Baby joy after struggle with severe endometriosis symptoms

Heavy painful periods

“I had suffered with painful and heavy periods ever since my periods first started,” says Natalie, aged 34, from Bedfordshire. “Some months I could be in agonising pain for three days, I would have to take so many painkillers just to get through the day. I had to be prescribed medication to slow the bleed down because otherwise I literally wouldn’t be able to leave the house because it was so heavy.  

“I was put on the pill for a few years to ease my endometriosis symptoms, but it didn’t always agree with me. So, when I was in my twenties, I came off the pill to try and manage it naturally. It was then that I realised that my symptoms had got even worse, but I still didn’t know what was causing them. 

“My other major symptom was bloating. My stomach was so inflamed that I looked six months pregnant on some days. Leading up to our wedding day I dieted and exercised but couldn’t get rid of it.” 

Natalie and Alex started trying for a baby as soon as they got married. 

“I was 29 and conscious of time ticking,” she says. “I had an inkling we might struggle but I didn’t think it would take us so long. I got to the point when I thought it may never happen. 

“I would take the dog out for a walk and go past people with pushchairs and think ‘why is it happening for other people?’ and feel so sad.” 

Endometriosis symptoms not taken seriously

Natalie tried everything to alleviate her ongoing symptoms as well as improve her fertility chances. 

“I tried a gluten, dairy-free, sugar-free diet,” she says. “I also tried complementary therapies such as acupuncture, reflexology and massage, gave up alcohol and caffeine, took various supplements and exercised.” 

Natalie had done her own research and suspected that she had endometriosis but feels that she was fobbed off by a succession of doctors who didn’t seem to think that she had ‘all the symptoms’. She was even told to get pregnant as that would relieve the pain.  

So, she decided to pay for a consultation with a specialist – two hour’s drive away from her home. 

“The doctor said to me ‘it sounds to me like you’ve got all the symptoms of endometriosis, I can send you for an MRI.’ And the MRI showed that I had endometrial tissue growing in several different places, on my pelvis, uterus, and Pouch of Douglas; my uterus had become tethered to one of my ovaries, so I had surgery to remove the tissue and tidy things up.” 

In the meantime, Natalie and Alex had also undergone fertility tests at their local NHS hospital which had concluded that they had ‘unexplained infertility’ after a raft of tests, including to check that Natalie’s fallopian tubes were clear. 

IUI treatment with less medication

The couple were referred for NHS-funded IVF treatment to Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge but shortly after Natalie started her first round of medication, she experienced a rare reaction to the surge in hormones and their treatment had to be put on hold. 

“Bourn Hall tested me for all kinds of different things such as blood clotting disorders, antiphospholipid syndrome, and things like that to see why it might have happened. Our doctor at Bourn Hall had successfully lobbied our CCG for us to have another go at IVF on the NHS but in the end, it was agreed we would try IUI treatment which although it has a lower success rate than IVF is much more natural and involves far less medication,” says Natalie. 

IUI an alternative as Natalie’s periods were regular

Intrauterine insemination (IUI) involves placing the prepared sperm into the uterus shortly after ovulation using a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. Depending on the individual patients they may be offered a natural (unstimulated) cycle or a stimulated cycle. 

“Whilst I had always had problems with heavy and painful periods, they had always been regular,” says Natalie.

“So, we decided on the natural protocol for the IUI where basically it was all in line with my own natural period and Bourn Hall would scan my ovaries every few days to see when I was going to ovulate. 

Natalie and Arthur
Natalie and Arthur

“I just had to have one injection to mature the egg, called a trigger injection, and then two days later Alex’s sperm was inserted using the catheter so that hopefully the sperm and egg would meet at the right time. 

“Unfortunately, the first time the IUI didn’t work, and I really felt as though it just wasn’t going to happen for us. We had been trying for a baby for years by this point and so we did make some exploratory calls looking in to adopting. But then a few months later I thought maybe we should give IUI another try…

Shocked to finally be pregnant! 

“Our first IUI attempt was covered by the NHS, but for the second try, we funded it ourselves. It comes at a considerably lower cost compared to IVF, amounting to approximately £1,300. 

“I came out of Bourn Hall after the second IUI attempt convinced it hadn’t worked, I was thinking ‘why did we bother?’.  

“I spent the whole of the two weeks wait to feel very depressed and so when I took the pregnancy test, and it was positive I was just so shocked that I had to take another four just to check! I was so happy I cried and cried! 

“I had an incredible pregnancy, I was one of these lucky ones, I barely had any sickness, I actually felt better pregnant than I do normally!  

“Arthur arrived in December so this is my first Mother’s Day with him, I am so excited, it is something that I thought would never happen for me.  

“He’s just a total gift, he’s so precious and I love him so much. I finally feel as though I have got to where I wanted to be. 

