Blessed: From Infertility to Pregnancy to Motherhood

This post is written in partnership with Mankato Clinic

After having difficulties conceiving, Elissa and Ethan Karels welcomed their daughter Evelyn into the world on April 6, 2018, and felt incredibly blessed to meet their healthy baby girl at 35 weeks.    

Elissa and Ethan received fertility services and obstetrical care from Mankato Clinic. Her obstetrician is Mark Taylor, MD. She experienced a complicated pregnancy due to poor umbilical cord flow and was hospitalized with preterm labor at 30 weeks at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. As a precaution, she received a steroid shot to help Evelyn’s lungs mature.

“Dr. Taylor was amazing. He went above and beyond for our family. I truly think he’s the reason why we have a healthy and living baby,” Elissa said.

obstetrical services at Mankato Clinic
Dr. Mark Taylor, Evelyn and Elissa Karels

After being discharged, she had ultrasound appointments twice a week to evaluate Evelyn’s umbilical cord flow and to monitor her overall circulation and growth. Dr. Taylor would diligently call her between visits to check in and kept an eye on her progress via computer, even while on vacation.

“Delivering healthy babies is such a rewarding aspect of my job. Especially so when there are, as in Elissa’s pregnancy, risk factors that need to be monitored closely so that decisions can be made in a timely and appropriate fashion,” Dr. Taylor said. “I will admit that every time I see Evelyn and how healthy and adorable she is I feel a surge of pride knowing that I had a small role in the events that led to such a good outcome.”

In addition to the preterm labor and poor umbilical cord flow, Ethan and Elissa learned that Evelyn had right ventricular hypertrophy, a heart condition where the right ventricle or pumping chamber was enlarged. They were told the condition would likely resolve on its own after Evelyn was born, mainly because her little body would be required to do all the work itself and wouldn’t be relying on the impaired umbilical cord.

“We were worried that we would have to deliver Evelyn at the U of M, but after a positive fetal echocardiogram to look at her heart, they told us it would be safe to have her in Mankato with Dr. Taylor. It was a huge relief to know he would be there with us,” said Elissa.

Ultimately, the pediatric cardiologists were right about Evelyn’s heart and the issue fixed itself soon after her birth.

At one of her 35-week ultrasound appointments, Dr. Taylor had a very serious look on his face. He told her it was time to have her baby. Her cord flow had decreased even further which can cause stillbirth by limiting oxygen and blood flow to the baby. Elissa agreed to be induced.  

“Everything with our pregnancy was out of the norm. I was ready to do whatever was necessary to make sure baby was born safe and healthy,” Elissa said.

Since Evelyn was only 4 pounds, 4 ounces at birth, she stayed at the Mayo Clinic Health System Mankato hospital for the next three weeks.

“It was challenging but we got through it. She was mainly there to work on feeding and growing,” Elissa said.

At 6-plus months, Evelyn is healthy and happy and Elissa is embracing motherhood.

“You really don’t know how much you love someone until you have a baby. She brings so much joy to our lives. We are so blessed,” Elissa said.

When infertility happens

Approximately one in eight couples are affected by infertility in the United States. That’s about 6.7 million people each year who have trouble conceiving.

“It’s super hard to go through infertility, especially with the stigma that follows it. It’s not something that people talk about, yet it’s way more common than you think,” Elissa said.  “You feel like getting pregnant is something that should occur naturally. Sometimes it just doesn’t – not for everybody.”

Elissa and Ethan, who were in their 20s, tried to conceive on their own for a year. As a nurse, Elissa knew it was time for a medical opinion. They were already Mankato Clinic patients and Elissa heard good things about Mankato Clinic Fertility Services. After Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner Sue Dunn retired, Elissa and Ethan continued their care with Darci Griffiths, WHNP, and Ashley Dahline, PA, at Mankato Clinic.

“Becoming pregnant is often something that many couples take for granted. But, when it does not happen according to plan, it can become a big stressor,” Darci said. “While providing care for these couples, we really get to know them and form a bond with them that is very unique. Undergoing fertility care can require many appointments with many ups and downs. I feel so honored to be able to have this relationship with these couples. It is such a joy to be able to see the little blessing that is a result of the, often times, long road that I was privileged to be a part of.”

Darci Griffiths, WHNP, Evelyn and Elissa Karels

Lab work and ultrasounds identify why a couple is not getting pregnant. Mankato Clinic specialists look at ovulation, abnormalities in the uterus, blockage in fallopian tubes and semen health. Elissa needed help ovulating.

Elissa and Ethan completed three full rounds of intrauterine insemination, also known as IUI, with the help of oral ovulation medications and monthly injections, all of which are common and effective treatments for infertility. The treatment plan is based on the woman’s cycle and closely monitored so couples can expect two to three appointments a month. While Elissa received care primarily from Darci, she also saw Ashley because it takes two providers to meet the scheduling needs for fertility treatment.

It took Elissa and Ethan about a year-and-a-half to conceive with fertility services. When insemination attempts at Mankato Clinic were unsuccessful, Darci recommended In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Mankato Clinic seamlessly coordinated the procedure with a provider in the Twin Cities. Blood pregnancy test results at Mankato Clinic confirmed the pregnancy.

Words cannot describe the happiness Elissa and Ethan felt when they learned they were having a baby!

“As soon as we started seeing infertility specialists I found good resources through people who have gone through infertility. It made a huge difference. Now I want to be that resource to others because I know how hard it can be,” she said.

Best of all, Elissa, Ethan and Evelyn were able to receive the majority of their medical care locally.

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