First Father’s Day for Richard after fertility struggle

What a lot of people didn’t realise is that Richard and Sarah had been trying unsuccessfully and were going through IVF treatment after tests had revealed male factor infertility.

“We had decided that we didn’t want to tell many people initially that we were having fertility treatment in the hope that we would be able to make a ‘normal’ pregnancy announcement around the 12 week mark without going into the details,” says Richard.

“Shocked when I realised it was me”

The couple had been trying for six months to get pregnant before going to see their GP, who fast-tracked them for tests when she became aware of Richard’s medical history.

“When I was a child I had two operations to correct undescended testicles,” says Richard. “No one at the time mentioned anything to my parents about there being any possible impact on my future fertility.”

Hospital tests revealed that Richard had a low sperm count – which can be caused by factors such as undescended testicles and being overweight. He also had low sperm motility (movement).

“It was a shock to be told that the problem was with me,” says Richard. “I was taken aback that I had an issue that I was completely unaware of. If I had known earlier that it could have affected my fertility I would have got tested sooner. Even if I had been single I would have gone and got tested just so that I knew more about my own fertility. I felt disappointed that I hadn’t been in possession of the information before we started our fertility journey.

“Infertility and fertility treatment are bizarre really in that people often think that the problem is with the woman when it is simply not the case. I think I now know more couples where the infertility issue lies with the man than with the woman.”

More information

Read more about infertility from the male perspective in our Men Talk section on the Fertility blog.

Richard and Sarah were advised that the best option for them was IVF treatment but at the time the area of Norfolk (South Norfolk) where they live didn’t fund any IVF treatment (that has now changed and couples in their area of Norfolk now get two NHS-funded rounds of IVF).

The couple made an appointment with Bourn Hall and had a doctor consultation at the Norwich clinic.

Advice to improve fertility

“We were given advice about our treatment options as well as ways of improving natural fertility,” says Richard. “I am slightly overweight and have irregular sleep patterns due to my work and both can affect fertility. Bourn Hall also recommended some supplements. We decided to go away and try again for three months until it was Christmas and if we hadn’t any success by then we would go down the IVF route.”

They returned to Bourn Hall the following year for self-funded treatment and tests confirmed that Richard still had low sperm count and motility. “It was still really low so any improvement there had been was not going to make any difference to my fertility,” he says.

The couple had two fresh cycles of IVF at Bourn Hall and two frozen embryo transfers – sadly although Sarah became pregnant a total of three times she had two ‘missed miscarriages’ which the couple did not find out about until the early eight week viability scans.

“It was awful,” says Richard, who admits that he is not much of a talker and tends to deal with his feelings on his own “working them out in my head.” Someone, however, who had been part of their journey was Richard’s mum and he did find comfort in opening up about his feelings to her: “That was nice, talking to my mum,” he says.

Focus on the woman

IVF treatment is primarily focused on the woman as she is the one taking the medication and undergoing egg collection and embryo transfer and for the man it can be difficult to know how best to support her.

“Sarah is absolutely terrified of needles and was actually really anxious when we first went down the IVF route as, unlike me, she had never had any surgical procedures at all,” says Richard.

“I would administer Sarah’s injections and it gave me a feeling of supporting her and of being able to do something. The worst part of the whole experience was thinking that the reason we couldn’t have children was with me and I was not able to do anything. It was all down to Sarah, she was the one being prodded and poked and all the rest of it while I was just standing there watching really. So being able to give her the injections felt good.”

Sarah and Richard had been due to have their fourth attempt – a frozen cycle using embryos from their second fresh IVF treatment – when the first lockdown hit. They were able to return to Bourn Hall last summer, but unfortunately Richard was unable to attend key appointments due to COVID restrictions.

“I wasn’t allowed in for the monitoring scan or embryo transfer,” he says.

“She isn’t crying”

Sarah was ‘shaking with fear’ when she went for her viability scan after their fourth treatment because they had been told twice before that there had been a pregnancy which had not progressed.

“I sat in the car and watched her go in and then waited for her to come out,” he says. “When she did eventually come out and get in the car I thought ‘well she isn’t crying so that is a good sign’.”

Sarah was able to relay the good news to Richard that they were expecting twins and show him lots of scan pictures which their fertility nurse Gemma had printed off for them. “I just cried,” says Richard. “It was such a relief. Gemma was watching us through the window because she told Sarah she wanted to see my reaction when I was given the news.”

On 18th April 2021 twins Rory and Ewan were born – two hours apart.

“Ewan ended up being born via c-section and so I was there right by Sarah’s side holding Rory in my arms whilst his twin brother was being born,” says Richard.

“Feels like a miracle”

Now the twins are here Richard can’t imagine life without them. “Being a dad is just amazing,” he says. “The first two weeks were pretty stressful as I was running around like a headless chicken whilst Sarah recovered from her c-section but now I have started to relax I am just loving it. It is so rewarding every time one of the boys looks in to my eyes, I love it!

“Bourn Hall were great; without them we wouldn’t have these two beautiful little boys. We feel like it is a miracle.”

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I stopped going to baby showers as I struggled to hold it together

Worried I would have no friends left

“My friends were always really understanding but I did start to panic that if I didn’t have children, I would get to 40 and have no friends because I had cut myself off socially or alienated people. That became more and more of a worry.”

Charlotte was 24 when she met Harry when they were both classical singers in London and their relationship became serious very quickly. “I had always known that I wanted children and made it clear to Harry from the start that it was something I wanted ,” she says.

The couple got married when Charlotte was 29 and Harry was 36 and had no reason to think that they would struggle to start a family.

Most couples don’t know that they have a fertility issue until they start trying to conceive and even then it can sometimes be several years before they are referred for tests.

“I went to see my GP after we had been trying for around a year and she was very sympathetic,” says Charlotte. “We were both sent for tests and although Harry’s tests showed up some issues we were told we would have to wait another year before we could be referred to our local hospital for further investigation.”

Distraction during the wait for investigation 

Over the next 12 months the couple tried to eat as healthily as they could and Harry gave up alcohol but still Charlotte didn’t fall pregnant.

“Two years after we had first started trying for a baby and I was thinking ‘why is this happening to us? What is going wrong?’” says Charlotte.

“Harry found it quite tough as I used to get really upset a lot of the time about us not having a child.

“I used to find going on social media really difficult at times when friends were announcing pregnancies or posting photos of their children and I would suffer from massive FOMO (fear of missing out).  I would actually avoid social media at certain times of the year such as Mother’s Day.”

Distraction was one of the ways that Charlotte coped. She embarked on a Masters degree in Choral Studies at Jesus College, Cambridge, and she feels that it was really important for her to have a ‘project’.

“It was great because I was one of the oldest people on the course and was surrounded by young twenty-somethings who were at a completely different stage in their lives and didn’t talk about babies at all, it was brilliant,” she says.

“Studying for a Master’s degree helped me cope with fertility struggle”

After testing at the local hospital Charlotte was put on clomid to stimulate her ovaries before the couple were referred for IVF treatment.

“We were entitled to NHS-funded IVF and chose to go to Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic which was a short drive for us,” says Charlotte.

“At Bourn Hall we were told that Harry actually had a really high sperm count, it was just the shape of them which was causing a problem, and we were really reassured by that. Scans also revealed that I had polycystic ovaries which came as a complete surprise although I have always had a bit of an issue with facial hair growth and maintaining a healthy weight .”

IVF with ICSI

Charlotte and Harry were treated using  IVF with ICSI – intracytoplasmic sperm injection which is used when the sperm needs a bit of extra help to achieve successful fertilisation. A woman’s eggs are collected in the same way as IVF and a single sperm injected in to the centre of each mature egg to assist fertilisation in the laboratory.

“I produced 17 eggs which was really exciting, 14 of which were mature,” says Charlotte. “I was asked if I would like to donate my three immature eggs to research being undertaken at Bourn Hall and I was more than happy to do that. It just felt really good to do that and contribute towards such important research.”

After embryo transfer, the couple went home and waited two weeks before taking a pregnancy test.

“I had never been pregnant before so had absolutely no idea what it felt like,”

“I geared myself up for a negative pregnancy test “says Charlotte.”So, when it was positive I didn’t really know how to feel! I just felt shellshocked! Harry was conducting a concert that day and did it very exuberantly whilst I was in the audience and couldn’t concentrate at all!!”

Charlotte is full of praise for the team at Bourn Hall. “Everyone was so professional and compassionate. Everyone right from the receptionists to the nurses and consultant made us feel really relaxed and were happy to answer any questions we had. They explained everything really well. They really cared about us as people and got everything absolutely right as far as we are concerned.”

Coping with the waiting

Many people waiting to have fertility tests or be referred for fertility treatment in 2020 had to put their lives on hold because of the pandemic, Charlotte shares her coping tips:

“Find a distraction just for you and have a project. For me that was doing my Masters but it could be anything. A lot of people get pets I think, we spent a lot of time with our Labrador Mungo. Continue to do things for you during that time and don’t put things off.  Find people to talk to, I joined a Facebook group for people undergoing IVF and I also had counselling, just don’t let it all become a negative. “

A couple of months after finding out they were pregnant Charlotte attended a graduation ceremony to collect her Masters degree – she graduated top of her year with a Distinction.

“I joined a choir at Cambridge and at our first get-together everyone had to share something about themselves and one of the choir members revealed that she had been an IVF baby.

“She subsequently told me that she had always felt really special because her parents had always emphasised to her how much she had been wanted and it was really nice for me to hear that.”

In July 2020 Charlotte and Harry welcomed daughter Heidi into the world. “I was really chilled, I even started singing at one point when I was in labour, it must have been all the gas and air!” Charlotte laughs.

“Studying for a Master’s degree helped me cope with fertility struggle”

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Double celebration for man who thought he would never be a dad

Steven will never be sure of the exact reason for his infertility. He did have mumps as a teenager and this can impact the fertility of one in ten males who contract the viral infection. Other common causes are sporting injuries and underlying medical conditions.

Infertility can put a huge strain on relationships.  Steven’s first marriage ended in divorce following three failed rounds of IVF treatment in Yorkshire. “I had resigned myself to the fact that I would never be a dad,” he says.

The impact was so devastating that when he moved south to Norfolk and met Joanne, he told her on their first date that he couldn’t have children.

“I don’t know what he expected,” laughs Joanne, aged 25. “I think he thought that might mean the end of the road for us, but within eight weeks we were living together and got engaged a year later.”

NHS fertility advice and testing 

Coincidentally Joanne, who runs her own hairdressing salon, had also been told she might have difficulties conceiving having been diagnosed with mild polycystic ovaries at the age of 21, after experiencing irregular and painful periods.

“It hadn’t really bothered me at that point,” she says. “It was diagnosed early and my ovaries had not deteriorated too much. I always knew that I wanted to be a young mum and if I met the right person I would get started quite soon trying to get pregnant.”

After their engagement the couple decided to get advice and booked an appointment at Bourn Hall Clinic, which provides NHS-funded fertility testing, diagnosis and early-stage fertility treatments in Norfolk and is also the only fertility clinic in East Anglia to provide both NHS and self-funded IVF treatment.

In Norfolk Bourn Hall helps 30% patients get pregnant naturally

Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, Regional Lead Clinician at Bourn Hall Clinic, comments:  “Giving good advice at an early stage supplemented by minimal interventions helps 30% of the couples we see in Norfolk conceive naturally.  Of the remaining patients some will require surgery and the others IVF treatment.”

