Milton Keynes couple overcome under-active thyroid and low AMH with IVF success

“When I was growing up I had never been that bothered about having children but then when I was 25 I met and fell in love with Matt and saw how great he was around his nephew and niece and it made me re-assess things,” says Tanya, aged 39, from Milton Keynes.

“I got on really well with Matt’s niece in particular, she was lovely, and I think having that connection with children made us think about having our own family and we started talking about it more seriously.

“Three years after we moved in together I came off contraception, we were happy with each other and took the view that ‘if it happened it happened’. But then nothing did happen and so after we got married a year later, in 2012, that is when we started ‘properly trying’.

Under-active thyroid can affect ovulation

“After that, when I still didn’t get pregnant, I went to the GP and had some tests and then we were both referred to Milton Keynes Hospital and tests revealed that I had an under-active thyroid.”

Matt and Tanya

An under-active thyroid can affect a woman’s ovulation patterns and Tanya was prescribed Levothyroxine and told to monitor her ovulation.

“It was a surprise I had an under-active thyroid, I wasn’t aware I had any symptoms,” says Tanya. “I know they say that tiredness can be one but I didn’t feel any different after I started taking the medication, I still take it now and I don’t feel any different, so I don’t know, I wouldn’t have had a clue.”

Tanya and Matt carried on trying to conceive naturally, whilst monitoring Tanya’s ovulation, but they still didn’t get pregnant and the hospital advised them that they had ‘unexplained infertility’ and that their next step would be IVF.

AMH levels too low for NHS funding

AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) is a substance produced by small ovarian follicles and in natural conception one of these follicles will mature to become an egg. Measuring a woman’s AMH blood levels gives an indication of her remaining egg supply (or ovarian reserve). Generally an AMH level of more than 5.4pmol/l is needed for NHS treatment)

Tanya continues: “In order for us to be referred for NHS-funded IVF my AMH levels needed to be within a certain bracket (and when it came to getting a referral my AMH levels just ‘fell out’ of the required levels. The hospital kept testing and testing but it just didn’t hit the right level again. It was a shame because I was literally a tiny amount and they said ‘well we have got to set the boundary somewhere’ and so we were told that we wouldn’t be eligible for funding.”

“We were both in our thirties by this point and I was beginning to feel the clock ticking,” says Tanya.

“Although I hadn’t felt that maternal when I was younger, I had come to realise over time how much I did actually did want a baby, and was now faced with the prospect that I might not be able to.”

Choose Bourn Hall for its reputation


Bourn Hall provides NHS-funded IVF treatment to patients from Luton and Bedfordshire, (and other counties) and also self-funded treatment. Its Cambridgeshire clinic is less than an hour’s drive from Milton Keynes.

The couple got in touch with Bourn Hall at the end of 2014.

“We chose Bourn Hall because they were IVF pioneers, they set up the world’s first IVF clinic, and they had the best reviews,.” says Tanya. “Age wasn’t on our side and if we were going to have to fund ourselves we wanted to throw everything at it and go to the best place.

“It wasn’t that far for us to drive and when we got there it was just the most beautiful place, stunning, and everyone made us feel so comfortable and welcome, we were really happy we had chosen them.”

Tanya and Matt’s treatment at Bourn Hall involved a process called IMSI (Intra-cytoplasmic Morphologically Selected Sperm Injection). IMSI is a technique which involves the embryologist viewing the sperm at very high magnification through an inverted microscope to select the best for injection in to an egg.

“We had nine embryos which made it to blastocyst and we had one transferred and four were good enough to freeze,” says Tanya.

Third time lucky with a ‘lower’ quality embryo

“The fresh embryo transfer didn’t result in a pregnancy and we were gutted. We had thought that the embryo would be put in and would ‘stick’ and I would be pregnant but it didn’t so that was really hard for both of us.

“The second time Bourn Hall transferred two frozen embryos and neither of them took, it was a really worrying and stressful time. When having a baby is constantly on your mind everywhere you look are pregnant women and babies, it is horrible. It becomes all-enveloping, it consumes you.

CS228 “We were not hopeful going in for our third attempt, our second frozen embryo transfer. Bourn Hall had used the better graded embryos first and the two remaining ones were not as highly graded. So we were amazed when I got pregnant! It was the best feeling ever but I was so scared of something going wrong I took a pregnancy test every day for ages!

“Our son Ethan was born on March 31st 2017 when I was 34, and he was just perfect.

 Access Fertility package to reduce the stress

“I was really aware of fertility declining after the age of 35 and Matt and I knew that we wanted to try for another baby so literally six months after we had Ethan we started talking about having more IVF.

