Australia celebrates 40 years of IVF and fertility research

For anyone having gone through fertility treatments such as IVF, or those who know someone closely that have, you’ll know it’s a testing time

Drugs, hormone surges, mood changes, bodily changes, uncertainty and the elation or upset of the final result are all consuming and possibly always will be, whatever the result.

But if we take a second to reflect, we can see how over the past four decades, IVF and other assisted fertility procedures have progressed, and it’s phenomenal. Whilst our parents and grandparents may not have had a chance of having a family if they struggled to have one, or were destined not to, due to their biology or sexual orientation, we now have pioneering scientific and medical treatments available to us.

It’s now 40 years since the first Australian was born through IVF

Now celebrating her 40th birthday, Candice Reed marked a moment in history when she came into the world

Head of Obs and Gynae at The Royal Hospital in Sydney, Professor William Ledger told The Australian that this 40th birthday and anniversary is a “personal milestone that also marks two score years of outrageous progress in fertility research”.

He told the newspaper that he and his colleagues “had no idea fertility treatments would become such an integral part of mainstream medicine”.

“It’s gone from a totally experimental, hit and miss affair to a really efficient, patient-friendly process.”

Professor Ledger, an Oxford graduate, calls it “clever tech” but by far the best part of his job is when patients visit with their new babies, “When they come back in with a young child, a new human life, and the person is now a mum or a dad, knowing we helped do that. Fantastic.”

The hospital opened a new research centre last November, and is now the only public hospital in Australia to have a dedicated fertility centre for those affected by cancer

It’s this that’s allowed women like Rachell Kleiner to have a chance of becoming a mother. As a 21 year old, Rachell had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, that required urgent treatment, so urgent that there wasn’t enough time to wait for egg collection treatment so they could be frozen for her future use. Instead, Rachell had some ovarian tissue removed.

The cancer treatment saved her life, but whether or not she’d be able to have children remained unknown. 14 years on, after struggling to conceive and enduring three failed cycles of IVF, the effects took their toll.

She told The Australian, “It’s really hard, it takes over your life. Everything is on a schedule and it puts a lot of pressure on your partner. Even with a loving partner and family, the treatments are a load which is carried alone. None will truly understand until they’ve been through it themselves.”

But in December last year, Rachell had pioneering treatment to transplant her frozen ovarian tissue back in

Still waiting to see if the treatment has worked, she remains positive. There’s a chance the tissue contains cancerous cells, but she’s “happy to be a guinea pig if it gives her the chance to be a parent”.

“We’re told all the time woman’s fertility takes a dive after 35. It’s basically putting thousands of my 21-year-old eggs inside a 35-year-old me.”

Rachell, we wish you the very best of luck and so much love.

Candice Thum talks about her 40th here

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