After MRKH diagnosis at 16, surrogacy was my only chance of a baby

MRKH diagnosis at 16 shattered baby dreams

“I realised something was wrong when at 15 I was literally the only one who hadn’t started their periods.

“I just had an instinct that something was wrong. My mum took me to the doctors to get checked out. I went for tests and an MRI at my local hospital and then I was sent to Queen Charlotte Hospital in London, and was given my diagnosis.

“I have a condition called MRKH which basically means that my womb and the top part of my vagina is underdeveloped. I still have my ovaries so can produce eggs, but I will never be able to carry a baby myself.”

The cause of Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser (MRKH) Syndrome is unknown, but it is a genetic disorder.

“At 16 I was scared of telling people, but after opening up to someone at church who is a mentor for young people, I began to find the confidence to share my story with others. I did have some counselling and this was helpful to be more open about my condition.

“I was very fortunate to be sent to Queen Charlotte because it is the UK’s hub for MRKH. They have information sessions once a year and group therapy sessions.

“An early one was about surrogacy and a number of women came who had children through surrogacy and mentioned Surrogacy UK. So, I knew that it was possible but it also felt very daunting.”

Started baby fund at our wedding

“I met my husband Christopher when I was 20 so we always knew we would need to use a surrogate and decided to start the process shortly after getting married in 2018. We even asked for contributions to our ‘baby fund’ instead of wedding presents, as you can’t get NHS funding for surrogacy.

“We approached Bourn Hall Wickford because it was a local to us and also because I know about Bourn Hall’s history of opening the world’s first IVF clinic and I felt it was a clinic we could trust.

Sophie, Chloe and Chris at the seven-week scan at Bourn Hall Cambridge

Needed expert in trans-abdominal egg collection

“I know other women who have MRHK and they haven’t been able to have IVF, due to the position of their ovaries and because there are few specialists that can do the trans-abdominal egg retrieval. It was just amazing that Bourn Hall had someone.

“The doctors at Bourn Hall told me that my ovaries ‘float around’ as they are not anchored in place by the womb. So, they weren’t sure that vaginal access for egg collection would be possible, so we went to Bourn Hall’s Cambridge clinic to see the expert in trans-abdominal egg collection.

“I was really pleased to get eight eggs, because we didn’t know if they would find any.  Four of the eggs formed embryos with Christopher’s sperm and they were all frozen.

“Once we found our surrogate, she would have a Frozen Embryo Transfer with our embryos, so there would be no genetic link with the surrogate.”

Joined Surrogacy UK

“We joined the Surrogacy UK online members website where you can message people. After nearly 8 months we met Sophie and spent three months getting to know each other before we became a ‘team’ in August 2021.

“Sophie was 27 and already had her own children. She said she wanted to be able to help a couple have a family, she is incredible.

“Sophie always made us feel like ’this is your journey I am just here as part of a supporting act’. It felt right and we got on with her really well and felt we trusted her.

“I got back in touch with Bourn Hall and we managed to get an appointment in September 2021.

“We all completed the HFEA forms individually and then had consultations separately and the same with counselling. Then we all came together as a team which was helpful.

Preparing for frozen embryo transfer

“By early November Sophie had started her medication for the Frozen Embryo Transfer. She had to inject herself, take medication, insert pessaries – she did all of that for us and it wasn’t easy.

“The Frozen Embryo Transfer happened on 6 January 2022. I was able to be in the room with Sophie and held her hand as we watched it on the screen. It happened very fast you don’t really see that much, but we got an ultrasound photograph of the moment of transfer so I could show Chris. Afterwards we went out and took a selfie to capture the moment.

“Chris and I were excited, but all the way along we ‘guarded our hearts’ because on these kinds of journeys there is worry and disappointments in lots of areas and so you want to be excited but you are not there yet.

“Our IVF had worked first time. I feel that evening we let our ‘guarded hearts’ be a little bit happier and hopeful.

“Sophie was amazing throughout the pregnancy, ultimately she became our friend and it was a really lovely experience. We went to the 7-week viability scan at Bourn Hall and it was amazing because at 7 weeks you see something flicker on the screen which is the baby’s heartbeat.

I was there at the birth

“All the way through the pregnancy I was really anxious about the birth. Sophie had her second baby on her landing, it was that quick. We live 40 minutes away from her so we were worried that we wouldn’t make it to the hospital for the birth.

“In the end she had a caesarean, and I was allowed to be in the room. It was almost like a full circle really because I had held Sophie’s hand at the embryo transfer and then I held her hand for the caesarean.”

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Chloe and Chris with Matthew

It was a surreal moment

“When Matthew was born in September 2022 I was allowed to cut the cord and I had my first skin-to-skin with him it was really lovely. Chris then came to meet him, it was just such a surreal moment.

