When Maiko Okada visited a fertility clinic in Tokyo for the first time five years ago, she was totally unprepared for the roller-coaster ride of emotions she would subsequently experience.

"I visited the clinic casually to see if I had any problems getting pregnant," Okada, 42, recalls during an interview at a Tokyo cafe recently. "However, the doctor told me that I didn't have any time to waste, and so I was shunted along a 'production line' of fertility treatment without sufficiently consulting my husband or thinking hard enough about how far we wanted to go."

Okada was to discover first-hand that fertility treatment takes a huge physical, psychological and financial toll on couples.