Fertility can be a particularly difficult challenge for couples who are hoping to have a baby.
While many people struggle to conceive, starting a conversation can be daunting and leave some feeling isolated. Navigating the challenges of getting pregnant, and moving past the stigma of infertility, is something that Sanford Fertility and Reproductive Medicine can provide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12% of women — or 1 in 8 — aged 15 to 44 have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term. Of those cases, more than a third include instances of male infertility.
There are a number of different factors that affect a person’s fertility, including age, medical conditions, lifestyle choices or genetics, among other reasons.
“It’s more common than you think,” said Jennifer Martinson, RN Program Specialist with Sanford Reproductive Medicine in Fargo, North Dakota. “Once you can make that first step to come into the clinic and talk to somebody, you realize there are solutions in front of you.
“You don’t have to worry by yourself. There’s staff here that are really passionate and caring, and are willing to help with any aspect, whether it be emotional support, answering your questions about medications, questions about financial … the clinic is a safe space for patients.”
Navigating your options
For those who have been trying to get pregnant for a year — or six months if you are over 35 — fertility treatments may be an option.
Talking to your primary care provider or OB/GYN is important when trying to conceive, but if attempting pregnancy has been difficult and treatment is an option, Fertility and Reproductive Medicine may be the logical next step. Whether it be timed intercourse, intrauterine insemination (IUI), or in vitro fertilization (IVF), Sanford Health experts can offer the best path forward for those looking to conceive.
“(The navigator) is the backbone of our IVF program,” said Jacqueline Kuebler, Nursing Supervisor for Sanford Fertility and Reproductive Medicine. “Along with the providers, (the navigator) makes that plan of care and reaches out to each patient individually. They’re aware of where patients live, so if a patient is in Minot, they might say, ‘Hey, why don’t we think about doing your planning visit, but also doing this testing at the same time, because we don’t want you to have to drive four hours more than one time.’ The foresight is there to make proposals to patients.”
The process can last months, so having the navigator follow up every step of the way takes much of the burden of planning off the patient. They do that for each of the more than 100 patients each year who come through the doors in Fargo.
According to Martinson, IVF treatment starts about two months before egg retrieval. Once eggs are fertilized, the embryos are transferred back into the uterus eight weeks later. Nine to 11 days after that, a pregnancy test can be administered.
But there’s more than just logistics and calendars to this journey. The navigator can provide emotional support as well, no matter how long the process takes.
Getting financial support
One aspect that can often be overlooked in fertility treatments, at least initially, is financial support. Karen Hintz, a Financial Consulting Representative at Sanford Health in Fargo, is among those who can help determine if insurance covers procedures such as IUI or IVF.
“New patients often have no idea of the cost,” said Hintz. “For one complete cycle of IVF treatment, including egg retrieval, it can cost approximately $21,000 before insurance. The good news is many insurance companies do have benefits for infertility. And even if someone doesn’t have benefits, we can direct them to different programs for financial assistance.”
A lasting bond
While it does take time, both Martinson and Hintz unequivocally say the best part of their job is hearing great news from new families.
“I actually want to hug them,” said Hintz. “We love to see babies here in the clinic and we get a ton of Christmas cards.”
“We have a bond with our patients that lasts over a length of time, and that’s pretty unique” said Martinson. “It can be a really hard time in somebody’s life, but it can also be a thankful and appreciative time. We have a lot of appreciation from patients that say, ‘You helped me do this. You helped me create my family.’ And we love getting those stories.”
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