Stella & Martin’s* Story

Loving Parents Playing With Newborn Baby At Home In Loft Apartment

Undiagnosed endometriosis almost prevented Windsor couple, Stella (36) and Martin (41), from having a baby. Thames Valley Fertility’s Alex Swanton treated Stella’s endometriosis and conducted a successful round of IVF. Stella shares their story:

“Martin and I met five years ago and knew early on that we’d be together forever. As I was in my mid thirties and Martin had a young daughter, we thought it would be good for her to have a sibling and decided to start trying.

“I had a sense something wasn’t quite right and thought it would be a struggle for us to conceive. This was due to suffering with really painful periods from the age of 14. I went to the doctor multiple times as I wanted to know if it was normal and each time I was told, yes, it’s fine, just take some painkillers. Eventually I was prescribed the contraceptive pill which completely stopped my periods.

“In my early thirties I started experiencing bad pain again. I came off the pill and thinking this isn’t right, I started to seek answers and a diagnosis. Eventually, aged 33 years old, and 20 years after first complaining of problems, I saw a female GP who said that the pain wasn’t normal and sent me for a scan.

“In my early thirties I started experiencing bad pain again. I came off the pill and thinking this isn’t right, I started to seek answers and a diagnosis. Eventually, aged 33 years old, and 20 years after first complaining of problems, I saw a female GP who said that the pain wasn’t normal and sent me for a scan. It showed that my ovaries were too close to my womb which was a sign of endometriosis. But a laparoscopy would be the only way to diagnose endometriosis for definite.

“Three months later I was on the operating table having a laparoscopy. It revealed that both of my fallopian tubes were blocked so there was no way we could fall pregnant naturally. The good news was that my ovaries were healthy. We decided there and then that we would start IVF as we needed to do it before the endometriosis deteriorated again.

“It was quite overwhelming deciding which clinic to start treatment with. Martin created a spreadsheet detailing location, rating from the HFEA, and specialisms. Thames Valley Fertility was brand new so it hadn’t been awarded a rating. However, due to its links to Oxford Fertility, which had a really great reputation, and wanting a consultant who specialises in endometriosis and fertility treatment, plus its partnership with Access Fertility, we decided to make an appointment.

“In September 2018, after setting-up an Access Fertility funding package, we booked a consultation with Alex Swanton as he specialises in endometriosis and fertility treatment. The clinic was a warm, professional, calm, peaceful place. We made a decision on the spot to undergo IVF at Thames Valley Fertility.

“Alex was always really calm and professional. We liked and trusted him from the start. If we asked him a direct question, he’d always give us a straight answer, so when he gave us a positive answer it was really reassuring. He really understood my condition and his tailored approach ensured I went for further surgery which made it possible for us to have a baby.

“The IVF started with stimulation of my ovaries. We were really lucky and ended up with a good number of eggs, with almost all fertilising and a big proportion being top quality. Martin also had his sperm tested at the clinic, as there was a long wait with the NHS and we were keen to progress with treatment as we didn’t know when the endometriosis would return.

“We had our first fresh embryo transfer in October 2018 and fell pregnant. Unfortunately, I had an early miscarriage at five weeks, which was very difficult.

“Alex was always really calm and professional. We liked and trusted him from the start. If we asked him a direct question, he’d always give us a straight answer, so when he gave us a positive answer it was really reassuring. He really understood my condition and his tailored approach ensured I went for further surgery which made it possible for us to have a baby.

“Over the course of 2019 we had two more frozen embryo transfers but they both failed. Alex advised that he thought the endometriosis had returned and recommended another laparoscopy, which he performed on the NHS at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.

“I had a few months to recover and in March 2020 we decided to try IVF one more time. I started the process then the lockdown was announced. As I had started treatment I could still have the transfer before it closed. After a lot of thought and not knowing when the endometriosis would come back we decided to go ahead with the transfer. I am so pleased we did, as a couple of weeks later we discovered we were pregnant.

“Due to suffering from placenta previa, I had an elective caesarean at 37 weeks and our longed-for baby boy arrived weighing seven pounds eight ounces in November 2020.  We couldn’t be more grateful to Alex and the clinic who made the whole process a very positive experience.

“It took twenty years for me to finally be diagnosed with endometriosis. It can feel really emotionally overwhelming and like you’re up against the odds. To any couples with endometriosis, I would highly recommend you arrange to speak with an expert like Alex. He was very reassuring and he gave us hope that I could be treated for both the endometriosis and fertility issues.”

*names have been changed