by Connie Matthissen
When she was trying to get pregnant with her first child, Ilana Portway was diagnosed with “unexplained infertility.” She was 30 when she began trying, and it took nearly two years, fertility drugs, and an intrauterine insemination (IUI) procedure before she became pregnant with Madeline, now 4 years old.
When Ilana, who works as finance manager for a large corporation, and her husband, Julian, decided to try again, they figured that they’d have a similar experience the second time around. “We were optimistic starting out, because we got pregnant after the first IUI the first time,” says Ilana. “But by then I was 34 years old and considered to be of ‘advanced maternal age’— it’s an awful, awful term, isn’t it? So my doctor decided to be more aggressive.”
Ilana sounds like a physician when she recounts her infertility treatment regime: “Three months of Clomid, a hysterosalpingogram, laparoscopy, and hysteroscopy, then an aggressive series of ovulation drugs with IUI. I took drugs to grow as many eggs as possible, other drugs to slow the growth down to give as many eggs as possible a chance to reach maturity, and still more drugs to maximize the growth of the eggs. I took progesterone to thicken the lining of the uterus. When the eggs were at their maximum maturity, I took an hCG shot to release the eggs and more progesterone and waited the cycle out.”
Some of the fertility drugs she was taking had disturbing side effects. “They really do a number on you,” says Ilana. “One drug I took made me crazy. I was ready to murder my husband. You look at yourself and don’t recognize who you’ve become.”
Fertility drugs are expensive, too, and many insurance plans don’t cover the costs. “I’ll never forget the time I drove up to the drive-through window at the pharmacy to pick up some medication, and the bill was $600!” Ilana recalls.
After she underwent four IUI procedures with no success, Ilana asked her doctor for a prescription for antidepressants. “I was embarrassed to ask, but my doctor was actually relieved,” she says. “She told me she often prescribes antidepressants for people going through infertility treatment, because the experience is so difficult.”
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