I was only 22 – being unable to conceive is hard at any age

“All I ever wanted was children,” says Gemma from Norfolk. “I had decided not to go to university after A levels because I knew right from the start that all I really wanted was marriage, children, and a house – the full family caboodle.“

Gemma married Jon when she was 22 and the couple started trying for a baby straight away, but it was not to be. “The months passed by and nothing happened,” says Gemma. “What made it worse was that all of my friends were getting pregnant with no problems at all and I wanted to be happy for them but was always wondering when it was going to be my turn.”

Fertility declines after 35 but Gemma was so young people assumed that she wouldn’t have a problem. “I definitely found it hard to cope with because I was younger,” she says. “I felt as though everyone else I knew was ‘starting their life’ and I couldn’t, it was really hard. I had friends who  sneezed and got pregnant and I was thinking ‘how is this fair?’ I cried lots of tears, it was horrible.”

Causes of infertility

Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, is Medical Director for Bourn Hall Clinic, he says: “The vast majority of couples trying to start a family will conceive naturally within two years, those that don’t should seek advice as often making simple lifestyle changes such as losing weight can help them conceive naturally. However for some couples there may be underlying conditions preventing them from getting pregnant which fertility testing can identify.”

Some of the most common causes of infertility in women are:

  • a lack of eggs, as a result of age or potentially a pre-mature menopause
  • failure to ovulate (release a mature egg once a month)
  • damaged or blocked fallopian tubes
  • fibroids or an abnormality of the womb.

In men the most common causes of infertility are:

  • a low sperm count
  • abnormally shaped sperm (abnormal morphology)
  • sperm that don’t swim well (poor motility)

Referred for fertility tests

After two years, Gemma and Jon went to see their GP who referred them for hospital tests which revealed they both had fertility issues which meant they were unable to conceive – Jon had a low sperm count whilst Gemma had mild endometriosis as well as polycystic ovaries. One of the symptoms of endometriosis can be irregular periods, which Gemma had sometimes experienced.

The couple were told that they would be eligible for NHS-funded IVF treatment and they chose to go to Bourn Hall Clinic. Their IVF treatment was successful first time.

“It was quite a shock and we couldn’t believe it,” says Gemma. “I took loads of pregnancy tests to be doubly sure!”

Daughter Erica was born in August 2010. “She was our ‘one cycle miracle’,” says Gemma.

A second miracle

Four years later the couple were having a very tough time. “We had been having a hell of a time because my mum, Diana, had died of cancer on Christmas Day and then a few months later Jon had collapsed and been admitted to hospital,” explains Gemma.

Then the couple had the surprise of their lives, Gemma found out that she had fallen pregnant naturally – during a time when Jon had been convalescing at home waiting to have heart surgery at Papworth Hospital.

Son Aidan was born in 2015 when  Gemma was 32 and she says: “I am positive that he was sent by my mum. Aidan is an anagram of Diana and I think she sent me a little boy so that I would have two miracles, one through science and one who came to us as a complete surprise!”

Jon, Gemma, Erica and Aidan (credit Caitlin Locke)
Jon, Gemma, Erica and Aidan (credit Caitlin Locke)

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