The frustration and struggle behind an 'unexplained infertility' diagnosis

WATCH ABOVE: Millions of Canadians struggle to get pregnant. Doctors can often pinpoint the biological reason for why couples can’t conceive, but in some cases there’s no explanation. Kim Smith reports.

When couples struggle with infertility, doctors can often pinpoint the biological reason as to why. But in some cases there is no explanation.

“It sounds terrible, but it’s like, ‘If there was something wrong with me, or if it was something wrong with you, or if it was something wrong with that body part,’ at least we would know and can do something about it,” Linda Hoang said.

“But there isn’t a thing that’s wrong.”

Like millions of Canadians, Hoang and her husband Mike Brown are struggling to conceive. The Edmonton couple have been trying for a baby for the past five years.

“It’s sort of like we are living this half or fake life that is still great and it’s a good life. We are very happy about the life that we have, but it’s not the life that we have wanted for the last five years,” Hoang said.

“It’s just frustrating that people who want children can’t have children.”

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A staggering one in six — or 16 per cent of — Canadian couples experience infertility, according to Statistics Canada. However, adding to Hoang and Brown’s frustration is that doctors haven’t been able to tell them why they can’t conceive.

Watch below: Linda Hoang explains how she and her husband have been trying to have a baby for the past five years.

Dr. Shannon Corbett, a fertility specialist and medical director at the Reproductive Care Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, said one in four couples who enter a fertility clinic will leave with a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility.”

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“This diagnosis is surprisingly very common,” Corbett said.

“When they’ve gone through a whole workup and you’re left with, ‘I’m not really sure what’s going on,’ that doesn’t tend to sit well, which is understandable.”

Corbett said despite the disappointing and uncertain diagnosis of “unexplained infertility”, her job is to give couples hope.

Medical advancements like in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and genetic testing allow doctors to gain more insight into what might be the problem, Corbett said.

“We can gain further information on eggs by doing advanced fertility treatments,” Corbett said. “So not only is it a treatment, but it’s also a high-level diagnostic test at the same time.”

Corbett also explained that one of the largest advancements over the last decade has been the ability to genetically sample embryos.

“Certainly we do see some individuals or couples producing a high percentage of genetically abnormal embryos. This gives us a lot of insight into their unexplained infertility, which then becomes explained.”

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While there are fertility options available, trying to get pregnant can cost thousands of dollars depending on the province and what it covers.

Hoang and Brown have tried numerous fertility treatments and are now embarking on their third round of intrauterine insemination (IUI).

“It’s difficult when you have infertility because you do want to try something new every month. Maybe this will be month that it works because we’ll try this,” Hoang said.

Hoang said they are saving their money for further fertility treatments and are open to the prospect of adoption.

“I think we know eventually that we’ll have a child, we just don’t know how we’ll get that child,” she said.

More information about infertility can be found at PositivePlan.ca. The website is brought to you by EMD Serono Canada, a company for which Corbett offers her medical expertise.


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