When I heard the news that fashion designer Collette Dinnigan is pregnant with her second child at 46, my first reaction was elation, because I wish her and new husband Bradley only happiness. The second was harder to accept. Guilt always is.
I thought of my dear friend ”Louisa” (she does not want her real name used in this story) and how only weeks before I begged her to give up on IVF and, therefore, on her fiercely held dream of being a mother.
You see, Louisa was a mess. After enduring nine IVF cycles in less than a year, she was so obsessed with trying ”just one more time” for a baby that she hid her last two attempts from her closest friends and family – even her husband.
Her abdomen was a blast of angry pinpricks from hormone injections; she had put on eight hated kilos, was clinically depressed and had forgotten a time when sex was fun.
She was also broke, having re-mortgaged to keep up with the expensive procedures (minus the government rebate, the average cost for a cycle is $3000). Her relationship was suffering and career neglected.
But perhaps the saddest fact is that Louisa entered into every cycle of IVF aware that at her age – 46 – her chance of conceiving was a fraction of 1 per cent. Not great odds when compounded with her history of endometriosis and the fact she had never become pregnant naturally.
And it wouldn’t have been much better had she met her partner years earlier and started trying then. Despite the remarkable advances in assisted reproductive technology, the statistics are as irrefutable as they are dismal for women over 40: about 10-15 per cent chance per first cycle for those aged between 40 and 43, 1-2 per cent for 44 and 45-year-olds and a fraction of a per cent beyond.
The odds of conceiving at 46 naturally like Ms Dinnigan are practically immeasurable – ”tougher than winning lotto”, according to one doctor.
Having watched several other girlfriends over 40 go through numerous cycles of IVF in past years, I thought that after nine efforts it was only right to suggest that Louisa have a time-out to reassess and recoup.
Now, I am not sure. And I know that after hearing Ms Dinnigan’s happy news, Louisa will be doubting my advice too, wondering once more that if Ms Dinnigan can fall pregnant naturally at the same age, then surely she’s in with a fighting chance with IVF on her side.
And here lies the big emotional hurdle with IVF – it is a numbers game. It’s like buying lottery tickets – not such a silly idea if you win.
But the sad fact is money, success, status and desire cannot compensate for old eggs. And while I don’t want Louisa to view herself as a statistic, I also don’t want her to become a victim.
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