“Thinking back, I wish I had been more insistent. As now I have a definitive endometriosis diagnosis I can get help from the NHS should I need any further surgery, which is really good.  

“To other women who suspect that they have endometriosis symptoms I would say ‘keep pushing your GP for answers.’ Just say ‘this isn’t normal, and I really need to have further testing, ask for an MRI scan and further investigations.’ You know your own body.”  

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More information

Find out more about endometriosis and its impact on fertility on our blog.

Since Natalie and Alex had their treatment Bourn Hall has opened a specialist Endometriosis and Fertility service


IVF with donor sperm gave Amber and Tilly eight chances of success

Life-changing decisions during lockdown

“We’d had a bit of a whirlwind in 2020,” says Amber. “We moved into our first house during the lockdown period in April, then we got a dog a month later and then we booked our wedding for the following year!

Amber, aged 27, and Tilly, aged 28, then approached Bourn Hall Norwich to discuss fertility treatment.

“We knew that fertility treatment is not necessarily that straightforward so we said we wanted to take the plunge and try as early as we could so we would give ourselves the best chance.

Amber and her wife Tilly have been together for over six years and coincidentally went to the same high school in Norfolk.

“We have always wanted a family and both knew that, ideally, we would each want to carry a baby if we could. We were also one hundred per cent sure that we wanted to go through a fertility clinic and do it all ‘properly’.”

Success and reputation

“We chose Bourn Hall because we had done a lot of research, looking at success rates and reputation, and we are so glad we did, because we found the staff amazing.”

The couple decided that Amber would have treatment first and they opted to have IUI.

“We knew that the success rates are higher with IVF but we decided to take our chances with IUI there was no reason why it shouldn’t work with me being healthy and still young,” says Amber.

Choosing a donor

“We used a donor from the Bourn Hall sperm bank. We wanted to keep it simple and wrote down the characteristics we wanted and waited for Bourn Hall to send us some matches. They came up with three potential donors and one of the main reasons we chose our donor, besides our preferred characteristics matching up, was because of the lovely goodwill message he had written.

“We had our first IUI in July 2021 which didn’t work and our second in November, just after our wedding, which was also unsuccessful.

“We both felt quite deflated and upset when the IUI didn’t work. I was questioning ‘why hasn’t it worked? Is it me?’. It knocked my confidence and that is why we came to the decision to go for it and have IVF with donor sperm and hope we had a better chance.”

Decision to go for IVF with donor sperm

Once the couple had decided to try IVF with donor sperm, things progressed quickly.

“I started my injections in the February and had my egg collection in the March, it all happened quite quickly,” says Amber. “I didn’t do any of the injections myself, Tilly did them for me.

“I felt really bloated which made sense as I ended up having 26 eggs collected. We had eight embryos by day 5 of blastocyst and it was decided that we would have all of them frozen as a ‘freeze-all’ to give my body time to recover.

“Our IVF worked first time. My symptoms were not massive, I had very sore boobs, that is about it, and then the morning we did the test and it was positive we just couldn’t believe that  we were actually pregnant, we were over the moon!

“It was lovely going in to Bourn Hall for the seven-week scan, we got to see our nurse Gemma who we had generally seen most times and it was lovely to hear her say ‘here it is, you are pregnant!’, it was nice to go through it with the same person.”

Our lives are complete

“Bourn Hall were brilliant all the way through,” says Tilly. “The staff did everything they could for us and would always pick up the phone if we needed support.”

The couple’s son Flynn was born on March 3, 2023

“His birth was a bit dramatic,” laughs Tilly. “But, now he is here he has made our life complete. It is everything we have always wanted,” says Amber.

“It means the world to us to think how he was created, same-sex couples haven’t always had this opportunity, we feel so lucky and are besotted by him.”

Amber and Tilly have the following advice for other same-sex couples going through donor treatment:

“Trust the process and believe that it can work,” says Amber. “Have patience, it is not a quick process.”


Hannah and Jemma’s fertility journey to complete their family

“When we first discussed becoming parents using a sperm donor it was so exciting,” says Hannah. “I proposed to my partner Jemma on New Year’s Eve four years ago and presented her with an engagement ring and the date of our first appointment at Bourn Hall. We both wanted to have treatment so that we could have the shared experience of carrying a baby and had no reason to suspect that one of us would have fertility issues.”

Hannah first met Jemma over ten years ago through work but they only got to know each other properly a few years later, finally getting together as a couple five years ago.

“We had both always known that we wanted children but hadn’t really known what options might be open to us,” says Hannah. “After we got serious Jemma got the ball rolling and started exploring the possibility of us having a baby using a sperm donor.

