For Lianne and Richard Conklin Christmas 2014 was extra special, as it was their first Christmas with their long-awaited baby, Oliver.
Lianne and Richard started trying for a baby in 2009 whilst they were engaged to be married. “I naively assumed I would get pregnant straight away and we would share our good news with everyone we loved at our wedding,” explained Lianne. The wedding day came and went and, after a year of trying, Lianne started using ovulation testing kits and going to Google for information. The couple, from Fareham in Hampshire, continued trying for nearly 2 years before going to their GP. “When you are struggling to conceive it seems like everyone around you is falling pregnant straight away with no problems,” describes Lianne, “every month we would hope and pray that we would get pregnant, then when my period arrived I would have that moment of such disappointment. I tried to develop coping mechanisms and tell myself that next month it would work, it was always next month, next month. It was really emotionally draining.”
In October 2011 Lianne and Richard went for tests with their GP. Richard had a sperm test and Lianne had a blood test to ensure she was ovulating and had her ovaries scanned. All these tests came back fine, so they were referred to a hospital consultant in 2012 where they had some further tests: these also showed no problems. They were, therefore, diagnosed with ‘Unexplained Infertility’, as there was no obvious cause for their inability to conceive. “Every time we went for a test we thought, ‘if there is something wrong we can do something to fix it’” explains Lianne. “It was so frustrating not having a reason for our struggles.” It was at this point that Lianne and Richard decided to open up to their family and friends about their problems conceiving and about possible treatment. They felt it was important to get support from those close to them and to be able to discuss it openly with friends who had gone through fertility treatment themselves.
Lianne and Richard underwent 2 cycles of IUI at their local hospital’s fertility department, which were sadly unsuccessful. Lianne was nervous of the injections, but the couple felt positive about starting treatment. After 2 unsuccessful IUI attempts they were advised to look at IVF and chose Wessex Fertility clinic in Southampton for their treatment.
We were always treated as individuals and every member of staff we came across was so caring and kind. We have friends who have had treatment at Wessex Fertility who say exactly the same.
Lianne and Richard
Three years after they started trying to conceive, Lianne and Richard commenced their first cycle of IVF – a short protocol. “We looked at lots of advice online, looked at the clinics’ success rates and chose Wessex Fertility. We were lucky and were given 1 round of NHS funded treatment. We discussed it all beforehand and decided that we could afford to do a maximum of 3 treatments before looking at whether we should continue or look into other options.” Lianne was terrified of the egg collection procedure and wouldn’t believe people when they told her that they didn’t remember a thing. “I just couldn’t believe that it wouldn’t hurt. I made the mistake of finding a video of the procedure on YouTube which made me even more scared! In reality it wasn’t like that at all, I really don’t remember a thing from the procedure,” laughs Lianne. Lianne’s treatment produced 9 eggs, of which 7 were mature enough for insemination. 3 fertilised and 2 became day 3 embryos. Lianne remembers that the hardest part was waiting for the phone call from the laboratory to hear how their embryos had developed. “I was disappointed with the numbers as there were only 2 good enough to transfer and they were only fair quality,” said Lianne. Lianne and Richard endured the agonising 2 week wait for a pregnancy test but were unfortunately unsuccessful.
“We had a consultation after our negative result to discuss how the treatment went and what we could change next time. We found this really helpful as it gave us information and options,” explained Lianne. “I also started acupuncture in June 2013 as I wanted to do anything I could to improve our chances.” In July 2013 the couple commenced their 2nd cycle of IVF, this time using ICSI to inseminate the eggs due to their previously low fertilisation rate. ICSI is a process where the embryologist injects a single sperm into each egg to assist fertilisation. On this cycle Lianne had 8 eggs collected. 4 fertilised, but again only 2 embryos were viable on the day of transfer. Sadly, this treatment was also unsuccessful and the couple decided to have 1 final cycle, this time with an endometrial scratch. The scratch, performed prior to collection, was suggested in order to assist the embryos in implanting in Lianne’s uterus. This technique has proved successful in couples with implantation failures.
Lianne and Richard started their 3rd cycle of IVF in October 2013, this time a long cycle. In November they had 6 eggs collected, had ICSI performed, and had 4 fertilised embryos. “We decided to use the Eeva technology as we wanted to do everything we could to maximise our chance of success,” explains Lianne. “This takes time-lapse photos of the embryos and tells you which are the best ones. You also get a video of the embryo that was transferred.” There were 3 embryos available on day 3, however, the Eeva system showed an abnormal divide in one of the embryos, so the other 2 were transferred. 1 embryo was graded excellent and 1 was very good quality – the best that the couple had ever produced. “I felt a lot more relaxed about the procedures this time and had acupuncture throughout. I also asked my doctor to sign me off work for 2 weeks as I wanted to feel that I had done everything in my power to get and stay pregnant this time. I did the pregnancy test on my mum’s birthday. I felt different this time as my breasts were very tender and continued to stay tender, so I was so hopeful. The test showed positive and I just couldn’t believe it! We were so thrilled. I then did a pregnancy test every day (sometimes twice a day) for the next two weeks because I just couldn’t believe it.” Four years after they first starting trying, Lianne and Richard were expecting a family.
“Our 7 week scan appointment at Wessex Fertility was the most nervous I’ve ever been about anything,” remembers Lianne. “I held my breath and Richard and I just looked at each other. When Dr Sue said everything was perfectly fine I broke down in tears, I just couldn’t believe it had worked, the emotions were overwhelming. We both felt that we were cared for so well throughout out treatment with Wessex Fertility.”
“I had scans every 2 or 3 weeks up until 20 weeks just to make sure everything was ok. We found out we were expecting a little boy and it was amazing watching him grow.” Lianne went into labour on 21 August 2014 and baby Oliver was born on 22 August – his due date – weighing 8lb 11oz. Oliver has made Lianne and Richard’s life complete. “He is so contented and happy and was sleeping through the night almost straight away. I joke with people that Oliver is proof that you get what you pay for! He is completely perfect and means everything to us.” The couple were looking forward to their first Christmas with baby Oliver, bringing the magic back to the festive season. “We had a big family Christmas which we hosted. There were 12 of us so it was a big celebration and everyone was there to spoil Oliver. It really was a dream come true for us.”