Demand for IVF triples in five years

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The number of women seeking fertility treatment at a Tauranga clinic has tripled in five years.

The demand from those pursuing their dream of parenthood at the Fertility Associates clinic, at Central Med in Devonport Road, has been such that the frequency of meetings has had to be increased.

“In the last five years (since 2008), the number of people seen for a fertility consultation in Tauranga has tripled. We now consult for a full day every fortnight,” said fertility specialist Dr Lakshmi Ravikanti.

When Fertility Associates first began operations in Tauranga 15 years ago, it ran a monthly clinic. This frequency increased in line with demand. By 2010, it changed to once every three weeks and then fortnightly in 2011.

Sue Saunders, Fertility Associates counselling group co-ordinator, told the Bay of Plenty Times the precise numbers were commercially sensitive but were significant.

She said the trend was indicative of a growing city and nation.

“We are a representative group of New Zealand. One in five people in New Zealand have fertility issues and one in six seek treatment. Fertility issues are a lot more common than most people think.”

If those attending the Tauranga clinic went on to pursue treatment they did so at the company’s regional clinic in Hamilton.

Mrs Saunders, based in Hamilton, said the fertility treatment field was dynamic and advances were made all the time.

Her own clinic was an example.

Hysteroscopy, a procedure to check the lining of the uterus for abnormalities such as polyps, which might hinder implantation of the embryo, has only been undertaken within the last year.

Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay – a test checking DNA fragmentation of sperm – has also started within the last 12 months.

Most recent for Hamilton patients, is intracytoplasmic morphologically-selected sperm injection. This procedure utilises an extremely high-powered microscope to identify the best sperm for fertility treatment. The equipment is so specialised patients are referred to Auckland for it.

When is it too late?

Sue Saunders, of Fertility Associates, says fertility treatment demand is in part fuelled by women leaving it later in life to have children. She recommends starting to try for children before the age of 36.

“We know a woman’s fertility declines after 36 or 37. The statistics for successful pregnancies after that time drop away. Under 37, there is a 50 per cent chance of getting pregnant in a treatment cycle, with 45 per cent of those going on to have a take-home baby.

“By the time a woman reaches 42 the successful pregnancy rate for a treatment cycle drops to around 20 per cent.”

Pair grateful for ‘miracle’ daughters

A Tauranga woman who survived ovarian cancer to have two daughters through fertility treatment has described their birth as miraculous.

The births were even more incredible because of the hurdles overcome to conceive them.

The husband of the Papamoa resident, who did not want to be identified for personal reasons, is in a wheelchair after a serious spinal injury. He broke his neck playing rugby as a young man.

Undeterred, the couple began fertility treatment at Fertility Associates’ Hamilton clinic five years ago.

“I was 33 when I had my first cycle. It was all going well but when they did the first scan they found a huge cyst on my ovary.

“They decided to go ahead with the operation for the egg collection but they needed to get that cyst out at the same time,” the woman told the Bay of Plenty Times.

During the operation, at Hamilton’s Southern Cross Hospital, a cancerous growth was discovered. She had ovarian cancer. Her husband was asked for permission for the affected ovary to be removed and he consented.

The woman was unaware she had lost an ovary until she regained consciousness from the anaesthetic.

“My mum and husband were there and they were both looking funny. I knew something was up. And then Lakshmi (Fertility Associates’ Dr Lakshmi Ravikanti) came in and told me what had happened.

“I was so gutted, I just cried and cried. But this nurse came in and told me she had lost her ovary and still had two children. It was like ‘my gosh, you were meant to come into this room now’. She just gave me hope.”

The disappointment at losing her ovary was compounded when not one of the 10 eggs retrieved fertilised.
However, the couple restarted their fertility treatment.

“We only got one egg from the next cycle, which fertilised,” she pauses, “but that one worked. We were so incredibly lucky. It was just amazing. I still can’t believe it.”

That solitary embryo is now her 3-year-old daughter.

Following the birth of their first daughter the couple decided to undertake further fertility treatment for a second child.

“This time there were 10 eggs, five fertilised and two progressed. One of those is our second daughter who is 2. She’s a Valentine’s baby, born on February 14.”

The 38-year-old empathised with anyone undergoing fertility treatment.

“When you’re going through it you don’t realise what a rollercoaster you’re on. One day you’re up because you’ve got 10 eggs, then none fertilise, so you come crashing down again.

“The second time we only got one egg so you think ‘Well that’s not going to work’. Then it did and you’re so elated. Then you start worrying about it staying [miscarriage]. It’s not like you can just start again next month.

“The hardest time of all is when an embryo has been put back and you have to wait two weeks to find out if you’re pregnant. It’s agony.”

She said couples trying to conceive should always maintain a positive mindset.

“Technology is getting better and better. Be prepared for the emotional side of it, get your support around you, and stay positive.

“You have to be optimistic. You’re not doing this for it not to work. Put it out there that you’re going to have a baby.”

James Fuller

March 26, 2013

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