IVF success after ectopic pregnancies heartbreak

Kelly, now 27, with her husband Dan, aged 28, were among the first to benefit when NHS funding for IVF was reinstated in July 2021 to allow one cycle of funded treatment. They chose Bourn Hall Clinic and their treatment was successful first time.

Now mum to four-month-old Harlan, Kelly says: “NHS funding was a lifesaver. I was under so much stress I had to resign from work to concentrate on treatment, the thought of paying for it would have added so much more pressure.”

The couple had always known that they would need IVF to start a family. When Kelly was a teenager, she had acute pain and random bleeding and was referred to Peterborough City Hospital for investigations. A fluid blockage called a hydrosalpinx was found in her left fallopian tube and it was removed, and her right tube was also found to be damaged.

Kelly remembers. “I was 22 and I was told I had a low chance of having a baby. I felt so alone.”

She met Dan on Tinder. He was living with his parents in Bourne, Lincolnshire, where ironically the couple would have been entitled to two cycles of IVF. But Kelly had a house in Peterborough so he moved down to be with her and started work locally. The couple married soon after and started trying for a family.

Sadly, the couple went on to have two ectopic pregnancies. This is when the embryo starts growing in the fallopian tube and can be life threatening.

The pregnancy is dissolved using Methotrexate, a form of chemotherapy that removes folate from the body. For a much-wanted pregnancy this can be traumatic.

Kelly started to test obsessively, using 30-40 pregnancy tests a month as she didn’t know whether she was having a period or was actually pregnant and bleeding.

“I was really struggling and ended up having therapy, the second one triggered a bit of PTSD so it was a really tough time, my anxiety was at an all-time high.

“In my head I was just really trying to focus on moving forwards. I thought if I don’t start trying to lose weight and stuff we are not even going to get to IVF as you need a BMI of 30 or less”

Kelly self-referred for the NHS psychological wellbeing service but the first counsellor she was paired with did not understand ectopic pregnancy or pregnancy loss at all, but the second one was helpful.

“The reason I was struggling was because of the infertility and the losses but the first one just didn’t understand it at all. She said things on the lines of ‘if you don’t test you won’t get anxious’ which didn’t really solve my problem.

“The next lady didn’t really go in to the losses, which I thought was quite helpful, she just advised ways to manage when I felt a bit anxious or depressed rather than going into detail.”

Kelly also found the patient support charity Ectopic Pregnancy Trust helpful and participated in a fundraiser, walking 80 miles in August to try and reduce her weight for IVF.  Dan also went on a health kick to improve his sperm quality ahead of treatment.

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Kelly had been a patient at the fertility department in Peterborough City Hospital, since she was 18 and knew that NHS funding for IVF wasn’t available, and that is when she got involved with the fight4IVF campaign and supported campaigner Amber Izzo in meetings with the commissioners.

In the end she requested her remaining tube to be removed while they saved up to self-fund IVF. The surgery got pushed back when she contracted Covid and then she got pregnant again. The hospital scanned her seven times to try and locate the pregnancy before confirming it was again ectopic and removed the tube.

It was around this time that news came about the decision to reinstate NHS funding for IVF. The hospital referred the couple for NHS treatment and they chose Bourn Hall.

“I was always convinced that Bourn Hall was where I wanted to go – when we planned to self-fund I rang up and they were helpful, friendly and answered any questions I had,” she says.

The couple’s first appointment was within a couple of weeks and they started meds shortly after. Within two months the couple was pregnant and baby Harlan-Ray was born just before Christmas.

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Kelly says: “Infertility is a medical condition, and it affects your mental health and your relationships. The NHS funding gave us a lifeline.

“Being infertile is isolating. I wanted a child before all my friends and they were all on number two or three before I had even got pregnant. I blocked myself off from them and have lost a lot of friends.

“But now I have Harlan I wouldn’t change any of it. I am enjoying being a stay-at-home mum and in the future I would like to become a midwife or a fertility nurse. I have learnt so much on my fertility journey I would love to be able to help others.”


Parents at last after five miscarriages in seven years

When Michael’s mum sadly died from Covid in November 2020, the couple nearly gave up; it had been her dream to see them as parents and their grief was intense.   

Marie says it was a heart-breaking time: “We had five miscarriages and Michael said ‘we can’t do this anymore’, but I knew it was what his mum would have wanted.  

“We didn’t get our hopes up as we didn’t want to feel hurt and upset again, but when the pregnancy test for our final round of IVF was positive, we felt it was a sign, mum’s gift to us.  

“The nurses at Bourn Hall IVF clinic were very supportive. ‘Although it is heart-breaking to lose someone you are very close to’, they said, ‘another door opens with a gift of life.’” They were right and the couple welcomed their son Frankie into their lives in September 2021. 