The couple had blood tests as well as semen analysis for Steven, which confirmed a low sperm count of which many were of good quality. The couple decided to proceed with IVF treatment including Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) where the sperm is injected directly into the egg.

The couple were delighted when the IVF treatment at Bourn Hall worked for them first time but suffered a potential setback when Joanne had a bleed four weeks in to the pregnancy. “We thought we’d lost everything,” says Joanne.

Massive bleed

The couple were offered an early scan at 5 weeks at their local hospital on Steven’s 31st birthday.

“I had suffered a massive bleed and we thought we were going along to hear the worst news ever,” says Joanne. “But we were told that we were expecting twins and we could see two perfect embryos sitting there.

“It was too early to see a heartbeat but we could see them and they were safe. I went really quiet.”

Steven was lost for words.

“I couldn’t speak for a while,” he says. “I was just crying with joy.

“Jo asked me if I was going to phone my brother to let him know but I couldn’t speak. It was probably the best day of my life, and on my birthday as well.”

mumps can impact fertility
Steven with his twins

The twins Jasmin and Quinn have just celebrated their first birthday and Steven, who runs his own SMART car repair business, is loving every minute of fatherhood.

He says: “It is amazing being a Dad. Every day I have a smile on my face. Every morning, every evening, every time I get home. It is beautiful. Having been at the lowest point I could be I sometimes just can’t believe my luck.”

Bourn Hall provides free consultations with a fertility nurse specialist – do take this opportunity to get good advice.

Marathon man celebrates fatherhood

The couple first started trying for a baby in 2015 but when they hadn’t conceived after 12 months Hannah went to see her GP.

“I knew that there was potentially a problem with me because I had irregular periods as a teenager and my periods took ten months to start again after I came off the pill,” says Hannah.

50:50 male and female factors

Hannah and Luke assumed Hannah’s irregular periods were the reason that she wasn’t falling pregnant – but it transpired that this was only half of the story.

Tests revealed that Luke, aged 33, had a low sperm count which, coupled with Hannah’s subsequent diagnosis of polycystic ovaries, significantly lowered the couple’s chances of conceiving naturally. “We were really surprised when it turned out that Luke had fertility issues too,” says Hannah.

Luke agrees: “It was very hard to deal with as it was just something which had never crossed my mind,” he says. “I remember feeling helpless and not knowing what I could do to change things.”

One third of couples who are tested for infertility will discover that there are contributory factors on both sides.  For Hannah and Luke the news hit them hard: “When we found out that we both had fertility issues it was pretty devastating,” admits Hannah, aged 32.

“Seeing adverts for pregnancy tests and baby products on TV was just one small way we were reminded of our difficulties and it was a really hard time for us. We just had to get on with it really and keep ourselves busy. Luke tried a few of the tips suggested for improving sperm count such as wearing loose underwear, exercising and not drinking,  but it didn’t help particularly.”

NHS fertility treatment

Hannah and Luke were referred for fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Cambridge and were lucky to be eligible for one round of NHS-funded treatment before funding was withdrawn for NHS IVF in Cambridgeshire.

“Living so close made everything more straightforward for us,” says Hannah. We didn’t have to stress about the travelling or being late for appointments. If the car had broken down on the way we could probably have finished the rest of the journey on foot so we were very lucky!”

The couple’s NHS-funded treatment was not successful. “I only produced three eggs and we had one viable embryo for transfer. The embryo didn’t take and I had a period after two weeks. It was very sad,” says Hannah.

“We had saved up in case we needed more treatment and we knew that we wanted to try again. We gave it a few months and I did a 10k run whilst Luke did another marathon and then we went on holiday before going back to Bourn Hall.”

The second time – as with the first – the couple had IVF using a procedure called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) which is commonly used where the sperm needs a bit of ‘extra help’ to achieve fertilisation. Hannah’s eggs were collected and then Luke’s sperm was directly injected in to her eggs in the laboratory before transferring two embryos to her womb.

low sperm count and PCOS can contribute to infertility
Luke with Adeline and Max

Two weeks later and a pregnancy test confirmed that the treatment had worked. “We were grinning like maniacs. It never crossed our minds that both embryos might have taken,” laughs Hannah.

When a scan revealed that the couple were expecting twins “It was beyond good news,” says Hannah. “We were shocked but ‘happy shocked’!”

Twins Max and Adeline were born eight months ago – “it was surreal when they were born, it was amazing,” says Hannah.

“Now the twins are here it is hard to imagine our life without them,” says Luke. “I look forward to all the new experiences we will have together. They are just a constant source of happiness.”

Bourn Hall provides free consultations with a fertility nurse specialist – do take this opportunity to get good advice.

Norfolk mum celebrates her miracle IVF baby

Cradling ‘miracle baby’ Riley in her arms, Lauren says that she just doesn’t have enough words of praise for Bourn Hall, the fertility clinic which made his birth possible.

Lauren and husband Stephen from Norfolk, were one of the first couples to be treated at Bourn Hall’s full-service Wymondham clinic.

A local clinic makes the difference

“When you are undergoing fertility treatment you need a very flexible boss,” explains Lauren. “The woman, in particular, has to be available for lots of tests and scans in the beginning, so if you are having to travel further afield that can make it very difficult to arrange around your job and can really add to your anxiety levels.

“Having all of my treatment on the doorstep was perfect and cut down on juggling with work commitments”.

Visit to GP set wheels in motion

Lauren met Stephen through work and having realised that Stephen was her Mr Right, Lauren says that they started trying for a family almost immediately.

“We tried for a baby for a couple of years but nothing was happening,” she says. “We thought we were doing all the right things, checking the dates and buying all the kits, but I just didn’t get pregnant”.

A visit to the couple’s GP set the wheels in motion and both Lauren and Stephen underwent tests which revealed that there was an issue with Stephen’s sperm motility (the ability of the sperm to ‘swim’).

“We were entitled to NHS treatment and luckily for us Bourn Hall had just opened their clinic in Wymondham, so we went along to an information evening which was really interesting,” says Lauren. “The presentation took us through the whole treatment journey and was really realistic about the whole process in terms of how emotionally draining it can be and what the chances of success are.”

Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome

Lauren was treated at Bourn Hall using a process called ICSI where an individual sperm is injected into each egg to fertilise them.

Unfortunately, Lauren developed Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which happens in only around two per cent of patients undergoing fertility treatment, so her embryos were frozen until she had recovered.

“Bourn Hall were brilliant and once my periods started again my body went back to normal,” says Lauren.

Treatment restarted and ten of the embryos were thawed prior to transfer to Lauren’s womb. The cells in the embryo’s weren’t dividing vigorously and it was thought that they would not survive to the five day blastocyst stage, so after two days two embryos were selected and transferred.

Miracle baby

The couple were delighted when both of them took and Lauren became pregnant with twins. Sadly she suffered an early miscarriage and went for a scan at Bourn Hall.

“That was when I fell in love with Bourn Hall,” says Lauren. “We were not sure if I was still pregnant when we went in for the scan, so we were very worried. We were delighted to be given the good news that one had survived and some of the other staff came in to the room to celebrate with us. It was absolutely lovely!”

sperm motility

In October 2014 Lauren gave birth to son Riley and she says that he is just the perfect baby. She gave up her job to spend as much time with him as she can and was so impressed with Bourn Hall that she plans for another round of treatment, this time self-funded, in the hope of a brother or sister for Riley.

“We are moving down to Sussex with Stephen’s job,” says Lauren, “and I wanted to have my fertility treatment at Bourn Hall before we go. I wouldn’t have my treatment anywhere else. I cannot recommend them highly enough, we are so grateful to Bourn Hall, everyone there is brilliant.”

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New MicroTESE overcomes zero sperm

When Adrian gets in from work every evening the first thing he is greeted with is “Daddy!” and the outstretched arms of his toddler Michael.

Being a Dad was something which Adrian, aged 50, had always believed would never happen to him. He had been told as a child that he had a condition which would impact his fertility, and this was confirmed when he was in his twenties after a doctor told him that he had a very low sperm count.

Told at 20 would never be a dad

“Adrian told me when we met that he couldn’t have children,” says Adrian’s partner Michelle. “He actually told me before we started going out, I think that it was something which really worried him because it had caused problems in relationships before.  At the time it didn’t really concern me because I was still quite young and was focused on my job.”

The couple moved in together and Michelle’s priorities changed. “My sister had children and I used to spend a lot of time with them and it made me reflect on my own future. I was working long hours and my enthusiasm for my job had started to wane. I started to think about what else mattered in life.”

When Michelle turned 30 she stopped taking the contraceptive pill but Adrian was not optimistic that she would conceive. “In my mind I was thinking ‘miraculously I might fall pregnant,’” she says.

A woman’s fertility declines with age and at the age of 35 a woman’s chance of becoming pregnant naturally each month is just 10% (for a woman in her twenties it is 20-25%). Seven years after Michelle stopped taking the contraceptive pill she was still not pregnant and she knew that, at the age of 37, time was not on her side. She realised that she had been avoiding a conversation with Adrian for far too long.

“In the end I said to him, ‘I really want to do something before it is too late. We don’t really know why you can’t have children and science might have moved on since you last sought advice and there might be something which can be done.’”

Eligible for NHS funded treatment at Bourn Hall 

The couple went to see their GP and were referred to the James Paget Hospital for tests. “By this point Adrian was in his 40s and I was in my late 30s,” says Michelle, now aged 41. When tests confirmed male factor infertility Adrian and Michelle were told they would be eligible for NHS-funded fertility treatment and they chose to go to Bourn Hall Clinic, which has clinics across the East of England.

“I really had to push Adrian to take a leap of faith,” says Michelle. “There was that fear of disappointment again, being given hope and then possibly losing it. In the end I had to say to him, ‘I really want to try something, can we see if we can do it together?’”

Parenthood at last for couple who took ‘a leap of faith’ with medical science

Told there was hope – MicroTESE can overcome zero sperm

The couple went along to Bourn Hall Clinic and were given the stark news that Adrian was producing no sperm at all. “We sat there and thought, ‘oh, well there is nothing that can be done for us,’” reveals Michelle.

Specialists at Bourn Hall, however, explained that even a zero sperm count doesn’t have to mean that it is impossible for a man to father a child.

Adrian admits that he was emotionally quite thrown by this revelation. “ To sit at Bourn Hall and be told that even with a zero sperm count I might be able to father a child using my own sperm came as a complete shock.”

MicroTESE (micro-surgical testicular sperm extraction) involves using a surgical microscope to identify tiny tubules most likely to contain sperm – and then removing them for analysis in the laboratory. If sperm are found they could injected directly into an egg during IVF treatment.

Oliver Wiseman, Consultant Andrologist and male infertility specialist at Bourn Hall Clinic explains: “It is important that men with no sperm in their ejaculate or with very low numbers ask to see an andrologist who can undertake this surgery if it is indicated, as this will give them the best chance of being able to proceed with treatment using their own sperm.

Most men with low testosterone levels are given Clomid to try and boost their body’s own testosterone production, as normal levels of this are important for sperm manufacture and may increase the chances of finding sperm with microTESE.”

Adrian was prescribed Clomid for three months and then went back to Bourn Hall Clinic for the MicroTESE procedure. The couple were told that Adrian had responded to the medication and sufficient sperm were then found at surgery for the couple to have IVF treatment.

