Older women who are trying to conceive, deserve a medal for courage. They know the odds are stacked against them, but go ahead anyways. That was the story of one of the panelist at the parents-in-waiting conference held last year.
She is Oyenike Bankole, who got married on October 10, 1996, and waited for almost 18 years, in which time she went through 13 IVF cycles, before she finally had her children. She and her husband battled with unexplained infertility.
Prior to her miraculous pregnancy, she and her husband had resolved to get a surrogate. But before they tried surrogacy, her husband suggested they try IVF one more time, and she got pregnant with a set of twins.
By then, she was 48 years old. In a dream, she saw four children clinging to her leg, so she believed she would have four children.
Within a space of 19 months, Bankole’s dream came true. She had two sets of twins! The first were girls and the second set were boys. That was how her story changed in less than two years. Just before she clocked 50.
Now, let’s see what science thinks about this feat of Mrs Bankole’s. Last year, Obstetricians and fertility experts at the Second World Congress on Recurrent Pregnancy Loss in France, generally agreed that when a woman had three miscarriages, it was diagnosed as recurrent pregnancy loss, and that current global research to prevent it was focusing on tweaking lifestyle factors rather medical techniques.
For one of the doctors, Professor Louse Hull, “Maternal age is a huge issue. From the age of 35, fertility goes down and the rate of spontaneous miscarriage goes up.”
She went on to accuse celebrities who publicised having their babies in their late-40s and into their 50s – as singer Janet Jackson did when she gave birth in January 2017 at the age of 50- of fuelling a belief that women could get pregnant at any age.
She said many celebrities were “incredible liars” because they did not admit to using donated ovum or embryos. “That gives people ideas they can keep getting pregnant at 50 … but truth is that the risk of miscarriage by the age of 45 is in the region of 90 per cent; not even IVF can change that.”
One thing the fertility experts may not be saying, however, is that Mother Nature, in her ruthless way, may actually know best and doesn’t want a helping hand. Mother of two, Abigail’s TTC story exemplifies that.
For starters, Abigail met and fell in love with her husband, when she had accepted that she was going to be an independent single woman. Upon marriage, they turned their attention to having children. They wanted it.
It was a major U-turn for Abigail, but one she mindlessly fit into. That told her that even though she had accepted her reality of being single and childless, she wanted nothing more than to be a wife and mother. Thank God, it worked out for her, at least the first part.
They started trying for a baby immediately but it didn’t work out. Rather, she suffered early term miscarriages. They went to see a doctor, who pinned the delay on Abigail’s age, 41. Notwithstanding, they kept on trying and 18 months into their marriage, Abigail’s pregnancy actually passed the first trimester. They started to breathe easy after that stage and started preparing for baby.
After 42 weeks, Abigail’s baby was forcefully evicted and right then in the labour ward, Abigail asked “When can we do this again?”
All pairs of eyes, including that of her husband’s, looked at her as though, she had grown a second set of head. “Really?” her husband asked. “You just had a baby and you are asking when you can do it again?”
It was a funny scenario, and one her husband reminds her of till this day.
As her husband would later find out, Abigail really wanted to have another child as soon as possible, forget the rigours of motherhood and the emotional upheaval that comes with it.
After their child was nine months old, they started trying again and with her being older now, she got her doctor involved earlier, and with her aggressive approach, they soon moved on to IVF.
Three failed cycles, with minimal eggs harvested and less than stellar embryo quality, Abigail and her husband were right back where they started…parents of one child.
It was at this stage that their doctor suggested that they take a break.
He wanted Abigail to detox both her body and mind, after three back to back IVF cycles. He also suggested that they try naturally if they liked, but not to put any pressure on themselves.
Abigail had the all the arguments for why they shouldn’t stop on the tips of her lips. She knew them, the doctor knew them, but he had an ace.
Abigail’s older eggs were fragile and their response in the lab showed that they didn’t do well when removed from her body and manipulated outside of their natural habitat.
Instead of boosting the conception chances, the IVF process may have been damaging the eggs, and thus limiting them. The doctor told them conceiving naturally would actually be the safest course for Abigail’s older eggs.
So, they went home and tried the old fashioned way. It didn’t happen right away. The truth was, it took three years for it to happen for Abigail and her husband. There were several times Abigail was tempted to hop on the IVF wagon, and actually did, but her husband’s stubbornness made her get off.
Close to five years after she asked, “When can we do this again?”, Abigail gave birth to her second child, and this time, she felt an overpowering love, rather than a baby craving.
Although, Abigail didn’t believe she would ever have gotten pregnant without assistance, given her age, it worked for her and that may be true for other women of advanced maternal age who have no other fertility problems. Your failed cycles may be Mother Nature’s way of telling you, she knows best.
Food for thought.
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