Over-active thyroid and miscarriage risk added stress to Gemma’s fertility journey

“People are well-meaning when they ask you if you are going to have children,” says Gemma, aged 32, who has an over-active thyroid that can affect fertility.

“But as more and more of my friends got pregnant, I just knew that if anyone asked me that question, I would burst into tears and started to avoid social situations where that felt likely.”

Over-active thyroid diagnosis

Her partner Colin already had two teenage children from a previous marriage, so the couple discussed children early on, as Gemma knew having a baby of her own was important to her and wanted to know that Colin felt the same.

“I always felt there was a question mark over my fertility because over the years I had struggled with periods so painful that I had been hospitalised on several occasions,” she says. “I was investigated for PCOS and endometriosis, but no cause had ever been found.

“Then shortly before we got married, I was diagnosed with an over-active thyroid. The endocrinologist at Ipswich Hospital said to me that I had the worst thyroid levels that he had seen in his whole career…

“I had a thyroidectomy to remove the thyroid, and following the green light from my endocrinologist we started trying for a baby.”

Fertility Health and Wellbeing Check

With Gemma’s concerns over her fertility – and the knowledge that they would not be able to get NHS support as Colin already had children – the couple decided to pay for a Fertility Health and Wellbeing Check at Bourn Hall when they had not fallen pregnant within the first 7 months of trying to conceive.

“We’d spoken to friends who had said there were quite lengthy waiting lists for NHS fertility testing at that point, so we decided to go ahead to have the tests and a consultation with a fertility specialist.”

The couple were advised that with Gemma’s medical history and Colin’s semen having reduced motility their chances of success would be increased with fertility treatment, and they were given the option of IUI or IVF.

“We made the decision to just go straight to IVF,” Gemma explains. “We arranged a refund package with Access Fertility that gave us three cycles of treatment with a 75 percent refund if we were unsuccessful. It was really straightforward to set up, all further administration and payments were dealt with between Access Fertility and Bourn Hall which meant that my focus could be on the medication schedule rather than worrying about payments and things like that.”

The couple’s treatment was interrupted by the lockdown, and then when treatment resumed Gemma caught Covid.

“I hadn’t really told anyone other than my sisters that we were having IVF and during that time I had quite a few friends who had got pregnant,” she says.

“I tried to be positive and take the attitude that I didn’t know their journey and they too could have struggled. But at times I found it difficult and would just sit at home with Colin and sob.”

Advised a freeze-all cycle to recover

Once back in treatment, ovarian stimulation resulted in 19 eggs and five embryos that made it to blastocyst. The clinic advised a freeze-all cycle to allow time for Gemma’s body to recover.

“I tried to be as positive as I could throughout the journey and just take every step at a time, but I was physically and emotionally exhausted at that point.

“When we came in for the embryo transfer, they said the lining of my womb wasn’t thick enough and I needed to keep moving to help the blood flow. So, I took a day off work and went for a 9-mile walk, this seemed to help and they said it had thickened to a good level.

“When we got the call to say the embryo had thawed successfully, we were really excited. But I was so nervous afterwards that I didn’t want to stand up in case it fell out!”

Began to bleed

The couple then had to wait for 14 days before testing with a pregnancy test. By this time Gemma was “climbing the walls”. The test was positive but just before she rang Bourn Hall, she began to bleed. Her thyroid condition meant that she was at a high risk of miscarriage and needed regular blood tests until she was 12 weeks.

“They were very sympathetic but said ‘right there’s not a lot we can do at this stage do another test in another week and we will take it from there…’ so that was very nerve-wracking waiting to find out whether we were losing the baby or not. But I did the pregnancy test a week later and it was still fine.”

Gemma says that it was only when they had the viability scan at Bourn Hall at seven weeks and saw the heartbeat that they began to relax. It was shortly after this that they were discharged to their GP.

“I kind of felt like I was ‘letting go’ of something,” she says. “It was nice to have that comfort blanket if I had any questions at any point throughout the IVF cycles, I could drop an email to the nurses or give them a call. Suddenly it felt like I was on my own although obviously the NHS stepped in, and I started seeing a midwife.

Happiest tears

“Our daughter Lottie-Ann was born in February 2023 at Ipswich Hospital.

“When she came out, they put her on my chest and me and my husband just absolutely sobbed like the happiest tears. To have a very healthy nine-pound baby plonked on my chest and to look at Colin’s face as well, he was crying next to me and saying how proud of me he was, it was the best moment of my life, it was amazing.”


I found myself single, in my thirties – and my eggs were running out

My eggs were running out

“I parted from my ex-husband in 2011. We had been together a long time, since our teens, and had never tried to have children, it had just never been on the agenda for us. I am very career orientated and had buried myself in my work. But then I suddenly found myself heading towards 30 and single and my body clock was ticking….

“I booked myself an appointment at Bourn Hall Norwich for an AMH test, basically to get an idea of what my egg count was. That was five years ago and my ovarian reserve was actually quite low so I knew that time wasn’t on my side fertility-wise.

“I started having a discussion with Bourn Hall about having solo IVF treatment using donor sperm. I had a good conversation with the consultant and we spoke about what donor treatment would look like, the IVF and egg collection and how you select the sperm donor and all the legalities around that.

“I was seriously considering it….then I met James!

I told him I wanted to be a mum on our first date!

“James is nine years older than me and already had grown-up children – his daughter Alex, who I knew through work, had played matchmaker and introduced us. I thought that me being so upfront about wanting children might put him off, especially as he had had a vasectomy, but he was receptive.

I told him I wanted to be a mum on our first date!  

“It is a running joke that on our first date I said to him ‘I want to be a mum’ and my friends said ‘you can’t say that on a first date!’ I said ‘well actually I can because I know what I want’.

“So after I told him I said to him ‘I will leave that with you then….on the basis of whether you want to see me again’.  Thankfully he did want to see me again and eight months after we got together he had a vasectomy reversal!

“The vasectomy reversal at a private hospital in Norwich was initially a success and we were told to start trying naturally for a baby. Nothing was happening and a couple of subsequent semen tests revealed that there was no sperm.

“The consultant at the hospital said that the tubes had probably blocked up again, perhaps with scar tissue, and that he could attempt the reversal again but suggested that we might be better off going to Bourn Hall to see what our options were.

Sperm retrieval was a success

“I found myself back at Bourn Hall Norwich, but with a partner this time, and the recommendation was for James to have a sperm retrieval operation at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic. We now wish, with the benefit of hindsight, that we had gone straight to surgical sperm retrieval rather than attempting the vasectomy reversal, both from a cost point of view and also because the experience was initially quite traumatic for James.

“James’ surgical sperm retrieval operation was in December 2020 and was successful. They managed to get five vials of sperm, which were then frozen, so that was kind of James done with really and then they started with me in the January 2021.

“We had had to pay for our IVF, James was already a Dad  so we were not entitled to NHS treatment.

“I am not going to lie, IVF is probably the hardest thing I have ever been through. Injecting the drugs was quite hard, as was how the drugs made me feel. It was an emotional rollercoaster of wanting a baby so much and a massive drain on our relationship.

“Our first round of IVF failed, I had quite a nasty bleed which felt different to a period, more like a miscarriage, and when I did the ten-day pregnancy test it was negative. I was really upset and quite despondent actually. I also felt anxious because I knew that time was probably not on our side and there was the financial pressure too.

We kept our treatment under wraps 

“I was desperate to have another go and just get started again. We did have another round pretty quickly but this time we went to the Cambridge clinic so that I could have my egg collection under a general anaesthetic. Second time around I had seven eggs retrieved, four of which fertilised and two were put in.

“Our embryo transfer took place on 12 May 2021 and then we had that horrible wait, which feels like a lifetime, until our test date. I felt like I was going crazy.

“Our test day was a Saturday morning and I’d got up quite early and done the test as you do because I couldn’t sleep. We did the test together and it was positive. James was in a state of shock and so I did another one and that was positive too. James then jumped in the car and went to the local supermarket and came back with a stash of more pregnancy tests and they were all positive too so then we jumped in the car at 7am to go over to my parents to tell them!

“That was great, but then of course we had the nine-week wait to see if it was a viable pregnancy – that was torture. During that time I had James’ eldest daughter’s hen do and wedding; I knew that I was pregnant for both but we had kept our treatment under wraps and I had to do the whole ‘pretend I was drinking’ thing. A lot of people said afterwards ‘I don’t know how you kept it quiet because you quite like a glass of wine!’

“We had a nine-week scan at Bourn Hall and our nurse Gemma got the screen up and then quickly turned it round to us and said ‘yep you are pregnant and there is one’ because we didn’t know if there was going to be one or two because two embryos had gone in.

“Hearing the strong heartbeat at the scan was just the most amazing feeling ever because it was like ‘I really am pregnant’.

The team at Bourn Hall have given me everything I ever wanted

The team at Bourn Hall have given me everything I ever wanted 

“We told James’ children and his dad and obviously my mum and dad but we didn’t actually ‘announce’ anything until after my 20 week scan.

“I loved being pregnant, in fact I really miss being pregnant!

“When Hattie arrived we both just sobbed. We felt overwhelming love and contentment, it was an experience that I can’t really describe.

“By the time I had Hattie most of my friends already had children, my best friend’s eldest is nearly 18 and in fact I was a nanna to James’s son’s little girl before I was a mum…

“Hattie is phenomenal, we are just so lucky, she is always smiling and is a little redhead. James’ late mum was redheaded so I think she has got nanny in her…

“We have got a lovely blended family. James’ son’s daughter is now two and a half and they have just had a baby boy. James’ daughter Alex, who set me and James up, recently had a little boy so Hattie will grow up with them and they will all be like little cousins. I have got a great relationship with James elder children and they absolutely love Hattie.

