#StartAsking About Your Options

Thursday, April 28, 2016

When most people think about building their family, they likely think it will go something like this:

  • Step One - Have copious amounts of unprotected sex
  • Step Two - Sperm and egg do their jobs; missed periods and two lines soon to follow
  • Step Three - Approximately nine months later, a baby appears
  • Step Four - Repeat steps 1 through 3 as desired
And for some people, things do work out that way.

However, when you are one of the 1 in 8 couples struggling with infertility, all those plans go out the window.

When you realize that the traditional plan isn't going to work for you, it can be extremely overwhelming. It can make you feel angry, sad, confused, and hopeless. All our lives, we're taught that pregnancy can be achieved if you have sex even just one time (which is true, but doesn't happen nearly as often as your eighth grade health teacher made you think), so when it's not only not easy, but seems downright impossible, it can be hard to know what to do.

So what do you do when the whole "put the penis in the vagina" thing doesn't work out?

You weigh your options (and you DO have them!).

Fertility Medication

For many who struggle with infertility, this is the first option beyond traditional intercourse. I documented my own experiences with using Clomid and Femara, which are oral medications used to stimulate ovulation. While they didn't work out for me, many women do have success with them. After oral medications, the next step may be injectable medications. We chose not to take that step due to the expense (it would have been around $1200 a month out of pocket, which just wasn't -- and isn't -- doable for us), but for those who can afford it, it is definitely a step worth considering. Many of the fertility drugs used for women can also be used to treat some forms of male factor infertility.

Intrauterine Insemination

Intrauterine insemination, more commonly known as IUI, involves placing the sperm in the uterus during ovulation (you know the whole "turkey baster" thing? That's basically a way less sanitary version of IUI). Sometimes IUIs are done while using fertility meds as well. We never went for IUI because my doctor wanted to see if the drugs worked alone first (and they didn't), but I do have a friend who had great success with IUI.

In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

For an IVF procedure, eggs are removed and fertilized before being placed in the uterus (that makes it sound like an easy afternoon in the doctor's office, but it's actually much more involved than that). Though IVF is successful for many couples, it is not a magical cure -- in 2014, about 27.5% of IVF cycles resulted in a live birth. Because of its expense, many couples are only able to pursue one or two attempts at IVF, and it's often used as a Hail Mary.


In some situations, donor sperm, eggs, or embryos may be necessary in order to achieve pregnancy. For some, a surrogate or gestational carrier may be needed. A surrogate carries a child created from her egg (inseminated with the father's sperm or donor sperm); a gestational carrier carries a child created from one of the mother's fertilized eggs (like IVF, except the fertilized eggs are placed in someone else). This is a viable option for many (in fact, the mother of one of my students is currently carrying her best friend's twins), though there are generally legal procedures that need to be followed.


This is probably the first option most people think of when they think of other ways people with infertility can build their families (you'd be hard-pressed to meet someone who has struggled with infertility who hasn't had someone say to them, "You can always just adopt"). You can adopt privately (such as being matched with an expectant mother), from foster care, or internationally. All options have pros and cons. Private adoption can be extremely costly, but it also generally has the least risk involved (though of course, there could always be complications at birth, or the birth mother may change her mind); the adoption process with private adoptions generally takes less time than with other options. Foster care adoption has very little cost attached to it, but since the goal of foster care is reunification, there can be a lot of risk involved (however, there are many older children who are legally available to adopt). International adoptions can make it easier to find an available infant if that is what you wish, but there are a lot of legalities and red tape involved, and they can be quite costly.

Living Childfree

This is often (but not always) the last option for couple struggling with infertility. Though it can be difficult, there are many couples who choose to try living a childfree life. I won't really say much else about it, because that isn't my reality, but there are some great stories about living a childfree life on Resolve's website.

There can be a lot of pressure to choose one option over another, and trying to decide can certainly be overwhelming. My advice is just to sit down with your partner and discuss what options work for you, your budget, and your beliefs and go from there. When I had first mentioned foster care to Tom a few years ago, he didn't like the idea, because he was afraid of getting too attached to a child that may not be ours forever. However, as he looked into it more, he decided he thought it would be a great option for us to pursue; if he had not been comfortable with it, we never would have chosen that path (though we are both thrilled with our choice now, because we love our boys more than anything).

Though we chose not to pursue more expensive options for financial reasons, there are ways to get help to pay for treatments and adoptions. If you're comfortable with it, many people set up crowdfunding sites (like GoFundMe) to raise funds; additionally, there is a crowdfunding site called Fill Their Arms that is specifically for raising money to pursue paths to parenthood. Some people use money raised from garage sales, selling handmade items, or side businesses to help cover costs. Some use credit cards or home equity lines. There are several infertility financing programs that can be utilized, and grants and scholarships to help cover infertility-related costs are available as well. For those who have served in the military (active duty or veterans), there are discounts available. Every couple's financial plan will look different; what works for one couple may not work for another. You just need to make decisions about what you are comfortable doing and how much you are comfortable spending.

There are so many ways to try to add to your family, but only you and your partner can decide what's right for you. Do your research, weigh your options, and don't be afraid to start asking!

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  1. I loved this post, you have friends, be happy and still enjoy some alone time!



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