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Endometriosis didn’t stop me having my beautiful babies

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When Tara and Matt met, they knew straight away they wanted a family.

Their journey to parenthood was long and challenging - and Tara wishes to share it, so that others having fertility treatment know they’re not alone.

What is endometriosis?

Around 1 in 10 women has endometriosis, which is when tissue from the womb grows around the ovaries and fallopian tubes. For some people, it reduces their fertility.

“My periods were awful. I had terrible pain”

By the age of 16, Tara was experiencing long, painful periods but also significant pain in between her cycles. And her cycles were wildly irregular.

The pain became so bad that her mum, suspecting appendicitis, drove her to A&E.

Tara was admitted to hospital for emergency surgery, where the surgeons found that her appendix was healthy but that she did have endometriosis.

Endometrial tissue, which should only be lining her uterus, was also growing around her fallopian tubes and ovaries.

Tara, now 32, says, “I was young. I’d never heard of this condition. At the time, no-one was talking about endometriosis.

“Doctors warned me that my fertility could be affected. If I was going to have babies, I needed to have them young.

The longer I waited, the harder it could get. This was so tough to deal with because I knew already that I wanted to be a mum.”

Tara was put on the contraceptive pill and told to take it continually, without leaving any gaps for periods.

Then out of the blue, aged 19 and while still on the pill, Tara found she was pregnant.

Tara’s beautiful little girl, Chiara, was born in 2011.

“I knew Matt would be the man I’d marry”

When Chiara was a toddler, Tara met Matt. Everything felt so right with him.

“We talked about our future and having children together quite early on,” she says.

They decided to stop contraception and see what happened.

This meant that Tara’s painful, irregular cycles were back.

“I was in agony,” says Tara. “It can be so painful that you can’t live your day-to-day life. Sometimes I had to be curled over with a hot water bottle – and I couldn’t go to work.

“Meanwhile, I tracked my cycles within an inch of their life and got so excited each month, only to be left broken hearted.

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“A key moment I will always remember is February 2017. 

By then, we’d been trying for two years and suddenly it seemed as if all our friends were starting to fall pregnant. But we were still waiting.

“I thought about seeing a doctor, but felt sure they’d tell me to keep trying naturally,” she says.

Since then, she’s realised that there was no need to wait so long, but at the time she thought she was doing the right thing.

Tara and Matt tried for six years.

Why does endometriosis affect fertility?

Endometriosis doesn’t always cause infertility, but it usually takes longer to get pregnant naturally, and some people will need fertility treatment. This may be because the condition damages the ovaries and the tubes that carry the egg to the womb.

“Enough is enough”

In January 2020, they realised it was time to ask for help. Tara’s GP referred her to a gynaecologist, to discuss her problems conceiving.

During investigations, doctors found that Tara didn’t just have endometriosis. She also had a bicornuate uterus (heart-shaped uterus) and would need surgery before she could start any fertility treatment.

“My first baby was breach because she could only grow on one side of my womb,” says Tara, “It made sense to remove the septum that was pulling my uterus into a heart shape.”

Tara had her procedure on Christmas Eve, and surgeons also removed some endometrial tissue and drilled into her ovaries, a procedure which can stimulate the growth of follicles.

The consultant told Tara that if she didn’t fall pregnant within three months, she should consider IVF.

But despite Tara’s challenges with endometriosis there wouldn’t be any NHS funding available, as Tara already had a child.

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“Nothing came out of that surgery,” reports Tara,

“And in the March we decided to contact TFP Fertility Thames Valley, as it was our local fertility clinic.”

Tests by the TFP Fertility team revealed that Tara’s AMH (anti Mullerian level) was high, suggesting she wasn’t ovulating and may have polycystic ovaries.

Matt’s semen analysis came back as normal.

The couple opted to have a medicated cycle of IUI (intrauterine insemination), in the hope that this would stimulate Tara’s ovaries.

“I went in expecting to have a baby,” she says. “When it didn’t work, we were both devastated.

I can’t explain the feeling of “why isn’t this happening and will this never happen for us?”

What is a bicornate uterus?

A bicornate uterus is when you are born with a different shaped uterus. It’s heart shaped instead of pear shaped. This doesn’t always affect fertility, but surgery may be recommended as it can increase the risk of miscarriage.

“This felt like a trial run”

In June 2021, the couple started their first round of full IVF. Tara coped well, manging to overcome a phobia about needles so that she could inject herself several times a day.

