Jen and Jenna Infertility Support
We’re going into our 5th year of marriage and our 3rd year of trying for a child. It’s been an uphill battle, with Jenna undergoing 7 IUIs, 4 surgeries, and 3 fresh IVF cycle (shots, medicine, hormone supplementation, surgery, the whole shebang). All 10 procedures so far have resulted in negative pregnancy tests, a statistical anomaly that is as yet unexplained and devastating for both of us.
Just when we were about to give up hope, through amazing advances in science, we were recently able to freeze 6 beautiful, genetically normal embryos, and can’t wait to transfer them one at a time back to Jenna’s body in the hopes that they will result in a pregnancy, at long last.
But before we do, Jenna needs to undergo immune testing to figure out why her body has rejected all the embryos up until this point. Testing and treatment could run around $10-15,000 - incredibly expensive and out of pocket, yet less costly and emotionally taxing for our family than adoption (around $25k) or surrogacy (upwards of $45k).
Throughout this process, friends have asked how they could help, and after a lot of discussion, we’re coming to you with a request: absolutely any monetary donation you can make would be an incredible blessing as we save for this final round of immune testing and treatment. We’re doing a lot of saving on our own, but after spending $30,000 out of pocket thus far, the additional $10-15,000 is daunting. If you can’t spare anything financially, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers as we work and pray for our baby.
The Full Story
Shortly after our wedding in 2012, we started talking about how to grow our family. Jenna has wanted children for her entire life and Jen was excited to raise a family of her own now that she’d found the right partner.
Jenna was a healthy 26-year-old at the time, so we decided to take the most obvious route - Intra-Uterine Insemination (IUI) with a donor. Two IUIs came and went. Then came IUIs #3 and #4 and more negative tests. We went in for further testing to find out what was going on, and it was revealed that one of Jenna’s fallopian tubes was full of fluid, a condition that would prevent pregnancy from happening.
In Spring 2015, Jenna had the affected tube surgically removed. That fall, we went back to the IUI process, excited that our roadblock had been removed and hopeful that we would soon find success.
We were wrong. Three more medicated IUI cycles came and went, and suddenly we were entering our second year of trying to conceive with nothing to show for it.
It was time to bring out the big guns: In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Jenna is terrified of needles, and the 2-3 week process of shots, meds, hormone stimulation, and daily blood draws was grueling, but we had a shared end goal in sight: a healthy child. So we pushed through, and excitedly waited for our blood pregnancy test two weeks later. When it came back negative, we were devastated, but our doctor reassured us that it was simply luck of the draw.
On to “fresh” IVF cycle number 2 - and again, another negative. Statistics show that women who undergo three IVF cycles rather than stopping after 1-2 have a 66% chance of success overall. With nothing seemingly wrong with Jenna, that statistic seemed like a benediction. We were determined to be one of those success stories, and our doctor seemed convinced that a third cycle would be the trick we needed. In October of 2016, we underwent our third fresh IVF cycle, tweaking the shots and medications so that we ended up with 10 embryos after the five-day growth window.
We were over the moon with these results. We transferred one embryo back into Jenna to wait for the pregnancy test, and froze the other nine embryos. These frozen embryos gave us a renewed sense of hope. Even if the current cycle didn’t work, we could try nine more times without Jenna ever going through the difficult shots and surgeries required by a “fresh” IVF cycle.
It’s a good thing, too - as our very bad reproductive luck would have it, this third IVF cycle was not successful either. Another negative test, another devastating result for both of us.
It was clear that something unexplained was in fact wrong with Jenna and that it wasn’t just “bad luck.” We had gone from being a same-sex couple with a simple and relatively inexpensive route to having a child to an infertile couple with no explanation, multiple procedures, and costly testing in our future.
Our doctor sat us down for a very difficult talk. We had a few paths to figure out what was going on and how likely it was that we could become parents this way. The most common cause of embryos not implanting or carrying to term is a question of egg quality, something we could now test with our frozen embryos by biopsying each one and sending them to a lab.
The only catch was that this test (Preimplantation Genetic Screening, or PGS) was not covered by insurance, ran about $5,000-6,000 out of pocket, and was not guaranteed to solve our problem. The results came back a month later with the best news we’d heard in three years - 6 out of 9 of our frozen embryos were genetically normal, not guaranteed to implant or carry to term, necessarily, but giving us a much higher chance of success, and letting us know that egg quality was not our problem.
As one doctor told us, with that number, “there’s a good chance you’ve already created your child.” This was so heartening to hear, and doubled the urgency we felt to get Jenna in fighting shape before “wasting” any embryos on future transfers. In December of 2016, we paused the whole baby-making endeavor and started going to specialists to see if they could diagnose why Jenna’s body simply isn’t accepting these now-proven-to-be-healthy embryos.
Another lucky break - two specialists in a row agreed that there are almost certainly underlying immune issues with Jenna. She has family history, underlying risk factors, and more. With that "luck" came a whole other set of problems.
Reproductive Immunology is a brand new field, and there are only a few doctors in the country who can diagnose and treat immune issues that may interfere with pregnancy. There have been very promising treatments that have allowed women with these problems to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term.
We were thrilled to find out there were options to finally finally help us bring our baby home now that we have those 6 frozen embryos, but were devastated when we saw the price tag.
Up until this point, we’ve willingly paid doctors’ fees, traveled to consults, paid for daily monitoring during our “attempts”. Jenna has undergone four surgeries. We’ve paid for 10 vials of sperm, running close to $1000 each. And we’d gone through the emotional turmoil of each one of these cycles, and watched as every test came back negative.
Now, however, we’re so close to an answer we can almost see our baby. We have 6 frozen embryos that can be transferred at any time, or stored for as long as we need. We have two different specialists agreeing on a cause of infertility, but it can’t be properly diagnosed and treated without expensive testing.
We’ve reached an impasse. At this point, the costs of adoption or surrogacy are more than immune testing and treatment and with healthy embryos whose transfer are probably partially covered by insurance, continuing on this path seems the most reasonable and affordable option.
As we’ve silently mourned and fretted throughout this three-year process, many friends have asked how they can help. We’re turning to you now with that opportunity. We've spent nearly $30,000 out of pocket, and we need help getting over this final medical hurdle.
If you can spare anything towards the testing and treatment, it would literally change our lives. We are so grateful for the emotional support we've already received, and wanted to open it up to our amazing community and peer group. After 10 cycles, 10 vials of sperm, 4 surgeries and out-of-pocket genetic testing on our embryos, we’re scared that we can’t do this on our own and we’re scared that this will never happen for us.
We want a child so badly and it’s been three incredibly hard years of trying to make that happen. We feel like we’re absolutely closing in on an answer, but we need your help to make our dream a reality. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions about our experience or plans. And if you can’t spare any money at this junction (more than okay! We know the feeling!), we ask please for your thoughts and prayers for quick diagnosis, treatment, and delivery of our child in the next few years. Thank you so much for reading.