Slim chance 

“Our specialist at Bourn Hall was very honest with us and told us that he had found some sperm, but not very much,” says Adrian. “He was very honest with us about the risk of failure and the chances of success.”

“It is such an upheaval in your life,” says Michelle. “You feel like you are constantly in limbo. I stopped work, I didn’t want to put myself under any addition stress and we focused purely on achieving our goal.  Adrian said that until he was holding a baby in his arms he wouldn’t let himself believe it could happen, so much could go wrong. He said he just wasn’t going to count on anything happening.”

Michelle had been told during her treatment that one of her ovaries had stopped working and when the couple decided to go ahead with a third cycle of treatment they felt as though it was their last chance.

“We were down to our last sample of Adrian’s sperm which had been extracted and we decided to throw everything at this treatment,” says Michelle. “I had an endometrial scratch and intralipids before transfer because they are thought to reduce the risk of miscarriage.”

MicroTESE overcomes zero sperm

The couple were delighted when Michelle’s treatment worked and her pregnancy went to full term. On October 6, 2016 she gave birth to son Michael, who they named after Adrian’s own father who had sadly passed away some years before.

Michael is now a bubbly toddler and ‘a real little character’ laughs Michelle. “I am so glad that I did insist we sought help because if I hadn’t Michael wouldn’t be here. I didn’t want to end up an old lady asking myself if I could have had a child. My one regret is that I didn’t push for us to get help a little sooner, or had my eggs harvested when I was younger, as we might have had the opportunity to have a second child. But that is with the benefit of hindsight and you don’t think about that at the time.”

Adrian is a doting Dad. “Michael is a carbon copy of me,” he laughs. “Being a Dad has totally changed my life. To have been told from an early age that there was very little possibility that I would father a child and then to be 50 years of age and have a young son is just incredible.

The procedure used to retrieve my sperm is relatively new and so didn’t exist as an option for me when I was younger. I am just so grateful that we put our faith in medical science. There are no words to describe what has happened to us, it is a miracle.”

More information about MicroTESE

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.

cancer

“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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Struggling to conceive? You are not alone says Royston mum

Lucy from Royston still vividly remembers the deflation and gnawing disappointment she experienced every month at not being able to conceive – and then having to put on a brave face to the outside world.

Lucy, aged 39, says: “The really hard part for me was when friends were falling pregnant. I would be really pleased for them and go to the baby shower and share in their excitement but then I would go home, shut the door and shed a few tears before picking myself and carrying on.”

Now a busy mum to three-year-old Benjamin and six-month-old twins Oliver and Chloe following fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic, Lucy says the subject of children came up pretty quickly when she met her husband Andrew ten years ago. “It was something each of us had always seen in our future but up until that point neither of us had met the right person,” she says.

The couple got married four years later and started trying for a baby straight away. After 18 months they went to see their GP. “I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right,” says Lucy. “We had months and months of trying and nothing happening and getting disheartened and then other people telling us to relax and not think about it which is virtually impossible.

“It really takes a strain on a relationship, it takes all the fun out of things when you are trying for a baby for months and months. It was getting us both down, we had read every book on the subject, were eating all the right foods and had even gone organic, we were taking supplements and still nothing was happening. We wondered what we were doing wrong.”

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.

“By the time we went to see the GP I was 35 and had reached an age where I thought we really needed to get a move on,” says Lucy. “I had spent years being careful to avoid getting pregnant and so hadn’t expected it to be such a challenge when I actually wanted it to happen!”

Lifestyle changes

When Lucy started opening up to people about their situation she discovered that a number of people around her had encountered problems conceiving or had their children through IVF. “People tend to keep fertility issues to themselves but once I started telling people about our situation I was surprised at how many people I knew had experienced similar problems,” she says.

The couple’s GP referred them for hospital tests which revealed that Andrew had a low sperm count. “It can be hard for a man but actually for us we were pleased that we finally had an answer,” says Lucy.  “Andrew tried changing his diet and even wore loose underwear and I was advised to lose some weight to get my BMI down but we still didn’t conceive and so we were told that our best chance of a baby was with IVF treatment.”

Lucy and Andrew opted to have their treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic just outside Cambridge and were told that they could be treated using a procedure called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). Very few sperm are needed for this particular fertility treatment and it involved injecting Andrew’s sperm directly in to eggs retrieved from Lucy before transferring one of the fertilised embryos to her womb (uterus).

The couple’s treatment worked first time but they had an anxious few weeks wait before the pregnancy was finally confirmed after their first scan was inconclusive. “We were desperate to tell family in time for Christmas if it was good news and so the nurse at Bourn Hall fitted us in for a scan on Christmas Eve,” Lucy reveals. “I still get really emotional thinking about it. We went in and on the screen we saw the little flicker of a heart. I remember phoning my mum and sister on the way home to tell them the good news, it just didn’t seem real!”

Son Ben was born three years ago after what Lucy describes as a “textbook pregnancy” and he is now a happy and healthy toddler.

When Ben celebrated his second birthday Lucy had further treatment at Bourn Hall and was delighted when she discovered she was expecting twins. Oliver and Chloe were born six months ago and Lucy cannot believe how much her life has changed in the last few years.

“I have gone from thinking that I would never be a mum to having three little people in my house. It is completely surprising and I feel really blessed,” she says.

Lucy’s advice to other people finding it difficult to get pregnant is “trust your instincts.”

“I knew that something was not quite right,” she says. “It was such a relief when we did seek help because it felt as though we were not alone anymore.”

 

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Support through our IVF journey made all the difference

Emma (33) delightedly texts her husband Wayne (33) that their four month old son, Jake, has laughed for the first time. When they began trying for a baby back in 2010 this milestone was incomprehensible to them.

Childhood sweethearts

Emma begins: “Wayne and I have known each other since the age of five, when we started school together, but it wasn’t until we were 17 that we became a couple and then finally in 2009 we decided to tie the knot and think seriously about starting a family.

“For over three years we were on tenterhooks: every month hoping that the next month I would conceive. It was devastating not getting pregnant, especially when everyone around us seemed to be conceiving so easily.”

Referred for fertility tests

In May 2013 the couple went to see their GP and were referred for fertility tests. The results showed that Wayne had abnormally shaped sperm. They were informed that this could possibly be affecting their chances and so their consultant referred them to Bourn Hall Clinic. As the couple lived in Essex, they attended the satellite clinic in Wickford.

Emma says: “In advance of our initial consultation I was apprehensive at the prospect of IVF and imagined it being very invasive, even aggressive, but the Bourn Hall staff put us at ease.

Good chance with IVF

“The consultant we saw was very positive and despite our fertility test results thought we had a good chance of success with IVF.”

Wayne adds: “I have always wanted to be a dad, looking forward to when we had our own little family. So when we were told we had to go for fertility treatment it was a lot to take in. I was of course worried about what lay ahead for Emma and I, not really knowing what to expect. But once we had gone for our first consultation there seemed to be hope.”

Taking it one step at a time

The couple began their NHS funded treatment cycle in January 2014.

Wayne says: “All the way through the IVF treatment the staff at Bourn Hall were professional and friendly. They explained each stage of the process which helped ease my fears. I felt the best way to go through the process was to take each stage one at a time. I never wanted to look too far ahead in case things didn’t work out. I guess it was my way of coping.”

ICSI and blastocyst transfer

Seven eggs were collected from Emma and six were successfully fertilised by Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). All of the six embryos made it to day five blastocysts, of which one was transferred into Emma’s womb and another was suitable to be frozen.

Emma adds: “We took each step at a time; never quite daring to believe that I might become pregnant and ultimately us having a family.”

Wayne admits: “I never discussed any of the IVF process when we were going through it with friends. It seemed to be difficult to bring up in conversation. I think it was hard enough going through it without having people knowing and asking how it was all going.”

“We are so lucky to have Jake”

Emma’s pregnancy went smoothly and on 8th November 2014 baby Jake was born.

Emma enthuses: “He’s a wonderfully cheeky chappy, who’s very alert and loves to chat. We are so lucky to have him that it is beyond words.”

Wayne adds: “I have waited a long time to become a dad, and now it has finally happened I couldn’t be happier.  Sometimes it can be challenging but just seeing my little boy happy and smiling makes it all worthwhile. I love spending time all together as a family. I am looking to the future and all the adventures it will bring.

Bourn Hall staff were reassuring

“I cannot thank Bourn Hall enough, without all their knowledge and hard work we may not have our little family.”

Emma concludes: “And certainly if we do decide to have any more children we would return to Bourn Hall Clinic as the staff have been so supportive and reassuring.

“Any early fears about IVF have long gone and we would wholeheartedly encourage other couples that find themselves in our predicament to have hope and visit Bourn Hall.”

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Crohn’s Disease overcome with help of ICSI

As three-year-old James runs around excitedly with his cousin Bella at pre-school, mum Kelly cannot praise Bourn Hall, the fertility clinic which made his birth possible, highly enough.

Crohn’s Disease

“We always knew that we might have problems conceiving,” explains Kelly from Norfolk, “My fiance Paul has Crohn’s Disease and when he was very unwell he was admitted to hospital and treated with a medication that we were told may affect his fertility”.

The couple first met when Kelly was 17 and Paul was 22 and decided early on that they would like a family. After trying unsuccessfully for a baby when Kelly was in her early twenties they went to their GP and explained the background to Paul’s Crohn’s treatment.

ICSI

“Our GP was lovely,” says Kelly, “and immediately arranged for Paul to have a sperm test. The test revealed that there were problems with his sperm and we were referred for treatment in London.”

The treatment in London resulted in a pregnancy but Kelly was devastated when she had a very early miscarriage. “I did have a feeling though that something was wrong,” she says.

“The staff at Bourn Hall are amazing”

Kelly and Paul were then told that their hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn, had established a satellite service in partnership with the world-famous fertility clinic, Bourn Hall, and they jumped at the chance of NHS treatment closer to home.

The couple had their routine appointments at the hospital and then went to Bourn Hall Clinic near Cambridge for egg collection and embryo transfer. “The staff at Bourn Hall are amazing,” says Kelly. “We were greeted warmly from the moment we walked through the door.”

IVF with ICSI 

Kelly had IVF with ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) where one of Paul’s sperm was individually selected and injected into one of her eggs. After the first round of treatment the couple faced disappointment when the pregnancy test came back negative.

“We were upset,” says Kelly, “but we accepted that it was one of those things, just another hurdle along the way. We stuck together and our families were very supportive. We decided to try again.”

Second time around at Bourn Hall and Kelly says her treatment was textbook. “I was driving home from Bourn Hall in December 2010 and I just knew that it had worked,” she smiles. “I took a pregnancy test on New Year’s Day 2011 and it was positive!”

ICSI

Proud parents to James

After a stress-free pregnancy, which she enjoyed with her sister-in-law who was expecting a baby at the same time, Kelly gave birth to son James in September 2011, who topped the scales at over 9lb.

Since baby James was conceived, Bourn Hall has opened a full service fertility clinic at Wymondham near Norwich, and a dedicated satellite clinic at King’s Lynn.

The King’s Lynn clinic provides continuity of care for patients who need fertility investigations or treatment. This means that testing is in one place with one team of staff and couples can be treated together. For the specialist egg collection and embryo transfer, patients can choose to go to Bourn Hall clinics near Norwich or Cambridge which ever is more convenient.

Kelly welcomed the news that Bourn Hall was opening a new fertility clinic: “It will be so much better for people in this area of Norfolk” she says. “I cannot praise Bourn Hall Clinic enough. They are brilliant.”

