Lauren told she was ‘running out of eggs’ at 33

Little Kevin’s birthday is extra special, as his mum feared she would never have a baby. Lauren was devastated to be told at only 33 that her egg reserve was so low it was similar to that of a woman going through the menopause. Lauren is sharing her story for Fertility Week (30 October – 5 November 2023) to raise awareness of ‘premature ovarian failure’, which can be diagnosed with a blood test.

Regular periods but not ovulating

Lauren and her husband Kev had felt that 30 was a good time to start trying for family, but after two years nothing happened, so they were referred for tests. The results showed that, despite regular periods, she wasn’t ovulating – releasing a mature egg.

“I still had regular periods and didn’t feel that 30 was too old to try to get pregnant but we tried for two years, and nothing happened,” says Lauren, who lives in Essex.

The couple were referred to Basildon Hospital for tests, which identified that, despite Kev having a high sperm count, his sperm had low mobility and motility.

“We worked on trying to improve that by making some lifestyle changes – cutting out alcohol and caffeine, making smoothies every day and taking Wellman supplements,” says Lauren. “That really worked because at Kev’s next test his sperm showed a huge improvement.”

However, Lauren’s tests at Basildon Hospital showed that she wasn’t ovulating.

Lauren was then put on the ovulation induction tablets Clomid for six months. This grows the follicles, so the release of an egg can be timed for natural intercourse. However, despite this treatment and the improvements to Kev’s sperm, they did not fall pregnant.

“I was quite upset by this point and felt I had to push. I said ‘we have tried everything – now we want IVF’,” says Lauren. “About a week later we were offered an appointment for NHS-funded IVF at Bourn Hall in Wickford.”

Lauren and little Kevin

Bourn Hall hosts a monthly virtual Fertility Support Group, which is led by an independent fertility counsellor and is open to everyone experiencing infertility – you don’t need to be a Bourn Hall patient. The next meeting, on 8 November, will include a talk by Bourn Hall’s Medical Director and CEO Thanos Papathanasiou. Find out more here.

AMH test showed egg reserve was very low

Bourn Hall is able to do more tests than the NHS and they checked Lauren’s egg reserve by measuring the levels of AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone), which is released by the follicles.

Lauren, who was only 33, was shocked to be told that she had very low AMH levels.

“I really panicked,” she says. “The good news, however, was that Kev’s sperm sample was ‘perfect’.”

Having been given this news Lauren suddenly felt that time wasn’t on her side and wanted to push ahead with IVF at the earliest opportunity.

“I work in retail and my treatment was due to start over the Christmas period, which is our busiest time,” she says. “I could have delayed, but I was adamant that I didn’t want to wait, so I started my injections. I was driving up on my own to Bourn Hall and having the scans in my lunchbreaks to see how my follicles were growing.

“Then I was told halfway through that the cycle might have to be cancelled because my follicles weren’t big enough. The nurses said they would increase my dose and give it one more week.

Went to work rather than cry at home

“I remember getting back in my car and literally crying for 15 minutes. I called Kev and he said ‘you need to go home’ but I said ‘what am I going to do, go home and cry on my own?’ so I went back to work to take my mind off it.

“I upped my dose of injections and the following week the follicles had grown big enough for egg collection. We got five eggs and only one fertilised. I remember thinking ‘I’ve only got one embryo; you hear about people who get loads to freeze and have them in reserve and I have just one.

Only one chance

“The embryo didn’t even get to blastocyst stage – they transferred it on day three. The embryologists told me that it was a very good grade, but I knew it was my only chance and thought ‘what are the odds of it working?’ I tried to be positive, but it was scary.

“We had the embryo transfer in January 2020. I had read that being happy improved success rates so afterwards we went out for lunch together and then watched Micky Flanagan on TV at home to have a laugh.”

Went in my pyjamas to buy another test

Two weeks later Lauren did a pregnancy test.

“I actually did the test a day late because I was too frightened to do it!” she admits. “The line was quite faint, and I wasn’t sure if it was positive or not.

“It was a Sunday morning, so I pulled on my Ugg boots and went to the nearest petrol station in my pyjamas and bought a pregnancy test. I went home and did the test and it said ‘pregnant’. I couldn’t believe it. We were in shock. We may have only had one embryo but it was the best one – our perfect little embryo!

“We were excited but that soon faded away and I worried that I would lose the pregnancy.

“We went into Bourn Hall for the seven-week scan, and I remember sitting in the waiting room and I couldn’t stop crying. Kev said to me ‘why are you crying?’ and I said I was terrified about what they were going to say.

“When we went in the nurse explained that she would be looking at the scan for a few minutes and I wasn’t to panic if she didn’t say anything. She looked at it and I think it was no more than 30 seconds later that she said ‘I have seen everything and it is perfect.’ It was such a relief.”

Lauren, Kev and Kevin
Lauren, Kev and Kevin

Mum at last

The couple’s son Kevin (“little Kevin”) was born on 10 October 10 2020 at Basildon Hospital.

“He was overdue, and I ended up having an emergency c-section,” says Lauren. “I was absolutely exhausted by the time he was born and didn’t really take it all in. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later when I was standing in the kitchen and it suddenly hit me that I was a mum at last and I burst out crying.

“He is such a lovely little boy, he is perfect and so beautiful, we love him so much. He is everything we ever wanted.”

Kevin on his third birthday
Kevin on his third birthday
Arpita Ray, Bourn Hall Essex

Early menopause

Fertility expert Dr Arpita Ray, Lead Clinician at Bourn Hall Essex, explains:

“A female is born with all the eggs she is going to have, which are stored in an immature state in follicles in the ovaries. This is called the ovarian reserve, or the egg store.

“The hormone oestrogen matures the eggs and triggers the release of one ripe egg each month until they are all gone. When this happens, the individual goes through the menopause, usually at the age of about 53, but it can happen earlier.

“If you are trying to get pregnant it is always good to check when your mother and grandmother started their menopause as that can indicate a potential issue.”

More information

Bourn Hall hosts a virtual Fertility Support Group that is open to anyone struggling with infertility.

Learning that you have a low ovarian reserve can be very distressing. Bourn Hall offers an AMH test as one of a suite of tests that are available individually. Results are given by a fertility health professional, and the consultancy includes advice on next steps.

Ovulation Induction is less invasive that IVF and can be successful for many women, but it is best to check that your tubes are clear and that you have sufficient egg reserve before you have this treatment. Find out more about the fertility tests offered by Bourn Hall.

Read more about Fertility Week 2023, which takes place from 30 October  – 5 November.

Fertility Week (30 October – 5 November 2023) is organised by Fertility Network UK, which provides patient support and information. Find out more here.

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