The rollercoaster of infertility

Starting a family can be a big decision.

When the family doesn't happen, there are even bigger decisions to make.

That's why we're bringing you this KHQA special report, "Making Babies".

This story is very close to

KHQA's Chad Douglas'

heart because this is exactly what he and his wife went through.

They made the decision to start a family years ago, but it wasn't happening, so they decided to get help.

After going through it all, they realized infertility is more common than most people realize.

In fact, there's a good chance you know someone who's struggled to get pregnant.

"We knew we really wanted to be parents," Kirsten Frey said. She's gone through infertility treatments several times.

Frey knew she and her husband would likely have fertility issues before they ever got married because of a known medical condition. They talked and decided to try infertility treatments to get their family going.

Not without some failures, the Frey's now have three boys, 12-year-old Nolan, 9-year-old Mitchell, and 6-year-old William.

"When you can't do something everybody can do, I think it really makes you question and have real doubts and insecurities about who you are as a female or who you are as a male," Frey said.

And that's why the subject of infertility can be seen as taboo, or something you just don't talk about. However, some would argue the more you talk about it, the more you hear this ...

"It's actually quite common. More common than people understand," Dr. Brad Van Voorhis, with the

University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics


In fact, about 15 percent of couples will be affected by infertility at some point. To get more technical, most infertile couples are considered subfertile ... that just means those couples would be more successful getting pregnant with the help of a fertility specialist.

So what happens from there? If you and your partner have tried for a full year without success, you fall into this category. The first step is talk to your local gynocologist or urologist. Then you may find yourself at a fertility clinic for help.

Once you're there ...

"I would expect a careful review of anything that has been done to date. Understand what tests have been done. We try not to duplicate anything. We try not to do any other additional tests in advising the couple. From there, we move into treatment, if that's what the couple wants," Dr. Van Voorhis explained.

There are several options of treatments including surgery,

Intrauterine Inseminations

, or IUI, and

In Vitro Fertilization

, or IVF.

"It can be quite involved, especially an IVF process. That involves daily injections for 10 to 12 days. That's followed by an egg retrieval process that takes place here in the hospital. Five days later, come back and we will transfer the embryo or embryos, depending on the circumstances," Dr. Van Voorhis said.

Any infertile couple will tell you infertility treatments encompass your life for about a month because the injections have to be given in certain areas and at certain times. That doesn't even take into account the emotions and other feelings that that come with it.

"At the end of the day, you get a beautiful baby," Frey said.


Nothing in this field is 100 percent, but the numbers are interesting.

Dr. Van Voorhis says couples have about a 20 percent chance of conceiving naturally.

Couples going through an IVF cycle have a 50 to 60 percent chance of a successful pregnancy.

Click here

to watch part one of this series.

With all things medical, there are risks involved.

Raising a family can be expensive.

So can starting a family if you have to go through infertility treatments.

Dealing with the finances of that is just one part.

There's also an emotional roller coaster that you ride along the way, and there can even be some people who look down on you.

Infertility treatments are expensive, but you shouldn't let cost get in the way of your dream of starting a family. The first call should be to your insurance company.

"The first question that you ask is ask if you have infertility testing coverage. That is a separate carved out policy. First, ask about testing coverage, then ask if you have treatment coverage," KrisAnne Duhaime, a Billing Supervisor with the University Iowa Hospitals and Clinics said.

From there, ask if there is insemination coverage and in vitro coverage. Most infertility clinics will need to be paid upfront, and won't be able to offer a payment plan. You can always take out a loan, but make sure you do all of your research first. For example, the state of Illinois is one of about 15 states that mandates infertility coverage. All other states consider it "elective." Understand though that there are loopholes in the Illinois mandate.

"Some patients really didn't do their homework and find out that they have coverage through their spouse. But the wife didn't look into her employer and finds out she actually had coverage," Duhaime said.

Just to give you an idea, a typical IVF cycle will run at least $15,000. Granted, IVF isn't the only treatment available, but expect to pay in the thousands.

The biggest risk with infertility treatments is multiples. With every multiple birth, there are risks to the babies. There is also a slight increase of birth defects. A typical baby has about a 4 to 4.5 percent chance of having some type of birth defect. IVF babies carry a 6.2 percent risk, but studies show that may not be directly linked to IVF, but an underlying condition like the mother's age.

A risk for the mom is something called over-stimulation of the ovaries. This happens when the ovaries produce too many follicles because of the medicine. It will usually resolve itself, but it takes a couple of weeks, and is pretty uncomfortable to deal with, and may lead to hospitalization. That happens in less than 5 percent of cycles.

What happens in every cycle is the emotional roller coaster ride the couple goes through.

"It's important to remember that you're going through this together ... because it goes to the heart of who you are, you tend to think of it as happening to you. My husband would feel terrible as he's giving me shots for weeks and then we would joke that he was going through it too. I think you sort of forget that both sides are having their own experiences with the process," Frey said.

"The best advice I would give is laugh. I think your emotions are going to be all over the place. You're not going to feel like yourself. Parts of the treatment aren't pleasant," Frey said.

And there's even deeper ethical emotions that can pop up dealing with ethics. Some people are against getting help to get pregnant, so you might run into that.

"What I say to people is if my eyes didn't work, I'd get glasses. If I have diabetes, I get medicine that helps control that. My ovaries didn't work, so I did the treatment available to me," Frey said.

More ethics can come into play, because if the couple requests it, doctors can freeze any embryos for later use.

However if the couple chooses not to use them, they are used for research or destroyed.

Click here

to watch part two of this series.