“We had a good experience at Bourn Hall and I popped in to the Norwich clinic recently with Hattie and some cupcakes for the team. I can’t thank them enough, they have given me everything I have always wanted.”


Cambridgeshire couple celebrate first birthday of their ‘miracle’

Thimath’s first birthday is set to be very special, his parents waited 14 years before successful treatment at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge IVF clinic . “We have planned a big celebration with our close friends,” beams his mum Krishani. “Our son is a miracle to us. He is our little prince.”

Krishani, now aged 39, encourages others to get advice as early as possible if they are struggling to conceive.

“We first started trying for a child as soon as we got married when I was 24,” says Krishani.

“As time went on nothing happened and people kept asking us why we still didn’t have a baby. My mum had died a few years earlier and I really missed her and struggled with not being able to talk to her about not being able to get pregnant.”

To find out more about our fertility advice, diagnosis and treatment click here. 

Krishani sought medical advice and was prescribed an ovulation induction drug and advised to lose weight.

“I found it really difficult to reduce my weight,” she says.

In 2007 Krishani and her husband Prasad moved from their native Sri Lanka to the UK so that Prasad could study for a Masters at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge.

“I admit that it was a relief to get away from the questions in Sri Lanka about why we were not parents yet,” says Krishani. “Most of my close friends already had children and I had felt under a lot of pressure.”

Cambridgeshire couple celebrate first birthday of their IVF ‘miracle’

Krishani went to see her GP to talk through her fertility concerns and was put back on clomid. She was still finding it impossible to lose weight and was referred to an endocrinologist who diagnosed her with insulin resistant syndrome.

Insulin resistance affects a person’s metabolism and is linked to a number of health disorders such as diabetes, heart disease, obesity and polycystic ovary syndrome.

“I was put on metformin to regulate the amount of sugar in my blood and supervised by a dietician who was really supportive,” says Krishani. “I also joined a gym.”

Her new regime worked and within six months she had lost two stone. However, hospital tests also revealed that both of her ovaries were polycystic and the couple were told that their best chance of conceiving was with IVF.

“We were thrilled to be told that IVF might help us because we finally felt as though something might happen,” says Krishani. “My weight loss also meant that my body mass index was within the acceptable range for IVF treatment.”

The couple went to Bourn Hall’s Cambridge IVF clinic and their second cycle of treatment was successful.

“I couldn’t believe it when I finally got pregnant,” beams Krishani. “We had been married for 14 years and I kept saying to my husband ‘am I dreaming?’ I had a drawer full of pregnancy sticks and kept doing the test again to make sure!”

On 21 October 2017, Thimath was born. “He was a little bundle of joy,” smiles Krishani.

Krishani feels that her diagnosis of insulin resistant syndrome was key in her journey to motherhood and she urges anyone worried about their fertility to get advice sooner rather than later.

“There is so much that can be done to help people struggling to get pregnant and I would advise anyone struggling to conceive not to be embarrassed and to seek help,” she says. “For a lot of people some help with lifestyle changes or simple medical intervention could help them conceive naturally and if it turns out that you do need fertility treatment as I did then the younger you are the better your chances.”

Cambridgeshire couple celebrate first birthday of their IVF ‘miracle’


Three IVF daughters, successful first time for each

Claire met her husband John through a lonely hearts advert in the ‘Beds on Sunday’ in 1999, before the days of internet dating, and they always assumed that they would have children some day but those dreams were shattered when John was diagnosed with cancer.

Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma

John was diagnosed with non-hodgkins lymphoma and, as treatment with chemotherapy can affect your fertility, he was offered the option of freezing his sperm which he accepted.  After two difficult years which included a stem cell transplant he went in to remission.

Five years later the couple decided to start a family and after fertility testing it was confirmed that they would need IVF treatment. They were offered NHS funding and after some research, chose the world-famous Bourn Hall.

“Like something out of Back to the Future”

John’s sperm had been stored at Hammersmith Hospital and as John didn’t want to risk having the sperm couriered he drove it up to Bourn Hall himself. He says driving with the box of dry ice “was like something out of Back to the Future.”

Delivering the good news


The first cycle of treatment was successful and the couple broke the news to both sets of prospective grandparents at the same time in a local restaurant.

“We decided to photocopy the baby scan on to the back of the menu and then sat the parents opposite each other. It took them a while to realise and we had to spell it out to them!” laughs Claire. “They were all over the moon – tears, especially John’s parents who had envisaged he would never have a family.”

Sydney, Robynne and Kennedy

Claire gave birth to a little girl, Sydney. It was the first grandchild for Claire’s mum and stepdad and on John’s side it was the first granddaughter.

The couple then went on to have two further IVF babies funding the treatment themselves.  Robynne was born two years after Sydney, and Kennedy, their third daughter, is now 14 weeks old.

Each child was born following their first IVF attempt.

“For all three children we didn’t tell anyone we were having treatment as it took the pressure off,” says John. “With each scan you go up the ladder but the further up the ladder you go you know that you have further to fall and you have to keep your hopes up. We have been so lucky. Parenting is the most challenging and rewarding job.


“Bourn Hall staff are fantastic”

“Bourn Hall staff are fantastic. They were open and honest and managed expectations. We took Sydney and Robynne when Claire was being treated for Kennedy and they were so delighted to see the fruits of their work. And that was everyone starting from the ladies on reception.”

Claire is now a self-employed dressmaker, which allows her to balance motherhood and work.

“We are so proud of the girls, we have been through so much to get here,” she beams.

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Don’t bottle up your feelings

“I got to the stage in my life when me and my friends had all got married and the next stage was having children,” Sophie says. “My husband Christopher and I spent three years trying for a baby with no success and during that time it seemed as though someone I knew was announcing their pregnancy every other day. Obviously I was happy for them but envious at the same time that they seemed to have done it so easily.”

Sophie is now mum to baby son Jenson after fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic; she says: “My advice to other people having fertility issues is not to bottle it up because it is surprising when you start talking to people about your situation how many other people have gone through it too. It is nothing to be ashamed of so don’t be shy in seeking advice.”

Sophie went to see her GP shortly after she and Chris got married when Sophie had stopped taking the contraceptive pill and still had not had a period after a few months. “My GP suggested that I had a condition called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome,” reveals Sophie. “I had been on the contraceptive pill for so long that it had masked a lot of the symptoms.”

PCOS common cause of infertility

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common causes of fertility issues in women. It disrupts the release of a woman’s eggs and common symptoms include: irregular periods or no periods at all; excessive hair growth, such as on the face; weight gain; oily skin/acne and thinning hair.

According to the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority over 90 per cent of couples conceive naturally within two years. If you haven’t conceived for a year however, or you know you have a condition which affects your fertility, you should go and see your GP to discuss next steps.

Sophie’s GP initially advised Sophie to commit to improving her diet as well as trying other therapies such as acupuncture. When Sophie’s periods still did not return she went back to her GP who referred her to her local hospital.

“I was put on clomid and metformin by the hospital to try and kickstart my ovulation and every month I would have blood tests to see if it had worked. Throughout the whole six months I never ovulated and so it was very disappointing.”

The couple were told that they had to have been trying for a baby for three years before they could be referred for IVF treatment and so had to wait a further year. “In that entire three years that we were trying I only had two or three periods and every time I would think ‘oh perhaps my body has finally woken up’ and everyone was telling me to relax and not to stress but that is easier said than done,” says Sophie.

The couple were eventually referred for IVF treatment and Sophie chose to have it at Bourn Hall just outside Cambridge. “We went along for an initial seminar at Bourn Hall to find out more about what fertility treatment involves. I found it really reassuring because there were around 20 other couples there and I looked around the room and saw people a lot younger than me and also older than me and I suddenly felt ‘normal’ and that it wasn’t just me who had a problem.”

Healthy eggs

Tests had concluded that although Sophie wasn’t ovulating she actually had healthy eggs – and lots of them. The IVF procedure produced a ‘triple A grade embryo’ which Sophie describes as ‘the best of the best’ which Bourn Hall transferred to her womb.

The couple then went home before taking the early pregnancy test after 14 days. “It was the weirdest feeling leaving Bourn Hall and carrying on as normal,” laughs Sophie. “It felt really strange. I carried on working as a childminder which helped to take my mind off the two-week wait.”

The couple were delighted when a pregnancy test confirmed that Sophie was pregnant. “I was shaking!” laughs Sophie. A 5-week scan at Bourn Hall Clinic confirmed the good news. “We were over the moon,” she adds.

After a textbook pregnancy Sophie gave birth to Jenson in August and is happily settling in to life as a new mum. “I keep looking at him and I can’t believe he is mine,” she says. “Old ladies stop me in the street and coo over him and I just think that I never believed that I would get to this stage. It is the most amazing feeling, I sit and stare at him for hours.

“Struggling to conceive does put strain on a relationship but I would say that mine and Chris’s relationship is stronger because of what we had to go through to have a child together. What I would say to other couples going through this is definitely get help and advice, support each other and don’t lose hope.” 

For information about Fertility testing.


Cambridgeshire couple count their blessings after NHS-funded fertility treatment brings baby joy

“Infertility does affect you deeply; it is like a primal calling to have children. I would have really struggled if I had not been able to have a baby,” says Laura Foley, from Fulbourn, devoted mum to IVF baby Alfie. She feels a deep sense of sadness that others may not have the chance that she was given. Plans are being discussed to remove all NHS funding for specialist fertility treatment in Cambridgeshire.

Laura, who works with disabled adults, understands how difficult the funding landscape has become and says that she and husband Michael feel “really blessed” that their treatment was funded.

NHS IVF funding gave hope

“Without NHS funding we wouldn’t have been able to have IVF treatment. I can sympathise with how difficult it is when making spending decisions. But when it comes to fertility treatment it is just so sad that it depends on where you live as to whether you are NHS-funded or not.

