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A Surprising Path to Pregnancy

Years ago in confirmation class Nichole Truhlicka wrote her life’s goals. Today at 31, she realizes they all came true.

She married John, who she started dating at 15. She became a hairstylist at Hair Success in Fargo. At 21, she had their first child, McKenna.

But a few years later, their dream of a bigger family came undone. They tried to conceive -- with no success.

“I never imagined we’d have any problem because it was so easy the first time,” she says.

Nichole’s OB/GYN referred her to Dr. Steffen Christensen, reproductive endocrinologist at Sanford Reproductive Medicine Institute in Fargo -- the only comprehensive reproductive medicine program in North Dakota. He and reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Stephanie Dahl see patients from throughout the state and beyond.

The Truhlickas discovered their situation wasn’t so unusual. About 10 percent of all couples trying to conceive have difficulty. Says Dr. Christensen: “Fertility problems can happen to anyone at anytime, and often it takes couples by surprise. They assume that once they stop birth control, pregnancy will happen quickly.”


Nichole’s and John’s experience at Sanford began with exams and tests to help answer the three basic question: Is there an egg? Are there enough sperm? Can egg and sperm meet?

All results came back normal. “That helped us move ahead,” says Nichole. “We knew there was no definite reason why we shouldn’t be able to get pregnant.”

Treatment over the next two years took a step-by-step approach, beginning with basics such as fertility medications and intrauterine insemination. For many couples, these simple measures bring success.

“It was an emotional rollercoaster,” says Nichole. “We’d have months where everything looked good medically, but no pregnancy resulted. It was so disappointing. We took a lot of comfort in knowing we had McKenna.”

One more try

n winter 2007 the Truhlickas decided to pursue one more avenue: in vitro fertilization. In IVF, the couple’s sperm and egg combine in a laboratory dish, then the fertilized eggs are placed in the woman’s uterus.

Precise timing and laboratory expertise are critical. Sanford has the only CAP (College of American Pathologists)-accredited reproductive medicine lab in North Dakota -- a likely factor in Sanford’s IVF success rate: an average pregnancy rate of 40 percent compared to the national average of 35 percent.

Nichole had no idea if they’d be one of the lucky ones, but wanted to give it a chance. “I didn’t want any regrets,” she says. “We decided to take out a loan and give IVF a try.”

Knowing stress can play a role in pregnancy success, Nichole added one more piece to the puzzle. “I knew a distraction would be the best thing for me so when we started IVF, I brought home a couple puppies,” she says.

John wasn’t so sure it helped the stress. “It was January, the worst month for housetraining dogs. They chewed everything!”

But somehow the miracle happened. Nichole became pregnant and gave birth to Levi on Oct. 29, 2007.

A growing family

Today the family of four -- six including dogs -- is a close pack. And soon they’ll welcome a new member. Nichole is pregnant, this time all on their own.

“You just never know,” she says. “We have no idea why this time it was easy and the last time it wasn’t, but I don’t think either of us would change a thing.”

John agrees, except for one point: “If anyone out there is considering IVF, I strongly advise against the two-dog part of the process. One maybe, but not two!” He shakes his head and laughs.

And Levi? All he wants is a cup of cocoa before he and big sister McKenna venture out to climb the towering snowbank in the middle of the backyard.

Posted Date: March 2011