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Fertility Financing Becomes a Popular Option

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

How much is a baby worth to a couple trying to get pregnant?  It’s likely priceless, but to the lending industry, it’s worth millions.  Apparently, because of the steep cost of fertility treatments, some couples are turning to financing to get enough money to improve their odds of having a child.

One couple in Rockville, Md, Jill and Tom Clinton, tried desperately to get pregnant, but after a heartbreaking miscarriage, they decided to try a fertility clinic.  Unfortunately, the cost of the average in-vitro fertilization cycle is about $12,000 and their insurance wouldn’t cover any of it.  Additionally, it often takes several cycles to get good enough odds for a successful pregnancy.  In order to make it happen, they drained their savings and were happy to receive a baby boy from that investment.  When they wanted a second child though, there was no money left for fertility treatments, so their doctor told them about the possibility of getting financing.  After more research, they found that fertility financing companies are being created around the country and the industry is growing fast.  It’s so popular in fact, that Capex MD, the company the Clintons decided to use, funds a whopping one million dollars in fertility loans each month and that number is rising steadily.

It appears unclear as to why this new industry is growing so fast.  Some speculate that more couples are trying to get pregnant later in life and so are more likely to need fertility treatments, while others believe it’s simply the new option that is giving rise to the results.  Couples who previously couldn’t afford in vitro fertilization now have the option to get financing and so they do.  Either way, it is causing concern among medical ethics committees like the one at Langone Medical Center.  They wonder if lending companies aren’t taking advantage of the desperate nature of couples in this situation, seemingly holding a miracle right in from of them.  Arthur Caplan, head of the Langone Medical Center Ethics Division worries that couples are “not going to hear the failure and success rate, the interest rate, and what the risks are of the treatments.” Instead, couples may only pay attention to the idea that there is one more opportunity to allow them to give pregnancy another try.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.

Reversing the Biological Clock with Someone Else’s

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Because so many women hold giving birth as one of their ultimate lifetime experiences, they don’t want to miss out on it because of infertility or the aging process.  Unfortunately though, as women get older, their ability to reproduce decreases.  With so many American women waiting until later in life to start their families, these upwardly mobile women are finding problems with fertility issues to be more common than they had expected.  For this reason, doctors have been working on adding to their various fertility treatments to help these older women give birth.  In vitro fertilization is one method that has gained a new strategy that seems to be reversing the biological clock of women over 40 years of age.

For women who are 43 years or older, the likelihood of getting pregnant, even with the help of three cycles of in vitro fertilization, is only 10 percent.  This is because a woman is born with all the eggs she will ever have and over time, the number of eggs of a woman significantly decreases from 1 million at her birth down to 34,000 at 36 years of age.  Not only are there less in numbers but the likelihood of the remaining eggs to function normally in the reproductive process becomes less.  However, researchers have found that when one uses a “donor” egg, i.e.,  when a young woman’s eggs are donated and in vitro fertilization is used in combination with these younger eggs, the chances of pregnancy increase to 60 or even 80%.   Nearly 250,000 women participated in this reproductive study by researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine and what they found was quite promising.  Even infertile, older women using donated eggs and in vitro fertilization had the same chances of getting pregnant as fertile young women using natural means.

Although these findings are exciting for those desperate to have a baby later in life, the process is not as easy as it sounds.  It is an expensive, unpleasant process, and not without its drawbacks.  It’s important to remember that the baby is not genetically related to the mother.  Some women find that less appealing (to be carrying a child that does not have her DNA).  Moreover, sometimes infertility is a sign of other reproductive problems that can cause issues during a pregnancy and long-term concerns for a child born in this manner.  For this reason, it is extremely important to consult with your OB/GYN before proceeding with such a program.  Many “older” celebrities have become mothers in this fashion.  But, keep in mind, healthy babies come from healthy mothers, so one should consider all other options before traveling down this path to motherhood.

You can read more about infertility in the chapter, “I’m not pregnant—and I want to be” in my health book, “INSIDE INFORMATION FOR WOMEN”.


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.


Fertility Institute Plays God

Monday, June 25th, 2012

For many, having children is an important goal, and when they find that for some reason they cannot, it can be heart wrenching.  Couples can go through years of suffering attempting to conceive, only to find that they are infertile.  When this is discovered, some couples resort to expensive fertility procedures in an attempt to have a child.  One fertility clinic though, decided to capitalize on the desperation of would-be parents by holding a contest offering free in vitro fertilization to the winners.

