A local woman is helping advocate for those yearning to bring their own little bundles of joy into the world.
Along with co-founder, Juvarya Veltkamp, Nicole Nouch has started a patient advocacy group called IVF4BC, representing women and couples who struggle with infertility.
With Family Day happening on Monday, the group is urging others to ask the B.C. provincial government to publicly fund In vitro fertilization (IVF), which Nouch says is “recognized as a highly successful fertilization treatment by medical professionals.”
IVF is a procedure in which eggs are removed from a woman’s body and fertilized in a lab.
“Then they are put back into the uterus and hopefully it sticks and you get pregnant.
“It is not a complicated procedure and (it’s) safe for the woman,” Nouch said.
Nouch, 32, and her husband, Greg, spent thousands of dollars trying to start their own family, but to no avail.
And, until a year ago, they were among the one in six B.C. couples suffering from infertility.
While Nouch, a Maple Ridge resident who co-owns a business in Langley, says she’s “fortunate” to have undergone treatment and is now pregnant, her journey doesn’t stop here.
She notes that the majority of Canadians, including those living in Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick have access to some level of financial assistance for IVF from their respective provincial governments, “while British Columbians are left behind.”
Couples Face Barriers
• The cost of fertility treatments, which can range from $7,500 to $11,000 and does not include the cost of medication, and
• Unequal access across B.C. to fertility centers that provide IVF treatment.
“I was lucky to live near a city with a clinic,” she said. “Others across B.C. don’t have this luxury and face difficulty accessing doctors and treatments.”
Nouch said she and Greg started trying to start a family three years ago but she wasn’t able to get pregnant.
The couple opted to go the IVF route, but it was very costly.
“I spent about $5,000 on prescription drugs,” she added. “And my IVF didn’t work.”
Nouch said she is now pregnant thanks to an egg donor.
What Nouch is ultimately hoping is for one IVF cycle to be, in some way, partly or fully funded by the B.C. government.
She recently conducted a survey and noted that the results showed that more than half of the population of B.C. believe that IVF treatment should be government-funded.
Nouch met Veltkamp through Facebook and both realized that they had similar concerns.
“We decided we should try and do something,” she said.
Personally, Nouch said, dealing with infertility was “a really emotional thing to go through.”
“Even if you take the money and you put it aside, when you find out you can’t have kids… we grow up our whole lives trying not to get pregnant and thinking that when we decide, we’ll just be able to,” she said.
“It was frustrating and sad. Every month it was another disappointment.
“And a lot of people… don’t have the resources. They have to take out a loan, or their family can help them out.”
Nouch added that some women struggle for years trying to have a baby.
“The World Health Organization recognizes it (infertility) as a disease, so I think our (provincial) government has to start recognizing it as a disease, as well,” Nouch said. “There are medical reasons behind why we can’t have kids, and we just need a little bit of help.”
The group’s January 2017 survey found that:
1) A total of 43 per cent of respondents know someone affected by infertility — including 49 per cent of women and 52 per cent aged 35-54.
It’s a bigger issue in Metro Vancouver (46 per cent) and Southern B.C./Okanagan (48 per cent).
2) Among those who know someone struggling with infertility, a majority (57 per cent) say cost was a barrier to proceeding with treatment. Fraser Valley (65 per cent) and Southern BC (also 65 per cent) were highest in this case.
3) The majority of those surveyed support public funding (62 per cent, including 63 per cent of women and 71 per cent of women aged 18 to 34)
Covering IVF funding in some way was supported by 60 per cent of the respondents while 64 per cent agreed that “cost should not be a barrier.”