More and more Swedes are turning to the help of the Russian reproductive specialist Olga Zaitseva, who gives women under the age of 51 a guarantee that they will have a child. One of these women is CillHolm. After 10 unsuccessful attempts to get pregnant in Scandinavia, she went to St. Petersburg, where, thanks to a donor egg, she was able to give birth to little Liv. “Every morning I want to pinch myself to make sure she’s not dreaming,” says Cilla.
More than a hundred Swedish women visit Olga Zaitseva's clinic for reproductive medicine in St. Petersburg every month. They want to fulfill their dream and become mothers. Olga has earned the fame of a miracle doctor, she gives a guarantee that even at 51, her client will be able to give birth to a child. She travels to Sweden every year, where she lectures, and every time many women and men come to listen to her and learn more about her methods, who are eager to have children.
Swedish couples and single women who visit this Russian clinic often already have many unsuccessful attempts to conceive behind their backs. Many have tried this many times with IVF at home in Sweden. Olga Zaitseva and her team are their last hope.
"I treat with all my heart"
Olga has been working in the field of reproductive medicine for 15 years. She explains that she inherited a sharp mind from her professor father, and her emotionality from her mother. In her profession, it is important to have both, she believes.
“I heal with all my heart and with all my mind,” she says and smiles.
From a medical point of view, it is necessary to optimize as much as possible all conditions for pregnancy in each particular woman.
“If you are cutting out your appendicitis, a standard operation will work for most people. But when it comes to a woman's reproductive system, it is important to choose an individual approach for a good result. If everything is done correctly at all stages, then with each step you can increase the chances of success by 10%, and in the end they will be very high,”she says.
“Most of all in my work I like the feeling that comes when everything works out,” she says, and cites a recent example when a woman who had six unsuccessful IVF attempts at home became pregnant with Olga on the first attempt and is now expecting twins from her own eggs.
ASG increases the chances
Previously, the average age of the clients of the clinic was as much as 45 years. Now it has become a little lower, because more and more women are turning there at an earlier stage.
The good statistics of the clinic, in addition to the individual approach and many hours of work to optimize the conditions for pregnancy, is also explained by the fact that pre-implantation genetic screening can be done there. In addition, the clinic has a large bank of donor eggs.
Thanks to preimplantation genetic screening (abbreviated as PGS), it is possible to study whether the number of chromosomes is normal even before the embryo is inserted into the uterus. The older the woman, the more chromosomal abnormalities the fetus may have, and this is the most common reason that it cannot gain a foothold in the uterus or begin to develop as it should. By choosing the embryos that are most likely to survive, doctors can achieve successful IVF faster. In Sweden, ASG is not allowed.
If many IVF attempts have not been successful, you can resort to using donor eggs. That is, to use another woman's egg.
Silla Holm is one of those who went this way. She hosts the podcast “I want children” (Jag vill hbarn), and now also lectures with Olga.
She tried to get pregnant five times with the help of artificial insemination and was already making her fifth IVF attempt when she got to one of Olga's seminars devoted to egg donation.
“My first thought was that I don’t want to go to Russia and don’t want to use an egg donor. But Olga inspired me a lot of confidence, and in 90 minutes of her lecture I learned more about the reproductive system than in a year and a half of treatment in Denmark”.
Since it is forbidden for single people in Sweden to try to have children on their own, Silla decided to turn to Denmark. In addition, she was already 40 years old when this law came into force on April 1, 2016, and she was considered too old to resort to the help of state Swedish medicine. The Danish doctors with whom she spoke felt that she had a good chance of becoming pregnant, because her anti-Müllerian hormone was high and her egg reserves were sufficient. Cilla was advised to try artificial insemination, and she really hoped that everything would work out. But with each unsuccessful attempt, hope dwindled.
“Later I realized that even if you have a lot of eggs, they may be useless. Trying to get pregnant when you're forty is an idiotic idea. But nobody told me that."
Now Cilla thinks that she was let down by false confidence in her abilities. She thought she had a good chance, but that was not the case.
According to Dr. Olga Zayetsva, many are reassured by the fact that more and more Hollywood stars become pregnant when they are 46, 47 and even sometimes 50 years old. However, she says that in most cases they use donor eggs.
"It's hard to give up your own eggs."
Of course, it is difficult for a woman who wants children to give up her own eggs, Olga explains.
