“Infertility does affect you deeply; it is like a primal calling to have children. I would have really struggled if I had not been able to have a baby,” says Laura Foley, from Fulbourn, devoted mum to IVF baby Alfie. She feels a deep sense of sadness that others may not have the chance that she was given. Plans are being discussed to remove all NHS funding for specialist fertility treatment in Cambridgeshire.
Laura, who works with disabled adults, understands how difficult the funding landscape has become and says that she and husband Michael feel “really blessed” that their treatment was funded.
NHS IVF funding gave hope
“Without NHS funding we wouldn’t have been able to have IVF treatment. I can sympathise with how difficult it is when making spending decisions. But when it comes to fertility treatment it is just so sad that it depends on where you live as to whether you are NHS-funded or not.
“Who knows? If we had left it another year we might not have been able to have NHS-funded treatment.”
“Assumed I would get pregnant”
Laura, now 31, fell pregnant with Alfie after her first NHS-funded fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge. The couple tried for four years to conceive naturally.
“I think I had just assumed that I would get pregnant and that it was bound to happen,” she says.
She admits that for a long time she tried to ignore the fact that something might be wrong. It was her GP that broached the subject after he realised that she had been off the pill for some years and was only in her twenties.
80 per cent of people will conceive naturally within two years of trying, and if you have been unsuccessful in this time you should seek advice.
As a teenager Laura had heavy periods and such severe pain she used to feel sick and faint. The contraceptive pill reduced the problems but they came back when she stopped taking it. The GP referred her to the local hospital for investigations, which revealed scarring on her ovaries that prevented the eggs from being released properly. The hospital recommended IVF and she was sent to a London clinic.
“Being referred for fertility treatment really freaked me out and I felt as though it had happened all a bit quickly and that there might be other options,” she recalls.
Laura was unhappy about going to London and then discovered that she could have NHS funded treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic just up the road.
Laura went to Bourn Hall for her initial blood tests and then explained to the staff that she needed a bit more time. She spent a year “getting my head round it” while trying to get pregnant naturally but still nothing happened.
This period of time was particularly difficult. “Social media doesn’t help,” she says. “I was happy for friends when they announced their pregnancies on Facebook but then it was a constant reminder that it wasn’t happening to me. ”
“Bourn Hall made it a brilliant experience”
The couple decided to go ahead with treatment and Laura made changes to her life. “I resigned from my job – working at a college supporting disabled learners – so that I could throw everything at the treatment.
“I was so scared of the treatment and delayed it. Then when I finally started going to Bourn Hall they made it such a brilliant experience and were so lovely that I actually started looking forward to my appointments.”
Laura and Michael were overjoyed when they found out that Laura was pregnant after her first IVF treatment and in December 2016 their son Alfie was born. “I was really overwhelmed that a little human had come out of me,” laughs Laura. “It is such a ‘normal’ thing but we live in such a technologically evolved world it almost seems like an ‘abnormal’ thing now!
“After Alfie was born I didn’t sleep for three nights, I just sat there watching him, loving every minute,” she says.
“I am so glad I took the chance of having treatment when I did. If we had waited any longer we might not have been able to have NHS-funded treatment and would not have Alfie and I don’t want to imagine life without him.”