Despite suffering from painful periods from a young age, Emily Brown, a freelance journalist from Basingstoke, never imagined she might be suffering from a serious condition that could affect her fertility. However, after finally being diagnosed with Endometriosis, Emily is now running a local support group to help other women, and is proud mum to three year old Freddie, following IVF treatment at Wessex Fertility.
Emily married her partner in 2014, and the couple decided to try for a baby soon after. However, when Emily stopped taking her contraception, she knew that something was wrong. “I had been taking the pill for most of my adult life, so when I stopped taking it, I began to suffer from really painful periods, which the pill had been masking. When I went to A&E with excruciating pain, they couldn’t find anything wrong and I was told to go home and use a hot water bottle, but I was in absolute agony. I was even given morphine to help me cope with the pain.” remembers Emily.
It wasn’t until months later that Emily was finally given her diagnosis of Endometriosis, a condition where cells, like the cells that line the womb, break down and bleed in other areas of the body, causing excruciating pain.
“I was relieved to finally have a diagnosis, but this was short-lived when I realised what this really meant. In terms of my fertility, my chances of conceiving naturally were very low. It completely threw me off my life plan, as I had always believed I would get married and have a baby straight away”
Struggling with her diagnosis, Emily looked for a local support group, but couldn’t find anything local to her. “I was shocked to learn that 1 in 10 women suffer from Endometriosis, so I thought ‘I must know people who are also suffering, and there must be a way we can do something positive and support each other’” recalls Emily. Emily did some online research, and found Endometriosis UK, a leading support charity. “I found a lot of information, and also found out that there were support groups available, just not in my local area. I decided to set-up a support group in Basingstoke and women started to attend to share their experiences, it was great to have that kind of support”.
The support of friends and family was also very important for Emily: “Initially, I was unsure whether to tell people, as unfortunately there is still a taboo around infertility and endometriosis. However, I eventually realised that the support of friends and family was vital to get through this difficult period, and I’m so glad I opened up and talked about what was happening with people I could trust” remembers Emily.
Emily was ready to start a family, and so was referred to Wessex Fertility for IVF treatment, which begun with her first cycle in the summer of 2015. “Unfortunately I suffered from a condition called OHSS following my egg collection, which meant the embryo transfer procedure had to be abandoned whilst I recovered. I was really frustrated at the time with the delay, because I just felt ready for a baby. It felt like my life was in limbo, and like everyone around me was falling pregnant."
Wessex Fertility were so kind and with me every step of the way, I trusted them and knew they had my best interests at heart”
Of the eggs collected from Emily, three formed healthy embryos. “Our first embryo transfer unfortunately didn’t work, and so we had a bit of a break before trying for a second time in 2016” remembers Emily. Emily and her partner were delighted to discover that this time, the cycle had been successful! “We were over the moon, but remained cautious. I started bleeding heavily at 6 weeks and was convinced I was having a miscarriage. I called the clinic who advised me to take it easy over the weekend, and to come in for an extra scan on the Monday”. Emily’s bleeding stopped and thankfully the baby was found to be healthy at the scan. “My bleeding did stop over the weekend, and we were very relieved to discover that our baby was healthy. Although everything was fine, I didn’t quite relax in the pregnancy, to protect myself in case something did go wrong”.
In November 2016, the miracle Emily had been waiting for arrived. “When Freddie arrived I just breathed a sigh of relief! I was just so glad he had arrived with us safely.” recalls Emily.
Although pregnancy had kept Emily’s Endometriosis symptoms away, they did eventually return. “I breastfed Freddie for many reasons, but one of them was to keep my painful symptoms away for as long as possible! Eventually when I stopped breastfeeding they did return, so I did my research and found a brilliant surgeon who did a great job. I do worry that they will come back someday, but for now things have really improved for me” recalls Emily.
When they were ready, the couple decided to try IVF again with their third embryo. “We really wanted to give Freddie a sibling, and so we were really disappointed when our third round didn’t work, but I feel so lucky to have Freddie, and to be his Mum. Wessex made a hard journey easier, I can’t praise them highly enough. I felt like they really care, like they were upset for me when I was upset, and that they were on the journey with me” remembers Emily.
As a freelance journalist, Emily is keen to use her platform to raise awareness of Endometriosis and support other women.
Infertility and endometriosis are not something to be ashamed of. If more people talked about endometriosis, then it might actually help improve the lengthy diagnosis time because more women would be aware of the symptoms. And if more people talked about infertility, it would help break down those taboos and make people realise they are not alone.
“My advice to other women suffering from endometriosis would be to know that having the condition doesn’t stop you from becoming pregnant. I know lots of women with endometriosis who conceived naturally without any problems, and others who needed the help of IVF. For those newly diagnosed I know the fear that comes with not knowing if you will be able to have a baby, but most women with the condition will be able to conceive eventually.”
Emily is enjoying life with her husband, and three year old son, Freddie.
For more information about Emily’s Endometriosis UK support group click here.
Read Emily’s articles for the Basingstoke Gazette by following the links below: