IVF success after ectopic pregnancies heartbreak

Kelly from Peterborough was only 22 when she was told that she would struggle to have a baby naturally, so she started saving for IVF treatment and joined a successful campaign to have NHS funding reinstated in Cambridgeshire.

Kelly, now 27, with her husband Dan, aged 28, were among the first to benefit when NHS funding for IVF was reinstated in July 2021 to allow one cycle of funded treatment. They chose Bourn Hall Clinic and their treatment was successful first time.

Now mum to four-month-old Harlan, Kelly says: “NHS funding was a lifesaver. I was under so much stress I had to resign from work to concentrate on treatment, the thought of paying for it would have added so much more pressure.”

The couple had always known that they would need IVF to start a family. When Kelly was a teenager, she had acute pain and random bleeding and was referred to Peterborough City Hospital for investigations. A fluid blockage called a hydrosalpinx was found in her left fallopian tube and it was removed, and her right tube was also found to be damaged.

Kelly remembers. “I was 22 and I was told I had a low chance of having a baby. I felt so alone.”

She met Dan on Tinder. He was living with his parents in Bourne, Lincolnshire, where ironically the couple would have been entitled to two cycles of IVF. But Kelly had a house in Peterborough so he moved down to be with her and started work locally. The couple married soon after and started trying for a family.

Sadly, the couple went on to have two ectopic pregnancies. This is when the embryo starts growing in the fallopian tube and can be life threatening.

The pregnancy is dissolved using Methotrexate, a form of chemotherapy that removes folate from the body. For a much-wanted pregnancy this can be traumatic.

Kelly started to test obsessively, using 30-40 pregnancy tests a month as she didn’t know whether she was having a period or was actually pregnant and bleeding.

“I was really struggling and ended up having therapy, the second one triggered a bit of PTSD so it was a really tough time, my anxiety was at an all-time high.

“In my head I was just really trying to focus on moving forwards. I thought if I don’t start trying to lose weight and stuff we are not even going to get to IVF as you need a BMI of 30 or less”

Kelly self-referred for the NHS psychological wellbeing service but the first counsellor she was paired with did not understand ectopic pregnancy or pregnancy loss at all, but the second one was helpful.

“The reason I was struggling was because of the infertility and the losses but the first one just didn’t understand it at all. She said things on the lines of ‘if you don’t test you won’t get anxious’ which didn’t really solve my problem.

“The next lady didn’t really go in to the losses, which I thought was quite helpful, she just advised ways to manage when I felt a bit anxious or depressed rather than going into detail.”

Kelly also found the patient support charity Ectopic Pregnancy Trust helpful and participated in a fundraiser, walking 80 miles in August to try and reduce her weight for IVF.  Dan also went on a health kick to improve his sperm quality ahead of treatment.

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Kelly had been a patient at the fertility department in Peterborough City Hospital, since she was 18 and knew that NHS funding for IVF wasn’t available, and that is when she got involved with the fight4IVF campaign and supported campaigner Amber Izzo in meetings with the commissioners.

In the end she requested her remaining tube to be removed while they saved up to self-fund IVF. The surgery got pushed back when she contracted Covid and then she got pregnant again. The hospital scanned her seven times to try and locate the pregnancy before confirming it was again ectopic and removed the tube.

It was around this time that news came about the decision to reinstate NHS funding for IVF. The hospital referred the couple for NHS treatment and they chose Bourn Hall.

“I was always convinced that Bourn Hall was where I wanted to go – when we planned to self-fund I rang up and they were helpful, friendly and answered any questions I had,” she says.

The couple’s first appointment was within a couple of weeks and they started meds shortly after. Within two months the couple was pregnant and baby Harlan-Ray was born just before Christmas.

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Kelly says: “Infertility is a medical condition, and it affects your mental health and your relationships. The NHS funding gave us a lifeline.

“Being infertile is isolating. I wanted a child before all my friends and they were all on number two or three before I had even got pregnant. I blocked myself off from them and have lost a lot of friends.

“But now I have Harlan I wouldn’t change any of it. I am enjoying being a stay-at-home mum and in the future I would like to become a midwife or a fertility nurse. I have learnt so much on my fertility journey I would love to be able to help others.”