Infertility

Still waiting for IVF funding in Ontario

by DaniGirl on February 25, 2013 · 8 comments

in Infertility

This is the last in a series of posts sponsored by Conceivable Dreams.

When Kathleen Wynne became Ontario’s new premier earlier this month, I was full of hope that she would revisit and revive an issue that has been stagnating for four long years in Ontario. Back in 2009, an expert panel recommended that the province should cover the cost of up to three rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments for women under the age of 42. Last week, I was deeply disappointed to hear that Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews has said the province has no intention of implementing these recommendations.

I had the opportunity recently to participate in a set of media stories for web, radio and TV about IVF. At first I said yes, as you know that promoting funding for IVF has been dear to my heart for years. Before production got underway, though, I backed out. I changed my mind for two key reasons. The biggest reason is that my beautiful IVF baby will be 11 years old next month, and maybe this story is no longer mine to tell, at least not quite so publicly. Second, though, is that I had a sense that the story would be focusing more on the “women putting careers first, waiting too long to have babies” theme.

It’s frustrating to me that the issue of IVF funding gets tangled up with this image of type-A career women who put off marriage and children until their late 30s or 40s, and then turn to IVF when they realize they’re long past their fertility’s best-before date. I’m sure this happens, and of course I have sympathy for ANYONE who wants a child and finds that they are unable to conceive.
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It’s hard to believe that it’s been 10 years since we celebrated our first Christmas with Tristan – in the emergency room, as it turned out, as the poor guy had a wicked UTI and a spiking fever that saw us bundling him off to the University Hospital ER in London at about 5 am on Christmas morning. Oh the joys of parenting.

Just two years before that, we were celebrating a different kind of Christmas. I’d just endured our first intrauterine insemination and was giddy with hope over the holidays that it might work. I spent that Christmas dreaming up clever ways to tell our family I was pregnant. And I spent Boxing Day deathly sick and heartbroken with the estrogen crash that follows an unsuccessful cycle. (I’ve always been a little sensitive to the estrogen drop-off at the end of a normal monthly cycle, often enduring end-of-the-month migraines, but with my estrogen torqued to new heights by the reproductive treatments, the crash made me so sick I could barely get out of bed. And of course, I cried myself sick at the unsuccessful cycle on top of all that.)

The holidays are stressful for all of us, but when you’re enduring infertility they can be a special kind of hell. Here’s a few thoughts about how to get yourself through the holiday season with sanity intact. You can also adapt these if you’re caring for someone who is coping with infertility.

First, be kind to yourself. It’s okay to be sad, to be angry, to be stressed out. Your feelings are what they are, and they aren’t right or wrong. Give yourself permission to slow down, to take a break, maybe get yourself an extra treat. You deserve it.

Second, don’t feel overwhelmed by your obligations. If you can’t face the children’s Christmas party at work, then skip it. If you can’t handle seeing your sister-in-law celebrating Christmas with her newborn baby, excuse yourself. You’ll probably feel better if you do go, but if you truly can’t handle it, don’t force yourself.

Third, try not to let despair overwhelm you. Find little things that make you happy, whether it’s the warm Christmas lights on a snowy night, or wrapping presents for your loved ones. While it’s okay to be sad or angry, it’s not healthy to let it consume you.

We survived two Christmases of “trying” and one Christmas with officially diagnosed infertility before our lives changed thanks to in vitro fertilization and the arrival of our beautiful baby Tristan in March of 2002. We lost another baby in November of 2006, so I know a thing or two about infertility and loss around the holiday season. I also know that our government has in its hands the power to change the lives of families facing infertility. They’ve promised to fund IVF treatments, but we’ve seen no action in three long years.

One in six Ontario families suffer from some form of infertility. That’s why I’m happy to work with the advocacy group Conceivable Dreams, who sponsored this blog post. For more information, you can visit the Conceivable Dreams website, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

This holiday season, give your families an extra hug and remember that there is much to be grateful for in our lives. And think a kind thought for those still waiting, waiting, waiting for their dreams of an end to infertility to come true.

Disclosure: I am a valued member of the Conceivable Dreams blog team. As such, I received compensation, but my opinion, and my stories, are all my own.


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It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and I have so many things in my life to be thankful for that I don’t even know where to start. My brother and his family are on the way for a visit, and the blessings in my life are truly too many to count.

As I mentioned last month, I’ve agreed to write some posts to support the work of Conceivable Dreams, a grass roots patient advocacy organization advocating for better funding for in-vitro fertilization (IVF) from government and private employers. They suggested a post around the theme of thanks, and while I can’t say that I’m exactly thankful for our dark drive through the badlands of infertility, gratitude is a theme that’s easy to weave into our IVF experience: I’m grateful that the technology existed to help us, I’m grateful that we only had to endure the experience once and that it was successful, and it goes without saying that I’m grateful for our success. Sometimes, when it’s dark and quiet, I wonder what our lives would have been like if this first IVF treatment had not worked… but, down that road lies heartache, and I try not to dwell on it too much.

With the theme of gratitude and thanksgiving in mind, I thought I’d re-post my original IVF story. This is actually the second of two posts. I wrote the backstory of our unexpected and devastating infertility journey here. Because I wanted this to be about giving thanks and happy endings, here’s the rest of the story as I wrote it back in 2005:
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Almost three years ago to the day, I wrote a blog post about the province of Ontario announcement that it would be funding in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments. I wrote: “yippee!” Okay, so I wrote a lot more than that, and I’ll re-hash a lot of that in the next little while, because I’ve happily agreed to write a few posts about IVF funding for Conceivable Dreams, our newest bloggy sponsor. Conceivable Dreams is a grass roots patient advocacy organization advocating for better funding for IVF from government and private employers, a cause I support with all my heart.

The blog post I wrote back in 2009 about Ontario’s proposed funding for IVF treatments breaks my heart. Once every couple of months, someone posts a sad comment or sends me a heart-wrenching e-mail begging for information, for an update, for some glimmer of hope — and I have said so many times that I’m so sorry, but I don’t have any information. That announcement back in 2009 has been followed by three years of inaction and silence from the the government. Imagine waiting to start your family for three long years, with the family of your dreams tantalizingly close — but still not attainable.

With the cacophony of three little boys that fill our ears and hearts to bursting, it’s sometimes hard to remember the dark days of our infertility diagnosis and hard to believe that once upon a time, some doctor told us that we had practically no chance to conceive a child on our own. Infertility is so much more than a clinical diagnosis. It means giving up on a dream you felt entitled to your whole life. It is standing on a precipice with a yawing future devoid of the children you already felt were a part of you. It is losing what you never had but always expected.

Our only hope for pregnancy lay down the path of in vitro treatments, at a cost then that started around $7,000 — with no promise of success. Imagine spending that kind of money — on a maybe. I remember sitting in the armchair in the bedroom of the townhouse we rented, just me and Beloved and Katie, and crying my heart out to my mother on the phone. How could we ever afford something like that? We couldn’t even scrape together enough for a downpayment on a house. It may as well have been $70,000 as $7,000. And my wise, sweet mother asked me a question that I never forgot: “What else are you going to spend your money on?”

Indeed, that was the perspective I needed. For us, there was nothing else we wanted – not vacations, not cars, not a fancy house or toys or clothes. We wanted that family, and we had wanted it since we were each children ourselves. Beloved and I were born to be parents, and I believe that to my core to this day. It still seems so wrong to me that what stood between our younger selves and the family we dreamed of was money – the money to pay for a medical treatment.

Beyond the emotional, there are solid medical and financial reasons that the province should get moving on implementing coverage for IVF, and I wrote at length about them back in 2009. One of the driving factors behind funding IVF is controlling the number of multiple births, which are expensive on the health care system with higher incidences of premature births, c-sections, and intensive neo-natal care. Whereas (provincially funded) intrauterine insemination has no control over the number of embryos created, IVF allows for precise control of the number of embryos implanted.

And I still stand behind what I wrote, back in 2009 (really, just go read the blog post, it will be easier, and it’s a good one!):

You know what I would even consider as a reasonable compromise, for those of you who feel that taxpayer dollars should not be funding fertility treatments? Fund unsuccessful treatment cycles. Including two IUIs, a cycle of IVF with ICSI, four years of frozen embryo storage, and the costs to thaw and transfer Frostie, we easily spent $10,000 or $12,000 to overcome our infertility. I think you’ll agree that my darling Tristan is worth every penny times a thousand. We’re lucky that we never had to face the unimaginable agony of an unsuccessful round of IVF treatments compounded by the idea of spending all that money for naught — just try to imagine spending everything you have, financially and emotionally, and coming away empty-handed.

