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Mike and Sarah Leigh-Bergin Share Their Passion To Start A Family

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Mike Sarah Leigh Bergin

Mike and Sarah Leigh-Bergin might be separated in age by 26 years, but share a passion to start a family. Here, Sarah tells Fertility Road readers about the couple’s memorable journey so far with Norwegian IVF experts Klinikk Hausken.

Like many couples looking for help to start a family we began researching the different options available to us and immediately found it all a little overwhelming. There were so many options, so many clinics, yet all of them apparently confidently offering us the chance to become parents. What was the right answer? Did we need all these extra treatments? Is treatment abroad safe? What would it all cost? The questions and possibilities seemed endless.

Prior to getting married in 2011 we were aware that a natural pregnancy was not possible due to Mike having had a vasectomy many years ago, before we met one another. We sought advice from our GP who explained a reversal was unlikely to be successful given the length of time since the vasectomy and scarring on the tubes.

NHS–funded treatment
We approached the NHS for funded IVF treatment, but were turned down due to Mike’s vasectomy being deemed a lifestyle choice. We attempted to appeal this decision based on the fact Mike made it due to having three great step–children and his ex-partner’s difficulties with contraceptive options. This appeal was unsuccessful, which was disappointing, but we accepted that the NHS has limited funds and cannot support everyone.

The next step
Mike and I began researching different IVF clinics around the UK and in Europe – there were just so many to choose from, but we thought we knew exactly what we needed… the only problem was his vasectomy, so the rest should be straightforward, right? Even so, with so many treatment options I decided to check out the Fertility Show in London. Mike was working that weekend so I went with my mum.

The Fertility Show, London
After meeting a number of clinics I found that the treatment plan for each was very similar, so it was then a case of deciding which clinic I felt most comfortable with, and which offered the treatment and support we wanted, and was reasonably priced. I listened to a talk by Dr Jon Hausken from Klinikk Hausken regarding treatment abroad.

I hadn’t visited this stand yet but soon realised this was a clinic we should chat to in more depth. Upon doing so we quickly realised these were specialists who would offer us the treatment we needed in a country with strict protocols regarding health treatment, and who had a really keen focus on professionalism, knowledge and passion for IVF treatment. This all shone through.

Chatting to Dr Hausken and Camilla (Customer and Admin Manager), we were offered guidance not only on the treatment offered but also the differences between their clinic and the many others out there.

Although cost is not everything it has to be a factor in the decision, and we could see that with Klinikk Hausken we would be able to afford more attempts, as well as an increased number of treatment processes such as the embryo scope (time lapsing was included in the cost). I felt comfortable chatting to the clinic – I didn’t feel like they were trying to sell me a service in the same way as some of the others, and I left reassured that the costs appeared clear unlike some clinics which seemed to add on different elements as the conversation developed.

After the show Mike and I spent time looking through the information I had brought home. We reconsidered all – UK and abroad – and narrowed the options down to a handful, but in our hearts we felt Norway was the place for us.

Klinikk Hausken suggested we kick–started our official interest with a free Skype consultation. Wow, I have never been so nervous waiting for a call. Did the house look okay? What did we need to wear? Alright then, reality check, this was not the focus! After a few laps around the lounge, with Mike repeatedly telling me to sit down, Dr Hausken called on time, as promised. We talked through the options and best treatment plans – the Skype consultation took all our worries away and we agreed to start treatment the following month. This was great – we were keen to start sooner rather than later due to our age gap, and not wanting Mike to be too old if we were lucky enough to have a family. Following this consultation we had another Skype consultation with nurse Elise who talked us through the pre–treatment plan.

Five weeks later we flew out to Norway. We chose to spend 10 days out there rather than the seven needed as we were keen to make this a holiday as well as a trip for IVF treatment. At the initial scan we found I had reacted to the pre–treatment more than expected and appeared overstimulated. The egg collection went well and the clinic told us, for reassurance, they “had found a sperm”, which we still find funny to this day. After the clinic working its magic we had plenty of fertilised eggs which eventually whittled down to become three grade A embryos. You try to remind yourself not to get too carried away but it’s hard – already things were far better than we could ever have hoped.

Shortly after the embryo transfer I began feeling quite unwell but assumed this was normal, but the clinic who were monitoring me confirmed I was experiencing quite severe Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS) and they provided further treatment to make this better.

After the two week wait and many chats about potentially being pregnant, we found out that this attempt had been unsuccessful.

Although we had tried to remain pragmatic it still felt heartbreaking that this attempt had not worked. Although it was just a tiny embryo, you still feel a little like you lost this little life. However, we had so much to be positive about – through the clinic’s expertise we now knew we were able to fi nd eggs and sperm and that embryos would be possible. And better still we had two embryos left that had been frozen.

