Beth Hunter was at work when she finally heard the news she had been waiting for almost three years. She was pregnant. Her persistence and uterine fibroid surgery paid off.
Her fertility doctor at the University of Colorado, Nanette Santoro, MD, called her within the hour of receiving the test results. “I almost couldn’t believe it, this was our second IVF transfer, we had been waiting so long for this,” says Beth.
Beth’s pregnancy journey was curvier than most. Beth underwent surgery to remove uterine fibroids in summer of 2012 at the University of Colorado. Uterine fibroids are noncancerous growths that develop in a woman’s uterus during childbearing years and affect up to 10 percent of women who experience infertility.
Surgery to remove uterine fibroids can be pretty invasive and Beth was going to need to recover before trying to get pregnant again. After waiting three months she and her husband started trying to conceive again. They were unsuccessful.
The following January, she started bleeding badly. She learned that she had more fibroids and was going to need additional surgery. Dr. Santoro performed the second surgery. When she recovered from that surgery and still wasn’t able to conceive, Beth enlisted Dr. Santoro’s continued help.
If at first you don’t succeed
They decided to start out conservatively with intrauterine insemination (IUI), which places prepared sperm directly in the uterus to enhance prospects of egg fertilization. After three failed IUI attempts, Beth was trying not to get discouraged. “It was hard not to feel devastated each time I found it didn’t work,” she says.
It was then that Dr. Santoro delivered some hard-to-take news. Beth had a low egg reserve, which was going to make it challenging to conceive naturally. She was going to need in vitro fertilization (IVF).
“Going into this process, I had no idea what to expect,” says Beth. “I felt terrified, anxious and excited all at the same time.”
Beth began the hormone shots and prescribed medicine to prepare for IVF. At the egg retrieval procedure, Dr. Santoro retrieved 19 of her eggs and of those, 10 were fertilized. Of the fertilized embryos, six survived as viable to use in an IVF treatment. She completed a fresh IVF transfer of two of those embryos. Those fresh embryos did not implant and Beth still wasn’t pregnant.
When frozen is better than fresh
Historically, IVF has been carried out in a fresh cycle—the embryos are implanted as soon as they are mature (around a week), without being frozen. During a frozen IVF cycle, the lab freezes embryos, which allows the woman to have at least a month to “rest” before the IVF procedure. A frozen embryo transfer allows the uterus to be clear of the effects of ovarian stimulation medications, which tend to impede implantation.
After the fresh transfer, Beth completed a frozen transfer two weeks later with two embryos. One of those two successfully implanted. Beth learned that she was, finally, pregnant.
Beth says her pregnancy was challenging and she felt sick throughout much of the pregnancy, but it was all worth it. She gave birth to a baby daughter, Kaylin, in January 2015, two-and-a-half years after her initial fibroid removal surgery.
“Everyone at the CU OB-GYN office made me feel so relaxed throughout the treatments, even though I’m sure my blood pressure was through the roof,” says Beth. “Being surrounded by people who truly care about me made for an amazing medical experience.”
The couple still have two viable embryos frozen and in storage at the University of Colorado. After 17 years of living in Denver, Beth and her husband moved to Florida after he accepted a new job in the military. Beth says that even though she no longer lives in Colorado, she will want to go for baby # 2 with Dr. Santoro and CU OB-GYN
“I’m pretty superstitious and want to come back to CU for another round of IVF,” says Beth. “Dr. Santoro and everybody made me feel so comfortable throughout the entire process and I can’t imagine going anywhere else.”