“I was actually able to breastfeed Matthew, I had been prescribed an anti-sickness medication which has a side-effect of inducing lactation, it was really nice to be able to do that, it was special.

“We spent three days in hospital, I was allowed to stay with Sophie and then when me and Chris finally took Matthew home it was amazing.

“The first night at home just the three of us was really special. We spent all the time cuddling Matthew as much as we could!

Bourn Hall made it happen

“We have agreed that Sophie will be Matthew’s ‘Auntie Sophie’ so that she is part of his life. She has got her own family but we want him to know that he was helped into this world with her help.

“According to the law Sophie is automatically the birth mother, but because she isn’t married to her partner, we were able to put Chris on the birth certificate and put in a parental order application to become legal parents.

“Our parental order was granted on July 12 2023 and we went out together for lunch with Sophie and her partner to celebrate. 

“Bourn Hall was amazing. Every step of the way I was treated as the intended mother and so for example at the embryo transfer they did talk to Sophie about what was going to happen but they also answered all my questions and gave me the ultrasound and reassured me because I was nervous and that was the nice part about it, the compassion.

“Surrogacy is not necessarily an everyday thing although it is definitely increasing and it was really nice to go to a place and feel the compassion and understanding of our journey.”

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Matthew and Chloe with Auntie Sophie

One of the most beautiful experiences of my life

Surrogate Sophie says that carrying Chloe and Christopher’s baby has been ‘absolutely life-changing’ for her:

“I can’t quite capture it in words, but being able to bring a child into this world is the most incredible feeling,” she says.

“After having three of my own, I wanted to be able to do this for somebody else. It was a dream of mine for a very long time.

“To watch Chloe cut Matthew’s cord and call his name when they handed him to her was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life.

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“Watching them grow as a family in the first few days after their baby was born made me realise how much I made the perfect choice.

“They have given me the opportunity of a lifetime and it’s been absolutely life-changing. I cannot thank them enough for letting me be a part of their journey. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

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More information

Find out more about the process of using a surrogate for fertility treatment at Bourn Hall.

National surrogacy week takes place from 1-7 August each year – find out more at


Surrogacy helped Amanda achieve her dream of having a family after cancer

Amanda and Jason were childhood sweethearts, they got married in their twenties and started trying for a baby six years later. After trying to conceive for two years they were referred for fertility tests. It was during this time Amanda had devastating news: she was diagnosed with endometrial cancer.

Endometrial cancer

Amanda, who had not had any symptoms, explains: “It was a total shock, I wasn’t ill and felt fine. Luckily the cancer was grade 1a, meaning it hadn’t spread and was completely contained in the womb. The fertility testing had caught it at a very early stage but as a hysterectomy was part of the treatment, it meant I’d never be able to carry a baby.”

It was her surgical oncologist that suggested the possibility of using a surrogate for IVF treatment. As the cancer hadn’t spread and chemotherapy was not required, Amanda’s ovaries were not removed during the hysterectomy. However, as the cancer had been oestrogen dependent (one of the hormones the ovaries produce) the ovaries had to be removed after a year as delaying any longer increased the risk of the cancer returning leaving the couple just a small window of opportunity to make a decision.

Embryo freezing

The couple decided they did want their own child and were given an emergency appointment at Bourn Hall Clinic. “The staff at Bourn Hall were incredibly kind,” says Amanda. “They explained that as my womb had been removed I had to be anaesthetised for every egg collection. After the collection the eggs were fertilised by Jason’s sperm and then frozen. The clinic told us that freezing embryos (the egg and the sperm combined) gave a better chance of a successful pregnancy than eggs alone, and after three rounds of treatment, 14 embryos were frozen.”

Bourn Hall had helped Amanda and Jason hold on to their dream of having a child that was genetically theirs. They now needed to find a surrogate who was willing to carry their baby. For legal reasons this had to be independent of the clinic.

Amanda and Jason with baby Effie

Surrogacy UK

They joined Surrogacy UK, an organisation that believes in surrogacy through friendship and it was here they met Annie. “We were friends with Annie for over a year before she offered to be our surrogate. Trust and a good relationship were the main factors we needed to embark on this journey and we definitely felt this with Annie,” explains Amanda.

Annie had always wanted to experience pregnancy but without the ‘consequences’. “I’m a little bit unusual as I never wanted my own children,” says Annie. “The idea of being a surrogate started off as a bit of a joke, but a few years ago I started researching into the possibility. I met Amanda and Jason at one of the Surrogacy UK socials and we naturally formed a friendship. At the time I was pregnant and on my first journey with another couple. Six months after the birth, I wanted to help another family and they were the obvious choice.”

