IVF & Ever After by Nichola Bedos

 

ART MUMS

(Below is information that was on the Mothers Be Heard website - before Your Storyline had been concieved. For an understanding of this context see MBH The Story.)

This space is for mums who have had children through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) like In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF), Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer (GIFT), Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), etc. 

According to Access Australia – Australia’s National Infertility Network, about 15% of Australian couples of reproductive age have a fertility problem.  Seeking ART is becoming more common today and the birth rate after fertility treatment is increasing.  For example, in 1994 2,700 babies were born as a result of ART, whereas in 2004 it had risen to over 7,000.

Why did MBH include ART Mums in it’s website?  Quite simply, MBH wanted to play a part in supporting mums who have had a baby through assisted reproductive technology because research suggests that their experience is likely to be more emotionally complex and less geared toward feeling like they can talk about any difficulties. 

IVF (ART) Mum Stories

The following four stories were submitted to MBH.  I think they speak of the very unique experience for women who have had children through Assisted Reproductive Technology.  You might identify with some of these stories and it might confirm for you just how complex and unique the experiences of an ART mum are.

 You Might Never Have Children

Decided Not to Tell

Motherhood Second Time Around

What Do We Tell Our Children

 

You Might Never Have Children by Sue

All I ever wanted to be was a Mum....One doctor's appointment looked to destroy that with a well meaning but ill informed doctor telling me "you might never have children". This is where my journey began, being told that you might never have children isn't the ideal start.

Anyway, after many appointments, failed fertility treatment, raging hormones, invasive procedures, a stressful and frightening pregnancy later we became parents to a beautiful boy Sam! I've never been so happy or relieved in my life. He is perfect in everyway and when he was 9 months old we decided to put ourselves through it all again and we were lucky enough to be given a beautiful little girl, Jessica. Our family was complete, we were the happiest we had ever been....

Having my children has changed the direction of my life and taken me on a journey that I would never of imagined for myself, one of advocacy, political agendas and a completely different career. I'm thankful everyday for my children.

 

Decided Not To Tell by Anonymous

Thanks to IVF we have a BEAUTIFUL 8 month old daughter who is now the centre of our world and each day we look at her and feel so blessed. We fell pregnant using the ICSI technology and were incredibly lucky to fall pregnant in the 1st cycle. I know we are one of the lucky one's and my heart goes out to all couples going through the IVF treadmill.

I sometimes look back and reflect on what we have been through and how far we have come. I remember it like it was yesterday sitting in the Dr's surgery when we were told my husband had no sperm - not that there was a few but actually NO sperm. From there it was an anxious 2 week wait to see the fertility specialist and like when you buy a new car, you look for your car on the road - well everywhere we looked we saw these kids and happy families. It was like rubbing salt in a wound and was so hurtful. Friends all around us were falling pregnant and it seemed to be so easy for them. We kept thinking why us, what did we do wrong.

Now after coming as far as we have and wanting more children our worries have expanded to can we have more children, will we be lucky again, can we afford it, how long emotionally can we put ourselves through it. We have several embryo's frozen which we already consider our children - what happens to them, I can't destroy them????? I don't think anyone can understand what you are going through until they have experienced it themselves.

For this reason my husband and I decided not to tell anyone about our journey, I guess because we didn't want their sympathy and we didn't want them to view our daughter any different. But sometimes when I feel cheated and a little angry about it I want to tell my friends and I want their sympathy and I want them to know that they shouldn't take it for granted; how easy it is for them to get pregnant when there are so many people that have to take the long road to have kids - if at all. I want them to know that it costs us thousands of $ each attempt and that is something they will never have to complain about.

This happens in waves.  but each time I look at my daughter and I am just thankful, grateful and do my best to loose the negativity. Parenting is such a life changing journey that no matter what people tell you I don't think you can be prepared until it actually happens and now we wouldn't want it any other way!!! I have chosen the colour red because to me it reflects different moods - excitement, frustration, fun, sunny, upbeat etc.

 

Motherhood Second Time Round by Elbi

My eldest was born with Hirschbrungs disease and I now have a little boy 3 months old who was conceived via IVF, ICSI with genetic testing so that he wouldn't be born with Hirschbrungs. The testing has been successful and we have a baby with a normal bowel and he is quite delightful. Interestingly he only does a poo every 9-14 days which initially sent me into a tiz as I thought the genetic testing was unsuccessful. I have been reassured that he is behaving normally for a fully breastfed babe.

