30-year-olds Karina and Yan knew that getting pregnant would be problematic with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Looking back five years later, however, they had never anticipated all that they would endure to have a child.
Their fertility journey started in 2009 when the couple decided they were ready to start a family. Karina was aware that she suffered from PCOS prior to trying to conceive and knew that she would likely need to seek treatment for her condition in order to have a child.
The couple’s neighbor in their hometown of Trois-Rivières suggested they meet with Dr. Seang Lin Tan, a reproductive endocrinologist at OriginElle Fertility Clinic who, at the time, was serving as medical director at Montreal’s McGill Reproductive Center.
From the initial consultation with Dr. Tan, Karina’s PCOS was confirmed as a contributor to the couple’s infertility. However, Yan was also diagnosed with low sperm count and quality, which further hindered their efforts to get pregnant.
Dr. Tan advised that the couple undergo in vitro maturation (IVM) – an emerging practice for women with PCOS that involves the harvesting of immature eggs and maturing them in the lab for use in a process similar to IVF.
The treatment unfortunately did not work, so Karina decided to try intrauterine insemination (IUI), a low-risk fertility procedure that involves sperm being washed then injected with a catheter into the uterus to increase the chance of sperm reaching and fertilizing an egg. The pregnancy success rates for young women – 30 and younger – with PCOS using IUI is around 20 percent.
Again, Karina and Yan were met with disappointment after three failed IUIs, which left them to explore other options.
By then, the couple was psychologically drained. “It was a very emotional process for us,” says Karina, “but Dr. Tan was always there to reassure us and tend to our needs.”
Karina admits that the treatment process and repeated failures were very difficult to live with on a daily basis and had an especially tough time being around friends that had been able to conceive.
While she received great support from her friends and family, Karina couldn’t help but feel that most people just couldn’t empathize with her situation or understand how much of an emotional roller-coaster infertility was proving to be.
Dr. Tan moved to his private clinic in March of 2011 and he knew it was time to get more aggressive with the couple’s fertility treatment, suggesting that they try in vitro fertilization (IVF).
After multiple failed IVF attempts, the last cycle was performed in May 2013. Finally, Karina and her husband received the positive pregnancy test that they had so long awaited.
Karina believes her child began as a miracle that happened despite all odds. “Over the course of my three years of treatment with Dr. Tan, he and his team never gave up on me and worked tirelessly to readjust our treatment protocols until we found the solution that worked.”
Although they had overcome infertility, Karina still faced challenges during pregnancy. Women with PCOS are at a higher risk during pregnancy for gestational diabetes, miscarriage and premature delivery, and these factors forced Karina into bed-rest at 26 weeks.
However, the long battle was worth fighting. Early in 2014, Karina delivered a healthy baby boy, Mylan.
Karina says she is amazed at the science of IVF and credits Dr. Tan and Hai-ying Chen for giving her the gift of motherhood. “Dr. Tan’s dedication and perseverance allowed me to live my dream of being a mother after every other doctor told me it was impossible. He never gave up on us.”
For women suffering from infertility and contemplating assisted reproductive treatments, Karina’s advice is simple: “Free your spirit. Expectations are what make the whole experience even more difficult.”
“Prepare… because it might be a very long road,” she says, encouraging patients undergoing IVF to take longer breaks between treatments and enjoy some time off to relax and get into the right state of mind.