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High-tech medicine, egg donor made this couple parents

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Thursday, April 03, 2008 | 1 comments

Photo by Nozell, 45,had twins by donor egg

FORT WORTH, Texas -- Paul Nozell had few doubts as he sat in front of an ultrasound screen watching as two eggs - no bigger than pinheads - were implanted in his wife's uterus.

"Those were the best eggs you could get," he said. "Those two eggs were just perfect."

He was right. On Nov. 27, Garrett and Laura Nozell were born.

Marianne Nozell was 45 when she gave birth to the twins. She and her husband joined the estimated 15 percent of U.S. couples who undergo fertility treatments each year.

Since the first "test tube baby" was born in 1978, assisted reproduction has become a big business. In 2006, it led to more than 50,000 births worldwide.

While Hollywood celebrities have made late-in-life motherhood fashionable, what is rarely publicized is that a woman's odds of getting pregnant with her own eggs after 40 are less than 1 percent, said Dr. Kevin Doody, a reproductive endocrinologist who with his wife, Dr. Kathleen Doody, operates the Center for Assisted Reproduction in Bedford, Texas.

In some ways, donor eggs have made that ticking biological clock obsolete. Donor eggs from a young woman give a 45-year-old the same chance of getting pregnant as a woman in her 20s - baby-making prime time.

An estimated 14,000 babies are born each year in the United States from donor eggs, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. Use of donor eggs has grown nearly 40 percent since 2000.

One University of Southern California study of motherhood after menopause found that women over 50 could safely have babies using donor eggs. In 2000, there were 255 births to women 50 to 54, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over a 12-month period at the reproduction clinic in Bedford, 71.9 percent of patients using donor eggs gave birth. By comparison, 46 percent of women who underwent in vitro fertilization with their own eggs delivered.

The Nozells' marriage is the first for Paul and the second for Marianne. They considered adoption and tried other fertility treatments before attempting in vitro with donor eggs and Paul's sperm.

"We had already been through a lot of frustration, and a lot of money had been spent with every alternative I could think of," Marianne said. "By then I knew I wanted a donor."

They started by going through a database of donors, then thumbing through photos of smiling women willing to donate their eggs.

The Nozells weren't looking for a model-turned-med student with a 4.0 GPA. They wanted a petite woman, maybe with blond hair like Marianne's.

They also wanted a donor whose eggs had already successfully resulted in a pregnancy. But this knowledge was a double-edged sword. It raised the possibility that their children might run into children from the same woman's eggs - their biological half-siblings.

At some fertility clinics, couples pick their donor from a huge bank of women from around the country. While this widens the search and improves anonymity, it also adds travel expenses to the cost of egg retrieval.


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About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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