How contraception works (1972 edition)

Longtime readers will remember the Spong mincer advert I posted last November. While sorting through my bookcases this morning I came across the same volume again, Getting Married, published by the British Medical Association in 1972. (Which I still don’t understand, as my parents got married in 1968!)

Opening it randomly how delighted was I to discover this article and illustration:

A lady and man holding hands, standing about 5 feet apart
What The New Avengers got up to in between shoots.

Obviously that age-old myth that ladies get pregnant by holding hands with a young Gareth Hunt look-a-like is wrong, because this is an article about contraception — which is about how not to get pregnant.

Unless this is photographic proof that the advice contained in their article about contraception is so effective that the lady pictured (let’s call her Beryl) — that Beryl can hold hands with Gareth Hunt all day without fear of giving birth to a young Hunt nine months later. (If you’re reading this out loud, in a public place, say, be careful with that last sentence!)

I’ve not read the supporting article but I gather that a key aspect of effective contraception involves standing about four to five feet away from a lady. In a field. While wearing a cardigan. That should just about do it, I reckon.

IVF clinic appointment

Test tubes
Photograph from

The long awaited update on the fertility category very nearly didn’t happen as both Jane and I thought that our 3pm appointment today was at 3:30pm.

About an hour previous I had opened my filing cabinet, pulled out the “Fertility” folder and checked that the appointment card was there. It was. And it said 3:00 pm.

Remarkably, without breaking any speed restrictions or violating Her Majesty’s Highway Code we arrived at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at 3:05pm, having driven about 11 miles through the centre of Edinburgh and picked Jane up en route. Our guardian angels were obviously working overtime to clear the traffic ahead!

I had thought that today’s appointment was a follow up from the last Fertility clinic appointment in October, but we’ve now progressed to the IVF clinic. Same department, different team, different specialisation.

I think there had been some misundertanding as the doctor we saw thought that we were going to pay for the first cycle. No, no, no, no, no! NHS for the first three cycles, if you don’t mind. Anyway, he took more details, ticked some boxes and asked us questions like: Do you smoke? Do you take any illicit drugs? Have you ever fathered another child? (The answers were ‘no’ to each of these, by the way.)

That being the case it wasn’t too long before he ticked the “Eligible” box and signed the form to say that Lothian NHS would kindly finance our attempts to have a baby.

After a couple of samples of blood, to test us for HIV and Hepatitis, we were on our way again, assured that we’d hear from them again sometime within the next eighteen months, or so. We could be looking at around March 2007 to begin the process.

We’ve taken away with us sample forms that we’ll have to fill in nearer the time about what we’d like to do with any ‘left over’ sperm, eggs or embryos. I’d never considered that before. It is one of those important details that we’ll have to decide carefully. Assuming that all goes well for us, they could be the chance for another couple to have children too, but with our biological material — and I have a kidney disease that has a 50% chance of being passed on, so I’m sure that will be a consideration too. Important things to consider.

The BBC has a good article about what IVF is, for those who are interested. Or who just like following hyperlinks!

It’s a boy!

Scan of baby
Not having a photograph of the wee man out in the real world this ultrasound scan picture will have to do!

Jane and I were woken this morning by the telephone ringing, shortly after 05:40. It was my brother Edmund on his mobile phone from St John’s Hospital, Livingston to give us the great news that his wife Rebecca had given birth to a healthy boy, Owen Thomas Saunders. He was 8lbs 5oz and born at 03:18.

Owen had to be born by Caesarean Section in the end. Rebecca was nearly three weeks late, having been due around 26 December, and well, frankly, it seems that he didn’t want to come out!

We’re absolutely delighted for Eddie and Rebecca, but for Jane and I it has also been a strange week of mixed emotions as the birth date has drawn closer, reminding us of our current situation of it being apparent that we can’t have children naturally. Which is not to detract from the good news, because we are absolutely delighted for Bec and Eddie, I’m just being honest, as we wonder: will this ever happen to us? We’ll keep praying, and I would say “and keep trying” but that might be too much information for some blog readers.

We’re now looking forward to seeing the proud new father and new mother and their delightfully quiet (so far, I’m told by Eddie) Owen Thomas Saunders.

Bikes for asthmatics?

Sign spotted at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh

This afternoon Jane and I had an appointment at the Human Genetics Department at the Western General Hospital, Edinburgh. Now that we’re on the IVF waiting list, and given that I have a kidney condition called Autosomal Dominant Polycystic Kidney Disease (ADPKD), which has a 50% chance of being passed on to my children, we were keen to discuss the condition with a geneticist who would be able to explain the condition and any ways that they could help prevent the condition being passed on.

It was lovely meeting, with a lovely doctor, but the upshot is that there really is nothing they can do. There are procedures that can be done to screen IVF embryos for the presence of the genes that cause ADPCD, but the procedure is not available on the NHS, and isn’t usually used for this trifling condition! It was a very useful meeting to learn the facts and have a better understanding of the risks that we run of passing it on by having children.

On our walk back to the car we passed a bike shed (photo above) that had a sign that read:

Reserved for
emergency asthma
patients only

Hmm… emergency bikes for asthma patients?! How much did I laugh? It was only as I was taking the photograph that I noticed the writing on the ground in front of the bike shed:

Emergency Asthma Vehicle

Now, THAT makes a lot more sense than providing asthmatics with bikes to get to the Emergency Department in a hurry.

Fertility results

The news this morning took us completely by surprise. I’m still taking it in, to be honest.

We were at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh for our follow-up appointment with the fertility expert, to get the results of my two sperm tests and Jane’s laparoscopy, and to see where we go from here.

I’d previously blogged:

The operation was a success, it seems, and the surgeon said that he couldn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t be able to have a baby.

It appears that that was, unfortunately, far from the truth. (For once) I won’t go into details suffice to say that we were told that it looks unlikely that Jane will be able to conceive naturally, and that our best chance of having a baby will be with IVF (In vitro fertilisation). The waiting list, on which our names now appear, is between 15 – 18 months.

Under the NHS we are given three goes, free. If we were to go private the wait would be reduced to between 4 and 6 months, I recall, but would cost around £3,000. And for every 1 private treatment you receive you are deducted 1 free NHS treatment. Jane has age on her side, being under 30 years. But even then the success rate is just under 45%. But forty-five is quite a big number. And one of my favourites.

I spent much of the rest of the day, in committee meetings, in a state of shock, and hurting; as Jane did on the other side of the New Town in the DoE offices. It will take some time for the news to sink in. We totally weren’t expecting that, especially after the ‘good news’ that we’d received after Jane’s day (and a half) op.

Still, looking on the bright side, at least in April 2006 when this post finishes and we’re turfed out into the street we won’t have to worry about keeping the baby dry in our cardboard box!