Lowestoft IVF twins born three years apart
- Credit: Si Barber
The world's first test-tube baby celebrates her 40th birthday this month. Louise Brown was the first of more than six million IVF babies worldwide, including many born to overjoyed families in Norfolk and Suffolk
Yvie Chase from Lowestoft has an extra special bond with her little sister Olive – because the girls born three years apart are IVF twins, from embryos created on the same day.
When Yvie was born on New Year's Day 2014 her parents Sian and Ryan were the first patients to become parents following IVF treatment at Bourn Hall's Wymondham clinic.
'We'd always wanted to have children – but we wanted to get married first and for me to achieve my qualifications for my career in HR,' says Sian. 'We thought we were doing things the right way and you just don't think you're going to have problems'.
After a year without success they went to their GP.
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'We were given advice to make some lifestyle changes, including exercise and diet and to try and minimise stress, but the most stressful part was not knowing why we were having problems conceiving,' says Sian. 'We both felt under pressure; although we didn't talk about it openly we were both worried it could be our fault.'
It took more than five years to get a diagnosis of endometriosis, a condition affecting around one in 10 UK women, and around half infertile women, where the lining of the uterus which sheds with each monthly period grows outside the womb.
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After IVF treatment three embryos were created and two frozen. The third became Yvie, who was born 11 weeks early but is now thriving.
Sian and Ryan returned for treatment using the embryo frozen in 2013 and Olive Elizabeth was born in May last year.
'We are so indebted to the team at the Bourn Hall Clinic who have changed our lives,' says proud dad Ryan. 'Our advice to others is not to delay seeking advice. The most difficult part was enduring the initial screening processes, once that was out of the way and we were referred for IVF it became less daunting. 'We now have two beautiful daughters which makes the hardship and trauma that we have gone through seem insignificant and a distant memory.'
Two IVF boys
Paula Ashwood still remembers the pain she felt every time she heard that another friend or relative was expecting a baby. After suffering an early miscarriage as a newlywed she had been unable to get pregnant again naturally.
'I had always suspected that I might have problems conceiving as I had really irregular periods,' said Paula. Just five weeks after she and Mark married, Paula suffered a miscarriage. 'I hadn't even known I was pregnant. Things hit me really hard, I was devastated,' she said.
Then friends began falling pregnant. 'I would put on a brave face and smile and then go back home and think, 'When is it going to be my turn?'' admitted Paula.
After medical tests she was diagnosed with severe endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome.
'I hear of women who are in terrible pain with it and yet I was diagnosed with the most severe stage and I had no pain,' said Paula. The Haverhill couple were eligible for NHS-funded IVF at the Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridgeshire and after taking drugs to regulate her ovulation cycle Paula had her first IVF treatment. 'Two weeks later I took the pregnancy test and it was positive but because I had had the miscarriage previously I basically didn't stop worrying throughout the entire pregnancy,' admits Paula.
Son Ethan is now four and as Paula and Mark had always wanted two children they saved to pay for another cycle of treatment.
Second time around she was devastated to be told that just three eggs had been collected. 'I started to cry and one of the nurses said to me, 'All it takes is one,'' said Paula. Nine months later baby Oscar was born.
'I am really proud that my boys are IVF babies,' she said. 'I am very open about it and get talking to lots of people who have either had IVF themselves or know people who have. I am over the moon with my two boys.'
Louise Brown was born on July 25, 1978, in Oldham, as a result of the work of gynaecologist Patrick Steptoe and research scientists Robert Edwards and Jean Purdy.
Robert Edwards and Patrick Steptoe set up the world's first IVF clinic in Bourn Hall, Cambridgeshire.
IVF treatment involves stimulating the ovaries to increase egg production. The eggs are collected to be fertilised with sperm and the resultant embryos are developed in the laboratory for five days before being frozen or transferred to a woman's womb.