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I have endometriosis and I chose to be a solo mum

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By the age of 17, Annabelle’s periods were so bad that she’d faint at school. It took eight years to get her endometriosis diagnosis – and then she made a life-changing decision.

Sometimes I could barely leave the house

Deep down, Annabelle knew something wasn’t right.

Her periods hadn’t started until she was 15, but once they did, they took over her life.

Her periods were regular and the first day of her cycle would be manageable. "But day two onwards was horrendous...

I’d faint, I’d throw up, I’d have hot and cold flushes. I would lie on the bathroom floor on cold tiles, to cool down.

The pain was indescribable,” she says.

When she started work, her periods meant she needed regular time off.

“Sometimes the bleeding was so heavy that I could barely leave the house,” she says.

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Over the years, doctors prescribed different contraceptive pills, including the mini pill and the coil.

Nothing helped.

Doctors referred Annabelle for an ultrasound scan, which revealed PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), but she was told she didn’t have endometriosis.

Then an MRI scan didn’t spot anything out of the ordinary.

But Annabelle still felt she hadn’t got to the root of the problem.

I pushed hard to get my diagnosis

“I have a family member with endometriosis, so I strongly suspected that this was what I had.

And I discovered that not all forms of endometrial tissue will show up on an ultrasound.

Really, you need a laparoscopy,” she says.

“I wasn’t making any progress with the NHS, so I decided to go private at a hospital in Surrey.”

Annabelle’s first laparoscopy was inconclusive, and she notes that her consultant wasn’t a specialist in endometriosis.

“I knew I had to keep fighting for a diagnosis so I pushed for a second surgery. My family and friends thought I was crazy to want to go through with another surgery,” she says.

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The second procedure, conducted by an expert in the condition, confirmed Annabelle’s suspicions.

She did, indeed, have endometriosis. Endometrial tissue was growing on her cervix and ovaries – especially her right ovary.

Later, in a third laparoscopy, the same surgeon found that her condition had worsened: her entire uterus was red and inflamed.

Plus, he removed a large cyst from Annabelle’s left ovary.

Diagnosing endometriosis

For some people, it can take years to get an endometriosis diagnosis, partly because the symptoms are similar to other conditions. The first step is an ultrasound to check for cysts or signs of endometriosis. If the diagnosis is still uncertain, an MRI and a laparoscopy can help to find endometrial tissue growing outside the womb.

I was coming up to 30 and time was precious

With both her ovaries severely compromised and her uterus ‘red and angry’, Annabelle knew she had to make some life decisions.

She says, “I’m one of six siblings and I’d known since a child that I wanted to be a mum.

“Time was passing me by. I wasn’t in a relationship and I didn’t want to jump into a one just to have a baby within a year.”

So, Annabelle decided to be a solo mum. At this point, she didn’t tell anyone about her plans.

She chose to have a fertility check at TFP Fertility Thames Valley, as this was close to where she lived and she’d heard of the clinic.

“You get the biggest welcome when you go into that clinic,” she says.

The letter he wrote to his future child made me cry

Following blood tests and scans, she decided to proceed with a round of IVF and the first step was to choose a sperm donor.

Annabelle chose a sperm bank based on recommendations from our team.

Then, she filtered her search to find a donor with her skin, eye and hair colour.

Next, she searched for someone with a similar personality type and interests.

Annabelle says, “You don’t know what you are going to get – the baby may be far more like the donor – so I just wanted to be sure that we’d have things in common even if she was more like him.”

After all this filtering, there were three potential donors left.

One of them had written a touching letter. He’d told his future child that he’s only a phone call away.

“It was really lovely,” says Annabelle. “I knew he was the one.”

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I got used to the injections and I’ve kept every needle

Annabelle took her IVF treatment in her stride.

“You think you have quite a big area to inject,” she reflects, “But in fact, you soon become quite tender all over. I got used to it, though, and focused on feeling hopeful.”

Annabelle’s PCOS meant she was producing a lot of eggs and the fertility treatment stimulated her follicles to produce even more.

The TFP Fertility Thames Valley team retrieved 32 eggs and created 13 embryos.

These were then frozen to give Annabelle’s body time to recover from the treatment and procedure.

Four months later, an embryo was transferred into Annabelle’s womb and on day four she did a pregnancy test.

“It was positive and I was excited,” she says, “But the embryo didn’t attach properly and I lost it.”

Three months later a second transfer also resulted in a positive test.

This time, the embryo stayed.

Annabelle had been given extra progesterone. Low levels of this hormone are often flagged in cases of endometriosis.

“As soon as I had the injections, I had the strongest feeling that it was my time.”

I shocked a lot of people

When Annabelle was 13 weeks pregnant, she posted on her Instagram account that she had chosen to be a solo parent and, she says it shocked a lot of people.

“No-one except close family and friends had any idea before that post, as I didn’t want any opinions.

“I didn’t want to be told I would struggle on my own, so I kept the news away from socials and friends until I was ready,” she reflects.

Annabelle’s baby girl, Ottilie, was born via a Caesarean in early 2024.

She says, “I was warned that a c-section could be painful and I’d take a while to recover.

I don’t want to say that women haven’t been in pain after the procedure, but, honestly, it was nothing compared to the pain of endometriosis.

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“I did need pain killers, but it felt as if I flew through it.”

Annabelle and Ottilie are now back home and getting used to life together and Ottilie is a relaxed, happy baby.

“Of course, my family and friends all love her and are so happy for me,” says Annabelle.

“I’ve had so much support and everyone is hoping that my periods may be better now I’ve had a baby.”

“It’s amazing. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done and I cannot believe this is my reality”

There is always hope

Eleven embryos are waiting in the freezer at TFP Fertility Thames Valley – but their future is undecided.

Annabelle’s endometriosis symptoms – the severe pain and bleeding – are always associated with her periods.

This could be because the extra endometrial tissue is growing around her ovaries and in her uterus, rather than around other organs.

Because of this, doctors have told her that a total hysterectomy, which would also remove her ovaries, could be a logical way forward from a quality-of-life perspective.

But this doesn’t take into account her desire to have a larger family.

“I’d love another baby but I’m waiting to see what happens to my periods,” says Annabelle.

TPF Fertility’s experts note that anyone keen to expand their family after IVF would need a thorough medical consultation to review their health and wellbeing.

This includes the return of menstrual cycles and any other changes in circumstances.

They’d then provide a bespoke plan to manage both pain symptoms and her desire to continue along her fertility journey.

Annabelle reflects, “If it turns out that Ottilie is an only child, then so be it. I would have loved to have had four children, but she is my priority.”

She says that parenthood is far easier now than in the first few weeks after the birth, when she feels her emotions were influenced by the extra hormones from IVF treatment, and the imbalance from having endometriosis.

“My message to anyone with endometriosis is to have hope.”

“That’s why I chose Hope as one of my baby’s middle names.”

“My message to anyone with endometriosis is to have hope.”

“That’s why I chose Hope as one of my baby’s middle names.”

You can visit Annabelle's Instagram account @solomamajones.

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