Two miscarriages after natural conception

The couple’s journey had first begun in 2016, when they became pregnant naturally, only to miscarry a few weeks later. Marie remembers that she tried not to think too much about the loss, but then she kept getting pains. The consultant at Ipswich hospital thought there was a cyst in her fallopian tube and examined her (the fallopian tube takes the egg down to the womb where it is normally fertilized).  

Devastatingly, it was found not to be a cyst but a baby. Marie had been carrying twins. The tube was removed, and the couple were deeply upset.  

Marie had a second miscarriage four months later, but this time the pain was so unbearable that when she got home from work Michael took her straight to hospital and she was rushed through to surgery. It was another ectopic pregnancy, and the second fallopian tube was removed. 

Both of my fallopian tubes had been removed 

Marie woke up after the surgery to find her family around the bed, as she had nearly died in the operating theatre through the amount of blood she had lost.   

“I was so worried that I couldn’t have children, when all we wanted more than anything in the world was a baby,” she says. “I had a long chat with the consultant who did my surgery, he explained that he had no option but to take out my fallopian tube, he was very helpful and gave us the option of referring us for IVF and said that we would get three free rounds on the NHS.   

“At the time I said to my husband ‘I cannot do this’. I had lost all faith and hope and felt I had let everyone down.  


“But with time I felt more determined. I said to myself ‘I am going to give my husband a son or daughter and all our parents a grandchild’. So, after a couple of months, I got back in touch with the consultant and asked if we could be put on the list for IVF; we were given several options, and we chose Bourn Hall in Colchester. 

IVF gave us hope  

“We started IVF in 2018, and everyone at Bourn Hall was so lovely and helpful, and gave us so much hope and encouragement. The first round was unsuccessful, but we felt determined that IVF would work for us.   

“Then on our second round, I fell pregnant on both a fresh cycle and a frozen cycle but lost both. We couldn’t work out why. We did have a lot going on as my husband’s brother died, which was very painful and stressful, as we were the ones who found him.   

“We took a break for a little while for my body to heal and for us to have time to grieve.  

“We then started our third and final round of NHS-funded treatment. I didn’t fall pregnant on the fresh cycle but did on the subsequent frozen cycle – and lost it again.   

“The team at Bourn Hall were so helpful and gave us information to go away and think about.  

“We still had one frozen embryo in the freezer but with Covid we had to wait and put treatment on hold.  

If we don’t do this I will always wonder ‘what if’?

“My husband has been my rock and supported me all the way along our journey, but he couldn’t bear to see me hurt and upset again. But I thought, if I don’t do this, I will always wonder ‘what if?’. I just wanted that feeling of being pregnant, being able to feel a baby move inside me and most of all I wanted to be a mummy, and my husband to be a daddy.  

“So, we got a quote for the last IVF cycle and I also asked for the Embryo Glue which you do not get on the NHS, but I felt it might make a difference.”   

“We started the final round. Then we lost Michael’s mum, which was heartbreaking, as all she had wanted for us was to become parents.  

This pregnancy was successful, and Marie and Michael now have a little boy, born following an emergency C-section as Marie’s waters broke early – “Frankie really couldn’t wait any longer!”  

Frankie is a ‘gift from heaven’

Marie says: “We definitely recommend Bourn Hall as everyone is kind, lovely, caring and so, so helpful. We are both so over the moon with our little miracle baby, he really is a gift from heaven.”  

Michael adds: “It was a long, daunting journey; I felt like giving up several times, as it was very draining and very emotional for both of us. But it was very worth it. I’m not superstitious at all but I lost my mum to COVID and then our baby popped up. I’m very glad we didn’t give up, as we would not be without him; he makes us very very happy, he is such a handsome happy little baby, our little smiley, and I know my mum and brother never met him but are watching over all of us. Frankie makes us melt every time we look at him; he is so loved and he has made our little family complete.” 

Born after five miscarriages, ectopic pregnancy and major surgery

EmbryoGlue explained

EmbryoGlue is made from a substance called Hyaluronan, which is found naturally in the body and is thought to have a key role in implantation of the embryo into the womb.

During IVF an egg and sperm combine to form an embryo. The cells in the embryo multiply rapidly and when it reaches the 5-day stage it is called a blastocyst. This is when it will start to implant in the wall of the womb. Some of the embryo cells will grow to become the baby and others will form the placenta which feeds the baby. This implantation stage is really crucial to a successful pregnancy, and it is thought that many recurrent miscarriages are due to a failure at this stage.

Naturally the body increases production of a sticky substance called Hyaluronan just before implantation, and it is thought that it plays a key role in this process.

EmbryoGlue is one of the supplementary treatments, known as add-ons or adjuvants, that may be offered to you, or you might wish to consider. Hyaluronan is found it many tissues in the body and has multiple roles so there are no known risks and it may benefit patients that have experienced unsuccessful implantation.

