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

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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.

IMSI

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

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