Two periods a year made it impossible to get pregnant naturally

Amanda, aged 36 from Wickford in Essex, had only ever had a period every six to ten months, so she knew she and her husband Michael would have trouble conceiving. Here, she describes her fertility journey.

Two periods a year

I was never given a proper diagnosis as a teenager, but I have always had the classic symptoms of PCOS, including irregular periods – just two periods a year – some facial hair and finding it difficult to lose weight.

Michael and I got together in 2010 and were married 4 years later and that is when we decided to actively try for a baby.

I went to the GP pretty much straightaway and explained we hadn’t been using contraception for a long time and that because of my history we would need to get help.

Michael and Amanda
Michael and Amanda

Ovulation induction as a first line

My GP referred me to Basildon Hospital, where I had a HyCoSy test to check my fallopian tubes were clear and then two rounds of Ovulation Induction (OI) at hospital. I went regularly for scans to check for the size of follicles and I think out of about 6 or 7 months there was only one time that the follicles were potentially big enough to release an egg. I given the injection and told to go away and try to get pregnant naturally – the pressure of that was horrific.

When that didn’t work the hospital talked about trying another procedure, but I felt that we had wasted too much time and I just wanted to ‘get on with it’.  And so we were told that our only option was IVF.

Bourn Hall provides treatment for both NHS-funded and self-funded patients.

Infertility was isolating

I was around 30 by this time and really felt as though the clock was ticking as so many of my friends had had children already or were currently pregnant.

I didn’t have any close friends who had gone through fertility issues, so it was quite isolating.

From the start me and Michael had been very open about our fertility issues as we found it stopped people constantly asking questions. Friends and family would always ask ‘are you going to have a baby?’ or ‘do you not want a baby?’. We would close those initial questions down by telling them we were having trouble and then we were able to get on with our lives and our fertility journey.

Friends and family would then be more tentative with their questions and ask us how the process was going and we would open up to them.

Amanda with Alfie
Amanda with baby Alfie

NHS funding given … 

Back in 2016, we were entitled to three rounds of NHS-funded treatment (IVF is no longer funded by their CCG). We were given options and chose Bourn Hall Wickford.

We chose Bourn Hall because it was really handy, we were living in Wickford and I was travelling to London for work. So I could do early morning appointments at the clinic which was helpful, and I saw the same consultant at Bourn Hall as I had seen at Basildon Hospital, Dr Jadhav so he knew us and our background.

Bourn Hall did tests on Michael at that point which all came back fine so we felt that was at least something.

I produced a lot of eggs on our first round of treatment but overstimulated and so the decision was made to freeze all our embryos so that my body could recover.

… and then taken away

Having a frozen embryo transfer is often recommended as gives the body time to recover, but then we found out that our local CCG was withdrawing the funding for IVF and in order for us to be able to keep our NHS funding for this round we needed to re-start our treatment before January 2017.

We had a frozen embryo transfer but unfortunately it was unsuccessful and our NHS funding was stopped.

So from starting our treatment thinking that we would get up to three rounds of funded IVF we were now going to have to fund ourselves.

We were heartbroken that our FET hadn’t worked but we still had two embryos frozen at Bourn Hall and decided that we would have to plough on.

We waited a few months and then paid for a frozen cycle of treatment. Bourn Hall defrosted both embryos but neither survived the thawing process. Funny as it may sound although that was devastating it didn’t feel as bad as it would have if the embryos had been transferred to me and failed, I felt at least as though at least it wasn’t my body which had ‘rejected’ them.

By this point I pretty much felt as though becoming parents just wasn’t going to happen for us.

When people showed me their babies and I couldn’t really control my emotions. And I felt this added pressure from family who knew we were having IVF  and just ‘expected’ it to work. They were trying to be kind but not really fully appreciating what we were going through,  saying things like ‘it will happen, I know it will’.

Fixed price treatment package removed the stress

Once we had decided we were going to go back for another fresh cycle, we gave ourselves a couple of months to plan and figure out where we were going to get the money.

We paid for a fixed price treatment package with Access Fertility which enabled us to have three rounds, and we did feel more relaxed knowing that we had three goes and our treatment wasn’t all resting on the first one.

We went back to Bourn Hall and I had my egg retrieval in the August. I initially thought I had overstimulated again but it was okay this time around, and I had two embryos transferred and one frozen.

It was really strange because probably within 12-24 hours of the embryo transfer I couldn’t stop sleeping and I thought ‘well this is a bit different, something must be happening!’ I was also exhausted  and had to keep coming home early from work, I couldn’t keep awake so I had a funny feeling that something was happening but didn’t want to get too excited.

People who knew what was happening were saying ‘aren’t you testing? Test early’ but I was like no I can’t do that, because I didn’t want to get disheartened, again people who haven’t been through it don’t understand.

Michael and Amanda with Alfie
Michael and Amanda with baby Alfie

Booked the day off for the test

We had both booked the day off when the pregnancy test was due. We didn’t do that the first time and having to go in to work knowing it hadn’t worked was awful.

It was positive and we just couldn’t believe it and just looked at each other and said ‘we have done it!’

It was really early days and people have miscarriages, but I had never fallen pregnant before so it was a weird one…

Alfie arrives

Alfie was born May 2018 when I was 32. By complete coincidence it was Dr Jadhav who helped to deliver him, he had been there through my whole fertility journey.

It was amazing when Alfie arrived, I couldn’t believe that this child was mine. It was magical, especially that first night being on my own with him in the hospital and him looking up at me because he recognised my voice. I had spent the whole 9 months of my pregnancy just praying every day that nothing was going to go wrong.

Alfie was the first grandchild on both sides, he is very special, and his grandparents all live nearby. He is now nearly 4 so will be going to school in September. He is very cheeky! He is really quite sharp, he has got a good memory, he is active but he also likes to sit down and snuggle down with cuddly toy.

Alfie with flowers on Mother's Day
Alfie with flowers on Mother's Day

Loves to buy me flowers

He also loves to buy me flowers. He has got this thing now that if he goes to the shops with Michael he has to get flowers for mummy so I am actually getting more flowers than I have ever done before now roughly every couple of weeks there is a bunch in the vase!

two periods a year Michael and Amanda with Alfie
Michael and Amanda with Alfie

Moving on as a trio

We did go back for treatment with the remaining frozen embryo in September 2019 but it didn’t work. It was hard, devastating when that treatment didn’t work because we knew that was the end of our journey.

Occasionally I think about what it would have been like for Alfie to have a sibling as he loves his friends’ younger siblings and his cousin. People say to me ‘well you have got Alfie’ and I appreciate that, but I hadn’t envisaged when I was younger that I would have problems. I have more or less come to terms with our little family of 3; we’re a trio.

I can’t recommend Bourn Hall highly enough. All the nurses were lovely, especially Angela and Grace, everyone was so supportive, always friendly on the phone,  it was just a nice welcoming environment. They were very sensitive, they understand how emotional it is…

I remember bumping in to Angela after I had Alfie in Wickford High Street and she stopped and saw him and that was a nice little ending to our IVF story.

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