Finding help to start a family

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Like many couples, Renee and Alex Cooper struggled with fertility. Renee had a common condition that affects about 7 percent of all women of childbearing age. Fortunately, the problem was corrected with medication, and the Coopers recently welcomed their first child, Nora, in August 2013.

Like many couples, Renee and Alex Cooper struggled with fertility. Renee had a common condition that affects about 7 percent of all women of childbearing age. Fortunately, the problem was corrected with medication, and the Coopers recently welcomed their first child, Nora, in August 2013.

There were times, Renee Cooper admits, when she was not sure whether she and her husband, Alex, would ever have a baby. And she is not alone. Infertility is a common issue that affects 8 to 10 percent of all couples, according to Brooke Rossi, MD, an OB/GYN who specializes in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at University Hospitals Fertility Center.

“People expect that when they are ready to start a family, everything will work smoothly,” Dr. Rossi says. “When nothing happens after a few months, it can be very frustrating.”

For couples facing this challenge, there is a wide range of options available, from medication to in vitro fertilization. A consultation with a UH Fertility Center specialist can help to relieve some of the frustration that surrounds fertility issues.

Noninvasive treatment

After visiting with Dr. Rossi, Renee was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in which the ovaries do not release an egg every month.

“The egg does not get released, so it is difficult to conceive,” Dr. Rossi explains. “It is a common condition that affects about 7 percent of all women of childbearing age. Fortunately, it usually can be corrected with oral medication.”

Renee started to take an oral medication that helps induce ovulation in August 2012. In tandem with artificial insemination, it worked. The couple conceived and welcomed their first child, Nora, in August 2013.

Like many couples who visit UH Fertility Center, the Coopers’ fertility problem was corrected with a noninvasive solution.

“The solution is often very minimal, like using oral medications,” Dr. Rossi says. “Only a minority of our patients end up having to do something more invasive, like in vitro fertilization (IVF).”

A more involved answer

After losing their 5-week-old son to a rare genetic disorder, Nicole and Brian Hardman realized that in vitro fertilization was their only chance at having a healthy baby. Thanks to UH Fertility Center’s advanced treatment capabilities and some crucial financial help, their daughter, Callie Rose, was born in March 2013.

After losing their 5-week-old son to a rare genetic disorder, Nicole and Brian Hardman realized that in vitro fertilization was their only chance at having a healthy baby. Thanks to UH Fertility Center’s advanced treatment capabilities and some crucial financial help, their daughter, Callie Rose, was born in March 2013.

For Nicole and Brian Hardman of Avon Lake, however, IVF was their only chance. In 2011, the couple lost their 5-week-old son, Lucas, due to epidermolysis bullosa (EB), a group of rare genetic connective skin tissue disorders that affects one out of every 20,000 live births in the U.S. EB causes the skin to blister and tear with even the slightest friction and, in severe cases, can cause internal blisters in the nose, mouth, esophagus, stomach and lungs.

Geneticists told the Hardmans that there was a one in four chance that any future children they had would be born with EB, most likely the same type as Lucas.

“We thought, ‘We cannot have any more children,’” says Nicole. “If you had seen the nightmare that Lucas went through, even 1 percent was too big of a chance.”

On the advice of their geneticist, the Hardmans met with James Goldfarb, MD, Medical Director of UH Fertility Center, for an initial consultation. The center offers preimplantation genetic diagnosis, which determines whether a genetic condition carried by a parent is handed down to the embryo.

A partnership that fits

In vitro fertilization and genetic testing can be expensive: The average cost is almost $20,000. When the Hardmans realized that they would not be able to afford the procedure, Dr. Goldfarb referred them to Partnership for Families. Started by Dr. Goldfarb and family friend Nancy Lerner Fisher in 2004, the program provides financial assistance for IVF to qualified individuals and couples who have genetic concerns, cancer diagnosis or previously unsuccessful IVF attempts. Since its inception, the program has provided around 280 financial awards, mostly to couples who do not have biological children together and cannot afford a second IVF attempt.

With crucial financial help from Partnership for Families, the Hardmans began IVF in early 2012. By June 2012, they had seven healthy, EB-free embryos, of which two were implanted. Five remain frozen for future use. Blood tests soon confirmed that Nicole was pregnant. Their daughter, Callie Rose, was born March 9, 2013.

“It is amazing how many things we have experienced already that we were not able to experience with Lucas,” Nicole says. “Callie wears regular clothes and can wiggle and play without giving herself blisters. And, most importantly, I can cuddle her and kiss her as much as I want, and it does not hurt her.”

Taking the first step

Whether fertility issues are complex or common, UH Fertility Center doctors are able to help.

“People are sometimes nervous that they are going to find out there is something wrong,” says Dr. Rossi. “Sometimes people are afraid of the costs. Usually the problem will be something that is easily manageable, but you cannot start working on the problem until you know what it is.”

To learn more about the Cooper and Hardman families, watch videos of their stories at UHhospitals.org/Fertility.

Brooke Rossi

BROOKE ROSSI, MD
OB/GYN, University Hospitals Fertility Center
Clinical Associate Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

James Goldfarb

JAMES GOLDFARB, MD
Medical Director, University Hospitals Fertility Center
Clinical Professor, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine

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