Category Archives: Over 50’s

Dressing for the final trimester

Final trimester

So now we’re into autumn and winter, By now, I need more maternity clothes but at least I’m only buying for one season. I invested in some maternity jeans. I did find the younger brands…Topshop, H&M just a bit too skinny for my older body. I tried on jeans from Mamas and Papas and Next but it was M&S that worked for me. Straight leg & a mid blue. Super comfy over my growing bump. And the overbump style added an extra layer of warmth. I found H&M were great for long sleeved vests and jumpers. I also already owned a couple of long sleeved tops that were cut loose enough to fit. My Ugg Chelsea boots had a lovely cushioned sole so helped me carry the extra weight.

Seven months pregnant:

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Eight months pregnant:

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At almost full term friends had an informal Christmas gathering:

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And finally, heading into hospital for my section in a standard Phase Eight top in a loosely gathered style and my Barbour jacket with a scarf to help cover the gap for my bump. Luckily, we had a mild winter & I didn’t get too big so no need for a maternity coat.

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Maternity wear – first trimester

I didn’t know where to start when dressing my growing bump. I was really conscious of being around 20 years older than the average pregnant Mum so I was hardly the average customer for maternity clothes. I also didn’t want to spend a fortune on clothes that wouldn’t have a long lifespan. I considered buying from Ebay but decided against in the end. I figured most women would buy as few clothes as possible and wear them to death. So here’s how I managed in the end.

Early Days – first trimester

I didn’t have a lot of confidence in my pregnancy in the early days so didn’t really want to shout from the rooftops and we told very few people. My early weeks were in the summer so I decided to just buy some loose tops and trousers that I would be able to wear the following summer as well. I also found some of my existing vest tops were very stretchy. So no maternity wear at this stage.

Two months pregnant:

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Three months pregnant:

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Loose jackets and long cardi’s were also very useful and I wore flats throughout.

 

Exercise classes: aqua natal vs yoga

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Prior to being pregnant, I was taking a weekly yoga class which I loved. I kept going for the first 6 weeks of pregnancy but then did some research and realised I should stop. Most yoga teachers advise no yoga for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and thereafter no lying on your stomach, flat on your back or strong twists. My existing class would need too many adaptations so I began looking for a local pregnancy yoga class. I did loads of online research and made a few phone calls but couldn’t find any classes at all locally for pregnant women. Big disappointment.

In the original maternity information pack there was a scrappy photocopied leaflet advertising the local council’s aqua natal class which you could join after your 12 week scan. I wasn’t sure aqua natal was for me.  I did yet more research on ANY exercise classes for pregnant women and discovered that the one hour aqua natal class on a Wednesday evening was the sum total of the local offer. So much for encouraging pregnant women to keep active!

I don’t know how you feel about aqua natal but I was very unsure, it just felt a bit dated and only offers the benefits of exercise.  Given that lots of people don’t enjoy swimming and lots of women, pregnant or otherwise, feel self-conscious in swimming costumes, then it feels even more inappropriate as the one and only activity offered by my local authority and NHS. Pregnancy yoga on the other hand includes breathing, exercise and relaxation. It teaches positions to help with pregnancy side effects such as bad backs and swollen joints, it helps get the baby in the right position for labour and you learn breathing techniques to assist with both relaxation and during labour. I started by doing quite a few YouTube pregnancy yoga tutorials but ended up buying this Tara Lee dvd which I love doing and, as an added bonus, also includes a section on hypnobirthing. Much as though I really wanted to meet other pregnant women, I felt that practising yoga by myself was the only viable option. Such a shame when there is so much emphasis on keeping fit and healthy and, for us over 50’s, that feels even more important.

On the plus side, I’m really enjoying an active pregnancy and the yoga dvd, along with some walking, gardening and housework has definitely helped me maintain a level of fitness that I’m happy with and, so far (touch wood!), I’ve had a complications-free pregnancy.

 

 

 

 

 

OMG, I’m pregnant, I think?

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You would think getting a positive pregnancy test would be all you need to believe you’re pregnant but that’s not my experience.

I found it took a long time for the news to sink and then I started to question if this pregnancy was real.