It’s for all these reasons and more that I am proud to support the work of Conceivable Dreams. If you have any doubt in your heart, read the comments at the end of the post I wrote back in 2009 for just a sample of the struggle facing thousands of Ontario families-in-waiting. For more information, you can visit the Conceivable Dreams website, or follow them on Twitter and Facebook.

Disclosure: I am a valued member of the Conceivable Dreams blog team, and I have been compensated for this blog post. However, the opinions expressed on this blog are always my own.


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Ontario proposes IVF funding

by DaniGirl on August 27, 2009 · 37 comments

in Infertility

My jaw dropped open in surprised delight when I heard yesterday that the province of Ontario is considering funding up to three attempts of in vitro fertilization (IVF) through OHIP. Hello (Ontario Premier) Dalton McGuinty? Between this and the all-day kindergarten thing, I think I love you.

I haven’t had time to read through the entire report yet, but I will and I’ll write an informed summary and analysis when I do. (Um, I still owe you that second post on the Senate Child Care report too, don’t I? It’s on my list, I swear!)

Anyway, here’s what I think of the recommendation at first glance: yippee!!!, with a healthy side of “It’s about farking time!” As most of you know, my first son Tristan was conceived through IVF in 2001, so I admit to a strong bias on this. But you know what? Given the horrible amount of misinformation and misconceptions (snicker) that swirl around the issues of reproductive technologies, people who have been there and done that truly are in a better position to evaluate the proposals.

I find it rather ironic, in fact, that (assuming the recommendations are implemented) our reproductive years will have fallen smack dab in the middle of the decade and a half during which IVF was not funded through medicare. Up until 1994, IVF was funded in Ontario, and continued to be funded for women with two blocked fallopian tubes. I’m quite happy with how things turned out for us, though, and wouldn’t change a thing — but I sure would love to know that other families don’t have to abandon their dreams of having a family simply because they can’t afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on fertility treatments.

Here’s why I think IVF should be funded not just in Ontario, but in all provinces and territories.

As the media has noted, one of the driving forces behind the recommendation to fund IVF is the idea of reducing multiple births. Multiple births are expensive on the health care system — there are higher incidences of premature births, c-sections, and intensive neo-natal care. One of the conditions of public funding would be that Ontario’s 14 fertility clinics would have to agree to stricter controls on the number of multiple births, which they would do by making more stringent the rules about the number of embryos that are transfered during an IVF cycle.

(I’m a bit removed from the latest clinic culture these days, but in 2001 when I was 32 years old, they would not allow me to transfer all three of our surviving embryos. We were allowed to transfer two and elected to have the third one frozen. So the clinics haven’t exactly been irresponsible to this point in time anyway. I’ve always been a little bit shocked to hear stories of clinics – largely in the US – that would allow the transfer of up to five or more embryos for a woman undergoing her first cycle, who is young and otherwise healthy.)

The idea, then, is that the amount that would be spent to fund up to three attempts of IVF would be offset by the reducing the costs to the system that result from currently high percentages of multiple births. What’s not mentioned, IMHO, is the value to the system of us creating all these little future taxpayers. Aren’t we all wringing our hands about declining fertility rates?

One other argument that I don’t see in the current media coverage is this: currently, Ontario does provide funding for other fertility treatments like Clomid and intrauterine insemination (IUI). I’ve never used Clomid (a drug that essentially causes you to ovulate more than one egg, thus increasing both your chances of conception and your chances of multiple births) but we did try two cycles of IUIs with superovulation, meaning they used drugs to torque my reproductive system into producing multiple eggs, took a sample of Beloved’s junk and ran it through a gyroscope-thingee (really!) to filter out all the poor swimmers, and had the surviving sperm squirted into my uterus.

The difference between IUI and IVF, then, is a much higher rate of control of the number of conceptions that occur. With (currently funded) IUI, multiple rates are much higher and completely out of the clinic’s control — millions of frisky sperm seek out up to half a dozen fertile eggs. With IVF, the conception occurs in the labratory instead of the uterus, and the doctors place one or two embryos into the uterus, hoping they will implant and grow. It’s the difference between using a calligraphy pen or a bucket of paint to dot your i, if I can make up an analogy.

