More women turn to fertility treatments causing backlog of appointments

PITTSBURGH — More women are turning to fertility treatments to grow their family.

The number of patients quadrupled in the last six months for an Allegheny Health Network doctor. And that contributed to a backlog.

Kristi Barzanti is part of the backlog. She and her husband long to add another child to their family. They have a 4 year old daughter. They didn’t have trouble getting pregnant the first time around but they are the second time.

“After that first year when we had to inquire with a reproductive specialist, it was extremely challenging,” said Barzanti. “We were just going through the motions, almost, because it was just numb.”

Test after test, procedure after procedure, it has been agonizing for Barzanti and her husband of seven and a half years. So they turned to what they see as one of their last options-in vitro fertilization.

IVF is where a doctor implants an embryo into a woman’s uterus to help with conception. AHN says it has a 50% pregnancy rate.

IVF is a very costly procedure, though. Sometimes it can cost tens of thousands of dollars. And not everyone’s insurance covers it. But Barzanti is fortunate that her insurance is helping, so she and her husband decided to try it.

“When I called and asked to be put on the wait list, she had said, ‘OK, you’re on for March 2022.’ And I was blown away. It was a year from when I asked to be on the waitlist,” said Barzanti. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Neither could other women in the Pittsburgh area. A lot of them have been taking to social media to compare notes. Many of them said they were told the wait time is six to 12 months for IVF. So we turned to both AHN and UPMC to verify that.

IVF treatments were some of the medical procedures that had to stop in Pennsylvania during the height of the pandemic.

UPMC state the wait time is a few weeks up to several months right now.

“After the shut down where we were closed for two months, there was a significant build up of our patients cycles that had to be canceled. Which is very disappointing,” said Dr. Fabiola Balmir, a reproductive endocrinologist at AHN.

Dr. Balmir feels for the women she’s been treating. She’s one of two Allegheny Health Network doctors doing IVF treatments. AHN says with demand this high, the wait time is still six months to a year as it tries to catch up.

“It’s another year passed. My daughter will be another year old, and my husband and I will be another year older. It’s just not what you—it’s not what I had in mind when I initially wanted a family,” said Barzanti.

But we shared some good news with Barzanti that Balmir told us:

“Our institution has responded. What we’ve done is we’ve increased the personnel, where we have increased nursing staff, embryologists,” said Dr. Balmir.

That has allowed AHN to add more women to its IVF schedule each month.

UPMC also stated it is expanding its REI program.

“That’s great,” said Barzanti. “Just hearing stories from other people experiencing the exact same situation as you, it gives you hope that it can happen for you. It hasn’t been determined that it can’t.”

Taking into consideration couples like Barzanti and her husband, who started doing fertility treatments just prior to the pandemic, Balmir thinks COVID-19 put life into perspective for a lot of women, and that spurred the quadrupling of her case load.

“It was encouraging to see that because I felt as though these women had found a voice and recognized that they needed help conceiving,” said Dr. Balmir.