When my mother brought me to the United States, her goal was to make sure I was treated fairly regardless of my race, gender, or economic status. I became a Doctor with the dream of sharing this empowerment with all other women through accessible fertility treatment. Viewing infertility holistically and tailoring treatment to a patient's needs can lower costs, require less medication, and as a whole completely change the way we view fertility treatment.
IVF should be custom-tailored to the patient.
Reproduction and feminine health has always been a passion of mine, ever since I was a very young girl. When I attended medical school, IVF was still relatively experimental. I noticed that the traditional treatment was seemingly paint-by-numbers and the woman’s individual needs were not being evaluated. It felt to me that regardless of the patient's actual needs, it was just injection after injection, surgery after surgery until a woman ended up pregnant...sometimes.
Women were facing the physical and economic consequences of these intense and invasive treatments, when in reality, maybe they didn’t have to. I knew that fertility treatment was far from one size fits all. Our bodies and fertility issues are all extremely unique—why shouldn’t IVF be?
I realized early in my practice that every ovary was different and needed its own unique style of treatment. Sometimes, certain ovaries would not respond to traditional IVF medication. My patients began to call me an “ovary whisperer,” and at first I did not know what they meant. But I soon realized it was because I based my practice around what a patient actually needed, and not what was considered the standard.
For a patient with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR), it was long thought that a lot of medication was necessary. However, through my research in natural and low-dosage fertility treatments, I’ve realized that this is not the case. Both of these methods are especially good for patients who have DOR. I found that with this diagnosis, it is more important to assess the quality of the egg over the quantity. Only one egg is necessary to make a baby, and oftentimes an excessive dosage of medication is not required to achieve a pregnancy. This idea of “one-size-fits-all” has kept many women from pursuing fertility treatments. Tailoring treatment to the individual is the key to redefining how we perceive fertility treatment.
Infertility is more than just a lifestyle choice. Fertility care is essential.
Infertility is more than just the consequences of a lifestyle choice. When we think of fertility treatment, most people imagine a woman who completely invested herself in her career, and was too busy to pay attention to her biological clock. But, this isn’t always the case.
Roughly 1 in 6 couples experience issues of infertility. This makes the issue roughly as common as diabetes. So while it can be portrayed to be a niche issue reserved for the societal elite, it can affect anyone who wants to start a family. With how common fertility problems are, IVF needs to no longer be thought of as elective, but as essential for those who need it.
IVF has no need to be universally expensive… IVF can be affordable.
With how extremely common issues of infertility are, it begs the question, why isn’t IVF covered by most insurance? At the moment, only very specific treatments can be covered by very specific insurance plans. Even then, in 2018, 8.5% of U.S. citizens were not covered by insurance at all.
It is no secret that traditional IVF is extremely expensive, even when factoring in insurance. This means that most Americans have to choose between heaping debt and the possibility of having children. This creates an unfair standard that the only people who should be having children are those who can afford to spend tens of thousands of dollars on IVF.
Natural or mild IVF is a solution that is very real for many families. Because of the lower dosage of medication and injections, it is significantly more affordable. A traditional IVF cycle can cost upwards of $20,000. A natural IVF cycle potentially can cost a third of that. It requires fewer office visits, allowing for further accessibility for those who need to work longer hours.
The Physical Tax
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When asked about the worst aspects of IVF, many will say it's the bruising, nausea, fatigue, and mood swings that come with consistent injections. These side effects disproportionately affect women with lower incomes. Of the bottom quarter of American workers, only 47% are offered sick leave from their work. Should the sickness they experience from side effects be severe, they may not be able to take time off of work, providing even more financial strains in addition to the physical ones.
Natural IVF is significantly less taxing on the body. Because it utilizes less medication, it leads to fewer side effects. There are less daunting injections, and with it being less invasive it immediately becomes more accessible to thousands of women.
In order to successfully make fertility care more accessible to all women, we need to change the way we think about fertility care. Every woman is unique, and that doesn’t stop at fertility issues. There isn’t just one way to make a baby, and it’s harmful to all women to think that way.
Natural and Mild IVF can be the solution for many because it is more affordable, requires fewer injections, and has fewer side effects. Thinking outside the box and finding new methods of treatment is the way to bridge the equality gap we currently see in fertility treatment.
Dr. Janelle Luk, MD, FACOG, one of the top board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologists in New York City, is breaking barriers in the world of IVF as the Medical Director at Generation Next Fertility. She specializes in creating individualized fertility treatments based on each patient’s needs.