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Fertility Journeys

Oregon Reproductive Medicine Introduce Their Couple Heather and Brandon

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Heather And Brandon Smiling

The team at Oregon Reproductive Medicine has selected a couple to be part of our unique Fertility Journeys project. We are delighted to introduce Heather and Brandon, who after a nine-year journey with many setbacks and repeated unsuccessful attempts are embarking on their donor egg IVF treatment with genomic screening at ORM.

Heather writes…
Not all journeys are easy. We will admit that our road has been challenging. For many, having a child is trouble-free. In our case, having a child has been one of our most difficult challenges and a long journey with many disappointments – 2 previous fertility specialists, 7 IUI procedures, 2 IVF procedures, 4 surgeries and countless medical bills.

These types of struggles can either make or break you. We’re thankful that this journey has made us stronger and determined not to give-up.

Our journey began nine years ago. Brandon and I met and fell in love. We married in 2008 when I was 31. We saved-up and after a few years bought our home, filled with the hope of starting and raising our family there. We tried ourselves for some 3 ½ years to get pregnant but nothing worked.

By the time I was 35 we decided it was time to seek medical help. My first fertility specialist recommended that we try IUI. We tried at least 3 IUI procedures. None of these worked. We decided to change fertility specialists right before I turned 37.

During this transition timetime, I experienced an umbilical hernia. In connection with treating this, my second fertility specialist diagnosed me with Stage 4 (severe) endometriosis. My first fertility specialist had not diagnosed my condition correctly, despite my describing the painful menstrual cramps that I experienced and the significant difficulty my husband and I were having trying to conceive a child.

I underwent two surgeries, a laparoscopic surgery to unclog one of my fallopian tubes and a hysteroscopy to remove some of my endometriosis. Following this, we tried a further 4 IUI procedures. None of these were successful and by now I was 38 years old.

Heather And Brandon Sunny

As this stage, our second fertility specialist told us that we needed to strongly consider IVF to build our family. To be quite frank, this process, at the time, was simply embarrassing. I was overwhelmed with how something that was so simple for my family and friends had become the most complicated journey of my life.

Many friends and family told us to have hope and to keep trying. While these suggestions came from a place of love, they left me feeling like a failure, like a woman who wasn’t in control of her own body.

In the midst of our struggle to conceive, both of my parents were fighting with separate bouts of cancer – thankfully they are both now in remission. When you see people that you love fighting for their lives, you either live in fear or step out on faith. As a result, we decided that we would make it our mission to have an IVF procedure no matter the cost or the time it would take to get there.

I spent a year researching grants and funding support for IVF treatment. It was hard to share the intimate details of our journey in numerous grant applications and I was grateful that Brandon was up being on this journey with me. Unfortunately, my endometriosis meant that many programs would not help us.

I also worked to successfully convince my employer, a large university, to provide fertility care as part of our health insurance coverage. The work convincing my employer also got me involved with others who were seeking to get similar fertility coverage through their employers’ healthcare plans. Together we’ve shared our data with RESOLVE (The US National Fertility Association) for RESOLVE’s Coverage at Work Program so that others can benefit from our efforts and ask their employers to cover fertility care.

At last, after many, many grant applications, we received some help and by working odd jobs and saving we had enough financial resources to try IVF. By July 2016 we were ready. I was 39.

We underwent an IVF procedure with ICSI fertilisation and we transferred 2, day-3 embryos. Neither developed into a pregnancy. My specialist reassured me that she thought a second try would be beneficial so we shouldn’t lose hope.
We were lucky to receive some additional financial assistance and in December 2016 we had a second IVF procedure, this time with standard fertilisation. I was 40. This cycle just felt good. I had my egg retrieval the day before my mother’s birthday and the transfer the day after my father’s birthday. My fertility specialist was able to do the transfer with my favoritefavourite nurse and my pregnancy results were scheduled for Brandon’s birthday, two weeks later.

3 eggs were fertilised on the first day. They were all in great condition on day-3 when we transferred 3 embryos. Unfortunately, on Brandon’s birthday we got a voicemail message that we were not pregnant. I cried for days. I had difficulty speaking. I was mentally and emotionally exhausted. I felt that I was a failure and that I would never laugh or smile again.

My fertility specialist called me and said, “You are going to be a mother, but we need to explore other options.” She talked about surrogacy.

She talked about adoption. She talked about donor eggs. Every option that she mentioned was way beyond what we could afford. I decided to reapply for 3 other IVF grants. Everyone was a “No” because of my endometriosis.

