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The Baby Makers (2016)
Documentary Series from Dreamscape
Season 1, Episodes 1-4
Watch on DVD
Watch on Amazon
HopingForBaby.com Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
This mini-series documentary follows couples from Northern Ireland as they try to conceive through In Vitro Fertilization. In each of the four episodes several couples are interviewed about the ups and downs they experienced through the IVF process. This documentary stands out from many others because they go in-depth with their interviews with the IVF medical team on what they actually do. They talk about each step of the IVF process as they actually show you what they are doing too. It’s one thing to hear about what the embryologists do, it’s another thing entirely to see it. After you watch this series, check out another similar documentary I highly recommend in my review of Baby Makers: The Fertility Clinic (IVF Documentary) which also goes into great depth about the step-by-step process from a medical perspective, as well as interviewing couples about their experience. They also cover some of the biggest concerns that come up for people during their IVF process including whether to seek out therapy as a couple, the impact of hormonal drugs on emotions, coping with a failed round of IVF and miscarriage, and when to stop fertility treatments.
Spoiler Alert! I talk about some of the outcomes of the people from the documentary. Go watch this documentary series first on Amazon or DVD if you don’t want to read any of my spoilers beforehand.
Adrianne and Adrian
First of all, I have to point out how cute it is that their names are so similar. Adrianne and Adrian were married 11 years at the time of the film. She had been trying to conceive since she was 30 years old. Before the show they had already tried three rounds of IVF and sadly none of them had worked. But they were determined to try it one last time, with a fourth round of IVF at Origin Fertility Care in Ireland.
During her egg retrieval they retrieved seven eggs in total. It was really cool to see the embryologist Richard show viewers what the ICSI procedure actually looks like, with his step-by-step narration of what he was doing. It’s such a delicate procedure where they puncture the egg with a superfine needle and insert the single sperm into the egg, all while a tiny tube suctions the egg ever so slightly from the outside, in order to hold the egg in place so it doesn’t float around. Super cool stuff, science is pretty amazing.
Once the sperm is inserted into the egg they wait 18 hours to see if the egg actually fertilized. Adrianne and Adrian said that this would probably be their last time trying IVF. In the end their fourth attempt at IVF had failed and they did not have a child from that cycle. It’s always hard to hear these stories, but it helps me also realize that I am not alone in this process and many others can relate.
Lynn and Glenn
And following the adorably named couple Adrianne and Adrian, is a couple with rhyming names, Lynn and Glenn. Many of the people in this documentary were seeking treatment at Origin Fertility Care. Lynn is the receptionist at the clinic, and her passion for helping others with infertility comes from a true understanding of the struggle. Their first cycle of IVF had failed. They decided to try for a second round of IVF, but while they were waiting to begin that process they conceived naturally. Lynn gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy. I’ve heard many of these stories where couples were saving up money or taking a short break before doing IVF again but then they naturally conceived. It’s so nice to hear they had a happy ending to their story.
Alison and Shean
Alison and Shean talk about how they are experiencing secondary infertility and were trying to conceive for five years. Alison knew she had irregular periods, which were probably impacting her ability to conceive. I’ve seen a handful of different documentaries where it seems common for one partner to be more cautious while the other seems really optimistic by comparison. Alison said, “I’m a realist, and I’m like 50-50 chance, and I don’t like to count my chickens till they’ve hatched.” She goes on to say her husband tends to be the more optimistic during the process, to which he replies, “Optimism and pessimism, neither of them will change the outcome. But I suppose with optimism you have a better time getting there, and that’s the way I try to look at it.” That right there, that statement is worth its weight in gold. It’s so true though, you can hold your breath and white-knuckle through the whole IVF process or you can try to relax and be hopeful about it.
Of their six embryos that were frozen, only four survived. Of those four, two embryos were transferred. During the two week wait, Alison said she was trying to keep her mind occupied by staying busy. And although she had a positive pregnancy test, she later had a miscarriage and lost both babies. I really feel for them with their loss. I’d be interested to hear a follow-up from this couple about whether their remaining embryos resulted in a live-birth.
Mel’s story is so incredibly moving. Mel is 24 years old with three children and she decides to become an egg donor. It was heartbreaking to hear of the stillbirth of her son. She talked about how this greatly affected many aspects of her life. Later, after she had children of her own, she was motivated to donate her eggs, so she could help women who struggle with infertility. It’s so amazing to hear how women like Mel literally give a part of themselves to help others make their dream of becoming a parent come true.
