Making Babies: Documentary follows three Scots couples going through IVF

By Debbie Jackson
BBC Scotland

  • Published
L-J and findlay
Image caption,
L-J McRae and her husband Findlay tried for children after their wedding in 2016 but pregnancy has eluded them

A new documentary follows the lives of three Scots couples as they undergo IVF treatment in a bid to start a family. But behind the camera, filmmaker Laura-Jane McRae was going through a similar experience.

Three couples sit and wait.

The pregnancy test is done. It's just a matter of time.

Waiting is what the past month has been about. Waiting for the hormones to kick in. Waiting for ovaries to be stimulated. Waiting for embryos to be fertilised. Waiting to find out if they are viable.

And now, waiting to find out if the next nine months will be the future they have dreamed of, cried over and longed for.

IVF is a miracle of modern science. It is also difficult, upsetting and carries no guarantees for those who just want to do what others seem to find easy - make babies.

Filmmaker Laura-Jane McRae knows exactly how difficult the IVF journey is. She was on the same journey when she began recording the highs and lows of three young Scottish couples who let the BBC Scotland channel follow them on one cycle of IVF.

Laura-Jane, (L-J) was going through one round of IVF while filming Making Babies.

Image caption,
L-J McRae changed her mindset about IVF after making a documentary while going through the process herself

She started her second while editing the three couples' stories for the documentary, due to be broadcast on Tuesday.

L-J and her husband Findlay, like the couples she followed, have "unexplained infertility". This is when both partners are apparently fertile, and yet together cannot conceive a child.

One in seven couples struggles to fall pregnant in the UK - 3.5 million people. Of those, 30% have unexplained infertility.

The next steps often lead them to IVF - in vitro fertilisation.

Advances in science have made it possible to give nature a helping hand towards a much-wanted pregnancy.

Image caption,
Nicki prepares to take her injection in Making Babies

But for those who embark on this second chance, the brutal reality is medically-induced menopause, high hormone levels, injecting yourself in the stomach every day, waiting, more waiting... and a 70% chance it will not be successful.

But that doesn't stop almost 70,000 rounds of IVF taking place in the UK every year.

L-J said she had one reason for telling the story.

"I want people to feel like they are not alone," she said.

"My only aim is that there's a couple sitting like Findlay and I were two years ago and they watch it and they think it's going to be OK.

"People don't talk about it. It felt taboo. But when you do come out of the IVF closet and tell people, they start telling you they have had IVF or their friend has or a family member has. It's in all our immediate circles."

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

Image source, Getty Images

An egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a laboratory.

The fertilised egg is then returned to the woman's womb to develop.

IVF worked for the first time on 10 November 1977. On 25 July 1978, the world's first IVF baby, Louise Brown, was born.

On average, IVF fails 70% of the time.

The highest success rates are for women under 35, one-third of treatment cycles are successful.

On average, it takes almost four-and-a-half years to conceive with IVF.

Source: Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority/Fertility Network UK

The couples in the programme are all setting out on a round of IVF. In Scotland, the NHS funds three cycles of treatment.

Gemma and Ryan have been trying to conceive for five years - this is their first attempt at IVF.

Sarah and Ryan have been trying to fall pregnant for four years and this is their second attempt.

Nicki and Bob have been through the process three times before. Their second round resulted in their daughter Daisy. Now, because they have already had a child, they have to fund the treatment themselves. They want to give Daisy a brother or sister. After disappointment, this is their fourth round.

Image caption,
The waiting game: Gemma and Ryan are trying IVF as a last resort after five years of trying to conceive

L-J sees herself and Findlay in all three couples. From the blind optimism of the first round, taking every supplement, having acupuncture, hypnotherapy and even eating multiple pineapples - an old wives' tale.

She was familiar with the disappointments, the joy and then the acceptance that what will be will be.

The three couples hit high points and low points at the same stages of their journey, but with their hopes set on the end goal, they keep going.

L-J said: "One of the couples described IVF as being like every time you try to conceive each month, it's like rolling two dice and trying to get a six. This is like not knowing if you even have any sixes on your dice. But you just keep rolling."

Image caption,
Sarah and Craig had hoped to conceive a "honeymoon baby" four years ago and now Sarah is desperate to understand why pregnancy has not happened for them

She wanted the documentary to be truthful and honest and show the lengths people will go to for their baby dream.

From daily self-injections of hormones, to a humiliating examination from a piece of equipment called the "Wanda" and excruciating waits for results, the process is laid bare, as are the emotions of the couples involved.

L-J, who, after four rounds of IVF is taking a break from the process before trying again, found the process cathartic.

She said: "One of the pivotal moments for me was standing in the lab and realising the embryologist is crossing her fingers just as you are. She is not a magician. They just put the elements together and hope that it is going to take. They put them back into your body and they just hope.

"That clicked for me that this isn't a guarantee. My attitude changed to thinking we'll give it a try, but if it doesn't happen that's OK."

She added; "If wanting and love was enough, we'd have hundreds of kids. But sometimes it is not enough and we just don't know why.

"Everyone told me not to do the documentary - nobody thought it was a good idea. And it's turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done."

Making Babies is on the BBC Scotland channel at 22:00 on Tuesday 29 October

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