Norfolk mum celebrates her miracle IVF baby

Cradling ‘miracle baby’ Riley in her arms, Lauren says that she just doesn’t have enough words of praise for Bourn Hall, the fertility clinic which made his birth possible.

Lauren and husband Stephen from Norfolk, were one of the first couples to be treated at Bourn Hall’s full-service Wymondham clinic.

A local clinic makes the difference

“When you are undergoing fertility treatment you need a very flexible boss,” explains Lauren. “The woman, in particular, has to be available for lots of tests and scans in the beginning, so if you are having to travel further afield that can make it very difficult to arrange around your job and can really add to your anxiety levels.

“Having all of my treatment on the doorstep was perfect and cut down on juggling with work commitments”.

Visit to GP set wheels in motion

Lauren met Stephen through work and having realised that Stephen was her Mr Right, Lauren says that they started trying for a family almost immediately.

“We tried for a baby for a couple of years but nothing was happening,” she says. “We thought we were doing all the right things, checking the dates and buying all the kits, but I just didn’t get pregnant”.

A visit to the couple’s GP set the wheels in motion and both Lauren and Stephen underwent tests which revealed that there was an issue with Stephen’s sperm motility (the ability of the sperm to ‘swim’).

“We were entitled to NHS treatment and luckily for us Bourn Hall had just opened their clinic in Wymondham, so we went along to an information evening which was really interesting,” says Lauren. “The presentation took us through the whole treatment journey and was really realistic about the whole process in terms of how emotionally draining it can be and what the chances of success are.”

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

Lauren was treated at Bourn Hall using a process called ICSI where an individual sperm is injected into each egg to fertilise them.

Unfortunately, Lauren developed Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which happens in only around two per cent of patients undergoing fertility treatment, so her embryos were frozen until she had recovered.

“Bourn Hall were brilliant and once my periods started again my body went back to normal,” says Lauren.

Treatment restarted and ten of the embryos were thawed prior to transfer to Lauren’s womb. The cells in the embryo’s weren’t dividing vigorously and it was thought that they would not survive to the five day blastocyst stage, so after two days two embryos were selected and transferred.

Miracle baby

The couple were delighted when both of them took and Lauren became pregnant with twins. Sadly she suffered an early miscarriage and went for a scan at Bourn Hall.

“That was when I fell in love with Bourn Hall,” says Lauren. “We were not sure if I was still pregnant when we went in for the scan, so we were very worried. We were delighted to be given the good news that one had survived and some of the other staff came in to the room to celebrate with us. It was absolutely lovely!”

sperm motility

In October 2014 Lauren gave birth to son Riley and she says that he is just the perfect baby. She gave up her job to spend as much time with him as she can and was so impressed with Bourn Hall that she plans for another round of treatment, this time self-funded, in the hope of a brother or sister for Riley.

“We are moving down to Sussex with Stephen’s job,” says Lauren, “and I wanted to have my fertility treatment at Bourn Hall before we go. I wouldn’t have my treatment anywhere else. I cannot recommend them highly enough, we are so grateful to Bourn Hall, everyone there is brilliant.”

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Told he wouldn’t be a dad, Matthew proved them wrong

Gemma and Matthew knew from the beginning that having a family wasn’t going to be straightforward for them, as Matthew suffered a football accident when he was younger.

“At the age of 14 my GP told me that I would not be able to have children,” explains Matthew. “At the time it didn’t really matter to me – I was so young – but having become an adult and seeing our friends become parents my perspective has changed.”

Having been introduced by a friend, Gemma and Matthew started seeing each other in 2010 and after a year began trying for a baby. However, Matthew thought the likelihood of being a father was nearly impossible.

A visit to the GP

Gemma says: “Initially we were optimistic and hoped we might conceive naturally so we tried for eight months, but looking back, that time was more about us realising we needed to see our GP and get help if we ever wanted a chance of having a baby.”

Usually if a young woman has not conceived naturally within 18-24 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, she and her partner would be advised to see their GP to initiate tests. If there is a definite cause for the infertility, such as identified male infertility, then a couple can be referred sooner.

Gemma continues: “It was upsetting to realise we needed help but our GP was good and referred us straight away for investigation.”

The couple’s tests showed that Matthew was not infertile but had a low sperm count with low motility and so they were referred for NHS funded infertility treatment.

“From the list of clinics we were offered we chose Bourn Hall for its great reviews, experience in dealing with male infertility, and location,” says Gemma.

ICSI procedure

The couple’s first consultation was at the Cambridge-based clinic in autumn 2013. Their consultant discussed the various male infertility procedures available to them, including intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected into the centre of each mature egg to help fertilisation occur. Of the resulting embryos one or two are then transferred to the womb in the same way as during an IVF cycle.

“Our consultant talked us through our options and showed a slide show, which was very helpful as before we didn’t know what was involved, especially with ICSI”, recalls Gemma; “it made the whole process much clearer.”

Gemma subsequently began a course of hormone injections to help stimulate her egg production and went to the local hospital for the routine scans of her growing eggs, as this was nearer to visit when  fitting in around work. Her results were then passed on to Bourn Hall where the specialist fertility nurses would advise Gemma on the dosage of her hormone drugs.