Mel talks about how the timing of her egg retrieval and how it fell on the anniversary of her son’s death, “The fact that it’s all fallen in the same week I think is a bit more than a coincidence.” She also talks about the grieving process itself and how although the pain is still there, she found comfort thinking her son’s spirit is still with her and her family. I cried tears of both sadness and joy for her as she was able to take her pain and help others in such a beautiful way.
The egg donation process was completely anonymous for Mel. Any children that result from her egg donation have the option to contact Mel once they turn 18 years old. Mel was able to write an anonymous letter to her potential children. The medical expenses of Mel’s egg retrieval were covered, but other than that Mel was not compensated at all. Another reason I think this woman is amazing, doing it purely to help someone else. In the end, 12 eggs were retrieved from Mel which not only were enough to help one woman but two. Although one recipient wasn’t able to get pregnant initially, Mel got the happy news that the second recipient got pregnant right away. I think if there was a Woman of the Year award, I think it should go to Ms. Mel. So inspiring!
Jude and Brian
After five years of marriage and dealing with infertility, Jude and Brian decide to pursue IVF. They talk about how they are limited to only one round of IVF per year through the NHS. For those of you unfamiliar, the NHS stands for the National Health Service, the UK’s public healthcare system. I’m from the US and my particular private health insurance does not cover a penny of infertility procedures. So to hear that the NHS offers one round of IVF per year I thought that was absolutely amazing.
I wish this documentary had discussed the NHS’ role with infertility procedures more in depth. It just left me with more questions than answers. I need to do more research and maybe write an article on what I find out. Several couples in this series talk about how limiting the one-round-per year rule is for them. I think they have good reasons to feel this way, especially if they have really low AMH levels for example, because if they wait a year it just may be too late.
Jude and Brian are open to different options though if their round of IVF does not work. They were thinking about fostering and adoption later in their future. Although their round of IVF didn’t work out, Jude said they were trying to focus on other things in life, “God we put having a child in front of anything really, but you have to appreciate what you do have.” They plan on trying a second round of IVF and also looking into foster care.
Eilish and Keiran
After trying for a long time to try to have kids Eilish and Keiran decided to try IVF. Although their first round of IVF was initially successful with a positive pregnany test, they unfortunately lost their baby later with a miscarriage. After they took some time to heal from the pain of the loss they decided to try once again with a round of IVF. Not only did they become pregnant with one baby but two. Eilish had twins, one boy and one girl. She talked about how she was feeling thankful for having her family feel complete now.
Ali and Andrew
What I liked about this couple is they not only acknowledge the issues they were having in their relationship due to the IVF but that they also allowed the cameras to follow them into their therapy session. I also think the producers for the show did a good job with paring down the essential conflict between them that so many other couples can relate to. That conflict is that men can not ever know what that experience is like for women, to inject daily shots, to have the chance to feel life inside, and to also have a miscarriage. It’s just not a shared experience. It’s hard for women to understand that their husband simply cannot understand what it’s like. At best we can have them listen and say supportive things.
Ali wished Andrew knew when and how exactly to comfort her, even when she had a hard time putting it to words what she was feeling. The therapist came up with a great idea of having Ali either gesture or use an object to show that she needed extra support, even without verbalizing it. Andrew seemed really receptive to this idea, because it was a clear visual for him to comfort his wife, no mind reading necessary. I’m sure many of this can relate to that, I’ve only recently gotten better about speaking up when I need support and saying exactly what I need.
Ali had her AMH level tested and it was found to be normal for her age. Andrew helps prepare Ali’s needles to prepare for her egg retrieval. She had nine eggs retrieved and all nine fertilized, four embryos had properly matured. Of those four mature embryos, two were frozen and two were transferred.
Sharon and Gary
After struggling to conceive, Sharon and Gary were able to do an embryo transfer and had their son. Later they adopted their daughter from Russia. Gary talks about how adopting compared to doing fertility treatment, “In some respects that was more stressful than the IVF.” Sharon used her experience of infertility treatment as well as experience with adoption to help other women. She decided to provide advice to other women who are struggling through the group called the Infertility Network UK. It’s so great to hear stories of women who were able to turn a one painful experience into something that helps so many others. Sharon you rock!
Emma and Ben
Emma and Ben had a miscarriage and later found out that Ben had issues with his sperm in two different ways. Ben had issues with his sperm’s motility and also morphology. Emma is a photographer and decided to use her artistic talent to bring attention to infertility issues. She talks about how through the NHS, they only allow one IVF cycle per year, “For my masters I’ve begun a project about women’s access to reproductive rights in Northern Ireland.”
