"I never thought I'd be able to have children"
PUBLISHED: 18:30 19 September 2019
Ipswich mother "so grateful" to East Anglian fertility clinic for helping her achieve her dream...twice after "unexplained infertility" diagnosis.
Cara spent almost a decade trying to come to terms with the possibility she would never have children of her own but now, thanks to Bourn Hall's specialist help, she is mum to Adam, aged 4, and 7-month-old Evie.
"I spent years facing the prospect of never having children of my own," says the Ipswich resident.
"Watching adverts on TV featuring small children used to literally make my heartache. I tried not to let myself daydream about all the little moments I was going to miss like giving my own child a bath, bundling them up in a fluffy towel, kissing and smelling the top of their head and putting them to bed."
Now, 13 years after first trying to conceive, Cara, aged 38, has finally put that pain behind her and is mum to Adam (four), and Evie (seven months), both conceived following successful fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic.
"I had wanted children since I was young and even as a teenager I helped out at an after-school club for young children," says Cara. She and husband Stewart have been together since Cara was 17 and first started trying for a baby when Cara was 25.
"We tried for a baby for a few years before we went to the doctor," recalls Cara. "I was studying to be an accountant and working long hours so we put off seeking help. We did a lot of research on the internet and tried all kinds of suggested remedies to boost our chances of having a baby, but nothing worked."
After the couple went to their GP they were referred to Ipswich Hospital and underwent tests. Cara and Stewart's infertility was 'unexplained' which means that no definitive reason could be found for why they couldn't conceive.
As they had been trying for so long (most couples conceive within two years of trying) the couple were told their best chance of a baby was to have NHS-funded IVF treatment at a specialist clinic.
They chose Bourn Hall Clinic in Colchester, which provides both NHS-funded and self-funded IVF as well as diagnostic fertility testing and treatment, and Cara says it was a relief to finally be referred for specialist help, although she felt daunted at the same time.
Cara fell pregnant after their second treatment. Her eggs were fertilised in the laboratory at Bourn Hall Colchester with Stewart's sperm using a procedure called Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI), which is where a single sperm is injected in to the centre of each mature egg. The resulting embryos were then kept for a few days in an incubator until they reached blastocyst stage, which is when they have the greatest chance of achieving a successful pregnancy. Two embryos were transferred to Cara's womb and a fortnight later she took a pregnancy test.
"I didn't feel pregnant," she says. "I was too scared to get my hopes up but on the day I was due to take my test I couldn't wait any longer and took the test at 4am. When the result showed up positive I just cried and cried. I was over the moon, I just couldn't believe it."
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Nine months later son Adam was born and when he was just six months old Cara and Stewart wondered if they might be able to conceive naturally and started trying for another baby.
"We were hoping to get some luck from the post-baby hormones but I didn't get pregnant," says Cara.
The couple decided to have IVF again, this time paying for it themselves as they were no longer eligible for NHS funding once they had Adam. "We chose Bourn Hall because we had excellent care and support the first time and so didn't hesitate to go back," says Cara.
The couple had some additional procedures second time around which took place at Bourn Hall's Cambridge clinic: Intracytoplasmic Morphologically-Selected Sperm Injection (IMSI), which involved the assessment of Stewart's sperm at a much greater digital magnification than ICSI, and the embryos were monitored using Early Embryology Viability Assessment (Eeva). Eeva uses imaging to help identify the best embryos at an early stage (day three) without disrupting them.
"We ended up with three top grade embryos," says Cara.
The couple were delighted when Cara fell pregnant at the second attempt and daughter Evie was born seven months ago.
Only a very small number of people need to have IVF and there are a number of ways in which people can improve their chances of conceiving naturally, such as losing weight and making other lifestyle changes, and Bourn Hall provides a free consultation service with a fertility nurse.
"My advice to anyone worried about their own fertility would be to seek help sooner rather than later," says Cara. "I put off asking for help and at the time thought that I had always managed to hide my feelings about struggling to get pregnant quite well and was taking it in my stride. It was only after I had Adam that my mum said that after many years she had finally got her daughter back. I must have been more upset and distracted than I realised.
"I am so grateful that I have had the chance to become a mum and enjoy all these precious opportunities with the children.
"Adam was such a proud big brother when Evie arrived," says Cara, "He was telling his nursery friends all about her and then showing her off when we went in to watch his Nativity play when she was just a week old. It amazed me how much he loved her right from the start."
Bourn Hall is running a free fertility awareness event in Ipswich this Saturday at 2pm at Wherstead Park. The event will provide free mini consultations with a fertility nurse specialist, expert presentations and information regarding GP referrals to access the clinic's free fertility diagnostics and treatment service.