For infertile couples, help and support

During trying times, hopefuls will hear success stories and talk to clinics and doctors at conference

Davis family

Katie and Patrick Davis, who are trying to have a baby through in vitro fertilization, with their dog Cody. the couple will talk about their experiences Saturday at a free conference on infertility and adoption, called A Family of My Own, in Glenview. (Chuck Berman/Chicago Tribune)

Katie Davis, 24, lost her ovaries to cancer when she was 12. Doctors told her that if she wanted to have a baby one day, she would have to use donor eggs and undergo in vitro fertilization. She has been trying to have a baby since September 2010, but so far no luck.

Davis said infertile women sometimes feel like members of a "silent sorority."

"Women are quiet about infertility because they're so ashamed," said Davis, of Bolingbrook. "If you want to have children and you can't do that, you may feel your womanhood has been taken away."

On Saturday, Davis and her husband will share their story at a free conference on infertility and adoption, called A Family of My Own, in Glenview.

Conference organizers say the event will be an opportunity for people to learn from a variety of experts who run in vitro fertilization centers, surrogacy programs and adoption agencies; who teach couples how to raise money for the costly procedures; and who explain how scientific advances are enhancing a couple's ability to conceive.

For more information on the conference and to register, go to

Dr. Angeline Beltsos, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, is medical director of the Chicago-based Fertility Centers of Illinois. She said that couples navigating infertility need a strong support network because the process is often taxing physically and emotionally.

"When they're going through treatment, they have to come in for ultrasounds, blood tests and even surgery," said Beltsos, who will be speaking at the conference. "They have busy lives. But what tries them the most is the anguish when all their work doesn't produce a baby.

"When they find a safe place to share their stories, it gives people hope that (they can have a baby) one way or another. We can help them."

But help is often quite expensive. Beltsos said a round of in vitro fertilization, or IVF, costs about $15,000 to $17,000 without use of donor eggs; surrogacy can range from $50,000 to $100,000; and, adoption starts near $40,000.

In Illinois, companies that have at least 25 employees and provide insurance that covers pregnancy-related benefits must also cover all or some fertility treatments. Although there are exemptions, the state is one of the few in the country to require companies to do so.

But costs related to surrogacy remain a large hurdle for some parents-to-be.

Katie O'Brien, 32, of Wadsworth, learned she had uterine fibroids in August 2005. Doctors told her that conceiving a child would be difficult, despite five surgeries to help correct the problem. She and her husband tried to conceive via IVF for two years before deciding to use a surrogate.

"When we found out how expensive surrogacy was, I cried the whole way home," said O'Brien, a patient at Fertility Centers of Illinois. "If you don't have insurance, you can find grants to help you pay for fertility treatment or adoption. But we couldn't find anything for surrogacy. A lot of costs related to surrogacy are similar to adoption."

She said she came across the Facebook page of the nonprofit Birdies for Babies, an annual golf outing that allows couples to raise money to pay for infertility treatments. With the help of family and friends, O'Brien, an elementary school teacher, and her husband, an accountant, raised $30,000 toward their costs of roughly $60,000.

"We found a surrogate whose insurance should cover the pregnancy," said O'Brien, whose blog is at "That's keeping us on the low end of the price range. We'll pay for the rest with savings and help from family and begin trying in September."

One of the conference sponsors is the Broken Brown Egg (, a nonprofit started by Regina Townsend, 29, an Oak Park resident, who aims to destigmatize infertility in the black community.

Townsend, who is black, said that when she and her husband were having difficulty getting pregnant, she found very few resources directed toward women of color.

"When we talk about reproductive health and black women, it's always about contraception and prevention, abortion and (sexually transmitted diseases)," said Townsend. "It's always everything before fertility."

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