Lucy from Royston still vividly remembers the deflation and gnawing disappointment she experienced every month at not being able to conceive – and then having to put on a brave face to the outside world.
Lucy, aged 39, says: “The really hard part for me was when friends were falling pregnant. I would be really pleased for them and go to the baby shower and share in their excitement but then I would go home, shut the door and shed a few tears before picking myself and carrying on.”
Now a busy mum to three-year-old Benjamin and six-month-old twins Oliver and Chloe following fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic, Lucy says the subject of children came up pretty quickly when she met her husband Andrew ten years ago. “It was something each of us had always seen in our future but up until that point neither of us had met the right person,” she says.
The couple got married four years later and started trying for a baby straight away. After 18 months they went to see their GP. “I had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right,” says Lucy. “We had months and months of trying and nothing happening and getting disheartened and then other people telling us to relax and not think about it which is virtually impossible.
“It really takes a strain on a relationship, it takes all the fun out of things when you are trying for a baby for months and months. It was getting us both down, we had read every book on the subject, were eating all the right foods and had even gone organic, we were taking supplements and still nothing was happening. We wondered what we were doing wrong.”
According to the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority over 90 per cent of couples conceive naturally within two years. If you haven’t conceived for a year however, or you know you have a condition which affects your fertility, you should go and see your GP to discuss next steps.
“By the time we went to see the GP I was 35 and had reached an age where I thought we really needed to get a move on,” says Lucy. “I had spent years being careful to avoid getting pregnant and so hadn’t expected it to be such a challenge when I actually wanted it to happen!”
When Lucy started opening up to people about their situation she discovered that a number of people around her had encountered problems conceiving or had their children through IVF. “People tend to keep fertility issues to themselves but once I started telling people about our situation I was surprised at how many people I knew had experienced similar problems,” she says.
The couple’s GP referred them for hospital tests which revealed that Andrew had a low sperm count. “It can be hard for a man but actually for us we were pleased that we finally had an answer,” says Lucy. “Andrew tried changing his diet and even wore loose underwear and I was advised to lose some weight to get my BMI down but we still didn’t conceive and so we were told that our best chance of a baby was with IVF treatment.”
Lucy and Andrew opted to have their treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic just outside Cambridge and were told that they could be treated using a procedure called ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection). Very few sperm are needed for this particular fertility treatment and it involved injecting Andrew’s sperm directly in to eggs retrieved from Lucy before transferring one of the fertilised embryos to her womb (uterus).
The couple’s treatment worked first time but they had an anxious few weeks wait before the pregnancy was finally confirmed after their first scan was inconclusive. “We were desperate to tell family in time for Christmas if it was good news and so the nurse at Bourn Hall fitted us in for a scan on Christmas Eve,” Lucy reveals. “I still get really emotional thinking about it. We went in and on the screen we saw the little flicker of a heart. I remember phoning my mum and sister on the way home to tell them the good news, it just didn’t seem real!”
Son Ben was born three years ago after what Lucy describes as a “textbook pregnancy” and he is now a happy and healthy toddler.
When Ben celebrated his second birthday Lucy had further treatment at Bourn Hall and was delighted when she discovered she was expecting twins. Oliver and Chloe were born six months ago and Lucy cannot believe how much her life has changed in the last few years.
“I have gone from thinking that I would never be a mum to having three little people in my house. It is completely surprising and I feel really blessed,” she says.
Lucy’s advice to other people finding it difficult to get pregnant is “trust your instincts.”
“I knew that something was not quite right,” she says. “It was such a relief when we did seek help because it felt as though we were not alone anymore.”