“Who knows? If we had left it another year we might not have been able to have NHS-funded treatment.”

“Assumed I would get pregnant”

Laura, now 31, fell pregnant with Alfie after her first NHS-funded fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge. The couple tried for four years to conceive naturally.

“I think I had just assumed that I would get pregnant and that it was bound to happen,” she says.

She admits that for a long time she tried to ignore the fact that something might be wrong. It was her GP that broached the subject after he realised that she had been off the pill for some years and was only in her twenties.

80 per cent of people will conceive naturally within two years of trying, and if you have been unsuccessful in this time you should seek advice.

As a teenager Laura had heavy periods and such severe pain she used to feel sick and faint. The contraceptive pill reduced the problems but they came back when she stopped taking it. The GP referred her to the local hospital for investigations, which revealed scarring on her ovaries that prevented the eggs from being released properly. The hospital recommended IVF and she was sent to a London clinic.

“Being referred for fertility treatment really freaked me out and I felt as though it had happened all a bit quickly and that there might be other options,” she recalls.

Laura was unhappy about going to London and then discovered that she could have NHS funded treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic just up the road.

Laura went to Bourn Hall for her initial blood tests and then explained to the staff that she needed a bit more time. She spent a year “getting my head round it” while trying to get pregnant naturally but still nothing happened.

This period of time was particularly difficult. “Social media doesn’t help,” she says. “I was happy for friends when they announced their pregnancies on Facebook but then it was a constant reminder that it wasn’t happening to me. ”

“Bourn Hall made it a brilliant experience”

The couple decided to go ahead with treatment and Laura made changes to her life. “I resigned from my job – working at a college supporting disabled learners – so that I could throw everything at the treatment.

“I was so scared of the treatment and delayed it. Then when I finally started going to Bourn Hall they made it such a brilliant experience and were so lovely that I actually started looking forward to my appointments.”

Laura and Michael were overjoyed when they found out that Laura was pregnant after her first IVF treatment and in December 2016 their son Alfie was born. “I was really overwhelmed that a little human had come out of me,” laughs Laura. “It is such a ‘normal’ thing but we live in such a technologically evolved world it almost seems like an ‘abnormal’ thing now!

“After Alfie was born I didn’t sleep for three nights, I just sat there watching him, loving every minute,” she says.

“I am so glad I took the chance of having treatment when I did. If we had waited any longer we might not have been able to have NHS-funded treatment and would not have Alfie and I don’t want to imagine life without him.”

NHS IVF treatment gave the Foyles hope


Couple become mums with help from Bourn Hall’s sperm bank

Ten-week old twins Isaac and Jasmine are a picture of utter contentment as they each get a cuddle from their besotted mums Melanie and Laura from Cambridgeshire. “I am quite open with people about the fact we are a lesbian couple with twins, and people say ‘how did that happen?” laughs Melanie.

The twins were born after Melanie had IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic using her eggs and donor sperm from Bourn Hall’s own sperm bank. Melanie, aged 25, describes Bourn Hall as “an incredible place, the best in the world”.

The couple met seven years ago and immediately hit it off. “The subject of children came up fairly early on in our relationship,” says Laura, aged 32, who had always imagined herself being a mum. “But it wasn’t until a couple of years later that we started looking at what the options were for us.”

Looking at online donor sites

They initially went down a route explored by many same-sex female couples: looking for a sperm donor on the internet. “We made contact with and met a man through a website advertising sperm donors,” says Melanie, “but, in hindsight, I wouldn’t recommend that option. It is really risky and quite scary.”

When Melanie didn’t fall pregnant using the sperm from the website donor they decided to visit their GP.

Fertility issues 

It is often said that sperm is the only thing same-sex female couples need to get pregnant. However there is also the chance that one or both may also have a fertility or other health issue. For Melanie and Laura the added complication was that Laura had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 21, so they decided at the outset that Melanie should be the one to carry a baby.

At the GP tests revealed that Melanie’s irregular periods were the result of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), a common factor in infertility, also that she was not producing any eggs.

As a consequence, the couple were told that they would be eligible for NHS-funded IVF treatment. However, there was yet one more hoop to jump through before they could be referred.

Weight loss with PCOS

“I was told that I had to get my BMI down and lose a lot of weight,” says Melanie. “In 12 months I got my weight down from 15 stone to 12 stone and Laura lost three and a half stone too. We did it by joining Slimming World and eating healthily, swimming a lot and I took the dog on a five-mile walk every morning.

“Laura was a brilliant support for me; every time I was tempted to reach for the fast food she would say ‘how much do we want this baby?’ and that would be my motivation.”

Melanie’s weight was monitored at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings Lynn, and when she reached her target weight the couple were told they could be referred for IVF. “We were given a choice of clinics,” she says, “and we chose Bourn Hall Clinic because of its success rates and its connection with Louise Brown, the world’s first IVF baby.”

Sperm bank offers choice 

Bourn Hall has its own sperm bank that is regulated by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. All donors are asked about their medical and family history and Bourn Hall performs a medical examination and blood tests. All sperm samples are rigorously screened and then frozen and quarantined for six months, after which the donor is invited back in to repeat the tests.

By using a licensed UK clinic, couples are assured that the correct procedures are followed to ensure they both have legal parenthood of resulting children and the donor has no legal status.

Another advantage of using a clinic is that donors are anonymous. They are invited to write a short goodwill message for any resulting child, who is able to request identifying information about the donor once they are 18 years old. Non-identifying information is provided to assist selection of the donor.

Treatment started soon after their first visit to the Clinic. Melanie and Laura were provided with a choice of donors using information, such as hair and eye colour, build and interests.

Melanie explains: “We filled out the forms detailing the general things we were looking for in terms of physical appearance and character. Because we were using my eggs we wanted the donor to reflect as much as possible Laura’s side of the family. We were given three profiles to choose from. The nurse said if we were not happy with any of them we could have another three to review. We were told about hair colour, eye colour, skin colour, hobbies, occupation and education and one of them really stood out for us.”

Wedding nerves

Once they had chosen their sperm donor Melanie was put on medication to boost her egg production. “We got married whilst all this was going on. Half-way through our wedding breakfast we literally had to take ourselves off to the bathroom. The bridesmaid was holding my wedding dress up whilst Laura sorted out my injection for me,” she remembers.

Sperm bank helps couple overcome fertility issues and become mums


IVF treatment involves stimulating the ovaries with fertility drugs and collecting the eggs, which are then fertilised with sperm, and resulting embryo(s) are transferred to the womb.

The first round of IVF treatment was devastating for the couple. “My pregnancy test was positive and my body thought it was pregnant, so I was getting all the symptoms – morning sickness, sore breasts, the lot,” says Melanie. “But there was nothing there, it was a ‘missed miscarriage’. That hit me really hard.”

Second time around Melanie did get pregnant but sadly miscarried.

Melanie admits that during this time she struggled seeing other people pregnant and seeming to have babies more easily. “My best friend, who is straight, got pregnant naturally really quickly, then another friend was successful with her IVF at the first attempt – I did find it hard,” she says.

“My sister was a real help though. I remember walking down the street one day and seeing a pregnant woman. I phoned my sister up; she said ‘but you don’t know how long it took that woman to fall pregnant, that could be her miracle baby. You can’t assume that everyone finds it easy.'”

Despite these setbacks the couple insist that they never consider giving up. And were determined to give the treatment one last go. “My Dad said to me ‘do you think it might be your body’s way of trying to tell you something?'” says Melanie. “Quite a few of our family were asking me if I was sure I wanted to put myself through another round of treatment but it was our last go and I said ‘why not try it?’ I would have always been asking myself ‘what if?’ if we didn’t try.”

Laura agrees: “I think after Melanie’s miscarriage on the second attempt we both thought ‘whatever will be will be.’ We were both more relaxed on the third attempt and thought if it doesn’t work at least we have got each other.”

Rush of nerves

After Melanie’s third round of treatment they were pleased when the pregnancy test was positive at day 14 – but having got to that stage before they were only cautiously optimistic.

“We took a second test two weeks later and that came back positive but we both said that we wouldn’t believe it until we had the six week scan,” says Laura.

Melanie admits to a sudden rush of nerves as they drove to Bourn Hall for the scan.

“During the scan the nurse said she needed to check something. We immediately started worrying. Then she said ‘there is one heartbeat and look there is another one!’ My exact words were ‘hang on a minute, let me get my head around the idea of one baby first!'”

After a textbook pregnancy Melanie gave birth to twins Isaac and Jasmine on September 6, 2016 with Laura at her side. The couple describe parenthood as ‘life-changing, incredible and amazing’.

“I cannot remember life before them,” laughs Laura. “We have so much pride in them,” adds Melanie. “Jasmine is finding her smile and Isaac is nearly there with his; it is all the little things which are so special.”

Safety first

The couple cannot praise Bourn Hall highly enough: “I would strongly recommend to other lesbian couples the safety aspect of using a regulated clinic,” says Melanie. “The sperm donor has no legal rights over a child born through a UK fertility clinic. You have that security that no one is going to knock on your door or ring you and say ‘that child is mine and I am going to fight you for it’.

“When the twins are 18 if they want to know more about the sperm donor then they can apply to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and look into it. That is a lot better than saying to them ‘well, mummy went on the computer…’ Going to Bourn Hall was a lot safer and we got a lot of support from them throughout the process. I would recommend it so much.”

Sperm bank helps couple overcome fertility issues and become mums

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Couple have a ‘princess’ who shares a birthday with Prince George

Claire and Craig from Norwich had been told their only chance of a baby was through egg donation so they decided to attend a Bourn Hall Open Day to find out more. The consultant they saw queried the advice they had been given and this has turned their lives around.

“It broke my heart”

Claire (now 37) had been with Craig (37) for nine years before they decided to marry and start a family, after trying unsuccessfully for sometime they went for fertility testing and were referred to a specialist for NHS funded IVF treatment. This was unsuccessful and Claire was told that she had no eggs.

