At Birth Beat, we have a commitment to supporting all parents on their journey to parenthood – regardless of what that journey may look like. So, we have put together this guide on alternative pathways to pregnancy.
If I’m honest, this isn’t even something I actively thought of when I first started Birth Beat. I was working with heterosexual couples to help them prepare for childbirth. Of course I worked with couples who had used assisted reproductive technology to get pregnant. But, as this point they were already embarking on the next stage of their journey. Pregnant and preparing for labour.
That was until I had two fathers do my antenatal course. Their bubba was being born via a surrogate. Yet, they wanted to learn about the childbirth process and be prepared for the possible outcomes. It was then that I saw the power of childbirth education and that it had a far greater potential to impact parents-to-be than I first considered. Regardless of how you get pregnant or bring a baby into the world – it is important knowledge for all parents.
There are so many ways to fall pregnant or become a parent – all of them amazing and miraculous. No one way is the right way or the better way, each couple and each parent are different.
Understanding fertility is a complex topic that I could probably write a whole blog post on! However, fertility is an important consideration for both the male and female, single-sex couples and single women who wish to get pregnant.
When is fertility testing required?
Fertility testing may be required when a couple has not yet fallen pregnant after trying. In some cases, health professionals may suspect that their is a reason for this.
It may also be required in the early stages of an alternative pathway to pregnancy.
What kind of things impact fertility?
- Egg Health
- Sperm Health
- The structure and function of the male and female reproductive systems
- Hormonal and immune conditions.
What are the types of fertility tests?
- Blood tests to check ovulation
- Sperm analysis
- Ultrasound scans
- Egg-count tests
- Genetic testing
- X-ray of fallopian tubes
- Tests for chlamydia
Perhaps the most well-known alternative pathway to pregnancy. IVF (In Vitro Fertilisation) is when an egg is fertilised by the sperm in a laboratory before the embryo is then transferred into the woman’s uterus.
There are many various ways this can happen, including donor eggs, donor sperm and even via a surrogate (where another woman who is not the biological mother, carries the pregnancy).
Who can get IVF?
- Heterosexual couples who have been unable to fall pregnant naturally. Usually, prior to trying IVF the couple will have tried other fertility treatments.
- Lesbian couples.
- Single women who want to have a baby without a partner.
In the instance of lesbian couples and single women, there needs to be a sperm donor. This may be someone known to the couple or woman, an Australian donor or an International Donor. Laws on sperm donation vary from each state.
What is the cost IVF?
Any couples or individuals undertaking IVF are counselled on their options and the processes involved which can be lengthy and expensive. Sometimes up to $10,000 per treatment cycle. Rebates are available depending on individual circumstances.
What is the success rate of IVF?
Just like all things pregnancy and birth, everyone’s experience and success rate will vary. Success rates are is dependent on many factors including age and overall health. IVF is just one fertility treatment. There are other options available which we will look at briefly as well.
When should someone start IVF?
There is no hard and fast rule about when is the right time to seek fertility treatment and it always pays to speak to your healthcare provider if you can any worries or doubt. However, for those couples that have been unsuccessful with falling pregnant naturally, the general rule of thumb is that you should seek medical advice after 12 months of trying to fall pregnant without success if you’re under 35, and after 6 months if you’re over 35.
Complementary therapies or alternative therapies are defined as any treatments outside of conventional medicine.
What are the types of complementary therapies?
- Herbal medicines
- Bowen Therapy
- Chinese Medicine
Plus many more!
How effective are complimentary therapies?
We’ve all heard stories from someone who has fallen pregnant after changing their diet, lifestyle or using complementary therapies. Which is fantastic! However, there is very little published medical literature to prove that specific complementary therapies work.
While generally speaking, eating well, looking after yourself and reducing stress are all fantastic for fertility. It is important to discuss any complementary therapies you’re considering with your healthcare provider as some can interfere fertility treatments. Some of these therapies can make you feel like a healthier, less stressed and better version of you. This can only be a good thing! Even if it just means you’re taking a little bit of time each day for guilt-free ‘me-time’.
Assisted conception is a broad-term that encompasses a whole range of treatments. Essentially, it’s any method that helps overcome fertility issues in order to become pregnant.
What are the types of assisted reproductive treatments?
- Surgery to unblock fallopian tubes or to remove endometrial tissue.
- Ovulation induction.
- Artificial insemination.
- Donor conception (donor eggs and/or donor sperm).
- FSH injections, FSH induces the development of multiple follicles in the woman’s ovaries.
And there are many more…
Each couple and individual will have different needs and depending on what fertility issues they’re trying to overcome. Things like age, general health and personal circumstances; there will be different assisted conception options available.
Surrogacy is when a woman carries the pregnancy and gives birth to a baby that is not biologically hers. It is an alternative pathway to pregnancy that is available for heterosexual and same-sex couples, as well as individuals.
Surrogacy has become more widely discussed and accepted as a viable pathway to parenthood. Thanks to celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Kayne West have had their last two babies Chicago and Psalm via surrogate.
Why might surrogacy is used?
There are many reasons why using a surrogate may be an option.
- Same-sex couple would like to become parents.
- A woman is unable to carry a pregnancy, or has had repeated miscarriages.
As an example, the West’s used surrogacy as Kim reportedly had several complications with her first two pregnancies. These were pre-eclampsia, and a condition whereby the placenta does not detach itself from the uterine wall after birth. These both can be potentially life-threatening for the mother.
How does surrogacy work?
In the case of heterosexual couples, the surrogate has an embryo implanted via IVF using the egg and sperm of the couple. For gay couples the egg is usually donated and the sperm from one father is used – but there are so many different variations.
In Australia, commercial surrogacy (paying the surrogate to carry a pregnancy for you) is illegal. However, in most states altruistic (volunteering to carry a pregnancy without financial incentive) is allowed. Some Australian couples have been known to use a surrogate in another country so that they can pay them and the process is more clearly defined as a service. This avoids having to deal with the legalities and potential complications of a friend or family member doing it as a very generous favour.
While it is a viable option for some, surrogacy is still a complex, time consuming and expensive process.
Supporting alternative pathways to pregnancy
I think it is truly incredible to consider what is possible with these types of treatments! It blows me away.
It’s important to openly discuss these options and to share that there is no single pathway to pregnancy and parenthood. The more that we can openly discuss the fact that there is no on right way to become pregnant or to become a parent the better it is for all parents and parents-to-be. The process and story will be as unique as the individual and couple. What’s important is that we support others and their decisions. Particularly ,anyone that you know who may be having a tough time working through infertility.
If you would like to know more or support with infertility or your journey to parenthood, here are some great resources: