My Miracle Journey with IVF

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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

THERE are certain experiences that almost every woman looks forward to as a rite of passage. Pregnancy is one of them.

It had been a long dream for me to finally one day become a mother myself. But what would you do if you discover that you will not give birth in your lifetime -- or if you do, it will be after extensive medical assistance through In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) as the last option to make this dream come true.

My husband Tom and I were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. We've been trying to conceive for six years since we got married in 2002 in the Philippines. I moved a month later after our wedding to England to join my husband and just so excited to start a family. However, after series of consultations with the doctors, let me just say that the process of the discovery that I would be unable to get pregnant naturally was a huge heartbreak. It was devastating for both of us when we simply cannot do it the natural way.


As my biological clock was ticking, I felt I was running out of time as the big 40 would soon be just around the corner. It's a "major major" panic being on a time bomb, which is the most frustrating part for us women.

As we began to explore my condition, it became clear that it was likely "now or never." And our last option was IVF.

We started our treatment in July 2008 in England. At a cost of £10,000 to £12,000 per treatment, we were incredibly lucky to secure NHS research funding.

IVF is a fertility treatment in which eggs are removed from the woman's body and fertilized with her partner's sperm in the lab. The resulting embryos are then implanted to her uterus in the hopes of fostering a pregnancy.

I was very lucky that I only had to attempt IVF once. Many women have to go through the process many times.

Going through an IVF treatment demands an emotional, physical and mental commitment. It was hard on your body and mind. In a six-week period of the IVF cycle, I had put my body through a roller coaster experience of emotion and physical challenges. Nothing was easy or predictable.

Initially, I started taking fertility medications for two weeks to control the timing of the egg ripening and to increase the chance of collecting multiple eggs during one of the woman's cycles. Multiple eggs are desired because some eggs will not develop or fertilize after retrieval.

There were also injections with Luprons to stimulate the development and maturations of eggs. The injections had taken over my life every night for weeks at about the same time. I was meeting friends for dinner one night and found myself doing my injection in the bathroom of a restaurant and hoping that no one would see me and think I was a drug addict! I had to administer the injection myself and it was the part I hated most.

There were frequent visits to the clinic for constant blood works and ultrasounds. Egg development is monitored using ultrasound to examine the ovaries and blood test samples to check hormone levels. My arms were bruised and I was really tired of going to the fertility clinic every other day or so. Because it is all about nature and how your body reacts to the medication, there is no telling when you will have the egg retrieval.

The IVF treatments were not only taking over my body but my emotion as well. I had hot flushes and slightly erratic mood swings. I would often feel sad, angry, frustrated, out of control, vulnerable and sensitive. One time at work, I hid inside a utility room and just burst into tears with no reason at all! I was so sensitive with everything around me. Hormone treatment exacerbates all of these emotions.

A level of anxiety is almost inevitable in IVF. To lessen the stress of going through these treatments, I went for acupuncture sessions.

Acupuncture has been used for centuries in China to regulate female fertility and is believed to boost IVF chances.

When the follicles were matured four weeks later, the egg retrieval was then scheduled at the Bourne Hall Clinic where the first test tube baby Louise Brown was born in 1978. The egg retrieval was a bit overwhelming psychologically. Eggs were retrieved through a minor surgical procedure which uses ultrasound imaging to guide a hollow needle through the pelvic cavity. This process is called follicular aspiration.

Just when the retrieval is over, my husband's sperm is then prepared for combining with my eggs.

In a process called insemination, the sperm and eggs are placed in incubators located in the laboratory which enables fertilization to occur. Through this procedure, a single sperm is injected directly into the egg in an attempt to achieve fertilization. The eggs are monitored to confirm that fertilization and cell division are taking place. Once this occurs, the fertilized eggs are considered embryos.

After the retrieval, the waiting game started. We waited anxiously to find out how many eggs were retrieved and how many were fertilized. We were hoping for a high retrieval and high fertilization. Our actual results -- six eggs were graded as "A" and three were fertilized.

Three days later and into the final stage of the treatment, two embryos were transferred into my uterus. I was overwhelmed with the thought that I could have twins! The remaining one egg had been frozen at the clinic for future IVF cycle. Once implanted, there was another two weeks of waiting before the pregnancy test. I was put on total bed rest at home for two weeks. This waiting game had drained me psychologically and mentally.

The day before the pregnancy test, I was admitted in a hospital due to dehydration. That's when we found out by surprise that I was pregnant. Tom and I were both stunned in silence, the sense of relief was overwhelming. We got a positive result. It felt like we had to pinch ourselves that this was real. We couldn't have been more excited, but in the back of my mind, there was a cloud of doubt and worry.

One of the happiest moments of our lives was telling our family that we were expecting a baby.

But I went through a delicate pregnancy. On my 39 weeks (almost nine months) and a week before my due date for caesarean operation, I noticed that my baby wasn't moving inside me. My instinct was telling me something was wrong and on my own, I journeyed to Huntingdon Hospital in Cambridge not knowing that my baby was nearly dying inside me.

As my baby's heartbeat started to drop, I was immediately rushed to the operating room for an emergency caesarean operation. My baby weighing just four pounds at birth was born with fetal distress and was treated in a special care unit for babies. I, on the other hand, had a pre-eclampsia. We both nearly lost our lives that day but a big miracle saved us.

Our baby spent two weeks in the hospital. He was expected there for six weeks but his progress was unbelievable just after two weeks. He was my miracle baby.

I considered IVF the science of miracles. IVF success rates have greatly improved over the years and it continues to give childless couples hope for the future.

My journey with IVF was the best thing I've ever done. I am profoundly blessed that the result of all that manipulation in my body is my healthy and vibrant son, Nathan Andrew, now three years old.

As a witness to my own journey, each day I count my blessings and value the lessons I learned along the way. It has helped me put life into perspective and to appreciate it even more. I thank God every day for the medical advancements that allowed me the choice to be the mother I had dreamt of being.

(The writer is a former information officer of the Department of Tourism Region X)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on November 09, 2011.


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