McPregnant

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Another week and another celebrity couple to reveal that they have undergone IVF. McBusted star Harry Judd and his wife Izzy have publicised that the baby they are expecting in January is the result of IVF. Talking of their struggle to conceive and the heartache of a miscarriage from their first attempt at IVF last year they explained…

“You feel like you are never going to be the ones who get to say, ‘We are having a baby’. That is why we feel so blessed now,” 

“In an ideal world when you’re ready to start a family you hope you will conceive in the first few months of trying,” says Harry. “We were like, no, no we won’t need IVF, it won’t be us. IVF was like something you didn’t talk about. We thought it would be fine.”

“Every baby is a miracle but we do feel so very lucky,” says Izzy, 31, who was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries in her twenties.

“I never wanted to stop believing that we would have a family,” says Izzy. “But you do feel like someone has pressed pause on your life and you can’t go anywhere.”

The couple lost count of the number of times people asked them if they wanted to have a family. “This was always so impossible to answer and felt like my heart was breaking every time,” says Izzy

If you are struggling to conceive this must echo how you feel, and if you are going through IVF at the moment I hope you are as successful as they have been.

Humans Of New York

If you don’t follow Humans of New York on social media then you should. The blog which has over ten million followers provides a worldwide audience with daily glimpses into the lives of strangers on the streets of New York City. The photos and captions are personal, emotive and very moving. Currently the photographer has gone ‘on tour’ and has left the US to capture images from the streets of Iran. This one caught my attention.

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“It took us ten years, countless doctor appointments, and three miscarriages to have her. So we never feel bothered by her cries.”

(Namakabroud, Iran)

Isn’t it amazing to think that all over the world people are going through fertility struggles and are being blessed with the miracle of a baby. If I was to pass this couple in the street I would have no idea how much we have in common.

23 Is A Magic Number

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Uh oh! I want a big family but it appears it could be too late for me. According to experts, women who want to have a big family should start trying for a baby by the age of 23. At 23 I was in no position to have a baby. I hadn’t established a career and was living at home without financial independence. Plus my now husband, then boyfriend would have run a mile!

The advice comes from scientists who crunched together fertility data on more than 58,000 women to create an at-a-glance calculator. It tells a woman the best age to start a family. It has even been suggested that the table be shown to sixth formers and university students to underline the risks of delaying motherhood. The advice comes as growing numbers of British women delay motherhood until they establish their career, become financially stable or find ‘Mr Right’. Around half of all babies are now born to women aged 30 and older, and the number of children born to women aged 40-plus has trebled in the last 20 years

To use the fertility calculator, a woman decides how many children she wants and whether she is going to try to conceive naturally or with IVF. A woman who wants two children should start by 27, to have the best chance of success, while 32 is advised for those who would be happy with just one baby.

Importantly, IVF offers little guarantee. It shows that IVF generally only gives a woman an extra year or two.

However the study, which promotes early motherhood, acknowledges that women who have children in their 20s are more likely to achieve their desired family size but can also expect lower lifetime earnings than women who start later. Therefore it suggests that society must ensure women aren’t disadvantaged at work and sort the lack of childcare facilities so young people to establish their careers and families at the same time.

31… eek!

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Today is my birthday! I feel very blessed to be spending it with my gorgeous little baby boy. A year ago I had just found out I was pregnant which certainly softened the blow of leaving my 20s behind and turning the dreaded 30. Despite my joy that the IVF had been successful I still never allowed myself to entertain the idea of actually having a baby a year later. It was just too hard to imagine after the ordeal we had faced.

So the fact that a year has passed and the stressful pregnancy has resulted in a beautiful baby is a dream come true. I feel so grateful that my prayers and wishes were answered.

I have more to be grateful for too. Firstly I have made amends and rebuilt my relationship with a very old and special friend whom I had fallen out with and secondly my lovely mummy has been given a clean bill of health. So this year as I celebrate with my husband by my side and my baby in my arms I will feel so contented and at peace.

Does having an IVF baby change your parenting?

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For most of my adult life I was a laid back, stress-free kind of person. Honest! So it is quite bizarre to me that as a mother I am more of a worrier than I ever could have imagined.

My pregnancy neurosis (following our previous pregnancy loss) evolved into a less stressful but equally real anxiety surrounding the well-being of our little boy. Now admittedly that is largely down to the fact that my son is a terrible feeder who would happily exist solely on air! Perhaps if he had a greater appetite I would stress less. However it doesn’t take a genius to realise that given our history and the fact that my son is the product of IVF, I view him as even more miraculous and special than perhaps I otherwise would. I wonder how many other women feel that their parenting is influenced by their route to motherhood. Do the challenges faced in conception impact on the way we view our IVF babies?

