Louise longed to have a baby with her husband of 18 years, however when attempts to reverse the effects of Tony’s earlier vasectomy failed the couple were becoming resigned to the fact that it was not to be – until a friend suggested the possibility of using donated sperm.
Tony begins: “I was travelling a lot with my work during the 90s and met my future wife Louise by chance. We fell in love and she left her own family and friends behind to come and live with me in the UK, ending up in Peterborough.
“We did want to have a child together, although we both knew from the outset that having a baby would be difficult, as I had had a vasectomy after the birth of my previous two children many years before. But knowing how much joy a child can bring and what it would mean to Louise to have a child of her own, I was determined to do what I could. The first option for us was to look into a vasectomy reversal.”
The couple visited their GP who referred them to a private fertility consultant. The consultant told them that the chances of a reversal being successful were less than one percent because Tony’s vasectomy had been done over 30 years beforehand. However, the consultant went on to tell them about sperm extraction which carried a better chance of success. They agreed to give it a try and were referred to a Nottingham fertility clinic. Unfortunately, despite managing to surgically extract some sperm that were able to fertilise two of Louise’s eggs, the implanted embryos didn’t survive the first month.
“Thinking we’d tried all our options we had pretty much given up when a friend suggested we tried donated sperm.”
The couple weren’t eligible for NHS funding as Tony had children from a previous marriage, so the couple began researching clinics themselves where they could have IVF with donated sperm.
Tony recalls: “I’d read about Bourn Hall Clinic and how IVF originated there, so I made some initial enquiries.”
Bourn Hall Clinic has its own sperm bank, with contributions from both altruistic donors and those going through treatment. The latter may choose to sperm share in return for free IVF. A new satellite clinic had just opened in Peterborough, so Tony and Louise decided to go there for their initial consultation and were among the very first patients.
“Using donor sperm wasn’t an easy decision for either of us, and Louise was extremely understanding of my position and never put any pressure on me. I was willing to do it; if it worked and gave my wife what she wanted then it was well worth doing.”
For the couple it was important they had as good a match as possible to Tony. Although donors are anonymous they write a short description of themselves and why they have decided to donate and often include a short message to be given to a future child.
“We wanted to know something about the donor. We discussed with our consultant our desire for the donor to have similar characteristics to me. We were given a choice of three donors and this included a brief description about the donor’s hair and eye colour, build and interests. Having made our decision we went back to the Peterborough Clinic for Louise to start preparing her body for the fertility treatment.”
Louise began a course of injections and medication in advance of IVF.
“Louise is amazing and very accepting of whatever has to be done. She knew taking the medications would help improve her chances of becoming a mum so never complained.
“Throughout the process we were provided with good advice and documentation.”
In August 2014 at the Cambridge Clinic, ten eggs were collected from Louise and the best four selected to be individually injected with a single sperm from the donor to help fertilisation occur, a procedure known as Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). The resultant embryos were then cultured in the laboratory for a few days until they became blastocysts, with the best quality ones being selected for implant.
The couple opted to have one embryo transferred into Louise’s womb and the others frozen.
“Overall Louise had an amazing pregnancy without any of the usual uncomfortable symptoms. Apart from when she peed on the stick to confirm she was pregnant we would hardly have known until much later when she developed a belly!”
In mid-April 2015 Mia was born, much to Tony and Louise’s joy.
“I am delighted to have Mia in my life; she is gorgeous and I’m incredibly proud of her. She’s definitely my daughter and I love her to bits.
“We were a hundred percent happy with our experience at Bourn Hall. Having the convenience of the Peterborough satellite for our routine appointments was great, plus we got to visit the beautiful and original clinic in Cambridge for the egg collection and embryo transfer.
“I’d certainly recommend Bourn Hall and suggest using donor sperm to others in our position, but ultimately it has to be the couple’s choice.
“It’s not the easiest decision to make or a conversation to have with extended family and friends but in our case well worth doing for us to be a complete family.”
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