One of the downsides to online forums is you hear about “chemical pregnancies” which were news to me. And they’re scary. Chemical pregnancies are an early miscarriage and take place before anything can seen on an ultrasound scan – so before 6 or 7 weeks. The cruel thing is, you have produced enough of the HCG hormone to give you a positive test but the pregnancy fails almost immediately. Within a few days HCG levels have dropped sufficiently that you no longer get a positive test. Chemical pregnancies are more prevalent among women who have been through IVF as we test early. Most women who conceive without assistance don’t realise they are pregnant until they miss a period and, at that stage, you are much less likely to have a chemical pregnancy. The problem is exacerbated by the current home pregnancy tests with their ability to detect a pregnancy early on. Knowledge of chemical pregnancies puts a new slant on your positive pregnancy test – will this embryo stay with me?

The thought of a chemical pregnancy was exacerbated in my case by my continued lack of symptoms. Some women start to feel nauseous (or may even vomit), need to wee more often and/or feel unusually tired early on in their pregnancy and these are reassuring signs. But I continued to be free of symptoms. How do you know you’re pregnant when you don’t feel any different?

So I did what I suspect most women do…..kept testing. I went and bought another twin pack of tests and re-tested a few days apart. Thankfully, as you can see, the second line on the test kept getting darker and darker as my HCG levels began to rise. I was slowly starting to believe I may be pregnant but, even then, at the back of my mind, I was still dreading a miscarriage.

I did start the ball rolling, though, and made that first appointment with the midwife at the GP surgery which was one of the most surreal phone calls I’ve ever made. I never ever thought I’d be going to see a midwife and I was worried about the reaction I might get. At this point I was just about still 49yrs old but my 50th was looming. How would NHS employees react to my age?

When should you do a home pregnancy test? My experiences….

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While running the gauntlet of the Two Week Wait, you’ll need to decide whether to test before the official test date (OTD) given to you by your clinic, or not, & it’s a toughie. Of course, if you’re pregnant you want to know asap but are you ready to handle yet another negative pregnancy test? And, if it’s a no, is it a real no, or have you just tested too soon? Home pregnancy tests only work when there is enough of the pregnancy hormone HCG in your urine and, if your embryo was a late implanter, then you may take a little longer than the next woman to reach the required level so testing early may give you a false negative. But just remember if you test early “It Ain’t Over till OTD.”

In my case, I had a blastocyst (usually a 5 day old embryo that has developed normally) transferred and was asked to test 12 days after transfer. The online forums may refer to this as 12dp5dt (12 days past a 5 day transfer). I made a mistake and tested impulsively 10dp5dt and got a negative but I had multiplied the mistake by testing in the afternoon and using a poor quality test. I also had a full bladder so, if there were any hormones in there, they were no doubt well diluted! As I had a complex transfer and no definite symptoms during the two week wait then the result was no surprise to me. I was convinced it hadn’t worked anyway. So I decided to wait a couple of days until my OTD to confirm it hadn’t worked and focussed instead on the two frozen embryos I had waiting for me.

My OTD was a Sunday morning. I woke up quite early and snuck off to the bathroom. I’d bought a supermarket own brand test as I figured all I was doing was confirming a negative. I honestly could not believe my eyes when the second line started appearing almost immediately and it was a definite strong line – take a look at the picture! After staring at it for a few seconds and looking at the instructions again to check the result actually meant positive, I wandered in to a drowsy Mike and mumbled “I think it might have worked”. He, of course, had no idea what I was going on about. I managed to burble out enough sense to get him to come into the bathroom to check the test himself. A definite positive result.

I suspect all couples act differently when faced with a positive pregnancy test. Mike and I reacted with utter shock, no tears, no elation, no jumping up and down, just pure shock. I think we had each convinced ourselves we couldn’t be so lucky for this to work first time and my lack of symptoms had reinforced our belief. We just hugged, stared at each other, stared at the test again and honestly the fact that I was pregnant just would not sink in. I spent the morning going back and looking at the test every 10 minutes or so. But it would not sink in.

But I was, I really was pregnant. OMG…….I am going to have my first child at 50yrs…..

How to choose an IVF clinic – part III

 

Donors

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Let’s face it, if you’re having a baby in your 50’s then you’ll be using an egg donor at the very least, you may also need sperm or embryo donation. So before you choose your clinic you need a do a bit of research on how they find their donors, how old they are and the tests the clinic asks them to complete.  Age is particularly important for the egg donor as it’s maternal age that is the main risk factor for Down’s Syndrome so the younger the better. UK guidelines say all egg donors should be aged 35yrs or younger. Overseas clinics will vary and some have lower age restrictions. Although the UK has many generous women who are altruistic donors (they can only claim up to £750 in expenses), a growing number of egg donors are women undergoing fertility treatment themselves. These may decide to share their eggs with another woman to offset the costs of their own treatment. Women overseas are more likely to be paid for their egg donation, although some countries limit the amount. Although I can’t find any research to back this up, my feeling is that egg donors overseas tend to be younger than those in the UK as they are less likely to be donating eggs to offset the cost of their treatment. This was one of the reasons I went overseas and my donor was 23yrs old. The other advantage, of course, is that with an exclusive donor, you should get more eggs.