However, there is limited scientific evidence of the benefits of embryo glue, so it is not widely recommended or available on the NHS, but it is thought it may have benefits for recurrent miscarriage.

Research from the Cochrane review* shows that embryo glue containing hyaluronan increases pregnancy and live birth rates by around 10%. There is one high quality study in this review which shows that the use of embryo glue improves pregnancy and live birth rates, other studies in the review were of moderate quality.

You can read more details on this and other supplementary treatments on our website – your IVF Consultant can also discuss these with you based on your own personal circumstances.

For the latest on the effectiveness and safety of EmbryoGlue we recommend that you visit www.hfea.gov.uk/treatments/explore-all-treatments/treatment-add-ons/ where our regulator has summarised the consensus of UK medical and scientific opinion.

*Bontekoe et al. Adherence compounds in embryo transfer media for assisted reproductive technologies (Review). The Cochrane Collaboration 2014. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


12 years of trying before IVF success

Michelle from Suffolk has been through so much – she lost ten natural pregnancies and her first marriage failed under the strain – and she was devastated when her first attempt at IVF failed. Fortunately she was persuaded to have one last try and achieved her baby dream.

Recurrent miscarriage 

Having lost four natural pregnancies during her previous marriage, Michelle (now 34) knew that she had a fertility issue when she got together with Alastair (34) in 2007.

After two months together Michelle unexpectedly fell pregnant but again miscarried a few weeks later.

“It was a very traumatic experience for Alastair and me. I found myself questioning our situation and wondering ‘why me?’.

“Alastair realised that IVF was our best option and so once we’d got over the devastation of the miscarriage we went to our GP.

“He explained that it would take three years before we could be referred for fertility treatment and as I’d managed to become pregnant naturally that ‘you never knew and to keep trying’.”

During their three year wait, Michelle lost two further natural pregnancies.

Ectopic pregnancies

Finally, in 2010, Michelle was referred for investigation at a London hospital. Tests revealed that her one remaining functional fallopian tube was damaged and that all her miscarriages, which had happened within 11 weeks, could in fact have been ectopic: when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb. However no conclusive reason was given and they were told their only way to have a baby was by IVF.

“Not knowing the exact reason for why I had recurrent miscarriage was very difficult to deal with. I had hoped an answer would mean we could do something positive about our circumstances ourselves but IVF now seemed the only option.”

Referred to Bourn Hall for IVF

The couple were referred for NHS funded IVF and chose Bourn Hall’s Colchester clinic.

The couple started their fertility treatment in January 2011. Michelle was prescribed a course of medication to help stimulate her ovaries.

In early April, 18 eggs were collected but only one embryo made it to day five. This one fertilised blastocyst was carefully put into Michelle’s womb.

Chemical pregnancy

Two weeks later Michelle took a pregnancy test, which revealed she was pregnant. Unfortunately she started bleeding three days later. It turned out she’d had a chemical pregnancy, which is when a fertilised egg does not attach itself to the uterine wall.

“This was the first time I ever felt like giving up as I had been at this stage naturally.

“I even declared to Alastair ‘I think that’s it!’ but as it got nearer to us being able to try again I realised that if we didn’t take this opportunity we would regret it.”

Second cycle of IVF

In September 2011 the couple started their second cycle of NHS funded IVF and on a slightly different treatment plan, to try and improve the quality of the eggs that Michelle produced.

On 21st November nine eggs were collected from Michelle. Five days later she returned to the clinic to have two blastocysts transferred.

Michelle then had to wait two weeks before taking a pregnancy test.

“The test revealed I was pregnant but I wasn’t sure as I didn’t feel pregnant.

“When we went for the first scan I was delighted to know they could see a healthy baby inside me and in the right place!

“We then took each day at a time and due to my fertility history went for frequent check-up scans, which was reassuring.”

One last hurdle

The pregnancy was going well until at 32 weeks Michelle started to develop high blood pressure and swelling of her legs. She was diagnosed with preeclampsia and following a scan at 34 weeks taken into hospital. The medical team hoped to help Michelle keep her pregnancy until 37 weeks but unexpectedly she lost her waters at 35 weeks and needed an emergency C-section.

Isobel is born 

On 9th July 2012 baby Isobel was born.

“She’s absolutely brilliant! I’ve always wanted to be a mum and although it’s taken 12 years of trying Isobel has certainly been worth it.

“Alastair has been great, and although nervous to begin with, he was actually the first to feed her and change Isobel’s nappy.

“They are like two peas in a pod and it’s lovely to see them together.”

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Baby Rocco marks the end of 10 year waiting game

“It was just such a surreal thing being handed a baby and told he’s yours and you can go home with him,” says Harika, but that was reality for her and husband Craig after 10 years of trying to have a family.

The young couple met at their first job and knew right from the start that they wanted to have a family together. They started trying to conceive in 2005 and two years later the couple fell pregnant.

