Manitoba

31 years later, daughter hopes to reproduce mom's IVF success

Stephanie McGregor hopes history will be on her side as she attempts to get pregnant with in vitro fertilization.

In vitro new, controversial when mom got pregnant; decades later, her daughter hopes history repeats itself

Stephanie McGregor has been trying to conceive a child since she got married. She now hopes that, like her mother, she'll be successful with IVF. (Kampphotography)

Stephanie McGregor hopes history will be on her side as she attempts to get pregnant with in vitro fertilization.

That's because three decades ago, her mother successfully underwent the same fertility treatment ... one of the first in Canada to do so.

"I like the idea that she was a pioneer in a way," McGregor, one of a set of triplets borne of her mother's IVF. "It worked for her. So it makes me really hopeful for my own chances."
Gwen McGregor, pregnant in 1986 with triplets, just four years after the procedure was successfully introduced in Canada. (Supplied)

McGregor, 31, is speaking out about her struggles to mark Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, May 7 to 13. 

"I know for a long time I felt very alone, keeping it a secret from people, not feeling like I could really talk about it," she said.

The fact is, however, she is not alone. Currently, about one in six Canadian couples face infertility (defined as going a full year of attempting pregnancy without success). 

"People have to talk about it," McGregor said. "There is so much support when you know others are going through the same feelings as you."

Those feelings during her three-years-and-counting struggle range across the board, she said. Confusion when it didn't happen right away, jealousy when friends around her got pregnant, and ultimately, a grief that quietly overwhelmed her.

"I'd feel upset, I'd feel sad, it was a battle of emotions," she said.

Today, she is in the midst of in vitro fertilization, a medical process where eggs are retrieved from a woman's ovaries and fertilized with sperm in a petri dish. The embryo is then implanted in the uterus. The procedure is costly, up to $10,000 per effort, and it comes with no guarantees.

Family tradition

It's a gamble though, that's historically paid off for the McGregors.

Gwen McGregor's 1986 IVF pregnancy and birth of triplets caught the attention of media across the country. (Supplied)
Back in 1986 in Winnipeg, Stephanie's mother Gwen was also 31 years old and had fought infertility for years, when she too decided to attempt IVF. But the procedure was relatively new to Canada. The first successful one had been performed four years prior, and there had been only a handful of successful pregnancies since then. 

Furthermore, it was only offered in Ontario.

"I read about that clinic, photocopied my medical records and mailed them," Gwen McGregor recalled, laughing. "I didn't think of myself as a pioneer. I was just desperate to try anything."

Months later, Stephanie and her two sisters were born. And her parents instantly became celebrities.

"I was surprised by all the media attention," McGregor said. "We were very private people. We were getting calls from the newspaper. I guess (IVF) was still pretty unusual."

Hopes for a happy ending

Since then, more than 100,000 Canadians have been born through fertility treatments like IVF and intrauterine insemination. And in a few weeks, Winnipegger Sarah Rout hopes to add to that statistic. She's due to give birth to twins this summer.
Sarah Rout, three months pregnant with twins, and husband Eric Rout. (Supplied)

"Honestly, when I first got pregnant, I didn't believe it," said Rout, 28. "It had been such a roller coaster to that point, you'd get hope and then be in despair days later."

Ultimately, ultrasounds revealing her healthy "little peanuts" reassured her enough to celebrate the news. But she'll never forget the pain of her journey. That's why she too wants to lend her voice to raise awareness — and lend support — to others currently facing infertility.

"My dream was to get pregnant, I know how that feels," Rout said.

McGregor herself is hopeful that, like her mother, her own dream will soon come true, too.

"If I could be one third as successful as my mother, I'd be happy," the triplet said, laughing. "I'm hopeful."

For more information on supports and resources, go to fertilitymatters.ca.

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