Claire remembers: “We were told that we would never have children unless we used donor eggs.

“It broke my heart to hear this. The only other time I had felt such pain was a few years earlier when my dad told me my mum had died.”

While considering what to do next the couple discovered that Bourn Hall Clinic had an Open Day coming up and they decided to go and find out more about egg donation.

They put their name down on the waiting list for donated eggs and prepared to go home.

NHS funded treatment at Bourn Hall

They were just about to leave when they got talking with one of the consultants, who explained that Bourn Hall provided NHS as well as private funded treatment and he would be glad to have a look at their notes if the couple were happy for him to.

Claire continues: “We hadn’t realised that Bourn Hall Clinic did NHS funded treatments. We thought it was all private and so hearing we might get funded treatment we were very keen for the consultant to see our records.

“A week later we received a phone call from Bourn Hall saying they would be happy to treat us and that we were eligible for a further two NHS funded treatment cycles.”

In September 2012 the couple went along for their initial consultation at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic, to discuss the options available to them.

The lone man at a fertility fair

Claire says: “The doctor gave us confidence and recommended a treatment which was very different from our previous experience. However we were very cautious as we began our agreed schedule as we couldn’t quite believe I would be able to produce my own eggs.”

Craig adds: “To maximise our chances of success and because I was concerned about Claire I did rather wrap her up in cotton wool for the first few months. We were meant to go to a fertility fair in London but because it was important for her to rest I offered to go alone and discovered myself sitting in the fertility talks as a lone man in a room of women.”

Blastocyst transferred to Claire’s womb

After their first IVF treatment indicated that Claire had no eggs, the couple prepared for her first follicle scan at Bourn Hall with some trepidation.

Claire continues: “We just couldn’t believe it when the nurse told us they’d found some eggs!”

On 8th November 2012 three eggs were collected from Claire, of which all three fertilised. Three days later, which happened to be Claire’s birthday, one blastocyst was transferred to her womb.

Just before Claire’s seven week scan she started to experience stomach pains and feared for the worst. She visited her GP and was told there was nothing he could do and she’d have to rest and wait.

Claire recalls: “I was a real mess in the hours before the scan. I didn’t feel pregnant and so thought I’d lost our baby.”

Emily is born

The couple went for their scan at Bourn Hall and were amazed when told Claire was still pregnant.

Claire says: “I couldn’t believe my ears and asked if the nurse was having a laugh. The nurse replied ‘we don’t joke about such things here’ and that’s when I began to truly believe that we might have the family we hoped for.”

On 22nd July 2013 baby Emily was born.

“She is a treasure and means everything to us. Emily’s a delight to have around.”

Craig adds: “I believe it was fate learning about Bourn Hall’s Open Day and staying behind afterwards to talk with the doctor. Thanks to him we tried again and now have our beautiful Emily.”

Sharing her birthday with royalty

Later that same day in July it was publically announced that Prince George had been born.

“Our phone went crazy with family and friends informing us that Emily shared her birthday with royalty,” says Craig. “My mother and father-in-law were so excited. It truly made their day extra special.”

“Certainly sharing her birthday with royalty makes the date memorable and to mark the special day we got a commemorative coin, which when Emily’s a bit older we’ll give her.”

Claire adds: “Thanks to Bourn Hall Clinic the 22nd July is a very special day for us, it has made us a family and fulfilled my dream of becoming a mum.”

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Destined to be a mother, despite only one fallopian tube and endometriosis

Susie can well remember the feelings of frustration that come when trying to conceive: “Pregnancy seemed just out of reach and every month with no success felt awful. I suffer with PMT and often convinced myself the symptoms were the early signs of pregnancy. I would dream about it, ask myself ‘is this it?’ When my period came, I would feel deflated.”

Susie, now 40, first met the man that was destined to become her husband in 2005: “Rob was a DJ in a club, we started chatting, arranged to meet again and never looked back,” she recalls with a grin.

One fallopian tube and an endometriosis diagnosis  

Just four months into their relationship, Susie, a secondary school drama teacher, experienced sharp pains in her abdomen and was rushed to hospital.  During emergency surgery, it emerged she had an ectopic pregnancy; a fertilised egg had implanted into her fallopian tube and started to grow, causing bleeding and pain.

As a result, one of Susie’s fallopian tubes had to be removed.  As the tube links the ovary to the womb, it dramatically lessened her chances of conceiving without medical help. At the time, having a family was not a priority for the new couple and they decided to let nature take its course until they were ready to start trying again.

A few months later, Susie moved to live with Rob, now 40 and an insurance manager. About a year before the couple married in 2010, they began trying for a baby. After a couple of frustrating years, Susie eventually went to see her GP who referred her for further tests at the hospital.

The couple’s consultant found that, in addition to only the single fallopian tube, Susie was suffering from endometriosis. Cells from the lining of her womb where growing outside the womb causing abdominal pain and bleeding.

“I’d always thought my periods had been fairly regular but I did have the occasional heavy period which I now know was down to the endometriosis,” Susie explains.  “The doctors said it was only moderate but it was enough to be affecting my chances.

Difficult times 

“With so many obstacles to having a baby, it would have been easy to feel down and even give up. On top of our own problems, my family was coming to terms with the loss of my 18-month old nephew Stanley to a rare heart condition. My sister Debbie and her husband Brad were devastated. We all were. It was a difficult time.

“Thankfully, Rob is a strong and steady person and he reassured me that everything would be OK.  I trusted the doctors and knew it would happen for us eventually.”

Susie and Rob were told by their consultant they were eligible for NHS-funded IVF, but Susie was at first not convinced she wanted to undergo the treatment at all.

“I didn’t have all the facts, and people were filling my head with all kinds of inaccurate information about IVF. I was also worried about telling Debbie while she was grieving for Stanley’s loss. It was Rob that persuaded me we had to try, so we attended a seminar for NHS patients at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge Clinic. We loved it there, the grounds were so peaceful and the staff just incredibly caring, so we decided to go for it.”

one fallopian tube

Beacons of hope

As 2013 dawned, Susie began to take fertility drugs to stimulate egg production and in February, she had several eggs collected from her ovaries to be fertilised with Rob’s sperm.  After two days developing in an incubator, an embryo was transferred into Susie’s womb and the couple waited two weeks to take a pregnancy test.

“We took the test at the start of March and I was prepared for the worst… however when it came back positive, I was amazed. My happiness was multiplied when Debbie came round two weeks later to tell us she was also pregnant… it finally felt like the bad times were over.

“I tried not to get too excited about my pregnancy, even when the early six week scan at Bourn Hall confirmed a foetal heartbeat.  I don’t think it really sunk in until 20 weeks when we found out it was a little girl,” Susie remembers.

Happy endings 

After years of waiting, baby Callie was born on 31 October 2013, weighing 7lb 10oz. Her birth was not without complications; it was discovered that Susie had the condition placenta praevia. Her placenta had grown lower down in the womb than is usual. It was blocking her cervix, preventing a natural birth. Callie was also in breech position, meaning her feet and bottom were pointing downwards instead of her head.

“I can’t remember much about the birth,” Susie explains. “I had an emergency caesarean section and was quite weak so my midwife Elizabeth took Callie while I was being patched up. Because I couldn’t hold her, Elizabeth brought her close to my face and rubbed her tiny nose against mine. That memory means so much to me, I can’t describe it.”

Susie had to remain in hospital for eight days following surgery to correct the placental problems. She is now fighting fit and along with Rob is relishing life as a parent. Her sister Debbie also gave birth to son Gus a couple of weeks later. The family have started a fundraising campaign in memory of Stanley. It has so far raised nearly £50,000 for Great Ormond Street children’s hospital.

“I was destined to be a mother”

Susie says: “I knew in my bones I was destined to be a mother… though I didn’t anticipate quite the rollercoaster journey it would take to get there. Our families have been through a lot the past few years but now things seemed to have turned around and we couldn’t be happier.

“We were so lucky to have the funding that we got. For us, it meant the difference between having a baby and not having a baby. It is as black and white as that. Our lives would still have been full and happy, we would have come to terms with it, but I know that a little pocket of sadness would have existed in our hearts. The NHS has changed our lives by giving us Callie.

“Being a mother is like nothing I ever imagined… all the things in life you worry about, daft things, aren’t important once you have the child you’ve always wanted. I couldn’t imagine life without Callie now and this is down to the expert team at Bourn Hall Clinic.”

More information about endometriosis.

Destined to be a mother, despite only one fallopian tube and endometriosis
Susie, Rob and Callie in 2018

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Biological clock ticking, Abigail felt she had no time to wait

With her biological clock ticking loudly, Abigail from Norwich felt that she didn’t have time to wait for ‘Mr Right’ if she was going to have the baby she always wanted.

Abigail explains; “I was worried I wouldn’t meet the right person in time to be a suitable partner and a father for my baby. Knowing that I wanted a baby more than anything I decided I had better start now rather than leaving it to chance.”

Three attempts with IUI

Abigail (38) first went to a fertility clinic in London for intrauterine insemination (IUI), a form of assisted conception treatment where prepared sperm is injected high into the womb at the time of ovulation.

Over the next five years Abigail was to have three unsuccessful IUI attempts.

Miscarriage was devastating

“On the third attempt I miscarried, which was devastating.  It was then that I decided to look into IVF as I knew it had a better success rate and I wasn’t getting any younger.

“I remembered reading in the Eastern Daily Press that Bourn Hall had opened a new clinic in Wymondham, near Norwich, which was really convenient and far easier than travelling to London for each appointment.”

So in spring 2014 Abigail visited the Wymondham clinic for the first time.

Bourn Hall staff alleviated anxieties

single woman

“I did feel a bit unusual as a single person and not suffering from infertility issues like the other patients but the staff were fantastic and put me at ease.”

