Be prepared to "push through"

May 19, 2013

Larissa Cahute

The Vancouver Province



Karen Seraphim was careful not to get too excited about her pregnancy.

"We're doing really well and we're really happy," Seraphim said from her Vancouver Eastside home with her husband, Keiron Duncan, by her side. "Almost 18 weeks - almost halfway through, but still there's no guarantees, because of my age I'm high-risk."

Seraphim recently turned 44, but it was just before Christmas - while she was still 43 - that she underwent in-vitro fertilization.

Seraphim and Duncan are a modern-day love story: a happy couple who met later in life - in their late 30s. They married in 2011.

"We've always wanted kids," said Seraphim. "[And] we were trying and trying."

"Every month when you realize that you're not pregnant it's a drag."

So they went for testing and were told "even if conditions are absolutely perfect each month you have a 3% chance of conceiving." With IVF, that chance only went up to 10%.

"It was a gamble," said Seraphim. "[But] we didn't want to have any regrets (and) time was ticking."

After a gruelling three weeks of injections, hormones, drugs and lab tests, Seraphim and Duncan were given the good news.

"We're beating the odds," said Seraphim as she knocked on wood.

"So far," chimed in Duncan. But they're still hesitant to let most people know.

"Social life wise, for three months we really didn't see anybody," said Seraphim.

Infertility specialist Dr. Jason Hit-kari is seeing a rise in couples like Duncan and Seraphim at Olive Fertility Centre.

And while part of that rise is due to the development of modern treatments - IVF, fertility pills, surgery, insemination - the large part is because of lifestyle changes.

"People are waiting longer to have their kids, so we see a lot of people who are older," he said. "[And] even though [women] are ovulating at those ages ... most of those eggs are genetically abnormal and don't result in pregnancy."

So IVF helps women produce more eggs for doctors to extract and choose the best one for the embryo.

"You have to be prepared to really focus your life with the IVF," warned Seraphim. "The hormones really affected me."

Fortunately she was able to take some time off work and had Duncan for support.

"There wasn't much for me to do (except) watch her go through it," he said. "Whenever something is needed that's what you do."

"I had a ton of back and foot rubs," added Seraphim.

But she encourages couples to "push through."

"It is something that is very emotional, very personal, and everything will change while you're doing it - you need to be prepared for those changes," she said. "You really have to be tight as a couple.

"If it doesn't pan out ... I can see that being an issue for some people, so far we've gone through it and we just went through it together and realized this is going to happen one way or another."

And while the chances decrease as couples age, Hitkari said the biggest problem is that infertility treatments aren't funded.

"Unfortunately, (getting the treatment) depends on whether they can afford the care, which is a real shame in our health-care system," he said. "It's nobody's fault that they're struggling."

"Families are important and kids are important."

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