“We had used an Access Fertility package for our previous treatment at Bourn Hall and went through them again for our sibling treatment.”  Access Fertility offers a number of funding packages and many provide a money-back guarantee if the treatment is ultimately unsuccessful.

“I was conscious that I was a bit older this time around but I produced the same number of eggs that I did with my previous treatment and after IMSI and blastocyst we had two fresh embryos transferred and four were frozen.

Didn’t expect it to work first time

“We definitely didn’t expect the sibling treatment to work first time. But it did, I had got pregnant straightaway, it was amazing. When we went for our 7 week scan at Bourn Hall we were told that both embryos had taken but that one of them had gone. So that was a bit sad, it was sort of bittersweet. We could see on the scan there were definitely two sacs but only one heartbeat.


“Our daughter Demi was born on 29 October 2018, 19 months after Ethan. It is absolutely lovely having a boy and a girl and I feel so lucky after having gone through what we have.

Warmly recommend Bourn Hall 

“We would one hundred per cent recommend Bourn Hall, I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else, after we had Ethan we were always going to go back there and the Access Fertility packages ticked all the boxes, I can’t fault them at all.

CS228“The staff were all lovely, the consultants were fantastic at the beginning explaining the whole process and then the nurses and the embryology team too, every department every step of the way, every person we dealt with along the way, they have all been amazing and so supportive and knowledgeable. And they made us feel good even when the IVF didn’t work, without their support it would have been really hard to deal with.

“And the travelling for us from Milton Keynes was good, the roads were fine pretty much at any time, we even drove there in the snow one time, it didn’t bother us at all, I think when you are working towards something that you have been longing for for so long you don’t even think about it.

“It also helped that my employer has been amazingly supportive throughout my IVF and parenthood journey, I work in IT support for a large company and was given paid time off to go to all of my Bourn Hall appointments. They let me work flexibly now so I can do the school run and I would never leave my job, I want to do everything for them because they have done so much for me. It was nice because I felt that my managers were sympathetic to my situation and were supporting me and Matt in achieving our goal of having a family.”


Ipswich Mum treasures precious moments after years of unexplained infertility

“I spent years facing the prospect of never having children of my own,” says Cara from Ipswich.

“Watching adverts on TV featuring small children used to literally make my heartache. I tried not to let myself daydream about all the little moments I was going to miss like giving my own child a bath, bundling them up in a fluffy towel, kissing and smelling the top of their head and putting them to bed.”

Now 13 years after first trying to conceive, Cara, aged 38, has finally put the heartache behind her and is mum to Adam, aged 4, and Evie, aged 7 months, both conceived following successful fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic.

Nothing was working

“I had wanted children since I was young and even as a teenager I helped out at an after-school club for young children,” says Cara. She and husband Stewart have been together since Cara was 17 and first started trying for a baby when Cara was 25.

“We tried for a baby for a few years before we went to the doctor,” recalls Cara. “I was studying to be an accountant and working long hours so we put off seeking help. We did a lot of research on the internet and tried all kinds of suggested remedies to boost our chances of having a baby, but nothing worked.”

After the couple went to their GP they were referred to Ipswich Hospital and underwent tests. Cara and Stewart’s infertility was ‘unexplained’ which means that no definitive reason could be found for why they couldn’t conceive.

40 per cent of infertility cases are due to male factors, 40 per cent are due to female factors and the remaining 20 per cent are either a combination of both partners’ factors or are unexplained – so expert advice is invaluable.

Struggling to conceive? Find out more about the personalised fertility advice, diagnosis and treatment services we offer.

IVF offered best chance of a baby

As they had been trying for so long (most couples conceive within two years of trying) Cara and Stewart were told that their best chance of a baby was to have NHS-funded IVF treatment at a specialist clinic.

The couple chose Bourn Hall Clinic in Colchester, which provides both NHS-funded and self-funded IVF as well as diagnostic fertility testing and treatment, and Cara says it was a relief to finally be referred for specialist help, although she felt daunted at the same time. The staff put her at ease immediately and she says it felt as though they ‘held her hand’ all the way through her treatment.

Cara and Stewart were delighted when Cara fell pregnant after their second treatment. Her eggs were fertilised in the laboratory at Bourn Hall Colchester with Stewart’s sperm using a procedure called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), which is where a single sperm is injected in to the centre of each mature egg. The resulting embryos were then kept for a few days in an incubator until they reached blastocyst stage, which is when they have the greatest chance of achieving a successful pregnancy. Two embryos were transferred to Cara’s womb and a fortnight later she took a pregnancy test.

“I didn’t feel pregnant,” says Cara. “I was too scared to get my hopes up but on the day I was due to take my test I couldn’t wait any longer and took the test at 4am. When the result showed up positive I just cried and cried. I was over the moon, I just couldn’t believe it.”

