News / Vancouver

Fertility treatment offers hope for B.C. couple that delayed starting family

When Vancouver’s Rod Furlan holds his newborn son Hudson Max, he can hardly believe he is finally a father.

“Just talking about it brings tears to my eyes,” he told Metro. “We really did beat the odds.”

Two years ago, Furlan and his partner Kim McNulty decided to delay starting a family so they could travel. Little did they know, McNulty, then 34, already had fertility problems that would later make it much more difficult to conceive.

The couple isn’t alone.

According to the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, one in six Canadian couples of childbearing age struggle to conceive. Part of the problem is a trend of couples putting off starting their families until it is biologically too late.

“It’s very common, especially in a city like Vancouver where life is more expensive and it takes longer to become established,” said Dr. Sonya Kashyap, medical director of the Genesis Fertility Centre in Vancouver. “Most people don’t deliberately delay it, but it’s a situation they find themselves in.”

Kashyap said she sees many women in their mid-30s who ask about freezing their eggs. She said women are increasingly searching for ways to preserve their fertility after putting off marriage and children to focus on their careers.

“It’s very easy, myself included, when you’re on a career path … to put it off,” she said. “Professional women have to make choices that men just don’t have to.”

The promising news, Kashyap said, is that fertility treatment has come a long way in recent years and has quite a high success rate. Although women with fertility problems over the age of 37 typically need at least two cycles of IVF, about 40 to 50 per cent are able to conceive in their first cycle, she said.

Still, the cost of treatment continues to be a barrier for many patients. While MSP covers the initial consultation and fertility testing, patients pay out of pocket for treatment.

Treatment is costly. IVF can range from $7,000 to $12,000 per cycle plus the cost of medication, which can range from $2,000 to $6,000, while egg freezing starts at about $7,000 plus medication.

But Kashyap said treatment in Canada is still significantly more affordable than in the U.S. where IVF can cost up to three times more. While she understands why it isn’t covered by MSP, Kashyap said she hopes that will change one day.

“It’s really sad to see people not be able to afford it at all,” she said. “It seems like in Canada where we’re so invested in health care, it doesn’t seem right that we don’t invest in helping people have families.”

Shame is another barrier to helping raise awareness of fertility. Many people don’t talk about infertility because of the stigma, but Kashyap said it’s important for patients to be proactive about their health as early intervention is key.

She urged women to plan ahead and consider egg freezing if they would like the option of getting pregnant in the future. The earlier women freeze their eggs, the more likely they will to be able to successfully conceive when they’re ready, she said.

“We do see a lot of people who tell us, I wish I knew this sooner,” she said. “It’s hard to have a timeline and a plan for everything, but given the options, how would you feel if you were 40 and that was not an option?”

That’s why Furlan and McNulty decided to speak out.

Before they decided to delay starting their family, the couple both underwent fertility testing to ensure they could afford to wait. When they never heard back from the clinic, they assumed they were healthy.

A year and a half later, the couple decided to start trying to get pregnant, but nothing happened. They then found out that the tests were abnormal. McNulty’s ovarian reserve was incredibly low, but no one from the clinic contacted them.

“We were devastated,” Furlan said. “The results were not normal, but we were never told.”

The experience taught the couple to be proactive about their health. Furlan urged others to trust their healthcare providers, but to always verify the information they are told and seek a second opinion.

Furlan said he wants others struggling with infertility to know that there is hope.

After fertility treatment, the couple conceived their child with only one round of IVF. The odds of that happening were only seven to 10 per cent, said Furlan.

“I often tell Kim that we’re not meant to have this boy,” he said. “The joke we make is that nature said no, but science said yes.”

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