Disappointing first cycle

In December 2013, at the Cambridge Clinic, Gemma’s eggs were harvested and fertilised with Matthew’s sperm using the ICSI procedure.

Gemma returned a few days later for the embryo transfer but unfortunately she did not become pregnant on the first ICSI cycle.

“We were devastated,” recalls Gemma, “but thankfully we had two embryos frozen so we could try again.”

Matthew and Gemma welcome Ava

Worried that their second attempt might also fail, Gemma took her pregnancy test at 5:00 am so Matthew could be present to support her and know the result before leaving for work.

Fortunately the test was positive:

ICSI

“19th May 2014 is etched in my mind as the result was positive!” says Gemma. “I was overwhelmed with happiness and excitement as well as disbelief that we might become parents.”

Matthew adds: “I felt unbelievably happy and shocked. It was an incredible feeling seeing the positive pregnancy test and knowing I was going to become a dad.”

After suffering some initial morning sickness the rest of Gemma’s pregnancy went well and Ava was born on 31st January 2015.

“Having Ava is absolutely amazing,” says Gemma. “To go from thinking you can’t have a baby to then having your own in your arms is incredible. The journey was scary at moments, such as when I had to take the injections, but it was totally worth it!

“The staff were lovely and I can only say positive things about Bourn Hall. We would certainly choose them for any future treatment which would now be self- funded as we are no longer eligible for NHS funding now we have a baby.”

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IVF success on the fifth and last attempt

After getting married at the age of 21, Emma thought she had her whole future mapped out. Enjoy life as a couple with husband Russell for a few years and then start a family when she was in her late twenties. In fact, Emma had to wait until she was 36 to become a mother.

Emma, from Norfolk, says: “As newlyweds we were in no hurry to have a baby.  I just assumed, like most people do, that we’d leave it a while and then I would come off the pill and get pregnant. It would be as simple as that.”

Unexplained infertility

The couple started trying in 2003 when Emma was 26. She recalls: “My sister-in-law got pregnant really easily and that was difficult for us. You feel like you are the only ones having problems but actually there are loads of people out there in the same boat.”

“We went to our doctor after trying for a couple of years, but tests revealed that nothing appeared to be wrong with either of us. We were perplexed.”

A visit to Bourn Hall 

In 2009, new NHS funding rules were put in place, meaning the couple were given the opportunity for three fresh cycles of funded IVF treatment. They jumped at the chance and went to visit Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge on one of its open days.

“We wanted to go to Bourn Hall as that is where IVF all began,” says Emma.

The couple were told that IVF with ICSI, when a sperm is injected directly into the egg, would give them the best chance of having a baby.  As no reason had been found for their infertility, Emma was very optimistic about her first cycle of treatment.

Five attempts at IVF

On the first round she thought she might be pregnant but the test was negative. The worst thing about it was that all their family knew they had had the treatment and she felt bad telling everyone it hadn’t worked. They decided they would keep any future treatment dates just between themselves and their parents.

Over the next two years the couple had five attempts at IVF. “We had always been prepared to give it as many goes as we were allowed,” says Emma. “We had been given such a fantastic opportunity by the NHS.”

unexplained infertility
© Si Barber

Keeping busy with hobbies

The couple remained stoical throughout their treatment, which spanned a couple of years, throwing themselves in to their hobbies; Emma has horses and Russell enjoys motorcycling.

Emma says: “We got ourselves out and about at weekends and kept ourselves busy and that helped to take our minds of it.

“The staff at Bourn Hall were brilliant we felt as though we could ask them anything, they were really helpful and talked everything through with us.”

The NHS funding allows three cycles of egg stimulation.  The eggs are fertilised and any embryos not needed for that cycle are frozen for future treatment.  If these first three cycles of IVF are not successful, couples can have up to three further attempts using the previously frozen embryos.  In Emma’s case, her third cycle of stimulation had produced relatively few eggs and so the couple had only been able to freeze embryos for two additional attempts. Emma therefore knew that her fifth treatment was their last opportunity.

The last opportunity

“After treatment I just stopped. I took three days off work and put my feet-up. I don’t know if this made the difference but I wanted to give it every chance I could.

“When I took the pregnancy test and it was positive I just couldn’t stop smiling. I rang my husband and then I went to the pharmacy and bought loads more pregnancy tests. I kept testing myself again just to double-check it was true!”

Pregnant with twins

At Emma’s first scan at Bourn Hall they confirmed what she had secretly suspected; she was expecting twins.

“We were just so happy”, says Emma. “I had a great pregnancy and at the 18-week scan we found out that the twins were a boy and a girl. I just let nature take its course after that and really enjoyed my pregnancy.”

In July 2012, Edward and Evie arrived in the world to the absolute delight of their parents.  “We were over the moon,” says Emma. “We felt so lucky.”

As the twins grow up they are becoming little companions for each other.

“Motherhood is hard work but it is what I have wanted for so long. We waited such a long time to become parents and the twins are definitely worth it.”

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