A few months later we headed back to Norway for a frozen transfer – it felt like going home. Seeing the staff again was lovely; they were always so welcoming and caring. Due to having a frozen transfer we had plenty of time to enjoy Norway and to see the stunning scenery, which is literally breathtaking. We visited a number of the local towns including Bergen and Stavanger; we also took in Langfoss, an amazing waterfall. Shortly after we visited Langfoss the scenery changed from sunshine and waterfalls to a land covered in snow. The combination of the treatment going well and the scenery made for a perfect holiday and we came back from Norway relaxed and chilled… not the words I often hear when talking to people about IVF treatment.

Again after the two–week wait we had another negative result. It was tough but the reality wasn’t as hard to take as on the first occasion.

Starting again
We had another Skype consultation with Dr Hausken who had identified a few problems I have. It had been confirmed I do have PCOS, am prone to OHSS, like to hoard my eggs and don’t ovulate each month. I also appear to be a little insulin-resistant. Dr Hausken explained that with this knowledge now in place a different treatment plan would be better, and I started that ready for our third trip to Norway in September 2015.

Things looked better this time – the egg collection and sperm extraction went well and again we had three embryos; one was chosen to transfer and the other two frozen.

I should say, despite the first two setbacks we never considered approaching another clinic as we were both so impressed with Klinikk Hausken’s person–centred approach; we felt safe and valued with them.

After the treatment we were given the pregnancy test date, September 22, 2015. This day was really significant to Mike and me as it was exactly a year ago that his mum Carmel had passed away. Was this a good sign? We thought so.

We decided not to test early as the date was too important, so when the day came it was either going to be an even harder day or a real circle of life moment. Thankfully we had a positive pregnancy result (the first test we were unsure as to whether the line was really there, so did a second one. This one clearly stated pregnant – woohoo!).

On October 15, we had our seven–week scan. For us, this was the moment to really confi rm everything was okay. It was magical hearing that our embryo (kindly named KP – Kevin Pickle, by a friend) was in the right place and then seeing its very tiny heart beating was so special. We now have a very precious picture of our little seven–
week embryo, which is giving us excitement and joy even before he or she is born.

There have been some ups and downs through the journey, but looking back over the last year since the show we realise how special each moment has been, and can honestly say we wouldn’t have changed a thing. Had the NHS not declined our request we would never have met such amazing staff at Klinikk Hausken and would not have had these trips to Norway which has become a second home. Nor would we have met other patients who will hopefully remain lifelong friends.

Is it the last trip to Norway? Not a chance – without a doubt Norway will always be important to us and will hopefully be the place that we take KP back to in future.

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Happy Birthday Louise Joy Brown

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Happy Birthday Louise Joy Brown

Louise Brown is an extraordinary woman.  Extraordinary by virtue of her conception – the first IVF baby. On 25 July 2018 Louise Brown and the world are celebrating her 40th Birthday.

You might think that there is nothing special about a 40th birthday but this is no ordinary birthday. In the last 10 years, finally, IVF has come of age as a scientific “discovery” and from it so many other areas of advancement have sprung; encompassing legal, ethical, medical and technological developments.

Although too late for Patrick Steptoe who died in 1988, Bob Edwards received a Nobel Prize in 2010 and was knighted in 2011, recognition coming just 2 years before his own death.  It was also too late for Jean Purdy, whose clinical and laboratory roles have been highlighted recently, bringing her to the attention of those of us who had been unaware of her huge contribution, which has been rightly and publicly celebrated.

Thanks to the public recognition of those pioneers, this decade birthday is being celebrated around the world. It is a commemoration of achievements that transformed the management of fertility problems.

IVF has enabled so many couples to build families that otherwise might never have been. These families aren’t simply a child or maybe two for a couple to bring up to adulthood but families in the truest sense of the word – grandchildren for grandparents, cousins and future parents, aunts and uncles.  Making a family is not just life changing for one or two people but has inter-generational impact.

Today, IVF has been assimilated into accepted practice. This by virtue of the HFEAct for which we are indebted to Mary Warnock and her great ethical insight. The Act underpins the regulation of current practice and ongoing research through license to the HFEA

The news of Louise Brown’s conception, and her birth, drew huge public interest. The response was fascination and alarm in equal measure. Whilst there was rejection of the science and scientists by the public, press and peers, this did not mean that her existence was neglected.

