Treating Infertility: Roller Coaster of Emotions

Intrauterine insemination takes careful timing, patience
Nicole with family

When you first learn that you’re infertile, you feel a flood of emotions. In the middle of your grief and sadness, you and your partner must make decisions that may affect you physically, emotionally and financially.

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Understandably, you want to know the best options to treat your type of infertility and what each treatment choice entails.

Boosting the odds

“Infertility treatments will differ depending on what is affecting the couple’s ability to conceive,” says fertility specialist Rebecca Flyckt, MD. “The most common diagnosis that we see is unexplained infertility. Generally, with this one, we’ll recommend starting with an oral fertility medication in combination with an intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedure.”

Some fertility drugs encourage “superovulation,” stimulating the ovaries to produce more than one mature follicle (this is what develops into the egg) during each cycle. The release of multiple eggs increases the likelihood of getting pregnant.

“I tell my patients to think of it as a numbers game,” Dr. Flyckt says. “We use an IUI to bring more eggs and sperm together at the right time, and generally the prognosis for pregnancy is very good.”

Coping with the process

A fertility specialist diagnosed Nicole Herbst, 40, and her husband, Rob, 44, with unexplained infertility four years ago. The doctor initially prescribed the fertility drug Clomid®, along with IUI procedures.

“Every month, our lives revolved around those couple of days when I was ovulating. Timing became everything for us,” Nicole says of the IUI process.

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Women undergoing IUI procedures must chart ovulation, usually using over-the-counter ovulation predictor kits.

When the kit showed a positive reading, Nicole would call her fertility specialist and decide when to go to the Cleveland Clinic Fertility Center for the procedure. The IUI treatment involved several steps:

  • Rob arrived at the center early to produce a sperm sample.
  • The center “washed” the sperm to remove semen.
  • Nicole arrived at the center about an hour later, getting undressed from her waist down — as if preparing for a pap smear.
  • A fertility specialist injected the washed sperm into the uterus using a small catheter.

 “After the procedure, I went about my day,” Nicole says. “I would then have to wait two weeks before I found out if I was pregnant.”

Holding on to hope

On their second IUI try, Nicole got pregnant. This occurred shortly before Rob, who served in the U.S. Army Reserve, was deployed to Afghanistan for a year. Unfortunately, when they went for a routine ultrasound the week before he left, they learned that the embryo had stopped growing and Nicole was going to miscarry.

“We were both devastated, especially since the loss of our baby happened right before Rob left,” says Nicole. “At times, it was hard to maintain a sense of hope. It’s so important to take care of yourself through this process.”

Nicole later became pregnant again through in vitro fertilization. She delivered her daughter, Violet, by cesarean section on March 4, 2014 at Fairview Hospital.

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