After the phone call with Jessop’s to discuss our second failed IVF round, I felt miserable about IVF ever working. The doctor put the blame pretty much on the male factor side of things (no surprise there). I started wondering if it would ever work and began to consider for the first time donor sperm.
Going down the donor route?
I spoke to my mom about how – if we went down the donor route – I would do it in Europe. That’s because the rules (unlike in the UK) are that sperm donors’ personal information is kept anonymous. Therefore no child born as a result of donor sperm would be able to trace the biological father. This sounded like the most sensible plan to me. I’d hate my kid going off in search of some random man to start a relationship.
My mom said: ‘But don’t you think children have a right to know who their parents are?’ to which I replied, quickly: ‘No.’ But then I thought about it, tried to put myself in our unborn child’s shoes, and realised what a massive ethical dilemma that was. There could be a massive void in their life, not knowing their full history. You’d always wonder, wouldn’t you? Never having the option to discover what some might say is a basic human right: who you are and where you came from.
Finding a solution
This conversation moved me away from thinking about donor sperm, and towards trying to find out how likely IVF would be to work for us if we kept on going the way we were. Away from me being selfish about not wanting my fertility to keep diminishing and the hopes of having my own baby dying, towards finding a solution that would work for both me and my husband.
I’d heard about sperm DNA fragmentation tests on different IVF forums, and how the higher the damage, the less successful IVF can be. It’s the level of damage that can make the difference between eggs fertilising and turning into healthy blastocysts to failing to develop beyond day three.
More investment, more money
Convincing my husband to part with yet more money on the IVF front was a bit of a challenge, but I managed to. I bought the test online through a company called Examen for £250, which was the cheapest option I could find. (There are several different types of test, but this was the one that seemed the most advanced.) My husband did his sample, we dropped it off at the nearest ‘hub’, and waited 10 days for the results.
But when the email came, the results were incomprehensible. We received a graph – my husband’s results – next to a ‘normal’ person’s. His were deemed ‘abnormal’ with a COMET score of 33%, and 43% DNA damage. Whether that was good or bad, we had no idea. There was a hyperlink to some generic information about what results meant, but this didn’t help one bit. I mean, I guess ‘abnormal’ is bad, but how bad?
I contacted the hub that we had dropped the sample off at. They said if we wanted help interpreting the results, it’d cost us another £75. I was absolutely furious. I emailed them to say that we had already spent £250, received results that we could do nothing with, and they were basically forcing us to pay an additional fee for interpreting results. What a bloody racket IVF is.
They replied back sympathetically, and arranged a complementary conference call with us both. The woman we spoke with said she completely understood our situation and they’d now cut all ties with Examen because they were leaving people like us in limbo. The hub were simply a third party to Examen, but they were being left with a load of confused and upset people like us, which they’d had enough of. Good, I said.
Referral to Jonathan Ramsay
She wouldn’t give us a detailed analysis of the results, however. She said whenever DNA fragmentation was over a certain level, the clinic referred people to a specialist. Their recommendation was that we see Dr Jonathan Ramsay. Now, if you’re a fan of the IVF forums and have male factor issues, you’ll have probably heard of him. He’s a superstar urologist in the UK, and one of the world leading consultants in his field. I’d wanted to see him about our situation before, actually, but it was just another cost to consider. However, here we were, being told my a clinic we should see this guy.
I just thought: we’re already knee-deep in this, having spent thousands upon thousands of pounds on two failed IVF rounds. We can’t just keep on and on, blindly. We should see this guy. If he looks at the DNA fragmentation results and says we’ve got very little chance of IVF working next time, then so be it. At least we’ll know and we can plan another route of attack.
So that’s what we did. I booked an appointment for the following Saturday. See what happened next.