Last year (2020) I decided to look into IVF, single and aged 45, I started by going to my doctor. She was SOOOOO excited about me telling her I wanted to have a baby it was quite hilarious (and lovely). She gave me a list of IVF fertility specialists that she recommended for the egg collection and suggested that I look into the clinics and doctors online to decide which one to go with, then make an appointment and she would do the referral.
TIP: Get a referral to a fertility specialist so that you can claim some back from Medicare
In the meantime, she sent me off to get all the blood tests I would need and my AMH test done – the level of AMH in your blood can help doctors estimate the number of follicles inside your ovaries, and therefore, your egg count. The AMH test is a paid test that costs $80 and is not covered by Medicare.
TIP: If you live in NSW you can apply for a one-off $500 rebate of pre-IVF fertility expenses which can include fertility specialist appointments and the AMH test.
When you go to your fertility specialist they will want to see the blood test and AMH test results, so getting them done earlier saves time. Often when you are doing IVF the clock is ticking so saving a few weeks here and there is good, plus seeing a fertility specialist is not cheap (think $250ish for the first appointment) and who likes to waste money?
Due to my age, many clinics won’t take on patients over a certain age (often 42), and many others will only let women access sperm donors on their books up until their 46th birthday, so I felt that time was ticking – my 46th birthday was in May and I saw the doctor in August the year before. I decided to go with a fertility specialist at IVF Australia, this was partly due to reviews I had read, partly due to when I could get an appointment, and partly due to the cost. At 45 unfortunately I didn’t qualify for any of the bulk-billed places.
At my first appointment the doctor went through my results and the chances of it actually working, with my age she said it was a 2% chance that I would get pregnant! Then talked through how it works, with most (if not all) of the IVF clinics you have to undergo two counselling sessions to in theory make sure that you know that you are making the right decision for you. The quickest she could do the egg harvesting was going to be November as I needed the two counselling sessions, had to get a preconception blood test that identifies any genetic abnormalities you have and finally I needed a sperm donor.
IVF Egg Collection Costs
It is not cheap, well I suppose it depends what you are comparing it to, but with egg harvesting, there are no guarantees the doctors don’t know how many eggs you are going to get, I was told about 2-5 eggs per ovary when I asked. I have put below the cost estimate for the treatment, this does not include medication or any appointments with the fertility specialist or the costs of certain tests……
I want to be completely transparent about my whole experience so I have shared the cost estimate I got from IVF Australia. I don’t have hospital cover on my health insurance. Therefore was also potentially up for the additional external costs, which I got sent an invoice for after the event. It turned out that I could actually claim some of the anesthetist costs back against Medicare… so keep all your receipts.
One thing the clinic did not make clear to me with this estimate was that the FULL amount so in my case $11,603 had to be paid upfront before the procedure, then you got reimbursed from Medicare, but it took the clinic a week to put that claim through for me, so you need to have quite a bit of cash on hand.
First up I had to get the preconception screening done, this blood test costs $750 and basically identifies if you have any genetic abnormalities, it is only used if you are using a sperm donor, they do the same test on the sperm donor. If both of you have say a gene abnormality for cystic fibrosis then they wouldn’t match you together as it would increase hte chance of cystic fibrosis. The test has to be sent away and results can take up to three weeks, so while I was waiting I had my first counselling session. Next was to get myself added to the IVF Australia sperm donor waitlist, this is another fee of $150…..
Because of covid all the counselling sessions were done via video calls, which in some ways is easier as I didn’t need to travel, but it is hard to build rapport with someone, especially when the session is only 30 minutes. Personally I found that they weren’t actually counselling sessions, but more information sessions – which I paid for. In the first session I even said something like I thought we were doing counselling…. I am pretty sure it is a government requirement to include counselling, and you have to have it with their counsellors, you can’t use an outside one. You do as part of the IVF get unlimited counselling, I am not 100% sure on how long this actually lasts for, as I only had the two mandatory sessions, as I am sure you have got the gist of now I wasn’t particularly impressed with the sessions. I did however have sessions with a private counsellor who suggested that I write lists…
– Pros and cons of having a baby
– Pros and cons of NOT having a baby
– Baby braindump of how my life would change and any other worries
I found these lists to be really useful, and I actually got some close friends with and without children involved to add to my lists.
TIP: Write your own lists as to why you want a baby and how you will manage things financially, emotionally and physically
Finally I had to start taking DHEA, CQ10, DHA and folic acid for the two months prior to my egg collection.
Choosing the Sperm
Choosing the sperm donor couldn’t be done until the results of my preconception screening came back, I didn’t have any really concerning gene mutations, but it was interesting. Then I got to log into a portal and there were 12 guys I could choose from. There are different rules on sperm donors in each state.
