One in eight families struggle with infertility, according to RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. In honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, Weekend TODAY co-anchor Kristen Welker opened about her unexpected and difficult path to parenthood.
Kristen and her husband, John Hughes, welcomed their first child via surrogate. Kristen explained that she hopes her personal story can help others going through what can often be a lonely and isolating journey.
To help guide viewers, board-certified reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Sheeva Talebian joined Weekend TODAY to discuss when to see a fertility specialist and the options available for those who wish to grow their families.
When should you reach out to a doctor?
Kristen and John reached out to a fertility specialist who helped them decide to pursue in vitro fertilization. When IVF didn't work, Kristen sought the opinion of other doctors and created a team to help her figure out next steps.
Talebian, who didn't treat Kristen, recommends, "Women over the age of 35 who have been trying for more than six months without success should seek help. Women who are over 40, maybe even more immediately.
"Women under the age of 35 can give it up to a year but there are still many, many scenarios where you would seek help sooner ... for example, if you have irregular cycles, a history of any pelvic surgery, endometriosis, if it's a known male factor case, also members of the LGBTQ community would seek assistance sooner as well."
What are your options?
Kristen explained that she and John considered both adoption and surrogacy and eventually landed on the latter. "Surrogacy felt like the right first step for us," she said. "Being matched with a surrogate is one of the most extraordinary experiences I have ever had."
When it comes to surrogacy, Talebian explains, "It's not usually something that we talk about at the initial visit. As Kristen's journey shows, it's usually a decision that's made over time as other forms of treatment are not successful.
"It allows parents to be a part of the pregnancy and then also, legally, the parents are on the birth certificate at birth. And so, it really provides that bonding very early on."
What is the emotional toll?
Seeking out infertility treatment and making decisions, like pursuing surrogacy, can be mentally challenging, but Kristen shared a message of resilience and grit for others experiencing infertility too. “I would say do not give up. Never give up,” she said at the time. “Everyone sitting here is a reminder that if you want a family, you can have one, and just to keep the faith. And whatever it is you’re struggling with, not to give up. And we feel so blessed that we have this opportunity.”
Talebian said, "I say this everyday to my patients. I say, 'You cannot give up. In some way, shape or form, you will be a parent at the circle. There are many paths to parenthood.' And it take a village. It's your physician, the nurses at the team, your mental health counselor, your friends, your family and sometimes, even strangers that you might meet on social media support groups."