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’

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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

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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.

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“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. 

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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

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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

Devastated

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 Alexander’s 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.”

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