“We talked about it and the only route we were prepared to consider was going through a fertility clinic. I know that some female couples look at alternative routes such as sourcing sperm donors on the internet but as far as we were concerned we wanted everything to be above board and legal. We wanted both of our names on any birth certificates and to protect any children we had so that as they got older they could ask us any questions they wanted and we could give them an honest answer.”

The couple, from Ipswich, heard about Bourn Hall Colchester through friends and Hannah booked an appointment as a surprise engagement gift for Jemma.

After attending their first consultation at Bourn Hall the couple both underwent fertility tests, which all came back fine for Jemma but Hannah was surprised to learn that she had two underlying fertility issues.

“My blood tests were okay but it turned out that I had polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS),” says Hannah. “I’d always had painful and heavy periods but to be honest I just thought everyone had periods like that. I also had a HyCoSy test, which revealed that I had a blocked fallopian tube. I was really taken aback and just hadn’t been expecting to be told that I had any conditions which would affect my fertility.”

Counselling can help prepare for the future

The couple decided that Jemma would undergo fertility treatment first and the couple were offered implications counselling, which Hannah says they found ‘invaluable’.

“The counselling sessions were amazing,” says Hannah. “It was really personal and helped us realise that we were not the only couple on this journey and were not alone. The counsellor took us through every step and made us ask ourselves questions which we hadn’t really considered before. We were so lucky to have the chance to think about these things beforehand, it made sure that we were really prepared.”

Using a licensed UK clinic ensures legal parenthood status and peace of mind

Bourn Hall has its own sperm bank, which is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA). All donors have a medical examination, blood tests and their family history is checked. All sperm donors are rigorously screened.

By using a licensed UK clinic, the couples are assured that they both have legal parenthood of resulting children. Although no identifying information is provided at the time of treatment, the donors are invited to write a short goodwill message for any resulting child.

Hannah and Jemma wanted to both have treatment in due course and were keen to use the same sperm donor for any children resulting from their IVF treatments.

“The sperm donor we chose had written a really warm message and that was one of the reasons we shortlisted and ultimately picked him,” says Hannah.

There are two types of fertility treatment available with donated sperm: IUI (intrauterine insemination) where the sperm is introduced close to the opening of the uterus, or IVF where the ovaries are stimulated with medication to produce more mature eggs at the same time, these are mixed with donor sperm and the resulting embryos transferred to the uterus.

The couple had done so much research and wanted the best chance of success, so although either option was available to them, they chose IVF.

Jemma describes her treatment as ‘all a bit surreal’. “I produced a lot of eggs,” she says. “A number were fertilised and we had two embryos frozen and one transferred to my womb. I can’t really explain it but I was confident that the treatment had worked. I knew I was pregnant before we took the test.”

First-time IVF treatment success

Jemma’s hunch proved correct and they were delighted when the pregnancy test confirmed they were to be parents. Daughter Robyn was born 4 weeks early in December 2016. “We were so excited to be a family,” says Jemma.

Buoyed by the success of their first treatment, the couple were keen to have a sibling for Robyn using Hannah’s eggs and for her to experience pregnancy and birth of a brother or sister – ideally so they could be close in age – and booked an appointment for Hannah to start her treatment at Bourn Hall.

“We had been so lucky with Jemma getting pregnant at her first attempt and this meant that we still had plenty of donor sperm left,” says Hannah. “We weren’t in a rush because we had Robyn but I did wonder if it might take me a little while longer to have a baby.”

Setbacks and a step back

Hannah was initially treated using IUI (intrauterine insemination) which is a less invasive treatment than IVF and as it requires less medication it is cheaper. This was not successful so for her second treatment the couple decided to go with IVF.

“I didn’t conceive after my second treatment either and I was really despondent,” says Hannah. “I wasn’t producing many eggs and I was blaming myself for the fact it hadn’t worked.”

The couple decided to take a step back before deciding what to do next but Hannah took solace in the fact they already had daughter Robyn. “When my treatment hadn’t worked and I felt down, I would look at Robyn and be so grateful we already had her,” says Hannah.

Fresh approach to funding treatment

For couples that are self-funding the cost can be an obstacle to fertility treatment. To support its patients, Bourn Hall has partnered with Access Fertility to offer pre-payment packages some of which offer a money-back guarantee if treatment isn’t successful.

“We were really lucky that my mum, who really adored Robyn and wanted her to have a sibling, stepped in and helped us to buy an Access Fertility Package to enable us to have further treatment at Bourn Hall,” says Hannah.

Hannah’s first treatment covered by the Access Fertility package was unsuccessful but Hannah admits that she hadn’t felt hopeful even before treatment began.

“Every time I had treatment I was producing less and less eggs and I just started to doubt and blame myself,” she says. “I just always had it in my head that my treatment wasn’t going to work.”

