FEATURE: “Life truly is complete now for our family of three”

IVF family
IVF family
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“I remember looking down at the positive pregnancy test, and not believing it was true,” smiles Jade Akroyd-Baillie.

“I took a bunch more just to make really sure, it was such an exciting time!”

IVF family

IVF family

For Jade, and her wife, Charlotte, that positive test was the result of months of wishing and waiting, and thousands of pounds.

The couple, who married in Las Vegas two years ago this month, had approached CARE Sheffield fertility clinic in January 2016, eager to investigate the possibility of starting a family together.

“We’ve been together seven years, after meeting through mutual friends,” says Jade, aged 28.

“Like most couples, we’d talked about children and knew we’d love to have a family, so shortly after we were married, in the summer of 2015, we started doing a little research. We found out that CARE Sheffield had a really good success rate, so we made an appointment.

IVF

IVF

“The staff were so helpful from the very beginning. They took the time to talk over every option with us, answered all our questions and gave us all the information we needed. In the end, we decided to go for it.”

The couple, who live in Dewsbury, decided that they would use Charlotte’s egg, fertilised using donor sperm, and that Jade would be implanted with the embryos.

“We looked at all the different options, and this felt like the right choice for us,” says Jade.

“As the baby would be Charlotte’s biological child, we chose a sperm donor with physical qualities similar to me - so blue/green eyes and brown hair.

IVF family

IVF family

“We had to wait a few weeks to see how many sperm donors matched what we were looking for, and in the end there was just the one that matched, so it felt like it was meant to be right from the beginning.

“The process was a little stressful at times, with the hormone changes. I think it’s a difficult process for anyone. I started with injections the day after our first wedding anniversary, and Charlotte started hers just after.”

A spokesman for CARE Sheffield explains: “During the IVF process, the woman’s natural menstrual cycle is suppressed with medication. We need the ovaries to produce more than the usual one egg, so injections are given to increase the number of eggs. Patients are monitored closely with ultrasound and blood tests to check the development of the eggs and to help them mature.

“When the time is right, the eggs are collected with a simple internal procedure. The eggs are then mixed with partner’s or donor sperm in the lab so that fertilisation can take place.

“When the embryos have reached the optimal stage, they are placed in the womb. A pregnancy test is taken around 16 days later.

“The procedure is the same for same-sex couples, but using donor sperm. At CARE, we believe that family is for everyone and we have a long history of supporting gay and lesbian couples in creating families and making dreams come true.

“Same-sex couples can use CARE’s sperm bank or purchase sperm from a number of specialist providers. All sperm donors are rigorously health and infection screened and the number of families they can help is limited to ten.

“We also have an arrangement whereby same sex couples can donate eggs to each other in a shared motherhood arrangement. They may also want to egg-share with another woman in order to reduce the costs of IVF.”

Jade continues: “We’re lucky that we had a few friends who’d been through IVF, so we had some idea of what to expect.

“We were told from the beginning that we had about just a 30 per cent chance of it working the first time.”

But work it did. Jude Akroyd-Baillie was born on June 7 2017.

“It’s been the most wonderful time,” Jade says.

“I had a really good pregnancy and worked right up until my 37th week. I was diagnosed with high blood pressure on the first day of my maternity leave, and was induced at 39 weeks.

“Jude is just perfect. The three of us are settling into family life wonderfully, I’d highly recommend it,” she adds with a grin.

“He’s just turned eight weeks and he changes every day; I can’t believe how much he’s changed already.

“Even though biologically, he’s Charlotte’s son, I still look at him and see my boy. I already can’t imagine life without him.

“He has beautiful eyes, that are still blue at the minute, and his hair was quite dark to begin with, but it’s getting a little blonder now as the weeks pass.”

In the UK, 240,724 babies were born as a result of IVF treatment between 1991 and 2013. For an increasing number of couples in the UK, assisted conception might be their only remaining chance of having a baby. In the UK over 85 per cent of healthy women will get pregnant naturally within a year of trying for a baby, and this number increases to 92 per cent within two years. However, women aged over 35 are more likely to have fertility problems and it may take up to three years for them to get pregnant. By the age of 38, only 77 per cent of women get pregnant within three years.

Official figures have shown that record numbers of lesbian couples are now becoming parents through fertility treatment and - in fact - the number of two-mum families jumped by more than a third in 2012, according to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority.

Women in same sex relationships conducted 766 cycles of IVF in 2012, up 36 per cent on 2011. Similarly, the number of lesbian couples using artificial insemination to conceive was up 20 per cent on 2011, with 1,271 cycles recorded.

In the UK, three-quarters of IVF treatment is paid for privately. The average success rate for IVF treatment using ‘fresh eggs’ in the UK, based on the most recent stats collected, offers just over 28 per cent chance for women under 35, with a decreasing success rate to just over 10 per cent for women aged 40 to 42.

Paula Smith, nurse manager at CARE Sheffield, said: “We are treating a significantly higher number of same-sex patients at CARE – I see couples every day in my clinic. We think this is due to greater awareness, openness, and more acceptance of LGBT parenting.

“Our patients choose to come to a licensed clinic where there is safety and regulation of treatment and donors. We offer specialist counselling and advice at every step and our success with this group of patients is well known.

“We have lots of happy same-sex families made in CARE Sheffield.”

And now there is one more to add to the list - and Jade and Charlotte may not be done yet.

“We do have two more frozen embryos, so there’s some potential for brothers and sisters for Jude,” says Jade.

“For now, we’re just enjoying every moment of our new family life, and Charlotte and I are settling into motherhood, so we’ll wait and see what the future holds, but we have both said that we’d love more children.

“We honestly can’t thank CARE enough for what they’ve done for us. They took great care of us both and we can’t recommend their service highly enough.”

CARE’s medical director, Dr Adel Shaker, adds: “We are so happy for this family.

“This is a very touching way to embark on motherhood using IVF and we wish Jade, Charlotte and Jude all the very best for the future.”

Visit www.carefertility.com for more details, or call 0114 2589716. The clinic hosts regular, free to attend patient information events, and also offers free, information one-to-one consultations.