After her initial consultations and a fertility check, Abigail was given the anonymised profiles of sperm donors so that she could select one for her IVF treatment.

Following ovarian stimulation, 15 eggs were collected, of which eight fertilised. Five days later, one blastocyst was selected and carefully transferred to Abigail’s womb and she chose to have a further five frozen for future treatment if required.

Success with IVF treatment

“Having miscarried before I was incredibly worried in the lead up to my first scan. In the end I went to the chemists to get a home pregnancy test. It was positive! I was crying with relief and joy.

“A week later I returned to the Wymondham clinic for my official scan: I was over the moon when they confirmed I was pregnant.

“During the first twelve weeks I was incredibly cautious and amazed when everything seemed to be going well.”

“Molly is all I ever wanted”

Baby Molly was born by caesarean on 11th October 2014.

“I am delighted to have Molly, she is all I ever wanted. She is so beautiful and such a jolly, little girl.

“I named her after the traditional East Anglian dance, ‘molly dancing’. I love the dance and wanted her to be connected to it.

“Bourn Hall was absolutely brilliant. I was so impressed and felt I got top quality treatment. I would recommend their fertility clinics to any single woman who is thinking of having a baby.

“I’m so pleased I did decide to have Molly and with Bourn Hall Clinic.”

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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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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.”

Ref CS031

Struggle to conceive puts ‘life on hold’ for couple

Call it women’s intuition, but 34-year-old Helen from Essex always knew having a baby might not be straight forward for her.

“I don’t know what it was, I guess I just know my body, but I always had an inkling something wasn’t quite right,” Helen recalls.

Helen and her husband Adam (30) first met when they were temporary Christmas staff at a book store.  They moved in together in 2007 and married two years later.  Right from the start, the couple knew they wanted a family.

Adam takes up the story: “When we got married we moved into a bigger house, in anticipation of starting a family.  The months went by and I wasn’t worried – it was only after a year I started to wonder if something was wrong.

“It felt like life was on hold”

“As time went on, we got increasingly down in the dumps.  The longer it took, the more pressure built up and the situation put our relationship under a bit of strain.  It was just frustrating; it felt like life was on hold.”

Helen adds: “It was tough, but we always felt we were on the same team.  The problem was, we felt we were on the losing team, which became very disheartening for both of us. Although neither of us wanted to apportion blame, we ended up blaming ourselves for our perceived failure.”

No definite cause of infertility

After three years of trying to conceive naturally, the couple decided to take action.  They were referred by their GP to a gynaecological consultant at the Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford for fertility tests.

Helen says not all the tests were pleasant: “I had a procedure called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), where a dye was injected into my womb and fallopian tubes to see if they were blocked.  I remember it was quite uncomfortable, but it had to be done to try and discover if there were any physical problems.”

The tests did not reveal any specific reason why the couple couldn’t have a baby without medical help.  Adam says, while they were relieved, they were also frustrated: “We were desperate to find out why we couldn’t conceive, but the tests showed no definite cause.  When you know what’s wrong, you often know how to fix it. It felt like we had no clues to go on.”

blastocyst transfer

Good first impression of Bourn Hall

The couple were offered NHS-funded IVF treatment and after looking at the options, chose Bourn Hall Clinic because of its high success rate and legion of satisfied clients.

The couple attended an open day at the Cambridge clinic, and instantly knew they had made the right choice.  Adam recalls: “The first time we drove up the road onto the country estate, we knew it was somewhere we’d feel comfortable. The grounds are lovely; it doesn’t feel like a clinic at all.”

The couple had IVF with blastocyst transfer, where an embryo is allowed to develop in the laboratory before being transferred to the womb.  After just one cycle, the couple got the news they were waiting for.  Helen was pregnant.

“Abigail is the light of our lives”

Their much-longed for daughter Abigail was born on the 29 March 2013 weighing 6lb 15oz.

Helen was thankful for a short, uncomplicated labour and says things have gone smoothly ever since: “Abigail is absolutely lovely and sleeps well most nights. She never really cries and we love showering her with attention.”

The couple have one frozen embryo stored at Bourn Hall Clinic and have not ruled out having another IVF baby.

Helen says: “We’re going to give it some time and some thought, and considering there’s nothing physically wrong with us, we’re hoping we might have another baby naturally.  We’re so incredibly grateful to Bourn Hall and delighted for now to have our beautiful baby Abigail, who is the light of our lives and we wouldn’t be without.”

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Toni has two children after PCOS diagnosis

After meeting Michael at the age of 20 and getting engaged just six months later, Toni from Norfolk assumed it would only be a matter of time before a baby came along – but she soon found out that being relatively young was not a passport to motherhood.

Toni had to wait more than ten years before her first child arrived, following successful fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic, and is now finally, at the age of 32, a proud mum to son Thomas, aged two, and baby William.

“When we first started trying for a baby we were young and felt as though there was no pressure,” says Toni. “At the back of my mind I was a bit concerned that nothing was happening but we just carried on trying and got on with our lives. After a couple of years friends started making jokes, asking us if we were ‘doing it properly’ and whilst laughing it off we did start to question privately whether something was wrong.”

Their GP referred them to their local hospital for tests but shortly before they were due to go Toni cancelled the appointment. “I chickened out,” she said. “All I had ever wanted was children and I was absolutely terrified that someone was going to tell me that it would never happen. So we said that we would try for a bit longer and see if we could do it on our own.”

The couple tried for another year but still nothing happened. “In the August of 2008 I finally gave in and said to Michael that if we needed help then we should find out what was wrong,” she says.

PCOS diagnosis

The hospital tests revealed that Toni had Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), a condition which is a common cause of infertility.

“I had been on the pill for a number of years and so hadn’t previously displayed any of the typical symptoms of PCOS,” says Toni. “But when I came off the pill after we married my weight had ballooned and I had gone from a size 10 to a size 18 in less than a year. My weight had become uncontrollable so I had to do something.”

After a concerted effort to lose weight Toni was put on a number of medications by the hospital to try and boost her fertility and also had laparoscopic ovarian drilling to regulate her cycles. She still didn’t fall pregnant and so was referred for IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic.

Determination despite the setbacks

In 2011 the couple had their first round of NHS-funded IVF treatment. “Our first treatment was traditional IVF,” says Toni. “After seven days I started to bleed and so it was over before it had begun.”

The second time around Bourn Hall decided to treat Toni using a process called ICSI, which involved injecting Michael’s sperm directly in to Toni’s eggs. The couple were absolutely delighted when Toni found out she was pregnant but their joy was short-lived when she miscarried at seven weeks.

“I was absolutely devastated,” says Toni. “It was a real shock as up until that point we had been trying for seven years to get pregnant and we had finally done that but it was not good enough – it had been such a massive hurdle actually getting pregnant that I hadn’t thought about getting through the actual pregnancy. Now I was going to worry that I might miscarry again and that was a whole new emotion”.

Despite the latest setback Toni says that she and Michael did not consider for one moment giving up.

“As horrible as it had been having the miscarriage I had actually managed to get pregnant which proved to us that the IVF had worked,” she says. ‘It showed us that it was possible and we had just been unlucky.”

In the meantime Toni had turned 30 and says: “I had put so much pressure on myself to have children by the time I was 30, I decided to take back control and wait until after my birthday so that the pressure had gone. In that time I lost more weight than I had ever lost and reduced my BMI right down. I did loads of exercise and both of us really watched what we ate and took loads of vitamins.”

A happy ending

PCOS diagnosis

Third time around Toni’s chances of success looked good. Eight eggs fertilised and four developed into blastocysts, with the Bourn Hall embryologist telling her that one of them looked ‘exceptional’. The “exceptional” one was transferred to Toni whilst the other three were frozen.

Toni fell pregnant and whilst the couple were delighted Toni didn’t allow herself to get too carried away. “I was terrified during the pregnancy,” she admits, “it felt like a dream. When Thomas finally arrived I didn’t believe it and it took a little while to sink in that we had actually done it. It had taken me so long to become a mum but after all of those years Thomas made it worth it.  He was a bit of a miracle really!”

Having waited so long to be parents Toni and Michael wasted no time in getting the ball rolling to try for a brother or sister for Thomas. “He was just three months old when we signed the paperwork for me to have treatment using the frozen embryos,” she reveals.

In June 2015 Bourn Hall went ahead with treatment using the remaining frozen embryos and one was transferred to her womb.

“When I got pregnant again we couldn’t believe we had been so lucky twice with the same cycle,” she recalls. William was born in March 2016.

Gazing adoringly at her two sons Toni says:

“I feel very lucky to have had this experience, which sounds odd, but 40 years ago this kind of treatment wasn’t available and if you couldn’t have children you just had to accept it. Bourn Hall is the most wonderful place in the world, it doesn’t feel like a hospital, there is such a relaxed atmosphere and everyone is so wonderful, I feel sad that I won’t be going  there again.”

To find out more about PCOS and improving your fertility do come to one of our Fertility Awareness Events.


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Katherine has twins after test revealed blocked fallopian tube

Katherine and Daniel from Essex are delighted to have twins George and Thomas.

blocked fallopian tubes

The couple first started trying for a baby in 2011 but when Katherine hadn’t conceived after more than a year they went to see their GP. “The doctor put me on Clomid and when I still didn’t fall pregnant we were sent to our local hospital for tests,” reveals Katherine.

A dye test showed that one of Katherine’s fallopian tubes was blocked. “It was actually a relief to begiven a reason why I wasn’t getting pregnant,” says Katherine. “I hadn’t had any symptoms and we led a pretty healthy lifestyle so I had no idea what the problem was.”

Referred for IVF

Katherine and Daniel were told that they could be referred for IVF treatment and they opted to go to Bourn Hall Clinic.