As part of her next treatment Hannah also opted to have a supplementary treatment called EmbryoGlue, which is a culture media which has been developed to mimic the conditions in the womb and may help the embryo to implant after transfer. Although this adjuvant treatment has little medical evidence to support its use for some people it can help ‘tip the balance’.

“I really felt like we had given it our best shot and worked really hard to have everything in place,” says Hannah. “I only produced five eggs and went home really upset not knowing what our chances would be. I was really surprised when the clinic phoned me up after day 2 of the embryos being in the lab and told me to go back in for an embryo transfer.

“I was quite weary by this stage and just told myself to hope for the best. I tried to stay calm and channel positive thoughts which hopefully can go a long way.”

Positive news….

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Hannah knew early on that something was different this time around. “I knew I was pregnant because I started getting morning sickness really early on,” she laughs. “When I did take the pregnancy test and it was positive I was in shock, it was such a nice feeling! Jemma had to run out and buy a load more tests for me to take so that I could actually believe it!”

Last August Hannah gave birth to the couple’s second daughter, Frankie, and they couldn’t be happier.

“Our family is complete,” says Hannah. “My advice to other same-sex couples wanting to have a family is go for it and if money is a barrier there are options out there. The Access Fertility package was amazing. No amount of money can replace your desire to have children and once you have your family you forget about the financial side of things.”

Lasting legacy and a dream for the future

Hannah and Jemma’s personal journey to parenthood has had a lasting impact on the couple and inspired Jemma to pursue a dream of working in embryology herself. Currently working as a medical lab assistant in a hospital she has just completed her first year of a distance learning part-time degree in biomedical sciences and hopes to do an MA specialising in embryology when she has graduated.

“Those very special people in the Bourn Hall embryology lab gave us our two precious little babies and I would really love to do the same for other people,” says Jemma.

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IUI with donor sperm made us a family after long and emotional journey

“There have been really difficult times when we thought that having a child was never going to happen for us and that maybe we were just chasing a dream,” says Charlie, aged 32. “But all our dreams came true when our miracle little boy Indy was born. We have had a long and emotional journey to become parents and he is everything we ever hoped for. Our life together is now complete.”

Charlie has known that she wanted to be a mum for as long as she can remember

“I was an only child until I was 12 and the oldest of all my cousins,” she says. “I was desperate for a baby brother or sister and then my little brother came along. I loved it and used to mother him all the time, I have always been really maternal.”

When she was 20 Charlie was told by doctors that she might never have children after a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. As a lesbian woman she already knew that she would have additional obstacles to overcome to fulfil her dream of becoming a mum, but issues with her fertility had not been on her radar until then.

“It was a massive knock for me,” she says. “At the time my body was a bit all over the place and I was displaying all of the classic symptoms of PCOS including irregular periods and weight gain and felt very self-conscious, but I hadn’t expected to be told I might never be able to have children.”

When she was 23 Charlie met Lauren and the couple married three years later.

“Lauren wanted to have children just as much as I did and was happy for me to carry the baby,” says Charlie. “I had always wanted to have a massive baby bump and feel the baby moving.”

Emotional rollercoaster

The couple knew from the outset that the only route they were prepared to go down was to go to a regulated fertility clinic.

“Obviously we knew that we were going to have to use a donor and were aware that when a child turns 18 they are entitled to contact the donor, but by going through a clinic any baby would always be ‘ours’.” says Charlie. “We didn’t want anyone interfering in our child’s life, sending birthday cards or making either of us feel that there was someone else in the picture.”

Initially the couple, who live in Essex, went to a clinic in London for their treatment and went through a draining emotional rollercoaster of hope followed by disappointment when their first two IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) treatments didn’t work. Their disappointment turned to brief elation when Charlie found out she was pregnant after the third treatment but the couple were told soon after that it was probable that Charlie would lose the pregnancy and sadly, she miscarried at 8 weeks.

“There is nothing worse than being pregnant and knowing that there is nothing you can do to stop a miscarriage,” says Charlie. “We were devastated. It was the hardest thing we have ever been through.

“At that moment in time I felt as though I was ‘finished’ with fertility treatment. I had always thought that my hurdle in life was going to be getting pregnant and that if I could achieve that it would be ‘job done’ but it just isn’t as easy as that.

“We gave ourselves a lot of time to get over our loss and come to a decision about what to do next. We started looking at other fertility clinics way before we were mentally ready to try again.”

Ready to try again

One of the clinics which the couple tentatively looked at was Bourn Hall in Wickford.

“We both really liked Bourn Hall and decided that was where we would choose if we decided to have further treatment but we were still drained and emotionally raw and needed more time to mentally prepare for possibly going through the process again,” says Charlie.

When they finally felt ready to try again Charlie and Lauren contacted Bourn Hall to make an appointment. Bourn Hall’s Wickford clinic is a purpose-built fertility centre that was based on over 40 years of expertise and is also just a 12-mile drive from the couple’s home.

