WHEN Lauren and Mitch Sattler got married almost two years ago, they had both hoped to start a family "straight away".
Mrs Sattler had stopped taking the contraceptive pill months before their wedding. But when the honeymoon was over, and her period had still not returned, she had a gut feeling something wasn't quite right.
She said she had booked an appointment with her GP for some tests.
"I'd been on the pill for about 12 years, and I'd come off it and I just didn't get a period," Mrs Sattler, who was 30 at the time, said. "I saw my GP, and we decided to give it some more time.
"But I went back six weeks later and asked for a referral to see Dr Matt Holland - who would become my gynaecologist, my IVF doctor at Genea Newcastle, and then my obstetrician."
The Belmont woman was eventually diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, despite not having any of the typical symptoms. And in December, 2019, the couple started the process of in vitro fertilisation - IVF - with their hearts full of hope that it would help them start a family. Their first cycle had looked promising, but had to be cancelled due to its proximity to Christmas and the clinic's closure.
"But on New Year's Eve we went back in and started again on the second stimulation cycle, and I didn't respond quite as well as the first cycle," she said.
But an egg collection yielded seven eggs, five of which became fertilised.
"But we only got one embryo," she said. "I was quite disheartened."
The embryo was transferred a few weeks later. Then, on a Thursday morning, they went into Genea to have a blood test to see if she was pregnant.
"I walked out of the clinic and I burst into tears and said to Mitchell, 'I just know it didn't work, it isn't going to work'. We went home and until the phone rang at 10am - it was so quiet in the house. Amazingly, we fell pregnant. I was in utter disbelief to be honest."
Mrs Sattler said she found it really difficult, emotionally, to get through all of the anxious waiting that went with the IVF process. Then, once she did fall pregnant, she felt a lot of guilt.
"I really struggled to get through the waiting period, the waiting to find out if I was pregnant," she said. "But I know people do this for years and years and years and they don't fall pregnant, and here I was, falling apart, and we had only really just started. The physical aspect of the process - the drugs and the needles, that didn't really bother me at all. But once we had our egg collection and we were waiting all those days to see if they actually fertilised, and then grew, was probably the hardest thing, emotionally. The Grow app that Genea have was really comforting for me."
Mrs Sattler said the app gave them a snapshot of the embryos at day one, day three, and day five.
"You can see how the cells in the embryo have multiplied," she said. "We actually had three growing, and by day five, we only had one make it. But I still found it comforting to have all of that information when I was in such a heightened emotional state. It made that five-day wait that little less painful."
Mrs Sattler's pregnancy was uneventful, in the best possible way.
"I was so anxious the whole time though," she said. "I just wanted him to get here safely. Sadly, I think I was waiting for something to go wrong. But it didn't."
Almost six months ago, Flynn was born.
"The sleep deprivation, no one can prepare you for that, but he is just the best thing," she said.
Mrs Sattler said an independent website recently launched by the federal government, called Your IVF Success, wasn't around when they went through the IVF process - they had relied on word-of-mouth. But she thinks it would have been really helpful, because it used the same measures to compare the success rates of IVF clinics throughout Australia.
Almost one in 20 babies in Australia born through IVF, and this was a way to help people compare apples with apples when looking at the success of fertility clinics.
"It's a really good tool because you invest everything emotionally, financially, and obviously you want a good outcome, so I think it's a great thing," she said.
"It's easy to use. All of the measures are the same. If you did your own research and looked at clinics individually, you don't know if they are measured against the same information and data."
The website aims to address the lack of information and clarity in the IVF industry.
Genea's scientific director, Steven McArthur, said the website looked at four key measures of live birth associated with different aspects of the IVF treatment cycle.
"One of the measures looks at the live birth rate per IVF attempt, and per use of all of the embryos created from that attempt," he said.
"It actually gives patients, for the first time, the capacity to compare the outcomes of IVF clinics, and that's a really important thing for patients, because IVF clinics have different technologies within the clinic. A really important contributor to success is the quality of the embryos that are produced. The notion that they now have an independent website that lists out the live birth success rates of all the clinics they could potentially go to is an important step forward for patients."
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He was "proud" Genea had "rated very highly" against all the other data on the website.
"Unless you have a statistical bent, and have the capacity to look at all of the information on clinic websites and interpret it against the different ways of representing that data, then it was very difficult for patients to go to see where clinics sit in comparison to others, not just in Newcastle, but across the state and Australia," he said.
"The time to success is really important, so if the website gives people the ability to seek out clinics that have the best success rates and that subsequently reduces their time to achieving their goals of having a family, I think that is hugely positive for patients."
Mr McArthur said they offered "time-lapse capabilities" built in to their incubators, and the Grow app was linked to that system.
"It's certainly the only app in Australia that provides that capability, and is one of only two I've heard of globally," he said.
"The process of having a family is that for a lot of people, it just happens, so when it doesn't, it creates a lot of stress and a lot of anxiety."
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