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Fertility clinic feels pain

While interest from donors is up, requests for treatment down
By: Jon Brines Special to The Press-Tribune
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As the local economy tumbles, a Roseville infertility clinic is noticing greater interest for egg donation but lower demand for services. “It’s been a big hit for us,” said Dr. John Gililland, or Dr. G as his patients call him. Gililland specializes in infertility at the Northern California Fertility Medical Center located on Conroy Lane in Roseville. “We don’t re-hire, attrition happens,” he said. “We’ve done our best to hold things together.” But the desire for infertile couples hasn’t diminished and neither has the nearly $24,000 fee for the egg donation process. Few insurance companies pay for the elective procedure and even fewer banks offer financing, Gililland said. Part of the fee is given to egg donors who are paid $6,000 to let couples extract a cycle of eggs. He said there has been a boom in interest from potential donors. “Most of the young women who call are young mothers or students,” Gililland said. “I’m sure a few of the donors were there only for the money, but 95 percent just want to help couples try to get pregnant.” The donor eggs are then given to a paying couple with all rights to fertilize with the hope of a vibrant pregnancy. Roseville resident Jane Garcia (not her real name) remembers when the doctor told her she wouldn’t have children of her own. “It was a huge shock. You were kind of in denial,” Garcia said. “I wasn’t ready to absorb the impact. It was similar to loss.” Like many women her age, the loss of fertility came when Garcia was in her 40s. But before Garcia would consider adoption she said, she and her husband dug into savings and their home equity line of credit to pay for a donor egg. “I said let’s try it,” Garcia said. “I really wanted to carry a baby, breast-feed and feel that process. I wanted to bond with the baby.” Garcia and her husband found the clinic and looked through a book filled with potential donors. Garcia had her egg implanted with her husband’s sperm, and after a normal pregnancy, Garcia gave birth to a baby girl nine months later. As infertile couples have begun to pinch pennies the clinic started offering a discount program for low-income families and fee of $14,000 for a pair of couples who wanted to share a donor. Gililland said some couples have found a family friend or sister to donate their eggs for free. “Money is tight for everybody,” Gililland said. “People can put off (fertility) treatment until their finances are in better shape.” Gililland said his business started to decline with the housing market. “Some people have used their home equity in the past,” Gililland said. “When you do that you can write-off the interest on your income, which is great.” In Placer County, homeowners tapped billions in home equity loans and lines of credit from 2002 to 2005 – a boost of cash for pools, vacations and fertility treatments, according to California-based researcher MDA DataQuick. “The equity is gone,” Garcia said. “If we would have considered that now we would not be in the position to afford it. A lot of people missed a window of opportunity.”