“We definitely felt as though we had arrived at the right place,” says Charlie. “We felt comfortable and the staff were all really nice.”

Felt a connection with the donor

For their IUI treatment at Bourn Hall the couple were keen to use the same sperm donor they had used at the London clinic and which they had sourced themselves from a sperm bank. Charlie says: “When we had been looking at sperm donor profiles we had quite specific criteria which we wanted to be met and that was that they had a rhesus negative blood type, were CMV negative and that they had a previous history of live birth or pregnancy. The sperm bank profile didn’t give us that much information but it gave us enough and I don’t know what it was but the donor we picked really stood out for us and we felt a connection.”

Charlie and Lauren bought another vial of the same donor sperm from the sperm bank and it was shipped to Bourn Hall who stored it within their cryopreservation facility until the couple’s treatment began.

All ready to go … then lockdown!

The couple, who had already been through so much to get to this point, were then faced with another obstacle in their journey to parenthood.

“We were going to start the treatment in April 2020 but obviously with the lockdown it all got postponed,” says Charlie. “It was yet another blow and I got really upset thinking maybe we were not meant to try again. I had mentally prepared myself for it to be that month so when it wasn’t it knocked me a bit.”

Once fertility clinics were allowed to reopen Charlie was one of the first patients allowed back in to Bourn Hall Wickford for treatment. Covid restrictions meant that Lauren had to stay outside in the carpark when Charlie was having appointments and scans and for the insemination.

“We both found it really difficult that Lauren could not come in to the clinic with me,” says Charlie. “Although not having Lauren there with me was hard I had a really nice fertility nurse who understood how difficult it was for me not having Lauren there and she was present at all of my appointments.”

Taking the pregnancy test after two weeks was nerve-wracking

“After everything that had happened before, I was scared to take the pregnancy test,” says Charlie. “I basically sat in the bathroom with a cup of wee for about half an hour, not knowing if I was going to do the test. I was thinking to myself ‘if this is negative, I am going to be devastated and I don’t know if I am prepared for that to happen again.’

“Then I thought ‘sod it, I am going to do it’ so I did it and thought it was a negative and went through to the bedroom and woke Lauren up and said: ‘I have done the pregnancy test but I think it is negative you can go and take a look if you want.’ She went into the bathroom and then came running back screaming ‘it is a positive it is a positive!!’

“The line was really faint so I went out the next day and bought loads of different pregnancy tests so that I could see solid lines and believe it.

I am pregnant but …

“Because of everything that had happened I was always thinking ‘I am pregnant but…’ Throughout my pregnancy there was always an element of doubt in my mind. Even when I was being wheeled down the corridor in hospital for my caesarian, I couldn’t believe it.”

In April 2021 – a year after the couple were originally due to start their treatment at Bourn Hall – they welcomed their son Indy.

Little miracle 

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“All our dreams came true when Indy arrived,” says Charlie. “He is absolutely gorgeous. Being a mum is the most amazing feeling ever. Sometimes when I am sitting with him holding him in my arms I just look at his little face and I think ‘how lucky are we?’. He is a miracle.

“Now Indy is here it still feels really surreal. We went through so much to have him. We threw all our emotions at becoming parents and it was really, really tough at times. I sometimes used to think that I was never going to get to be a mum and that it was everyone else who were the lucky ones.

“I can still remember how I emotional I would get looking at other women with big baby bumps and buggies and it would upset me because I wished that it could be me.

“What I would say to anyone else feeling like I did is ‘don’t give up no matter how hard it gets’. There were times when I thought that perhaps I was just chasing a dream that was never going to happen but finally, with Indy, my dreams of becoming a mum have come true.”

Read more LGBT+ stories about fertility treatment at Bourn Hall.


“Our love and Bourn Hall’s dedication made us a family” say Katie and Ali

“We both knew that we wanted children but being in a same-sex relationship we just didn’t know how you went about it,” says Katie. “We knew that women used sperm donors but we didn’t realise you could do it ‘officially’ and assumed it was all a bit of a taboo thing and that we would have to go ‘underground’ to find a sperm donor and try and get pregnant.

“Our impression at that stage was that having treatment at a UK clinic, which I assumed was going to be IVF treatment, would be really expensive for us and so we thought we would give the ‘DIY option’ a go.”


“We didn’t like the idea of asking a male friend or using a random stranger who advertised on the internet because we very much wanted any baby to be ‘ours’ and not end up with a male figure in the background who potentially could make some kind of claim over them as they grew up.”

The couple, who live in Harwich, knew from the beginning that they wanted to use an anonymous donor and had seen a TV documentary which featured women who had self-inseminated at home using sperm bought from a company in Denmark.

