We had thought that ‘positive test equals baby’

Sometimes ‘getting pregnant’ is just half the battle – the other half is ‘staying pregnant.’ “I had absolutely no idea the amount of things that could go wrong between ‘a line and a baby’,” says Simone who experienced two chemical pregnancies before her third pregnancy ‘stuck around.’

When Simone and her husband Andrew got a positive result following the first embryo transfer they thought that they had achieved their dream.

“The embryo transfer went really well and then two weeks later I did a pregnancy test and there was a very faint line. We both felt really happy and thought ‘OMG we have done it!’, Simone remembers.

The couple were unprepared for what happened next.

“The next day I started to bleed. I called Bourn Hall and they told me to test again and there was a line there, really faint still and we honestly had no idea what was going on and they said test again in three days. I messaged my friend who had been through IVF and she was telling me about chemical pregnancies which I had never heard of before.”

A chemical pregnancy is a very early pregnancy loss which occurs shortly after implantation. In natural conception where a woman may not find out she is pregnant until after five weeks the loss of a chemical pregnancy might be mistaken for a normal or late period.

Bourn Hall has created a dedicated Miscarriage Clinic to support those that have experienced early pregnancy loss after natural conception or fertility treatment. Find out more about Bourn Hall’s Miscarriage Clinic.

“Three days later we tested again, and the line wasn’t there. I was really devastated because I was in a lot of pain as well and it was shock,” says Simone. “I handled it really badly; I was a bit of a mess. We had just thought ‘positive test equals baby…’ I had absolutely no idea the amount of things that could go wrong between ‘a line and a baby’ so that was really difficult.”

The couple, who live in north-west Essex, had NHS funded IVF and at that time were entitled to one cycle of IVF treatment, which includes a fresh and a frozen embryo transfer.  After several weeks of medication to stimulate her ovaries, Simone’s eggs were collected and fertilized with her husband’s sperm.

“At egg collection we got six eggs and the embryologists used a process called ICSI to inject them with Andrew’s sperm. We ended up with three embryos which we were really happy with, we thought ”we’ve got three chances.’

After embryo transfer the couple had to wait for 10 days before the pregnancy test, which checks the levels of hormones in the blood.  If the test is positive, then this is followed up by a scan to confirm the ‘clinical pregnancy.’ Sadly, a positive test does not always mean that the embryo has successfully implanted in the side of the womb and will grow to become a fetus and then a baby.

For a couple desperate for a baby this can be devastating for both partners.

Simone, aged 34, admits that it initially took a while for her to emotionally catch up with husband Andrew’s desire to be a parent.

“Andrew had always wanted children, but it took me a few years to actually be ready,” she says. “I knew it would be a huge thing.

“We started trying in 2019, three years after we got married, but nothing happened. Having started out not even being sure if I even wanted children, I realised that I had never wanted something so much…”

Andrew is a health and wellbeing coach who is ‘super fit’ so the couple were surprised when NHS tests found that he had a low sperm count, low mobility and low morphology.

“It was a bit of a shock we weren’t expecting it and Andrew took it quite hard. He doesn’t smoke and doesn’t really drink,” says Simone.  “He is the epitome of health, so it just goes to show that it can happen to anyone.”

Simone’s tests came back fine and they were referred for NHS-funding IVF and chose Bourn Hall.

Simone and Andrew with Arian
Simone and Andrew with Arian

“Our NHS referral was accepted in April 2021 and it all happened quite quickly after that. We were really excited that we were eligible for IVF but we had absolutely no idea what that involved!

“We had some blood tests the following month and then I started on the medication and injections. I hadn’t known it would involve injections. I have anxiety and my anxiety was quite high at the time. So, I had a bit of a panic attack thinking about doing the injections.

“Andrew did my injections for me although at the end I started to have a go myself.

“We really believed it was going to happen on the first go.”

After the first chemical pregnancy the couple had an opportunity to have another attempt.

Simone continues: “We had two embryos in the freezer and I wanted to start again as soon as possible. We had to wait for me to have a period and then the meds got delivered and then we started again at the end of October.

“I had a frozen embryo transfer and the same thing happened again…we had a positive test and a chemical pregnancy. So, at this point I had had one fresh and one frozen embryo transfer and exactly the same thing had happened with both.

“It was coming up to Christmas and I was distraught. We had a follow-up meeting at Bourn Hall and a session of counselling together.”

The couple still had one frozen embryo stored at Bourn Hall but had run out of NHS funding and so took time out to explore their options before deciding on what they wanted to do next.

“We then had a consultation with Dr Papathanasiou at Bourn Hall who suggested that for our remaining frozen embryo we could try doing an unmedicated ‘natural’ transfer as my cycles have always been regular each month, and I loved the sound of that!” she says.

“I had never heard of a ‘natural transfer’ before but it sounded much more up my street. The only medications I was prescribed were progesterone and blood thinners.

“The frozen embryo transfer went really smoothly but then five days later I had a tiny bit of spotting and cramps. I called the clinic really worried and so they increased my progesterone.

“I did a pregnancy test on day 5 and it was a faint line but more of a normal colour than the previous two and so I kept testing every day and it got darker and darker. By day 10 the line was really super dark, it was amazing we both had a feeling that this one might actually stick around!

“I was nervous throughout the pregnancy because of what had happened before. Our seven-week viability scan could not have come soon enough.

“During the pregnancy we had multiple private scans to check everything was okay and didn’t really relax until our baby arrived…”

The couple’s son Arian was born at the Rosie in Cambridge just before Christmas 2022.

“When Arian was born it felt like a dream, as though it wasn’t happening to me,” says Simone. “It took a while for it to feel real and for me to realise we had finally done it, we had been on a bit of a rollercoaster and our journey had not been straightforward.

“Arian is amazing, such a smiley, happy boy and has the best personality already. I honestly never knew love like this existed. He is our whole entire world and I couldn’t imagine life without him.

“I have other friends who have also needed IVF and my advice to anyone struggling to conceive or having IVF is ‘don’t have any expectations and just go with it’ because I wish I had, whatever will be will be. Also do your best not to ask Dr Google because it will drive you insane; speak to a fertility specialist not the internet!

Simone and Andrew with Arian
Simone and Andrew with Arian

What is a chemical pregnancy?

A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage. It is diagnosed when a pregnancy is confirmed by a blood test or home pregnancy test but it can’t be seen on an ultrasound scan – usually up until about 5 weeks of pregnancy.

Sometimes women have a positive blood test or pregnancy test but start bleeding shortly afterwards. In this case they may have more blood tests to find out what is happening. Sometimes blood tests aren’t done because a pregnancy test may be negative after just a few days.

If bloods are taken and show the pregnancy hormones are decreasing rather than increasing, a woman will be diagnosed as miscarrying a chemical pregnancy.

What causes a chemical pregnancy?

Tommy’s believe that chemical pregnancies happen because of chromosomal problems with the developing baby. Chromosomes are block of DNA which contain instructions for a baby’s development. Sometimes something can go wrong at the point when a woman gets pregnant and the baby gets too many or not enough chromosomes. If this happens the baby can’t develop properly.

Source: Tommy’s

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