Anita Dickerson felt emotionally drained when she was went through treatments for infertility.
“It’s just exhausting because you feel like all your life, you’ve been waiting to have a baby,” the 34-year-old St. Charles resident says.
In the fall of 2007, after two years of marriage, Dickerson and her husband, Scott, sought local help from the Center for Reproductive Health to have a baby.
She started with the fertility drug Clomid to stimulate her ovaries to improve egg production.
When that didn’t work, the couple tried intrauterine insemination, the most common type of artificial insemination. This treatment involves taking medication to increase egg production and placing the partner’s sperm in the uterus with a catheter.
But the Dickersons didn’t have success with that treatment either.
In vitro fertilization was the next option. As part of IVF, a woman takes medication to stimulate her ovaries for egg production. Then the best eggs and sperm are fertilized in a laboratory and at least one embryo is transferred to the mother’s womb.
Dickerson had two embryos implanted and learned in June 2008 that she was pregnant. In March 2009, the couple welcomed their daughter, Scarlett, into the world.
Because of their success with IVF, the couple went back to the fertility clinic to conceive another child. Again, two embryos were implanted during the IVF cycle and one resulted in pregnancy. The Dickerson’s son, Cannon, was born in August 2011.
“I ended up having a C-section [for both pregnancies],” Dickerson says. “But other than that, my pregnancies went really well.”
Thoughts from the mothers Dickerson describes the experience of going through a fertility clinic as time-consuming and emotionally draining, yet well worth it because the clinic gave her a family.
“I definitely feel that when you go through the fertility process, you really appreciate what you have,” says Dickerson, who works as a chiropractor while raising her nearly 4-year-old daughter and 17-month-old son.
To relieve stress and improve blood flow to the uterus, she went to an acupuncturist during pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Health, located in Geneva and Crest Hill, works with an acupuncturist and two psychology groups to offer emotional support and stress relief for couples. Fertility clinics often give referrals for holistic and psychotherapy services.
Jacquelyn Graf of Pingree Grove also experienced trial and error during treatments for infertility. After trying to have a child for a couple of years, Graf and her husband, Jason, went to Fertility Centers of Illinois in 2007 for artificial insemination. But the treatment was unsuccessful.
They took some time off to improve their financial situation and then went back in 2009 for IVF. Although Graf became pregnant, she miscarried at 10 weeks.
Luckily, two frozen embryos were on reserve as a result of IVF. So, both were implanted and one resulted in pregnancy. Graf delivered her son, Paxton, in September 2010.
The pregnancy went smoothly, Graf says, although she had high blood pressure during her term. As a result, her son arrived a month early.
Last year, the couple tried IVF again to have another child. Although the attempt failed, they used two frozen embryos like before and one was successful. They are expecting a girl in April.
“My son is the world. I can’t imagine life without him,” says the 35-year-old mother, who works as the quality team leader for a medical device company. “I just look forward to having another child.”
Thoughts from the experts Infertility affects 10 to 15 percent of couples in the U.S., according to Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit medical practice that specializes in medical care, research and education.
“It’s like a silent disease. People don’t talk about it,” says Dr. Eve Feinberg, who was Graf’s reproductive endocrinologist at Fertility Centers of Illinois in Hoffman Estates.
Couples should feel comfortable with a physician in this “intimate area of medicine,” Feinberg says, and they should do research to find a reputable one.
“You’re taking a very personal issue, and you’re bringing it to an office setting,” she says. “So, I think there’s a lot of reluctance to step in the door when coming to a fertility clinic.”
Choose a doctor-oriented clinic rather than one that is run by nurses and technicians, says Dr. Scott Springer, medical director of the Center for Reproductive Health.
Springer, who was Dickerson’s reproductive endocrinologist, also suggests talking with people who have used a fertility clinic.
He estimates that about 60 percent of his patients use intrauterine insemination with fertility medication, 20 percent just use Clomid or other fertility drugs and 20 percent need IVF.
Fertility drugs and intrauterine insemination are the most affordable treatments. Medication to ovulate more effectively costs between $200 and $1,000, and intrauterine insemination ranges from $400 to $1,500, depending on the type of medicine and degree of monitoring, according to local fertility clinics. For IVF, the cost is typically $10,000 to $12,000, doctors say.
They advise patients to check with their insurance company to understand their coverage and the stipulations that need to be followed.
Although fertility clinics do not have to track their overall success rates, they are required to report IVF rates, which are available at www.sart.org.
In the last decade, implantation and pregnancy rates have increased because of lab advancements, Springer says, such as more efficient incubators and improved culture media where the embryos develop.
Other improvements include genetic testing for chromosome problems in embryos and a better freezing process to preserve eggs and embryos, Feinberg says.
A major factor affecting success rates is the age of women. For instance, older women tend to have more difficulty getting pregnant and the risk of chromosome abnormalities increases with age.
The risk of a chromosome problem, particularly Down syndrome, is fairly low until a woman reaches her 40s, Springer says. kc
FOR MORE INFO Great sources to learn more about fertility options and infertility problems: • American Fertility Association, www.theafa.org • American Society for Reproductive Medicine, www.asrm.org • Center for Reproductive Health, www.crhivf.com • Fertility Centers of Illinois, www.fcionline.com • Resolve, a nonprofit organization that promotes reproductive health and provides support groups, www.resolve.org • Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology, which provides local success rate reports on in vitro fertilization, www.sart.org