Confidentiality

In the UK, all donors are placed on a register managed by HFEA and must agree that identifiable information will be available to any children once they reach 18yrs. I couldn’t find any other country that offers this so if you go overseas the donor will remain anonymous. This is a key reason some people choose to go overseas. You may wish to keep the fact you used a  donor secret and perhaps you would prefer for your child to have no way of contacting their donor. Personally, I preferred the UK option and this was the only reason I seriously considered the UK for my treatment. In the end, however, knowing I would probably need three rounds of treatment and the higher cost and lower success rate in the UK compared with overseas meant I reluctantly decided that overseas was a better option for me. Perhaps European legislation will change in the future and my child may have access to their donor if they wish.

For me, making this decision was the hardest of all and I agonised over it for some time.

Guarantee

Some clinics offer guarantees around treatment which I felt showed confidence in their abilities and some degree of peace of mind for me. But, as always, the guarantees differ so look around. My clinic, for example, guaranteed two embryos of the highest quality available on the day of embryo transfer for people using donor eggs. But another clinic I looked at guarantees a minimum of four eggs from the donor. Well, there’s a big difference from four eggs (do they guarantee maturity?) and two embryos. And there may be other guarantees depending on the treatment you choose, for example, reductions off the third cycle or the third cycle free of charge. The guarantees can be very important. Someone going through treatment at the same time as me received no eggs from her donor so was not charged at all for the treatment. Check out that small print!

 Online Reviews

I used online forums extensively when looking for a clinic. I felt the best source of information was the fertility friends forum, although as I started to narrow down my list of clinics I Googled each of them to see what other women were saying.  Fertility Friends is a UK based forum with members from all over the world. The forum has a thread specifically for women over 50yrs as well as boards for most of the well used clinics in the UK and overseas. There’s tons of information on there and I found this the best source of information on recent treatment successes. Yes, it’s purely anecdotal but it’s up-to-date and I found it the best place to get specific questions answered and get a real feel for what the clinic is like. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Gut Instinct

I started out trying not to let anything other than logic and the results of my research influence my choice of clinic but, after reading other women’s opinions, I came to the conclusion that you must let your instincts lead the way and you will eventually find yourself drawn to a clinic which will be right for you. Perhaps there really is something in female intuition after all so we might as well use it!

 

How to choose an IVF clinic – part 1

When I first decided to have IVF, I had absolutely no idea where to start. I realised there are literally hundreds of clinics all over the world who offer treatment. How was I ever going to choose a clinic?

Age

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As I was rapidly approaching 50 I knew I was also likely to be rapidly running out of options. I knew from my research into women giving birth in their 50’s, that overseas was a possibility but was the UK? Turns out the UK is an option up to the age of 55 but only a few clinics (for example GCRM in Glasgow and the London Women’s Clinic) will treat anyone over the age of 50.

I also knew from online forums that some EU countries were popular but, surprisingly, some are stricter about age than the UK. To my knowledge popular IVF destinations such as Spain and Czech Republic will only treat women before their 50th birthday. Greece will treat you up to your 51st birthday. After the age of 51, most UK based women go to one of the clinics in Cyprus who don’t seem to have a formal cut-off. India and Russia are also popular amongst older women.

Cost

This is real biggie. Thankfully I read some advice early on that most people need 3 cycles of treatment to be successful and I compared prices on this basis. Perhaps the easiest way to compare costs is to factor in initial consultations, the treatment itself, travel and accommodation and ignore medication costs, scans and blood tests. These can vary so much person to person, cycle to cycle and you can look for suppliers other than your main clinic.

A lot of clinics have price lists on their websites but I also emailed a couple for quotes. Also a good opportunity to see how long it takes for them to get back to you.

I did have to work quite hard to ensure I was comparing like with like with treatments. For example some clinics automatically included ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), for others it was an additional cost.

In my case, I worked out that the cost of a donor egg cycle would be in the region of £8000 in this country but overseas I could get the same treatment for around £5000. Do shop around, a clinic I contacted in Spain was surprisingly around the same cost as the UK. When you’re budgeting for three cycles, that price gap became increasingly prohibitive for me.

