Baby Elisabeth was the perfect early birthday present for Norwich couple who struggled to conceive
- Credit: Archant
When friends ask Jessica Hasketh-Boston from Horsford, Norwich what she would like for her 40th birthday later this year she replies: 'I don't want anything, I already have the only present I ever wanted.'
Jessica's early birthday present is her new baby daughter, Elisabeth, born after fertility treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic, Norwich.
Jessica and husband Marc first started trying for a baby more than ten years ago when Jessica was still in her twenties but they delayed seeking advice.
But Jessica said: 'With hindsight one of our biggest regrets is that we should have asked for help sooner than we did.'
After finally going to their GP and being referred for hospital tests Jessica and Marc were told Jessica had a condition called polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) which is one of the most common causes of fertility issues in women.
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She said: 'I had been on the contraceptive pill for years before we got married and it had masked many of the symptoms.'
PCOS disrupts the release of a woman's eggs and common symptoms include irregular periods or no periods at all, excessive hair growth, such as on the face, weight gain, oily skin/acne and thinning hair.
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Jessica was told she would need to lose weight before the hospital would put her on ovarian stimulation drugs to try and boost her chances of getting pregnant naturally and it was at this point that she decided to go for a complete lifestyle change.
'I had always been active but I basically switched from doing a bit of walking to running three times a week and hiring a personal trainer,' she said.
'Every time I had a setback and wondered what I was doing I would remember what my ultimate goal was. I lost a stone and a half and competed in the Great North Run. A few days after I did the Great North Run I was told that I had lost enough weight to be put on fertility drugs.'
Over the next two years Jessica underwent two courses of ovulation induction treatment. The couple were disappointed when Jessica still didn't conceive naturally and eventually they were referred for IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic.
Jessica said: 'By this point I was in my mid-thirties and I really did feel as though my body clock was ticking. I really had begun to think that perhaps being a mum just wasn't going to happen to me.'
She was devastated when her first attempt at IVF had to be cancelled half-way through because she only produced one follicle.
'That was a massive low point,' she said.
She then fell pregnant naturally but tragically suffered a late miscarriage.
'That took quite a while to get over,' she said. 'I went to an excellent group counselling session with an organisation called Time Norfolk Pregnancy Loss and it was good to talk to other people in the same situation.'
The couple decided to have another try at IVF and it was at this point that they met Dr Thanos Papathanasiou, clinical lead for Bourn Hall clinics in Norfolk. He gave them the option of trying a radically different approach.
Jessica was given a higher dosage of drugs to stimulate her ovaries and then the eggs which were retrieved and successfully fertilised were all frozen instead of the usual practice of a fresh embryo transfer happening simultaneously.
'The idea was that my body would have time to recover from the stimulation drugs before transfer,' Jessica said.
The couple went on holiday for three weeks before Jessica underwent a frozen embryo transfer which resulted in a healthy pregnancy and the birth of Elisabeth, who Jessica said was 'the most beautiful baby girl'.
Elisabeth was named after Jessica's mum who passed away suddenly 15 years ago. The response to her birth from family and friends has been enormous.
'When Lizzie was born we had around 150 cards and presents,' said Jessica.
'We had been very open about our journey to have a child. Lots of my mum's friends and relatives sent us cards and gifts. It was amazing.'
Jessica and Marc are now settled into family life with their daughter but Jessica said she kept pinching herself for the first few months to remind herself she was really a mother.
'It took us a couple of months to believe that it had really happened,' she said.
'Over the years I used to have dreams sometimes that I had a baby and would wake up and it wasn't true. It took me a while to realise I wasn't still dreaming. Meeting Dr Papathanasiou was life-changing. I cannot thank Bourn Hall enough, we are totally in awe and in love with the little baby girl they gave us.'