Over the next couple of years Katherine sadly had three miscarriages, twice following IVF treatment and once after a surprise natural conception but despite their setbacks Katherine says that she and Daniel did not give up on their dream of having a family.

“I changed my hours to part-time at work to reduce my stress levels,” says Katherine, who is a PE teacher, “and we went back to Bourn Hall for further treatment using two frozen embryos from previous treatment”.

Intralipids to help immune cells 

This time around the couple also had intralipids, which is a source of fat and energy normally injected. It is thought that intralipid is able to change the immune cells in the uterine lining, making the environment in the uterus friendlier towards the embryo.

The couple were ‘cautiously optimistic’ when Katherine fell pregnant for a fourth time but tried not to get their hopes up too much because of the previous miscarriages. Happily the pregnancy went full-term and George and Thomas arrived on 27 March 2016.

“Since the boys have arrived it has been a whirlwind,” laughs Katherine. “We have had lots of support from our parents and we have to be very organised but I can honestly say that it has been worth it. We are loving every minute of it.”

blocked fallopian tubes

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Miracle baby ends mum’s years of fertility doubts

Growing up in a large family, Gemma from Essex had always imagined having children of her own one day – but couldn’t shake off a feeling that it might never happen.

Gemma, aged 33, gave birth to “miracle baby” Matthew in November 2014 following fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic. She says: “I don’t know why I constantly felt that something was not quite right, but I think that because I wanted a family so much I just put too much pressure on myself.”

unexplained infertility

When she was in her mid-twenties Gemma was diagnosed with fibroids and hospital scans also revealed that she had a number of cysts. “I was told by the doctors then that the fibroids and cysts shouldn’t affect my ability to have children but it made me more nervous about my prospects,” she admits.

A couple of years later, after getting engaged to Kirk, the couple started trying for a baby.

“I came off the pill so that we could start a family but my periods just didn’t come back properly,” Gemma reveals. “We consulted a doctor quite early on but were told that we needed to have been trying for longer before seeking help.”

Referred for IVF after unexplained infertility

Hospital tests proved inconclusive, with Kirk’s sperm count varying between tests and no definitive evidence that Gemma’s fibroids were causing the problem, the couple were given a diagnosis of unexplained infertility.

“Eventually we were referred for IVF treatment and it was such a relief!” says Gemma.

“I was already over 30 so it was important to me that we didn’t have to wait too long for treatment. We looked at the options available to us and chose Bourn Hall Clinic in Wickford because it was convenient.”

Appointments at Wickford and Colchester

All of Gemma and Kirk’s appointments were at Bourn Hall’s satellite clinic in Wickford apart from two visits for egg collection and embryo transfer at the full-service clinic in Colchester. Bourn Hall is to open a brand-new full-service clinic in Wickford and Gemma says that if she had been able to access all of her treatment under one roof it would have been fantastic.

“If we had been able to have all of our treatment at Wickford it would have been absolutely brilliant,” she says. “It would have put us at our ease. I was nervous enough on the day when the embryo was implanted so it would have been nice to have it done in Wickford where we had all of our other appointments and which had become so familiar to us. We had got to know the receptionist, we even sat in the same seats each time when we visited; it would have been nice to have had that familiarity.”

The perfect embryo

Gemma’s treatment at Bourn Hall began in January 2014 and the couple were absolutely elated when Gemma became pregnant on the first attempt.

“The previous few years had been such a roller coaster emotionally,” says Gemma, “and after my eggs were harvested and fertilised at Bourn Hall we had to go back in for embryo transfer earlier than expected because there were only three viable embryos by the third day. Of those three we were told that one was ‘absolutely perfect’ and that was the one which was transferred to me. The other two didn’t survive so we literally only had one chance from that cycle of treatment.

“I left Bourn Hall with my pregnancy test kit and strict instructions not to do the test until 14 days after treatment,” says Gemma, “but I was due to go back to work on the 14th day so I did the test a day early. I was convinced the test was going to be negative because I had had terrible cramps for a fortnight even though I had been resting. We agreed that I would do the test and we would look at the result together but in the end the result came back positive instantly so there wasn’t time for me to do that. I ran into the bedroom with the pregnancy test and I literally couldn’t speak! Then I did six more tests!”

Luckily for Gemma and Kirk the “perfect embryo” resulted in a successful pregnancy and Matthew was born nine months later.

“Matthew is our absolute world”

unexplained infertiilty

“We still cannot quite believe it,” says Gemma. “Matthew is our absolute world, everything and much more than we could have hoped for. He is now walking, he is absolutely amazing, so happy and content.”

The couple haven’t ruled out expanding their family further and Gemma, who has had no problems with her fibroids since her pregnancy and now has regular periods, says that she may now have a better chance of falling pregnant without needing fertility treatment.

“My body seems to have re-set itself,” she laughs. “So it is possible that I may fall pregnant naturally in the future. If not, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Bourn Hall.”

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Couple achieve dream family after successful ICSI

Callum grew up in a large family and had always wanted to have lots of children of his own – but faced the prospect of not having any at all.

He married wife Suzannah in 2008 and was delighted that she shared his dreams. “We both wanted a big family,” he says. “But there was a real worry about how we were going to make it happen.”

Male infertility issues are commonmale infertility

It was after several years without success that the couple went to their GP for fertility advice. They were referred for tests, which revealed that although Callum’s sperm count was perfectly normal there was an issue with his sperm motility, which was affecting the rate and ability of the sperm to move forward. The couple were advised that their only chance of conception was by IVF with a process called ICSI (intracyto-plasmic sperm injection), which involves injecting a sperm directly into an egg.

Around 3.5 million people in the UK have some difficulty conceiving and half of these will involve a male factor issue. Dr Babbur Vijayalakshmi, Consultant at Bourn Hall Clinic, the world’s first IVF clinic, says: “The majority of healthy couples having regular intercourse will conceive within two years. There are many causes for infertility and often these are treatable by the GP or local hospital; IVF is only required for a very small minority of people.”

Being a dad

The couple now have three boys following IVF treatment, with Boyd arriving in August last year.

“I am so proud to have my three boys,” Callum smiles. “I just love the time I spend with them and doing all the weekend stuff, football, golf, swimming. Before we realised about the fertility problem we had thought long and hard about how many children we wanted. We are so lucky that we ended up with the size of family that we dreamt of.”

Men encouraged to talk fertility concerns

Dr Babbur encourages people (especially men) to talk more about infertility. She says: “For me the saddest situation is when someone has put off talking to a health professional about their fertility concerns only to find out when they do that they have left it too late.”

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Clinic route safer for mums and baby

When Elie and Sarah decided to start a family, the option of finding and contacting a sperm donor  on the internet or through social media was completely out of the question.

“We have heard some horror stories of people who have found a sperm donor on the internet,” says Elie. “We wanted to do things properly and without risk to us or our future children.”

‘Doing things properly’ involved the couple going to Bourn Hall Clinic, the world’s first IVF clinic, which is regulated by the HFEA and has its own sperm bank.

Sperm donors are screened

Bourn Hall screens all sperm donors to ensure that they are free of infections, diseases or genetic conditions. Donors are asked about their medical and family history and undergo a medical examination and blood tests. The clinic rigorously screens all sperm samples and then freezes them and quarantines each sample for six months – after this time donors are then invited back to repeat their blood tests. If the donor passes these screening tests the frozen semen samples are then available to be used in treatment.

All donor sperm is stored frozen and then defrosted on the day of treatment.

Baby number two

Elie and Sarah are now mums to two boys and with both of their children it was agreed that Elie should carry the pregnancies. They had their first son Joshua in 2011 following treatment at Bourn Hall and he was very excited to learn in early 2015 that he was going to be a big brother.

“His first question to me after I picked him up from school and told him about my 20 week scan was, ‘did it have a willy’?” laughs Elie. “He was absolutely desperate for a brother – I don’t know what he would have done if it had been a girl!” Little brother Thomas was born at the end of 2015.

IUI and IVF treatments

The boys were conceived following very different fertility procedures – Joshua through Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and Thomas  through IVF.

IUI  involves injecting prepared sperm into the womb around the time of ovulation, when the ripe egg is released. If you are not using fertility drugs, this will happen between day 12 and 16 of your monthly cycle (with day one being the first day of your period) as this is when you are at your most fertile. A blood or urine test will be used to identify when you are ovulating. The use of fertility drugs is often advised as this controls the cycle and maximises the chance of success.

Elie says that they were really lucky with IUI the first time around and she fell pregnant quickly with Joshua. Second time around IUI didn’t work so well and after five negative pregnancy tests the couple were advised to try IVF.

IVF is when the ovaries are stimulated with fertility drugs and the eggs are collected and fertilised with sperm. Sometimes this will be by intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) where a high quality sperm is injected directly into the egg. This increases the chance of successful fertilisation. The embryos are then allowed to develop to blastocyst culture – a 5-day embryo (which is the stage it would be naturally when it arrives in the womb) is then transferred to the womb through a fine catheter. For a same-sex couple IVF offers more options, for example some choose that one partner produces the eggs and the other carries the pregnancy.

IVF was a big decision

For the couple having IVF was a big decision, particularly as the only infertility issue was the lack of sperm. Elie says: “I wondered with IVF whether the drugs would strongly affect my moods but I just felt a bit hormonal.

“We could only afford one round of IVF as it is more expensive than IUI but we got the result we wanted first time.”

Using the same donor

By going through a clinic the couple were assured that they would both have legal parenthood of the children. The sperm donor would have no legal rights and no moral or financial role in the children’s upbringing.

Elie and Sarah made a very conscious decision that they would use sperm from the same donor for both their children and reserved “sibling sperm” for this purpose. “We are not interested in who the sperm donor is although we are hugely grateful that he donated sperm,” says Elie. “But we decided that if the boys ever wanted to go down the route of finding out more about the sperm donor, in the same way that an adopted person might want to find out more about their biological family, they would have the same shared experience rather than two different ones.”