As she still had high AMH levels, the TFP Fertility team needed to  carefully judge how much to stimulate her ovaries.

They began with a lower dose of medication and then adjusted it upwards, so that enough follicles would grow.

“I had so many follicles growing and felt totally bloated and so uncomfortable.

The morning after the trigger injection, which released the eggs, I arrived at the clinic at 8am, hoping I could have my egg collection procedure done early so I could stop feeling like this.”

The collection was a success. The team retrieved 18 eggs, of which nine became healthy five-day old embryos.

These were frozen, to allow Tara time to recover from the medication. Then, two months later, an embryo was transferred into Tara’s uterus.

Tara says, “It didn’t work. I was sad but felt that this first time was a trial run to see how my body would react. The next time you can change things. This was how I looked at it.

“So I said, right let’s go again.”

The second round of IVF was delayed for a short period, so that Tara’s thyroid levels could be adjusted.

Tests had found that she had an underactive thyroid, which can interfere with the release of eggs and impact fertility.

With this under control, it was time for the second transfer.

“Stop asking me when I’m having a baby...'s massively triggering”

“We were left with a scan photo and broken hearts”

The next two rounds of IVF were hard for Tara and Matt.

A transfer in December led to a positive result. The couple were overjoyed and shared the news with their families on Christmas day.

But five days later, Tara miscarried.

“It was one of the hardest things I have ever gone through,” she says. “It was Christmas and we thought, that’s another year of our lives gone by. It was just awful.”

She continues, “In March 2022, we felt like we were ready to try again. By Mother’s Day I had another positive test.

It was like all the pain was taken away and we had been given a little slice of happiness.

“We were so scared of what was to come though, so we had lots of scans, but everything was perfect.”

On the 19 April, Tara and Matt were finally discharged from TFP Fertility, with a letter to take to their GP.

“It was like magic,” says Tara. “We skipped out the clinic at 9:30am with our hearts full of love, but by 12:30pm the bleeding had started, and I just knew it was happening again.

“The following day, it was confirmed that the baby’s heart had stopped beating. I had to go into hospital and have surgical management as baby was not passing naturally.

“The team at TFP Fertility were so incredible and so comforting to me. People would call me and check I was OK. That was such a massive thing,” adds Tara.

“Winnie came early, but she’s here”

Tara and Matt decided to try one last time.

Tara says, “It felt like the end of the road. If it didn’t work, it didn’t work.”

TFP Fertility had offered counselling all the way through the treatment but the couple had declined, as they gave each other so much support.

For this final challenge, they decided to go ahead with the counselling.

The IVF was successful, and they were pregnant.

“But we were paranoid,” says Tara. “We weren’t excited at all because we were so worried. I bled from six weeks to 15 weeks and was constantly calling up the clinic and having scans.

“They don’t know how, but every time, they said there’s still a heartbeat. It wasn’t an easy pregnancy and there were a lot of complications.

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“Then my baby girl, Winnie, decided to come four weeks early, but that didn’t matter at all, because she had arrived,” says Tara.

Tara and Matt are grateful for the support they got from the TFP Fertility team, through this long journey.

“They cared for us as people, not just numbers,” says Tara. “We spent so much time at the clinic and it was honestly like our second home at some points.

“I never felt like my feelings were invalid and they would always be there to reassure me. I’d recommend TFP Fertility to anyone.”

“I shared everything we were going through”

For so many years, people had been asking Tara when she was having a baby or if she was pregnant.

She says, “I felt like saying, we are trying but we can’t! I know people were asking out of love and care, but it was really damaging.”

During lockdown, Tara felt ready to start talking about her infertility, so she set up her Instagram, @mummataralouise, and explained what she and Matt were going through.

“I found it hard to talk face-to-face with people but writing it down or posting a photo was getting it off my chest without having to face up to someone and say it,” she says.

“I was raw and honest.”

Tara felt upset that people would assume IVF was such an easy option.

“When someone asks, ‘can’t you just have IVF?’ it hurts,” she says.

“IVF isn’t the easy way out. There is a lot that goes into this. You’re not guaranteed to have a baby.”

When Tara started sharing her experiences, she was amazed that so many people were going through very similar situations but had never talked about them.

“It’s mad that no-one is being open about this. And now that I’ve started to share my story, I’ve had interactions with thousands of people via Instagram.

“If I’ve helped just one of them, then I’ll be so glad.”

Follow Tara’s story on Instagram: @mummataralouise

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