One of the most stressful times for me was deciding with my husband whether or not to have a second child as we both found parenting extremely difficult at times. I did not find the IVF process too stressful and this was partially due to the fact I had a child already and the IVF process was successful first time round.

My second labour was a fairly routine normal delivery, where I used a TNS machine for the first 4 hours and then went into hospital for a water birth. The first month was hard work with lots of sleep deprivation and the normal emotional rollercoaster. However I had lots of support overnight and managed to establish a good sleep routine for my new son.

So I am now a mother of 2 children and I am kept very busy. I feel I am able to enjoy each day and realise how much stress I endured with my daughter. I didn't enjoy much of the first 6 months of her life due to worry and going in and out of hospital. My son has helped me to understand how wonderful it is to have a little baby around. I am very relaxed about making the decision about when to return to work, this time round being a mother full time is more important to me.

 

What Do We Tell Our Children by Corinne

We tried naturally to conceive for six years and then underwent 2 years of ICSI. On our fourth attempt we were finally given a beautiful baby girl. She was born by C-section 4 weeks early because she stopped growing and I remember feeling cheated of a natural labour after having intervention for everything else. I now look back and believe this to be so selfish as it was in the best interests of my daughter and myself that she be delivered when and how she was. I was very relieved to be able to breast feed her - at least I COULD do something myself. We were even more surprised to find I was pregnant a year later - all by ourselves! We had a son naturally conceived and delivered 4 weeks early. (They are 16 months apart). I guess my main reason for writing here is that I would like to know what other parents are going to, or have told, their "IVF" children of how they came about. Are parents being honest or are they fudging the truth a little? I spoke to my IVF clinic and they have provided me with resources to tell my daughter although at this age she is too young to understand any of it. I guess I just want to be prepared for when the questions about where she came from begin.

 

 Dr Karin Hammarberg

In 2007 Research fellow Dr Karin Hammarberg from Melbourne University shared with Felicity about her research and support for ART Mums on mothersbeheard.com:

"To better understand the needs of the growing group of women who become mothers after assisted conception, in 2001 the Key Centre for Women’s Health in Society at the University of Melbourne recruited women who had conceived with ART for a study of the experiences of childbirth and early parenting after assisted conception.

"This study, completed in 2006, is the largest and most comprehensive Australian investigation of mothering after assisted conception, with over 150 women completing three questionnaires after the birth of their child. My colleagues and I compared this data with the general population and with data from other studies of childbearing women.

"The study found that compared to other women, those who conceived using assisted reproductive technologies were:
• Three times more likely to be admitted to early parenting centres;
• Less likely to be breastfeeding their babies at three months;
• Less confident about their mothering skills;
• More anxious about caring for a new baby;
• Twice as likely to have a caesarean; and
• More likely to be disappointed with their birth experience.

 

"Becoming a mother is a significant event in any woman’s life. This study shows that when the path to motherhood has been complicated by infertility and ART it may be more emotionally complex. We believe that infertility, the need for technology to conceive and an operative birth may have a cumulative effect in eroding a woman’s confidence in herself and her own body. On top of that, these women are often immensely grateful that the treatment worked, and have a very low sense of entitlement to complain about the problems and anxieties they are facing when adjusting to motherhood.

"I’m excited to endorse ‘ART Mums’ on mothersbeheard.com because it is the first Australian online community to provide a specific venue for these mums to feel supported."

 

Dr Karin Hammarberg's Research

The following two articles are sourced from www.unimelb.edu.au (Melbourne University) and www.apo.org.au (Australian Policy Online) respectively.  Just click the hyperlinks for the original transcripts.  You can also read Dr Hammarbergs abstract, or view the full text of 'Women's experience of birth and early mothering following assisted conception' (PDF file) by clicking thesis.

______________________________________________________________________

The University of Melbourne

More support needed for IVF mums, says University of Melbourne study

Media Release, Monday 5 March 2007

Women who conceive using assisted reproductive technology, such as IVF, are more likely to feel anxious and lack confidence in caring for their babies than those who conceive without treatment, according to a University of Melbourne study.

In the largest Australian study of mothering after assisted conception, research fellow Dr Karin Hammarberg, from the Key Centre for Women’s Health in Society, tracked more than 150 women over the first 18 months of motherhood.

Their experiences of early parenting were compared with data taken from the general population and other surveys of new mothers.

The study found that compared to other women, those who conceived using assisted reproductive technologies were:
• Three times more likely to be admitted to early parenting centres;
• Less likely to be breastfeeding their babies at three months;
• Less confident about their mothering skills;
• More anxious about caring for a new baby;
• Twice as likely to have a caesarean; and
• More likely to be disappointed with their birth experience.

Dr Hammarberg says there is a correlation between the amount of difficulty a woman has in conceiving and her confidence levels on leaving hospital.

“Women who take longer to conceive, go through more treatment cycles and have miscarriages have lower levels of confidence when they go home with their new babies,’’ she says.

Dr Hammarberg’s research also found that women who received assisted reproductive technology were also on average five years older when they gave birth, more likely to be first time mothers and nine times more likely to have twins.

Dr Hammarberg says women who conceive using fertility treatment have very high expectations of life with a new baby.

“These expectations can leave them unprepared for the extraordinary demands involved in caring for a newborn,’’ she says.

“A degree of distrust in their ability to care for their baby may also explain their higher use of residential parenting services such as sleep schools.

“However, because it has been so difficult for them to fall pregnant, they are immensely grateful for their children and do not feel entitled to complain about the problems and anxieties of new motherhood.’’

Dr Hammarberg’s says her study provides important information for health professionals working with new mothers.

“My study clearly shows that many women who receive fertility treatment need extra support once they become mothers – and this is a great opportunity to intervene early and support them before problems arise,’’ she says.

Dr Hammarberg’s study suggests strategies to better prepare women for parenthood. These include:

• Reassuring women that it is normal to feel ambivalent about motherhood;
• Providing women with information about their increased likelihood of caesarean to lessen disappointment after birth;
• Boosting women’s belief in their ability to care for their baby;
• Intensive support to help women with breastfeeding problems;
• Practical advice on feeding and settling babies after leaving hospital; and
• Including fathers in pre-natal education so they understand how important it is to provide practical and emotional support to their partners.

“Being a new mother can be extremely exhausting and isolating, especially if your baby is unsettled and cries a lot,’’ Dr Hammarberg says.

“Women need to know that, regardless of how they have conceived their baby, that needing help is universal and normal.’’

 Key Centre for Women's Health in Society, University of Melbourne

Karin Hammarberg is a research fellow in the Key Centre for Women’s Health in Society, University of Melbourne.

Australian Policy Online

Infertility: The emotional cost doesn’t stop when a baby is born

Posted 3rd March 2007

A new study proposes strategies for health care professionals to ease the transition to motherhood for women who give birth after fertility treatment, writes Karin Hammarberg

AMONG the women who give birth in Australia each year, the proportion aged 35 and over has increased from 12.7 per cent in 1994 to 19.5 per cent – or nearly one in five – in 2004. Many couples who try to start a family when they are in their late 30s and 40s discover that they are unable to conceive and resort to assisted reproductive technology (ART). The birth rate after fertility treatment in Australia is increasing; in 2004, over 7000 children were born as a result of ART, accounting for 2.7 per cent of all Australian births that year. But the evidence suggests that ART creates a unique set of challenges for women.

Delayed childbearing is due to a range of factors. Women are leaving the parental home and forming permanent relationships at an older age. Marriages are more likely to break down and cohabiting couples have a high rate of separations. More women are pursuing a career and are increasingly financially independent. And, of course, contraception is more reliable. Recent research also suggests that some women miss their opportunity to have children due to their partner’s reluctance to commit to parenthood.

As a nurse with 20 years experience of working with couples with fertility problems, I became acutely aware that this pathway to parenthood is not without its personal and physical consequences. To better understand the needs of the growing group of women who become mothers after assisted conception, the Key Centre for Women’s Health in Society at the University of Melbourne conducted a prospective longitudinal study of the experiences of childbirth and early parenting after assisted conception.

This study is the largest and most comprehensive Australian investigation of mothering after assisted conception, with over 150 women completing three questionnaires after the birth of their child. My colleagues and I compared this data with the general population and with data from other studies of childbearing women.

The ART group was more socioeconomically advantaged than other women of comparable age. On average, they were five years older when they gave birth, and more likely to be first-time mothers (70 per cent versus 42 per cent), have twins (18 per cent versus 1.6 per cent) and experience a caesarean section delivery (51 per cent versus 25 per cent). When asked about their experience of the birth, they were more likely than other women to feel disappointed, particularly if they had a caesarean section birth. Furthermore, they were more likely to report feeling anxious about caring for the new baby when they left hospital.

The study found that women who conceive with ART experience more early-parenting difficulties than comparison groups, including a lower sense of maternal confidence, a three times higher rate of admission to residential early parenting services in the first eighteen months, lower rates of breastfeeding at three months, and more anxiety about being separated from the baby.

Becoming a mother is a significant event in any woman’s life. This study shows that when the path to motherhood has been complicated by infertility and ART it may be more emotionally complex. We believe that infertility, the need for technology to conceive and an operative birth may have a cumulative effect in eroding a woman’s confidence in herself and her own body. On top of that, these women are often immensely grateful that the treatment worked and have a very low sense of entitlement to complain about the problems and anxieties they are facing when adjusting to motherhood.

The findings of this study allow us to think of ways to meet the needs women who give birth after ART. Some suggested strategies include the following:

• Make it very clear during pregnancy that there is a high chance that the birth will be by caesarean section to lessen disappointment if that happens.

• Reinforce to women that it is normal to feel ambivalent about the baby and being a mother, even if the baby was very wanted and conception was difficult.

• Increase awareness that being a new mother, especially if the baby is unsettled and cries a lot, can be extremely exhausting and isolating.

• Provide clear, concise and consistent advice about feeding and settling babies.

• Reassure women about their ability to care adequately for their baby.

These strategies could be used by health care professionals to ease the transition to motherhood for the growing group of women who give birth after ART.

The IVF Survival Kit

The following article was submitted by Parent-Infant Specialist Nichola Bedos, author of IVF and Ever After, who urges couples to plan to manage the emotions that treatment may bring.

"The concept of in vitro fertilisation has forever altered the way all couples move through the challenges of conception, pregnancy and parenthood. Every mum and dad I now speak to has thought about the feelings he or she would have if there are difficulties conceiving. That there are now ways to help couples for whom infertility is a reality is simply a miracle no 1960’s science fiction movie could ever have captured. That said, those couples who do go through IVF have some tough issues to deal with and I believe the ‘helping professionals' should be ready and willing to help ease this process on an emotional level.

Not just about baby
"Until around 2003, IVF specialists considered that a couple would have no more concerns once they had successfully conceived and delivered a healthy baby; successful IVF was a complete ‘cure’ for the emotions that surround infertility. Over the last four years, researchers have begun to find that there can be lingering emotional issues for families and we are now very much exploring what these issues are and how we, as professionals, can help.

"Most of the difficulties IVF parents have centres on anxiety. There is so much uncertainty within IVF; “Will my eggs ripen? Will the harvesting be successful? Will fertilisation take place? Will the embryo develop? Will implantation happen? Will the pregnancy last?” Experts know uncertainty is something the human brain hates because we cannot begin to process what has happened. We are stuck, waiting for something to go wrong and this situation breeds worry; the nagging questions around “Am I taking care of myself? Is there something more wrong with me? Will we ever have our own baby?” This worry can become part of life and can stay even when a baby arrives. Knowing how to help yourself and your partner is a great asset, not just during conception but for life in general.

Surviving, and thriving!
"Nothing can make the IVF process easy but anticipating anxiety and living life to minimise it makes a huge difference. Here are some of the stress-reducing tips my clients have loved:-
• Choose a time to go through IVF that is as low-stress as possible. Avoid simultaneously renovating, caring for a sick relative and having an older child undergo surgery.
• Whilst you go through treatment, help each other find time to exercise, eat healthily and have weekly ‘down’ time when you can relax and enjoy a solo activity that boosts your feel-good hormones. Some suggestions include a facial, coffee with a girlfriend or yoga class for women and a beer with a mate, a game of golf or a quiet time to read the weekend papers for guys.
• Use complementary therapies that have been shown to boost fertility such as acupuncture and hypnotherapy.
• Have someone to confide in so that your emotions are not pushed ‘underground’. This may be a friend, family member or a professional.
• Don’t try to make your partner look at the situation the way you do. Both of you need to be able to voice your opinions without feeling judged.
"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 










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