Being a family of four is “just lovely” says Elie. “We always wanted two children.”

Two of everything

Having ‘two mummies’ and now a brother means that for Joshua, aged five, “everything is balanced” says Elie. “He says now we have two of everything: two mummies, two boys and two cats!”

For Elie and Sarah, they delight in seeing how Thomas and Joshua interact with each other. “Thomas adores his big brother,” says Elie. “His first giggle was for Joshua. We love taking the two of them on days out.”

The couple are so glad they chose Bourn Hall to help them have their family. “Bourn Hall Clinic was very reassuring and the least risky option for our family,” says Elie. “We felt that we were ‘getting the best’ and are so lucky to live so close. We have already recommended Bourn Hall to some of our younger friends.”

For more information about use of donated sperm

To read more about treatment options for same sex couples.

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Proud mum lost 4 stone after being told to lose weight for fertility treatment

Jakub is a typical three year old – “a little terror” his mum Sabrina laughs. He was conceived after she was told to lose weight for fertility treatment.

As he plays happily at their home in Bedfordshire, Sabrina explains what it feels like to be a mum after years of waiting and hospital tests to establish why she couldn’t get pregnant.

“I married my husband Carl nearly ten years ago,” she says. “I had always known that I wanted children so for me, once we got married, because you try for all of those years not to get pregnant, it was time to start trying.

“We tried for a good three years and nothing happened, so I went to my GP and had some initial tests and everything seemed okay. My best friend had had a baby and there were babies being born all around me and I wondered when it would be my turn. People had always said to me that I would be a fab mum and at that stage I didn’t say what we were going through; it is only after the event that I started telling people.

“Carl had his sperm tested at the hospital and there was an issue with their movement, they were going round in circles, the doctors said they would never be able to make the journey needed for conception.

“I was absolutely relieved when we were given a possible cause. All along you are in an unknown, wondering why. Is it me? Is it him? What is it?”

Lose weight for fertility treatment

Sabrina admits that she was overweight and was told by the hospital consultant that they couldn’t be referred for fertility treatment until she had drastically reduced her Body Mass Index (BMI) which is used to indicate that someone is a healthy weight.

“We were told that I needed to lose weight for fertility treatment,” says Sabrina, aged 38, “so then it was me needing to go out and work at it, and I did. I signed up for Weightwatchers online and started going to the gym at work. And because I knew that I wanted a child more than I wanted a slice of cake or some chocolate; that was my motivation. I knew that if someone offered me something I shouldn’t be eating I would say ‘No’ because I knew what my goal was at the end of the day. Over the next nine months I lost four stone.”

Fitness regime successful 

Following Sabrina’s impressive weight loss and new fitness regime the couple was rewarded by being referred to Bourn Hall Clinic for fertility treatment. Bourn Hall used a procedure called ICSI which involved removing some of Sabrina’s eggs and directly injecting one of Carl’s sperm in to each egg to help fertilisation occur. The best quality embryo was then transferred to Sabrina’s womb. Most typically ICSI is appropriate when there is a male factor to a couple’s infertility and can be used in instances including poor sperm motility (movement).

“At that stage we didn’t know how my body would accept it,” says Sabrina. “I guess until they put the embryo in they just didn’t know.

My work were really sympathetic, giving me time off after treatment, I had really good support. I didn’t find the experience stressful at all, for me it was a really lovely time because I knew what I was aiming for.” The couple were delighted when the pregnancy test a fortnight after treatment confirmed that Sabrina was pregnant. “We were over the moon,” she recalls, “but it wasn’t until we went for our first six week scan at Bourn Hall on New Year’s Eve in 2012 that we both thought ‘oh my goodness, this is happening.'”

Lose weight for fertility treatment

“I wanted a child more than I wanted a slice of cake or some chocolate; that was my motivation”

Maintaining her weight loss

After an uneventful pregnancy son Jakub was born in August 2013 and Sabrina hasn’t looked back. She has managed to keep her weight down and has taken time off work to look after Jakub: “I love being a mum, I embraced it from the start,” she says. “Because we don’t know where our future will be with regards to having any more children I have really enjoyed the last three years off with Jakub. I took maternity leave, had a career break and then unfortunately I got made redundant and I am now getting myself back to work as Jakub is going to nursery”.

NHS-funded IVF

Sabrina and Carl were entitled to three cycles of NHS-funded treatment and their treatment worked first-time round but Sabrina is acutely aware of the stress on people in Bedfordshire who are now only entitled to one cycle of treatment – and face the possibility that the funding might be cut altogether.

“I remember that when I went for my embryo transfer I met a woman at Bourn Hall and we kept in touch, and she wasn’t successful in her first treatment. If that had been today that might have been her only chance to go there. If ours hadn’t worked that would have been our only chance. I know that fertility treatment is expensive to fund and that funding is a big issue across everything but if people prove that they are going to give it their best shot, like I did by losing weight, surely they deserve a chance?”

Get checked early

Sabrina is full of praise for Bourn Hall. “I had a lovely experience at Bourn Hall,” she says. “Everyone is so friendly. We did go back with Jakub to see everyone afterwards and took them chocolates and a thank you card. Chocolates and a card seem nothing compared to what they gave us, but it was just a little bit of appreciation of what we’d got, this little boy, this amazing little thing. ”

Sabrina’s advice to anyone worried about their fertility is to go and get themselves checked out.

“I would definitely say to people that they should seek advice if they have been trying for a baby for a while,” she says. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about, nothing to be ashamed about, there is such a stigma attached to infertility. I have had nothing but praise from friends for what we’ve been through and how we’ve dealt with it.

“I would encourage people to get themselves checked and not be embarrassed about it, and be quite open about it. It is not until you start talking about it that you realise how many people go through the same issue. Don’t put it off.”

Lose weight for fertility treatment

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Pregnancy is possible despite unexplained infertility

Hayley Brook from Cambridge still finds it hard to believe that she is finally a mum – after years of uncertainty over why she was not falling pregnant.

Hayley and husband Martin were told that they had ‘unexplained infertility’ by specialists after undergoing numerous tests to establish why Hayley was not conceiving.

“We got married in 2012 and started trying for a baby straightaway,” says Hayley. “When nothing had happened I went to see my GP and she was so helpful, explaining everything to me and sending me for tests.”

Test results revealed little

The tests did not uncover any obvious reason as to why Hayley wasn’t getting pregnant and so the couple were advised to try for another year.

“Neither of us are overweight and we led a healthy lifestyle so it was all out of our control,” says Hayley. “We were basically biding time until we ticked the next box.

“All around me friends were having children and I was really pleased for them but every time I heard that someone was pregnant it was like a stab to the heart. Sometimes I would just be walking down the street and would pass complete strangers who seemed to have lots of children and yet I was struggling just to have one, it was really hard. I think the perception is that it is really easy to get pregnant and we spend our younger years using contraception and trying not to get pregnant and then you come off contraception and nothing happens and you think ‘why did I bother all those years?’”

The hardest part was not having a reason

When further tests could still not determine the cause of Hayley and Martin’s infertility they were told that they were eligible for NHS-referral to a specialist fertility clinic.

“The hardest part was not having a reason,” admits Hayley. “I could have coped better if we had been given a reason but to have no reason and no child was really tough.”

Hayley and Martin went to a seminar at Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridgeshire along with a group of other couples and Hayley found it really useful.

The couple were treated at Bourn Hall using standard IVF which involved Hayley taking fertility drugs to stimulate her ovaries to produce a number of eggs and then, using a minor surgical procedure, collecting a number of eggs to be placed in a culture dish with Martin’s sperm for fertilisation.

“I was kind of excited to be having the IVF,” says Hayley. “We had gone through so many hoops to get to that stage I think I detached myself emotionally. You get so used to things not going your way you learn to protect yourself from disappointment.”

First time around and Hayley did not get pregnant and she was tempted to wait a while before trying again. “I was emotionally drained,” she says.

Another visit to Bourn Hall however persuaded her otherwise and shortly afterwards she was being treated again.

“The quality of the embryo transferred to my womb second time around was top grade,” says Hayley. “And then we had the longest ten day wait of our lives after it had been transferred to my womb.”

Every day is incredible

The day of the pregnancy test arrived and the alarm clock went off at 5.30am for work.

“I did the test and looked at the line which was quite faint,” says Hayley. “We were looking at it asking ourselves ‘is it a line or is it not a line?’ We decided it was a line but then just sat there in disbelief, we couldn’t take it in for a while.”

Seven weeks in to Hayley’s pregnancy the couple went back to Bourn Hall for a scan and it was only at that point that Hayley allowed herself to believe she was finally pregnant.

“I believed it then but I was very, very cautious,” says Hayley. “It was only when I was about 20 weeks pregnant that I started to relax a bit and buy baby clothes.”

Daughter Tessa arrived safely on June 22, 2016 and Hayley says she felt ‘dazed and shellshocked’:

“Tessa had been with us a good couple of weeks before I suddenly thought ‘wow I’ve had a baby’” shesays. “Every day is incredible, I have to pinch myself. It is strange to get to the point, having thought that this was never going to happen, when I can let my guard down and take it all in. I have not been able to do that for four years. I started out trying for a baby all optimistically but as time went on and friends were getting pregnant after two months of trying and still nothing was happening for us I just started to think the worst. Both myself and Martin developed a self-defence mechanism and it takes time to let your guard down, even now.”

unexplained infertility

Don’t hesitate to seek help

For anyone who is worried about their own fertility Hayley advises them to seek help sooner rather than later. “Don’t leave it as long as I did,” she says. “It is nice to have a career in place but hindsight is a wonderful thing. You will have lots of hoops to get through. I also think it is really important that couples look out for each other as I can really understand how the stress would break some couples up. The whole journey is so emotionally charged, you need to make sure you have got each others’ back and look after each other.”