Most couples with an infertility problem wait for a long time and undergo lengthy procedures before they finally get their much-desired baby. In recent years, several studies have been published comparing the parent–child relationship and the child’s psychosocial development in families with children conceived by IVF and families with naturally conceived children. The results are not conclusive, and most of the measures in the studies revealed no significant differences in the quality of the parent–child relationship between IVF families and families with naturally conceived children. However in my experience I certainly feel both that little bit more blessed and scared that I have my gorgeous baby.

Unless the IVF has nothing to do with it. My dad is totally neurotic and over-protective so I could just take after him!

Mothers Over 40

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The debate surrounding the fertility of older mothers has raged on in recent weeks. Enough now, we get it! Yes, delaying motherhood can be catastrophic as fertility plummets after 39. However as Robert Winston, the IVF pioneer and broadcaster, pointed out at The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology’s annual conference in Lisbon, there are also benefits of delaying having a baby. Lord Winston said older mothers, who have had time to gain skills and education, as well as build strong relationships, can provide children with a more stable upbringing. So concerned are we to point out the negatives that we fail to notice that there are also positives to being a more mature mother. Women of 40 and upwards have a plethora of reasons for delaying motherhood. Whether it is due to demanding careers, further education, financial circumstances or relationship stability, some women have been in the position to have children earlier. Berating them is not constructive. The press has ensured women are aware of the facts so instead of fear-mongering maybe it is now time to support and learn from women who have left motherhood till later in life.

Happy Gay Pride

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This weekend the streets of London were filled with fun and excitement as Gay Pride was held in the capital. I realised that I am yet to post a single post that acknowledges that gay couples also struggle to create their families. They undergo IVF to conceive and have for decades. So how does it work?

  • Lesbian couples often “share” the cycle. One partner undergoes stimulation of the ovaries and egg retrieval and the other carries the pregnancy. It is also possible for lesbian couples to undergo simultaneous embryo transfers and carry concurrently with the same due date. Subsequent pregnancies using frozen embryos can be carried by either woman.
  • Gay men need the help of either one or two women to complete an IVF cycle. The same woman may be the egg donor and the surrogate carrier, or different women may fulfill each role.
  • There are currently no procedures that permit a same-sex couple to conceive in a way that combines their own genes. The closest approximation is when a lesbian couple uses a brother’s sperm for insemination of his sister’s partner’s/wife’s eggs or when two men use a sister’s eggs, fertilized by her brother’s partner’s / husband’s sperm in a surrogacy cycle. This is also done by heterosexual couples in IVF who need donor eggs or sperm.

Ugh IVF is both a stressful ordeal and an absolute miracle. If you are going through IVF at the moment, whether you are straight or gay, good luck!

Three Visits

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We have just returned from our first family holiday to Israel. As we walked down the beach with our baby in his pram I couldn’t help thinking back to the last two visits I made to Israel.

The previous one was in October, I was 20 weeks pregnant and while I was incredibly grateful to be pregnant I was also extremely anxious about the outcome of my pregnancy. As I looked out across the sea I thought to myself ‘I hope I have a baby on my next visit’.

The trip prior to that was last March two weeks after the loss of our baby and it was a bleak and miserable time. I was unsure what the future held, when I may be pregnant again and how I would cope with the heartbreaking loss.

What struck me was how different life was on each of the three visits and how quickly and dramatically things can change. You may feel like things are not progressing on your journey to parenthood, or you may have had a loss that seems crippling. This time next year things may be very different.

No Laughing Matter

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Last week I happened to catch an interview on This Morning with TV presenter Julia Bradbury. She talked about her grueling IVF experience which happily resulted in the birth of her twins. She discussed the disappointment and failures she experienced during the five cycles she undertook and the added obstacle of her age (44).

Most fascinating was her reference to an Israeli study about the importance of remaining positive during embryo transfer. The research found that women who were made to laugh during IVF by bringing clowns into the surgery were statistically more likely to conceive than those who weren’t entertained.

This is not the first I have heard of this. My husband excitedly regaled this to me following our embryo transfer, during which, for reasons unknown to me, I got the giggles. Proper tear inducing giggles. I was laughing so much my husband had to turn away from me in an effort to stop the laughter. Perhaps it was nerves, or embarrassment at having my legs wide open, but that laughter clearly didn’t hurt as the outcome was a positive pregnancy. So have some jokes at the ready!