Today, we live in faith and not hope that our growing family is right around the corner. We are optimistic and grateful that we will be working with the amazing and dedicated people at ORM and Fertility Road. But I’m also focused on what I can do to give myself and my husband the best chance of success. I have been working with a consultant to put my body in the best position possible. I believe the plan is working.

I have gone from at least 20 or so blood clots during my cycle due to my endometriosis to now only seeing two or so clots each cycle! I am taking supplements, an infertility smoothie and herbs daily to support and improve my health as well as combat the challenges that come from being diagnosed with endometriosis. I have eliminated many harmful foods from my diet (caffeine, alcohol, sugar, non-organic dairy, soda, low fat diet foods, processed foods, trans or damaged fats, GMO foods) and work out 20 minutes 5 days out of the week. I am committed to having a healthy body for a healthy baby.

Despite our long journey to date, we’re optimistic that with the help of donor eggs the third time with IVF will be the charm. We are looking forward to sharing the next chapter in our fertility journey and want everyone that will be following our journey to know that you are not alone.

Dr Barbieri comments on Heather and Brandon’s journey

Heather and Brandon are a wonderful couple who have had a long and difficult journey, but who at the same time have done a lot to help other people. As their physician for this Fertility Journey, I share the privilege that everyone at ORM feels at being able to help them on their path to becoming parents.

Their fertility struggles have played out over many years, and it’s possible that the influence of different factors has shifted over time. Being now 41, donor egg IVF offers Heather and Brandon the best chance of being successful.

I believe that Heather’s endometriosis will have certainly been a contributing factor during the early stages when they were trying to conceive naturally and then with IUI. Heather’s commitment to helping manage her endometriosis through good health is important.

By the time they had their first IVF procedure Heather was already 39. By this stage Heather will have been facing two natural processes that impact an older woman’s ability to conceive: diminished ovarian reserve and a higher rate of abnormal embryo formation, in addition to a lower egg number due to the impact of endometriosis on her ovaries. For women in this age group, less than one-third of embryos will form with the correct number of chromosomes and therefore be able to develop into a pregnancy and healthy baby.

Moreover, the fact that during Heather’s IVF procedures they transferred day-3 embryos means that they will have had a lower chance of success. At ORM we only transfer day-5 embryos and nearly all cycles, including donor egg cycles, involve testing of the embryos to screen-out those that are not chromosomally normal. These two factors can have a significant impact on success.
The entire team at ORM is honoured to be working with Heather and Brandon and we look forward to guiding them through the next stage of their Fertility Journey!

More Fertility Journey information including Heather and Brandon can be found here.

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Complementary Therapies

How to Rock Your Fertility Journey, Even if You’re Over 40

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Rick Your Fertility

This past weekend my son Charlie turned 5 years old.

I’ll be 49 in April.  You can do the math.

Charlie was conceived a month before my 43rd birthday, after a roller-coaster ride of miscarriage, doctors visits, testing, lots of negative pregnancy tests, and an emotional maelstrom during which I cursed myself for not trying to have a baby when I was younger.   

My doctor never said the words, “you’re too old” but it was implied when he explained that I didn’t have many eggs left because I was over 40.  When he said that the eggs that I did have were of “compromised quality” and that’s probably what led to my miscarriages. When he predicted that it was highly unlikely that I’d get pregnant with my own eggs and that donor egg IVF was my best chance of having a baby.

Conventional wisdom drives the doctor’s analysis and you’ve heard all this:  women are born with all the eggs that we’ll ever have and through 30+ years of having periods, as well as the natural aging process, cause our fertility to begin to decline in our early 30s, and take a big dive after age 35.  By the time we’re over 40, our fertility has practically fallen off a cliff. By the time we hit menopause, we may not have run out of eggs but the supply is scant and we’re no longer ovulating.

My test results bore this out.  My Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) was high at 16.4, indicating that my ovaries had to work harder to stimulate follicle growth (and egg maturation) than the ovaries of a younger woman.  My Anti-Mullerian Hormone, which measures ovarian reserve, was very low at 0.15 and indicated “undetectable” egg supply. My Antral Follicle Count, which counts resting follicles in the first few days of the cycle and indicates how many follicles may have the potential to grow that cycle, was never higher than 5 (a “normal” or “good” is between 15-25).

My doctor looked at all of these numbers, and that information is what drove his diagnosis of my condition, and his grim prognosis for my success.

The reality, though, is that we are about so much more than our numbers.   

If it were just about the numbers, all the women with strong numbers would have their babies, and the women like me with sub-optimal numbers wouldn’t.  And we just know this is not the case. Read more about how I overcame the odds to get pregnant with my own eggs and without IVF.

