“Neil and I met when we were 18 and had always talked about our future with children,” says Natalie, aged 35. “Ten years later we got married, and started trying for a family, naively thinking that it would just happen when we decided the time was right.”
The couple were referred for IVF treatment when Natalie’s periods failed to return after she stopped taking the contraceptive pill and she was subsequently diagnosed with polycystic ovaries.
Natalie remembers a particular low point during their treatment with IVF:
“I am a really positive person and I was genuinely happy for my friends when they conceived but I think the crunch time for me was when I had five close friends who all announced they were pregnant in the same month shortly after our second round had failed,” she admits. “I hit a low point and we took some time out from IVF treatment and went on holiday, I tried some alternative therapies such as reflexology, acupuncture and yoga. It helped me massively and put me in a better headspace.”
After two unsuccessful rounds of IVF Natalie and Neil were introduced to Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, Lead Clinician at Bourn Hall’s Norwich Clinic, who has extensive experience of treating women with PCOS and is a published author on the condition.
“From the moment we met Dr Papathanasiou we just had complete confidence in him,” says Natalie. “He is a PCOS specialist and put us completely at our ease.”
One of the issues surrounding PCOS patients undergoing fertility treatment is that there is a higher risk of the woman producing too many eggs after taking the drugs designed to stimulate egg production immediately prior to treatment. This is called ‘hyperstimulating’ and can have a very stressful effect on the body; Natalie had hyperstimulated during her first and second treatment.
“During my third treatment I was given a trigger shot to take my hormones down to rock bottom to control the hyperstimulation,” says Natalie. “Once my eggs had been collected I was given a bag load of tablets and had oestrogen patches to take my hormones back up again for the embryo transfer the following week.
“I also had an endometrial scratch prior to the injections which was something a friend had recommended to me.”
Endometrial scratching is a relatively simple procedure which makes a small scratch in the lining of the uterus to improve the implantation rate when embryos are transferred to the uterus. Although there is a lack of scientific evidence to prove that the technique makes a significant difference to treatment outcomes many clinicians have observed improved implantation rates.
Natalie and Neil were told that they had produced three very good quality embryos.
“I wasn’t sure if the embryo transfer would happen but Bourn Hall told me that because of the hormone tablets I had been taking my body was in a good place,” says Natalie. “We were then given the option of transferring two embryos and we decided to do it.”
After an anxious two-week wait Natalie took a pregnancy test.
“I’d been a bit nervy and the night before I took the test my body felt different to the previous times,” she says. “I took the pregnancy test in the bathroom before going to work and nearly dropped my toothbrush when I saw the two lines, I had never seen a positive pregnancy test before. I just stood there frozen looking at it, I thought my mind was playing tricks with me. I took it in to Neil who was only waking up and when he saw the result his eyes filled up.
I then drove like a 95-year-old in to work I just wanted to wrap myself in bubble wrap, it was the weirdest feeling ever. I beamed like a Cheshire cat all day just at the thought that my body could actually get pregnant, it was amazing.”
Natalie is a primary school teacher and shared her good news with her class who followed her progress throughout her pregnancy. “The children I was teaching when I got pregnant were a fantastic group of children, I loved going in to work,” she says. “They were just so happy when they knew my news and got super-excited when I went for scans, and asked me to bring the scan pictures in and project them up on the white board.”
In May 2018 Natalie gave birth to her non-identical twin boys Freddie and George.
“It was just the best feeling when they were born,” she says. “I enjoyed my pregnancy but never really believed that it was real until they arrived. It was just the most magical feeling ever seeing Neil so happy as well. The worst thing for me had always been that I had felt guilty because I couldn’t provide him with children because it was me who was the ‘problem’ so to be able to see him standing there holding his two boys was the best feeling ever.”
Natalie and Neil were treated at Bourn Hall Norwich.