Getting pregnant with PCOS seemed an impossible dream
“When I was a teenager my mum was always taking me to the doctors because I hardly ever had a period,” says Hayley, aged 28.
“I had my first period when I was 13, my second period when I was 14 and then after that I didn’t have one until I was 16.
“My mum pushed for answers and when I was 17 I was diagnosed with PCOS. I had a lot of the classic symptoms besides the irregular periods: I was hairy all over, I struggled with bloating and weight gain and I also had acne. I had erratic mood swings and was also diagnosed with an underactive thyroid at the same time and I remember the doctor at the time saying that the two conditions can go hand in hand.
“Since my diagnosis I have pretty much only had one period a year. So I always knew that I would struggle to get pregnant and when I met Dan eight years ago the subject came up pretty quickly. He is an only child and has always wanted to have a bigger family himself and I would have ten children given the chance… but first we wanted to have fun and go on holidays.”
GP took us seriously
“As soon as we got married in 2018 everyone started asking us ‘oh so when are you going to have a baby?’ We had actually started trying just before we got married and I registered with a new GP who was amazing. I know a lot of people get brushed off but he was so supportive and that resulted in me being referred to Ipswich Hospital and I was seen by a gynaecologist there for over a year.
“I was put on clomid for six months on various different dosages and I had my fallopian tubes checked. In the end I was told that there were other options they could try such as ovarian drilling but the recommendation was that as I was still relatively young IVF would be our best option.
“I have always struggled to lose weight although I have never been obese and my BMI was under 30. However before we had IVF I took up running and switched to a high protein diet.
Funded IVF as in the military
“As Dan was in the military we were entitled to three rounds of funded IVF rather than the standard one round of NHS-funded IVF available in our area.
“We went to Bourn Hall Wickford and I had my first egg collection in February 2020. We had a three-day embryo transfer because our embryos weren’t looking very good but unfortunately I didn’t get pregnant. We had one embryo frozen from that treatment and so I started down-regulating again for a frozen embryo transfer, but then the country went in to lockdown and the clinic had to close temporarily.
“When we got the phone call from Bourn Hall to tell me to stop all my medication, I know we were going through a pandemic, but I literally felt like the world had ended. I felt really lonely because I lived on an army base, miles away from family and friends, and my life was now on hold. I set up a private IVF Instagram account to document my journey and used it as a way of connecting with other people in the same situation who understood what I was going through. I now have 2,900 followers.
People kept telling us to relax
“Once Bourn Hall was able to re-open I was able to resume the medication and we had a frozen embryo transfer in July 2020. Sadly we had a miscarriage at seven weeks which was heartbreaking. At this point I just thought ‘OMG what is happening with everything?’ My head was not in a very good place at that point. I also decided to leave my job because it was really stressful and my employer wasn’t very supportive with the IVF. I just didn’t need the pressure and felt like I was about to crack.
“My friendship group had all started having children quite young and at the time some of them were on their second child and it felt like everyone else was moving on and we were just standing still and our life literally revolved around IVF cycles. People kept telling us to ‘just relax’ which was really irritating.
None of my eggs fertilised – devastated
“In November 2020 we went back to Bourn Hall and had another fresh round of IVF and although I produced 12 eggs none of them fertilised. We were shocked because the first time around eight had fertilised but we were told that although the sperm was all fine there had been no attempt to get in to the eggs (by the sperm) and there was a shell around my eggs indicating low egg quality. I was devastated, I just thought ‘my eggs are absolutely no good and I am never going to have a biological child.’ It took some time to digest and so when Christmas came around I just completely ‘let go’ and ate and drank what I wanted, it was a wild one!
New year resolution to get pregnant
“After Christmas I got back on track, changed some of my vitamins and supplements and then we had our third egg collection in February 2021. On the day Dan’s sperm looked absolutely fine but because of what had happened before the embryologists used ICSI to fertilise the eggs and we ended up with seven embryos making it to day 5 blastocyst. Two were high quality but the others were not good enough quality to freeze so we decided to transfer both of the high quality ones.
“This time around the treatment worked and when I saw the positive pregnancy test I couldn’t believe it. I felt really nervous though and felt I couldn’t really trust it. Thankfully I had a successful pregnancy and our son Finlay was born in October 2021. When he arrived I burst in to tears, I felt so emotional. It had been worth everything we had been through, he was amazing.
“Even now when I look at him it doesn’t seem real, and when he looks at me and smiles it just melts my heart.
“I feel so lucky that we got three rounds of funded IVF because of Dan’s job, if we had only been entitled to the one round we wouldn’t have our son.
Definitely go back to Bourn Hall
“We would love to have another baby and would definitely go back to Bourn Hall.
“It would also be incredible if I was able to get pregnant naturally as, funnily enough, since I had Finlay I have started getting periods more regularly and when I went to see my GP for a postnatal check-up she said that sometimes having IVF and a baby can kickstart your body and it realises what it is meant to do.”