DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — It’s National Infertility Awareness Week which is an annual campaign to remove the stigmas and barriers that stand in the way of building a family.

More than 6 million women in the United States have trouble getting or staying pregnant, according to the CDC.

“I think it is really important to raise awareness about infertility because it is so common,” said Dr. Kelly Acharya, a reproductive endocrinology and infertility specialist with Duke Health.

“Recently we are doing a better job of talking about it, but it is still something that a lot of people suffer with in silence,” Acharya said.

Health experts find many factors can contribute to infertility.

“We know that about a third of the time that infertility is due to a problem with the female partner,” Acharya said. “About a third of the time there can be a problem with the male partner and about a third of the time it can be because of a combination of male and female factors, or we never know why it happened.”

For one Durham couple, the journey to motherhood was challenging.

Denise and Heather Satterfield got married in 2010 and having children was always part of their plan.

“We decided in 2012 to start the process and try to grow our family,” Denise Satterfield said.

The couple went to the Duke Fertility Center and started the process of intrauterine insemination or IUI after choosing a sperm donor.

“We went through our first round of IUI thinking it was going to be an easy road and it would just take right away, that was not the case,” Satterfield said.

Denise was 31 at the time. She did four more rounds of IUI’s with no success.

So, doctors suggested another procedure called in vitro fertilization or IVF.

“That’s not the first route that people want to take because it is quite expensive, and it is more of a commitment in regard to what you put your body through,” Denise said.

Over the next few years, Denise went through two unsuccessful rounds of IVF, but she and Heather kept up hope.

On the third round, it was a success.

“So, when you finally get that it is going to happen, it’s still like, are you sure it’s really going to happen? Like I’m not positive,” Denise Satterfield said.

After a five-year journey, Denise and Heather welcomed their son Hawk in December 2017.

“It was the greatest day of our lives,” she said. “We were very thankful we didn’t give up and luckily for us, it did come through.”

“Yea, because for so many it doesn’t happen,” said Heather Satterfield. “The fact that we’re able to tell you that we do have a son now, we actually even have a daughter, is a miracle in and of itself, I think, just given how long it took.”

Denise and Heather decided to try a fourth round of IVF.

In 2020, the couple welcomed their baby girl, Harlow.

Denise (left) and Heather Satterfield along with their two children Harlow (left) and Hawk.

“She completed our family and she’s beautiful and she was born right before the pandemic,” said Denise Satterfield.

“We’ve had quite a few friends who have gone through the process as well and we met people along the way with the infertility community, there’s a great community out there so I encourage people to reach out to those resources,” she said.

“I think being persistent and knowing that you’re the partner, you’re in it as well, is important,” Heather Satterfield said.

Now, with a 4- and 2-year-old, it’s busy in the Satterfield household.

Denise and Heather call it a long journey but a dream come true.

“They keep us on our toes, we have a great time and we’re enjoying seeing them grow and experience life together through their eyes cause it’s amazing to see life through children’s eyes,” Denise Satterfield said.

Dr. Acharya encourages others who are facing infertility to reach out.

“If you think that there may be a problem or if you’ve been trying and not able to conceive, then it doesn’t hurt to go ahead and seek some evaluation and possible care,” Acharya said. “So, you can reach out, talk to trusted friends or family about it and know that there are medical professionals that are available to help you out.”

Additional resources:

National Infertility Awareness Week is from April 24 to 28
https://infertilityawareness.org/

CDC Infertility
https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/index.htm

Duke Fertility Center
https://dukefertilitycenter.org/