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Long-term struggle overcome with donated sperm

Donating sperm really does change lives; there are few other things that you could do for someone else that would have such a positive impact.

One couple that will always be grateful to an anonymous donor are Ria and Lee from Suffolk, it took them ten years and two miscarriages to finally achieve their ‘happy bubbly baby.’

donated sperm

The couple married in 2001 and Ria then 21 came off the pill to start a family.

Ria (now 34) begins: “However time ticked on – I returned to university, our careers developed – and on turning 30, I realised we needed to do something.”

Investigations revealed a low sperm count

The couple went to their GP who referred them for tests at the local hospital.  When investigations revealed that Lee had a low sperm count, it was suggested that they had IVF treatment and from the list of fertility centres offered they picked Bourn Hall Clinic.

Ria says: “We chose the Cambridge clinic as set in a wonderful open space, the home to the first IVF baby – Louise Brown – and because I didn’t like the idea of being probed in a London clinic and then having to sit on a train home to Suffolk.”

Surgical sperm retrieval recommended

After the initial consultation in September 2012 it was suggested that an attempt was made to retrieve sperm directly from the testicles using a minor surgical procedure called surgical sperm retrieval (SSR).

Although the couple were told that there was a slim chance of it being successful they thought it was worth the chance.

Ria says: “We went in with our eyes wide open and we had wanted to try to see if we could have a baby that was genetically ours before considering other options. It was very disappointing when they couldn’t find any sperm.”

Using a sperm donor

The next option was to use donated sperm. Bourn Hall was the first clinic to freeze sperm and also the first to start a sperm bank.

Each donor prepares a short anonymous pen picture of himself and this is given to the couple, along with details of the donor’s build and colouring to help them to select a good match.

Several vials of sperm from the same donor are reserved for the couple so they can have a number of IVF cycles and also to use the sperm for siblings if required.

April was a tough month

In February 2013 Ria began a course of injections to increase her ovulation in preparation for the couple’s first NHS-funded IVF treatment.

“April was a tough month,” recalls Ria. “My Mum suddenly died two days before I was due to have my egg collection and then after becoming pregnant I later miscarried.”

Having decided they wanted to try again, the couple returned in mid-October for a second cycle of IVF treatment, again using the frozen donor sperm.

Although an initial home test revealed Ria was pregnant, unfortunately her seven-week scan showed heartbreakingly there was no baby.

The couple decided to wait until after Christmas to try one last time.

Baby Jacob arrives

donated sperm

For their third and final NHS-funded cycle it was decided to change Ria’s drug regime and also to continue with medication through the first 12 weeks of a pregnancy to improve the blood flow to the womb.

“When I was told at the first scan that I had a ‘healthy pregnancy’, it was such a relief that I cried but I was also concerned in case I lost the baby again. I felt like I was on a knife’s edge during those first few scans,” says Ria.

“The Bourn Hall staff were very supportive and easy to talk to and when I saw our little baby’s heart beating at the 12 week scan it was such a good feeling!”

The rest of Ria’s pregnancy went smoothly and on 11th December 2014 baby Jacob was born.

Ria reflects: “It took us a lot longer to get where we are, with our happy bubbly baby, but once referred to Bourn Hall Clinic the process was surprisingly quick.

“We now couldn’t imagine life without Jacob.  Lee phones me every day from work to check how his son is doing – it was well worth going through all the ‘hoops’ to get him.”

For more information about male infertility treatments.

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Success with ICSI after tests reveal PCOS and a low sperm count

Hannah and Chris were childhood sweethearts who assumed after they got married that a family would follow shortly after, but their hopes were dashed early on.

“I had always wanted children,” says Hannah, “and assumed we would have a honeymoon baby. We started trying for a baby straight away but nothing happened.”

Eventually she went to see her GP who referred both of them for hospital tests.

Tests reveal PCOS

“The tests revealed that I had polycystic ovaries, which came as a complete surprise as I had none of the more common symptoms,” she recalls.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects 5–10% of women and a common cause of infertility. It has only recently been determined that a large proportion of women with PCOS are suffering from insulin resistance. In some women, raised insulin levels have a knock-on effect on the ovaries, preventing them from releasing mature eggs, and so leading to infertility.

Low sperm count

The couple were then dealt a further blow when tests on Chris uncovered a low sperm count caused by a childhood condition.

“We had to do some battling after that as all of the proposed treatments seemed to focus on me rather than Chris but then a different hospital consultant looked at both of our histories and took five seconds to decide that we needed IVF. It was the best day of my life,” says Hannah.

ICSI treatment at Bourn Hall

The couple were referred to Bourn Hall in Cambridgeshire, and started treatment in January 2013.

“I really thought ‘this is our year’” says Hannah, “but my first treatment failed and we had to wait a few months before trying again.”

Hannah was treated at Bourn Hall using a process called ICSI which involved directly injecting one of Chris’ sperm into one of her mature eggs before transferring it to her womb.

Second time around Hannah knew she was pregnant even before she had taken the pregnancy test.

Baby Ewan arrives

“I just knew because I felt different,” she says. “It was amazing. The only way to describe how I felt is that before I was pregnant I felt broken and that on that day I felt as though a small piece of me was put back together. Gradually throughout my pregnancy I was pieced back together and now I am fixed!”

Baby Ewan arrived in May of this year after Hannah had a trouble-free pregnancy and Hannah and Chris cannot thank Bourn Hall enough for their treatment:

“Bourn Hall is just amazing,” says Hannah. “I don’t know if the people there realise just how appreciated they are. They are such special people. There was a nurse who held my hand when I was being treated and she really sticks in my mind, she and all her colleagues made me feel as though I was the only one who mattered.”

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NHS funding gave Kelly and Andy a baby miracle

With baby Grace playing in the background Kelly (43) recalls how her own and her husband’s, Andy (46), fertility problems were not going to stop them from becoming a family.

“In 1990, we met at a carnival in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, and were married a year later. We started trying for a family soon after. To begin with we weren’t too worried about time but as the years passed we began to panic. Our initial hope of me easily becoming pregnant was soon seen as a dream and so we went to a clinic in Ipswich for investigation.

“We had endless tests and investigations and I was given the fertility drug Clomid to help improve my chances of conceiving but it didn’t work.”

ICSI treatment recommended

The tests revealed that as well as Kelly having (PCOS), a condition that affects the way the ovaries work, Andy had a medical condition which affected his ability to produce a sperm sample, and this would require surgical sperm retrieval.

“Eventually we were told in vitro fertilisation (IVF) with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) was our only option if we wanted a baby.”

ICSI involves carefully injecting a single sperm directly into an egg in order to fertilise it. The fertilised embryo is then transferred to the woman’s womb.

Entitled to one cycle of IVF on NHS

In 2007, and living in Suffolk, the couple were entitled to one cycle of IVF on the NHS.

Following successful surgical sperm retrieval Andy’s sperm was frozen and put into storage until needed.

In January 2008, Kelly had her eggs collected. A total of seven were collected and four eggs were suitable for ICSI.

Kelly continues: “Devastatingly none of eggs fertilised. As it was our only NHS funded IVF cycle we thought our chance had passed; never again would we be able to try for a child as we simply couldn’t afford the treatment ourselves.

A gift from Andy’s parents

“Andy’s parents amazingly surprised us and generously offered to help fund our second IVF cycle. We were so grateful and with renewed hope we returned to Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge but this time as private patients.”

The couple started their second cycle of IVF in September 2008, but unfortunately it was not to be and the pregnancy test was negative.

“Again our hopes were dashed and we started to wonder if it would just be the pair of us forever. Then my Dad heard that the NHS funding criteria was changing and that we might be eligible for further fertility treatment.

“I was worried we might not meet the requirements as we’d already had one NHS funded treatment as well as a privately funded one but that didn’t stop us from trying.

Dad’s determination pays off

“My Dad was fantastic; making initial phone calls of enquiry and then helping with the follow up paperwork and letter writing. Ultimately due to his hard work we were entitled to two more NHS funded cycles of IVF. This news was a big weight off our shoulders and gave us the chance of becoming parents.”

The couple started their next cycle of treatment in April 2010.

“Tragically another negative pregnancy test: we were heart-broken yet again but luckily we did have one more fresh cycle available to us. This was to be our final attempt so we were incredibly nervous.”

The final attempt

In late September 2010, three eggs were collected from Kelly and using frozen sperm retrieved from Andy, two embryos developed. At blastocyst stage, they were then carefully transferred into Kelly’s womb.

“I was due to take the pregnancy test on my Mum’s birthday, the 16th October, but I was too nervous, so I naughtily took it two days early. I didn’t want to spoil my Mum’s birthday if it was another negative, but, amazingly we got our first ever positive pregnancy test! It was the best news ever; I screamed with excitement yet knew we still had a long way to go until we held him or her in our arms.”

At the 20 week scan the couple discovered that they were having a girl.

“We knew this was going to be our one and only child so we wanted to be able to buy the appropriate colour clothes and nursery stuff, which is why we chose to find out the sex.”

The couple welcomes Grace

On 22nd June 2011 baby Grace was born weighing 8 lb 3 oz.

“We thought long and hard about what we would call our miracle. We named her ‘Grace’ after the fertility goddess and for gracing us with her presence and ‘Hope’ because we never gave up!

“She completes the world for us and is everything we ever wanted. It showed us that miracles can happen.

“We know we were lucky to get further NHS funding. It made all the difference to us being able to have a family and we are eternally grateful to everyone at Bourn Hall who helped make our dreams come true.”

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New techniques improve the odds for IVF couple

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

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

A disappointing three cycles

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

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

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

Opting for IMSI treatment

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

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

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

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

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

IMSI

Double the delight

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

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

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

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

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

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

New techniques improve the odds for IVF couple

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Told he wouldn’t be a dad, Matthew proved them wrong

Gemma and Matthew knew from the beginning that having a family wasn’t going to be straightforward for them, as Matthew suffered a football accident when he was younger.

“At the age of 14 my GP told me that I would not be able to have children,” explains Matthew. “At the time it didn’t really matter to me – I was so young – but having become an adult and seeing our friends become parents my perspective has changed.”

Having been introduced by a friend, Gemma and Matthew started seeing each other in 2010 and after a year began trying for a baby. However, Matthew thought the likelihood of being a father was nearly impossible.

A visit to the GP

Gemma says: “Initially we were optimistic and hoped we might conceive naturally so we tried for eight months, but looking back, that time was more about us realising we needed to see our GP and get help if we ever wanted a chance of having a baby.”

Usually if a young woman has not conceived naturally within 18-24 months of regular unprotected sexual intercourse, she and her partner would be advised to see their GP to initiate tests. If there is a definite cause for the infertility, such as identified male infertility, then a couple can be referred sooner.

Gemma continues: “It was upsetting to realise we needed help but our GP was good and referred us straight away for investigation.”

The couple’s tests showed that Matthew was not infertile but had a low sperm count with low motility and so they were referred for NHS funded infertility treatment.

“From the list of clinics we were offered we chose Bourn Hall for its great reviews, experience in dealing with male infertility, and location,” says Gemma.

ICSI procedure

The couple’s first consultation was at the Cambridge-based clinic in autumn 2013. Their consultant discussed the various male infertility procedures available to them, including intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), where a single sperm is injected into the centre of each mature egg to help fertilisation occur. Of the resulting embryos one or two are then transferred to the womb in the same way as during an IVF cycle.

