Suggestions for getting pregnant naturally; information regarding IVF; information regarding egg donation.
?"Whether your pregnancy was meticulously planned, medically coaxed, or happened by surprise, one thing is certain -- your life will never be the same. ~Catherine Jones
I used to joke around that practice does not make perfect; practice makes permanent. When discussing sex and pregnancy, permanence is an applicable word, because becoming a parent is life-altering. Once you become a parent, no matter what happens, you are a parent until your very last breath.
No matter how time and society changes and shifts, for many people, the need to extend life beyond their own is almost a matter of expectation. This expectation can be brought on by parents and friends; but despite peer pressure, the goal of procreation is an instinctive -- it is an intrinsic part of us. In this, I am reminded of how we human beans are a part of the rest of the animal kingdom around us -- and that is a beautiful thing.
Pregnancy can be an amazing and wondrous time. Getting pregnant, it would seem, should be easy -- and for some women, it is. For others, though, attaining pregnancy is a challenge. For the woman (or couple) who desires to have a baby, fulfilling the goal can become an obsession.The following list are three ways of becoming pregnant. Within these, I offer suggestions that I have read about and heard over the years, try to dispel a few myths along the way, and offer some hope and guidance to the aspiring parent - and hopefully bring a few giggles in the process.
The "natural" way would seem the easiest, yes? Well, actually, not always...as evidenced by the number of products on the market to aid in conception.
There are ovulation calendars, herbal remedies, sperm tests, and fertility monitors...among many other things that you can buy to try to "fix" nature. Ovulation calendars and fertility monitors can be quite useful, if used correctly. However, some women have irregular menstrual cycles and/or other reproductive conditions that could inhibit their efficacy. My suggestion to any woman who is unsure about those items would be to discuss the topic with her gynecologist before purchasing them. About herbal remedies - Helen Kim, reproductive endocrinologist, expresses skepticism on herbal supplements, and I tend to lean in the same direction. I am not suggesting they do not work -- far from it. I am just guarded about adding more ingredients to the proverbial soup pot. Just because something is herbal or natural does not mean that it is ideal for human consumption.
As far as home sperm fertility tests, I have seen no negative reviews of the linked product (above). What it tests is sperm concentration, which is significant in attempting to conceive. One benefit is that the sperm samples are obtained in the privacy of one's own home, which is certainly nice. One concern I would have is the correct use of the test itself and the ability to read accurate results - but that is with any at-home test, including pregnancy tests.
There are products being sold, like this, that capitalize on the desperation felt by women who desire to conceive - by invoking "ancient Chinese secrets" - and with a population like China's, who wouldn't take that seriously? For only $39 plus tax, plus shipping and handling, it could be the answer for you.
Health Nut Reviews verdict states, "Based on customer research and feedback, the Pregnancy Miracle book may work as stated. So far, no major problems can be found; but please note that this is a relatively new product and this review is still considered incomplete."
The above items may help in increasing your chances of getting pregnant. However, when I was looking to get pregnant for the third and final time - having found that it was not as easy as it was when I was in my 20s, I asked my gynecologist for specific tips. She gave me several, which included ensuring my diet was healthy, getting plenty of rest, and one small tip that surprised me: Folic acid. She encouraged me to begin taking prenatal vitamins straightaway, but also suggested that I add folic acid to my daily vitamin intake. Folic acid is necessary to a woman's daily vitamin intake even if she is not trying to conceive, too.
Another great item to take a look at is Conception 101 - this is a quiz that asks a series of questions. Answer the questions honestly - related to sexual intelligence specific to conception - and read the detailed explanations of why each of the eight items noted is significant.
If all of the natural methods of conception do not work, one option available for conception is in vitro fertilization (IVF). Used successfully for the first time in 1981, in vitro fertilization has been one method for treating infertility. Thanks to in vitro fertilization and other similar procedures, more than 250,000 babies have been born since 1981.
A common misnomer for pregnancy as a result of in vitro fertilization is "test tube baby." The reason for this incorrect term has to do with how conception transpires. Explained simply, "With IVF, a method of assisted reproduction, a man's sperm and the woman's egg are combined in a laboratory dish, where fertilization occurs. The resulting embryo is then transferred to the woman's uterus (womb) to implant and develop naturally. Usually, 2-4 embryos are placed in the woman's uterus at one time. Each attempt is called a cycle."
How do couples and doctors get from the consultation to the petri dish, though? After going through various tests for infertility (which in this sense is defined as "not being able to get pregnant after one year of trying. Or, six months, if a woman is 35 or older. Women who can get pregnant but are unable to stay pregnant may also be infertile"), once other mitigating factors have been ruled out, a process of hormone injections is conducted on the woman. These injections are usually self-administered - and the purpose is to enhance the hormone levels related to reproduction. During this process, vaginal ultrasounds are performed to determine the number and size of the oocytes (eggs) - to determine readiness, viability, and also to minimize the chances of "hyperstimulation" (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, or OHSS).
Once the oocytes are ready for retrieval, a minor surgical procedure is performed to gather them. I have jokingly described this process as something akin to siphoning gas from a car - though it is not quite that simple. The process involves an ultrasound-guided hollow needle that is directed through the vaginal wall and to the ovaries, using syringe suction to retrieve the oocytes from the ovaries. From there, the 3-4 most viable oocytes are put in a lab dish and introduced to the partner's sperm with the goal of fertilization (the remainder of the oocytes can be frozen for future use).
The fertilized eggs are then transferred into the uterus with the hope of implantation. The odds of successful pregnancy via in vitro fertilization are variable, dependent on a number of different factors, but have been ranged from 5-50%. Before considering IVF, you may also want to check your health insurance coverage. Many health insurance carriers allow one IVF service per lifetime, but not all cover the procedure.
One simple truth about women and their eggs is that, like everything else with our bodies, they age. There have been many debates over whether females are born with a finite number of eggs, which has been considered a long-standing truth. Whether or not women are born with all the reproductive cells they will ever have, or whether there are latent cells that can continue to develop until menopause does not change the one truth about those cells: they age. What that means is that after a certain point (variable from individual to individual) they are no longer viable. However, DNA does not age. Enter egg donation.
I mention DNA, because at the time of this writing, transferal of DNA is not perfected. This is a process that is continuing to be tested, but as far as I know, there is no successful case of DNA transfer to a donor oocyte. At the present time, though, egg donation via donor is successful - so the DNA of the embryo implanted into the recipient mother is half donor and half husband/partner. Someday, hopefully, the DNA transfer attempts will demonstrate successful outcomes. In the meantime, egg donation as it stands now is one avenue of becoming pregnant.
Yes, there are ethical questions related to the purchase of human eggs. These ethical and moral questions must be considered before looking to working with an egg donor. What I can personally attest to, though, is that going through an independent agent, is an entirely different experience than going through a large infertility/egg donor agency that is more like an egg mill than a one-to-one donation service. How do I know this? Because I was an egg donor for four years. I worked with an individual whose business mission was very personalized to recipients and donors, and she worked to ensure that the recipients were matched closely with their donors - complete with psychological evaluations and ensuring that the donors were not providing their eggs simply for financial reasons. Her philosophy is that the payment is not about the eggs, but about the time and emotional generosity involved with being a donor - and helping another woman fulfill the goal of becoming a mother.
There are so many differences today than just 25 years ago in becoming a mother. At one time, if a woman couldn't conceive, society treated it as though there was something wrong with her - that she must be getting "punished" for some unknown sin and was not worthy of carrying life into the world. Some of this perspective is still pervasive today, as I discovered when I became an egg donor. I was actually asked why I would consider helping someone who "God obviously did not deem fit" to be become a mother. I countered with the question of why there are so many teen pregnancies and parents who had no trouble conceiving who should have been sterilized, given the kinds of parents they are. The counter-question put a check to the individuals question - and placed the matter of infertility into a different perspective. There are numerous reasons that a woman (or her partner) might be infertile, but one of the definite changes we see in society today is that women (particularly in the United States) are waiting much longer to have children. So they decided to wait until they have their education and careers in place, so that they are emotionally and financially equipped to provide for a child - suddenly, this "crime" of waiting has resulted in the aging of their eggs, and therefore they are less deserving of becoming parents because of that? No, that is foundationally wrong - and worse than immoral to suggest. It is inherently cruel.
The reason I became an egg donor goes back to my teenage years, when I watched my older sister suffer through the emotional trauma that goes along with infertility - and this was before IVF...and way before the advent of egg donation. I watched her cry, feeling like a failure as a wife and as a woman - when all she ever wanted to be was a wife and mother. After many years of trying, she and her husband gave up entirely. Only when they gave up and relaxed did they finally conceive (which is a reminder about relaxation and laughter - and its importance in natural conception). That my sister finally did conceive is wonderful - and she now has two healthy daughters who are themselves adults now. But such is not always the case. I have an aunt and uncle who also tried for years, and finally gave up. They never did conceive - and eventually adopted. Had IVF or egg donation been available, I wonder if their outcome might have been different.
I do not say that last statement with any thoughts against adoption - to the contrary, adoption is an extremely relevant avenue. There are millions of babies and children in the U.S. and around the world needing to be adopted, and I am in no way minimizing that. However, for the woman or couple who want a child that is biologically their own, every avenue can and should be considered.
With an egg donor, the process of becoming pregnant is IVF, but using a donor's egg. The odds of success are about the same, or slightly higher, but even that is not a guarantee of successful pregnancy. I donated six times - with 100% success - and all but one pregnancy were multiple pregnancies. When I was a donor, the payout rates were not the same as they are now; I did not make a financial killing of any sort. I was not in it for the money in the first place.
Most donors will admit, as I will, that money is a consideration - of course. However, if money is the only consideration, then the donor is likely not an ideal candidate. Further, in my case, I had already had two children, and I viewed the menstrual cycle as a waste, given that I could help another woman out there with something that was otherwise getting flushed down the toilet with a tampon, or in the garbage with a pad. I know that probably sounds a bit crass and vulgar, but that is the long and short of the matter. After having watched my sister, and later other family members and close friends, go through the heartbreak that is infertility, I decided that if there ever was a way for me to help - even just one other woman - then I would. And I did.
For couples looking for a donor, find a reputable infertility agent. There is a national organization, but there are individual agencies in most states also that are worth looking into. Is egg donation for everyone? No, for any number of possible reasons. No more than using a surrogate is for everyone. However, it is certainly worth considering.
None of these thoughts and pieces of information are a replacement for consulting your physician. While sharing this information, using cooking puns for fun has been enjoyable - and I hope that anyone who succeeds using any of the above methods enjoys the feeling of being "fully cooked" until her belly button pops out like a Thanksgiving turkey timer. However, I also know that no matter what method is used, success can never be guaranteed. Ultimately, the most important tip is to relax -and laugh- whenever possible, even while knowing first-hand from multiple perspectives just how difficult that is when conception is the goal.
I conclude this with best wishes to everyone trying and hoping to conceive. Remember, practice does make permanent...and there is no wrong way to get there.
Baby Center, 2009. Conception 101: Test your baby-making smarts.
Baby Center, 2009. Getting your body ready.
Egg donor, n/d.
Emedicine, 2009. In Vitro Fertilization.
Family Hopes, 2006. What is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)?
Getting Pregnant, 2009.
Health Nut Reviews, 2009.
LA Times, 2009. Female mammals may not have finite number of eggs, study finds.
Stormy Peters, 2007. Buying human eggs - who are we exploiting?
Pregnancy Miracle (TM), 2009.
Pregnancy Miracle Review, 2009. Pregnancy Miracle: Honest and Most Comprehensive Review.
Ruth Lathi, MD. & Barry Behr, PhD., In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) & Assisted Reproduction Techniques (ART).
Women's Health, 2008. Folic Acid FAQ.