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Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2006, 12:24 GMT
Personal story: IVF in Barbados
By Helen Briggs
BBC News

Image: Barbados Fertility Centre
'It was quite strange but we tried to look at it as a holiday'
Janet (not her real name), from England, has been trying for a baby for seven years. At 47, she was told her only hope was private IVF treatment using donated eggs.

She chose to fly thousands of miles to the Barbados Fertility Centre for treatment because she could not find an egg donor in the UK.

I got pregnant when I had just turned 40 straight after getting married but I had a miscarriage. After three miscarriages, the medical profession decided there was a problem, and they started investigations.

It was upsetting having to wait that long. You want to know why it happened but nobody can give you an answer. At the time I was thinking, what did I do wrong? How could I have avoided it? I felt a lot of guilt.

We got pregnant five times naturally, but we couldn't get past 12 weeks in the pregnancy. I thought, given my age, they would treat it with some urgency, but I was treated the same way as anyone else.

Image: Barbados Fertility Centre
Barbados Fertility Centre
We tried IUI, where the husband's semen is taken and injected directly into the female, but that didn't work. I tried clomid, which stimulates the ovaries, and that didn't work either.

All they said was that it must be my age. When we got to the fifth pregnancy and they realised it was another miscarriage, they had to do an operation. I asked them to take some tests from the foetus to find out if there was anything wrong.

They wrote the notes in my medical file, but when it got to the surgery, the surgeon didn't read them. It didn't help that they kept telling me there was nothing wrong with me or my husband.

'Too old'

As I got older they told me there was nothing more they could do for me and my only hope was to have private IVF treatment.

I was too old at that time to have it under the NHS; even when we first started trying, the waiting list was about 18 months to two years.

The private clinic we found in the UK charged a fee for registering for egg donation but they couldn't guarantee they could find us a donor who was black African or black Caribbean.

Now I'm walking tall with my bump sticking out

They said they had a few people on the list but they hadn't been able to match anybody up from a non-white ethnic group for the last two years, so we thought we would be wasting our money.

I came across an article in a newspaper advertising the work of the Barbados clinic. There was another article a few months later and I decided to make some inquiries.

My husband was keen straight away but I was a bit wary at first because I wasn't sure about going through all of that with no guarantee at the end of it.

Our main obstacle was our local GP, who wouldn't do the tests we needed on the NHS before going abroad.

Eventually we found a private clinic that agreed to do the tests for us.

Barbados was a good experience. There was a fear factor in that I didn't know what to expect, but they explained everything to me so the fear wasn't as great as it could have been.

They found an egg sharer for me; that's where another woman agrees to share half of her eggs in return for reduced costs of treatment for both couples.

Anonymous donors

It cost between 2,000 and 3,000, so it did work out a bit cheaper than in the UK.

I felt safer with having the treatment in Barbados where donors are anonymous

We were given some information about the donor, including her ethnic group, eye colour, hair colour and age. We sent photographs so that they could see my colouring as they try to match complexions as much as possible.

I would have liked to see the person for me to decide whether her looks were similar to mine but I knew that wasn't possible. I felt safer with having the treatment in Barbados where donors are anonymous.

My husband had to give a semen sample and after that they decided that they would either implant the egg on day two or on day five. They managed to get 20 eggs from the donor, and we had 10 each. By day two only four of them had survived, and by day five only two of them had survived, so they implanted two.

We flew home and then came the day that I did the pregnancy test. I think I was more stressed just before I did that test than in any other part of the procedure. I don't think I slept the night before.

'Such a joy'

My hands were shaking when I did the test and I was frightened to look. When it was positive, I kept going back to the stick and having another look at it just to make sure that I saw the right thing; it was such a joy.

'I feel as though we have to tell the child about how he or she was conceived'
Everything has been straight forward so far with the pregnancy. The morning of any visit at the hospital I get stressed because of my past experiences and I'm just praying that everything goes ok. Now I think I'm more relaxed because I'm five months pregnant and I can feel the baby moving.

In the early stages, when I was walking I was leaning over instead of standing up straight because I was trying to conceal the pregnancy.

I wanted to make sure that everything was ok before I started telling people, but now I'm walking tall with my bump sticking out and I feel good about it.

In the other pregnancies, except the first one, I've never made any plans or looked at prams, cots or anything to do with baby wear.

This time, now that I've got to this stage, I'm looking at everything and I'm enjoying it so much, I'm even looking forward to the sleepless nights.

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