“Our consultant talked us through our options and showed a slide show, which was very helpful as before we didn’t know what was involved, especially with ICSI”, recalls Gemma; “it made the whole process much clearer.”

Gemma subsequently began a course of hormone injections to help stimulate her egg production and went to the local hospital for the routine scans of her growing eggs, as this was nearer to visit when  fitting in around work. Her results were then passed on to Bourn Hall where the specialist fertility nurses would advise Gemma on the dosage of her hormone drugs.

Disappointing first cycle

In December 2013, at the Cambridge Clinic, Gemma’s eggs were harvested and fertilised with Matthew’s sperm using the ICSI procedure.

Gemma returned a few days later for the embryo transfer but unfortunately she did not become pregnant on the first ICSI cycle.

“We were devastated,” recalls Gemma, “but thankfully we had two embryos frozen so we could try again.”

Matthew and Gemma welcome Ava

Worried that their second attempt might also fail, Gemma took her pregnancy test at 5:00 am so Matthew could be present to support her and know the result before leaving for work.

Fortunately the test was positive:

ICSI

“19th May 2014 is etched in my mind as the result was positive!” says Gemma. “I was overwhelmed with happiness and excitement as well as disbelief that we might become parents.”

Matthew adds: “I felt unbelievably happy and shocked. It was an incredible feeling seeing the positive pregnancy test and knowing I was going to become a dad.”

After suffering some initial morning sickness the rest of Gemma’s pregnancy went well and Ava was born on 31st January 2015.

“Having Ava is absolutely amazing,” says Gemma. “To go from thinking you can’t have a baby to then having your own in your arms is incredible. The journey was scary at moments, such as when I had to take the injections, but it was totally worth it!

“The staff were lovely and I can only say positive things about Bourn Hall. We would certainly choose them for any future treatment which would now be self- funded as we are no longer eligible for NHS funding now we have a baby.”

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One scan and we knew he was ours

With baby Freddie gurgling away in Lisa’s arms, she recounts the emotional journey she and her husband John have been on, including John overcoming cancer and three unsuccessful IVF attempts, to get to this happy stage in their lives.

“We’d known each other for a while but John and I had our first date two days before Christmas 2007 and our relationship took off from there. Due to our ages, John 38 and I 32, we started thinking about trying for a family quite soon, especially as we knew it would be difficult.

“I’d always had irregular ovulation and this was impacting our chances of getting pregnant. We went down the route of seeing our GP and getting referred for tests and fertility drugs. We eventually got referred to Bourn Hall for IVF treatment on the NHS but this was to be delayed.

sperm donor

Diagnosed with testicular cancer

“On Valentine’s Day, of all days, John was diagnosed with testicular cancer and basically told he was infertile. This put a real spanner in the works.

“John hadn’t been well for a while so we knew something was wrong but it still took a while for his cancer to be diagnosed and when it was it was already quite advanced. As John was so ill at the time the medics couldn’t retrieve any sperm from him and our aim shifted focus to getting him better and we’d think about anything else after that.

“At the time Bourn Hall wrote a really supportive letter; hoping John’s treatment went well and to get in touch when the time was right. We really appreciated that letter and glimmer of hope.

“Miraculously six months later John was given the all clear and we got married. We also felt the time was right to think again about having a family and so we approached Bourn Hall.

Sperm donation 

“We particularly spoke with Dr Kay Elder, who was very helpful and gave us some good advice. We also spoke to Oliver Wiseman a specialist in sperm retrieval.

“Unfortunately following John’s cancer the chances of sperm retrieval were very low. The specialist did offer us the procedure as well as the option of donated sperm.

“John had already kind of come to terms with the fact that he might not be able to provide sperm and father a child when he was diagnosed with cancer but the choice wasn’t to be taken lightly.

“After a week’s agonising we decided that because of our lives and circumstances that the best route was to use a sperm donor as we wanted to give ourselves the best chance to have a family.

“Once we had made that decision and told the Clinic, they were brilliant and told us to come in for a consultation and offered us counselling. This was great as it gave us an insight into the process of IVF, the implications of donated sperm and the process of selecting a sperm donor.

“Following blood tests to check that I was compatible with several potential donors we were sent five profiles to review. We went through their descriptions and selected the one that we thought seemed the best for us and the one that John also liked the sound of, which was very important to us.”

Lisa was given a course of fertility drugs to stimulate ovulation and her eggs were collected. Her first cycle was very successful and she produced 18 eggs of which 16 were mature enough for treatment and 10 resulted in embryos, of which five were frozen.

IVF with ICSI 

The couple had IVF with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), which involves injecting a single sperm into each mature egg, to help fertilisation to occur.

One or two of the resulting embryos can be transferred to the womb in the same way as in a conventional IVF cycle. Any additional suitable embryos not transferred in this cycle can be frozen for future use.

“I had one embryo transferred but unfortunately it didn’t work so we decided to try again. The next cycle also had a negative result. For the third time we hoped our luck might have changed and we’d be lucky.

“I did become pregnant and was so excited but it was short lived. When we tested the second time it was negative. It seems it was just a chemical pregnancy.

“Following three failed attempts I was emotionally drained and on the brink of a break down and so we decided to take a break from trying. I even gave up work to reduce the stress in our lives and then a few months later we were ready to try again.”

Pregnant with the fourth attempt

sperm donor

The couple returned to Bourn Hall for their fourth attempt and Lisa began a fresh cycle in August 2013. She successfully fell pregnant and baby Freddie was born on 15th April 2014.

“During the pregnancy I did have a few concerns about whether we would both feel Freddie was part of us. However from the moment we had our first scan he was definitely ours.

“We are ecstatic about Freddie and can’t believe our luck. It is the best thing in the world when John walks in the room and you see Freddie smiling at him.

“It’s been worth every moment for us as it was about being parents and loving our child. Thanks to our sperm donor and hopefully telling our story will help others experience the joy we have.”

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Kate’s journey to ‘change one thing’ supported by Lorraine Kelly

I was lucky enough to marry my best friend Chris. Not only were we excited about getting married, we were excited about starting a family and sharing our love and future together.

Months passed with little and no sign of being pregnant. We were not too fazed by this as we were in our early 30’s and knew it could take a year or two.

I had also been overweight for most of my life, trying different diets and ‘lifestyle changes’ but felt like nothing really worked, but you see overweight parents all the time right…? So I honestly felt there were no concerns.

lose weight to have a baby

Then our first wedding anniversary came round. The last 12 months had flown by, but I did secretly expect to be pregnant by now.

A few more nice holidays were the perfect excuse when people asked that all important question “so when are you going to have a baby?” Little did they know that every holiday we booked, we hoped to not actually go on, we would happily lose our deposit. It would be for a good reason after all.

Now it was two years of trying, and no luck. I had used a digital fertility monitor and this showed that I wasn’t ovulating. But I knew that women don’t ovulate every cycle – we agreed to go to our GP and see what they could suggest.

Lorraine’s “Change One Thing” feature

Between this decision and the appointment, I had been watching morning TV and up popped Lorraine Kelly. She was talking about a segment that was going to feature in the show called “Change One Thing”. In her perfect Scottish voice Lorraine convinced me to email the show, to explain mine and Chris’ situation. I certainly didn’t think we would end up where we are today, that’s for sure!

A few calls and a FaceTime interview later, I was talking to the producer of the Lorraine Kelly Show and he wanted me! (And Chris but mainly me to start off with!!!)

At a visit to the doctors a few weeks later she suggested a progesterone blood test for me and a semen test for Chris. My blood test showed that yes I hadn’t ovulated, but Chris had loads of sperm and they were all fine.

January 5th at 0850 was my slot and my moment to really make some changes. I was introduced to Victoria Milligan who would be my mentor, a fantastic woman, an inspiration to many. We spoke about diet and exercise and changing my life in order to have this baby! I felt so positive and maybe in a few months we would be pregnant.

Losing weight

A bit of exercise and a bit of healthy-eating should do the trick, so I threw myself into this new lifestyle. I joined a gym and got rid of all the naughty food we had in the house.

Then a heart-breaking phone call from our GP, “I’m sorry I can’t refer you until your BMI is lower”. This meant years of diet and exercise for me, or that’s how I felt.

My husband was staying positive as usual and this really did help, even when I was having a bad day. I started a Facebook page and my friend did a piece in the local paper on mine and Chris’ story. I really put myself out there to make sure I didn’t give up – nothing like public humiliation to keep you sticking to that diet!

“Why wasn’t my body working?” 

I had looked at various fertility clinics around the country and tried to educate myself as much as possible. I knew I wasn’t ovulating, but didn’t know why. I was convinced I had a growth in my womb, or a blockage in my Fallopian tubes and even sometimes wasn’t sure I had the right bits to do the job, because quite frankly, why wasn’t my body working? Everyone else’s seemed to.

Two and a half years into trying, a few more stints on Lorraine, (she was becoming a regular feature in our life now!), two and a half stone lighter but still no ovulation. That’s it, let’s just call it a day, I would think. But then I was still young enough to keep trying different things and still lose weight. Just keep going, I would think in the next breath.

Chris and I started to discuss different things we could do if the NHS couldn’t do anything for us. We thought we would leave it until Jan 2016 then pay £800 for a fertility MOT at Bourn Hall Clinic. This was the next step for us, but I had to be ready for whatever I was going to hear from the fantastic doctors at this prestigious clinic. Was I really ready for this or could I carry on living in my own world hoping that it would happen naturally…?

lose weight to have a baby

A surprise Fertility MOT 

August 2015: surprised by a film crew at work! Yes, that’s right, I thought they had come to check up on me to make sure I was still sticking to my healthy living regime. No, they had come to surprise me with the news that Bourn Hall had donated the Fertility MOT for Chris and myself to have ASAP.

Shock! I couldn’t believe this. This doesn’t happen to people like us, what’s going on! We turned up at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic a few days later for my first blood test and Chris’ semen analysis. We spoke to a lovely lady who explained exactly would happen, on that day and on our return.

We both left there feeling reassured and excited. Three weeks later on day 24 of my cycle we head back to the clinic for me to have a pelvic scan and HyCoSy procedure. I was anxious of what might be found, or not. After all this was the day when we would find out if we would ever be parents or not. I had read up on what the procedures were and how they were carried out, and instantly felt nervous.

Nervous about the procedure

Apart from my smear tests I hadn’t had any gynaecological explorations. Was it going to be painful, how long was it gong to last, how many people were going to be in the room? I needn’t have worried. Dr Gideon Verwoerd greeted us with a smile, and instantly relaxed us. He explained in more depth what would be happening, and assured me I would be fine throughout the procedures.

Ken, the sonographer, sat me down in a room with two screens, a big chair, and the all important curtain. Chris was sat next to me holding my hand.

Sharing the moment with ITV

Oh, did I mention ITV wanted to film Chris and I at the Bourn Hall Clinic. (!!!) I had got myself into this and wanted to help other couples that may be in the same situation as us. So part of me didn’t mind sharing this experience but the other half was a jibbering wreck.

What if they found something sinister? What if I could never have our child? Did I want this filmed…? Luckily the film crew were sent out during the second procedure. And everything was carried out with the utmost discretion. A little bit of discomfort with the procedure but no worse than period pain. Also I had been my sister’s birthing partner twice, so if we did get pregnant, I was pretty sure labour was going to be worse. So man up Kate and get on with it, I kept thinking!

After five minutes, and bit of explaining what was on the screens, I liked that we could see what was going on inside me and that Ken and Gideon talked us through the whole thing.

Results time

Results time. This was it. This. Was. It. So, what did they find… everything with my Fallopian tubes was fine, there were no blockages, no PCOS and nothing sinister. Yay!

However the lining in my uterus isn’t good quality, due to low progesterone, and my body’s resistance to insulin is what seems to be the problem. It’s suppressing my progesterone levels, so I don’t ovulate.

At last we are getting somewhere! Chris’ results sadly showed that his little swimmers didn’t do their job very well. They needed waking up, and a SatNav(!), but there were lots of them so definitely room for improvement!

Dr Verwoerd prescribed me some drugs to help with my insulin resistance and a progesterone gel to take for ten days during my cycle starting at day 24. And encouraged us to keep exercising and eating healthy and for me to lose some more weight.

And Chris got some supplements to help improve the quality of his swimmers. We both needed to avoid alcohol for the next three months and be healthy. This is crucial for us now.

“The staff at Bourn Hall were fantastic”

Chris and I definitely feel like we have made progress. Even though we came out with more problems than we went in with, we now have a clear direction of where we are going on this journey.

So we will head back soon to see if there has been any improvement for both of us. Fingers crossed there will be. There might even be an ovulation, or better still a pregnancy …! If not there are other options still, and now we know what they are.

The staff at Bourn Hall Clinic were all fantastic. Made us feel very relaxed, and at ease at this nervous time in our lives.

We would strongly recommend that if anyone is unsure of their fertility status or have been trying to get pregnant for a while, just to go and have the Fertility MOT. What have you got to lose? It will change your way of thinking. Knowledge is power, and quite often the key to success.

To read more, please visit the ITV website

Ref CS094

Mum with multiple sclerosis overcomes obstacles with IVF

“Being a mum is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it is absolutely worthwhile.  Sometimes I just sit and stare at my beautiful boy Alexander and think ‘how did this happen?’  It’s amazing!”, says Victoria. The 35-year-old conceived her son after IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic.

Victoria can well remember the feelings of frustration that come when trying to conceive: “Every month, if my period was a couple of days late, I would think, ‘is this it?’. Then I’d experience the rumbling pain in my stomach when meant my period was on the way and would know another month had passed without success.”

Multiple Sclerosis

Victoria suffers from multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition which affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord causing problems with muscle movement, balance and vision. While the condition does not cause fertility problems, Victoria had to stop taking some of her medication and wait a year before she and husband Neal could start trying for a baby.

After a further two years with no success, the couple went to see their GP who referred them for tests at their local hospital.  While the tests were ongoing, Victoria was rushed to hospital in the middle of the night with suspected appendicitis.  It was discovered that she actually had a 6cm cyst on her ovary which needed emergency surgery to be removed.

endometriosis

Endometriosis

Victoria picks up the story: “Along with the cyst, the doctors discovered I had serious endometriosis which also had to be removed.  I always had painful, heavy periods and just thought it was normal, until I discovered it was due to this condition where bits of my womb lining grow outside by womb.

“At this point, we thought the odds were stacked against us ever having a child.  Our consultant told us we could try IVF on the NHS and we chose to be treated at Bourn Hall Clinic in Colchester”

IVF with ICSI at the Colchester Clinic

Victoria had to wait for her body to recover before starting IVF treatment.  While the treatment was going on, Victoria remained stoical about their chances of having a child.

She explains: “My MS is made worse by stress, so trying to keep calm was vital, and I didn’t want people asking about it all the time.  We didn’t tell anyone we were having IVF other than our parents and one person at each of our places of work.

“I tried to stay as emotionally detached from the treatment as possible so I viewed each trip to the clinic as just another appointment and took everything a step at a time.”

The couple had IVF with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection), a procedure where a single sperm is injected into the egg to fertilise it. Two weeks later, Victoria snuck off to the bathroom to take the pregnancy test that was to signal a change to their lives.

The couple welcomes Alexander

endometriosis

Baby Alexander was born on 4 August 2013 at Colchester General Hospital weighing 7lb 11.5oz after a quick hour and a half labour.  Victoria and Neal are delighted with their little boy and say everything they have been through is worthwhile.

Victoria adds: “The staff at Bourn Hall were so helpful and reassuring that it made everything easier to cope with.  Nothing was too much trouble from them… I just can’t thank them enough!”

Ref CS052

Joy following fertility check and IVF treatment

“Being a mother is an unbelievable feeling.  It gives you a sense of purpose, having a little person who depends on you and always comes first.  We’ve been through a lot to have our baby girl but it’s been absolutely worthwhile now she’s here!”

A painful miscarriage

So says Rebecca, 37, proud mum to baby Amelie, born on 12 November 2013 following IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge. Amelie arrived after four tough years for Rebecca and husband Robert; the couple endured the pain of a miscarriage before deciding to give IVF treatment a try.

Rebecca explains: “Robert and I married in 2007 and started trying for a family a couple of years later.  We were both chuffed when I fell pregnant naturally and everything appeared to be going to plan.

“I went for my 12 week scan at the hospital and that’s when we found out the baby had gone. My body still thought I was pregnant which is why I hadn’t realised.  The miscarriage was devastating – by far the worse thing I’ve ever been through.  To come so close to motherhood and then lose the baby really did upset us both.

“Our doctor said I would be more fertile after coming pregnant and urged us to keep trying.  Month after month passed and nothing happened, which we both found difficult.  Instinct told me something was wrong.”

A fertility check leads to IVF treatment 

Rebecca and Robert went to see their GP who referred them for fertility testing at their local hospital.  The tests came back normal but Rebecca still felt something was not right.  She and Robert decided they wanted more tests done and went to Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic for a Fertility Check.

A Fertility Check is a package of tests that provide more in depth information about underlying fertility issues. It involves a blood test to measure levels of AMH hormone which indicates a woman’s ovarian reserve and a pelvic ultrasound scan to check for blockages, cysts or structural problems. A semen analysis will check a man’s sperm count, size and motility (movement) and all the results are discussed in a consultation with a fertility specialist.

Additional tests can check for levels of progesterone hormone, to confirm a woman is ovulating. Further ultrasound scans where a dye is injected into the fallopian tubes check for blockages.

Rebecca says: “I’m so glad we went for a fertility MOT because they identified we did have a problem.  The consultant at Bourn Hall recommended we took these results back to our doctor to discuss them.

“After further consultations we were referred for IVF treatment and chose Bourn Hall. The staff are so helpful and supportive – it was an easy decision to go back.”

Bourn Hall is one of the best performing clinics in the UK.  Recent success rate data for 2013 showed a 55.8% clinical pregnancy rate for women 37-years old or under. Although fertility declines with age, the results for women over 38-years old are also excellent, with 38.2% achieving pregnancy.

“It was a rollercoaster of emotions”

Rebecca and Robert’s Bourn Hall fertility consultant recommended them to have IVF with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). ICSI involves injecting a single sperm directly into the egg to fertilise it. The resulting embryo is then transferred into the womb.

The treatment was successful first time and Amelie was born nine months later weighing 8lb 13oz.  Rebecca and Robert could not be happier and have the following advice to couples contemplating their own IVF journey.

“Going through the treatment wasn’t easy, especially as I had just started a new job. I was worried about the injections but Robert helped me with these and it made him feel a bigger part of the process.

“It was a rollercoaster of emotions, but now we have Amelie it seems a lifetime ago. I would urge anyone not to give up on their parenting dreams and try and stay positive, even through the difficult times.

“We thought we might have to pay for our IVF treatment, but when we found out that we could have help on the NHS it was fantastic and such a relief. Our GP was great too and was really supportive. She advised us on the best way forward and was always on the end of the phone if we needed her. Without Bourn Hall and the NHS funding we wouldn’t be where we are now and we might not even have Amelie in our lives. We can’t thank them enough.

“There’s so much that can be done to help couples and I’d have always regretted not having IVF if we’d chosen not to do it.”

Ref: CS047

Baby joy after 12 years trying to conceive

“It’s true what they say, IVF is one huge emotional rollercoaster” says Anastasia, who spent 12 years trying to conceive.

For Anastasia (41) and her husband Thomas (45), from Peterborough, that rollercoaster was a long and complex journey which spans over 12 years.

Anastasia begins: “We started trying to have a baby as soon as we got married in 2002. After a year with no success we went to our GP and were referred to our local hospital for some tests.”

“I really struggled with it being unexplained”

The tests revealed that Thomas’ sperm had slow motility (movement) but that it shouldn’t affect the couple’s chances of conceiving. The hospital concluded it was unexplained fertility and they were referred for one cycle of NHS funded IVF treatment in 2007, which they chose to have at Bourn Hall Clinic near Cambridge.

“I really struggled with it being unexplained infertility” recalls Anastasia. “I think it was harder not knowing what the problem was. It would have been easier knowing and having something to focus on and a hurdle to overcome. I found it really difficult and frustrating.

“Being referred for IVF treatment it felt like we were actually doing something and we were full of optimism. Looking back on it now we were quite naïve.”

IVF with ICSI 

The couple had their first appointment at Bourn Hall and after some more tests and another semen analysis the consultant decided Thomas’ sperm motility could be the cause of their infertility and that IVF with ICSI would be the best treatment for them.

ICSI stands for Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection and is when a single sperm is injected into the centre of a mature egg, to help fertilisation occur.

Anastasia had her egg collection in 2007 and produced six eggs, which resulted in several good quality embryos, one was frozen and two were transferred to her womb after the second day of incubation.

“Then it was the horrible two week wait before you can take the pregnancy test” recalls Anastasia. “You want to do it early! My heart was saying do it and my head was saying don’t because the result might be false. It was so difficult to control my emotions.

“When we finally took the test it was negative. We were devastated. At the time there was only NHS funding for one cycle of treatment and we couldn’t afford to self-fund so the decision was made for us. We had to save up and wait till we could afford further treatment.”

A glimmer of hope

However, in 2009 the funding criteria for IVF in the East of England changed and the couple were entitled to a further two fresh and a further three frozen cycles of treatment.

“We were absolutely delighted when we heard the news. We thought this was our chance. This time I produced more eggs at the collection and they were left to develop until blastocyst stage. One embryo was transferred and another four were frozen.

“The two week wait was no easier this time but I took reassurance from a forum called Fertility Friends where I could see that other women were going through the same thing and feeling the same way.”

Unfortunately when Anastasia took the test it was negative again. The couple were disappointed but decided to keep on going and booked in for their next treatment which was a frozen cycle, using their five frozen embryos. Two were transferred to Anastasia’s womb but when she took a pregnancy test after two weeks it was negative.

Considering alternative methods

At this point the couple had been trying to conceive for over eight years and so Anastasia started to look into alternative ways to boost their chances of conceiving.

“I’d done some research on immunology and thought that prednisolone, a steroid that reduces the immune response, would help us, but at the time the drug hadn’t been researched enough for Bourn Hall to prescribe it. Our consultant recommended clexane instead which is a blood-thinning drug that helps implantation and increases blood flow.

“I produced quite a few eggs this cycle and the embryos were top grade. Two embryos were transferred to my womb and at this stage we were quite hopeful because we had two transferred and they had both been such good quality.”

The couple were right to be optimistic. Two weeks later Anastasia took a pregnancy test which showed she was pregnant.