According to the CDC, 11.8% of women are infertile and 7.3 million of them have used infertility services.  These services are extremely expensive though, and many couples cannot afford them.  Because the services are elective, competition for clients is fierce in the fertility market.  The Sher Fertility Institute decided to embark on a marketing campaign in which couples would compete for their services through a video contest.  Forty-five hopeful couples submitted heart-breaking videos about their struggle to conceive, hoping to woo the judges and win one free cycle of in vitro fertilization.  Only three couples could win, but the amount of attention the institute received more than accomplished their goal of marketing exposure.  Critics of the contest believe that the institute is making light of a very serious situation though, and that they are taking advantage of the desperation of infertile couples in order to boost sales.  With contestants who have suffered five or six miscarriages and even a stillbirth, it seems cruel to get their hopes up with a contest that appears to be the miracle they’ve been waiting for.  Additionally, it doesn’t cause other couples, watching the contest, to consider all aspects of making such a decision.

For the most part, experts seem to agree that in vitro fertilization is safe.  However, they also warn against complications and want would-be parents to be aware of the risks they’re taking.  Professor Nygren, a speaker at the World Congress of Fertility and Sterility in Munich, concluded that there are low levels of increased problems which can come with in vitro fertilization, but these “may be due to the fact that all patients undergoing IVF procedures are patients who already have reproductive problems.”  He also pointed out that there seem to be more complications associated with those who opt for Multiple Embryo Transfer instead of Single Embryo Transfer.

Although the winners of the Sher contest are likely ecstatic at their free IVF cycle, many others are disgusted by the institute’s advertising practices.  If you and your partner are struggling to have a child, be sure to speak with your OB/GYN about all of your options before jumping into a contest where doctors are playing god for a bigger paycheck.


– Yvonne S. Thornton, M. D., M. P. H.



How late can you wait to have a baby?

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Today, many women are delaying starting families, most likely due to career and  economic concerns. Pregnancy rates are down in all age groups except for those 40 to 44 years of age, says the CDC, where pregnancy rates are up by 4 percent.

With all those over-40 women having babies, does this mean you can wait indefinitely if you hope to get pregnant? Not really.  A woman’s peak of fertility is about 25 years of age.  After that, “it’s all downhill.”  The likelihood of becoming pregnant drops dramatically well before you reach menopause, which is what many women think of as the end of their fertile years. A great number of those after-40 pregnancies are the results of medical interventions such as in vitro fertilization and donor eggs from 25 year olds.  Unlike our male counterparts who keep producing new sperm every 74 days, women are given their complement of eggs way before they are even born and there are no more new eggs to be produced.   Therefore, at 36 years of age, a woman’s eggs are 36+ years old with all the attendant risks that accompany any aging process.  According to the March of Dimes:

“At age 25, a woman has about a 1-in-1,250 chance of having a baby with Down syndrome; at age 40, the risk increases to 1-in-100 chance; and at 45, the risk  of carrying a child with a chromosomal anomaly such as Down syndrome, continues to rise to 1-in-30 chance.”

The advent of artificial reproductive technologies virtually transforms a woman’s “biological clock” into a perpetual calendar, but not without risks.  In studies, babies born via in vitro fertilization have been shown to have a higher risk of birth defects.

If an older woman doesn’t mind having a baby who carries none of her DNA, she may opt for a donor egg from a younger woman, which is then fertilized by her husband and the embryo transferred into her uterus.  Many of the older celebrities have chosen this route for their family planning.

Medical interventions, while they seem miraculous when they work, aren’t guaranteed to be successful. Just as in getting pregnant the old-fashioned way, your chances of success drop the older you are.  In vitro fertilization will result in a live birth among women past 40 only 6 to 10 percent of the time versus a 30 to 35 percent success rate among women younger than 35.

Nature’s message is clear, and unfortunately, it doesn’t offer any leeway in difficult economic times or while you are working your way up the corporate ladder: if you want to start a family, you’re more likely to be successful if you begin well before you turn 40.

– Yvonne S. Thornton, MD, MPH