CTV Special Report: Endless Tears: IV Fertilization and the women seeking treatment
Published Thursday, March 24, 2011 2:14PM EDT
MONTREAL - Having children is a natural and normal part of life, but for infertile couples, the path to parenthood is anything but easy.
The Quebec government's 2010 decision to fund three attempts at in-vitro fertilization was highly controversial, with many critics saying such a personal procedure should not be funded by taxpayers.
But for those who desperately want to carry a child, receiving government funding for a chance at getting pregnant is only fair.
Angela Tanzi is one woman who has tried for years to get pregnant, without any success.
"I want it so much and I just can't understand why I can't have it," said Tanzi.
"You're only put on this Earth one time, and I want to experience that bond. That unconditional love. That holding of a baby."
Annie Baillargeon has also had fertility problems.
She says that being unable to get pregnant is not just personally distressing, but also comes with a sense of shame that people are reluctant to discuss.
"It's kind of taboo, people take for granted that fertility is a natural thing," said Baillargeon.
"I'm embarrassed to tell people that I have an infertility problem," said Tanzi.
To get answers, thousands of people each year go to the McGill Reproductive Centre inside the Royal Victoria hospital.
Doctor Janet Takefman says many women feel betrayed by their own body.
"It's the feeling that everyone can do this," said Dr. Takefman. "All along the genetic scale species can do this, and why can't they do something as simple as getting pregnant and having a baby."
The reality is that 15 percent of couples trying to conceive will have problems, even after a year of trying.
Fertility doesn't reward hard work
The first test-tube baby was born in 1978.
Now, waiting rooms are full of women using what has become the most common reproductive technology.
"Women, especially of this generation have been taught that the harder they work at something the more likely they are to succeed at it," said Dr. Takefman.
"Infertility doesn't play by those rules."
Before undergoing IVF, a woman must undergo weeks of daily injections to stimulate her egg production.
She is then sedated, up to 30 eggs will be extracted, then embrylogists isolate healthy sperm and encourage fertilization of as many eggs as possible.
Several will be placed in the womb, and the rest frozen if more attempts are necessary.
It's a "very very long process. Very difficult, very hard on the body, the mind, the soul. It's draining," said Tanzi.
"The emotional reaction to infertility is no different than cancer," said Dr. Takefman.
"It's actually higher than divorce and equal to the death of a loved one and you're actually talking about a life, a potential life."
Fertility drops significantly with age
One key factor in a woman's fertility is her age.
Dr. Hananel Holzer, director of McGill's Reproductive Centre, says the odds of getting pregnant drop dramatically in a person's thirties.
With more people pursuing lengthy post-secondary education and establishing careers before finding a partner or deciding to have a child, many women find their ideal child-bearing years have already passed.
"People should be aware that women's own fertility declines, and the decline is steeper after the age of 35," said Dr. Holzer.
"Over 43 the chance of having a live birth is less than 10 percent."
Tanzi was 42 years old when her second round of IVF worked.
She was pregnant for ten weeks.
"I couldn't believe it , I still don't believe it," said Tanzi.
Some women are luckier.
Baillargeon's daughter Matilda was born after multiple IVF attempts.
"She's just a joyful, intense child and she's so full of life," said Baillargeon.
At age 35, she is now pregnant with her second child.
Like many others Tanzi continues to hope as she undergoes a third round of IVF.