Somewhat controversial alert. Ready for it? Wait, are you sure? No turning back now.
Reproductive treatment, surrogacy and even adoption is all a very personal choice. It also comes with a Pandora’s box of moral dilemmas and in some scenarios your choice can be challenged by various religious beliefs.
Chris had a brain tumor. We named him Phil. Phil happened to be a complete an asshole so we worked with a neurosurgeon to evict Phil. That situation was a physical condition that was rectified by the steady hands of those who were blessed to with the gift of medical science. And for us, some prayers for good measure.
This is how we, Chris and I, feel about reproductive medicine. We have a disease (yep, BOTH of us have an infertility diagnosis) and naturally we enlisted the help from medical professionals as one does when they are sick. Add in a few sprinkles of prayers in-between. Here’s where things get weird. There’s a fair amount of people who do not believe in using medical technology or options to treat infertility. Trust me they troll us on social media, they work within the walls of Congress and they may even be a family member.
When Kanga first approached us to be our gestational carrier, we thought “WOW! We have a shot at the parenthood table of 2!” Infertility doesn’t just disappear once you have a child and for those of us who never had an opportunity to see the light of double lines on a pregnancy test, it is still ever present. After endless months of testing and red-tapey things like contracts and quarantined sperm, we finally could get this surro-show on the road. I did the thing I said I would never do which was another IVF stimulation cycle and we made glorious embryos.
Our reproductive endocrinologist advocated we did genetic testing on our embryos so we looked into it.
It’s probably a good time to talk through understanding the different types of screening. There’s:
PGS– This type of testing screens for chromosomal abnormalities. Remember biology 101? Normally a baby is born with 23 pairs of chromosomes. If the chromosomal number ends up different (more or less) then that would be considered abnormal and not recommended to transfer. This is also believed to be one of the most common reasons for failed IVF transfers resulting in Down Syndrome, miscarriage and birth defects.
PGD- In this form of genetic testing it is looking for very specific genetic conditions like some types of cancer, hereditary conditions and diseases such as cystic fibrosis, Tay-Sachs and muscular dystrophy. It’s good to note that it doesn’t mean that the baby will have this disease only that the gene, or genetic sequence, is present.
There’s also a difference between Carrier Screening and Preimplantation Genetic Screening. (In our case we chose Preimplantation Screening). We’ll leave that to the pros to break it down for us here .
Oh and there’s that thing about gender. Yeah, they can determine the gender from the testing. Determine not create… big difference folks. Most people do this testing because there are medical reasons that have necessitated it. Not because they wanted to paint their nursery pink versus blue. This is where this testing can get a bad rep.
Other reasons to consider genetic testing:
- Determining an unexplained infertility diagnosis
- Reduce chances of recurrent miscarriage
- Advanced maternal age (but not always!)
- Want to reduce the risk of multiple births and transfer a single embryo
- Reduction of chances of passing on a genetic disease to your child
- Increases the chances of a positive pregnancy
For us, genetic testing it made sense. We have had multiple failed IVF treatments in the past. Our surrogate and I are filtered into the oh-so flattering category of advanced maternal age. Kanga also requested that we do single embryo transfers to reduce the risk of pregnancy complications and multiple gestation. Lastly, surrogacy impacts two families. What if there is a miscarriage? It is devastating on a couple and I shudder to think emotional impact on the gestational carrier. It’s not cheap but neither is paying for another stimulation cycle or IVF transfer. In the grand scheme of things, it ups your chances and a answers questions.
Chris- And Candace passes the ball to Chris … He is at the 30 … the 20 … the 10 … Oh, he is tackled at the 1 yard line! Ok, so handing over the reins to the rest of this story is not quite as glamorous as that, but it would be kinda cool if it was right?
So, everyone was in agreement that we should do this. PGS seems like the right thing to do since there is the whole “egg health decreases as age increases” thing and, although I have absolutely no basis for this at all, I would like to think I have some sperm that I create with really poor eye sight (genetic makeup). We are rolling full steam on our next surrogacy and we all want to make sure that whatever gets transferred has the greatest opportunity of success.
At this stage of the game, we had 5 blastocysts that were deemed viable and eligible for PGS screening. So, they were … and good thing. We found out that 2 of the 5 blastocysts would not have resulted in a viable pregnancy. Since we have already stretched our finances well beyond the breaking point to just make this opportunity feasible, we can ill-afford (literally) to transfer a blastocyst that would not result in a viable pregnancy to begin with. So, we have whittled the candidates down to 3. Just to check my math though, 3 > 0, so we are still ecstatic! Maybe more so now. These last 3 blastocysts have been grown to blastocyst stage, undergone and passed PGS screening, were conceived from sperm that had been frozen for about 8 months and egg follicles retrieved from someone without a uterus. I would say they have overcome nearly insurmountable odds to get here!
Candace mentioned that you could find out the sex of thee blastocysts if you wanted, so I thought I would share our story as a spot of mental dessert to finish this post. I didn’t want to know anything, Candace wanted to know what the sex of the blastocysts were but not which sex was transferred when we got to that point. Our RE told her this, “I can tell you what the sex of the blastocysts were determined to be but if I did, you would automatically know what the sex of the particular blastocyst we transferred would be.” Hmmm … we will leave all with that as a point of speculation.
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