A woman who gave birth to twin daughters at 50 after nearly 11 years of trying to get pregnant says she spent over £40,000 on her fertility journey.
Manda Epton, who was born in Oxford but now lives in Sydney, Australia, started trying to get pregnant at 39 after her long-term relationship fell apart and she decided to try and get pregnant as a single mother.
The fashion designer endured 23 fertility treatments, and three miscarriages before, she finally gave birth to her daughters Chloe and Freya, three, after spending £40,000 to get them here.
Manda Epton, who was born in Oxford but now lives in Sydney, Australia, gave birth to her daughters Chloe and Freya, three, in 2018 at the age of 50
She made the decision to try and become a single mother after her long-term relationship broke down in her late thirties. Epton pictured at 50 while pregnant with her twin daughters
After initial attempts faltered, a psychotherapist told her at 43 to accept she would never be a mother – however, Epton was determined she would become a mother
Epton said the breakdown of her relationship in her late thirties left her making the decision to become a parent alone.
She explains: ‘I started doing treatments when I was 39, as I’d always dreamt of having a family.
‘I continued dating over the 10 years but always felt this pressure as I still wanted children. I ran out of get to know you time to co-parent with someone.’
Epton decided to use both a sperm donor and an egg donor to conceive her children through IVF – but quickly saw fertility clinic costs rack up.
‘I started burning through my income and savings at fertility clinics. One of the clinics referred me to a psychotherapist who told me that I needed to come to terms with the fact that I would never have children at 43.’
Manda underwent two and a half rounds of IVF, as the third was cancelled due to ovarian hyperstimulation, an exaggerated response to hormones.
Says being an older mum makes her better parent in some ways – because she’s not as technology-obsessed as younger parents
The girls were conceived using an egg and sperm donor at a South African clinic – using sperm from a Danish donor with blonde hair and blue eyes, she says
She had six embryos implanted, of which she had two pregnancies that lasted eight weeks.
She also had six IUI drug assisted fertility rounds, and seven IUI only rounds all of which were unsuccessful, despite another eight-week pregnancy.
Her final round of fertility at Cape Town SA, Cape Fertility included a double donor embryo transfer which resulted in her successful twin pregnancy.
She adds: ‘I struggled with the miscarriages and part of me wanted to give up at points, but I really wanted children of my own.
‘I even thought about adoption, but the waiting list was seven years, and single women were at the bottom of the list.’
After witnessing her struggle, a friend recommended Manda visit Cape Fertility in South Africa.
Not only had her friend had a successful pregnancy from the clinic, but it was much cheaper than what Manda was paying per treatment over in Australia.
Best decision: the single mother says having children was the best choice she’s ever made
Her last chance attempt saw her spend £8,100 at the South African clinic, where she had two embryos transferred – and hoped one would be successful
The girls, now three, pictured in 2019 visiting Father Christmas with their mother
She said: ‘I got to choose the donors and got to shop around.
‘I come from a blonde hair and blue eyes background so chose a lovely egg donor from South Africa and got to shop around for a sperm donor, eventually choosing one from Denmark.
‘I spent £8,100 at the clinic and had two embryos transferred, as it was my final chance and I really wanted at least one of them to be successful.
‘I was in the stirrups like Bridget Jones during the procedure.’
After her time in South Africa, Manda travelled back to her home in Australia, crossing her fingers unsure if her pregnancy would be successful.
She said: ‘I went to my seven-week scan, genuinely worried that I would miscarry again after I had a hematoma bleed between the amniotic sacks.
Despite expecting another failed pregnancy, Epton was delighted to discover the fertility treatment in South Africa worked, saying: ‘My eyes almost popped out of my head when the woman pointed out that there were two babies.’
Apart from morning sickness that lasted well into the second trimester, Epton had a relatively easy pregnancy, she says
The girls were delivered by C-section in 2018 and both arrived happy and healthy
Epton says that working freelance means she’s been able to be flexible for her children
She says she had considered adoption but that the waiting list ‘was seven years, and single women were at the bottom of the list’
Wiser: She says she has the benefit of experience over her younger peers
‘But my eyes almost popped out of my head when the woman pointed out that there were two babies.’
Manda gave birth to her twins at 50-years-old via c-section in August 2018, after a relatively healthy pregnancy.
She added: ‘I was quite sick for the first five months of the pregnancy and had non-stop vomiting, and being an older woman, I had a lot of injections to help me along too.
‘But both my girls came out perfectly happy and healthy.’
Her journey led her to South Africa because treatment was cheaper and her friend had had a successful pregnancy there
After the embryos were implanted, Manda travelled back to her home in Australia and had scans revealing the treatment had worked
Manda now spends as much time as possible with her daughters, claiming that being an older mum has many perks.
She said: ‘I feel as though, at 54, I’m a bit wiser and don’t do technology the way younger parents do these days.
‘So I’m out here spending more time playing with them at the park and doing fun activities, rather than ignoring them and being on my phone.
‘Being freelance, and having my own business Maud N Lil Organic Cotton where we make organic comforters and soft toys for children, means I can spend as much time with them as I can.
‘It’s the best decision I’ve ever made.’
How does IVF work?
In-vitro fertilisation, known as IVF, is a medical procedure in which a woman has an already-fertilised egg inserted into her womb to become pregnant.
It is used when couples are unable to conceive naturally, and a sperm and egg are removed from their bodies and combined in a laboratory before the embryo is inserted into the woman.
Once the embryo is in the womb, the pregnancy should continue as normal.
The procedure can be done using eggs and sperm from a couple or those from donors.
Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that IVF should be offered on the NHS to women under 43 who have been trying to conceive through regular unprotected sex for two years.
People can also pay for IVF privately, which costs an average of £3,348 for a single cycle, according to figures published in January 2018, and there is no guarantee of success.
The NHS says success rates for women under 35 are about 29 per cent, with the chance of a successful cycle reducing as they age.
Around eight million babies are thought to have been born due to IVF since the first ever case, British woman Louise Brown, was born in 1978.
Chances of success
The success rate of IVF depends on the age of the woman undergoing treatment, as well as the cause of the infertility (if it’s known).
Younger women are more likely to have a successful pregnancy.
IVF isn’t usually recommended for women over the age of 42 because the chances of a successful pregnancy are thought to be too low.
Between 2014 and 2016 the percentage of IVF treatments that resulted in a live birth was:
29 per cent for women under 35
23 per cent for women aged 35 to 37
15 per cent for women aged 38 to 39
9 per cent for women aged 40 to 42
3 per cent for women aged 43 to 44
2 per cent for women aged over 44