Grueling IVF treatments offer hope to older couples trying for a baby

Process is 'not for the weary of heart'

ROANOKE, Va.10 News is taking an in-depth look at infertility--- sharing the new treatments, struggles, medical technology, cost of infertility and more. You can find more of those stories by clicking on the Only on 10 tab at the top of wsls.com.

More people are waiting to have children and that's leading to fertility issues. It's a silent struggle for many couples, especially as they get older.

Babies bring so much joy, but trying to get pregnant can bring so much pain.

"It destroys you. It's heartbreaking and you still have to find a way to function in life. You have friends that are having baby showers and you have to find a way to keep going," said Kristen Price.

Kristen and Aaron Price spent years trying to have a baby and fertility issues led them to Dr. Chris Williams. The Reproductive Medicine and Surgery Center of Virginia is seeing a shift in patients, with more older couples coming in.

"Everybody's waiting to get married and waiting to start their families. You're not old when you're 35, but we start talking in terms of advanced maternal age and some issues in terms of aging that may affect your ability to get pregnant and risks of miscarriages, etc," said Dr. Williams.

After exhausting some less aggressive fertility treatments, Kristen went through IVF--- or in vitro fertilization.

"It's not for the weary of heart. You have to be 100 percent invested before you start IVF," said Kristen.

She had to give up her job because it didn't work with all the testing, medicine and driving hundreds of miles back and forth to Charlottesville for treatment.

Courtesy of Price family
Courtesy of Price family

After weeks of shots and waiting, she didn't get any embryos that could develop into a baby. They were all genetically abnormal, meaning most likely, she would miscarry.

"It's literally one of the hardest days of my life, to date. I was a puddle on the floor for hours. To go through all of that and then to have nothing to show for it, it's hard," said Kristen.

"Watching her go through that was extremely difficult," said Aaron.

They decided to do another round.

"She was all in, so I was all in. I said, 'We'll do it as many times as you're up for it,'" said Aaron.

After more shots and tests, this time just one embryo made it through genetic testing, giving the couple their first daughter.

Courtesy of Price family - credit Mariah Springs Photography
Courtesy of Price family - credit Mariah Springs Photography

"It's surreal. To know everything you've gone through to get her here," said Kristen.

Improvements in genetic screening make a big difference for older couples.

"We used to only be able to test for a handful of chromosomes. Now we can test for all chromosomes so you get more information, it's more accurate information and it's less harmful on the embryo than it was 10 years ago," said Scott Purcell, the Reproductive Medicine and Surgery Center of Virginia lab director, who biopsies cells to find normal embryos.

Those advancements are leading to joy for couples like Kristen and Aaron.

"I would do it 1,000 times over just to know her," said Kristen.

Courtesy of Price family - credit Mariah Springs Photography
Courtesy of Price family - credit Mariah Springs Photography

Dr. Williams says testing for abnormalities improves pregnancy rates and reduces miscarriage to just 5 percent.

With the genetic research going on now, the idea is that one day, doctors will be able to correct any abnormalities, hopefully enabling even more older couples to have children.

There is an infertility support group that meets in the Roanoke Valley. Contact Laura West at (540) 312-2409 or thewests14@verizon.net for more information.

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