Amanda and Jason’s frozen embryos were moved to a clinic nearer to Annie for treatment and she got pregnant on the first try. “It didn’t seem real,” says Amanda. “After all we’d been through we couldn’t believe it was finally happening, we didn’t buy anything for the baby until after the 20 week scan. We saw Annie every two to three weeks, went to every midwife appointment and got to feel our baby kick.

“When Effie was born Jason cut the cord and we had our first cuddle. We felt incredibly lucky.”


Our family was complete

In 2019 Amanda and Jason welcomed their son Jude after Annie had further treatment using one of their frozen embryos.

“Our dreams had come true,” says Amanda. “We felt extremely privileged to meet our son and that our family was complete.

“Over the years of being members at Surrogacy UK we have met a huge number of couples and single intended parents struggling with infertility for various reasons. They have been a huge support to us through the highs and lows of our journey. 

“It feels like a huge weight has been lifted when your years of battling to have a family has finally been turned in to two beautiful children carried by an equally beautiful human being called Annie. We are forever grateful to her for making us parents and for being in our lives.”

Annie thinks that it is the best thing she has ever done. “To make dreams come true is such a privilege and being able to see the children grow up, knowing I helped, is incredibly rewarding.”

Jason, Effie and Jude on Father’s Day
Jason, Effie and Jude on Father’s Day
Amanda and Effie
Amanda and Effie


Dads have double reason to celebrate

Matthew and Gary began looking into what options they had available for having a family, including investigating adoption.

Matthew begins: “Having children is a very big decision and for various reasons we thought that the adoption path wasn’t right for us.”

Gary adds: “It was around Christmas time 2011 with my family, including my brother Jason and his wife Ollie, when we told them that we were going to take some time to reevaluate our options.”

Ollie offers to be a surrogate

In January 2012, Ollie contacted the couple and suggested being a surrogate for them.

Gary says: “Ollie said that she and Jason had discussed the matter; that she’d be honoured to be a surrogate mother for us and happy to help if she could.”

Matthew adds: “We didn’t know how to react as it was such an amazing gift.”

Ollie’s offer meant that Gary and Matthew were a major step closer to their dream of having a family and they started researching clinics that would support them.

An anonymous egg donor


Matthew says: “We chose Cambridge’s Bourn Hall because of its location and because it felt right. We came with Ollie and Jason for a meeting with Doctor Thomas Mathews and instantly knew we would be treated well here and looked after.”

Following their initial consultation, tests and checks, Gary and Matthew were provided with anonymised information on possible egg donors.

An egg donor’s profile includes information about the donor’s physical appearance, interests, skills and reasons for donating but it is non-identifying. The donor is also able if she wishes to provide a pen-sketch of themselves with a message, which the child can request when he or she becomes 18.

The donor is also able to contact the Clinic, at least a year after the donation, to find out if there have been any successful births resulting from the donation.

Matthew continues: “When we got the information we felt that they were all appropriate and we didn’t have any concerns so we put our faith into the hands of Bourn Hall Clinic and took it from there.”

Pregnant on the first attempt

The egg from the anonymous donor was fertilised with sperm and the embryo transferred to Ollie’s womb.  This meant there was no biological link with Ollie or her husband.  She became pregnant on the first attempt in February 2014.

Matthew says: “Every scan during Ollie’s pregnancy has been a point when we have felt reassured and more excited, especially when we discovered we were expecting twins.

Gary adds: “A real rollercoaster of emotions as we got closer to their birth: you start to get more confident but it is not until the babies are in your arms that you really believe it.

“To prepare for their birth we had arranged a birthing plan with the midwives at Portsmouth Hospital: that we would be present and get to hold them immediately.”

Elliot and Verity are born


On 1st November 2014 Elliott and Verity were born.

Matthew says: “Gary got to hold Elliott instantly but Verity’s birth was a bit more complicated because she was a breach. The next few minutes were an emotional roller coaster and we were quite frightened if our baby girl would be alright.

“Once Verity gave her first cry and the nurse had checked her, we knew she was fine. I then got to hold her, which was lovely; a very special moment.”

Inundated with well-wishers

Both Gary and Matthew initially received time off work to spend with the twins and since having Elliott and Verity home have been inundated by well-wishers and family members keen to help and see them.

Gary says: “I think at the beginning of the process for our older generations it was a bit alien and a slight concern as to how others might react, but it has been all positive. I think also they didn’t want to get too excited in the early days but as soon as Ollie was pregnant it all became very real. My mum has been incredible, so proud and a very doting Grandmother.”

Matthew adds: “My family is also all really close and my sister-in-law has two small children so we’ve got a good family support system. Plus Gary’s parents will also be around to see their grandchildren grow up which will be great.”

Gary has subsequently returned to work while Matthew is at home with the babies.

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