KTVU's Alex Savidge talks fertility issues, journey to fatherhood

- Local doctors say the perfect storm of technology is helping more people start a family.

Parents love to talk about their kids, but sometimes the emotional journey they took to get there has been a very hush-hush topic.

"I just feel, women, this is what we were brought on this earth to do and if you can't do it, you're really not worth anything, and I had to squash that," said Cristina.

For Cristina, having a baby took years. It turned into a medical process filled with doctor's appointments, and expensive In Vitro Fertilization drugs or  IVF.

"Right at my breaking point to where I wanted to give up, he said 'don't give up, let's do it one more time; I have a good feeling about this.'"

"If I didn't listen to him, who knows?"

Now Christina has a beautiful baby girl named Gianna.

She went to Pacific Fertility Clinic in San Francisco and found she was certainly not alone.

"We're born with a million eggs, and we don't produce a million kids," said Dr. Philip Chenette, Medical Director of Pacific Fertility Center.

In fact, for a 25-year-old the ratio of egg to baby is about 3:1, while for a 40-year-old it's about 20:1.

According to the CDC the first-time mother's average age in California went from 25 in the year 2000 to 27 by the year 2014.

It's even older in San Francisco. Sutter Health CPMC reports nearly half of their first-time moms are over the age of 35.

KTVU reporter Alex Savidge and his wife Ana found out her eggs were not viable to make a baby. To make things even harder they couldn't just use an egg donor; she was not going to be able to physically carry a baby either.

"As a woman, it's hard to admit and face the reality that I can't carry a baby; that's my reality, that's never going to happen for me," said Ana.

They were able to find a surrogate, but most of us in the KTVU newsroom had no idea the pain Alex and his wife were going through.

"There's certainly a stigma about infertility issues and not be able to have children in a natural way, we certainly felt that... I don't know, maybe we just aren't going to have kids, maybe it's not meant to be, maybe it's not our reality... but I think not," said Alex.

"I never really understood until I had my own kids. I had been doing this for about 5 years," said Dr Philip Chenette, Medical Director, Pacific Fertility Center. "Then, when my baby was in my arms, that's when I really understood what this was really all about."

Now, fertility clinics are so much more than just getting pregnant.

"We have now recommendations to people that has nothing to do with fertility, but rather recessive diseases like cystic fibrosis, that may run in your family," said Dr. Carl Herbert, President Pacific Fertility Center.

Doctor Herbert started one of the first IVF programs in the US at Vanderbilt University about 30 years ago.

He says now there are 274 of the defects that they can test for and perhaps prevent.

You can now pick and choose one healthy egg, and sperm, so multiple births using IVF are no longer the norm.

But critics argue, this is playing God

"First of all, we're not playing anything; we're very serious about everything we do. Secondly, we help people the way a surgeon helps people, the way a pediatrician helps people, and if that's being God, then God gave me the ability to do it," said Dr. Carl Herbert, President Pacific Fertility Center.

Technology has stepped in, but insurance has not stepped up.

"IVF is for people who have money, and I'm not saying we have a lot of money; it took my family, his family - it took our savings, it took a Gofundme account, it took everything you can imagine to try to create the family that we wanted," said Ana.

"There's certainly times where you feel like, why are we being punished because we are unable to have children in a natural way. It felt like we were being punished," said Alex.

IVF procedures can easily run $20,000 to $30,000, while egg donation and surrogate services can run $60,000 to $100,000.

Some companies are stepping up fertility benefits to attract more top talent. For example, Facebook and Apple were among the first to offer egg freezing as part of its benefits package, for women who want to delay starting a family.
 

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