Having a healthy BMI is important for both natural fertility and also when undergoing IVF to maximise your chances of success. After trying to get pregnant for over four years Tasha and Adam had one final obstacle to overcome, Tasha had to reduce her BMI to access IVF treatment.
“When I turned 21 my mum pointed out that she, my aunt and my Nan had all fallen pregnant at that age and she jokingly warned me to be extra careful,” says Tasha from Norfolk. “I naturally assumed that we must all be really fertile in our family and that I would fall pregnant just as easily as they had done.”
Tasha met her husband Adam when they were both teenagers and they got married when Tasha was 24. A few months after their wedding she came off the pill and thought that it would just be a matter of time before she got pregnant.
“Four years later and nothing had happened,” says Tasha, now aged 31. “I have always wanted to be a mum. I work as a veterinary nurse and am naturally a nurturing person. Everyone around me had started to have children too and in the end I had to come off social media because of the constant reminders that someone else I knew was pregnant.”
Tasha went to see her GP who arranged for her to have some blood tests which didn’t identify any issues. “I then frog-marched Adam down to the GP so that he could be tested as well,” she says.
“Adam’s tests showed that his sperm had slightly low motility and we were told that we could be referred for further more specialist diagnostic testing.”
Unlike most areas of the country, where diagnostic testing is done at the local hospital in the general gynaecology department, patients in Norfolk are fortunate to be referred to Bourn Hall’s specialist fertility testing and treatment centres. Bourn Hall has two clinics in Norfolk at Wymondham, near Norwich and in King’s Lynn.
Bourn Hall provides NHS fertility testing and also treatments such as Ovulation Induction to improve regularity of egg release and IVF treatment for couples with conditions such as male infertility or blocked tubes where natural conception is not possible.
At Bourn Hall Tasha had a HyCoSy test to check that her fallopian tubes were clear whilst Adam had a semen (sperm) analysis.
A semen analysis at Bourn Hall involves a series of measurements which include the concentration of sperm and how many are motile (moving as they should), progressive, and normal in shape. If one or more of these measurements is below the normal range fertility may be impaired.
Tasha’s periods, whilst regular, had always been painful and heavy which can be a sign of conditions such as endometriosis which can cause scarring to the tubes but the HyCoSy test revealed that her tubes were clear. Adam’s tests revealed that he still had slow sperm motility and Bourn Hall advised that although it still might be possible for the couple to conceive naturally IVF would be their best option as they had already been actively trying for more than four years.
BMI needs to be less than 30 to access NHS IVF
There was still one hurdle to overcome however before they could have IVF treatment. In order for NHS patients to be accepted for IVF treatment their BMI needs to be 30 or less as it increases the chances of success.
“The problem is that when I get stressed I eat,” says Tasha. “Bourn Hall told me that I needed to lose some weight.”
Losing weight and eating the right nutrients can be a challenge for many people and Bourn Hall’s fertility nurses can advise patients on steps to take to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
“I went to Slimming World and lost a stone,” says Tasha. “I was really focused on what needed to be done and whenever I felt like comfort eating I stopped myself because I knew I was doing it for the greater good.”
Once Tasha had reached her target weight she and Adam were able to embark on their IVF treatment at Bourn Hall.
IVF with ICSI
The couple had IVF with ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). ICSI involves an embryologist carefully selecting an individual sperm and capturing it with a very fine pipette before injecting it directly in to the egg.
Tasha and Adam were initially delighted after their first treatment when Tasha took a pregnancy test and it was positive but their joy was short-lived when the following week it was negative. “I had always known in the back of my mind that the treatment might not work first-time but we had a fleeting moment of thinking that it was all going to plan for us and then both of us were devastated when it wasn’t. We were really crushed by it,” she says.
The couple then went back to Bourn Hall for a frozen embryo transfer using an embryo created from their first cycle but sadly it also didn’t result in a pregnancy.
Support for the journey
Before and throughout her IVF treatment Tasha visited an acupuncturist which she found really beneficial. “My mum booked the first session for me and initially I was quite skeptical about it but it was just such a relaxing experience, I found it so helpful. My acupuncturist was a really lovely lady and she saw me at various stages of our IVF journey and it really calmed me down and relaxed me.”
For their third attempt the couple had another fresh cycle and, happily, this time around Tasha got pregnant and in December 2019 son Matthew was born.
“There had been times in the past when I had thought that I might never be a mum and after Matthew arrived it took me ages to get used to it. I felt like I was babysitting someone else’s baby and it wasn’t real!” says Tasha.
“Our family is complete now and it is just lovely.”