Bellefonte mom-to-be opens up about infertility, aims to reduce stigma this Mother’s Day

The history of Mother’s Day in the U.S.

Ever wonder what the origin of Mother's Day is? It turns out the idea for the day was created prior to the Civil War in the U.S.
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Ever wonder what the origin of Mother's Day is? It turns out the idea for the day was created prior to the Civil War in the U.S.

Since their marriage in 2017, Bellefonte residents Megan and Shane Ensor wanted nothing more than to become parents. However, getting pregnant turned out to be much more difficult than the young couple expected.

But after undergoing in vitro fertilization treatments at Geisinger’s fertility clinic, Megan is pregnant with a baby boy — due in August — and for Mother’s Day, wanted to let other couples dealing with fertility challenges know they’re not alone.

“Fertility problems are more common than we realize,” she said. “If we start talking about them, then hopefully it will become more accepted, and allow people to feel more comfortable in seeking the help that they need in order to make their dreams of being parents come true.“

About 12 percent of women in the United State ages 15-24 have difficulty getting or staying pregnant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it’s commonly thought of as a woman’s problem, infertility affects both men and women. In 35% of couples struggling with infertility, both male and female factors have been identified as the cause, while male-only factors were identified in 8% of infertile couples.

Despite the emotional ups and downs of struggling to conceive, at the end of the day, with a baby on the way, Megan said going through the experience made her and her husband’s relationship stronger.

“Fertility isn’t just a female problem or a male problem, it’s a couple’s problem,” she said. “It’s something we really had to come together to get through.”

A photo of the embryo at five days old in the lab before the transfer. Abby Drey

The Ensors’ journey with infertility began shortly after they wed. Both being in their mid-20s, getting pregnant wasn’t something the couple anticipated being an issue. After eight months of unsuccessfully trying to get pregnant, the Ensors were referred to a fertility clinic in Danville and got connected with Dr. Willie Delle Zoma, who specializes in reproductive endocrinology.

From there, they both went through a number of tests to determine the root of the problem and evaluate potential solutions. For the Ensors, IVF was determined to be the best solution.

The most common cause of infertility in women is the inability to ovulate, Zoma said. For men, the reason can often be less obvious. The most common reasons for infertility in men, Zoma said, are low sperm count or a high level of sperm abnormality, which can be attributed to genetic reasons, trauma to the pelvic region from a previous surgery or other cause, or other outside factors such as radiation from cancer treatment.

In addition to age in women, weight is another common root cause of infertility in both genders, Zoma said. The presence of abdominal fat can produce chemicals that interrupt the reproductive process, he said.

For the Ensors, going through the testing and starting the IVF process was an emotional roller coaster, full of tearful appointments and sometimes uncomfortable procedures. But what Megan said kept both her and her husband going was their focus on their desire to become parents, and the medical staff who was with them throughout the process.

When they first saw their son, he was a 5-day-old embryo. The lab tech took a photo of the embryo on Shane’s cellphone under the microscope so they’d have a physical image of what would become their baby before the implantation.

Megan Ensor holds ultrasound photos of the little boy her and her husband will welcome this summer. Abby Drey

About six weeks later, Megan and Shane got to see their baby — at about the size of a lentil — for the first time on an ultrasound, and hear his heartbeat.

“It was incredible to know that all the hard work, all the emotionally draining moments that we had gone through paid off and that we were going to have the joy of becoming parents,” Megan said. “It was that overwhelming happiness you feel when you don’t know if you want to laugh or cry — or both.”

Megan and Shane were cautious about getting too excited, and waited until about 12 weeks to first tell their parents, then the rest of their family and friends the good news. Now, at 25 weeks along, Megan said they are slowly getting their nursery, and the rest of their home, set up for their new arrival.

Overall, Megan said they are mostly just excited to meet their son and watch him develop.

“That’s the most exciting thing for us,” she said. “We’re going to get to meet him and watch him grow and know that we put so much into making him be with us a reality.”

For all couples struggling with fertility, Zoma encourages them to keep trying, and to seek consult as soon as they’re ready.

“I think there’s a huge stigma around fertility in general,” Megan said. “No one should be embarrassed or ashamed to talk about it and seek help.”