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Arkansas doctor explores new ways to start families with a more affordable fertility treatment

About 6 million women in the country face challenges starting a family according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Deciding to start a family is a big decision, but for some fertility issues make it even more difficult.

Fertility treatments can cost thousands of dollars and lots of heartaches. About 6 million women in the country face challenges starting a family according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Gloria Richard-Davis has been helping people with fertility issues for over 20 years. She knows what it's like to long for a family.

"Where it was really fueled was, I had my own issue with fertility and so my own personal journey really fueled my passion and my interest in exploring options for other women and focusing a lot on affordability," Richard-Davis said.

Before giving birth to twins, she experienced every high and low while doing In Vitro treatments.

"Not only did I go through the infertility treatment, but I also had multiple miscarriages, losses,"  Richard-Davis said. "And so that aspect is also important and being able to identify with my patients."

She now works to bring the latest, most affordable options to patients at The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

Out of pocket costs for treatment can bury families in debt, and that's one thing she's working to change.

"The cost of treatment can be unaffordable to many couples and a lot of insurance companies or employers don't provide coverage for fertility treatment so it's an out of pocket expense for a lot of couples. Therefore, we are constantly looking for options that are more affordable but still successful," Richard-Davis said.

Last April she began providing In Vitro (IVF), the assistive reproductive treatment, to patients at UAMS. 

"It's been incredibly successful. A lot of the success, though I will say, depends really strongly on the woman's age. So, the earlier we can get couples into treatment, the better the success rates," Richard-Davis said. 

However, couples hoping to start a family using IVF can pay up to $20,000 for a course of treatment, depending on their insurance coverage.

Dr. Richard-Davis said she's using new options that can be less expensive and more effective.

"We're looking at combined therapy, kind of like they've done in chemotherapy in cancer patients. Instead of just one drug we're combining several drugs to try and improve the outcome with ovulation induction," Richard-Davis said.

UAMS has also recently launched a culinary medicine program because a healthy weight and good nutrition can increase chances for pregnancy.

This is especially true for patients with PCOS.

"We have a nutritionist who's in our practice Monday through Tuesday talking to patients about healthy eating, lifestyle modification to improve the success rates with fertility treatments," Richard-Davis said.

They are now also looking at adding it to their medical school curriculum.

Dr. Richard-Davis says the journey is a difficult one, but she is happy to play apart in changing lives.

"Helping couples become a family is awesome. It's just unbelievable," Richard-Davis said.

She's now researching ways to bring a low-cost capsule treatment to Arkansas that are currently offered in the Dallas area.