UTAH (ABC4) – This World Infertility Awareness Month, one Utah mom shares the emotional journey she went through to have her son. Although there were many difficult moments, she says that being able to hold her baby, Alexander, made it all worth it.

“I always wanted to be a mom. I knew it was what I was meant to do. It’s who I was meant to be,” said Brooke Walrath, the board chair of the Utah Infertility Resource Center.

It was not until she completed four IVF treatments over the span of ten years that she was able to welcome Alexander home. She and her husband first started trying to have a child in 2011.

“I had been trying for about nine or ten months. I finally scheduled an appointment,” Brooke said.

Although she had already been trying to get pregnant for some time and also struggled with period pain and irregular cycles since she was about 15, the first doctor they saw didn’t have answers – it wasn’t until 2014 that she found one that did.

“By then, I’ve been trying for three, almost four years, and they were shocked I hadn’t been able to find someone to really listen to me or take me seriously yet,” she said. Brooke was diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome.

“It’s a very common hormone imbalance where ovaries have higher levels of testosterone that prevent ovulation and regular cycles,” said Dr. Deirdre Conway, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at Utah Fertility Center.

Although there are many different factors that can affect fertility, she says that PCOS and other disorders like endometriosis are common concerns for reproductive health.

For Brooke, having a diagnosis was a relief, but also brought on a lot of mixed emotions.

“By then, we already knew my husband had some issues with his sperm so having these two factors between both of us causing our infertility meant we were going to have to do a lot more in order to finally get pregnant,” Brooke said.

Brooke tried IVF for the first time, hoping to get pregnant.

“The first IVF cycle, it was really exciting because we knew we had a chance, but at the same time, nobody prepares you for how much waiting there is and how many ways IVF can break your heart,” she said.

Unfortunately, the first treatment didn’t work.

“That was really hard, we had no idea what to do next because it had taken us a lot of effort to save up for that one cycle,” Brooke said.

Brooke underwent two more cycles, one of them leading to miscarriage. Next, she tried mini IVF for her fourth cycle, which proved to be a success. In November 2020, she found out she was pregnant.

“We were so happy but also terrified that we would be headed down the same path as that previous IVF cycle,” she said.

When Alexander was born, the umbilical cord had a knot in it and was wrapped around his neck twice. He had to be ventilated and it was a week until Brooke could hold her baby for the first time.

“It mended a lot of things in me, it made me feel complete in a way I never had before in my life,” Brooke said.

Brooke isn’t alone in her experience. According to Dr. Letoruneau, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist at the University of Utah, infertility affects about eight to fifteen percent of people across the United States.

“Whether you’re trying for 12 months or 12 years, it’s hard and I’m sorry and I hope you find the support you need,” Brooke said, “You’re not alone, so many other people are going through it and there’s so much support out there,” she said.

Dr. Letoruneau says not being able to conceive for an extended period of time and genetic factors are some of the biggest concerns when it comments to fertility. He recommends that women under 35 should see a doctor if they haven’t been able to conceive for a year, and from the ages of 35 to 40, after six months. But, if there are any other concerns or questions someone may have to set an appointment sooner.

“Fertility can be isolating. It’s a medical condition that we would call a silent disease and it shouldn’t be and that’s why we have things like World Infertility Awareness Month,” he said. “It is important if you can to talk to others about it. You might get insights on it, where to go, and what to do. Many people who have struggles with infertility find themselves depressed and anxious. And a lot of that comes from isolation. It’s something that’s not anything to be ashamed of. It happens to a lot of people and there are things used to treat it.”

Dr. Conway says it’s important to meet with someone to find out why you might be struggling to get pregnant and find the solution that’s best for you.

“We’re here, we want to help you…I think the most important thing is knowing what the problem is and knowing that we are here and we have resources, even for people who have really challenging situations, it’s very uncommon that there isn’t going to be an option that’s helpful for you,” she said. “It’s knowing what the problem is, not one size fits all. Every situation is different and we want to get to the underlying problem so we know how best to treat it.”

Visit the Utah Fertility Resource Center for more information on resources, mental health services, and more.