Here’s what we know: fertility does decline as we get older.   And that’s all we know.

Luckily, we “older” women can have some tools in our arsenal to help us get pregnant and have a baby, if that’s what we want.  

Here are some things to keep in mind, as well as some tools for your toolkit, if you’re trying to get pregnant at an “advanced age”:

You do have time.  While age is correlated with fertility, it’s not like the minute you turn 40, or 35, or another age, you all of a sudden aren’t able to get pregnant.  Fertility is more of a continuum. Time may be of the essence, and you may need to act quickly, but you do have time.

Fertility in your 40s is going to look different than it did in your 20s.  You are not the same woman, physically, emotionally or spiritually than you were in your 20s.  Like the rest of you, your fertility has changed too. For example, it’s common as we age to produce less cervical fluid than we do when we’re younger.  Cervical fluid is important when trying to get pregnant, especially when trying naturally, so it’s important to be aware of.

In any area related to your fertility, you need to be able to do your research and find ways to mitigate the situation to account for your age.  This is true regardless of your age, but especially if you’re over 40 and trying to conceive.

5th Birthday

The tools in your arsenal are even more important when you’re older.  On your fertility journey, you’ve probably heard that the following things are important:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Knowing how to track your fertility signs and your menstrual cycles
  • Stress reduction
  • Mind/body connection

These things are crucial for anyone on a fertility journey, regardless of age and whether trying to conceive naturally or through treatment.  Being the healthiest you can be will help you achieve optimal fertility. This is especially crucial for you if you’re at an advanced age.

If you’re trying naturally, it’s important to keep in mind that generally speaking, middle-aged couples tend to have intercourse with less frequency than younger couples.  In trying to conceive, you don’t have to have intercourse all the time, but you do need to have it at the right time, and knowing your cycles will help you pinpoint with laser accuracy when that time is.  

Managing your stress will help you endure the trials and tribulations of fertility treatment, and cultivating a mind-body connection will help you silence the negative self-talk that tells you you’re too old or that your time has passed.   

The fertility journey can really mess with your physical body and your mind, and it’s important to have the tools to fight back.  My Big Little Fertility Toolkit gives you the exact tools that I used on my own successful fertility journey.

Listen to your intuition.  When my doctor told me that I likely wouldn’t get pregnant with my own eggs and that donor egg IVF was my best option, I didn’t disbelieve him.  I knew my numbers; I knew the situation was bad. But I also knew deep down that donor egg IVF wasn’t the right path for me to become a mom. This wasn’t based on any hard facts; I just intuitively knew that intrauterine insemination would work for me.  I knew that I had a good egg somewhere in my dwindling supply and that it was up to me to find it.

I encourage you to learn how to listen to your own intuition.  You’ve been with yourself every second of your life. YOU know yourself better than anybody else.  The answers are already within you, and when you take the time to tune in to yourself and to listen to what your intuition is telling you, those answers will always come to you.

Always keep in mind the end goal.  In our quest to get pregnant we can sometimes lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is not necessarily to be pregnant, but to be a mother. Motherhood can come in many shapes and forms – donor egg, sperm or embryo; surrogacy; adoption. As we get older, it’s increasingly important to keep all of those options in mind if your own natural fertility is compromised and the wellness tools in your toolbox aren’t helping.  

It’s a process to work through your feelings and emotions around the other avenues to motherhood, and it may take some time to do that.  But it may become important to do so, if you need to let go of the idea of a traditional pregnancy. We’re fortunate to live in a time with so many options for parenthood!

A good mantra to keep in mind for your journey is:

“Somehow, some way, I will be a mother.”  

You have power over your journey.   I know it may not seem like it, but you do.  You may be acutely aware every day of your age, and, if you’ve already experienced some setbacks in your fertility path, these weigh on you.  

While there’s so much that’s out of your control – like age, biology, egg supply, there’s still so much you can control.  Things like –

  • How you eat
  • How you move your body
  • How much you sleep
  • How you choose to manage your stress
  • How you interact with others
  • How you show up in the world

These things impact your fertility, and your well-being.

Another good mantra to keep in mind for your journey, and to help you feel and own the power that you have is:

“I am more than my numbers.  Infertility does not define me.”

Because there’s a huge grey area.  And while there have been so many medical and scientific advancements in the areas or fertility, pregnancy and birth, the reality is that there is still so much that we don’t know.  

And it’s this grey area, this area of the unknown, where magic can happen.  

Baby dust to you! xo


Also published on Medium.

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Fertility Journeys

We Check In With IVF Spain’s Couple Laura & Ian

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Laura & Ian

After a well-deserved summer break, many couples decide to start or resume their journey to parenthood such as this year’s Fertility Journey runner-ups, Laura (41) and Ian (44), who recently had their embryo transfer at our clinic.

