Stephen and Alana Franklin have not given up hope of having a baby, despite going through 13 miscarriages, including two ectopic pregnancies. Natalie Akoorie talks to the couple about their horrendous infertility journey and the hopes they have pinned on IVF.
Stephen and Alana Franklin have been counting down to today.
Only then will a simple blood test confirm if Alana is pregnant.
But getting pregnant has never been the hard part for Alana, 27, and Stephen, 43.
The Taranaki couple have suffered through 13 miscarriages including two ectopic pregnancies and the removal of both of Alana's fallopian tubes, since they were married in August 2015.
When they first conceived soon after their wedding the couple, who own a painting and decorating business, were overjoyed at the prospect of becoming parents.
"We knew we had a pregnancy - we had two lines," Stephen said of the positive test result.
"We were really excited. This was going to be awesome. We had a midwife. We were buying little clothes."
But as the weeks wore on Alana began to get stomach pain and slowly some vaginal spotting turned to continuous bleeding.
She endured at least two miscarriages before the situation became life-threatening on Christmas Eve 2015 when it was discovered the pregnancy was ectopic.
This is when the pregnancy occurs outside the uterus, in most cases in a fallopian tube - often if the tube is damaged and the fertilised egg gets trapped inside it.
Alana was rushed into an emergency surgery at Taranaki Base Hospital where one of her fallopian tubes had to be removed.
Stephen said the experience was traumatic and left the couple devastated and confused.
They were given a booklet on ectopic pregnancy.
Over the next two years they kept trying to have a baby. Every time Alana conceived it ended in a miscarriage.
"We went through 13 miscarriages. Some were eight weeks, some were five weeks."
Alana said the process became a blur.
"I went quite numb for a while and shut down," she said.
"At the start it was quite disheartening. Then the second one, I was more devastated thinking 'Wow, another one'. Then the third one, fourth one and I was thinking 'This is getting quite ridiculous' and I was getting depressed."
With each pregnancy she had less and less hope. She saw specialists and had a barrage of tests and scans but the miscarriages continued.
In November 2017 Alana had her final miscarriage, another ectopic pregnancy.
She was rushed into theatre again where doctors performed emergency surgery to remove the pregnancy including her only remaining fallopian tube.
It was a huge blow and meant the Stratford residents can no longer get pregnant without in vitro fertilisation [IVF].
They spent the past 18 months preparing for and undergoing IVF at Fertility Associates in Hamilton.
But because the process requires regular visits to the clinic for blood tests, scans and procedures, they had to stay with friends and, as a consequence, stopped work.
Without an income they started a Givealittle page in the hopes they could raise some money toward their living costs.
Any extra would be used to fund a further round of IVF, more than$11,500.
If this one is unsuccessful the couple qualify for a second round free. After that, regardless of success or not, they must fund their IVF treatment.
The Waikato District Health Board clinical director of obstetrics, Dr Isabel Camano, said 13 miscarriages was unusual.
"The more [miscarriages] you have the more chances of having another one and it becomes quite frustrating and painful and they become really distressed, and then there's the whole component of mental health."
Camano said only between 0.4 and 1 per cent of the population will suffer recurrent miscarriages - that is, three or more consecutive miscarriages.
She said there are various reasons for recurrent miscarriages including age, chromosomal, ovarian and uterine abnormalities.
"Approximately 5 per cent of women with recurrent miscarriages have a chromosomal abnormality and between 10 and 25 per cent with a uterine abnormality."
That could be a septum which divides the uterus in two, or a heart-shaped uterus.
"And sometimes we do many investigations and we don't find a cause and we call it unknown causes."
In New Zealand about 1600 babies are born annually through IVF. When Fertility Associates first opened in 1987 success rates were at 15 per cent.
Now they sit around 50 per cent for women under 37.
In January Fertility Associates celebrated 20,000 babies born through IVF.