tubes, Crohn’s Disease, male factor infertility, Polycystic ovary syndrome. There are many reasons the people in this group cannot conceive without help. The province of Ontario funds only those cases where both tubes are blocked. But why is it that is okay and none of the other conditions are covered at all. Fund one, fund all.

Each one of these examples are just like many of the 1 in 6 couples who are struggling with infertility in Ontario. In reality, in practice here in Ontario at least the true story is more like this: a couple tries for several years in their 20s or 30s to get pregnant. No luck. One year disappears. Another year perhaps vanishes when they wait to be assessed and see specialists. Then the couple is told take a fertility break. Six more months go by. They are maybe slated for a procedure to clear the Fallopian tubes (covered by OHIP) then they try again for another six months. Sometimes a miscarriage happens in between. Sometimes there are several miscarriages and the couple loses all hope and is in fact emotionally and physically wrung dry. At some point ICSI may be proposed. So they do that. (Also covered). Then a doctor at some point in the next year states alright this is the last possible hope. You can do IVF. But check your insurance coverage and see what, if anything is covered. Six months later they may be lucky enough to have a small window of opportunity for egg retrieval and IVF. But only $1,000 of the medicine – fertility drugs – are covered. And so $13,000 is spread across four credit cards. Maybe it works. Fingers crossed. Last hope at getting pregnant.

So now maybe to the CBC that looks like women waiting longer to get pregnant. To me it looks like Karma Brown and Amedeo Cristiano, my good friend Jane and The Xaviers often exhausting all options, many struggling for the greater part of a decade to get pregnant. Many experiencing the tragedy of miscarriages. Loss after loss piles up monthly. Don’t tell me this is all about a 43 year old career woman choosing to get pregnant on her own by IVF. That is a sliver of the picture and quite inaccurate. That portrayal of IVF is a story that feeds hostility towards an illness that is defined as a health issue by the World Health Organization. It is a story that upsets angry conservative men who argue I am not going to pay for some woman to get pregnant just because she waited too long.

In my experience this story looks a lot more like Danielle Xavier. The beautiful lady in the picture up top. Healthy, smart, capable, driven and 30. She is a manager and she runs a logistics company with her husband Sean. They had to pause their fertility treatments because of the costs, even though IVF is their next step, the medically recommended course of action. Unexplained infertility can be devastating to deal with because not only do you have the inability to conceive, but you never really have a clear picture of why. In 2009 this province commissioned an expert panel on Infertility and Adoption. There was a clear recommendation within the report that stated in vitro fertilization should be funded where it is the recommended course of action, where it is a single embryo transfer (up to three rounds). But no action on that yet.

This particular government continues to state we will wait and see. “We are watching the Quebec example closely. We want to help families, ” said Health Minister Deb Matthews recently. Quebec, is the only province in Canada where IVF is funded. But Quebec has only been funding IVF for two years. Australia, Belgium and areas of the U.K. have been funding or helping to fund IVF for several years. Every jurisdiction that has funded IVF has displayed quick savings to health care costs. Fewer costly multiple births and fewer maternal health issues because of risky implanting of multiple embryos mean millions of dollars saved.

By the way did you know that infertile people vote? In Australia where IVF is funded and their infertility advocate groups are strong, they vote with purpose, they mentor young children conceived via IVF and encourage generations of advocates. It is a smart approach. Infertility is a clear health issue there and it is framed as one. When it comes time for groups like Access Australia to vote, they hold politicians accountable for their decisions.

Because we are here in Ontario very likely headed for a vote again soon, it would be smart for one of the parties to step up and make this their issue now. For the opposition the costs savings arguments alone are very persuasive and appealing. For the NDP and other left of centre people well it’s a human rights argument in some ways. It’s good family policy. Because as Warren Orlans, one of our bloggers over at Urban Daddy blog said the other day: Not only do infertile people vote, fertile people who know this saves tax dollars vote too.

If you want to weigh in on this now, vote YES in the CBC poll. (Click the link here, scroll to bottom to see the poll that says do you support funding yes or no.)

I am a proud member of the Conceivable Dreams blog team and the Generations of Hope blog team and a community manager also for IVF4BC. My opinion is all my own. Funding makes sense. It saves money and is good health policy. Follow us on twitter via and keep this debate going.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.


  • Nikki

    I struggled with infertility for six years before I was finally able to conceive my son (with Clomid). It’s definitely NOT a choice, and has so many other effects on your well-being. I sunk into a deeper depression with every failed attempt to get pregnant, and at times, I didn’t even care if I lived to see another day. It’s a very painful experience and emotionally devastating. Yet so few insurance companies cover even the least expensive, least invasive fertility treatments or tests, let alone IVF.

  • Mom vs. the boys

    I was 27 when I was married and tried to start our family, we miscarried early and then tried without success for years to start a family. I was 30 when I finally became a mom. Nothing can really explain why, we saw a specialist, we cleared all the tests. It was out of our control. Infertility can happen to anyone. young and healthy couples are not immune to the heartache.

    • Paula Schuck

      Thank you for sharing that Jennifer. That’s exactly the point. Nobody can predict or explain it sometimes but infertility has repercussions for everyone. So glad you are a mom now.

  • Jeannette

    This is such an important issue. I have several friends who have struggled with infertility who are in their 20’s – I feel everyone should have the right to be a mom regardless of their age!

  • savannah

    This is a great post! How very ignorant of CBS to make such an uneducated segment! Thank you for raising awareness with real facts and real people <3

  • Cheryl Kirkness

    It is really upsetting when people who you know would make AMAZING parents aren’t able to conceive. I agree there should be more understanding and assistance for everyone no matter the cause of the infertility.