Kim Whittemore

The Costs of Infertility

In 1987, as a newly-married 30-year-old with a busy corporate career, Kim began experiencing health symptoms she didn’t understand.

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Her face would suddenly become flushed and hot. She’d burst into tears for no apparent reason. She gained ten pounds in a few weeks without making any change to her diet. While she didn’t know what was happening, or why, she began fearing for her job – she just couldn’t perform at the same level she had been.

Kim consulted a doctor, who thought she might be entering into early menopause. Hormone panels confirmed this, starting Kim on a journey that has shaped the course of her life.

Prior to her diagnosis, Kim and her new husband hadn’t begun seriously discussing starting a family. But with Kim entering peri-menopause, they started trying right away. But, her diminishing hormone levels proved to be an immense challenge. Kim was desperate to find answers.

This was before the internet existed. There was no easy or quick way to find information or specialists that could help.

Back then, there were very few reproductive endocrinologists (REs). With the internet not yet in existence, there was no easy or quick way to find answers or information – let alone a reputable, local fertility specialist.

One day, Kim was watching Phil Donahue, a popular talk show host at the time. On that show, there was an RE featured. Kim later tracked him down and made an appointment.

After testing both Kim and her husband, the doctor told them that if Kim could carry to term—either her own baby or one from a donor egg—it would reverse her premature menopause. That would turn out to be completely false.

Kim began obsessively trying to get pregnant. She took a leave of absence from work, and every morning for 16 months, she drove two hours each way for the doctor to check her hormone levels in real-time, because labs weren’t able to test hormones fast enough to determine her immediate next steps. Every night, she’d get home and receive a phone call telling her what to do next.

Kim began obsessively trying to get pregnant: “It consumed my life.”

The doctor initially prescribed injections of Pergonal. When she still didn’t get pregnant, Kim went through a round of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) using her own eggs, which was unsuccessful. She tried three more rounds using donor eggs, unsuccessfully.

With Kim’s fertility window continuing to diminish, she became increasingly frantic. At one point, she was juggling five or six credit cards to pay for the treatment. Her employer told her to return to work or resign, so she resigned.

Over her two-year journey, Kim did get pregnant a couple of times, but only once did she make it to 12 weeks. She was so thrilled and relieved, and shared her news with friends and family. Kim and her husband began planning for their child.

Sadly, Kim was not able to carry that pregnancy to term. This was a devastating loss – emotionally and financially. The doctor’s erroneous advice cost Kim $175,000 over two years –about $382,000 in today’s dollars.

Kim generated lists of baby names—for boys and girls; she didn’t care—and she carries those lists in her wallet to this day.

Today, Kim (www.kimwhit.com) is a successful Management Consultant and passionate advocate for women’s health and sexual health.