Emma and Red’s Story
Despite suffering with the most severe form of endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and enduring multiple obstacles, Emma, 33, and Red, 37 from Reading finally welcomed Eva following IVF at Thames Valley Fertility.
Emma explains: “We got married in June 2016 and started trying for a family the following October. I came off the contraceptive pill, which I had been taking since I was a teenager to help reduce the symptoms of my really painful periods.
“From the age of 18 I’d visited the doctor numerous times to try and diagnose the cause of my painful periods. They would either tell me to take paracetamol plus ibuprofen and deal with it, or they diagnosed any bowel related symptoms I was having as IBS. Eventually the doctor advised me to take the pill continuously and have one period every six months. I timed it so my period would come at the weekend as it would be so agonising I’d have to stay in bed.
“The longer the time went on, the pain from my endometriosis got worse and would leave me writhing around on the floor. My quality of life was hugely impacted and I was in pain three weeks of every month.
“When I came off the pill I didn’t get a period at all. In January 2017 I was diagnosed with a hormonal imbalance and PCOS and referred to a gynaecologist. I chose to be treated by Dr Alex Swanton, after my sister, who also suffers from endometriosis, recommended him. Due to Dr Swanton’s great reputation, Thames Valley Fertility being just thirty minutes from our house, and being part of The Fertility Partnership, we decided to have our treatment there.
“Upon scanning my ovaries, Alex explained that I had PCOS and that I wasn’t ovulating so recommended I take clomid to stimulate ovulation and egg production. I also had ovarian drilling through a laparoscopy, to treat my PCOS and help start my periods. During the surgery it was discovered I had stage four, rectovaginal endometriosis, where endometrial tissue was in my vagina, rectum and bowel.
“Dr Swanton explained that I would need a major operation to treat my endometriosis and IVF may be needed to help us conceive.
“Following the laparoscopy, I decided to focus on trying to get pregnant instead of having surgery for the endometriosis so I took more clomid and an additional drug, metformin, which also stimulates ovulation. It caused me to lose weight as I felt quite sick so couldn’t eat or drink much, which is a common side effect.
“The longer the time went on, the pain from my endometriosis got worse and would leave me writhing around on the floor. My quality of life was hugely impacted and I was in pain three weeks of every month. I was taking really strong drugs to ease the pain, which on one occasion made me hallucinate whilst I was on a conference call for work. It was having such an adverse effect on my life, I desperately needed it addressed before starting IVF treatment. My surgery was so high risk, it could only take place in an NHS hospital with an intensive care unit.
“Following four and a half hours of surgery to remove twenty centimetres of my bowel and other endometriosis adhesions, I woke up with a stoma. Despite being warned I may need one, it was quite a shock to discover that I had a bag in my stomach to collect my faeces. The bag was removed after seven weeks and the doctors said I had to wait two months to recover for IVF.
“We commenced IVF in January 2019. I started taking the drugs and because I had PCOS, I generated a lot of eggs, which caused ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. When my symptoms started to develop, they immediately delayed our fresh transfer and all of our five embryos were frozen.
“Once my body had recovered, I had my first frozen embryo transfer in May 2019. Due to my uterus and cervix being a funny shape it took a longer period of time to insert the catheter and three attempts to implant the embryo, unfortunately it wasn’t successful. I had my second frozen embryo transfer in July 2019. Two weeks later we were over the moon when the pregnancy test came back positive. We couldn’t believe it, after all this time, we were finally pregnant.
“We had a seven week scan at the IVF clinic where we saw the baby’s heartbeat. It was amazing and finally I started to believe I was going to be a mummy. I booked a private scan at nine weeks but on the way to the clinic I had an awful feeling. They scanned me for a long time without saying anything. I was crying my eyes out as I was so anxious. Eventually the sonographer said, I am sorry there is no heartbeat.
“We were devastated but also still longed for a baby. So in January 2020, we started our next frozen IVF cycle. We prepared for the embryo to be transferred but had to stop as I developed a urine infection. Once that had cleared we started our third frozen transfer, but the embryo didn’t embed.
“Eva is so incredible and worth every heartache on our journey. I always had hope that we would get there and I will forever be thankful to Dr Swanton who diagnosed and operated on my endometriosis and for the whole team at Thames Valley Fertility
“Although we were advised to have a break, I was so desperate to become a mummy that we went ahead with our fourth frozen cycle in March 2020. Again, I started to take the drugs to prepare my body for the embryo transfer, but then COVID arrived and IVF clinics were advised to shut. Luckily I was the very last patient at Thames Valley Fertility to be treated before it closed. Because of the coronavirus safety restrictions Red couldn’t be at the transfer so I had to go in on my own. The staff were all brilliant, holding my hand and reassuring me.
“Two weeks later we discovered I was pregnant. I had a good pregnancy and it was amazing to not have periods and not be in agonising pain every month. Over three and a half years after starting trying for a family, our daughter Eva was born on 9 December 2020 at 39 weeks, weighing seven pounds one ounce.
“Eva is so incredible and worth every heartache on our journey. I always had hope that we would get there and I will forever be thankful to Dr Swanton who diagnosed and operated on my endometriosis and for the whole team at Thames Valley Fertility, who helped us at every stage, closely and precisely giving us the treatment we needed for our complex situation.”