Lizzie Allan and soldier husband Steve welcomed baby girl Matilda Poppy to the world in February – five years after they first began trying to conceive. Lizzie chatted to Army&You about their IVF journey…
A&Y: How did it all begin?
Lizzie: It was shortly after getting married and settled in our first quarter that we decided to start trying for a baby.
After six months of no success, I assumed that it was down to my health as I have psoriatic arthritis. We spoke to my GP who advised that they couldn’t investigate until we had been trying for at least 18 months. As Steve was often on exercise or deployment, it actually took three years to reach a timeframe where we could investigate.
It was mid-2015 that we were able to start tests, nice and simple for Steve, but a lot more invasive for me! After various blood tests and a few operations, I was found to have low-level endometriosis and our fertility was deemed to be ‘unexplained fertility issues’.
How did you eventually get help from the Army?
Our GP at the med centre was fantastic and sorted out all the funding for us to undergo IVF treatment. We also had the option of choosing our clinic, which I am confident had a positive impact on our overall treatment.
Has Steve’s chain of command been supportive of both of you?
It took us two rounds of IVF to fall pregnant. Emotionally, the whole process and treatment has been incredibly draining however, the Army was always supportive of Steve having to attend appointments, tests and scans. During our second round of treatment Steve received a posting which has given us stability during my resulting pregnancy and the first year of our baby arriving.
How have your neighbours on your patch helped you?
During the treatment, the Army community and those friends and neighbours who were aware were always fantastic.
Have you had any extra hurdles to jump such as moving or being away from family?
We have just bought our own house, so Steve managed the move five days after Matilda was born whilst we were still in hospital. All our family clubbed together to get everything sorted. It was manic and we still have a lot of work to do, but we are in – and Matilda is settled!
What advice would you give to any other Army families embarking on assisted conception?
Do not be afraid to talk about it. When you’re in a military setting and your partner is away you will need a group of close friends to confide in and to support you. It’s a very sensitive thing to go through and making sure you surround yourself with a good support network will make all the difference.
Need access to assisted conception?
NHS England has updated its commissioning policy for Armed Forces families, outlining the pathway and criteria for you to access assisted reproduction methods such as IVF and Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection.
You can find more about the criteria on the AFF website (aff.org.uk) and there’s also some useful information on devolved regions and what to do if you’re overseas.
If you’re experiencing any problems with accessing fertility treatment or would like to give feedback regarding the treatment you’ve received, contact AFF’s Health & Additional Needs Specialist, Karen Ross, at firstname.lastname@example.org