Ben talks candidly about the issues that had come up between them during their infertility. He had an interview alone with the film crew about the tremendous strain it put on their relationship. Eventually they decided to break up, which was really sad to see. I think the producers showed class with how they talked about their breakup, instead of sensationalizing it they did separate interviews with both Emma and Ben. They asked them individually if both of them thought about having children in the future, not as a couple, but with whomever they start a relationship with. Both said that despite all they went through they would still like to have children in a future relationship.
Jilly and Peter
Jilly and Peter were married five years and had a miscarriage before they turned to trying IVF treatments. Her doctor explained the importance of lowering her BMI in order to improve her odds of implantation success. I’ve heard that some fertility clinics require that the woman’s BMI below a certain number before they will consider treatment, this was the case for Jilly. Jilly seemed to take this news in stride and was able to drop the weight in order to meet the BMI requirements. I’ve heard of this requirement for some fertility clinics in the U.S. and I’m not sure if this is a requirement across the board for all NHS clinics, if you happen to know please comment below.
Maya not only dropped the weight that she needed to but she also looked into alternative methods to improve her infertility including Maya massage. I had never heard of this type of massage before but it specializes in helping improve circulation and hopefully in turn improve implantation. The Maya massage therapist explains that it is most helpful to start Maya massage at least three months prior to doing IVF.
Jilly and Peter opted to do ICSI with their IVF. Although their round of IVF did not work for them, Jilly did learn one new thing that probably explained why she was having a hard time conceiving and keeping her pregnancies. She talks about how her natural killer cell levels were elevated. According to what Jilly was told her levels should be closer to 15% but her levels were at 20%. The episode left off on her maybe leaving the door open for future treatment with this revelation about her natural killer cell levels and how it might be treatable.
Some single women, especially in their 30s consider freezing their eggs in order to preserve their fertility. Whether they find a partner later or not, it at least can provide some comfort knowing they have their eggs to work with in the future. Since fertility rates begin to decline around 35 years old, it’s becoming more commonplace for women to opt for freezing their own eggs. Barbara, who is in her late 30s, was initially unaware that her AMH level was low until she began the blood tests prior to her egg retrieval. When you have a low AMH level you are usually put on a higher dosage of medication for your egg retrieval. I myself have low AMH and was put on a plethora of meds to boost my little eggies growth. Unfortunately, Barbara was only able to have one follicle grow. It was such a low number they decided it wasn’t even worth doing the egg retrieval.
Angela and Mark
Angela had a miscarriage and later learned that she had PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome. One of the issues with PCOS is that although sometimes a fair amount, and even a large amount, of eggs can be retrieved it does not necessarily mean the eggs are of good quality. Angela had eleven embryos that were frozen, but not all of them survived the thaw or divided properly. It was sad to hear that they had a failed implantation and did not get pregnant. I think it would be hard having PCOS and getting your hopes up with having so many eggs or embryos but then have to face the news that it hadn’t worked at all. I feel like that would be such a rollercoaster of emotions to handle. It seems like it would be so much harder to predict outcomes as well.
Elaine and Andrew
They had tried naturally for 1.5 years with no success before seeking out help from a fertility clinic. Elaine was at risk of developing Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome so they decided to freeze her eggs to avoid this potential complication. With that decision, Elaine made history with being the very first woman in Ireland to conceive by using a frozen egg. It was happy news to hear Elaine doing well with her pregnancy, although I didn’t see a followup in the film about how her birth went.
I think this was an excellent documentary series that looked at different aspects of the IVF process, including the perspectives of both the patients and the medical team. Oftentimes when people are experiencing infertility, the journey to parenthood can take multiple years. For some of the people in this show we don’t get to see whether they eventually became parents or not, due to the fact that we are only seeing them at one point in the journey. Although some were successful in the show, I imagine that many of the others eventually became parents. I’d be very interested in seeing follow-ups from these people on where they are at now.
I found it interesting to learn a little bit about what the experience is like in a different country through a different healthcare system. I really felt for these women and men going through this process, because I know how difficult it can be. The film covered a variety of topics that are common concerns for patients, no matter where they live. After watching this show I feel like it is a good snapshot in time of where we are at with our medical advances and how much further we still need to go in order to reduce miscarriage and stillborn rates as well as the health risks for pregnant women.
Want to find out how fertile you are?
The Modern Fertility test is an affordable option that shows your hormone levels and gives you an overall picture of where you stand with your fertility. What hormones will they test? Depending on the type of birth control you are on they can test up to eight different hormone levels which may include:
AMH (Anti-mullerian hormone)
FSH (Follicle stimulating hormone)
LH (Luteinizing hormone)
TSH (Thyroid stimulating hormone)
FT4 (Free thyroxine)