Becoming a Parent After Infertility Struggles
- Olympic gold medalist Tara Lipinski has just welcomed her first baby, a girl named Geogie Winter, via surrogate following a five-year struggle with fertility.
- Lipinksi was previously diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition when endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus, and ultimately learned she had a reproductive immunology issue which caused her body to reject their fertilized embryo.
- Endometriosis, a painful disorder that has been associated with infertility, is a condition when endometrial tissue grows outside the uterus.
- In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Jaime Knopman said time was precious when dealing with fertility preservation for women with cancer or a medical condition. Basically, the sooner the better when it comes to having these important fertility conversations with your doctor.
- In some cases after cancer treatment, women may have difficulty giving birth to a child or they may be unable to at all. Having someone else carry their baby, like Menounos, may be an option, either through surrogacy or a gestational carrier.
The 41-year-old former figure skating competitor was in the delivery room when her baby was born and is incredibly grateful for the journey she endured before welcoming her daughter into the world.Read More
Recounting her difficult journey to People, Lipinski explained, “It made me realize that sometimes life is just not fair. For so long I thought, ‘Oh, you get a win, you get a loss, everything evens out.’View this post on Instagram
“As a skater I was able to train harder, force it. But when it came to infertility, there’s things you can’t change.”
It wasn’t until after having multiple miscarriages that Lipinski decided to think of other options, telling herself, “‘Okay Tara, you’ve put your body through enough.'”
Lipinski told People about the instant connection she had with Mikayla, her surrogate, who became pregnant earlier this year from one of the olympic star and her husband’s fertilized eggs.
She recalled that during her daughter’s birth, she felt very emotional while playing Dave Matthews’ “You and Me.”
More Inspirational Surrogate Stories
- Big News! TV Host Maria Menounos, Who Had a Brain Tumor While Her Mom Fought Cancer, Reveals She’s Having a Baby Girl
- Sportscaster Erin Andrews, 45, Becomes a Mom! Welcomes First Baby Via Surrogate After Years Of Fertility Struggles & Cancer
- Woman, 35, Who Had To End Pregnancy Due To Cancer, Welcomes Baby After Best Friend Serves As Surrogate
- Breast Cancer Survivor Welcomes Baby Via Surrogacy After Freezing Her Eggs: ‘Fertility Preservation In General Is Such An Amazing Opportunity’
- ‘It Was Never a Question’: A Tennessee Mother Became the Surrogate for Her Twin Sister after Cancer Treatment Left Her Unable to Carry a Child
“Then the baby came out, and it was so much relief. I felt like I could breathe again,” Lipinski told People. Her husband told the entertainment news outlet, “I would have loved for us to not have gone through all this. But now, I can’t imagine it any other way.”
Lipinski had four miscarriages, various unsuccessful attempts at in vitro fertilization transfers and two surgeries stemming from endometriosis, she previously explained on social media back in August.
She wrote, “My husband and I have seemingly hit every roadblock imaginable from the moment we began this process in 2018 and since then I have been under anesthesia 24 times, have had 4 miscarriages, 4 D&C’s, 6 failed IVF transfers, 8 retrievals and a diagnosis of endometriosis that led me to 2 major surgeries.
“It has been an excruciatingly painful journey that has been filled with loss & dealing with the grief that comes along with that.”
View this post on Instagram
Alongside a more recent post, featuring a photo of her daughter wearing a T-shirt reading “Mommy’s Little Ice Skater,” Lipinski wrote, “Meet Georgie Winter. We are so grateful that we get to make this announcement that our baby girl is here. It feels so surreal and I’m experiencing a feeling of happiness that I have never felt before.
“This little embryo that Todd and I made together has come to life! We are so grateful and forever thankful for our surrogate. Mikayla, thank you for carrying her safely into our arms.”
Lipinski addressed her difficult five-year surrogacy. “Looking back on the last five years, I can’t help but think of all those shots, surgeries, multiple retrievals to replenish all of the miscarriages and failed transfers I endured, the miscarriages that felt like they broke me more and more each time and to the times that Todd and I thought are our dream would never come true.”
“I wish we never went through it but I’m grateful that somehow I found the strength to keep going when I thought I couldn’t because we got very lucky. Georgie, we have thought about you for half a decade. You are so loved. You are EVERYTHING,” she said, with some positive words for those dealing with fertility struggles, adding, “Ps. For anyone still in the wait, I’m sorry for what you are going through. I see you and I know the pain you are going through – I’m rooting so hard for you all.”
