‘I had a baby at 48 by egg donation abroad and it was the best decision I ever made’ – iNews

Having a baby by egg donation was not something Laura Biggs ever imagined she would do. She had married in 2000 at the age of 29 to Phil, 34, and a couple of years later, they decided to try for a baby. Nothing happened. There werent communities or any kind of access to information back then, she says. All I had was my friends who were falling pregnant while I wasnt.

After two years of not conceiving, Laura, who was working in the events industry, went to the doctor. She was diagnosed with severe endometriosis. At that time, Laura had never heard of the condition, which affects one in 10 women, and results in tissue similar to the lining of the womb growing elsewhere inside the body often around the reproductive organs. Heavy periods, debilitating pain and infertility are some symptoms of the gynaecological affliction, which takes an average of eight years to be diagnosed, according to the charity Endometriosis UK.

Laura had a laparoscopy a surgery via the abdomen to take the unwanted lining away. After two months, at the age of 35, she conceived, and their son, William, was born in 2005. It felt incredible, says Laura. When William was two, Laura decided she would like another baby, and she and Phil began trying but again, nothing happened. After a while I had another laparoscopy but this time I didnt get pregnant. I kept trying, it didnt work, and a year later I went for another laparoscopy, because the endometriosis had come back.

Laura was approaching 40 and decided she would like to try IVF. Everything looked like it was going swimmingly with the first round, says Laura. I was convinced it would work, and when it didnt I was utterly, utterly devastated.

When a second round of IVF also failed, Laura, then almost 42, decided to take a complete break not just from IVF but from discussing a second baby at all. A year later, Laura decided to go to another clinic to give her desire for another child one final chance.

My husband and I had a very long consultation and at the end, the doctor said, Youre 43, approaching 44, your chances at your age are about 5 per cent. If Id done everything hed suggested, the cost would have been well in excess of 20,000. I remember vividly walking out with my husband and saying, What else would you spend nearly 30,000 on for 5 per cent chance of success?. Phil and I decided to draw a line under it.

Around this time, Lauras professional life began to align eerily closely with her personal one. Her events business partner approached her and told her The Fertility Show was up for sale a huge live event where ticket-holders meet with fertility experts, clinics and doctors. I felt that I could add something to that, as I had personal experience, and its something Im very passionate about. So we ended up running The Fertility Show.

It wasnt always emotionally simple for Laura. It can be a very overwhelming experience. You go there and you are faced with lots of people who are a similar age to you, who are walking around with sadness because ultimately the most natural thing in the world, to recreate, we cant do. It was hard.

While working at the Fertility Show, Laura learnt more about egg donation something she had assumed wouldnt be right for her. However, it began to seem, at the age of 46, it was worth investigating. My desire for a child never went away. I was still hoping that a miracle would happen naturally, which of course it didnt. So I went to the seminars to find out a lot more about egg donation.

Egg donation would allow Laura to use someone elses eggs, because even though she was producing eggs, they werent of the quality needed to have a baby. The egg would have the donors DNA, and would be fertilised with Lauras husbands sperm. The embryo would then be transferred to her uterus using IVF in the hopes that it would implant. If it worked, she would carry a pregnancy just as she did with William.

The average cost of an egg-donation IVF cycle in the UK is 9,000. We had to think about whether, at our stage of life, with our 13-year-old son, it was the best idea. But I said if it didnt work this time, then Id be able to stop, knowing Id thrown everything at it. They didnt tell anyone their plan. I didnt really want people to give their opinion or try to dissuade us, says Laura. I remember being on a friends 50th birthday weekend and the conversation of grandchildren came up I was thinking, Oh my goodness, theyre talking about grandchildren and Im about to start fertility treatment. It felt like a weird place to be.

The treatment, thankfully, was a success, and at 48, Laura had her daughter, Isabella, now three. At 51, Laura is now mum to both a toddler and a teenager. So we have a different family, she says. But Im so pleased that we did it. I want other women to know that when youre older, the likelihood of falling pregnant naturally is very slim, but there are other routes to consider.

There has been a big increase in demand for donor eggs in recent years. Annually, donor eggs are used in more than 56,000 cycles of fertility treatment across Europe, representing 6 per cent of all treatment cycles.

The law in the UK allows centres to pay egg donors up to 750 per cycle of egg donation to cover reasonable expenses, but to pay for the egg donation itself is illegal. Laura chose to have eggs donated in Spain, which is a popular place for this area of reproductive medicine. Recent data from the Spanish Fertility Society has shown that egg donation represents approximately a third of all IVF cycles performed in Spain, and around 50 per cent of all European donation happens there. Women in Spain are paid around 1,000 (840) per donor cycle, which helps supplement generally lower wages, and means there are shorter waiting times than in the UK.

I am so grateful for the ladies out there who donate their eggs, which is no small feat, says Laura. The process of donating eggs is just like the early stages of IVF medication, hormone injections, then sedation or general anaesthetic while the eggs are extracted.

Yet, as well as the larger numbers of eggs abroad, perhaps the most attractive aspect of going to Spain for Laura was that, there, donors remain anonymous, so neither you nor your child can ever make contact. We got very top-line information; age, that they havent had any significant health factors. You get an idea of hair colour, eye colour and height but nothing that would ever allow you to identify them.

In the UK, the law was the same, but in 2005 it changed to allow donor-conceived children the legal right to know who their donor is once they turn 18. At the time, having that anonymity for life was important to me, says Laura. But after that I questioned whether I made the right decision, in case later in life Isabella did want to find out more about her biological roots.

Older parenthood has been a big topic of discussion recently, with a spate of celebrity women in the press, including Naomi Campbell, announcing they have become mothers in their late forties and into their fifties. While they may have had their babies by various means, some of them may well have used egg donations. Does Laura think it might be helpful if ordinary women struggling with fertility knew that these celebrities were having eggs donated from younger women?

Im very open about it for the purpose of letting people know that egg donation is probably the way most older women get pregnant, says Laura. Essentially, even though we look young on the outside, we are approaching midlife and the inside, biologically, is ageing. But I understand that if you are famous and you tell people about your egg donation, then your child will be very much in the public eye. Isabella may one day not thank me for being so open, but I hope she will understand that she was the best decision we could have made, and that she is an absolute gift.

The Fertility Show will take place at Olympia London from 7-8 May (fertilityshow.co.uk)

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'I had a baby at 48 by egg donation abroad and it was the best decision I ever made' - iNews

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