Karen was almost 40 when she and her husband were finally ready to start a family. However, things don’t always go as planned. After more than a year of trying to get pregnant she started to get worried and convinced her family physician to refer her to a fertility specialist. “I felt this huge sense of urgency. At my age I knew time was of the essence,” says Karen.
As more and more women are delaying starting a family until their thirties and even forties, the rate of infertility is rising with 1 in 6 couples experiencing fertility issues. Many women don’t realize that their fertility peaks in the mid-twenties and drops off after 35: a healthy woman at age 30 has about a 20% chance per month of conceiving. By the time she reaches 40, her chances drop to about 5% per month.
When Karen was finally referred to Dr. Ginevra Mills, a fertility specialist at Olive Fertility Centre Victoria, her relief was overwhelming. “The emotional toll this takes can be brutal,” says Karen. “One thing you desperately need during your fertility journey is a fertility doctor who really understands what you are going through and treats you as a whole person.”
“With all the developments in fertility treatment, we can help most women achieve a pregnancy, depending on age, but it is not enough to have the most advanced technology and a state-of-the-art embryology lab. We also need to be providing personalized patient-centred care that addresses the overall health and emotional well-being of the patient,” says Mills. At Olive Fertility Victoria, each patient has their own personal care team, which includes their fertility doctor and a nurse dedicated to their care.
After going through fertility testing and discussing her options with Mills, Karen and her husband decided that IVF gave them the best chance of a healthy pregnancy. “At 40, I knew my chances were a lot lower than if I had been younger,” says Karen. “So, I wanted to do everything I could to get myself into the best shape mentally and physically to prepare for my IVF. I was kind of surprised that Dr. Mills encouraged me to check out natural treatments like acupuncture and mindfulness programs to help me deal with stress and give my body the best chance of success.”
Studies show that women experiencing fertility issues can experience stress levels equivalent to those being treated for a life-threatening illness like cancer, and this is the most common reason that people drop out of treatment. “Mindfulness can be a tool to help ease the emotional turmoil and increase resiliency so that patients can stay the course in their treatment,” says Stephanie Curran, clinical director of Elements of Health and a certified Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction instructor.
The formula worked for Karen. She had eight eggs retrieved and the healthiest embryo was transferred back into her uterus.
“I found out shortly after that I was pregnant. At our ultrasound, we saw one sac and a little heartbeat flicker – we just had a little superstar. At our second ultrasound, we saw the baby moving and had a strong heartbeat at 160+ beats per minute. Our miracle baby boy was born 8 months later!”
The main advice that Karen would give women who are struggling to get pregnant is don’t wait. “If you are having fertility issues, look around until you find a fertility specialist that you really feel comfortable with. Look for someone who is knowledgeable, empathetic, and focused on being part of your team. And make sure they support your emotional well-being as well as offering the best medical treatments. I learned that there is a lot you can do to improve your diet and lifestyle and to manage your stress, which made me feel more in control of my fertility journey.”
The fertility consultations and most testing are fully covered by MSP in British Columbia with a referral from a family physician, walk-in clinic, or Telus My Health doctor.
Your consultation with a fertility specialist, as well as most fertility tests, are covered by your BC MSP with a referral from a family doctor, a walk-in clinic, or a telehealth provider like Telus Health MyCare.