IVF with US donor sperm helped by Bourn Hall

Jess and Fran wanted a family that matched their characteristics, so Bourn Hall helped them to use a US sperm donor agency which gave them a wider choice of donor

Fran and Jess chose reassurance of a clinic

“Fran and I have been inseparable since first meeting at university 13 years ago,” says Jess. “And as soon as we got back from our honeymoon two and a half years ago we knew that we wanted to start a family straightaway.

“Both of us were pretty adamant that we were going straight to a fertility clinic because we wanted everything to be monitored and the reassurance of the support a regulated clinic can offer. We were also fortunate that my parents had offered to help us with the cost of our treatment.

“We live in Essex and chose to make an appointment at Bourn Hall Wickford because of the favourable reviews. When we got there and met the staff they were just so lovely, making us feel so welcome and explaining to us what tests would need to be done and what our options were; we just thought ‘yes, let’s get the ball rolling!’

“Before going to Bourn Hall we had already decided that it would be me who carried our baby as I was really eager to experience pregnancy, so I had a number of tests done which all came back fine and we were given the green light for treatment.

Went to US sperm donor site to match Asian features

“The next step was choosing a sperm donor. Fran is half-Chinese and we wanted a donor who also had similar Asian features, so we went through a company in the US called Xytex and the whole process, which I had expected to be really difficult, worked really well.

“We had to pay for access to the Xytex website and then we started searching for a donor. In the US you can see photos of the donor as an adult and as a child, which is very different to here but was quite important to us because obviously we were after something quite specific. This guy just popped up and he was perfect – we literally started a shopping trolley to click how many vials of sperm we wanted

“We called the company and they took all our details, then they liaised with Bourn Hall – and that was is it really; the frozen sperm was on a plane and delivered to Bourn Hall. It was all very easy.

“I kept expecting something to go wrong when the sperm was in transit but it was all fine. I then went into Bourn Hall to discuss the process of preparing my body for the procedure the following month, and that was it, it was very quick.

“In terms of the paperwork everything was absolutely fine, there was nothing that took us by surprise; Bourn Hall were just so helpful and everything was just done easily for us. It was very smooth and gave us peace of mind on the legal side.”

Counselling was valuable

“We had a bit of counselling too because obviously we are a same-sex couple and were using a donor and that was great. It gave us an idea of us as parents and Fran being the legal parent as well, and the fact that when any child we had grew up they may ask about who their biological parent is and how that works with having a sperm donor. It gave us a good idea of what we thought about that and where we would go when a child did ask. We had pretty much thought of everything but the counselling just kind of confirmed what we were thinking and how we would manage it.

IUI or IVF

“On the treatment side we initially opted for IUI because I didn’t have any fertility issues. Bourn Hall did warn us that it can be quite ‘hit-and-miss’ with it working but we thought as it is a lot cheaper than IVF we would give it a try. We had four attempts at IUI which didn’t work; we were getting really disheartened so we chose to try IVF for our next try – and then the country went into lockdown!

“I am quite an emotional person and I am a big over-thinker so I was thinking the worst all the time and was just quite negative, whereas my wife is the polar opposite to me – she is very optimistic and was like ‘look relax it will happen for us.’

“I am really impatient, I’m like ‘I want something done yesterday’, so it was awful when the clinic had to close during lockdown. But Bourn Hall were great; I was messaging our fertility nurse Jackie a lot at the Wickford clinic, she was amazing and telling me that they would get to us as soon as possible. And then eventually the date came and it all kind of went to plan.”

Coping with injections

“With IVF more medication is involved and overall I would say we coped quite well with the daily injections, although Fran would probably disagree and say I was really moody! Once I had been through my medication round I went into Bourn Hall for the egg retrieval. We had 17 eggs retrieved and, out of those, nine were fertilised with the donor sperm – so that was a good start. Initially we froze eight of the embryos and did a fresh transfer.

“Sadly that didn’t work and obviously we were really upset. In my mind I was like ‘I have gone through IUI and it has not worked and my first IVF hasn’t worked… oh, God not again’. But we got over that one and then the next month we did a frozen embryo transfer using one of the remaining frozen embryos – and it worked!

Resisted the temptation to test too soon

“The day our pregnancy test was positive was crazy. We tested on the day we were supposed to test – we resisted the temptation to try to do it beforehand. We woke up at 5am and I ran into the bathroom and did it and put it face down and we waited. When it was positive it was like ‘oh my God!’. It was funny because I didn’t cry, although I had thought that I would, but we were just over the moon; there were no tears, it was just happiness.

“And then we quickly, at 6am, drove over to my mum’s house and we let ourselves in– she was still in bed and she thought there was something wrong. We just said ‘oh, you know – we are pregnant’ and it was a really happy moment!

“Our son Nathan was born on 15 August 2021 and sometimes I still can’t believe that he is here. In the morning when he wakes up and I can hear him it is incredible. We waited for quite a while for him and he is an absolute blessing, and the whole family just adores him. He is the sixth grandchild on my side and the first on Fran’s so they are absolutely smitten; they came over from Hong Kong shortly after he was born and stayed a few months with us and they got to see him grow up a bit.

Advice to others

“After our four attempts at IUI I was so disheartened and was thinking ‘oh, will this ever work?’ It was quite upsetting but we just carried on and in the end it worked and we have got such a blessing out of it.

“I would also say that for the IVF we used Access Fertility, which also gave us a huge peace of mind that if it didn’t work we were covered financially; even though we had help from my parents it was still a nice feeling to have that ‘backup’ with the IVF.

“I would definitely say try again – you are not alone because it is quite common that it doesn’t work straight away. I think you have just got to calm down, relax and chill out, let it work and don’t stress too much – although that is easier said than done!”

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Bourn Hall Wickford support during the pandemic

“Bourn Hall Wickford were just incredible and our nurse Jackie just put my mind at ease the whole time. She was super helpful during the pandemic; I had to go and collect all my drugs and stuff and she was an email away; she would get back to me and would say ‘yes, come in now’.

“She was such a lovely lady and it was great because she did my first scan as well so we kind of went through the whole thing together. I hope she is still there in a few years’ time when we go back for more treatment using our remaining frozen embryos!”

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Fertility nurse specialist Jackie Richardson
Fertility nurse specialist Jackie Richardson
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