Ectopic pregnancy

Harika explains, “It had taken two years to get pregnant but we weren’t that concerned because we were still young at the time. Unfortunately it turned out to be an ectopic pregnancy and I was rushed into hospital. When I woke up the consultant told me they had to remove one of my fallopian tubes and this would reduce my fertility.”

Another year passed, but Craig and Harika had not fallen pregnant again so they were sent to their local hospital for further tests.

“We finally felt like we were getting somewhere and then I fell pregnant naturally. Because I’d already had an ectopic pregnancy I almost felt like it was too good to be true.”

“You just think ‘why us’?”

Unfortunately Harika’s suspicions were true and at her 10 week scan she was told she’d had a miscarriage.

“I’d had a scan at 7 weeks and they showed us the heartbeat so I remember that being a really hard time for us. You just think why us, why do we deserve this. It is really bad luck for it to happen twice.”

Craig continues: “We were sent for more tests the next year but every came back fine. I’m not saying I’d of been relieved if they had found something, but sometimes when you are told what the issue is, it is easier to get your head round. You start to blame your lifestyle, but we have never smoked and we don’t really drink so we didn’t know what we could do.”

Referred for IVF

10 years

By this stage, Harika and Craig had been trying to start a family for six years. Harika recalls this being a very difficult time for them both.

“We started avoiding certain social situations to make it easier, like children’s birthday parties. People were always asking why we hadn’t had children yet. We found the easiest thing to do was be honest and we were never embarrassed, but then the person you were talking to would get so embarrassed you’d almost find yourself apologising for having fertility problems.”

The couple asked their GP to refer them for NHS funded IVF but the application was denied and after several appeals the couple were told they would not be accepted until it had been three years since they were last pregnant.

At this point the couple decided to draw a line under the past six years and get married. They got married in July 2012 and shortly after the wedding it was three years since Harika was last pregnant and so their GP referred them to see a gynaecologist.

Harika remembers: “We’d had the door closed in our faces so many times I didn’t know what to expect. Everything was a blur and the only thing I heard her say was ‘I’m going to refer you for IVF’. I burst out crying with relief that finally someone was listening to us.

Choosing Bourn Hall

“I’d heard about Bourn Hall before, over the years I’d done quite a bit of research about IVF and a friend of mine had twins from there too so I automatically chose to be referred to Bourn Hall for our treatment.”

By March 2013 Harika and Craig found themselves in Bourn Hall Clinic attending a seminar for NHS patients about to start their fertility treatment.

“The seminar was fantastic. I thought it was going to be really scientific but actually it wasn’t patronising, or spoken about in clinical terms, there were even jokes along the way and I think it made the whole thing feel a lot lighter.

“We had a late honeymoon booked in April and decided to go and enjoy that before starting treatment. It was actually our first ever holiday together in 10 years because everything had been about trying for a baby.”

Three cycles of IVF

Harika and Craig returned to Bourn Hall to start their treatment in May 2013. Harika says:

“I was hopeful it was going to work but I didn’t pin everything on it. I knew we were going to get three cycles of IVF so I just treated the first one as a trial run.”

Harika’s egg collection resulted in nine eggs which were fertilised with Craig’s sperm and five days later one of the resulting blastocyst embryos was transferred into her womb. From then it was a waiting game Harika says.

“I think the two week wait was the worst part of it all. Every little twinge made me think my period was about to come.

“We were gobsmacked”

“We were due to do a pregnancy test on the 2nd July but our first wedding anniversary was three days later. I couldn’t bear the bad news spoiling our day so we tested about five days early. It came up positive and we just stood there in silence. We were so gobsmacked, we just couldn’t believe it had worked first time for us.

“Despite our success, after all we had been through; I had a really nervous pregnancy. I’d made myself believe that I wasn’t capable of carrying a pregnancy. We made it to the 12 week scan and then I booked a private 16 week scan to make sure everything was ok. I kept on setting myself little targets like that all the way through but I never really believed I could do it. We never expected to take a baby home – ever.”

Rocco is born

Luckily this time Harika’s concerns were unjustified and on the 11th March 2014 baby Rocco was born.

“Even now I look at him with absolute amazement, to think that Craig and I created him – he has completed our lives.”

Craig adds: “The thing with IVF is that for the people that have it, it is a last resort. It gives people an opportunity to have something they couldn’t have otherwise. We’re so grateful we were given the opportunity to have a chance at IVF. We feel Rocco is extra special just because of what we’ve had to go through and obviously I’m really proud of Harika for what she had to experience.”

Harika says, “I think having NHS funding is an amazing thing, and look at all these babies that wouldn’t have been born without it. Rocco gives us a real purpose to life now and he wouldn’t be here without the NHS funding we received. I don’t think we will ever be able to thank Bourn Hall and the NHS enough.”

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