Fertility issues affect roughly one in six Canadians. Despite its prevalence, the financial and psychological costs of fertility treatments are enormous, making it out of reach for many Canadians. In fact, 45 per cent of IVF cycles in Ontario are privately funded, and 75 per cent of gestational carriers are privately funded. Luckily, Fertility Friends Foundation, a registered Canadian charity, provides a path toward parenthood by alleviating infertility’s financial and psychological burden. The foundation offers grants to cover expenses associated with assisted reproduction, such as IVF, egg and sperm donation and gestational surrogacy, and provides education and resources to families who need support along their journey. As April 24 marked the start of Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, we chatted with Astrid Loch, a former contestant on The Bachelor, social media influencer and infertility advocate who serves as an offficer of the board. —Noa Nichol
Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
Absolutely! I am Astrid Loch—I’m 33 years old and currently pregnant with my second IVF baby, in addition to my 16-month old son, August. My husband, Kevin and I met on Bachelor in Paradise back in 2018 and I made the move to Canada shortly after.
Could you please take us on your fertility/IVF journey, and explain how you came to be an infertility advocate?
When I started my road to parenthood in 2019, I never imagined the rollercoaster it would take me on. My husband and I always wanted to start a family—it was one of the things we connected on very early on in our relationship. When we started trying and I went off birth control, we assumed it might take a few months. However, the six-month mark came and we started to worry. We tried everything you could possibly think of, read every silly article, took ovulation tests, daily temperature readings, changed our diets … the list goes on and on. When we got to the one-year mark of trying, we decided to be proactive and visit a fertility clinic to better understand our reproductive health. Both fortunately and unfortunately, we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, meaning nothing specific was “wrong” which also meant there was nothing we could “fix.”With the help of our doctor we came up with a plan: three rounds of IUI, and surely it would work. Our first round failed and our second round resulted in an ectopic pregnancy. Thankfully we caught it early which meant I could be treated with methotrexate to terminate. Because methotrexate is such a strong drug, this also meant we couldn’t try again for at least three months until everything was out of my system. My body had been through a lot, and it ended up taking longer than three months for my cycle to return back to normal. Once we got to that stage, we knew IVF was our best route to lower my chances of another ectopic pregnancy. I had my retrieval in January 2021 and out of my 13 eggs, six fertilized and made it to the blastocyst stage. We had the six embryos genetically tested and ended up with three viable embryos for transfer. My body again took quite some time to adjust after this procedure, so it wasn’t until the end of March 2021 that we were able to give things a go. We always say how lucky we were because our first transfer stuck and I gave birth to our son in November 2021. He’s a happy and healthy kid who is now expecting his first sibling due in October. Our second child was similarly conceived through IVF after trying for four months naturally with no luck and deciding to use another embryo.
Although fertility issues affect roughly one in six Canadians; the financial and psychological costs of fertility treatments are enormous, making it out of reach for many Canadians. Why do you think that is, and why does it need to change?
Becoming a parent shouldn’t be a privilege only some get to experience—something has to change. Infertility has been such a taboo topic and something people dealing with it have kept so close, that the government hasn’t really been forced to make any changes to their funding in quite some time. The general public doesn’t have a great understanding of the cost associated with fertility treatments, so the only people advocating for change are people who have been directly affected by infertility. My hope, with the recent shift in our culture surrounding mental health, is that people in the infertility community feel safe to share their stories to enable real change to happen.
How does a registered Canadian charity like Fertility Friends Foundation help provide a path toward parenthood and alleviate infertility’s financial and psychological burden?
Financially, Fertility Friends Foundation (FFF) makes an incredible impact, by providing a path toward parenthood by breaking down barriers to parenthood. The charity alleviates infertility’s financial and psychological burden by offering grants to cover expenses associated with assisted reproduction, such as IVF, egg and sperm donation and gestational surrogacy and provides education and resources to families who need support along their journey. Fertility treatments don’t have a magic number that guarantees success, and many couples are on their journey to parenthood for many months, and even more are on this journey for years. The grants that FFF provides help facilitate a path to parenthood for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to move forward in their journey. While grants can be crucial to many people’s fertility journeys, the psychological burden can often be the most severe. When it comes to this psychological burden, the most important thing FFF does is educate and keep the conversation going about infertility. Without continued education, there can be no movement toward change in the fertility community. FFF’s grants are currently offered within Ontario.
How are you personally working to break the stigma around infertility using your social media platform?
I try to be as open and honest with my social media community when it comes to my infertility journey. I decided to share that we were conceiving via IVF in our pregnancy announcement because I didn’t want anyone trying to conceive to see my news and feel disheartened because of it. With my second IVF pregnancy especially, I’ve taken my community along for the ride to give people a better understanding of what exactly IVF entails. I’ve found that unless you’re going through it personally, there’s so little information about it, and I want to be able to provide some transparency into the process.
If you could tell someone facing infertility right now one thing, or give one piece of advice, what would it be?
As lonely as you may feel, you are one of MANY, and nothing is wrong with you. You don’t always have to be strong, and it’s OK to lean on people and have moments of weakness because you are only human.