x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

IVF: For some a medical miracle, for others heartbreak

Couples who can find a way to pay for IVF find the results life-changing.

Friday marked a year since Daphne came into the world. And it happened only because of the determination of Wilma Alvarez and the marvels of medical technology.

For seven years, Mrs Alvarez and her husband tried without success to conceive. That she was a borderline diabetic made it a challenge.

They spent the first four years of their marriage in the Philippines making visits to doctors, who were reluctant to suggest IVF.

"Their way of thinking was still quite traditional and they thought I was too young," said Mrs Alvarez, now 38. "So they put me on medication, injections and vitamins to help boost my ovulation."

But repeated attempts to conceive were unsuccessful. Finally, her doctor in the Philippines recommended IVF. Having moved to Dubai, Mrs Alvarez decided to undergo the procedure locally. Her husband Harold's unconditional support helped her immensely, she said.

"He never pressured me. It was him who actually asked if I was sure I wanted to this," she said. "But I told him that we already tried everything, and after weighing the pros and cons we decided to go for it."

In April last year, after only one cycle of IVF, Mrs Alvarez became pregnant. The couple dipped into years of savings to finance the Dh30,000 procedure but Mrs Alvarez said she could think of no better way to spend the money.

She is planning a second child.

"Before, our nest was empty," Mrs Alvarez said. "Now, my daughter has given my life more meaning. Having a baby is truly a blessing."

Fatima and Jayson Beltran had tried to conceive for eight years.

"We spent far more than what we spent on the IVF alone," Mrs Beltran said. "I started accepting that maybe it'll just be us."

But the possibility of IVF lingered. After working two consecutive years with no time off, Mr Beltran was able to save enough for the procedure.

In April, after one IVF trial, Mrs Beltran gave birth to twins Ethan and Kyle.

"If my husband didn't sacrifice his leave there was no way it was going to happen," she said. "The children have brought so much love and warmth into our lives."

Not all couples are as lucky. After an ectopic pregnancy and two failed attempts at IVF, a Sudanese woman who identified herself as Umm Ahmad is unable to afford a third cycle.

A school principal, she said the loan offered by the National Bank of Abu Dhabi would not be a practical option. She and her husband were only able to fund their two trials through the help of charitable organisations and discounts from the clinic.

"There's no way we could pay back that amount within a year," she said. "Our only option now is charities."

Umm Ahmad said the couple's inability to conceive created a sense of instability in her home, although the medical cause was shared between the couple.

"The blame is always placed on the woman," she said. "You get this frightening feeling in your heart that your husband might go and get remarried. You feel at any moment you may lose him, that he may slip through your fingers."