Human Pin Cushion

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So the shots are in full swing. To be honest I don’t find them too bad. Each night my husband gets the needles ready and I lie on the bed with my t-shirt held up as a sort of shield to prevent me from seeing whats happening and we get it done. Side effects? Not really. Last time I recall being far more swollen and bloated to this time. However my husband would certainly say that I have been somewhat hormonal! In my defense I have been rather distracted by the stomach bug that has terrorised our home taking down my son, husband and myself. Nursing an ill baby whilst being ill and undergoing IVF is not ideal.

On alternate days I am required to have a scan to see the changes the drugs are having on my follicles. The scans themselves are not an issue. I don’t find them too unpleasant. The tricky part is going to the scans with an 8 month old. You would think an IVF clinic, whose job is to create babies, would be more accommodating to mothers visiting with babies. The lift is at top of a flight of stairs, the doors are heavy and too narrow to wheel a pram in and they are without fail always running late. Having arranged naps and snacks around these visits it is infuriating. However this phase is almost over. The egg collection is two days away and then the next stage will be upon us.

Watch this space!

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Here We Go Again!

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Never would we have imagined that the journey to motherhood was going to be so long and painful. However once we knew the challenges we faced and that we would only be able to have a child using IVF we decided that after baby number 1 was born we wouldn’t wait too long to have baby number 2.

When we decided to try for a baby the first time we were full of naive excitement and total ignorance. We never thought we would be the ones who needed fertility treatment or lost a baby. The benefit of hindsight means that we are fully aware of the potential set backs that lay ahead. We know it may take a long time and it may be a bumpy ride so why wait when we know we want another child?

While I was pregnant with our little boy we decided that as soon as there was the chance to try again we would. We would save our frozen embryo for the future and, while I was relatively young, make some more embryos. That was the plan. That seemed like the most sensible idea. Once my body had returned to normal we thought we’d get going on IVF number 2. All of that was until our little bundle of joy arrived and turned our lives spectacularly upside down! So when the opportunity to try again came while our baby was still such hard work we took one look at each other and agreed that in no way were we ready to cope with two little monsters! We were exhausted and our little baby was a complete handful. In many ways he still is!

So when asked by friends and family when we would try again we quite honestly said next year. However we now have got to the point where we feel like (relatively) confident parents who have, to some degree, begun to resume normal life. We sleep pretty well and are enjoying our son so much that we now feel that its time to do it all over again! Are we mad?

Despite the craziness of our lives now, the stress of pregnancy and the ordeal of trying to conceive, absolutely nothing is better than the love I have for my son. I would feel so blessed to have another little one to join our family. Last time we shared it all with our close family and friends. We needed the support as we blindly went through IVF. This time we know what lies ahead, so unbeknownst to all our friends and family we have began the process! Today is day 4 of my shots and next week may be the egg collection. It’s mad. Totally mad and completely exciting!

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.

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!

22 Things You Should Know About Fertility

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My husband stumbled across this comprehensive list of all the MANY fertility issues you may encounter on your journey to pregnancy. Woah, it’s a miracle any of us are here when there seems so bloody impossible to get pregnant!

Take a look: http://tinyurl.com/ku7xxz3

Acupuncture & Reflexology

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In parts of Asia, acupuncture has been used for centuries to jump-start labour. But does it work? Research is inconclusive. One small study at the University of North Carolina found that women who got acupuncture were more likely to go into labour without a medical “push.” The study included 56 women who were 39.5 to 41 weeks pregnant. Half of the women got three acupuncture sessions, while the other half did not. Seventy percent of the women who got acupuncture went into labour on their own, compared to 50% who received standard care. The women who got acupuncture were also less likely to deliver by cesarean section — 39% compared to 17%.

9 months ago, to accompany my IVF treatment, I used acupuncture. I found the process very relaxing and positive. It was calming and restful, in fact I fell asleep! So last week I decided to give it another go as there are suggestions that it can be a a safe natural way to help bring on labour.  I was told to have two sessions which combined acupuncture and reflexology. The first was in week 38 to prepare the body for labour, and the second, scheduled for today, to induce labour. Watch this space!

Right Place, Right Time

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For the first time a new test has been developed that tailors the timing of IVF treatment to a woman’s individual cycle. The scientists behind the technique believe that IVF frequently fails because the embryo is transferred at the wrong time, missing a crucial fertility window. The new test pinpoints a woman’s optimum time for treatment and in pilot studies the approach significantly boosted success rates.

There are more than 60,000 IVF cycles in Britain each year, but just 24% of these treatments lead to live births. Clinics currently check the visual appearance of the womb lining using ultrasound, giving a general indication of health. In the pilot study, the test was given to 85 women who had each experienced on average five rounds of IVF that had failed at the implantation stage. When the gene analysis was used as a guide, 33% of those treated had a successful implantation simply by just changing the day.

Nick Macklon, professor of obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Southampton, believes that issues linked to the womb lining explain around two-thirds of cases of recurrent implantation failure, with around one-third of cases being due to embryo abnormalities. He asserts that these tests could significantly improve success rates.