View this post on Instagram
Lipinski also dubbed infertility as “one of loneliest clubs to be a part of.”
She hopes that by sharing her story that she and her husband can inspire other couples to not feel so alone.
Endometriosis can be a very painful disorder. Essentially what happens is the abnormal tissue outside of your uterus thickens, breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle. But because this tissue has no way to exit your body like normal endometrial tissue, it becomes trapped. This can cause cysts, irritation and scar tissue and adhesions abnormal bands of fibrous tissue that can cause pelvic tissues and organs to stick to each other to form.
This disorder has been associated with infertility, just with Tara Lipinski’s case.
The Massachusetts General Hospital states that “between 30-50% of people with endometriosis may experience infertility.
“The normal chance of getting pregnant each month for people with no endometriosis is approximately 10-20%, while people with surgically documented endometriosis have a chance of only 1-10%,” the hospital explains.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “The word endometriosis comes from the word ‘endometrium’—endo means ‘inside,’ and metrium means “uterus,” where a mother carries her baby. Healthcare providers call the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus the endometrium.”
Endometriosis usually occurs on or near reproductive organs in the pelvis or abdomen, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Other areas is can be found in are the fallopian tubes, ligaments around the uterus (uterosacral ligaments), lining of the pelvic cavity, ovaries, outside surface of the uterus, space between the uterus and the rectum or bladder.
In rare circumstances, it can also grow on and around the bladder, cervix, intestines, rectum, stomach (abdomen), and vagina or vulva.
Fertility and Cancer Treatment
Infertility can be a side effect of endometriosis, as well as some cancer treatments, but there are options to consider. Fertility preservation, for example, is available to women of childbearing age. Options for women include:
- Egg and embryo freezing (the most common practice)
- Ovarian tissue freezing
- Ovarian suppression to prevent the eggs from maturing so that they cannot be damaged during treatment.
- Ovarian transposition, for women getting radiation to the pelvis, to move the ovaries out of the line of treatment.
No matter what course of action you choose to take, it is important that all women feel comfortable talking about their options prior to cancer treatment.
In an earlier interview with SurvivorNet, Dr. Jaime Knopman said time was precious when dealing with fertility preservation for women with cancer. Basically, the sooner the better when it comes to having these important fertility conversations with your doctor.
“The sooner we start, the sooner that patient can then go on and do their treatment,” Dr. Knopman said. “A lot of the success comes down to how old you are at the time you froze and the quality of the lab in which your eggs or embryos are frozen in.”
Surrogacy and Gestational Carriers
In some cases after battling a condition like endometriosis or undergoing cancer treatment, women may have difficulty giving birth to a child or they may be unable to at all. Having someone else carry their baby may be an option, either through surrogacy or a gestational carrier.
According to the National Cancer Institute, a surrogate pregnancy is “a type of pregnancy in which a woman carries and gives birth to a baby for a person who is not able to have children.”
“In a surrogate pregnancy, eggs from the woman who will carry the baby or from an egg donor are fertilized with sperm from a sperm donor to make an embryo,” the institute explains.
“The embryo is implanted in the uterus of the surrogate mother, who carries the baby until birth. Surrogate pregnancy may be an option for men or women who want to have children and have had certain anticancer treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, that can cause infertility.”
As for a gestational carrier, the institute describes this person as a “woman who carries and gives birth to a baby for a person who is not able to have children.”
“Eggs from an egg donor are fertilized in the laboratory with sperm from a sperm donor to make an embryo,” the institute explains. “The embryo is implanted in the uterus of the gestational surrogate, who carries the baby until birth. The gestational surrogate (or carrier) is not genetically related to the baby and is not the biological mother.”
If you or someone you know is deciding on whether or not to go the route of surrogacy or gestational carrier, it’s important to know that each state has different laws and it may be necessary to speak with an attorney before moving forward.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
If you’re facing cancer treatment and wondering about your fertility preservation options, here are some questions you may consider asking your doctor:
- How do you expect my treatment to affect my fertility?
- Are there specialists I can talk to about my fertility preservation options?
- Is it safe for me to preserve my fertility before treatment?
- What resources are available to help me pay for fertility preservation?
- What mental health resources are available to help me cope with this?
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff