Around one in six Canadian couples face infertility issues.
Ayla and Caleb Langford are among them.
“We never saw this coming, ” said Caleb, reflecting on their decision to start working on a family immediately after getting married three years ago and assuming, given their youth and apparent good health (both are now 23 years old), they would be working toward their second or third child by now.
Fast forward to two failed rounds of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) with two unsuccessful rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination) in between. The Cochrane couple has already faced a roller coaster of heartache and a financial burden of more than $40,000 when many of their peers aren’t yet thinking of entering a serious relationship. –
Much of the funds to cover the high costs of treatment were raised through grassroots fundraising among family and friends, and $5,000 was covered by a grant through Generations of Hope.
Seeking an outlet to channel their frustrations and network with other couples experiencing fertility struggles has resulted in 115 vlogs (video blogs) over the last 15 months on YouTube, where @AylaandCaleb track everything from day-to-day life to candid and emotional breakdowns following doctor appointments. The couple has a growing number of followers that stood at 6,600 at press time.
“I can’t put enough emphasis on the community we’ve become a part of … the friends, the ability to bear my soul and to be asked for advice from others, ” said Ayla, who said this last failed round of IVF in August was especially challenging.
While the Langfords have had two years to adjust to Caleb’s diagnosis of severe male factor infertility and have opted to use donor sperm, they only learned the reality of Ayla’s own questionable fertility last winter.
Shortly after the second unsuccessful round of IUI, she was rushed to hospital with stomach pain, resulting in an emergency appendectomy that led to a diagnosis of Stage 3 endometriosis, a condition of tissue build-up in the ovaries that is linked to fertility issues. The diagnosis resulted in the removal of her right ovary.
The couple is currently awaiting further medical direction as to whether their next move will be to do a frozen embryo transfer of the healthiest three embryos their team was able to extract from Ayla, or whether to start the process of embryo donation through the clinic.
That process is similar to adoption, with the added step of experiencing the pregnancy. They could also look at other alternatives for adoption.
Under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, it is currently illegal for women to sell their eggs to others; it is not illegal for women to obtain eggs from out of country and bring them here.
“Essentially, this is our very last chance at having my (our) own genetics, ” explained Ayla. “The part about using our own genetics doesn’t bother me, but I really want to experience pregnancy. ”
Not surprisingly, the financial burden has also been a burden to the couple; IVF runs an average of $12,000-$14,000 per treatment and services are not covered by Alberta Health.
The couple has been clients at Calgary’s only fertility clinic, the Regional Fertility Program, for the duration of their journey. It is the biggest fertility clinic in the province and the only one in southern Alberta; the newly opened Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Edmonton does not provide the extent of fertility services that Regional does.
According to Regional’s website, its IVF services have resulted in the successful delivery of more than 13,800 babies since 1984.
Recognizing a need for more affordable options and shorter wait times, it would appear that the pending build of the future home of Effortless IVF in Calgary’s northeast may provide the sought after relief for many childless couples.
Dr. Lyle Oberg, whose varied background in Alberta medicine and politics includes several ministerial positions, is the founder and president of Effortless IVF Canada.
The clinic will pioneer an alternative to IVF utilizing a patented INVOcell technology (essentially a plastic egg that incubates in the vagina itself, rather than in a petri dish) that will cost around half of what regular IVF treatments do.
Slated to begin construction in October, the project has faced some permitting delays but the Effortless IVF team is hopeful construction will begin by late fall.
“The bottom line is that the wait lists for fertility treatments are ridiculous, ” explained Oberg, adding that his clinic will offer a less invasive, more cost-effective and patient-centric method that has, to date, achieved “similar results ” to regular IVF trials.
“Our eventual goal is to have 10 or 12 clinics across Canada that would provide an adjunct to traditional IVF services. ”
While each client is treated on an individual basis, at this point INVOcell is not a viable option for patients with a high BMI (over 35) or women with polycystic ovarian syndrome.
The clinic would still need approval by the Alberta College of Physicians and Surgeons, which Oberg does not anticipate will be a problem.
The Langfords said their eventual goal is to launch a videography business and to continue to vlog about their infertility issues, with the hopes that their story will provide comfort to others out there while breaking down the stigmas surrounding infertility and that their future children will turn it into family vlogging.
“You see infertility push couples apart, but for us the vlogging has brought us closer together, ” said Caleb.