Eat Yourself Pregnant

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Zita West, a midwife and fertility expert, believes a good diet ‘forms the bedrock of getting a woman’s body baby-ready and a man making healthy sperm’. In her new book, Eat Yourself Pregnant: Essential Recipes for Boosting Your Fertility Naturally, she explains which foods can help with conception. Fascinated by the role nutrition takes in every couple’s ability to have a baby she came to the conclusion that micronutrients play a big role in getting pregnant – both naturally and through assisted conception – with deficiencies having significant effects on fertility for both men and women. When meeting a couple she investigates their digestion and gut health, toxicity, immunity, and how much their states of mind are affecting their bodies. But don’t worry this book does not eliminate bread, chocolate, cheese and dairy. It is not a faddy diet. The focus is on nourishing the body in a positive, sustainable way.

She explains that mood, weight and hormones can change rapidly according to where a woman is in her cycle. It is possible to support your body’s monthly shifts through your diet. Here are her rules for your cycle.

Phase 1

On the first day of your period when you may feel lethargic enjoy warm, nourishing foods and a diet rich in iron and vitamin C, as these nutrients help to replenish the iron that you lose with your period. Good sources of iron include lean red meat, pumpkin seeds, beans and pulses, dried apricots and raisins, shellfish and dark green leafy vegetables. For B-vitamins include whole grains, lamb, beef, poultry, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products, leafy green vegetables, yeast extract and nutritional yeast flakes. Most fruits and vegetables will provide good levels of vitamin C particularly citrus fruits, berries, kiwi fruit, leafy green vegetables and red pepper.

Phase 2

During phase two of your cycle oestrogen is on the rise as your body prepares for ovulation. This is usually a time when you’ll burst with energy. Foods rich in capsaicin, isoflavones and L-arginine (such as spicy foods, tofu and watermelon) encourage the body to make nitric oxide (NO). This compound helps to dilate your blood vessels, easing blood flow through your whole system, which is good news for your reproductive organs. During this phase, stock up on your B-vitamins, which are important for hormonal balance. B-vitamins also help with healthy cell division. Lecithin will help to keep your cell membranes healthy. Keep eating the vitamin-C-rich foods as this vitamin is thought to increase the amount of water in your cervical mucus, making it more plentiful. For healthy implantation of an egg, the immune system needs to be strong. For this reason, stock up on vitamin D. Exposing your skin to sunlight is the best way to get your body to manufacture this vitamin, but it is also present in salmon and sardines, and in shiitake mushrooms.

Phase 3

Next is the luteal phase of your cycle. The corpus luteum, that produces progesterone to thicken the womb lining, close the cervix and maintain a pregnancy, contains a high level of betacarotene. During this phase, try to include plenty of betacarotene-rich foods, including butternut squash, carrots, collards, kale, spinach, potato and mustard greens.

Phase 4

Lastly, in stage four, if no fertilisation has occurred, your hormone levels start to fall. During this phase you may begin to feel more lethargic again and crave sweet foods. Allow yourself the odd treat, but try to keep your blood sugar stable.

Finally do not forget that substituting foods containing fat with low-fat products, to avoid weight gain is a bad idea as these products often contain trans fats, sugar and sweeteners. Ovulation rates were 38 per cent better among women who used whole milk, a study found.

Wow some pretty amazing advice there. Happy fertile eating!

Scans Glorious Scans

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So I caved again. I decided that the wait for the final scan (scheduled for 37 weeks) was too far off and I needed some reassurance that the baby was well. So yet more money was spent on yet another neurotic moment. However, as I told my husband, surely my peace of mind is priceless. Aptly named the reassurance scan, it did just that. Thankfully all is well and my fear that the placenta had been failing or was detaching from my uterus lining were unfounded. The little one looked well, has hair and is in the head down position ready for action. Now I must just plough on through the remaining 6 weeks. Not long now…When will I actually believe that there might be a baby?

Progress

EGG_2565177b Yesterday the UK government set out new draft regulations which will allow donor DNA from a ‘second mother’ to be implanted into a defective egg. Mitochondrial donation, known as the “three-parent” baby technique, was deemed not to be a genetic modification that would, as critics feared, lead to the “slippery slope” of designer babies. MPs discussed the issues of medical ethics and scientific terminology at length and reached a pleasing decision.
Mitochondria is a part of the cell cytoplasm outside the central nucleus where chromosomes are located. They convert glucose to something called ATP, which is the universal energy currency of each and every cell in the body. Around one in every 200 babies born in the UK has a severe mitochondrial disease. Although rare, the disorders can be passed to future generations through the maternal line. Examples of mitochondrial diseases include conditions that cause muscle wasting, nerve damage, loss of sight and heart failure.
This is a brilliant development for families affected by mitochondrial diseases. I am thrilled that those with genetic abnormalities will have the opportunity to have the healthy children they so desperately want.