“They need time to grieve over this. I have met many women who cried and told how they were told that 'they are too old to become a mother.'
“They blame themselves for not being good enough, and this has a huge impact on them. For some women, giving birth to their genetic children is a matter of prestige. They feel the rejection of this idea as a defeat."
Olga talks to her patients about how the body and the reproductive system work and tries to help them stop blaming themselves. They can also talk to a psychotherapist. Sometimes the psychological preparation for using the donor egg takes a whole year.
Silla Holm took several months. When the tenth attempt failed, she took time out and began to get used to the idea that she might have to live life without children.
“Of course, it was incredible grief, it happened that I lay on the bathroom floor and cried, but at the same time I realized that I would not die if I did not have children. Instead, I began to think that I could travel or move to another country, and that comforted me."
But since she was interested in the procedure using donor eggs, she nevertheless decided to attend another lecture by Olga. And soon everything started spinning.
“I thought: what is more important - to become a mother at all or to become a genetic mother? It turned out that for me it is not at all important to be a genetic mother. I just have all the sorrows mixed into one. Why did I wait so long? Why didn't I meet anyone with whom I could have a child? And after you've tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant with IVF so many times, you feel like a failure."
Olga's clinic guarantees that there will be a baby if the client buys a package of services that includes three IVF attempts with an egg donor. This means that if the pregnancy fails after three attempts, the client gets 80% of the money back. Such a package of services costs just over 230,000 kroons (approximately 1,600,000 rubles) if the couple uses their own sperm.A package using a ready-made embryo, when both the donor cell and the donor sperm are used, is cheaper.
Cilla Holm got down to business and paid for just such a package of services. In January 2018, she boarded a plane to St. Petersburg with the feeling that this time she would succeed. The embryo was placed in Silla, and ten days later she was sitting at home in Stockholm in front of her laptop and continuously checking mail. Finally, she received the message she had been waiting for. She was pregnant. Little Liv is ten months old today.
“Every morning I want to pinch myself to make sure she's not a dream. And then I think about those two people, a Danish man and a Russian woman, who gave me a piece of themselves. My life moved to a completely different level when I had a baby with the help of donors. Today I am much more tolerant and always look for the best traits in people."
Silla would like more Swedish women to share their eggs to help their fellow countrywomen. Today in Sweden there are too long queues for this service, and what will happen with the legislative status of such procedures is not entirely clear, she says.
It took Olga Zaitseva ten years to build a large donor network in Russia. Most often these are young women who want to do something good for the world. In addition, they themselves must already have children. They always collect as much information as possible about these women, says Olga.
“They want to help people, not just get some quick money,” she says.
The clinic pays for one egg donor approximately 14,000 kroons (approximately 98,000 rubles). Women must provide medical history, handwritten letters, their childhood photographs and family circumstances.
Up to what age can you become a mother?
It is difficult to set an upper age limit for an IVF procedure with a donor egg, Olga says.
A woman may be 44 years old or 51 years old - by and large, from the point of view of health, this does not play a big role, unless she is sick with anything. But Olga noticed that the people around her may have prejudices against women who have children late.
In her opinion, an elderly mother is no worse for a child than a young one. On the contrary, she believes that such mothers are very motivated, they have a stable economy, they are calm and psychologically ready.
“If you yourself do not belong to such women, how do you know what is right? What right do you have to judge? If they write such comments to me on social networks, I don't even waste time talking. I listen to experts and focus my attention on clients."
Fighting for so long is grief
Olga is 39 years old, she has two children and her own IVF experience. She also froze several of her unfertilized cells.
But she is dubious about the new fashion for 30-year-old women to freeze their eggs to be less anxious.
“People really hope for this, but there is no guarantee. The hope for them is rather weak, only 5% of them can turn into children. Better to start trying to have a baby as early as 30,”she says.
Do not wait too long - this is everyone's boring golden rule of reproductive specialists. But Olga is ready to help everyone who, for various reasons, still waited until the last. She wishes with all her heart to give them a good chance at parenthood.
All this time, Silla was not only happy that she finally became a mother, but inside herself she tried to digest all these years of struggle. It's good that pregnancy made her more receptive to love.
“When I got pregnant, I had fewer problems with social connections. If you cherish a small life inside yourself, it is already difficult to take on one of everything. When I was five months old, I met a man that I would never have been interested in before. Now we have been together for a year. He takes a big part in Liv's life,”Silla said.