Experiencing fertility problems can be tough, but forces couples can face additional challenges, such as time spent apart and house moves. Here, schoolteacher Charlotte and her serving husband Andrew share how their baby Nathaniel was helped into the world by clinics 500 miles apart…

ANDREW and Charlotte had always wanted children – with Charlotte picking her career because of her love of youngsters – so shortly after marrying, the couple started to try for a baby. After a year or so with no success, they underwent fertility tests, but these came back with no concerns.

A few months later Andrew was transferred to Inverness and, as they were still young, their new GP suggested they carry on trying for a baby naturally for two more years: “After this time, we underwent testing, which came back as unexplained infertility. Although frustrating, it did mean we could be referred for NHS IVF treatment,”   explained Charlotte.

“Our treatment started at a clinic two hours away in Aberdeen. It seemed to go well, but when my eggs were being harvested, I started to bleed. I had to be transferred to a hospital overnight.

“We produced 17 embryos, ten of which were good quality. From these, seven were frozen and one was transferred to me. After all this, I was shattered when ten days later I started bleeding.”

Moving south

Shortly after, the couple were posted to Salisbury and wanted to continue their IVF treatment at Oxford Fertility (oxfordfertility.co.uk), but they were shocked to learn that NHS England won’t take embryos frozen in Scotland. Rather than abandon their embryos and risk Charlotte reacting badly to another egg collection, they decided to pay for private treatment.

“The team at the clinic were fantastic,” said Charlotte. “They felt that it made sense to use the existing good quality embryos, and avoid the egg harvesting that caused me problems last time. They arranged for the embryos to be safely transported the 500 miles. At £500 this seemed good value compared with re-starting a fresh IVF cycle.”

Despite further setbacks, the couple remained hopeful and after a holiday, yoga, mindfulness and visits to a counsellor, Charlotte was feeling healthier and positive.

Third time lucky

Two frozen embryos were transferred and this time they were overjoyed to see the ‘pregnant’ sign shining back at them following a test: “Our early scan showed that both embryos had started to develop, but when it came to the 12-week scan, only one had continued to grow,” said Charlotte. “My pregnancy went well, although at 37 weeks my ‘bump’ had turned into a breach position, which meant a caesarean birth.

“Nathaniel is everything that we dreamt of. We’re experiencing the joys of having a child. We both come from close families and can now give that to our baby.

“Although our journey has been hard, I would do it again. I’m glad we explored every option; we’ll never wonder or regret anything.”

AFF’s advice

Karen Ross, AFF’s Health & Additional Needs Specialist, has this advice for any forces couple looking at fertility options: “Army life often involves mobility with regular moves across the UK and overseas. The MOD recognises that this can create disruption and interrupt medical care.

“IVF is one of the provisions that can be affected. In order to prevent this happening, the MOD has written the Assisted Conception and Fertility Policy to support geographical stability whilst undergoing assisted conception treatment.

“It’s strongly advised that you read this policy if you’re considering assisted conception treatment, particularly if you know that you may be assigned to another country or location at some point during or after treatment. Your soldier will be able to access the policy [2016DIN01-052], via the defence intranet. 

“When undergoing IVF treatment, most providers will consider frozen embryo transfers as part of the same treatment cycle, so this means you can have as many transfers as required depending on the number and quality of the frozen embryos.

“NHS England will not fund transfer of frozen embryos from another country, so if you do decide to move prior to having frozen embryo transfers, you’ll have to consider what you will do with the frozen embryos you have stored.”

For further information on assisted conception support, including information for those living overseas or in the devolved nations, visit the health pages at aff.org.uk or contact Karen at additionalneeds@aff.org.uk

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