What does infertility look like? You might be surprised. Very often someone you know has already been struggling with infertility. Many times there are underlying medical issues that contribute to infertility. You might be surprised to know that in all likelihood someone on your street has intimate experience with struggling to conceive.
One in 6 people struggle with infertility. Take a moment to think about that. What does infertility look like? Sometimes it’s a couple who may never know the cause of their infertility. Sometimes infertility is a young married person like Danielle who learns at 25 they cannot conceive a child. Sometimes the face of infertility looks a lot like the face of a brave warrior who already defeated cancer but lost their ability to conceive in the process. Very often the face of infertility belongs to someone who has already passed through the trauma of a challenging health care condition such as Crohn’s Disease, Cancer, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, or endometriosis.
Sometimes the face of infertility looks like that of Terri Abraham, now a parent of two boys, ages 2 and 4, the president of Generations of Hope, an amazing organization in Alberta that promotes infertility awareness and accessibility, and provides fertility assistance through their fundraising efforts. Abraham was 34 when she and her husband began trying to conceive. After one year and no pregnancy, Abraham and her husband tried Intra-uterine insemination. The process was not successful. The next step was in vitro fertilization which can carry a price rage of $7,000 and up in Alberta. (before the medication costs are added in.) They did a fresh cycle, meaning an egg was retrieved and fertilized outside the body in a lab, then the embryo transferred into the uterus. A frozen cycle simply means that during the fresh process several eggs are harvested and kept cryopreserved for use later if needed. The fresh cycle did not result in a pregnancy, but the frozen cycle after that was successful. The Abrahams were expecting their first child.
Infertility has been compared to many things. It is a long dark hallway that is emotionally stressful, psychologically draining. Sometimes it leads to depression. Sometimes it breaks your marriage. Sometimes it makes you a fierce advocate for others because you emerged at the other end of the terrible journey in tact, financially battered, emotionally scarred, but strong in a way that makes your voice confident and loud. It buoys you up when you need the strength to knock on the door of your provincial representative’s constituency office. It helps you find the words to tell your story.
Luckily Terri Abraham was one of those infertility patients who emerged at the other end of the battle bruised, but so incredibly grateful for the blessing of science, medicine and family that she was driven to give something back. She began volunteering with Alberta’s Generations of Hope. Recently she was appointed president of Generations of Hope Fertility Assistance Fund. In Alberta, 76 % of survey respondents think government funding should be available for people who need in vitro fertilization. In Alberta the cost of in vitro fertilization is not covered by the health care system. IVF is one of the most effective treatments for infertility and it is often the medically recommended treatment plan. But due to the high cost of IVF many couples either spend years doing less effective infertility treatments, that are covered by the provincial health care plan, or they opt to transfer multiple embryos and hope to increase their chances of conceiving a baby.
Multiple embryo transfer can often lead to twins and triplets. Multiples are often born pre-term requiring costly medical interventions for both mother and baby. The neo-natal care costs alone can be reduced dramatically saving money in countries where IVF is funded. Multiples have greater risks of complex lifetime health issues, such as hearing and vision impairments, learning disabilities, heart and immune system impairments.
The Abrahams knew after heir first child was born that they would do everything in their power to grow their family. But infertility was still there, of course, complicating matters and making this health care journey complex. They were scheduled to do another IVF when suddenly they learned they were pregnant. The couple was elated. That high was soon replaced by a devastating low when they miscarried at 10 weeks. Another cycle of IVF followed. Again the fresh cycle generated embryos, but not a pregnancy. The frozen cycle was the ticket that worked. Another pregnancy and this time a happy result – another baby boy. “This continues to be an emotional and physical challenge in our lives,” said Terri recently.
The Abrahams got their happy beginning. Their family, their hearts and homes are full. But many other people, are still waiting to get the treatment medically recommended as their only chance at conceiving a child. Those people might be quietly struggling but make no mistake they are also the face of infertility.
What Is the Face of Infertility and How to Help
Generations of Hope Fertility Assistance Fund helps raise money to make IVF happen for some couples who are unable to afford medical treatment. You must be undergoing treatment at the Regional Fertility Clinic to be eligible to apply for assistance. You can ask your family doctor for an application.
If you are an advocate for infertility issues and public funding in particular, read the Alberta report for more information. Follow our conversation on twitter, where we use the hashtags – #abhc4ivf #abpoli
I am community manager for Generations of Hope, and as such, I am paid. My opinion is my own and I tell these stories because I support better awareness of infertility and the need for public funding.
This is the link to the Alberta report: