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

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

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

A baby was a deal breaker

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

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

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

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

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

Not ‘token lesbians’ 

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

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

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

Didn’t need IVF

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

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

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

Athletic donor

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

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

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

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

Moment of conception

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

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

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

IUI with donor sperm gives second baby

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

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

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

More information about support for same-sex couples.

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

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Family dream comes true for Emily and Debbie thanks to donor sperm

Two years ago the couple started looking at how they might go about it.

“It was very important to us that we used a regulated fertility clinic,” says Emily. “We were not married when we started looking into it, although we are now, and wanted both our names on the birth certificate. This was really important to us and we wanted to go about it in a safe and structured way.”

As Emily is six years younger than Debbie they decided that it should be Emily who underwent the fertility treatment. “We thought that as I was younger it would increase our chances if I tried first,” she says.

“After doing online research we went to a clinic in London and had two rounds of fertility treatment there, but it didn’t work and we found the clinic very impersonal so I wasn’t keen to go back.”

Emily and Debbie had sourced their own sperm from a company in Denmark and still had one frozen vial left in storage with the London clinic. “The Danish company we bought the sperm from adheres to UK standards and laws but the big difference between getting sperm from Denmark and from a UK clinic was that we were allowed to see early childhood photographs of the sperm donor and hear his voice so we felt as though we got to know him as a person a bit more. Being able to see baby pictures of potential donors really helped us to find someone with similar features to Debbie,” says Emily.

Treatment at Bourn Hall Peterborough

The couple decided that they would go with the last vial of sperm to Bourn Hall Clinic and discovered that it has a satellite clinic in Peterborough. Emily and Debbie live in Lincolnshire but both work in Peterborough, so they found this really convenient.

“Being able to nip in for appointments and scans up the road was just perfect for us,” Emily says. “There was far less disruption to our working day and that made us more relaxed; I think that made a massive difference.”

Family dream comes true for Emily and Debbie thanks to donor spermEmily and Debbie had virtually all of their appointments and scans at Bourn Hall’s Peterborough clinic, with only the egg collection and embryo transfer taking place at Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic. The frozen sperm was transferred from their previous clinic to Bourn Hall for storage in its sperm bank.

Bourn Hall was one of the first UK clinics to have its own sperm bank and can offer free IVF treatment for those who meet the criteria for sperm or egg donation.

“I produced a lot of eggs,” says 30-year old Emily. Her eggs were fertilised with the donor sperm using a process called ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), which involved directly injecting each egg with a single selected sperm. The embryos were kept in a laboratory incubator for five days.

Two embryos were then transferred to Emily and the couple had to wait 14 days before taking a pregnancy test.

Emily quickly convinced herself that the IVF treatment hadn’t worked.

“I had spent the weekend with stomach cramps and so was really not hopeful at all,” she says. “I thought to myself ‘oh well, that’s it all over and done with.’

“I woke up really early on the day I was due to take the pregnancy test, took the test and thought it looked like a negative result. I was absolutely devastated but eventually managed to get back to sleep. Then Debbie woke me up and said she thought the test might be showing a positive so we drove to the chemist and sat outside until it opened. I bought more pregnancy tests and took them into the toilets at Sainsbury’s – it was very bizarre!”

Double delight

The couple were delighted when the tests confirmed that Emily was indeed pregnant and at their eight week scan were told they were expecting twins.

“Debbie was exceptionally excited by this news but I went into an utter panic for two weeks,” laughs Emily. “I had spent all of that time hoping for a baby and then suddenly discovered I was having two. I had a bit of a meltdown! When we went back for the 12 week scan, though, it seemed exciting and manageable.”

Maisie and Florence were born in December 2016 and proud mum Emily says: “They make our world complete. We wanted them so much. We’ve got a lot of lovely family support around us, as well as a group of friends we call ‘The Fairies’ as they are the girls’ ‘fairy godmothers’ who will always be looking out for them.”

Donor sperm for same-sex couples

Emily and Debbie’s experience at Bourn Hall was a really positive one, reports Emily: “When we went in for our appointments in Peterborough with Sue, our fertility nurse specialist, it was like going in to see an old friend. She took the time to get to know us and what was going on in our lives, and she really settled me down when I panicked after finding out I was expecting twins. We have recommended Bourn Hall to a number of our friends and some have already started treatment there.”

Family dream comes true for Emily and Debbie thanks to donor sperm

For more information

Using donated sperm

Free IVF treatment for donors 

For more information take a look at our Pathways to Parenthood blog.

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

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

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

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

Looking at online donor sites

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

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

Fertility issues 

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

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

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

Weight loss with PCOS

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

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

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

Sperm bank offers choice 

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

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

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

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

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

Wedding nerves

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

Sperm bank helps couple overcome fertility issues and become mums

Devastated

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

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

Second time around Melanie did get pregnant but sadly miscarried.

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

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

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

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

Rush of nerves

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety first

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

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

Sperm bank helps couple overcome fertility issues and become mums

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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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Julie becomes a mum at 40 with sperm and egg donation

Single and 40, Julie from Ipswich knew the chances of her dream of becoming a mum were slim, especially as NHS funding for IVF was out of the equation. Then her parents came up with an offer and Julie’s life was to change for the better.

Julie begins: “I’ve always had a strong desire to have children of my own but my partner didn’t; sadly we split up and I began to review my options, which were very limited.”

Julie’s parents offer their support

One possibility was to try IVF with donor sperm. Understanding Julie’s strong desire to be a mum, her parents offered to help support her in getting self-funded IVF treatment.

“Having Mum and Dad offer me this opportunity was amazing. Their support and financial help made IVF a possibility. We researched IVF clinics and based on its reputation and location I arranged to visit Bourn Hall Clinic in Colchester on 24th December 2013.”

Tests reveal few eggs were left

Julie began her first IVF treatment in January 2014; initial tests including one for the anti-mullerian hormone (AMH) revealed that she had few eggs in her ovarian reserve. Even with medication she was unlikely to produce many eggs and the egg collection was unsuccessful.

“I was prepared for this, having been fully briefed by my consultant, but it was still disappointing.

“Bourn Hall was brilliant at offering a measured approach, explaining the process and my options. They made things so clear it gave me confidence to try.”

Donated sperm and eggs

Having already elected to use donated sperm from Bourn Hall’s sperm bank, Julie decided to join the waiting list for donated eggs.

“Choosing a sperm donor from the anonymous details provided was straightforward and luckily I didn’t have to wait long on the egg donor list before I was paired with a potential donor.”

The other lady was having IVF treatment herself at Bourn Hall and offered to donate her spare eggs.

An egg donor may choose to donate for altruistic reasons and/or for a free cycle of treatment.

Julie adds: “It is an absolutely huge decision for a donor to make and so very generous of her to share her eggs; I’m so grateful she did.”

The treatment for the lady donating her eggs and for Julie was synchronised to ensure embryo transfer at the right time for both patients. The donated eggs were successfully fertilised using ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection) with the donated sperm and the resulting two embryos were transferred into Julie’s womb.

“I was slightly nervous on the day of transfer but it was incredibly quick.

Double the delight

“Then ‘9th July 2014’ was an amazing day as it was the date I saw the cross on my pregnancy test. I wrote the date down as it meant so much and I wanted to celebrate this wonderful day even though I was aware that it might not become a baby.”

However Julie had nothing to worry about as 38 weeks later she was cradling twins: Sabine and Sebastian.

“I absolutely love being a mum and seeing the world through their eyes. I’m 44 now but for them everything is new and wonderful.

“My parents – the twins’ grandparents – have been fantastic all the way through my journey to have children and I’m so lucky to have such amazing people in my life.”

“The counsellor gave me confidence”

Bourn Hall offers all its patients specialist counselling and having decided to have treatment at the Colchester Clinic Julie was keen to make the most of this valuable resource.

“The counsellor gave me confidence and reminded me that there are many different types of families. That the key thing for children is to know they are loved and wanted. Having the opportunity to discuss these matters and the potential questions that might and will be asked of me was definitely very helpful.”

Julie concludes: “With the financial support of my parents and the expertise of Bourn Hall I was given the chance to be a mother, which I’m so grateful for.

“I nearly missed out, so I consider myself very lucky.”

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

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

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

Three attempts with IUI

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

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

Miscarriage was devastating

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

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

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

Bourn Hall staff alleviated anxieties

single woman

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

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

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

Success with IVF treatment

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

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

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

“Molly is all I ever wanted”

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

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

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

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

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

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Double the delight for Kerry and Stacy with IUI

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

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

Selecting a sperm donor

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

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

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

Third time the charm with IUI

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

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

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

IUI and donor sperm

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

A welcome surprise

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

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

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

Proud mums to Rorie and Logan 

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

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

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

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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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He told me to leave him and find someone who could make me a mum

Having met the love of her life Emma thought ‘being together was enough’ but deep down she wanted to be pregnant and have a child of her own.

Emma was 22 when she met Sean, who was in his early forties; they soon realised they wanted to spend the rest of their lives together and Emma knew from the outset that this probably wouldn’t include children.

“From the moment I met Sean I was head over heels in love but as he had children from a previous relationship, and a vasectomy, I was happy with things as they were.

“However later on my Mum died. In her dying days we’d discussed children and I then realised how much I wanted a child myself and found I couldn’t suppress my feelings anymore.

“Sean and I discussed it and as he had had a vasectomy we considered IVF using donor sperm.”

sperm donation

A visit to the Cambridge Clinic

As Sean already had children the couple weren’t eligible for NHS-funded treatment. Knowing of Bourn Hall the couple decided to visit the Cambridge Clinic to learn more about their options.

“When we were there we learnt about the egg sharing programme, which seemed ideal for us. It would help cover the cost of our treatment and help someone else, like the sperm donor was doing for us.”

To donate eggs or sperm you need a health check and tests revealed Emma was a carrier of the Cystic Fibrosis gene and so unable to share her eggs.

“It was devastating to find we couldn’t continue with the egg sharing programme.  This information was a shock too so we decided to take some time to reflect.

“This was a very difficult time for me. Wherever I looked there seemed to be mums or pregnant women. If anyone asked me about having babies I’d just reply ‘being together was enough’ but inside I was in a state.

“Sean even suggested I leave him and find someone else who could make me a Mum but that was beyond my comprehension. Yes I wanted a child but with him as the Dad.”

Failed reverse vasectomy

Sean began researching into other options for them, such as adoption or vasectomy reversal, which seemed an option. Sean found a well-respected surgeon in the Midlands and booked an operation. However, during the procedure Sean’s heartbeat fell dramatically.  The surgeon was concerned and cancelled the operation.

“It was a very worrying time,” recalls Emma. “Thankfully Sean turned out to be alright but our trip had been wasted. The surgeon did say that from his examination of Sean it looked hopeful so we were optimistic and started saving again.

“We never told our families in case they worried and we found out afterwards that they thought we were going away on lovely holidays!”

Unfortunately the second attempt of a reversal was also unsuccessful.

“It was devastating. Sean was left in pain from the operation and it had all been for nothing.”

Again Sean suggested Emma leave him but she refused believing that somehow they could have a family together.

Sean makes a change of plan

Sean says: “It really hit us hard the second vasectomy reversal failing. We were so sure it was going to work. We both agreed to have a holiday and Cuba was the intended destination. In the meantime Emma was working hard at our fruit shop and everything appeared to be back to normal, but I knew she wasn’t happy.

“One day when I was at home looking online at holidays, I just knew it wasn’t right to spend our savings going abroad. Although I was older and have children I wanted her to have a chance.

“Emma was born to be a mum!

“So I got every bit of money we had, put it in an envelope and gave it to Emma – it was all we had in the world. I thought let’s have a go at IVF. Then we would know we had explored every avenue and tried everything.”

Donor sperm for IVF treatment

The couple decided to go back to Bourn Hall to discuss IVF, and by now the Wymondham Clinic had opened.

Emma says: “We saw an amazing consultant who discussed all our options and what would give us the best chance of success. We agreed to try using donor sperm for IVF treatment.”

All Bourn Hall patients are offered complementary counselling but for those involved in the donation programmes it is a requirement.

“This was helpful to confirm we had made the right choice and to address questions that we might have later on.”

For the couple it was important they had a good match to Sean, which is done by completing a form with the desired characteristics. The donor also provides an anonymous pen picture and a message for any future children resulting from the treatment.

“Sean filled out a characteristics form and we were provided with three choices. The nurse talked us through them and we were provided with letters from each of the anonymous donors. We chose the one we felt was the best match for Sean, which happened to be the first one.”

One embryo survived

In May, following egg collection, seven of Emma’s eggs were fertilised using the donor sperm.

“We got the call from Bourn Hall to come in for embryo transfer and only one embryo had survived. I was so sure it wouldn’t work. I lay on the medical table crying. One of the nurses came over, held my hand and reassured me that one embryo was all that was needed for a baby.

“Unbelievably it worked! Of all the routine scans, seeing my baby in the eight week scan was the best day of my life. Couldn’t believe I was pregnant and there was my baby inside.”

Emma and Sean welcome baby Kathleen

On 23rd January 2015 Kathleen was born.

“Kathleen is amazing!” says Emma. “She completes us.”

Sean agrees: “Our world is complete.

“I believe every woman – if she wants to – deserves the chance to be a mum. Emma only had one embryo but what a beautiful embryo it was!”

Emma continues: “Throughout our treatment at the Wymondham Clinic the staff were brilliant.So welcoming and you felt as if they gave a bit of themselves. We are a strong couple and love each other very much but Bourn Hall and the nurses made it possible, helping us through the ‘down’ days.”

Emma admits that when she wrote invites for Kathleen’s first birthday party she had tears rolling down her cheeks: “I’ve waited all my life for Kathleen and certainly doubted if this moment would arrive.

“Sean and I will be celebrating Kathleen’s first birthday with family and friends and most certainly having a cake.”

donor sperm

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