Marilyn Butterfield, Fertility Services Pioneer
INTERVIEW BY MICHELLE PAOLUCCI
This article is reprinted from Nurse Week,
January 29, 2001
What are some of the rewards you see in this field for nurses?
The treatment success in egg donation in a good program is 60 percent on the first effort. After so many years with ineffective treatment, I am so much happier being able to help more people build their families.
Being part of pioneer efforts in medicine has been very exciting. Also, the opportunity to use my assessment and case management skills has been particularly rewarding. I have worked closely over the past eight years in my program with a clinical psychologist to assess almost 1000 egg donors and 60 surrogate mothers.
We have an annual Family Day celebration in the summer. It is so heartwarming to see the families and surrogates and their families return for the pure joy of being together once again.
One of my most memorable patients was a young Asian woman and her husband who found me through an ad for surrogate mothers.
She was born without a uterus and was here for three years because of her husband's employment in Silicon Valley. They barely spoke English and knew little about where to turn to for treatment.
We worked together through two unsuccessful treatment efforts and miscarriages. Their surrogate mother was unwilling to abandon treatment efforts despite the failures.
Finally on the third effort, they were lucky to conceive and deliver a set of twins.
We still hear from them from Japan as they are succeeding as a happy family.
How do you recruit surrogate mothers?
Women interested in helping women with infertility find us through word-of¬ mouth and advertisements. They choose our program because of my nursing background in this field and the personal support that we provide. We have a support group that includes surrogate mothers and the recipient couples whom they are helping.
Our screening process is rigorous and involves psychological assessment of the surrogates, their husbands and the intended parents. Both are able to prescreen each other by viewing a videotaped interview.
You must remember that infertility is a spiritual and emotional “flat tire.” A cornerstone of my program at the Family Fertility Center is the importance of providing “handholding” throughout the process.
I am lucky to have two wonderful staff members who are eager to assist me in this support process. We try to answer each and every call immediately so no one has to be buried in voice mail.
As a nurse working in a field that is a sensitive subject for many people, what are some of the problems the field has encountered?
One major concern has been the lack of regulation in the field of egg donation and surrogacy. When the consumer tries to obtain these services from unlicensed personnel who know little about physiology and support services, they can be easily exploited.
I have worked in medicine for almost 35 years. These years of medical and mental health services have trained me to advocate for all of my patients.
The recipients of infertility services need counsel regarding what path to pursue.
Frequently they have spent years in unsuccessful treatment by the time they find me. Finding a good doctor and that right treatment plan for each patient is my job. I help them so they don't waste money or time.
The egg donors and programs and surrogates in my program also receive these advocacy services.
They want to be in a program that demands that they receive the best medical care and follow-up as they volunteer to help others who are less fortunate.
Having worked in some aspect of the field of fertility services since 1987,
Marilyn Butterfield, MS, RN, a mental health trained nurse, has focused her career on helping women and couples dealing with infertility. Her work became personal when she was faced with her own infertility in her early 40s. She and her husband adopted a son when she was 43 and¬ with the help of egg donor technology-she was able to give birth to a second son at age 46. She owns and runs the Family Fertility Center in Walnut Creek, California.