If you've ever tried to conceive by undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), then you know the dedication, patience, and resilience that goes into the process. You also know how much love goes into it, too. One powerful image is reminding all of us of that fact, after the Sher Institutes' photo of a baby surrounded by syringes went super viral this week. The photo, which was originally shared on Oct. 5, has since been shared over 5,000 times and earned over 13,000 likes. It's also led thousands of parents who've been through the IVF process to share their own stories of hope and heartache — stories we don't hear about nearly as much as we should.
The baby in the photo, who lays surrounded by syringes in the shape of a giant heart, is named Sophie. She's the daughter of Angela, who decided to take the powerful photo as a way to chronicle her three-year struggle to conceive. "The needles to me were the easiest part," Angela told Today. "It was the emotional ups and downs that were hard. For a couple out there still trying and maybe are on their third or fourth try, just hang in there. It was such a struggle, but it's worth it."
The particular range of emotions Angela describes are shared by millions of others who go through the same process; and they're pretty hard to miss when skimming the comments on the Sher Institute's Facebook post. "I did IVF four times," begins one woman in a comment. "Yes, we do take all those shots and some are very painful. Most of us would do it again, in order to have a baby." Another woman wrote, "Every blood draw, every shot, every moment so worth it." As one commenter reminded, both partners feel the pain and joy of the process deeply. "Didn't even tell my husband what this was, I just handed him my phone," wrote another commenter. "I saw tears form in his eyes as he probably also went through the memories of countless nights, over our four year journey, that he gave me shots. We finally were successful with twin boys and I've never been happier!"
The stats tell us that one in eight American couples have difficulty conceiving or sustaining a pregnancy, which is why 7.4 million women seek fertility treatments like IVF on their road to parenthood. The procedure itself has come a long way since the first the first "test tube baby," Louise Brown was born in England back in 1978. Today, doctors actually use IVF to treat a variety of conception difficulties, including problems with the uterus or fallopian tubes, difficulty with ovulation, antibody problems that harm sperm or eggs... the list goes on. But the reality, as Angela so beautifully reminds us, is that IVF usually takes more than one round of treatment to result in a sustained pregnancy. With each "round" comes painful self-administered injections, and if the pregnancy doesn't "take," the loss inevitably ends in heartbreak. Yet the truth of the matter is, it's a heartbreak a lot of couples know far too well: Only 20 to 35 percent of cases conceive on the first round of IVF.
As more and more people share this photo, and their stories, I sure hope that U.S. health care providers are taking note. Infertility is a serious medical condition that affects millions of Americans, making treatments like IVF the only option for some. That said, IVF remains uncovered by insurance, and making things even more difficult, is incredibly expensive. According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the average cost of a single round of IVF here in the United States is $12,400 — and most couples undergo three to four rounds. That's one pretty heft price tag. Perhaps we should take a cue from lawmakers in Ontario, Canada, who are known for progressive medical coverage. Recently, Ontario passed a law to partially fund IVF treatments for women under the age of 43, in a move that will aid thousands of couples in becoming parents for the first time.
While there don't appear to be any similar programs in the works stateside, eyes will certainly be on Ontario to watch its success in the coming months — and I can only hope it leads U.S. lawmakers to consider the huge benefits it would bring to American couples.
Image: Fotolia; Pixabay