The infertility journey
1/31/2016 11:12 AM
“Kelly” and her husband arrived early to the surgery suite. She got comfortably situated in the hospital bed while Dr. Susan Hudson, a Mayo-trained reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, began to explain the procedure she was about to perform: egg retrieval.
It would cause some mild discomfort, but Kelly would be back to normal in just a few days. Within a month, if everything went according to a very carefully mapped out plan, Kelly would be pregnant.
Kelly and her husband are part of an increasing number of couples who are seeking out infertility treatments in the United States. According to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, a group that represents a majority of domestic in vitro fertilization (IVF) clinics, doctors performed 165,172 procedures, including IVF, with 61,740 babies born as a result in 2012.
With an estimated 5 million babies born through IVF since the first “test tube baby” in 1978, the procedure has not only increased in popularity, but has made significant strides in safety and reliability—and is allowing more couples to explore the opportunity to have children—even at a later age.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), American women are having babies a lot later in life than ever before. Over the last 35 years, the average age has gone from 22 to 26.
As women and men age, the viability of eggs and sperm decline—making it more difficult to conceive naturally—and the rise of IVF popularity has increased accordingly.
“While it may not be the first option a couple may explore regarding infertility, IVF is now widely considered a somewhat routine procedure, and advancements over the last few decades have greatly simplified the steps that they must go through in order to get pregnant,” said Dr. Hudson.
Once it’s determined that one or both partners have fertility issues, the first step in IVF is injecting hormones so that the woman can increase egg production. If the hormones are successful, the patient is given medication in order to ripen the developing eggs and start the ovulation process.
An egg retrieval is then scheduled. According to Dr. Hudson, “timing of the retrieval is critical. The eggs must be considered ‘mature’—not taken out of the ovaries too early or too late—or you risk developmental issues.”
After the retrieval, an embryologist fertilizes the eggs and keeps them under observation to ensure proper growth and development. Then the patient returns to the facility to have the embryos transferred into her uterus.
WHEN IVF WON’T WORK
But sometimes, it’s not that simple.
Allison and John had been married more than two years when they made a decision to start a family. After more than a year with no success, Allison sought advice from her gynecologist, who scheduled tests for the couple and learned that both she and John had medical reasons blocking them from conceiving. An appointment with Dr. Hudson followed.
Allison shared, “Dr. Hudson is very thorough and wanted to rule out any potential problems. So she conducted a complete series of tests.” The exams showed that because of a genetic disposition, the couple did not have a good chance of a successful IVF with their own egg and sperm.
Fortunately, Allison’s gynecologist knew of patients who had experience adopting another couple’s embryo. After researching further, the Hardys decided to adopt a set of embryos that were donated by a couple who had already completed their own family.
Soon after, Allison was pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage. Another embryo insertion was successful and Allison had a healthy pregnancy with their first child, John Turner, who was born in November.
Allison remembers, “It was a long and difficult journey, for sure. When you first hear that there is a medical reason that you aren’t able to get pregnant, it can be so devastating. But there are great options you can try to create the family you want.”
Perhaps you’ve decided that you will fulfill your parenting dreams through adoption. Whether you want to adopt domestically or internationally, there are agencies and adoption attorneys who can assist you. Make sure that any agency or attorney that you use is licensed in Texas.
Infants may also be adopted through international adoption. Some countries do not allow infant adoptions and only place older children. Certain countries have tighter restrictions on the age limits of the adoptive parents. Working with an adoption agency that is experienced in facilitating adoptions in the country you are interested in will make your adoption go smoother.
There are many children in foster care who are waiting for a forever family. Some may be older or might have physical or emotional needs, while others might be part of a sibling group that need to be placed together.
Wherever your infertility journey takes you, you and your partner will face tough questions and strong emotions. As long as you continue to enjoy your life as a couple and stay realistic with your financial options, you can find a solution together.
Susan Hudson, MD, is a board certified fertility specialist. She founded the Fertility Institute of Texas because she wanted to provide a more caring and personalized source for infertility treatment to the residents of South Central Texas.