Norfolk’s first ‘test-tube’ baby becomes mum

“When our school friends found out that we were IVF ‘babies’ they thought it was amazing and the school ran a special science lesson to explain what IVF was,” laughs Amy.

Amy and her twin sister Katie, both aged 35, made history as Norfolk’s first ‘test-tube babies’ and were conceived when parents Lesley and Brian were amongst the first patients to be treated by Patrick Steptoe at Bourn Hall, which was the world’s first IVF clinic.

When the girls grew up and met their partners Katie fell pregnant very easily and so it came as a real surprise to Amy and her husband Neil when they struggled to conceive.

“When I still hadn’t fallen pregnant after we had been trying for over a year it was really upsetting,” says Amy. “Everyone around me was having babies, including friends who had only been with their partners for a short time. People were saying to us ‘why are you not pregnant yet?’ I kept thinking ‘why me?’

“Katie had no problems at all getting pregnant, in fact, both her pregnancies took one month of trying. My mum knew how it felt to struggle to conceive, having been through it herself, and that really helped me.”

Proclactin can impact fertility

Amy went to her GP to get some advice and tests revealed that she had high levels of prolactin, which can affect fertility. The couple were referred for treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic in Norwich, where Amy was put on the fertility drug Clomid for six months to boost her ovulation. When Amy still did not fall pregnant she and Neil began NHS-funded IVF at the clinic.

Grandma one of first to have IVF

“Mum drove me to some of my appointments at Bourn Hall during my work lunch hour,” says Amy. “She found it really interesting how things had changed. When she had her treatment patients were treated as invalids and used to have to stay at the clinic for days on end, now women are in and out the same day. I would always be in a hurry, but my Mum used to talk to all the nurses for ages!”

Physical and emotional wellbeing is important infertility treatment, including managing the stress which can result from infertility. Amy found complementary therapy helped her manage her stress levels and she had both reflexology and acupuncture as well as attending the gym regularly and doing classes such as body balance and yoga. My mother-in-law also bought me some gift vouchers for massages which helped as well,” she says.

Two generations of IVF babies
Lesley Smith with IVF daughter Amy Harris and IVF grand-daughter Olivia

Amy and Neil’s treatment at Bourn Hall Norwich was IVF with Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) which involved injecting six of Neil’s sperm into six of Amy’s eggs in the embryology laboratory and culturing the resulting embryos to go to the ‘blastocyst’ stage. Only one embryo was of a good enough quality and it was transferred to Amy’s womb.

The couple’s treatment worked the first time and they celebrated Amy’s pregnancy with a last-minute holiday in the sun. “It had been really emotional having IVF and so we flew to Majorca and just chilled for a week which we really needed,” says Amy.

After a textbook pregnancy, Amy went into labour two weeks early – just as she was about to go on maternity leave.

“I worked right up until two weeks before my due date and I left the office early because I had a dull ache in the tops of my thighs,” says Amy.

Amazing 

“When I got home I had a bath and my contractions started and then when Neil got home he cooked me a meal and I couldn’t eat anything and I normally eat like a horse so we knew something was happening!”

The next morning, on February 1, 2019, Amy gave birth to daughter Olivia who she describes as “an amazing baby.”

Amy says: “Being a mum is just incredible. I have wanted this for so long and so every day I think how lucky I am!

Bourn Hall provides free consultations with a fertility nurse specialist – do take this opportunity to get good advice.