Not surprisingly, Professor Robert Winston has spoken repeatedly about the inflated costs of IVF in the UK and I found it hard to shake the idea that I was being ripped off compared to going overseas.

Range of Treatments

Clinics vary in the range of treatments they offer. I had to do quite a lot of reading around some of these – ICSI, assisted hatching, embryo glue, embryoscope, 3 or 5 day (ie blastocyst) transfer, endometrial scratching – to try and work out which, if any, may be important to me. I ended up prioritising ICSI and blastocyst transfer as I thought these were the most likely to lead me to success.

 

 

Should you have a baby in your 50’s?

You probably desperately want a baby, you may even have been trying for years with a trail of failed IVF cycles behind you, perhaps you already have children but long to nurse another baby, maybe you have a younger partner who would like children of their own or a new partner and you want to have a child together. Whatever has brought you here, the hardest question to answer is should you have a baby in your fifties?

If you read some of the UK newspapers, the answer is a very definite no. I’ve read scary stories about older women being more likely to have miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies while children are more likely to be born with genetic abnormalities.

An article on Wikipedia talks about increased risks of gestational diabetes, hypertension, delivery by caesarean section, miscarriage, pre-eclampsia and placenta previa. “In comparison to mothers between 20 and 29 years of age, mothers over 50 are at almost three times the risk of low birth weight, premature birth and extremely premature birth; their risk of extremely low birth weight, small size for gestational age and foetal mortality was almost double.”

Scary stuff.

Then there are those who think it is fundamentally wrong for an older woman to have a baby, those who talk about the baby orphaned at an early age, people who tell you emphatically you will be too tired, people who are genuinely worried for your health, people who think you are being selfish.

Phew….seems to be every reason NOT to try for a baby in our fifties.

When I was trying to answer this question myself, I was frustrated by the sheer lack of any real evidence. Do a bit of digging and the Wikipedia article is based on ONE research study which took place in 1997-1999. Seriously? How is that relevant? Other articles don’t name their sources. And does any of the evidence take into account own egg versus donor egg? And what about pre-existing conditions, obesity? diabetes? hypertension? Is age per se really the problem?

Then I came across this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2096285/Pregnancy-IVF-patients-age-50-carries-risk-women-42.html

Very reassuring to find more recent research says as long as we look after ourselves then we should be just fine.

So, overall, I could find no strong scientific reason why I shouldn’t go ahead. So what about the moral reasons?

What about the people who don’t agree with women having children later in life? Well, to put it bluntly, my life and my decisions (in conjunction with my husband of course) are none of their business. And if it’s not OK to have a child in your fifties then how is it OK that tens of thousands of grandparents are permanent guardians for their grandchildren? And even more provide full-time childcare? And many of these are way older than their 50’s but manage perfectly well. The fact is we are aging differently. At one time it was common for a women to have her last child in her forties when she was only expected to live into her 50’s. Nowadays we can reasonably expect to live to 80yrs, and be healthy at that age.

To those who are adamant the child will be orphaned? Well, how does anyone know they will be there to see their children grow up? We all know young Mums who have died of breast cancer leaving behind a young family. Unfortunately it happens. I can’t live my life imagining all the possible things that might go wrong. They might not.

Will I be too tired? Probably, but what Mum isn’t? And surely being a great Mum is much more than being able to chase your child around the local park for a couple of hours? (which, incidentally, I’m more than capable of doing). Above all, a child needs love and I have LOADS of that to give.

Am I worried about my health? Well of course I thought about it but I have regular check-ups at my local GP and (touch wood) have always come out with nothing to worry about. I don’t take any regular medication, I’m not overweight, I don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol or diabetes. I’m certainly no gym bunny but I’m not unfit either. My GP said there was no real reason why I shouldn’t have a healthy pregnancy.

Am I being selfish? Why is it any more selfish to have a baby in your fifties than at any other age? Is it selfish to want to bring a good citizen into this world? Someone who will hopefully contribute?

So, having mulled over all the arguments,  in the end I came to the conclusion that this is the right time for me. I will be a better Mum now then I could ever have been in my twenties or thirties. I’ve done my travelling, I’ve had my fun, I won’t resent not being able to go partying. I’m finally with the right man, we have savings that will enable me to be a full time Mum for a while, we have support from family and friends.

Is it a risk? Isn’t having a baby always a risk? But is life worth living if we don’t take the occasional risk?