“We were ecstatic!” exclaimed Anastasia. “I was so happy that it worked. It was the first time I’d be pregnant since we started trying nine years ago.”

“We were devastated”

Thrilled that things finally seemed to be going their way the couple booked in for a seven week scan, but a couple of days before the appointment Anastasia started to bleed. After a visit to A&E she was told to continue taking the medication, but that it might be a miscarriage.

Looking back, Anastasia says “I think we were holding on to a thread of hope and when we had the scan a few days later there was no heartbeat. We’d had our hopes built up so much, only for them to be ripped apart. We were devastated. I shut myself off from the world and just wanted it to all go away.”

This cycle marked the final NHS funded IVF treatment the couple could have so Anastasia and Thomas took some time to grieve and think about their future. It was during this time the couple renewed their wedding vows and had their wedding blessed in a church.

Support from mum and dad

Anastasia’s mum and dad offered to pay for one more cycle of IVF treatment, but Anastasia had mixed emotions about having more fertility treatment.

“I was so grateful to mum and dad for giving us another chance, but it took about three years before I thought I was ready. I think I was scared, I kept on making excuses to not go through it again.

“One day I saw on Fertility Friends that someone had been prescribed prednisolone at Bourn Hall. I was convinced that the prednisolone would help and when I rang the clinic and they said it was something they offered now I was thrilled. We were so happy we could go back to Bourn Hall for our final chance at having a baby.”

Anastasia and Thomas started treatment in 2013, knowing this was their last chance.

“I’d let my mum and dad know how much it might cost but they said that this was the final shot and to do anything that would give us a better chance of success.”

Prednisolone and Clexane

Anastasia was prescribed prednisolone and clexane during her treatment and was also given a course of intralipids. Intralipids are known as an adjuvant treatment, something that seems to work in practice but doesn’t yet have a scientific evidence-base. Bourn Hall has achieved good pregnancy results using intralipids before conception and during pregnancy. It is thought the treatment stops the immune system attacking the embryo.

“I’d convinced myself that our problem was to do with my immune system so having the intralipids and prednisolone made me feel much more confident.”

Opting for IMSI and EEVA

The couple decided to have IMSI (Intracytoplasmic Morphologically Selected Sperm Injection) which has been known to boost success rates for cases where implantation hasn’t worked on several occasions following ICSI treatment.

IMSI involves the assessment of sperm at a very high magnification, allowing embryologists to identify any defects or abnormalities. Once a sperm is selected it is injected into a mature egg in the same way as standard ICSI.

The couple also opted to use EEVA (Early Embryo Viability Assessment) which takes pictures of the developing embryos inside the incubator every five minutes. This information together with a software analysis helps the embryologist to select the best embryo.

Anastasia continues: “We thought we’d use EEVA because it was something new and it made sense. The consultant explained to us that every time an embryo is assessed traditionally, it is disturbed when it is removed from the incubator. Using EEVA the embryos could develop in the incubator without any disruption.

“I only produced five eggs, but all of them went to the day five blastocyst stage. Because of my age I was able to choose two embryos to be transferred. We didn’t have any frozen so this was it, our final chance.

A nervous wait after 12 years trying to conceive

“After 10 days we came back to Bourn Hall for a blood test to see if I was pregnant. Afterwards we had to sit in the café and wait for the results. I remember I had three cups of tea and sat pretending to read a magazine. I think Thomas was doing the same thing too – it was a horrible wait!

“The nurse called us over and I burst into tears, I was overcome with fear. I tried to compose myself but the nurse smiled and said she couldn’t have me crying any longer. She told me I was pregnant and I burst into tears of absolute joy and relief.”

trying to conceive

Understandably the couple were delighted, but once they calmed down the nerves set in.

“I had another three intralipid infusions once every four weeks and each time I felt like I’d achieved another milestone and we were that bit closer to success.

But it wasn’t over yet for the couple.

“At about nine weeks I started to bleed and my heart sunk. I thought here we go again. I went for a scan the following day but everything was ok! We could see him there and it was so reassuring. Throughout the rest of my pregnancy I had quite a few scans which helped comfort my nerves.”

Proud parents to Hugo

Thankfully this time Anastasia and Thomas had no need to be nervous. On the 28th May 2014 baby Hugo was born.

Anastasia says “It took 12 years to have him but he is so worth the wait. He is lovely. Dark hair and dark eyes just like his parents. I love being a mum. I’ve worked with children my whole life, but this is completely different and everything I’ve always wanted.”

“Be there for your partner, to support every aspect”

Thomas adds “No one really thinks the men go through anything, but every setback and every emotion is felt as hard and as much as the women. We are always on the side lines as we only have ‘one job’ to perform but my advice to every other man about to embark on such an important journey, is to just be there for your partner to support every aspect. Try and attend all appointments and scans and above all, don’t take things personally and just believe that your life will be enriched when you succeed.

“I adore being a Dad to our beautiful baby boy Hugo. He was definitely worth the wait. I can’t wait to get home from work to spend time with him and I enjoy giving him his bath which we call ‘Barry Bathtime’ as we listen to Barry Manilow! Hugo makes us feel complete.”

Ref CS059

New procedure overcomes infertility caused by cystic fibrosis

“It’s a Celfie”, says Rachel showing a picture of her baby’s first picture. For her and her husband Tom, their lives would be very different now had it not been for the NHS funded IVF treatment they received at Bourn Hall Clinic in Colchester.

Rachel starts: “We wanted to try for a baby as soon as we got married, which was in 2010. After 18 months of trying nothing had happened so I thought we should go to our GP and get the ball rolling.”

Cystic fibrosis causes male infertility 

The couple had to have blood tests and Tom provided a sample for a semen analysis. This revealed that he had a sperm count of zero. Further tests at the Broomfield Hospital and the UCLH showed that Tom was a carrier of cystic fibrosis and didn’t have any vas deferens.

Around one in 25 white Europeans in the UK is a carrier of the cystic fibrosis gene. Carriers of the gene can have problems with their fertility. Some men are born without vas deferens – the tubes that transport sperm from the testicles to the penis. Without these tubes, sperm cannot mix with the seminal fluid and so there is no sperm present in the ejaculate.

Rachel continues “knowing the cause of our infertility was a like a big relief. It was good to know what was stopping us from conceiving, that there was something that could be done for us and we could put a plan of action in place.”

Testicular sperm aspiration brings hope

After further testing Rachel and Tom were sent back to their GP. They were referred for NHS funded IVF treatment which they chose to have at the Bourn Hall Clinic in Colchester.

“I was apprehensive before our first visit to Bourn Hall Clinic, but as soon as we were there, I was put at ease” adds Tom.

Rachel continues: “In March 2013 we started treatment at Bourn Hall. We met with our consultant urologist at the Colchester clinic. They decided Tom would need a treatment called TESA to find sperm.”

Testicular sperm aspiration (TESA) occurs when a fine needle is inserted into the testis and samples of tissue containing sperm are obtained through gentle suction. For Tom, the procedure was a success and produced two vials of high quality sperm which were frozen for use in future IVF treatment cycles.

Later that month Rachel began her treatment at Bourn Hall. She had blood tests and ultrasounds, and was shown how to inject herself with the fertility drugs.

Rachel returned to the clinic in May 2013 for her egg collection and produced 16 eggs, nine of which were successfully fertilised using Tom’s sperm. Five of the embryos developed to 5-day Blastocysts. Four embryos were frozen for use in future cycles and one was transferred to Rachel’s womb.

cystic fibrosis

“It was such a surprise!”

From then Rachel and Tom had a nervous two week wait before they could take a pregnancy test to find out if their treatment had been a success.

“I couldn’t bear to wait the two weeks before taking the test. I did it a bit earlier” reveals Rachel.

“We went through treatment thinking the first cycle would just be a trial go and to treat it like a learning experience. I had convinced myself it wouldn’t work so when I looked at the test and saw it was positive I couldn’t believe it! It was such a surprise!”

Looking back on their treatment, Rachel feels that for them being open helped a lot.

“Both of us were honest with our friends and family from the beginning. I think we felt much more comfortable with everyone knowing. It meant we had a whole support group to confide in and help us through it.”

Delighted that they had been successful on their first round of IVF treatment, Rachel and Tom looked forward to the arrival of baby. Amalie was born on the 27th March 2014.

cystic fibrosis

Beating the odds

Tom says “the staff were always honest with us about our chances of success. I’m just so pleased we beat the odds!”

“You can’t prepare for it” says Rachel on what it feels like to be a mum. “One day you just come home with another person! It hasn’t been chaotic yet; just everything takes so much longer than you think!

“We are both so grateful to have been able to have our treatment on the NHS: it meant everything to us. Without it we wouldn’t of had a chance and we’d never of had Amalie. We are so thankful to them and Bourn Hall for their help in giving us the family we’d always wanted.”

More information 

Fertility testing provides information about sperm quality.

Bourn Hall has consultants with specialist knowledge of male infertility. 

To find out more come to one of our Fertility Awareness events. 

The Cystic Fibrosis Trust has advice about the condition

Ref: CS056

Hope of fathering children snatched away at 20

At 20 Fraser felt he and his partner Nina were still too young to consider starting a family, but then suddenly his hope of ever fathering a child was snatched away from him.

The couple met in 2004. Shortly afterwards it was found that Fraser had Klinefelter Syndrome, a genetic condition that affects about one in 600 new born boys. The baby is born with an extra X sex chromosome in his cells – XXY, rather than the usual XY. This second X chromosome carries extra copies of genes, which interferes with the development of the testicles and can make the carrier infertile.

Klinefelter Syndrome shock

Most men with Klinefelter Syndrome have normal lives, jobs and relationships, and will be unaware of their chromosome variation. It is a condition that can be treated with Testosterone Replacement Therapy but this won’t restore fertility.

Nina begins: “Learning Fraser was infertile was a huge shock for him and us as a couple. Initially we buried the topic under the carpet before realising if we ever wanted to have children we needed to discuss our options and see our GP.”

IVF with sperm donation

In May 2011, Nina and Fraser confirmed their love for each other and were married; a month later they had their first consultation at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic.

The couple had been referred for NHS funded IVF treatment and given a choice of clinics.  Nina explains: “Following our research we opted to go there. We knew Bourn Hall had excellent success rates and it was a much better setting than the other hospital options we’d been given.”

The couple would need donor sperm for treatment and Bourn Hall has its own sperm bank. Sperm donors are anonymous but provide a short pen picture about themselves and a message to be given to any future children arising from treatment. A donor is selected that has similar physical characteristics to the future parents.

Nina continues: “As we were using donor sperm, we filled out the necessary paperwork, giving details of physical characteristics like height, eye and hair colour. A few days later we were sent a couple of matching profiles. We picked the one we thought most suited.”

Sufficient sperm is reserved for treatment and also for future siblings.

“The whole process was very quick,” she says.

Baby Alfie arrives

Following successful IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), a form of assisted conception treatment involving the injection of sperm into the womb at the time of ovulation, Nina gave birth to Alfie in February 2012.

“Although our first treatment was NHS-funded, if we wanted to give Alfie a brother or sister this further treatment would be self-funded so we would have to save up for this.”

Unsuccessful with IUI 

In early 2013 the couple returned for two further IUI treatments, but both were unsuccessful. The couple were devastated.

Nina explains: “We decided to take a break before returning to Bourn Hall to discuss our options. Initially we thought IVF was too expensive to even consider but then we learnt of the egg donor programme.”

Nina considers egg sharing

As Nina was only 28, fit and healthy she would be eligible for consideration for egg sharing; this is when a woman shares half her eggs with another patient and in return receives free treatment.

“Egg sharing gave us a way to get IVF, which we badly wanted, and we could also help another couple. As someone had kindly donated sperm to us it seemed a no brainer to give something back.”

All Bourn Hall patients are offered complementary counselling, but for egg donors this is obligatory.

“Fraser was initially reluctant to go as he wasn’t sure how it would help, but we did find the opportunity to talk to an impartial person and hear different perspectives useful. It confirmed for me that egg donation was definitely right for us and Fraser even said it was ‘helpful’.”

Within a few weeks a match was made with another lady and then it was a matter of synchronising the two patients’ treatments to ensure both were ready at the same time for embryo transfer.

The collected eggs were shared between the two ladies.

Twin brothers for Alfie

Nina was given IVF with Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) where the embryologist selects a single sperm and injects it directly into the egg.

Nina says: “Having decided this was our last go we opted to have two embryos put back in so hopefully one would develop into a baby.”

A scan at Bourn Hall confirmed Nina’s positive home pregnancy result and subsequently the couple learnt they were expecting twins.

On 18th July 2015 Harry and Jack were born.

Klinefelter Syndrome diagnosis overcome with sperm donation

“We are extremely delighted to have our twins; initially it was a shock learning we were expecting them but from then on it was so exciting preparing for their arrival.

“Fraser is an amazing Dad and dotes on them. I think especially as he realises there was a high possibility that without Bourn Hall we wouldn’t have been able to have any children.

“We’re now settled with three but I would consider egg donation again as it helps others and most certainly it would be at 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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Cancer survivor now father thanks to TESE procedure

When Kevin from Cambridgeshire hugs his two young children, he feels as though he has a multitude of reasons to count his blessings.

A childhood cancer survivor, Kevin was told as a teenager that he would never be able to father children of his own but thanks to pioneering treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic he has gone on to become a dad – not once but twice. He also recently conquered cancer for a second time and is looking to the future with a renewed sense of optimism.

“Being a Dad is something I thought would never happen and now I have two beautiful children,” says Kevin, aged 40, as he plays with two-year-old Arthur and cradles latest arrival, nine-month-old Evelyn. “I have also just been given the all-clear from cancer, having had a second shock diagnosis last year, so I feel ‘extra double’ lucky!”

Childhood cancer

Kevin was four when he was diagnosed with non Hodgkin lymphoma, a rare cancer that affects the body’s lymphatic system. He battled the disease for two years and had chemotherapy, which can cause a man to become infertile.

Kevin had always accepted that he wouldn’t be able to father a child until he met his future wife Natalie, a midwife.  She remembers:  “I had to think hard about whether we had a future together if we couldn’t have a family.  Being a midwife, surrounded by pregnant women and babies, it could become difficult to cope with.  I loved Kevin and wanted to be with him, so we chose to cross any difficult bridges when we came to them.”

TESE procedure enabled IVF

When a sperm analysis showed a zero sperm count, Kevin and wife Natalie were referred to Bourn Hall Clinic in 2011. They saw the clinic’s male fertility specialist Dr Oliver Wiseman who encouraged them to try a procedure called TESE  – which would involve retrieving viable sperm from tissue extracted from Kevin’s testes. The couple agreed and the procedure was successful, enabling Natalie to undergo IVF treatment using Kevin’s sperm. Arthur was born in 2013 and a further embryo was frozen.

For the couple baby Arthur was a miracle and although they held little hope that this would be repeated, they both felt they needed to try again with the single frozen embryo.

Natalie says: “Despite the chances of success being slimmer with literally just one frozen embryo for treatment, we decided to go ahead. I didn’t build my hopes up too much but Kevin and my mum were absolutely convinced it was going to work.

“My treatment second time around was much less stressful as I didn’t have to have the hormone injections to stimulate my egg production. Three days after treatment we moved house and so I managed to keep my mind busy on other things and tried not to think about the pregnancy test. I was amazed when it came back positive. In fact I re-took the test ten more times just to double-check! We were absolutely over the moon!”

TESE

Another battle with cancer

Unfortunately their elation was to be short-lived. Kevin became unwell. Initially thinking he had food poisoning he got more and more ill over a six-week period until he couldn’t keep any food or drink down and lost two stone in the process.

After being admitted to hospital and undergoing tests Kevin was stunned to be given the news that 35 years after his first diagnosis he once again had cancer.

“I was absolutely shocked and devastated that this had happened right in the middle of something which should have been so amazing,” he says.  “My primary concern was for Natalie, our unborn child and Arthur. I kept asking myself whether I was going to see my children grow up”.

Kevin underwent a 10-hour operation to remove parts of his pancreas, bowel and stomach, which was then followed by six months of chemotherapy. Throughout this period, Natalie had to remain strong for everyone.

“When Kevin came home after his operation, Arthur and I were so pleased to see him and it felt as though things might get back to normal,” says Natalie. “Then one Friday I went off into Ely to have a beauty treatment, got back that evening and settled down on the sofa with Kevin to watch England play in the Rugby World Cup. We were half-way through the National Anthem when my waters broke, I was only 28 weeks pregnant!”

Premature labour

A neighbour was drafted in to look after Arthur whilst Natalie and Kevin rushed to Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where Natalie works. She then proceeded to go in to premature labour.

The couple are convinced that the stress of the previous few months played a part in the turn of events and so having thought they would be having a Christmas baby welcomed daughter Evelyn in to the world much earlier than planned on 29 September 2015.

“Working at Addenbrooke’s I knew that I was in the best possible place to have a premature baby,” says Natalie. “I didn’t doubt for one minute that she would be okay but I was frightened at how tiny she was. She came out with a full head of hair and screamed and screamed, she made far more noise than Arthur ever made! We fell in love with her straight away.”

TESE

Natalie was sent home after a few days but Evelyn stayed in Addenbrooke’s until the middle of November and so Natalie spent vast amounts of her time at the hospital either with Kevin whilst he underwent chemotherapy or visiting Evelyn.

Although Evelyn was allowed home for Christmas, with Kevin’s cancer still hanging over them, it was a muted affair. “Arthur had presents but he was the only one who did and we just about managed to get a Christmas tree up,” says Natalie. “We just wanted to get to the end of the year and see the back of it.”

Looking to the future with optimism

2016 was shaping up to be a good year with Kevin being given the all clear from his cancer in March.

“I am now just looking forward to what lies ahead, seeing the children grow up and watching how they turn out and hopefully having a healthy, happy future for myself,” he says. “I am just so grateful that I am still here and that I have got a complete family with two beautiful children who I once thought I would never have. I am just so lucky to have them both and to have my health back.”

Natalie is also looking to the future with optimism:

“I am going back to work and trying to get back to normal,” she says. “We are trying to put everything behind us and move forward and enjoy our children that we have thanks to Bourn Hall.

“We are so grateful to Oliver Wiseman at Bourn Hall for his efforts at the very beginning andlooking at whether Kevin would be able to father his own children. We are a complete family now and I would say to anyone that even if the odds are stacked against you, if you want something, keep going forward and fight for it and hopefully you will achieve your dreams.”

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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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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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Years of cricket nearly stopped Clive becoming proud father of three!

“Clive plays a lot of cricket, so when our consultant said a testicular trauma may be the cause of our fertility problems we could all picture what probably happened!” explains Lindsay as she talks about her journey to becoming a parent.

When Lindsay and Clive married they started trying for a family straightaway, as they both knew people who had had problems conceiving in the past.

Two years later Lindsay had still not become pregnant and so the couple began to investigate their fertility further. At the time Lindsay was referred to hospital for tests and had a laparoscopy to identify any problems.

“This showed I had a dermoid cyst on one of my ovaries. The doctor explained it was unlikely to be affecting my fertility and as it was not a threat to my health, there was no point surgically removing it at that time.”

Lindsay was given Clomid to induce ovulation and give her fertility a boost. “After two months the headaches were unbearable, so I couldn’t see this being the right option for us”.

In July 2006, Lindsay and Clive went for a consultation at Bourn Hall Clinic, Cambridge. Clive had a semen analysis which showed he had a high number of antibodies in his sperm, causing them to clump together or ‘aggulate’, reducing the chance of conception.

Early in life the human immune system is trained to recognise any cells which are not part of the body, which helps fight infection later in life. As sperm is not present until puberty, the immune system does not recognise the cells and will respond against them. To prevent this happening, sperm are protected from a man’s immune system by the blood-testes barrier. Injuries can breach this barrier allowing the immune system to gain access to the sperm and form antibodies. The antibodies attach to the sperm, impairing motility and often cause the sperm to clump together. Antibodies in the sperm are responsible for around three percent of all cases of male infertility.

Now knowing what was causing their problems, Lindsay and Clive started their first cycle of IVF. 11 eggs were collected, of which five successfully fertilised and developed to the blastocyst stage. Two of the embryos were transferred to Lindsay’s womb and three were frozen.

Lindsay continues: “It was so exciting to be pregnant! At the seven week scan there was a heartbeat and we were thrilled”.

Unfortunately, in January 2006 at the 12 week scan the couple discovered there was no longer a heartbeat. “We were devastated. The miscarriage was really hard to take, especially as we had already been through the IVF process to get pregnant in the first place.”

“Before we had another cycle of IVF our consultant suggested removing the cyst that had shown up in the laparoscopy. This would hopefully increase the number of eggs we got from the egg collection procedure.”

By May 2007 Lindsay and Clive felt ready to start again, using the embryos that had been frozen but sadly after embryo transfer Lindsay did not fall pregnant.

In November that same year they began another fresh cycle which produced 19 eggs, seven of which were successfully fertilised and developed to the blastocyst stage. Two embryos were transferred to her uterus and in January 2008, Lindsay was pregnant with twins!

“I was very nervous throughout my pregnancy because of the previous miscarriage and then the additional complication of twins. I also developed gestational diabetes towards the end of my pregnancy, so I had to alter my diet and inject a little insulin, but otherwise I was fine.”

On the 4th of September 2008, Lindsay gave birth to two healthy girls, Bryony and Imogen. “The twins are non-identical. Imogen is fair and blue eyed like her mum and Bryony is quite dark and brown eyed like her dad. We were thrilled and overjoyed that our dream of becoming parents had become a reality.”

In 2011, Lindsay and Clive decided to have another cycle of treatment.

“We still had five frozen embryos at Bourn Hall so we decided to give it a go and if it was meant to be, it was meant to be. Only two embryos survived the thaw, but one developed enough to be transferred.”

Lindsay fell pregnant again and on the 23rd November 2011 she gave birth to Eliza. The embryos that grew into babies Bryony, Imogen and Eliza were all fertilised at the same time, so the siblings are technically triplets, with Eliza being born three years later than her elder sisters!

“My sister-in-law conceived her daughter at Bourn Hall Clinic too, so she had said we would be well looked after. Everyone at the clinic was fantastic, from the receptionists to the nurses and consultants; they all made us feel welcome.

“Since I started my treatment I have recommended Bourn Hall to several of my friends in similar situations, some have been successful; some are only at the beginning of their journey to being parents. Clive and I have had a brilliant experience at Bourn Hall Clinic and now we have three beautiful children to complete our family, we couldn’t be happier!”

Years of cricket nearly stopped Clive becoming proud father of three!

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