For the first time, EMD offered an experts' chat in Germany for couples who want to have children
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The desire for children can become a painful problem: Every year thousands of couples turn to physicians for help with their efforts to become parents. An experts’ chat organized by EMD Serono in Germany took on this issue, which is burdened with taboos and prejudices. Because this event met with a great deal of interest, the next chat on this topic will be offered in November.
Frederike and Jan Ahrend required five tries, Anna and Bastian Schütt needed only two. Flora Albarelli clung to her hopes throughout a total of 13 attempts. She listened carefully to her body for signs that something was there. The first 12 times, her hopes were in vain, but eventually her senses told her that yes, something was there; that reassuring message was confirmed by a positive pregnancy test.
A few weeks later, it was clear that the pregnancy would continue. "I hadn’t set any time limit for myself," Flora Albarelli says. "I trusted myself to know when I had reached the end of my strength." Many couples break off their efforts after two or three unsuccessful rounds of artificial insemination, but Albarelli persisted, and her patience was ultimately rewarded: Her first child was born healthy in 2013.
Albarelli and her husband had discovered early on that their desire for children faced a number of natural obstacles: Blocked fallopian tubes and endometriosis meant that there were many reasons why she could not get pregnant. Thousands of childless couples in Germany alone are in a similar situation. On average, 1.5 million Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) cycles are carried out annually throughout the world (see the info box for further information). In Germany, approximately 10,000 children are born every year thanks to in vitro fertilization.
Flora Albarelli talked about the success of her own fertility treatment in an experts’ chat on the topic of "The Desire for Children" that was initiated by EMD Sereno Germany. The two-hour chat, which was attended by about 100 registered participants, focused on Albarelli’s personal experiences and on counseling by a fertilization specialist, a psychologist, and a specialist lawyer.
"From our talks with physicians, we know about the general public’s need for information," explains Brigitte Hanke, Head of Communications at EMD Serono Germany. "This topic is complex and carries a high emotional charge — and there’s also a lot of ignorance about it among the general public." As the world’s leading producer of drugs for fertility treatments, EMD Serono has its own website on the topic of the unfulfilled desire for children (www.fertilitylifelines.com).
It also publishes the related magazine Calimera twice a year. "Of course a couple’s first point of contact is their doctor," Hanke says. But good information and advice is also available in forums, magazines, and expert chats. Here couples can acquire further information that can dispel their fears.
Olaf Naether, a gynecologist who has specialized in in vitro fertilization for over 30 years, dispels a myth concerning childbearing age: "A woman in her late 30s is very lucky if she can become pregnant naturally. The fact that she’s still having her period doesn’t mean that her egg cells are still of the best quality. In reality, she has a five percent chance of getting pregnant." In his opinion, one of the biggest problems leading to an unfulfilled desire for children is that couples delay their family planning far too long. "Some couples only start acting on their desire for children when they are in their mid-30s, then try for two years and finally listen for two more years to people who advise them to simply relax and keep trying. These couples are wasting precious years."
Naether adds that such couples don’t come to doctors’ offices for treatment as early on as they actually should. "Starting with a woman’s 27th birthday, the percentage of miscarriages increases because the aging of her egg cells is accompanied by an increasing rate of chromosomal abnormalities," he explains. According to Brigitte Hanke, the increase in unintentional childlessness is also due to a number of social developments. "There are things like weight gain and smoking that have a negative influence on fertility. But the main factor is most couples’ wish to enjoy life, complete their education, and have a career before they think about starting a family. Or they simply haven’t found the right partner yet," she says.
Flora Albarelli had already done a number of things right. She had started her family planning when there was still enough time. Nonetheless, the initial attempts were unsuccessful. She coped with this phase by looking for an emotional outlet. After her first IVF in 2009, she started a blog called "Eiertanz" (a German phrase that means "treading carefully"), and in her book of the same name she tells of her hormone treatments, egg cell extractions, fertilization, cryoconservation (the freezing of fertilized egg cells that are still unused), and thawed "flowerets," her term for embryos that are only a few days old.
"Over time, I’ve also started to feel it’s important to give people a more realistic image of in vitro fertilization," she says. She adds that this procedure is not just for the career woman who can’t have children — it might become an issue for every woman or every man. In vitro fertilization is becoming increasingly popular. The micro-site for the experts’ chat has been visited more than 4,000 times, and 100 interested visitors participated in the chat. This success encouraged the chat’s initiators from EMD Serono to promptly set the date for a new chat.
On November 12, four physicians will be answering visitors’ questions at www.expertenchat-fertinet.de. But Flora Albarelli will not be participating this time, because her second child is due right about then — thanks once again to an IVF treatment. This time she became pregnant on the first try.
In vitro fertilization
In addition to intrauterine insemination, in which sperm is implanted into the uterus during the woman’s ovulation, in vitro fertilization (IVF) — fertilization outside the body — is the conventional form of artificial insemination. In this method, the activity of the ovaries is initially reduced. The ovaries are then subjected to hormonal stimulation in order to cause several egg cells to mature simultaneously. After this artificially stimulated ovulation, the egg cells are removed through the vagina.
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