As an aside, as many of you know, though Tristan was conceived through IVF, Simon and Lucas (and the babies we lost in 2000 and 2006) were conceived naturally. Beloved had an OHIP-funded surgery on his bits in 2001, while I was pregnant with Tristan, because he was in considerable discomfort. (You have to be in a lot of discomfort, I think, to have elective surgery down there — spoken as someone who will never know!) As a consequence, his fertility improved dramatically and obviously. So we might have been able to avoid the whole cost of the infertility treatments had the fertility doctors recommended this OHIP-funded surgery before the IVF.

You know what I would even consider as a reasonable compromise, for those of you who feel that taxpayer dollars should not be funding fertility treatments? Fund unsuccessful treatment cycles. Including two IUIs, a cycle of IVF with ICSI, four years of frozen embryo storage, and the costs to thaw and transfer Frostie, we easily spent $10,000 or $12,000 to overcome our infertility. I think you’ll agree that my darling Tristan is worth every penny times a thousand. We’re lucky that we never had to face the unimaginable agony of an unsuccessful round of IVF treatments compounded by the idea of spending all that money for naught — just try to imagine spending everything you have, financially and emotionally, and coming away empty-handed.

At the very least, this proposal levels the playing field just a little bit for people facing infertility. This editorial, written by a couple who have filed a discrimination complaint at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, outlines some of the ways in which the current system of funding for reproductive technologies in Ontario are discriminatory. Two blocked fallopian tubes? You get three funded IVF attempts. Testicles fried from the radiation to treat Hodgkins disease? You’re out of luck. PCOS? So sorry. Low ovarian reserve? Too bad. Poor sperm motility or mobility or count? Yer on yer own, buddy.

Anyway, I’m all over the place here. As you can see, even after all this time I still react passionately to stories about infertility and reproductive technologies. (Hal, if you’re reading, now you know why infertility is one of the metatags on my blog!) I am beyond delighted to see that Ontario is considering funding up to three cycles of IVF for eligible families, and applaud the province of Quebec for its forward-thinking policies in this area. Once I read the report, I’ll come back with another post and try for a more detached tone. (Anybody want to take bets on how long I’m able to maintain that illusion of detachment?)

What do you think? (And yes, I’m open to dissenting opinions, so long as they are expressed with respect. And you realize that there’s nothing you can say that might change my opinion on this one!)


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Dr Zap and 25,000 vasectomies

by DaniGirl on February 25, 2009 · 0 comments

in Infertility, Sideblog

Remember Dr Zap? Apparently he’s celebrating his 25,000th vasectomy today. He’s the most prolific infertilizer in Canada! Amusing article, worth the read. (Sheesh, had I known there’d be champagne we could have held out another couple of months!)


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Improving IVF success rates

10 February 2009 Infertility

This morning’s Globe and Mail had an interesting article about uterine biopsies improving IVF success rates. Even though I’m a long time removed from our infertility days, I can still taste the desperation we felt. I would have totally pushed to have this done, back in the day, even though the director of the Ottawa […]

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Beloved visits Dr Zap

22 September 2008 Infertility

Poor Beloved. Not bad enough I have no shame in blogging about my life, but now I’m blogging about his most personal bits. Good thing we’ve got a lot of family freebies out of blog over the years to compensate for my appalling lack of respect for his private parts. He’s going today for his […]

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The one where I’m not pregnant

26 April 2007 Infertility

I peed on a stick yesterday morning. One line. Sigh. I’m not terribly surprised. I knew I had ovulated fairly late in my cycle, if at all. (Funny, I spent all of our infertile years being mystified by my body, using a microscope to read its inscrutable signs. Now it sends me fertility signals in […]

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My 15 minutes in Chatelaine

4 April 2007 Infertility

Thanks to my colleague Rebecca, who was the first to realize that the Chatelaine article I mentioned is already posted online! No more skulking around the magazine racks at every grocery store and news stand in town, waiting for the paper copy to arrive. Er, not that I was doing that, of course. Anyway, it’s […]

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