As a newlywed, Robyn Broxton enjoyed crossing off bucket list items with her husband. Now, as a mother to two daughters, she enjoys finding fun, memorable activities for her family.
“Seeing my little girls excited and having fun is the most satisfying and gratifying feeling,” Robyn said.
“My family is my life, so my favorite things to do are going outside, being adventurous, drawing, reading stories and playing princesses with my two girls.”
As idyllic as her family is now, getting there involved a lot of heartache and effort.
A painful start
During her annual physical, Robyn mentioned to her gynecologist that she and her husband were having trouble getting pregnant. Knowing her menstrual cycle was irregular, she wanted to know why and whether it played into her fertility.
“I felt broken,” Robyn said. “I didn’t think my body was functioning correctly, and that was my drive to see my doctor.”
With every follow-up appointment, Robyn received the same answer: We’ll keep an eye on it.
Feeling defeated, Robyn didn’t pursue answers about what could be causing the couple’s infertility. A few months later, Robyn had a positive pregnancy test.
“My first thought was, ‘I need to get tested to make sure this isn’t false,’” she said.
Robyn received a human chorionic gonadotropin, or HCG test, which measures the amount of HCG hormone in the blood or urine that is present during pregnancy. The test confirmed her pregnancy, and Robyn was ecstatic.
Unfortunately, the celebration did not last long. Robyn’s doctor noticed her HCG levels were not increasing at the rate of a normal pregnancy. To monitor the levels, Robyn had blood drawn almost every day. Eventually, her HCG levels started to drop.
“Long story short, my doctor told me I was having a miscarriage,” Robyn said.
Although Robyn’s experience was incredibly painful, she was determined to find answers and realize her dream of having a family.
After feeling dismissed by her doctors, Robyn decided to seek answers on her own. Robyn reached out to University of Florida Health’s reproductive medicine services, where she scheduled an appointment with Alice Rhoton-Vlasak, MD, a professor and board-certified reproductive endocrinologist at the UF Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
“About 10 to 15% of couples will experience infertility after one year of trying,” Dr. Rhoton-Vlasak said.
“It is important for couples to know they aren’t alone and we are here with you through this journey.”
The infertility specialists at UF Health Reproductive Medicine pride themselves on acknowledging and understanding the stress that can come with infertility, providing comprehensive care, educating patients well and incorporating support systems into their program.
“Dr. Rhoton-Vlasak gave me the most hope in my very first visit,” Robyn said. “Her calm and positive demeanor really brought a different perspective that this wasn’t my fault and my body just needed some help.”
From there, Robyn spent a few months healing from her miscarriage and underwent diagnostic testing to determine what was causing the infertility. During an ultrasound, Dr. Rhoton-Vlasak discovered large cysts on Robyn’s ovaries.
“It is common for us to find conditions on ultrasounds or during other testing that require surgery,” Dr. Rhoton-Vlasak said. “Our patients benefit from the team care we can provide.”
“Up to 7% of women will have an ovarian cyst at some point in their lives,” Dr. Moawad said. “Large or complex cysts are evaluated surgically, most commonly by removing the cyst and preserving the ovary to preserve fertility.”
Four weeks later, Robyn was cleared to start a fertility treatment called Clomid.
“The most common treatment is starting with fertility medications,” Dr. Rhoton-Vlasak said. “These medications help a woman ovulate or make a patient ovulate more eggs as a way to enhance their fertility.”
Dreams do come true
Robyn became pregnant after her first round of fertility medication. The specialists at UF Health Reproductive Medicine followed Robyn through the pregnancy’s early stages, and then celebrated with her as they transferred care to an obstetrician.
“We like to celebrate with our patients,” Dr. Rhoton-Vlasak said. “Infertility is a journey, and when our patients are between six and eight weeks pregnant, they ‘graduate’ to their obstetrician and we hold a celebration.”
Robyn eventually delivered a healthy baby girl named Allyson. While enjoying the first year of motherhood, Robyn became pregnant with her second child, Olivia, without any medical interventions.
Robyn shared her gratitude toward her care team for their expertise and kindness during this emotional time in her life.
“I don’t think ‘thank you’ is the right word, because that is something I would say when someone opens the door for me,” Robyn said. “The power of medicine they provided me is beyond measure. They gave me the greatest gift I could ever ask for — my family.”
Dr. Rhoton-Vlasak extends her gratitude to her patients.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be able to take care of our patients and have them let us into their lives,” she said. “We take our work seriously, and we’re extremely fortunate that people will trust us to help them in this area.”
You’re not alone
Robyn took to Facebook to share her emotional journey of infertility and was shocked by the amount of support she received.
“I didn’t realize how many people had gone through miscarriages on the first try,” Robyn said. “It’s a topic nobody talks about.”
Her message to other women who run into roadblocks trying to start families is simple: Don’t give up.
“Be an advocate for yourself because nobody else wants this more than you do,” Robyn said. “When one person says no, go get that second opinion. If you feel like you are not being heard, find someone who has time to listen.”
Robyn recently decided to dedicate her professional life toward helping women receive the care she did. She currently manages one of the UF Health Women’s Center locations. Even though she is in an administrative role, Robyn is inspired to continue to use her experience and expertise to encourage other women to never give up.