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Manuela, why is IVF the best thing that has ever happened to you?
Manuela, why is IVF the best thing that has ever happened to you?

Manuela Wengust became a mother for the first time in November 2020 - a true miracle for the 38-year-old. This is because she suffers from a severe form of endometriosis. Her message: "Dear women, do not be afraid of artificial insemination!"

Manuela Wengust
Manuela Wengust

When Manuela Wengust thinks of her child, she knows that she made the right decision with this interview. "At some point he will find out about his 'artificial' conception. And that's a good thing. Because it doesn't matter where our son comes from. The main thing is that he has found his way to us."

Before we spoke, the 38-year-old took notes on her medical history and artificial insemination. Because with her very personal story, she wants to help other women. Women who, like you, suffer from endometriosis and still want to have children. And women who are ashamed or feel inadequate because pregnancy does not work the "natural" way for them.

Silent suffering, dampened by hormones

Around 300,000 women in Austria suffer from endometriosis. In the chronic disease, uterine lining-like cells appear outside the uterus, grow together there and thus lead to inflammatory changes. Manuela herself suffers from a less common but severe form - deeply infiltrating endometriosis. Your cells not only "get lost", but also penetrate directly into other organs and cause a lot of damage there.

With Manuela, it probably all began in her youth. The first symptom: severe menstrual pain. In return, she was prescribed the pill. Today she knows that the hormones it contains press on a break in endometriosis. However, she did not hear the name of her illness for the first time until 2016. At the time she was 34 years old: "When a cyst was discovered in me, my gynecologist finally explained to me. And told me that it might be difficult for me to get pregnant naturally." The Styrian continued to take hormones after the operation and tried not to think about her suffering.

Despite unspeakable pain, fatigue, constant gastrointestinal complaints and nausea, Manuela continued to conquer her everyday life: "Endometriosis hung over my life like a sword of Damocles. But I learned certain tricks to ignore it," said the 38-year-old. For example, during her period she set the alarm clock earlier and earlier in order to be able to take a pain reliever: "I knew that otherwise I would not get out of bed."

No baby without surgery

Then she met her current partner. Both felt a strong desire to have children. But before it could be fulfilled, Manuela had to face her illness. So the couple turned to the endometriosis center of the LKH Villach. During the 45-minute ultrasound, the 38-year-old felt like scales from her eyes: "I'm really chronically ill." The intestines, uterus, urinary bladder and urinary ducts as well as the ovaries were affected: "The entire team was amazed at how I managed to live 'normally' with such foci of inflammation," remembers the Styrian.

An operation was made to remove parts of the affected tissue: "I wanted to create a positive climate in my body for a baby." She and her partner agreed that if the operation went well, they would try artificial insemination. Manuela became friends with the idea of in vitro fertilization (IVF). Nonetheless, she was plagued by self-doubts: "I had the feeling that I wasn't good enough as a woman. And I felt so sorry for my boyfriend because I always thought he would have had an easier time with another woman. He himself has me but always supported and tried to give me the feeling that we can do everything together, even if it doesn't work out with a pregnancy."

"I had the feeling that I wasn't good enough as a woman."

She found solace in the online endometriosis community. Manuela actively networked with other sufferers, asked for advice and exchanged ideas: It became clear to her that many other women are also afraid of IVF. Or have moral concerns: "Nature has determined that it simply shouldn't be," it said in the forums. Manuela was also often concerned with this sentence - after all, she had been brought up Catholic. The Styrian found the perfect inner attitude for herself: "If this child is my heart's desire, why shouldn't I ask for help and walk the path like this? God has given us a brain and we have developed so many medical options - why should then exactly the artificial insemination be so wrong?"

Despite its severity, the operation went so well that Manuela was greeted by the doctor after waking up with the following words: "Dear Ms. Wengust, I congratulate you! You can already make an appointment at the fertility clinic." The then 36-year-old was incredibly relieved - but also overwhelmed. The couple tried to have a child the natural way for three months, then finally decided on IVF. "I think many women are insecure because laypeople know so little about the process itself. But at the fertility clinic in Klagenfurt we were given so good, so transparent advice that I was relieved of any fear," said Manuela.

Manuela Wengust
Manuela Wengust

She also kept the following advice from the attending physician in mind: "If the fertilized egg does not implant the first time, then that is quite normal. It doesn't have to work the second or third time either. Natural selection is simply at work here. And we cannot control them. " The Styrian is one of the in-vitro lottery winners: She got pregnant after the first transfer. "For me it was like a picture book. So, a year after my major operation, I was sitting as round as a ball in the endometriosis center where I only accompanied a friend this time," remembers Manuela. She also suffers from the disease, which the pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones have given her peace of mind since then: "I hope that it doesn't come back to me at all. But if I do, I now know what I can do."

Artificial fertilization? Medical help

There is a deep gratitude in her words. Because the new mom - her son was born in November 2020 - knows that it doesn't work so quickly and easily for everyone. Nevertheless, she would like to encourage her fellow sufferers to try artificial insemination. "For example, I had great respect for hormone treatment. But once egg cells have been successfully removed and fertilized, this procedure does not have to be repeated indefinitely." The genetic material of Manuela and her partner - in the form of the fertilized egg cells - is also shock-frozen ready in case a second child is desired.

"Every now and then we get strange comments from friends and family," says the 38-year-old. "Somehow there is the feeling that IVF is worth less than" natural "fertilization." Manuela Wengust has found a clear answer to this: "The term 'artificial insemination' alone contributes to the stigma. It is my egg cell and it is my partner's semen - we only needed a little medical help to make our very much desired and beloved child out of it arises."

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