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Jon and Caroline's story

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- Jon & Caroline -

We can’t thank TFP Oxford Fertility enough, both for their expertise, taking the time to answer all of our questions, thinking outside the “normal” routes and for asking ‘How are you doing?

After five years of IVF treatment, Caroline, 39 and Jon, 39 from Malvern, welcome Samuel. After announcing their IVF pregnancy on Facebook, they were surprised how many people thanked them for being open about their experience and how many had also experienced fertility problems. Throughout the process, they benefited so much by talking to people, and so share their experience to help others to also share theirs:

We’ve known each other since our mid-twenties but didn’t get together until later. We married at 35, and conscious of our age, and knowing friends who’d struggled to conceive, we started trying for a child straight away. After a year of trying, we went to see our GP, but when tests didn’t find a problem, we were advised to try for another six months.

As I approached 37, we were then referred to our local fertility consultant, who conducted further tests. Again, everything came back as normal, but because of the length of time we’d been trying, we were referred to an NHS hospital in Birmingham for IVF.

During our first IVF cycle, everything seemed to go well, I produced lots of eggs, Jon’s sample looked good, but not a single egg fertilised. Everyone was surprised, and we were devastated. The number of IVF cycles funded by the NHS had also just reduced from two cycles to one, so we would have to pay for our next cycle ourselves.

As they knew us, we decided to return to the same hospital, but later regretted this. They adopted virtually the same approach, but this time adding ICSI, where the sperm is injected into the egg. Again, I produced lots of eggs, but only three eggs fertilised, and development slowed as they reached day 3. It didn’t look promising but the embryos were transferred, and as suspected, it didn’t work.

As part of the second round the consultant suggested I might have endometriosis (which potentially explained the pain I experienced for a few years) and so I was referred by my GP to see a specialist. Although this could be treated with surgery and may have possibly helped my fertility, the wait for this was significant and its chances of success didn’t outweigh going ahead with any further rounds of IVF as soon as possible.

We decided to move ahead with further IVF and researched clinics to find a different one that would be right for us. We looked at success rates and talked to a friend who was also going through IVF. They were being treated at Oxford Fertility and recommended its personalised approach. The consultant who I saw about the endometriosis also ran Oxford Fertility’s satellite clinic in Worcester. So, we decided to move ahead with Oxford Fertility.

We are so glad of that decision. The facility is a dedicated fertility hospital, rather than a department within a broader hospital, and so everyone you speak with is an expert in their role. Even the environment where you have the procedures is much nicer and the atmosphere they create is much calmer. With only two people in the room dedicated to me, talking to me, with one person waiting through a hatch to the IVF lab. Whereas in the last hospital, there were lots of people bustling about whilst I was being prepared for egg collection.

As before, I responded well to the stimulation drugs, but again, although some eggs fertilised, approaching day three their development started to slow. Based on evidence, Oxford Fertility doesn’t transfer embryos that don’t make it to day five, and so we knew this round wouldn’t work.

We knew that if we were going to try another round we needed to do something different. Analysing our situation and results to date, our consultant recommended we use a combination of stimulating drugs. This was the turning point for us. This time, the quality of eggs I produced were high and so many more fertilised. Two of these made it to day five, ready for transfer, and one developed on day six and was frozen. Although a step closer, it didn’t work.

It was so frustrating, as there was no specific reason why we weren’t succeeding. Jon participated in trials to support the clinic’s research, but even as part of these, no reason was found.

With one embryo frozen, we knew this was our last chance. We wanted to try one last time, after which we would walk away. I was in a much better place. My body had recovered from the egg collection, mentally I felt good, and this time it worked.

But still we couldn’t relax; the day after getting our positive result I bled for three weeks and had to wait until our 6-week scan to find out if all was OK. It turned out to be unrelated to my pregnancy and the consultant was great and ensured we were immediately switched across to the NHS and monitored closely with extra scans. Then, two months ahead of schedule, my waters broke. At 31 weeks, now in COVID-19 lock down, we rushed to hospital.

This was especially tough for Jon. Because of social distancing measures, he had to sit in the car park and wait for update messages from me. He wanted to be there for me, making sure I was being looked after, but all he could do was second guess what was happening.

Doctors decided that I needed a C-section. Jon could join me for this, and to our joy Samuel arrived safely into the world. At 3lbs 15oz, Samuel was then cared for on the Neonatal Unit, where both Jon and I could stay with him 24/7, but not at the same time. We adjusted to a very strange routine, taking it in turns to visit. After three weeks, Samuel was transferred to a transitional care ward with me, where he learned to breastfeed. During this time again, Jon couldn’t come into the hospital and had to wait for the day when he could meet us in the car park to head home.

The journey to Samuel has been one of the hardest experiences of our lives. We tried to stop feeling too much to help us deal with the disappointment, but really benefited from talking with friends and each other. But Samuel is also the best experience in our life. He has a lovely temperament, chubby cheeks, and even the nurses on the Neonatal Unit said he made them feel broody, and they see a lot of babies!

We can’t thank TFP Oxford Fertility enough, both for their expertise, taking the time to answer all of our questions, thinking outside the “normal” routes and for asking ‘How are you doing?’ during consultations, it showed you cared and meant a lot.”

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