Laura and Ian have been trying for 5 years to form the family they always wished for, but Laura has unfortunately suffered 4 miscarriages and 1 ectopic pregnancy – issues that most were due to Laura’s immune system rejecting the transferred embryos. A situation which could only be addressed by carrying out specific tests to match a compatible donor to Laura such as the KIR-HLAC test.

During their last visit, the couple shared their views on the differences between IVF Spain and their patient journey experience in the UK.

“The major differences here have been that we’ve had additional tests, we had an endometrial biopsy here. I had actually been diagnosed with immune problems previously and we have had 4 miscarriages and 1 ectopic. So, we were given additional treatment here and additional tests to find out exactly what was going on with the immune system. The results showed raised NK cells in some areas and low in others. We’ve paid thousands and thousands of pounds in the UK and never had this level of information or a biopsy – tests were restricted to a blood test. We were then able to have the KIR which matched a donor with us. We have also been put on a special protocol which is granulocyte (GCSF in the UK) to help us keep the baby during pregnancy.”

Most of the patients who decide to start a fertility treatment abroad are concerned about the treatment process and the communication with the clinic. To make our patients feel taken care of throughout the whole process, at IVF Spain we focus on patient-centeredness and personalised treatments in their own language.

“We found the level of patient care absolutely amazing, every piece of communication we were given was reassuring and, unlike our treatments before, this consistent flow of communication took the pressure off us having to find out things for ourselves” – Laura and Ian.

In addition to open and clear communication, we are committed to always offering the best possible and empathic patient care, providing our patients with a relaxing and private atmosphere they need to increase their well-being and comfort.

“Absolutely everybody that we came into contact with has been reassuring, very confident. Nothing is too much trouble. We had a really smooth transfer; we had a beautiful room where we were able to relax in. The doctor was amazingly positive and all of the staff, the embryologists, the nurses… everybody is being consistently really nice and calm and reassuring. A very, very different experience to the ones that we’ve had in the UK.”

“One of the biggest concerns our patients have during their treatment is related to the selection of a suitable egg donor” explains Dr. Sergio Rogel, Director of the IVF Spain Donor Department.

“Choosing a donor is one of the most important aspects of an egg donation treatment. All candidates undergo thorough physical exams to verify an optimal condition, psychological exams to certify their mental health and a gynaecological exam to determine both the number and quality of the eggs along with several additional tests. Many of these medical exams and tests are legally required, but at IVF Spain we pride ourselves in giving our patients an extra level of assurance by testing all our donors on a genetic and immunological level. This allows us to discard more than 200 diseases, but more importantly, guarantee the health of all future babies.”

“When a candidate passes all the mentioned tests she will automatically enter our donor pool and enter a database until being matched to a patient with the optimal phenotypic resemblance,” says Dr. Sergio Rogel.

The fact that Laura and Ian couldn’t take part in the selection process of their donor was liberating. For them, taking part in this process would have only added more pressure and stress. They were relieved of IVF Spain’s donor department taking care of everything:

“In terms of finding the donor, we were able to give some indications regarding what was most important and sent some photographs across and then we didn’t have to do anything else so we found that particularly good for not having too much stress because it is almost out of your hands and that enabled us just to focus on relaxing and having a nice summer before we came for a treatment in September. Having it taken out our hands made the whole experience easier.”

From the IVF Spain laboratory, we received good news: the embryo transfer has been a success. All that is left for now is to wait 10 days to see if the transferred embryo was successfully implanted. We wish them the best of luck!

Victoria, Ross & Rex

We also had the pleasure of meeting Victoria (47) and Ross’s (39) little sunshine Rex. This lovely couple were eternally grateful to their egg donor for her wonderful gift and wanted to express their gratitude with this wonderful message:

“I would like to say to whoever you are and wherever you are in the world: THANK YOU! I don’t think you realise what you did for us as a family, and for me personally as a woman. It made Ross a dad; something that … he was already, he was already a stepdad to our daughter but he wasn’t a biological dad and I know that meant so much to him. It made my daughter a sister. She always wanted a sibling and I was trying for a very long time to give her that. So now she is, and she is the best big sister you would ever meet, and it’s a shame that you won’t know how well she is doing. And as for me as a woman… It was hard to come to terms with the fact that I needed an egg donor to help me but what you’ve done is given me the happy family I always wanted to have.”

