Jacqui Cooper represented Australia in the sport of aerial skiing for 20 years, competing in five Winter Olympic teams, winning five world titles and amassing 24 World Cup victories. It is this determination that she credits as having helped her through her IVF journey, resulting in Madeline (2) and twins Thomas and Grace.
When Jacqui (42), a triplet herself, retired from her sport in 2010 at the age of 37, her priority was to start a family. However, being an elite athlete had taken a massive toll on her body. She’d had knee, elbow, shoulder and hip reconstructions and recovered from a broken back during her sporting career. It had also contributed to ovulation problems due to her low body fat and years of strenuous exercise.
Jacqui said she also had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), for which she had been treated for more than 10 years. Her age, 37, was another factor as fertility declines in older women.
After trying to fall pregnant with husband Mario for a few months without success, Jacqui felt that with her medical history she needed to seek help.
“I was not surprised that I needed to resort to fertility assistance but what really surprised me was my statistical chances of success were considered quite low,” she said.
“I was advised from the outset it would be tough but my thinking was that if there was a chance I would give it a go.”
Her doctor suggested the first and most important step was to start ovulating properly so she began on an ovulation drug, Clomid, for six months but was still unsuccessful. She was then referred to fertility specialist Dr Roshan Shamon at City Fertility Centre Melbourne.
“I jumped through all the hoops I needed to, the information sessions, counselling, testing and consultations, and ended up with a tailored treatment plan,” she said.
“I wasn’t nervous about IVF, I was excited about the prospect of a baby, but I tried not to raise my hopes up too high in case it didn’t work.”
In her IVF journey, Jacqui undertook four IVF cycles with three transfer attempts for her first baby and four transfer attempts for the twins.
Jacqui said she was very open about having received fertility assistance.
“I am happy to tell people that IVF science was involved in helping me have children. I am very grateful for their assistance,” she said.
“I was over the moon each time I was told I was pregnant, but I never let myself get too excited until I held the babies in my arms.
“I guess, in my case, what helped was my sporting background – don’t celebrate until you have that medal in your hands.”
Dr Shamon said Jacqui had been very clear-headed during her IVF treatment and she also kept exercising moderately, which helped her emotionally and physically.
Jacqui’s tips for other women going through IVF include making sure they set aside some time for the process: “Don’t think you can keep up everything you used to do. Aim for some flexibility from your work so you can attend appointments as required. Be calm and grounded.
“Ultimately, have faith in the process and people in charge of your treatment. From my sporting background, if you have a coach, you have to trust and respect that coach as they are the ones who will help you get the results that you want. The same applies to IVF: surround yourself with a team that you believe in. I know sometimes people don’t succeed, but you have to give it your best shot.”