Although that direct interest in Louise Brown has therefore waxed and waned there have been key milestones. Perhaps most significant was the interest when she herself (after her sister) became a mother naturally (what did we think was going to happen?), and we were again reminded that she is extraordinary.

Louise Brown’s very existence is extraordinary. However she is also extraordinary in her very ordinariness.  She is normal. There should be something ordinary about Louise Brown. She was a child born and brought up in the 70s and 80s; she is a wife and mother and works for her living.  It is right that she is ordinary – is that not the point?

Our patients, probably very much like her parents, don’t want to be extraordinary – they want to be ordinary people with ordinary lives who raise families in an ordinary way. Yet some of them have to go to extraordinary lengths to make that happen. Why? Because we have yet to acknowledge that the lack of this ordinary ability to found a family leads to extraordinary suffering.  We have yet to accept, despite the undoubted success and safety of IVF treatment, that it is an ordinary NHS treatment, for an ordinary medical problem, which ordinary couples and individuals face, day in and day out.

The idea of a postcode lottery for health service commissioning is not unique to infertility but it is certainly the most brazen and most generalized. This is not a drug that has been singled out to be too costly, this is wholesale neglect of a specialist area of medicine. This neglect is not confined to IVF itself, but in some areas has an impact on the ability even for patients to get a proper medical opinion, to be properly investigated or to have access to any other appropriate treatment.

Moreover, even when a diagnosis and opinion are available and there is a good chance of successful treatment, social limitations may be applied by commissioners, which override any clinical decision making. This is unique to fertility patients. And we find ourselves failing to treat a significant fertility issue for one partner because the other has been judged to be undeserving. Making such judgments within our National Health Service the norm may lead to compromise in our own social right to other areas of health care.

It is of course necessary to consider cost-effectiveness and not provide treatment where there is little chance of success. But guidance for IVF has rightly been given by NICE (the National Institute for health and Care Excellence); it is largely ignored.

Some people say that fertility treatment is a luxury, that the desire to have children is a lifestyle choice.  I would argue that that drive is as innate as the need for shelter and sustenance. Whilst as humans we can make a rational decision or choice not to have children (not always without regret) it remains for many a deep and fundamental need.

We also live in a world where second families and alternative family building is common. Traditionalists may not like the change in social patterns but that does not make those families or indeed those parenting models less valid nor indeed inferior. As physicians we consider the welfare of the child but our job is to treat the medical problem. As a society we must be careful not to make prejudiced judgments, which may infringe basic human rights and needs.

Driving healthcare into the private sector may seem a natural step for some, but the commercial sector has been criticized roundly in recent years for potentially exploitative practices in reproductive medicine. Centres must work with integrity around treatments where evidence is poor or lacking. That includes those treatments which remain experimental or still require proper validation. These simply must not be promoted for commercial gain. Thankfully, it does not appear to be a sector wide issue but one that must be taken extremely seriously.

Louise Brown came from extraordinary parents who along with many others aided the research that brought about her birth. They were able, ultimately, to build the ordinary family they so desperately wanted and went to such lengths to bring about.

That is not the end of the story however. Having had the spotlight of public interest swing her way over her 40 years of existence, Louise Brown was not satisfied with ordinary. Harnessing her celebrity, she has not balked at shouldering a responsibility for promoting the very technology that gave her her being.  She has become an ambassador for IVF and technologies following. More importantly she has become an advocate for patients and patient rights speaking out on the inequities prevalent in our NHS fertility provision and for the promotion of reproductive health provision worldwide.

On the occasion of her 40th birthday, Louise Brown has picked up the public interest that has once again swung her way and used it for the good of those yet to come.

Louise Brown you are an extraordinary woman and I and the British Fertility Society salute you for it. Happy Birthday!

Originally published https://britishfertilitysociety.org.uk/2018/07/25/happy-birthday-to-louise-brown-bfs-chair-dr-jane-stewart-reflects-on-40-years-of-ivf/

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A Woman From Canberra Who Conceived Naturally After Nearly 10 Years Struggling With Infertility Is Now Helping Other Women To Get Pregnant

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Liz Walton With Husband

Liz Walton, now 48, had tried six rounds of In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) and spent around £30,000 trying to conceive.

But today she is the proud mother of two-year-old Willow after getting pregnant naturally- despite doctors saying the couple not have children without medical intervention.

Liz, from Savery Street, Garren, said: “I thought I was going through the menopause and was shocked to learn I was in fact pregnant.

“I’d let go of our dream of having children. I think because we were relaxed and finally accepting of the situation, we were, in fact, ready to have them.”

Liz, who got pregnant at the age of 45, has gone on to work with 14 women across 3 continents – and they have all since had children.

Liz, an international leader and coach, said: “I now focus on helping women who are having difficulties getting pregnant for various reasons, as well as unexplained fertility.

“It is because of my own experience and learning that I can support and help women so they receive the best help to get their desired outcome.”

Liz techniques such as hypnotherapy and a healing process called The Journey to help women tackle stress, which is often an underlying factor in being unable to conceive.

Liz, who has over 20 years’ experience in the therapeutic industry, said: “Constant stress shuts down all our reproductive systems and sometimes what we want most can be pushed further away.

“I can’t guarantee the support will result in a couple getting pregnant, though there have been many cases.

“But what I can enable is a shift, which allows people to find peace and see beyond just having children.”

Liz, who previously ran a complementary health practice in Canberra called Body and Mind, has returned from seven years in the UK, where she cared for ailing mother, who has sadly since died.

She has set up Liz Walton Therapies and Coaching to help people deal with a range of conditions, including anxiety, depression, grief and infertility.

For more information about Liz’s work, visit lizwalton.org or call +61 0432 427 464.

 

Liz’s story:

Liz and her husband, Greg, 43, married in 2005 and tried to have children soon after.

But they later learned Greg had anti-sperm antibodies, which can cause sperm to stick together and reduce movement – preventing them from fertilising the egg.

They had IVF for over eight years and were told their chances of conceiving with treatment were still less than five percent.

Liz was devastated each time it was unsuccessful and the stress put a strain on the couple.

Liz said: “We got married and thought ‘OK, let’s get pregnant. But a couple of years later it still hadn’t happened.

“We grow up believing we are put on this earth to have children and when I couldn’t, I ended up attacking myself. I asked myself why I couldn’t and what had I done wrong.

“I was devastated each time the treatment failed. It tore me apart and I felt annihilated. I kept thinking ‘how can I fix this?’ It became an obsession and drove me crazy.”

Liz piled on weight because of the stress – gaining nearly two kilos after each course of treatment, going from 67kilos to 75 kilos.

Liz said: “Being told ‘no, it hasn’t happened,’ would be stressful and I’d often go into a bad mood. The stress was overwhelming and I turned to food for comfort.”
Rather than save for a home, they used all the money they had to pay for treatment.

But when Liz’s sister-in-law fell pregnant it was a turning point for Liz, who now past 40 was told her chances of conceiving through IVF was now unlikely.

Liz, who used to run her own holistic complementary health practice, turned to coaching.

She said: “I took part in an emotional healing workshop and it brought our relationship to a whole new level. It also helped me to cope much better with the situation.

“I didn’t want to be a person full of bitterness and I realised I needed to let go. It had got to the point I wasn’t living my life, but holding out for something I couldn’t have.

“I cried for weeks, but it was something I had to do. It’s better than shutting down and turning to eating or drinking – which is something I would have done in the past.”

Liz worked with therapists to come to terms with infertility and now offers counselling and coaching to other women in a similar situation.

She said: “I think there were many reasons I got pregnant when I did. Partly, Greg turned 40 and he started to review his life – realising he wanted children in it.

“I believe our mindset can influence our bodies and I learned tools to become mentally and emotionally healthier. Something must have changed for both of us and we were finally ready for this.”

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The Fertility Show Manchester 2018

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Fertility Show Manchester Q&A Stage

After a successful first year in the North, The Fertility Show is returning to Manchester for the second time on 24th and 25th March.

The Fertility Show Manchester, held in association with Fertility Network UK, is a follow up to the renowned London Show, which celebrated its ninth year in November last year and welcomed almost 3,000 visitors.

Manchester’s Central Convention Complex will play host to exhibitors including doctors, clinicians and fertility experts all offering help, support and guidance for patients on their fertility journeys. The Show will also feature a diverse seminar programme, with 30 topical sessions across the two days delivered by experts in the field.

Key issues and hot topics that will be discussed in Manchester include:

  • Secondary infertility – Trying for another baby
  • Natural cycle and mild IVF – fertility treatment without the drugs?
  • Options for adoption
  • Improving the odds of IVF working for you
  • Dealing with and treating endometriosis
  • What men need to know about fertility
  • Infertility management and the rule of 3

Visitors to the Show will also have the opportunity to be involved in the unique Q&A stage, running throughout the two days in association with Fertility Network UK and hosted by Jessica Hepburn, one of the UK’s leading patient voices on infertility. The stage gives visitors an opportunity to put forward their questions, either openly or anonymously, to a panel of experts.

For more information or to buy tickets please visit www.fertilityshow.co.uk/manchester

We look forward to seeing you there!

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