Alka, Rhods David

Last but not least, we would like to welcome the newest member of the IVF Spain family. Little David, was born August 24th, weighing in at 7 lbs and 3oz. His mum and dad – 2017 runner-ups – Alka (44) and Rhodri (46) wanted to share this lovely message:

“Little David is such a joy, he gave us his first smile yesterday! We love being a family of four, and feel so thrilled and blessed that he has entered our lives. Our heartfelt thanks to the team at IVF Spain for making our dream a reality”

You can catch up with the other couples working with IVF Spain on their website ivf-spain.com

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Fertility Journeys

Free IVF Treatment And 50 Free Initial Consultations With Gennet City Fertility Clinic

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Gennet City Fertility

At Gennet City Fertility we offer you bespoke fertility treatment using an individualised approach and cutting-edge technologies.

Our promise to you is that we will look thoroughly into your fertility difficulties; that we will use state of the art treatment protocols and technologies, and when appropriate, we will also ‘think outside the box’.

The members of the team at GENNET City Fertility were carefully chosen on the basis of their achievements while working in reputable units in London and overseas. Within our team, we share extensive experience of and vast knowledge in fertility medicine, assisted reproduction and the management of early pregnancy. Using this knowledge and experience we endeavour to provide you with the most expert advice and to guide you through a fertility journey that is caring, safe, professional and transparent.

At our clinic, we offer a number of fertility treatments:

  • Ovulation induction
  • IUI
  • IVF
  • ICSI
  • PICSI – IMSI
  • Egg donation
  • Sperm donation
  • Embryo donation
  • Surrogacy

We also offer many other services:

  • Joint, female or male fertility assessment
  • Egg freezing
  • Sperm freezing
  • Preimplantation genetic diagnosis
  • Preimplantation genetic screening
  • Urology and Andrology
  • Surgical sperm retrieval
  • Counselling
  • Psychosexual advice
  • Acupuncture
  • Nutritionist consultation
  • Support groups and support programs.

We are a proud partner of Access Fertility which is the largest provider of IVF Refund & Multi-Cycle Programmes and Fertility Finance in the UK.

Ramesan Navaratnarajah

WHAT ARE WE OFFERING TO FERTILITY ROAD READERS?

A FREE IVF TREATMENT DRAW & 50 FREE INITIAL CONSULTATIONS

We are offering a free fertility treatment (IVF/ICSI) including the medication to one lucky couple. In addition to this, we will select 50 couples for a free initial consultation with one of our fertility specialists worth £200.

TO APPLY

To enter the draw for the incredible free round of IVF/ICSI or a chance to have one of the 50 fully funded consultation appointments, please read the terms and conditions below and follow the link to the form to submit your application.

TERMS AND CONDITIONS

The fertility treatment prize includes initial consultation, pre-treatment tests (Antral follicle count scan, AMH blood test, semen assessment etc.), 1 cycle of IVF treatment, plus ICSI if required.

  • All medication
  • Medical and nursing appointments and care
  • All in-treatment laboratory tests and procedures
  • Monitoring and scanning costs
  • Egg Collection
  • Embryo transfer
  • Pregnancy serum test
  • Pregnancy ultrasound scan
  • Follow up consultation (if taken within three months of treatment completion)
  • Counselling
  • The prize does not include:
  • Cost of freezing embryos plus the storage of embryos.
  • Surgical sperm retrieval
  • Empirical treatments

This prize does not include any costs of having donor treatment. If the prize winner needs donor eggs or sperm we would deduct the costs of the above and the recipient would need to pay the additional costs.

The value of this prize is in excess of £6000.

This prize could not be used against surrogacy treatment.

THE ACTUAL PROCESS

We will contact the winner and aim to get them a consultation to start treatment as soon as possible, depending on their cycle.

Any offer of treatment is subject to the relevant Welfare of the Child checks. Patients would also need to have a BMI of less than 35 to undergo treatment.

If the applicant has travelled to a Zika affected country they would be required to wait the length of the relevant quarantine period before treatment could commence.

FREE IVF CYCLE SELECTION CRITERIA

The successful applicants that will be shortlisted for the free IVF treatment prize must be under the age of 38 years old and with a BMI that is 19 to 35.

This offer doesn’t apply to existing Gennet City Fertility patients who are currently undergoing treatment.

50 FREE INITIAL CONSULTATIONS SELECTION CRITERIA

The successful applicants who will be shortlisted for the 50 free consultation appointments must be under the age 50. The appointments will be offered according to the clinic’s availability.

This offer doesn’t apply to existing Gennet City Fertility patients who are currently undergoing treatment

The successful couple that will receive the free IVF cycle will not be included in the 50 free consultations draw.

TO APPLY PLEASE CLICK HERE

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