The first visit of the winners of the Fertility Journey to Dexeus Mujer has been a long-awaited and emotional encounter, both for them, for the hope to make their dream reality, and for our team, for the challenge to join this initiative and help them to fulfil this dream. This article summarises how this ‘first date’ went.
Sarah and Joe are from Brighton and like many other couples, have been trying to be parents for a few years. Both are in their forties, a key stage in which the biological clock is running out and when decisions must be taken: to be parents – yes or no?
They already knew the answer, even though the chances of achieving a pregnancy with Sarah’s oocytes were very low. So, after being advised to opt for egg donation, they did not hesitate: “For us it wasn’t a sudden jump. We understand that it is for other people, but in our case, what is important is to be parents,” explains Sarah.
In the United Kingdom donation is not anonymous and there are very few donors, so that the waiting lists are long: “The best choice to carry it out was Spain, where donation is anonymous and there are no waiting lists,” explains Sarah. They decided to set out on a first cycle of egg donation in another clinic, in which they obtained an embryo that failed to implant. This first failure made them very sad, but even so, “We didn’t give up hope!”, they say. The Fertility Journey has offered them a second chance that renewed their hope:
“Everything happens for a reason and if things went like that, it is because we had to get to Dexeus,” they say.
They arrived in Barcelona on Tuesday 2nd April. They took a direct flight from Gatwick and did not have a lot of time as they had to return home on the following day – so we planned that all tests would be taken in one morning.
The first person to greet them was Natalia Blasco, of the International Department. Aware of how anxious and nervous patients can be at this point it is essential to convey a direct and personalised support. For this reason, Natalia was the couple’s constant companion during their visit.
Before the start of an assisted reproduction treatment, it is customary for the doctor to perform a personal interview to know the clinical history, lifestyle and habits, as well as the family background of the patients. “In the case of Sarah and Joe, we already had the information as a result of the Journey application process and we knew that given the low ovarian reserve of Sarah because of her age, they wanted to opt for an egg donation treatment”, explains Dr Iñaki González, Gynaecologist of the Reproductive Medicine Service of Dexeus Mujer, who will be their doctor throughout the process.
Dr González was the first to visit them and, in addition to reviewing with them all the information and pre-tests provided, he conducted a gynaecological examination.
“The purpose of these tests is to check that everything is in order. It is important to ensure that the patient presents good general health, as well as gynaecological, to maximise the chances of pregnancy,” adds Dr Iñaki González.
After this first encounter, Sarah and Joe had another scheduled appointment with Dr Elizabet Clua, who is responsible for the Oocyte and Embryo Donation Programme at Dexeus Mujer. The team of biologists employed in the programme are concerned with finding a donor who fits the profile of each patient, since it is essential that they share their phenotypic traits: colour of skin, eyes, hair; the donor must also have a height and body mass index similar to those of the patient or within normal limits.
In addition, the selection process takes place according to very strict medical requirements to ensure that the donor is not a carrier of any genetic alteration of recessive character. “Usually, we carry out a specific preconception test called Carrier on the recipients’ partner in order to detect if they are healthy carriers of the tested genetic diseases. We match these results with those of the potential donor to prevent that both are carriers of the same mutation and thus ensure that the future baby is free of risk,” explains Dr Clua. “You just need to perform a blood test and it takes about 30 days for the results” she adds.
The last stop was a consultation with Dr A?lvaro Vives, specialist in andrology and responsible for the Man Health Unit of Dexeus Mujer, which collaborates closely with the Reproductive Medicine Service for diagnosis and treatment of possible fertility problems.
After assessing the results of the first cycle carried out in England, Dr Vives advised that in order to optimise sperm quality toxic reduction had to take place and requested the study of sperm DNA fragmentation using the technique of Comet to obtain information about the genetic content of the sperm. The importance of this test lies in the relationship that exists between the rate of spermatic fragmentation and the fertilisation rate, the implantation rate and the quality of the obtained embryos. Thus, on the same day we asked Joe to provide a semen sample to our Andrology Laboratory, located on the ground floor of the clinic along with the other laboratories of assisted reproduction, for processing.
After this day full of enthusiasm and hope, we have to await the outcome of all tests, which we will obtain within a few weeks, to launch the search for a suitable donor. As soon as the candidate has successfully passed all the tests both medical and psychological, she will start an ovarian stimulation that will result in the retrieval of the mature oocytes. Then, the oocytes will be inseminated with Joe’s sperm through in vitro fertilisation (IVF), and as soon as the embryos have developed satisfactorily, Sarah and Joe will visit us to carry out the transfer in about three months from now.
“Fortunately, Sarah and Joe are a couple who have no health problems; egg donation allows older patients or those with a low ovarian reserve to achieve a pregnancy, so that their chances of achieving a pregnancy and have a healthy child through egg donation are excellent,” adds Dr Iñaki González. This is the first stage of the path we will tour along with Sarah and Joe, a journey that we will all be part of and which we hope will culminate with the same smile that this couple had on their arrival at Dexeus Mujer.
Sarah & Joe head to Barcelona
We feel so lucky for winning the fertility journey with Dexeus Mujer. We really couldn’t believe it had happened to us!
We are in our 40’s and we have been trying to get pregnant naturally for a few years, but due to my age, low AMH and few follicles, a fertility clinic told us we had a very low chance of success with IVF using our own eggs and recommended going straight to an egg donor cycle where the success rate is much higher. We followed the clinic’s advice and did not even try IVF with our own eggs. We understand this is a big leap for some people but ultimately what was important to us was becoming parents, and egg donation was the best chance we had of achieving our dream.
Sadly, the first egg donor cycle at different clinic did not work. We were devastated as we had no known fertility issues except for our age. We thought our dream was over and it was not meant to be.
So when we got the call that we had won the Dexeus Mujer fertility journey, we felt truly thankful to be given a second chance. We feel everything happens for a reason, and the journey and our previous failures have led us to this moment, and we strongly believe that if we are lucky enough to become pregnant, then this will be the child we were meant to have.
We were so excited to visit Dexeus Mujer for the first time, and the itinerary was planned well in advance with help from the International department who all speak excellent English and respond quickly to questions.
Our first impression of the clinic was extremely positive, and we were immediately put at ease by the staff and the doctors who made the whole experience as stress free as possible and spent a lot of time with us to explain the process in detail. The clinic not only looked at our medical history, but also did genetic, blood and sperm tests, which were much more thorough than our previous experience. We feel this clinic is really invested in helping their patients to the best of their ability, and their standard of care was exceptional.
We are looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us, and we cannot thank Dexeus Mujer enough for choosing us and giving us hope when we thought there was none. We feel very blessed.