NHS funding changes lives

As Tessa was born following Hayley’s second cycle of NHS-funded treatment she feels really sad for other people that the number of cycles now funded by the NHS in Cambridgeshire has been reduced to just one.

“If we had been funded for just one cycle I wouldn’t have my daughter,” she says. “We could not have afforded to fund a second cycle ourselves and so we would not have been blessed with Tessa. I don’t think one cycle is enough and it is terrible that in some parts of the country the funding has been cut altogether. People should be given a chance.”

unexplained infertility

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Miracle baby ends period of pain

Jenny had suffered painful periods since a teenager when the couple struggled to conceive they went for advice which revealed endometriosis.

Jenny, aged 39, who lives in Bedfordshire, had always wanted children but when she was in her early thirties feared she would never be able to get pregnant. After three years of trying unsuccessfully for a baby with partner Dave she went to see her GP.

“I had suffered with painful periods from the age of 16,” says Jenny, “and had been put on the pill. About 15 years later I had a blood clot and was taken off the pill and since then my periods had been really painful”.

Tests revealed endometriosis 

A laparoscopy revealed that Jenny had endometriosis, a condition affecting around 2 million women in the UK – and she also had some fluid in one of her fallopian tubes. The couple were advised that they would be eligible for NHS-funded fertility treatment.

Getting in shape for fertility

Health-wise Jenny was in pretty good shape to have fertility treatment. She had given up smoking and had a healthy BMI. Smoking affects ovulation in women and can reduce fertility. Women should ideally have a BMI of between 19 and 30 according to NICE guidelines.

“I have been a committed vegetarian since I was 11,” says Jenny, “and recently I became vegan. I am careful not to overdo my caffeine intake and have always been very aware of nutrition.”

It is thought that caffeine also affects fertility levels – it is not just present in tea and coffee but also in chocolate and some soft drinks.

After being told they were eligible for NHS-funded fertility treatment Jenny and Dave were given a choice of clinics. “We chose Bourn Hall because it was closest to home and I had read some of the patients’ success stories on their website,” says Jenny. “Also I didn’t want to have to travel down to London on the train.”

Pregnancy shock

Jenny and Dave attended an open evening at Bourn Hall just outside Cambridge and shortly afterwards began their treatment. The first round did not work and Jenny was then treated using frozen embryos from the first cycle.

Happily, following the frozen embryo transfer the couple found out that Jenny was pregnant and she describes it as a ‘shock’. “We were really, really happy,” she smiles. “I just took it one day at a time. I was aware that it might be the only time I would ever be pregnant and so we took lots and lots of photos and I wrote down regularly how I was feeling.

Fletcher was born on 17 September 2014 and Jenny describes motherhood as ‘brilliant’.

Jenny is delighted that since giving birth to Fletcher she has stopped having painful periods. “I think when he came out he jumbled everything up,” she laughs.

Grateful to the NHS

She is also really grateful for the NHS funding they received for the fertility treatment – at the time of her treatment they were eligible for three cycles.

“When we were told that we were entitled to three cycles of NHS-funded treatment it made us feel confident that we would get there in the end and become parents,” says Jenny. “I do appreciate that it is really hard now with decisions having to be made about where NHS funding goes but for couples who only get one funded cycle it must be really stressful.”

One last go

After successfully having had Fletcher, Jenny and David would love a brother or sister for him. A recent round of IVF (which they paid for themselves) didn’t work and so Jenny is gearing herself up for what she describes as her ‘last go’.

“As much as we would love another child, it is really more for Fletcher than for us,” says Jenny. “Both Dave and I have a sibling and we are really close to them and ideally I would love Fletcher to have a brother or sister. That being said, I have got lots of friends with one child and it is very common and you get round it in other ways with friends and family.”

Endometriosis: cause of period pain and infertility


More information about endometriosis

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Get fit for fertility couple advised

As Chelmsford mum Jo proudly wraps her arms around her one-year-old son Alfie, she says with utter conviction: “he is the most amazing thing in the world.”

Alfie’s arrival last year marked the end of a long wait for Jo and husband Ben, who had been trying unsuccessfully for a baby for six years before deciding to seek help. “We just assumed, perhaps rather naively, that one day I would fall pregnant,” says Jo, now aged 40,”but we got to the point when we realised that we needed to talk to someone.”

Low sperm count

On average 80% of couples will get pregnant within a year if they have sexual intercourse every two to three days and do not use contraception, so couples that are unsuccessful after two years should seek help.

The couple went to see their GP, who referred them for tests. Jo says: “Ben was told that he had a low sperm count and slow sperm motility which was quite hard for him to accept at the time, but at least we had a reason.

“I wasn’t getting any younger and most of my friends had already had children and that was really difficult.”

Lifestyle changes to get fit for fertility

The couple were referred for fertility treatment and were also advised to make a few lifestyle changes. Ben took up mountain biking and lost an impressive four stone leading up to their treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic whilst Jo took up running and lost a stone.

“I wasn’t classed as overweight but everything I had read about increasing our chances of having a baby pointed to having a healthier lifestyle,” says Jo. “When Ben was told about his low sperm count he thought ‘what I can do to improve that?’ He wasn’t obese but he was carrying a bit of extra weight. We had been given a real wake-up call that we needed to help our situation. We were just so desperate to have a family we wanted to do everything we possibly could.”

Ben’s weight loss produced tangible results, reveals Jo. “Every time Ben went back for tests while he was losing weight the volume and quality of his sperm increased, so it definitely made a difference.”

The couple were treated at Bourn Hall Clinic using a process called ICSI which involved removing some of Jo’s eggs and directly injecting each of them with one of Ben’s sperm to help fertilisation occur. One embryo was then transferred to Jo’s womb.

Get fit for fertility

Treatment at risk

Her first two cycles of treatment did not work and the third cycle of treatment was nearly put in jeopardy when Ben had a mountain bike accident and ended up in hospital. Luckily he was let out in time for treatment to go ahead as planned.

“We knew that the third cycle was our last attempt,” says Jo, who works as a hairdresser, “but I was so worried about Ben having fallen off his bike I think it helped to take my mind off worrying about whether the treatment would work. The whole process had become all-consuming, we were so desperate for a child. Both of us are only children and any baby would the first grandchild in the family.”

Third time lucky

It was definitely third time lucky for the couple because two weeks later they found out that Jo was pregnant. “I kept staring at the blue line on the pregnancy test,” Jo remembers. “I couldn’t believe it!”

After a trouble-free pregnancy (“I loved every minute” says Jo), baby Alfie finally arrived in August 2015 and Jo says that she felt a complete sense of elation – “I have never cried so much in my life!” A year on and Alfie is a happy-go-lucky toddler who is doted on completely by his besotted parents and grandparents.

Ben says: “I can honestly say that this journey was a roller coaster of emotions from start to finish. However with every effort we made and never giving up hope we couldn’t have wished for a more wonderful outcome.

“Alfie is our pride and joy and I am absolutely besotted by him. I still stare at him and cannot believe he is here sometimes.”

Don’t delay like we did 

Jo’s advice to anyone worried about their own fertility is to not delay seeking help.

“Go and see your GP,” she says. “We left it a long time before going to our doctor and we could have been helped earlier if we had sought help sooner.

“Most of my friends’ children are at primary and secondary school; I don’t have any close friends with children Alfie’s age. If you get a fertility test then at least you know if there is an issue.

“Bourn Hall Clinic was absolutely incredible; having Alfie is the most amazing thing I have ever done.”

Get fit for fertility

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Don’t leave it until it’s too late, urges Bedfordshire mum

Sarah from Bedfordshire had taken more than a hundred pregnancy tests in her adult life – and all of them had come back with the same result: Negative. Then one day last year she and husband Richard were shocked when they saw something they had never seen before – a bright blue line confirming that Sarah was pregnant.

“I had never seen a positive pregnancy result before, I just couldn’t believe it!” laughs Sarah.

The pregnancy test result which Sarah and Richard had spent years hoping for followed IVF treatment at the world-famous Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridgeshire, and there was a further surprise in store; Sarah was expecting twins.

Don’t leave it until it’s too late

Daughters Felicity and Erica were born in February of this year and Sarah, who is aged 40, has her own advice for any couple who have been trying unsuccessfully for a baby for more than two years:

“Don’t put off getting the ball rolling,” she says. “When I was in my early thirties I was pretty relaxed about starting a family but the longer you leave it the smaller the window of opportunity you have for treatment if you have problems. Don’t leave it until it’s too late.”

Unexplained infertility is common

Sarah and Richard started trying for a baby seven years ago but after two years without success went to their GP. Tests revealed the cause was ‘unexplained infertility’.

“I now realise that this is a very common cause of infertility,” says Sarah.

The couple were eligible for fertility treatment on the NHS and opted for Bourn Hall. “We chose Bourn Hall because it got such good reviews,” she says.

“The next step was to go to a patient seminar at Bourn Hall. We were nervous but really looking forward to it. The presentation was great, taking us through exactly what would happen during our journey with them. We were quite pragmatic and matter-of-fact about it at that point, it would either work or it wouldn’t.”

The process took 3 years

Sarah did not fall pregnant at the first attempt. “I underwent three fresh cycles and one frozen,” says Sarah, “the whole process took three years because my body had to rest between treatments.

“When I took the pregnancy test and saw the blue line I just couldn’t believe it!” she says.

Finally, a seven-week scan at Bourn Hall confirmed what she had already secretly suspected, that she was expecting twins. “The pregnancy test had been instant and bright blue and apparently that is what can happen with twins because of the amount of hormones in your body,” she says.

“Richard nearly fell off his chair!” she remembers.

The couple couldn’t be happier with their new family.

“Having twins is a shock to the system, very hard work, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” says Sarah.

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