After three years of trying, Shawna, at 40, delivered a healthy baby via C-section in the summer of 2010. “I call Alexandra Elizabeth my fighter. You can see it in her personality. She fought to get here.” According to Dr. Vaughn, there is a steep decline in fertility after age 35. The chance of conceiving for a fertile couple in which the woman is older than 35 years of age is 20 percent per month. That chance drops to 5 to 10 percent by the time she reaches 40.
ICSI: SWIMMING UPSTREAM
Unlike the Watleys, the Browns had youth on their side. Judith and Jason were married in 2002 when she was 25 and he was 24. After a year they started trying to conceive. However, Jason had been diagnosed with severe male factor infertility when he was 21 years old. “I have an extremely low sperm count,” says Jason. “Where some men may produce millions of sperm per ejaculation, I only made 25 to 40. There is no issue with mobility or morphology, meaning they move fine and are not defective; there just aren’t nearly
enough to make it to the egg and [fertilize it].”
“They stopped me mid-cycle, after two weeks,” she says, tearing up at the memory. “The doctor decided that I wasn’t [producing enough eggs] and didn’t think it would be wise to continue this particular cycle. I was devastated.” The side effects of fertility shots, their desire to fully understand the medical process, and the financial component (IVF was $12,000 per cycle) taxed the Watleys considerably.
Nevertheless, two weeks later, the doctor and Matthew persuaded Shawna to begin the IVF process a second time. This time it looked good. Shawna had produced fi ve viable eggs to be harvested and combined with Matthew’s sperm in the lab. Once formed, three of the embryos were placed in Shawna’s uterus. This resulted in a single implantation. “My emotions didn’t really show until we were informed that we were pregnant,” says Matthew. “I was more even-keeled to provide support for Shawna, this process certainly brought us closer as we learned to face our trials and triumphs together.”
“Jason never hid from me that he had been told he would be unable to have children,” says Judith. “It didn’t really register with me what this meant until we started this process. I guess I assumed we would have our ‘miracle’ child and prove the doctors wrong.”
In 2004, Judith’s ob-gyn first recommended that they consult a physician at the Texas Fertility Center. “We had been trying for about a year, using ovulation kits,” says Jason, a chemical synthesis specialist. “That was not fun. We had to ‘build up’ my sperm count by abstaining, and then try to reproduce only during the times Judith was ovulating. Nothing sexy about that.”
Their first fertility appointment wasn’t sexy either. “Our doctor reviewed my reports from the urologist and told us that IVF with intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) was our only option for a child who we would both parent,” says Jason. ICSI refers to a procedure of injecting sperm directly into each egg. It is used with in vitro fertilization in situations where the sperm is not adequate to penetrate the egg on its own in a petri dish.