“We had decided that it would be me who would carry any resulting pregnancy and we had three tries using the ‘DIY’ kits at home with the donor sperm shipped from Denmark but we had very little knowledge of what we were doing.

“We tried to monitor when I was ovulating but home ovulation tests can be very inaccurate especially for someone like me who we later discovered ovulates much later than when my hormone levels peak. We spent around £3000 trying to get pregnant this way but looking back now I just wish we had gone straight to Bourn Hall.”

Regulated clinic for IUI

Katie played football with a friend who is also in a same-sex relationship who told her about her successful treatment using donor sperm at Bourn Hall Clinic Colchester. Katie and Ali made an appointment at Bourn Hall where they were told about a treatment called IUI – Intrauterine Insemination – which Katie describes as ‘the most natural fertility treatment there is’.

IUI in a fertility clinic involves placing specially prepared sperm high in the uterus at the time of ovulation at exactly the right time, so when the egg is released from the ovary the sperm is as close as possible to where they need to be. The treatment is straightforward, painless and relatively inexpensive.

IUI using donor sperm may be the most appropriate treatment for many same-sex couples and single women with functioning fallopian tubes who are under 35 years old.

IUI is also appropriate for other patients using the male partner’s sperm or donor sperm on medical advice..

“We had tests done at Bourn Hall, including checking that my fallopian tubes were clear, and they all came back fine. However, it did pick up on the issue of my ovulation hormone peaking early which made me realise that there would have been no way that we would have ever got pregnant using the home kits,” says Katie.

Implications counselling to help answer difficult questions 

Before Katie and Ali embarked on treatment they were offered ‘implications counselling’ – which is available, free of charge, to all Bourn Hall patients going through treatment using donor gametes.  Katie says they found it to be incredibly useful. “It was really nice to speak to someone with an external perspective who has spoken to many couples in our position and it forced us to examine possible scenarios and what might happen in the future if any resulting child decided to find out who their sperm donor was when they reached 18.

“It was really good to prepare for all the things which might happen in the future, especially if we had more than one child, and opened our eyes to any questions our children might have. Children are naturally inquisitive and will want to know where they have ‘come from’ and our position was very much that we hoped that any children we might have would get enough love and support from us and our wider family and that they wouldn’t necessarily feel that it was a part of their life which they needed to go and look for. We also felt that if it was something any resulting child wanted to do then it was completely their choice and we would support them in whatever decision they chose to take.”

Finding a sperm donor

Katie says she and Ali really wanted their children to be biologically related if they had more than one child. “It was really important to us that we used the same sperm donor because at that stage we didn’t know if Ali might also carry a child,” says Katie.

To find a sperm donor Bourn Hall facilitated a very straightforward process says Katie. “Before our treatment Bourn Hall put together profiles of each of us, our heights, weights, eye colour, hair colour, likes, dislikes, hobbies etc and then ran it through their database and came back to us with two donors who were a good match for us. From that shortlist of two we were able to pick the one which we felt was the best mix of us.”

Just popped out for treatment 

Patients who undergo IUI at Bourn Hall are usually given fertility drugs to stimulate their egg production and ovulation and to prepare their uterus to receive embryos. They are closely monitored by regular ultrasound scans and blood and urine tests. Sometimes an injection is given to induce ovulation. The donors are rigorously screened and the sperm is carefully washed and prepared before IUI takes place.

“For me IUI was really simple,” says Katie. “It was no more invasive than a smear test really. They inserted a really long ‘straw’ into me and I was literally in and out of the clinic within an hour. In fact the first time I had the treatment I went back to work in the afternoon and all my colleagues just thought that I had been for a routine medical appointment!”

Harry and Oliver
Image credit: VB Photography

Two weeks after their first IUI treatment Katie took a pregnancy test. “The two-week wait seemed to last forever,” laughs Katie. “The little line showed up that I was pregnant and we couldn’t quite believe it. It felt like it had been too easy it can’t have just worked first time! We hadn’t gone through any of the heartache you sometimes associate with fertility treatment. For us nothing had gone wrong, it had all fallen in to place, we had done everything the clinic had asked of us and they had done everything we asked of them – it had all fallen in to place like a big jigsaw puzzle with nothing missing. We still had to go out and buy eight more pregnancy tests to keep checking that we weren’t dreaming though!”

Son Harry was born four years ago and the three of them settled in to a routine before two years later Katie and Ali decided to go back to Bourn Hall for further treatment, again with the intention that Katie would carry any pregnancy.

Success after setback

“We still had some vials from the sperm donor left and I know this probably sounds really selfish of me but not having experienced any problems with our first treatment I just waltzed in to Bourn Hall rather naïvely assuming that I would have another IUI treatment and two weeks later, wham, I would be pregnant. Because of the way it happened with my pregnancy with Harry I just assumed it would work.”

