The Center for Disease Control (CDC) released earlier this year that 12% of US women 15–44 years of age have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.
So what are your options?
Artificial reproductive technologies or ART (with IVF being the most popular) is the best modern medicine has to offer you.
But they can be expensive, time-consuming, invasive, and potentially affect mental health. For the icing on the cake, they are only 36% effective in achieving a pregnancy and 29% effective in achieving a live birth. Which means after all the time, money, and energy you invest, only 1 in 5 pregnancies will result in you being able to start your family.
Where do IUIs or intrauterine inseminations fit into the picture?
Compared to the old intracervical inseminations (ICI), IUIs are 2 - 3x more successful, although they are still not as effective as IVF treatments (Carroll, 2001). Yet, lesbian couples, single or transgender women, and heterosexual couples with minor fertility issues (such as male infertility factor of unexplained infertility), find IUIs as a lower-risk, less invasive, and empowering option to create their families.
Here are 4 reasons why a birth center is not only a safe and less expensive option to starting your family, but may increase your chances too!
The medical view of an IUI, or intrauterine insemination, looks like something along these lines:
1) Wash sperm in a laboratory to concentrate sperm and remove seminal fluid.
2) Conduct medical tests to detect ovulation either by blood (endocrine testing) or urine (luteinizing hormone).
3) Lie on surgical table while clinician inserts speculum into vagina to see the cervix.
4) Insert catheter through the cervix into the uterus and then inject the washed semen.
5) Wait 2 weeks to take a pregnancy test to determine results.
Talk about taking the magic out of this miraculous moment of creating a life!
Now, I am not saying that all reproductive endocrinologists or medical clinicians are devoid of an empathetic approach when it comes to an IUI. Granted, we live in a system where doctors get a whopping 15 minutes to tend to a patient; creating a magical experience isn’t always a top-of-mind concern.
So, what are your other options?
A birth center can provide a more intimate experience and your IUI may look something more along these lines:
1) Meet a birth center team and get to know them as people.
2) Make an appointment for a comprehensive medical history of both partners. This includes both emotional and psychological events that could be affecting fertility.
3) Based on your personal history, your midwife may recommend you explore various non-invasive approaches that are known to increase fertility and IUI success rate. This could include: acupuncture, nutritional counseling, yoga for fertility, therapy, and more.
4) Once you and your body are in a place where the procedure will be most successful, plan a date to have the IUI inserted. This will occur in the relaxed comfortable space of a birthing room.
5) Attain your washed sperm (this may happen earlier on in the process).
6) You should trust and have confidence in your midwife, whom you should know well by now. They may encourage you to bring or do whatever you need to feel relaxed and safe including: lighting candles, having music softly playing, being aroused by your partner, et cetera. When you are ready, they will respectfully insert the sperm into your uterus and allow you the space to complete the process as you wish.
7) You follow up with your midwife in 2 weeks to assess your body and discuss what support your body may need at that point.
(Sound like a good option to you yet? Keep reading if I haven’t convinced you yet!)
Trust is everything when it comes to creating your family.
The power of our psyche to affect our physical body is profound. We now have studies to prove this in relationship to fertility issues. The process of creating life is intricately bound up in the trust you have in your body’s ability to accomplish this naturally life-changing process.
When you are trying to conceive, every month your menstrual cycle begins can beat down your confidence a little more. Especially if you have moved beyond the bedroom doors and started the process of ART. Women undergoing ART have shown increased levels of anxiety, depression, and stress (Leiblum 1987). Studies have actually shown that with every failed cycle, a couple experiences a lowering of self-esteem and an increase in depression relative to pre-treatment levels (Hynes 1992).
Getting to know your midwife over several appointments and creating intimacy and trust is a natural part of a birth center's process. This naturally happens through the time they take to answer your questions, get to know your body, and bring you into their community.
You begin to trust your own ability and body again, and feel empowered to take your health back into your own hands.
Studies have suggested that group psychotherapy, as well as, support groups decrease stress and mood symptoms while increasing fertility rates (Domar, 2000).
At a birth center, you become part of a tribe.
Many birth centers host various classes, talks, and gatherings as a way for you to become part of their community. You are able to feel supported, held, and listened to by your midwife and the community they bring together. This could single-handedly be a determining factor on why one would choose a birth center to start their birth journey with.
4) Financial measures
Finally, for those of you that need to get analytical and logical with your decision, here are the real number comparisons of what you are looking at (published by the non-profit Resolve):
The average cost of an IVF cycle using fresh embryos (not including medications) is a whopping $8,158. Using donor eggs bumps that number up to $38,015. To top that off, women who chose cycle-based treatment received an average of 3.6 treatments before they have a successful cycle. This could be contributed to the fact that repeat procedures may lead to an increase in depressive symptoms and thus increased need for repeated attempts (Thiering 1993).
On the bright side, the average cost of an IUI cycle at is a merely $865 and typically, that price is even lower at a birth center. Most insurance agencies do not cover fertility costs anyways, so you might as well make some phone calls and explore your options first.
The fact that a birth center supports your self-confidence with your own body, addresses your fertility from many angles, provides community, and allows for a spiritual and/or magical experience during the procedure, all point to the possibility of increasing your chances of conception at a birth center. Not the mention the fact it is something way more affordable.
Isn’t that worth a visit?
“ART Success Rates.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 26 Aug. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.
Carroll, Nina, and Julie R. Palmer. "A comparison of intrauterine versus intracervical insemination in fertile single women." Fertility and sterility 75.4 (2001): 656-660.
Domar, Alice D., et al. "Impact of group psychological interventions on pregnancy rates in infertile women." Fertility and sterility 73.4 (2000): 805-811.
Hynes, Gloria J., et al. "The psychological well‐being of infertile women after a failed IVF attempt: The effects of coping." British Journal of Medical Psychology65.3 (1992): 269-278.
“Infertility FAQs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.
Leiblum, Sandra R., et al. "Unsuccessful in vitro fertilization: a follow-up study."Journal of in vitro fertilization and embryo transfer 4.1 (1987): 46-50.
Thiering, P., et al. "Mood state as a predictor of treatment outcome after in vitro fertilization/embryo transfer technology (IVF/ET)." Journal of psychosomatic research 37.5 (1993): 481-491.
Kodiak Soled, Certified Clinical Herbalist and Maternity Nutritionist
Kodiak Soled, aka the Maternity Maven, supports expectant and new mamas with a mindful and Real Food-approach to nutrition and holistic medicine. She has studied proven traditional practices and protocols as well as modern scientific research and medicine, which has resulted in her safe and effective, systematic approach to maternal and reproductive health. She supports mamas all over the world with her 6-Step Transformational Approach, which includes: nutrition therapy, botanical medicine, food-based supplements, stress management, lifestyle changes, and community building. Kodiak dedicates her life to supporting women transitioning into motherhood because she deeply believes nourished mothers raise nourished children who grow up and change the world.