IVF: The Science & The Struggle
1 in 8
That’s the number of couples who struggle with infertility in the United States. Statistics this prevalent beg the question: Why aren’t we talking about this more?
Infertility is often only a topic whispered about inside our homes or behind closed doors among women. And that’s understandable. It is a painful, personal, and intimate struggle that can be difficult to discuss.
By learning more about infertility, we can better support our friends and family who face it. So what exactly is infertility?
Infertility, as defined by The International Committee for Monitoring Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ICMART), is a disease characterized by the failure to establish a clinical pregnancy after 12 months of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse, or due to an impairment of a person's capacity to reproduce either as an individual or with his/her partner.
Infertility is not only a female problem. According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, “Approximately one-third of infertility is attributed to the female partner, one-third attributed to the male partner and one-third is caused by a combination of problems in both partners or, is unexplained.”
That’s the number of IVF cycles performed per year just at Billings Clinic. IVF, or In Vitro Fertilization, is one means of conception for couples who struggle with infertility. IVF is a method of assisted reproduction that involves combining an egg with sperm in a laboratory dish.
Dr. Colleen Milroy, a board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist at Billings Clinic, and her partner Dr. Stacy Shomento run a practice solely dedicated to infertility and IVF. Dr. Milroy provided answers to a couple of the most prevalent questions surrounding IVF treatment.
How can patients know that IVF is the right fit for their family?
“There are many reasons that patients need IVF: Uterine factors, unexplained infertility, maternal age, polycystic ovarian syndrome, multiple miscarriages, male factor infertility, surrogacy, and endometriosis – just to name a few. Typically, IVF has the highest rate of getting a couple pregnant in comparison to IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) or ovulation drugs and has the shortest time to pregnancy. The two problems we face with IVF is that pregnancy is not guaranteed, and insurance doesn’t typically pay for it.”
What are some alternatives to IVF?
"When we talk to patients about treatment options, we discuss all of the options for attaining a pregnancy, including continuing to try on their own, medical interventions, surgical interventions, and assisted reproductive technologies. We discuss other ways to build families including, egg donor, sperm donor, embryo donor, and adoption. It is up the to the couple where they want to put their resources – financial, physical and emotional."
“I know 30 people who have done it,” says the mom of her 3-year old daughter who was conceived through IVF. “I’m not the only one.”
“I really wanted to carry my own child, and IVF allowed my husband and I to have that pregnancy journey. IVF was very lengthy and involved, and there are a million risks, but the reward outweighs them all. At the end of the process, we had a baby.”
Many couples are facing tough decisions due to infertility. There are numerous resources, support groups, and based on the statistics, probably close friends and family who are facing the same struggle or have been through it in the past. Check out these resources to learn more:
about the author...Anna Rogers is a transplant from the Carolinas with a background in marketing and graphic communications. She is a wife and mother who loves to garden, cook, and practice yoga. Anna is passionate about travel, which at its core is really a passion for people, as she believes people and community are what truly bring life and beauty into a place.
Originally printed in the pages of Simply Family Magazine’s October 2018 issue.
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