Sadly for Katie and Ali their second IUI treatment didn’t result in a pregnancy.

“It felt like a complete kick in the teeth and I found it quite hard to take,” admits Katie. “But obviously heterosexual couples can try for years to have a baby and it doesn’t happen so why did I think that even with having ‘the most natural form of fertility treatment’ that it was going to happen straightaway? I felt like I had let Ali and Harry down and that my body had failed.

“We phoned Bourn Hall and explained that I hadn’t become pregnant this time around and they told me that we had been incredibly lucky to have Harry at the first attempt and that it was okay to be disappointed. They told me that we could just try again as soon as I got my next period and so we did that.”

Using the last vial of the donor sperm, the couple were thrilled to achieve a second pregnancy. “I had tried to take the pressure off myself and went into it trying to feel as relaxed as I could,” says Katie. “We were so happy when we found out the treatment had worked again and we had our second son, Oliver, at the beginning of June during lockdown.”

Unlike Harry, who Katie gave birth to after a long labour and was a waterbirth, Oliver arrived 13 minutes after Katie arrived at the hospital. “The midwives didn’t even get a chance to examine me, by the time I had got on the hospital bed my waters had broken and his head was coming out,” laughs Katie.

Advice to others

Now that Katie and Ali have got the family they have always wanted, Katie says that she cannot recommend Bourn Hall enough and says:

“I would say to any same-sex female couple looking to start a family, do your research. There are people who go down routes which are not ethical or safe and spend thousands of pounds on things trying to get pregnant at home which don’t work and you can do yourself damage. We had three goes at home which didn’t work and three goes at Bourn Hall and have two children, it speaks for itself really.

“As for the staff at Bourn Hall I cannot express how lovely all the team at Bourn Hall Colchester were. Our two nurses Jackie and Kate were amazing, just so supportive and lovely. Our two gorgeous boys are the product of the love and dedication they put into their jobs.”

to find a sperm donor Katie and Ali with Harry and Oliver 1
Image credit: VB Photography

More information about treatment for same-sex couples “IUI or IVF” 

More information about legal parenthood


Rachel and Clare have sons Clayton and Clark thanks to Bourn Hall sperm bank

“I met Clare through work in 2011. Both of us had only ever gone out with men before so it took a number of years to accept where our relationship was heading and to admit to each other how we felt,” remembers Rachel.

Once the couple had got together and come out to all their friends and family, Rachel had to confront her fears that being in a same-sex relationship was going to stop her having a child of her own.

A baby was a deal breaker

“Once we got together properly we had an awkward conversation about children,” Rachel explains. “Clare already had a teenage son and we both knew that having children wasn’t something that was ‘just going to happen’, but I had this massive maternal instinct.

“I just hadn’t prepared myself for a journey of not having a baby in the way I had expected. As far as I was concerned it was a deal breaker, I really wanted to be a mum.”

As the relationship grew serious Rachel and Clare started investigating what options were open to them.

“We knew that the NHS might offer us something but we had heard that there was a huge waiting list,” says Rachel. “We then looked at the online donor route. I even signed up for a specialist website aimed at lesbian couples but we decided very early on that it was all a bit seedy. I had also heard a lot of stories where it can all get a bit confusing further down the line with the legalities of parenthood and it led us to make a pretty quick decision that we wanted to do things properly.”

IUI or IVF? Read our myth buster for same-sex couples

Not ‘token lesbians’ 

One morning the couple heard a radio advert for fertility clinic Bourn Hall. “We said to ourselves ‘let’s go and have a look round’ but we were laughing as we said it as we just assumed that we wouldn’t be able afford it,” says Rachel.

“We went along to an open day and thought we would have to pretend that we were loaded and then were pleasantly surprised when we found out that the treatment was nowhere near as expensive as we thought it was going to be!”

They also assumed that they would be the ‘token lesbian couple’. “We went in and looked around and it was really exciting,” smiles Rachel. “There were so many people there and we weren’t the only gay couple. It was actually really eye-opening.”

Didn’t need IVF

The couple had already agreed that it would be Rachel, being the younger of the two, who would carry the baby, which meant that only she had to undergo fertility tests.

“It actually turned out that I was extremely fertile,” says Rachel. “This meant that I didn’t need IVF and could be treated using a procedure called IUI with donor sperm.”

IUI stands for Intrauterine Insemination, where prepared sperm is introduced into the uterus at the time of ovulation. Fertility drugs might be needed to stimulate egg production and ovulation and to prepare the uterus to receive embryos. It is a form of treatment that is straightforward, painless and relatively inexpensive.

Athletic donor

The first step for Rachel and Clare was to choose their sperm donor.

By using a licensed UK clinic couples are assured they both have legal parenthood of resulting children and the donor has no legal status. They can also reserve sibling sperm for further children and there is a maximum number of families that the donor can help.

