Having been diagnosed with PCOS as a teenager, Francesca knew from early on that she may have problems conceiving. However, Francesca and husband Tom, from Ringwood, didn’t realise quite how much time and strength would be needed to achieve their dream of becoming a family.
Francesca met now husband Tom at the age of 17, and before getting married, decided to begin trying for a baby naturally. This did not go to plan however, and the couple became frustrated after two years of trying, and began to seek answers. At the age of 24 the couples GP gave Francesca Clomid, a drug given to induce ovulation. This was unfortunately unsuccessful as Francesca ovulated only half of the time, which led to her being put on Gondotrophins. This sadly led to Francesca’s first experience of over-stimulation. The couple were given further tests which found no problems in Francesca’s womb or fallopian tubes. “I found this incredibly frustrating as I just wanted a diagnosis of the problem so we could address the issue with appropriate treatment” recalls Francesca.
By their mid-twenties, Francesca and Tom decided it was time to go private, following the news that they would not be eligible for more treatment on the NHS until Francesca was 30. After a break to cope with the exhaustion and frustration, the couple met with consultants and grew hopeful. “We met with several consultants who were all adamant that IVF would work for us.” Unfortunately, Francesca hyper-stimulated for a second time, this time more severely.
The couple had their embryos frozen and decided it was time for a break to recover. The couple quickly regained strength however, even beginning injections whilst away on holiday. “It was very surreal on the return flight home trying to find an area in the staff galley to do my injections.”
The couple then had their embryo transfer before waiting two weeks to find out if they had been successful. Unfortunately this first cycle of IVF was not successful, leaving the couple in shock and frustration. “We’d pinned all our hopes on IVF, and surely our problem was lack of ovulation so why had we not gotten pregnant?” remembers Francesca. Francesca had another single embryo transfer which sadly ended in another negative pregnancy test. In a bid to increase their odds for success, Francesca and Tom opted to transfer two embryos during their next IVF cycle. They were delighted to discover the news that they had been waiting for, and finally saw their first positive pregnancy test after years of trying. “We were on top of the world, happily enjoying early pregnancy and already buying various baby items” Francesca recalls. The couple eagerly awaited their 7 week scan, only to be devastated with the news that there was no longer a pregnancy, and were faced with their first miscarriage.
The couple remained strong and were determined that they would reach their goal, requesting every test available, no matter the cost. Francesca had some further blood tests and it was found that she had Lupus and Hughes Syndrome, which are auto-immune issues. “We were so relieved to find a reason, a diagnosis at last!” recalls Francesca. Armed with additional medication for Francesca’s auto-immune issues, the couple tried again. “Seeing Francesca going through the treatment, all the painful injections and drugs, and not being able to help her was really hard” remembers Tom. “I had to hold it together, keep a clear head and handle a lot of the practical and financial arrangements so Frankie could fall apart when she needed to”. The couple discovered they were pregnant again, only to miscarry for a second time.
After the second devastating miscarriage, they decided it was time to explore surrogacy, believing that it was Francesca’s body that was not accepting the embryos. The couple decided that before this, it was time to have a holiday, and were stunned to discover upon their return that Francesca had fallen pregnant completely naturally. “We were to say the least completely confounded, as was our clinic and GP!”. However, once again this ended in devastation for the couple, as Francesca was rushed in for an emergency scan which revealed that the pregnancy was ectopic, and led to Francesca having one of her fallopian tubes removed.
I was told that there was no way we could have an embryo transferred into me as my organs would go in to shutdown.
The couple were now certain that surrogacy was the best option for them going forward, and decided to transfer to Wessex Fertility for treatment, and began searching for a surrogate. “After some time looking we found a wonderful woman, who is still a close friend of ours”. Assuming Francesca’s body was not allowing them to hold a pregnancy, the couple were hopeful that their dreams of a baby would be achieved through their surrogate. However, they were distraught to discover the same outcome, a pregnancy was achieved, followed by the devastation of another miscarriage. “All this time we had been assuming the problem was me but maybe it was the embryos?” recalls Francesca.
That was probably my lowest point; there are only so many heart breaks one person can take.
Francesca and Tom did not give up. They decided to have another egg collection at Wessex Fertility, but this time with the addition of Pre Genetic Screening (PGS). In PGS, biopsy samples are removed from the embryo and sent to a laboratory for genetic testing. If the biopsies contain the correct number of chromosomes then this is likely to mean that the embryo which it came from also contains the correct number of chromosomes, meaning that only embryos with the correct amount of chromosomes are transferred back into the womb.
The couple were recommended a single embryo transfer due to increased odds of success on this cycle, and for Francesca’s safety due to her auto-immune problems. “We had everything – a viable embryo, supporting drugs for my auto immune issues, endometrial scratch, EmbryoGlue and intralipid infusion. So we had one of our perfect embryos transferred”.
9 months later, on 17th April, the miracle that the couple had waited six years for arrived, a baby girl. “I look at her and feel so emotional, I just can’t believe she’s really here”.
Reflecting on the 6 years of treatment, the couple feel incredibly lucky to be where they are today. Tom recalls “After six years of disappointment and heartache we never thought we’d be able to have a baby, so when Francesca gave birth to a baby girl it felt miraculous. I look back and think it’s amazing how quickly things turned around for us”. The day of their daughter’s birth was already a significant day for the couple, the year earlier had been the day their surrogate had been transferred embryos, and also coincidently the date of Tom’s father’s death. “It’s always been a painful day for me, and now it’s become one of the best days of my life. It’s amazing how just like that, your luck can change”.