A sibling for Adam

Cara and Stewart with Adam and Evie Ipswich Bourn HallNine months later son Adam was born and when he was just six months old Cara and Stewart wondered if they might be able to conceive naturally and started trying for another baby.

“We were hoping to get some luck from the post-baby hormones but I didn’t get pregnant,” says Cara.

The couple decided to have IVF again, this time paying for it themselves as they were no longer eligible for NHS funding once they had Adam. “We chose Bourn Hall because we had excellent care and support the first time and so didn’t hesitate to go back,” says Cara.

The couple had some additional procedures second time around which took place at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic: Intracytoplasmic Morphologically-Selected Sperm Injection (IMSI), which involved the assessment of Stewart’s sperm at a much greater digital magnification than ICSI, and the embryos were monitored using Early Embryology Viability Assessment (Eeva). Eeva uses imaging to help identify the best embryos at an early stage (Day 3) without disrupting them.

“We ended up with three top grade embryos,” says Cara.

The couple were delighted when Cara fell pregnant at the second attempt and daughter Evie was born seven months ago.

Only a very small number of people need to have IVF and there are a number of ways in which people can improve their chances of conceiving naturally, such as losing weight and making other lifestyle changes, and Bourn Hall provides a free consultation service with a fertility nurse.

So grateful

“My advice to anyone worried about their own fertility would be to seek help sooner rather than later,” says Cara. “I put off asking for help and at the time thought that I had always managed to hide my feelings about struggling to get pregnant quite well and was taking it in my stride. It was only after I had Adam that my mum said that after many years she had finally got her daughter back. I must have been more upset and distracted than I realised.

“I am so grateful that I have had the chance to become a mum and enjoy all these precious opportunities with the children.

“Adam was such a proud big brother when Evie arrived,” says Cara, “He was telling his nursery friends all about her and then showing her off when we went in to watch his Nativity play when she was just a week old. It amazed me how much he loved her right from the start.”

Bourn Hall Lianne with baby Evie Ipswich


New techniques improve the odds for IVF couple

After being told that her egg store was so low that it was unlikely that she would become a biological mum, Jemma and Carl, used a new emerging treatment to improve their chances of a baby.

The couple had been together for six years when they married and started to try for a baby, Jemma explains: “Month after month went by without success, we began to wonder if something was wrong so in 2010, we went to our doctor who referred us to the local hospital for tests.

A disappointing three cycles

“After a course of Clomid to stimulate ovulation was unsuccessful we went back for a further test. This anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) blood test showed that my reserve of eggs was very low and they warned us this might make it difficult for me to have IVF with my own eggs. This comment left me feeling hopeless.”

The couple were referred for IVF treatment and they choose Bourn Hall Clinic.

Unfortunately none of the couple’s three cycles of NHS funded IVF treatment were successful as Jemma produced insufficient eggs.

Opting for IMSI treatment

So the couple decided to have a further self-funded cycle and this gave them freedom to investigate other treatment options.

A high proportion of sperm even in healthy men have some abnormalities and in IVF embryologists are very careful to select the best sperm.  To assist this process an emerging treatment is Intracytoplasmic morphologically selected sperm injection (IMSI) where the sperm is viewed at very high magnification, using an inverted microscope. This enables the embryologist to look inside the head of the sperm to identify the healthiest looking sperm for injecting into the egg.

On discovering that Bourn Hall Clinic had started to offer this treatment Jemma and Carl decided that it was worth having as part of their fourth attempt.

Jemma says: “We wanted to maximise our chances of having a baby and believed IMSI would help.”

Each of Jemma’s harvested eggs was injected with a single sperm selected using IMSI. Six of Jemma’s fertilised eggs developed to blastocyst stage of which two were selected and transferred into her womb. Everyone was delighted when Jemma became pregnant.


Double the delight

On 27th August 2014 twins Esther and Leo were born.

“Although twins do bring complications for us having gone so far this outcome was ideal. We always wanted to have a family and it was a perfect result!”

Carl says; “Thanks to Bourn Hall Clinic I’m definitely a very proud father and love being a dad to our twins as they complete our family.

“I always believed there would be light at the end of the tunnel and although sometimes it was not easy, particularly the frustration of not knowing why we had infertility issues, we kept our hope up, persevered and fulfilled out dream.

“Attending Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic gave us confidence as we knew it was established by the pioneers of IVF treatment. The hall itself is in the countryside and in tranquil settings, which I think can help make the process all the more bearable.”

Jemma adds: “I refer to Bourn Hall as ‘the land of hope and dreams’ and hopefully our experience will help encourage others.”

New techniques improve the odds for IVF couple

Ref CS085