The donor is encouraged to write a short goodwill message to share with the child, who is able to request more information once they are 18 years old. Non-identifying information is provided to the potential parents to assist the selection of the donor.

Rachel explains how they chose the donor. “We wanted someone who was a bit athletic and health-conscious along with having similar characteristics to our eldest son so that the children could look similar. We were given a choice of three donors based on the characteristics we had prioritised and we chose our donor based on the really nice little message he had written at the bottom of his profile as we felt that he had gone the extra mile.”

Moment of conception

Being ‘extremely fertile’ is still no guarantee of a woman falling pregnant, either naturally or during fertility treatment and Rachel fell pregnant after her third IUI treatment. She still remembers the moment her first son was conceived as she saw it happen on a screen at Bourn Hall.

CS150 body“Clare was sat right next to me holding my hand during the procedure and we watched the sperm swimming in my uterus on the screen after the injection. We actually have a picture of that moment which is not something that most people can say they have!” she laughs.

Rachel really enjoyed being pregnant. “Pregnancy was amazing,” she says. “I think I shocked everyone around me as I was one of those annoying people who glowed!”

IUI with donor sperm gives second baby

On 21 September 2017 son Clayton was born to the delight of both Rachel and Clare and his extremely proud big brother who is now 15. Just over a year later the couple went back to Bourn Hall and Rachel had IUI with donor sperm from the same person. Second-time-around their treatment worked first time and on 12 June 2019 son Clark was born.

Meeting Louise Brown – world’s first test-tube baby

Rachel reflects that the advances made since the birth of the world’s first IVF baby Louise Brown over 40 years ago in fertility treatments, associated legislation and positive changes in attitudes to same-sex couples have enabled her and Clare to become parents. “This opportunity wouldn’t have been available to us a few years ago,” says Rachel. “Bourn Hall has meant that I can be with the person I want to be with and I get to have a family too, I cannot thank them enough.”

More information about support for same-sex couples.

IUI with donor sperm
Rachel, Clare and Clayton with Louise Brown (right) and Dr Thanos Papathanasiou


Double the delight for Kerry and Stacy with IUI

When twins Rorie and Logan from Norfolk celebrated their first birthday surrounded by family and friends, it signalled the end of an emotional rollercoaster for their parents Kerry and Stacy.

Kerry (aged 33) and Stacy (25) met at work four years ago and after deciding to start a family, approached Bourn hall Clinic to investigate fertility treatment using donor sperm with IUI.

Selecting a sperm donor

The couple agreed that Kerry would carry the pregnancy. Nationally there is a shortage of sperm but Bourn Hall Clinic, the world’s first IVF clinic, was also one of the first to freeze and store sperm. It has its own sperm bank so it is possible to select your donor and reserve ‘sibling donor sperm’ so that further children are genetically related.

Kerry says: “Following initial consultations we had to select a sperm donor. Kerry and I reviewed the description details we’d been given for a few anonymised sperm donors, including eye colour and hair. We selected one, which we are grateful for, but to be honest we didn’t really want to know much about the donor so we were fine with it being anonymous. For us what was important was to have a child.”

The couple funded their own treatment and Kerry started taking a course of fertility drugs to help stimulate her egg production.

Third time the charm with IUI

Bourn Hall used Intrauterine Insemination, otherwise known as IUI, which is a delicate process which involved sperm being injected into Kerry’s womb, close to the time of her ovulation.

Unfortunately Kerry’s first and second IUI treatments were unsuccessful so Kerry and Stacy were absolutely delighted when in February 2013 Bourn Hall confirmed that after their third attempt Kerry was pregnant.

Stacy explains: “Our journey to have a child had been a real emotional rollercoaster. To begin with we seemed to have no luck but thank goodness for Bourn Hall and their support.”

IUI and donor sperm

“When the specialist told us we were expecting twins we couldn’t believe our luck!”

A welcome surprise

A week after the couple found out that they were finally to become parents they returned to Bourn Hall for a check-up scan – and were delighted to be told Kerry was carrying not one, but two babies!

“We were so excited to know we were going to have a baby and then when the specialist told us we were expecting twins we couldn’t believe our luck!” says Kerry.

Stacy confirms: “Yes, we were over the moon and our luck had literally doubled.”

Proud mums to Rorie and Logan 

On 27th September 2013 Kerry was admitted into Norwich Hospital and twins Rorie and Logan were successfully delivered by caesarean section.

Kerry reflects: “Amazingly a year has now rushed by and we’ve just celebrated the twins first birthday. We had all our family and friends around to eat cake and we even had a bouncy castle.

“It has been a real emotional roller coaster to get here and we certainly count our blessings. It was definitely a case of third time twice lucky!”

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