Woman's IVF success story shines light during Infertility Awareness Week

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. It comes before Mother’s Day and is used as a chance to talk about an issue 15% of couples will have to deal with.

But it's also a great time to see how far we have come. The first IVF baby was born 41 years ago. In a FOX 32 Special Report, Sylvia Perez took a look at the advances in medicine since that happened.

Her name was Louise Brown and the year was 1978. As the world's first test tube baby, she was considered a miracle child. Today, more than 8 million babies around the world have been born through IVF, and it's still considered one of the great triumphs of modern medicine.

Dr. John Rinehart of Rush University Medicine was there from the beginning. He was part of the first IVF delivery at Brigham Young Hospital in 1983. Since then, he's helped more than 3,800 couples with successful pregnancies via IVF.

"I've seen a lot of positive changes over the years," Rinehart said.

And Danielle Stack is a beneficiary. With Rinehart's help, she's now 12 weeks into her pregnancy.

"We did three rounds of IVF and the third round was successful," Stack said.

Stack's IVF is very different from what couples had to go through 41 years ago. That's because more than a decade of major discoveries has dramatically changed the process.

For example, egg freezing is no longer considered experimental. Doctors can more reliably select the best embryos for IVF. There are better fertility-preserving surgeries for cancer patients. One of the biggest inroads, men who never thought they would be able to father a child now can. And the actual egg retrieval procedure is less demanding.

"We used to do major surgery for retrievals, and now it's a 10-minute procedure under IV sedation," Rinehart said.

And when it comes to success rates, it used to be 5%, but not anymore.

"If you have a tested embryo in the right patient, you should have a 50% to 60% pregnancy rate per transfer," Rinehart said.

Stack calls herself one of the lucky ones, and she's looking forward to her new arrival. But she and Rinehart want couples to know, though it's worth it, IVF is not easy.

"It's also shots that are also hormones that make your body think you are pregnant, but you are not pregnant, so you are going through an emotional toll too," Stack said.

"It's worth the price that people pay, but there is a price," Rinehart said.

And speaking of price, it's not cheap. But fortunately, Illinois is one of a few states that covers some of the procedures.

Rinehart said the next step with infertility is working with artificial intelligence, and he said that's opening up a whole new world that could make even bigger changes over the next decade.