- VIC – a donor can donate to up to 10 different women
- SA – a donor can donate to up to 10 different women
- NSW – a donor can donate to up to 5 different women
- WA – a donor can donate to up to 5 different women
- QLD – there are no limits
The women a sperm donor can donate to includes their partner/spouse, so if they are married and have children they can only donate to four other women (if the limit is 5). Sperm donors are not anonymous if you are using them from a clinic, when the child is 18 they can find out who the sperm donor was from the donor registry. The challenge with clinic sperm donors is that they don’t have enough in Australia – you don’t get paid to donate eggs or sperm and can’t legally be paid other than expenses (getting the bus to the clinic etc.). It takes about six months from when a guy says they want to be a donor to when the sperm can actually be used due to testing requirements and also counselling. Hence, I was warned that getting a donor through the clinic might be difficult if I wanted a cauciasian guy because there is a low supply. One thing I was advised in the counselling was to use a sperm donor with the same skin colour as me, otherwise the child gets confused as they grow up.
Back to the list, the day I logged in there was ONE, yep 1 caucasian guy on the list, so I didn’t have a huge amount of choice, all the others were of chinese origin. So HPK-768 a 36 year old kiwi male was the lucky one! I got information about his age, height, weight, job, if he had other children, hair, skin and eye colour and a photo of him as a child. Once the donor is locked in the date can be set for the egg collection and it’s time to start taking the hard medication!
The clinic had an induction session for the IVF meds, I knew nothing about IVF meds before I went in apart from what I saw on the movies – I hadn’t bothered to find out as I thought well if I want it I will have to do it. Needless to say it was a bit of shock, having to inject myself twice a day with a proper suringe, not a funky epi pen type thing! I was given a lump of rubber to practice on at the clinic, as some of the meds had a clicker where you selected the right amount and others you had to literally draw up the right amount into the suringe.
It was horrible. I am not going to sugar coat it.
For me the needles hurt going in and afterwards, I had bruising and felt so bloated as if I had put on 5kgs (I weighted myself and I hadn’t!). I tried the icing the area before and after and nothing seemed to make a difference. Thinking back on it, I think that women who decide to donate their eggs should be paid, it is a horrible process, the drugs stay in your body for about 3 months afterwards and for me so did the bloating. Anyway… think of the end goal.
Before the egg collection day you have internal ultrasounds to see how your follicles are growing to determine when to have the egg collection day. The clinic also takes blood to see the level of the IVF drugs in your system, all to try and give you the best chance of the largest number of mature eggs, if you leave it to late the eggs have been released and to early they aren’t mature. My egg collection was on the Friday, but I went in on the Monday and Wednesday to get an ultrasound and bloods.
Egg Collection Day
It felt like ages from my first appointment at the doctors to egg collection day about 3 months later, but in actual fact it was very quick according to the clinic, as some women can wait months for a sperm donor. When you hear this kind of thing you think oooh that’s a good sign… but unfortunately things aren’t always that smooth.
On egg collection day I went to a private day hospital, they put you under anesthetic, it is a quick procedure, and they write on your hand how many eggs they collect so that when you wake up you can instantly see the results. I went on my own, I was dropped off by a friend and picked up by another – they won’t let you drive or leave on your own because of the anesthetic.
I woke up with 3 on my hand.
I was disappointed, I expected more, and knowing that not all three would even be able to be fertilised meant that the odds of getting to day 5 embryo after collection was slim. My fertility specialist spoke to me briefly afterwards to tell me that one of my ovaries was peri-menopausal which meant that it was no longer producing eggs, so the other ovary had produced 3. There were quite a few tears in the hospital for me that day, I was disappointed that my body hadn’t risen to the challenge and produced more eggs, I was annoyed that the clinic hadn’t realised in all the ultrasounds that one ovary wasn’t working. The challenge is that with IVF there are so many variables and the experts really don’t know how each individual will react to the meds, or how their body responds to baby making in general. It was then a waiting game.
My egg collection was over by about 11.30am on Friday and I had to wait until Saturday to find out how many mature eggs I had, and then another day to see if they fertilised. There were a lot of hoops for my eggies to jump through on the journey to an embryo.
Hoop 1: It is only mature eggs that can be fertilised, of my 3 only 1 was mature
Hoop 2: Usually not all the eggs that are mature fertilise propertly, but mine 1 did – yay
Hoop 3: At day 3 my eggy was a bit slow at dividing, but the clinic said lets see how it goes
Hoop 4: By day 4 the embryo needs to be 10-12 cells, mine was only 8 cells 🙁
Hoop 5: Day 6 is transfer day, I was called in the morning my eggy had stopping dividing at 8 cells, that’s it game over 🙁
It’s hard. I had a cheer squad for my eggy, but that didn’t help.
If you get multiple embryo’s making it to day 5 then usually you freeze some and had 1 or 2 transfered back into your uterus on day 6, then if that embryo doesn’t stick you have more in the freezer to try again with.
All that time, emotion, hope, pain, injections, waiting and money invested in an outcome, which for me just didn’t happen.
Do I Regret It?
It’s one of those things that if you never go you never know. I don’t regret doing the egg collection, but knowing what I know now I don’t know if I would have done it, just because the odds were so low for me with only one ovary in the game. The money, yes it’s a lot I don’t know how much probably around $9000 by the time I add in meds, fertility specialist appointments, counselling, hospital time etc. But the money is spent now, so I am not upset about that. I guess the hardest thing with IVF is that nothing is guaranteed, and you always think I could be in that 2% and yes I could have been, but unfortunately this time I wasn’t.