Karen was almost 40 when she and her husband decided to try for a sibling for their five-year-old daughter Emma. Karen began to get concerned when, after a few months, nothing happened. She finally convinced her family physician to refer her to a fertility specialist. “My doctor wanted me to wait but I felt this huge sense of urgency. At my age I knew time was of the essence.”
Over the course of the next two years, Karen experienced two miscarriages and one failed in vitro fertilization or IVF. (IVF is a procedure in which egg and sperm are combined outside the body to form embryos. The resulting embryos are transferred back into the woman’s uterus or womb).
“The emotional toll this takes can be brutal,” said 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 partner in the process.”
“With all the innovations in fertility treatment, we can help most women achieve a pregnancy, depending on age, but what we also need to do is to treat the emotional side,” says Dr. Jason Hitkari, a reproductive endocrinologist and medical director at Olive Fertility Centre.
"When we opened Olive, we took what we had learned from our previous experience running a large fertility centre and figured out how we could do a better job of delivering personalized patient-centred care. At Olive, each patient has her own personal care team, which includes their fertility doctor and two nurses dedicated to their care.”
“It was such a relief to me when I met Dr. Hitkari and he took the time to really listen to me and thoroughly explain all my options,” says Karen. ”It felt like we were in this together. I couldn’t believe that he actually gave me his e-mail so that I could contact him if I had any questions or concerns.”
As more and more women are delaying starting a family until their thirties and even forties, the rate of infertility is rising. Many women don’t realize that their fertility peaks in the mid-twenties and drops off sharply 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.
“Frequently women and even MDs don’t know that a woman over 35 and her partner should have a full fertility workup if they haven’t conceived after six months of unprotected intercourse.” says Hitkari. “The biological clock starts ticking much more quickly at this age. So the sooner a problem is diagnosed, the more quickly the treatment cans start.”
Fertility evaluation and testing is fully covered by MSP in British Columbia with a referral from a family physician or a walk in clinic.
“At 40+ I knew my chances were a lot lower than if I had been younger,” says Karen. “So I did everything I could to get myself into the best shape mentally and physically to prepare for my IVF. Dr. Hitkari encouraged me to go for acupuncture to help deal with stress and to give me the best chance of success.”
This seemed to have been the magic formula. Karen had eight eggs retrieved and the healthiest embryos were transferred back into her uterus after fertilization.
“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 a week later, 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 trying to start or add to their family is don’t wait as it get more difficult the older you are. “And 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.”