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Pixette From Cardiff Opens Her Heart To Tell Fertility Road Readers About Her Rollercoaster Ride Of Conception

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Pipette's Letter From the Heart

I was 29 and my maternal cravings were getting stronger by the day. I had always loved kids, dreamed of being a mummy (this started as young as 10), and had spend many hours, weeks, months babysitting, au-pairing around the world and nannying. My part-time jobs always involved children and I later became a violin teacher, teaching more children. A perfect environment to bring up a family – I had it all planned.

After almost three years of trying to conceive I started to get worried, especially as I found out that my ex-boyfriend now had a daughter! ‘Damn – it’s not him then!’

There are many days, even months where I decide it is time to move on, but other days I take a rare glance in the wrong direction and see a baby in a pram and hope comes down and grabs me.

Living in Cardiff, the waiting list was long and I had to wait over a year to see a consultant. When I eventually saw one, his English was so bad I could barely understand him. I left the room in tears, shocked at the bad reception we’d been afforded. He said he’d do tests. I also made it quite clear that I didn’t want to go ahead with IVF if they didn’t fi nd anything wrong with me, thinking I was still young enough to keep trying o’naturel. The results came back and I was fine!

Little did I know this was the start of a very long journey. Three IVFs, two FETs, one IUI, three miscarriages and seven years later I am writing this, still childless. It has been simply devastating. It has taken over my life, it has consumed me daily and I have fought on, still passionate to achieve my dream. My body has taken a battering, my spirit has been scarred yet I still believe that if I try hard enough I might get there one day. There are many days, even months where I decide it is time to move on, but other days I take a rare glance in the wrong direction and see a baby in a pram and hope comes down and grabs me. I am also losing friends as fast as I can fi nd them, as they are all slowly but surely making babies and most days it’s just too painful to bear.

Three years after my initial appointment, and now aged 33, another consultant at the same hospital told me that in fact I was far from fine. I had endometriosis (level three, four being the worst), and a congenitally deformed left fallopian tube, meaning that natural conception was unlikely. You can imagine my shock – I had originally been misdiagnosed. I was mortifi ed. I had just had a laparoscopy and had already had my first IUI (intrauterine insemination) which obviously had not been successful due to the dysfunctional fallopian tube.

The hospital have since apologised but they can never give me back those lost years. The power these doctors have makes you very much at their mercy; I just shut up and waited for my first IVF treatment.

That first IVF resulted in a pregnancy. Euphoria was followed by complete devastation. I had a blighted ovum (an empty sac) – the embryo had died very early on. I had to have a medically induced abortion which, to anyone who has had one, is quite distressing and very painful. The process was made worse by a doctor prescribing me the wrong medication. I was given a clotting agent and it took me three weeks to miscarry my baby. It was quite horrific and I again received an apology from the hospital.

Despite this, three or four months later I decided to go ahead and have my first FET (frozen embryo transfer). I was lucky enough to have three – the process was less arduous than the full IVF, but emotionally it was still hard going. My embies had made the thaw – they were perfect. Of course, I took the time off work again, and did everything I could to improve my chances. We had just bought a house but ploughed everything into treatment – the decorating would have to wait. Changing my whole lifestyle, I focused my entire body and mind on improving my chances, no stone was left unturned. I was back again. Full of hope and determination and on test day I couldn’t believe my eyes, I had done it again. I was pregnant. But a week later I miscarried again. At least this time I was spared the chemically induced abortion.

After my second miscarriage my husband and I were concerned that something else was wrong. We decided to go for all the tests relating to miscarriages, which would take about six months to complete – I was now 35, and panicking. The tests came back and I learnt that I had Factor V Leiden, a blood clotting disorder that could possibly be the cause of my miscarriages. The test cost £20, a simple blood test that could easily have been done at the beginning of my journey (at the age of 29), but is not considered obligatory in this country; I wasn’t even given the option.

Two miscarriages and £5,000 later they did the test and I was factor five, along with 5% of the population. I was shocked and flabbergasted. They decided to prescribe me heparin for my second attempt of IVF, which was my long-awaited NHS cycle. This one was going to be free at least, but had I known what the hospital would do, I would have spared myself the trauma.

Everything went to plan until after egg collection when, still groggy and sore, my husband and I were asked in to see the embryologist. He proceeded to tell us that my husband’s sample was ‘even lower in quality than last time’ and that he wanted us to consider ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). It was like being hit so hard – it didn’t hurt! ‘What do you mean lower than last time?’ We had never been told that my husband’s sample was of diminished quality in the first  place.

I asked the embryologist what he thought considering we’d had nine fertilised the first time with IVF treatment and he said it was worth a shot – stick with IVF. The next day, out of 10 eggs, only one fertilised. The whole procedure had been a waste and my husband and I were completely confused. Not surprisingly, the treatment did not result in a pregnancy.

We have since received another apology and confirmation that my husband’s sperm sample was not below the norm, however it took a small dive on the day. Discouraged, hurting and having lost all faith in the British system, we opted for medical tourism. We desperately needed a holiday too and, after much research, decided to go to the Superior ART clinic in Thailand, Bangkok.

We stayed five days and were treated like royalty. The treatment went very well and I ended up with nine blastocysts, grade A. An amazing result and a huge success, we were ecstatic. The clinic had done its job and now all we had to do was wait 10 days for the results. I had had three embies put in and froze the other six. Test day came – it hadn’t worked! I was inconsolable and knew this was pretty much the end. I knew I couldn’t go on, and that my whole life plans would have to change. How could I keep teaching, staring failure in the face every day?

But I picked myself up and retrained. After some counselling sessions, my first lot of exams, and a lot of umming and arring, in June last year my husband and I decided we’d go back to Bangkok to pick up two of our frozen embies. I was now 36. My motto has always been you have to be in it to win it. We went to the same clinic, saw the same doctor, the only difference this time is that I had insisted on not taking the blood-thinning agent heparin until I got pregnant. I would take it from test day. Both my pregnancies to date were achieved without heparin – I wanted to give it a go. Maybe it was just women’s intuition – who knows?

Ten days later I was back in Britain and pregnant! Finally my body had responded. It was working. I worked! At seven weeks I saw my little embryo’s heart pumping so strongly I couldn’t believe my eyes. We had fi nally done it. We were both overwhelmed and so happy. What a journey it had been. But at seven-and-a-half weeks my embryo’s heart stopped beating. I was told three months later that it was due to chromosome 16, the most common cause of miscarriage and one that doesn’t support life. It was just bad luck.

At this stage, I have just fi nished my Diploma. I feel so proud that I can now focus on my new career and have so much to look forward to. My husband and I are strong together. We have been married for 10 years and are still very much in love. I retain hope and believe that maybe one day, if I am strong enough to continue, my dream might come true. If not, then at least I tried. We are going back to Bangkok to pick up three more embies in October and I have one more fresh cycle left in me. We will see.

We have spent about £20,000 so far. I still have hope and believe that if you have a dream, you have to pursue it. But I don’t let it take over my life anymore, treatment comes second. I try to enjoy the good things and realise that plans don’t always work out. Although it is very painful, I have to look forward and enjoy life. There are so many people much worse off than me.”

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Fertility Life

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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