A woman who tried for a baby for 18 years has since given birth to not one, but two children through IVF and is thrilled that her family is finally complete.
Kim Barrett, 40, a business owner from Tollesbury, Essex welcomed her first child, daughter Yasmin, now 22, when she was 17, and desperately wanted another baby.
Having then met her husband James, 46, the couple were persistently trying but were unable to conceive as Kim had irregular periods and was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) aged 18.
PCOS is a common condition that affects how a woman's ovaries work.
While she initially wanted children close together, following her diagnosis and with her struggle to conceive again, Kim says it soon became clear that wouldn't happen for her.
For years, the couple tried various treatments including a laparoscopy – a surgical procedure that allows a surgeon to access the inside of the abdomen and pelvis – to try and increase their chances of growing their family.
After exhausting all options, in July 2017, the couple went to the TFP Simply Fertility in Chelmsford for help.
"I saw IVF as a last resort," Kim explains.
"We had a laparoscopy which was not a success.
"I felt like IVF wouldn't work so I didn't want to go through it but we had no other option."
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In their first cycle of IVF, doctors retrieved 19 eggs and the couple were thrilled to see a positive pregnancy test in May 2018.
Despite feeling "extremely lucky", Kim also describes being "fearful" throughout her pregnancy.
"I was so scared about losing the baby," she explains. "There was a lot of fear – I was worried all the time.
"It has to be the most stressful thing I have ever done, but it was a straightforward pregnancy apart from the worry."
And Kim went on to give birth to the couple's first son Harrison, on 16 January, 2019, in Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, weighing 7lb 7oz.
"When Harrison was born, I just can't describe the feeling, it was incredible," she says.
"I never thought I would fall pregnant again, so having him in my arms was a magical moment."
But that wasn't the end of the couple's fertility journey, with Kim also falling pregnant via another round of IVF in 2020.
William was born in April 2021 at Broomfield Hospital, Chelmsford, weighing 7lb 11oz.
"I had another normal pregnancy," Kim says.
"There were some times when I couldn't feel him moving but we went into the hospital for monitoring and everything was fine.
"I think I blocked out all the bad stuff, " Kim adds. "But my husband remembers all of it and how stressful it was.
"I was just happy to have my baby."
Following the happy ending to their fertility story, the couple now want to encourage others not to view IVF as just a last resort, like they did.
"If you have the option to do IVF I would say don't hold off," Kim says.
"The clinic was amazing and really supportive.
"When I took the boys back they wanted to hold them and see them."
What is IVF?
IVF is one method that can help with having a baby if you have fertility problems. During the process, an egg is removed from the woman's ovaries and fertilised with sperm in a lab.
Once fertilised, the egg is called an embryo, and is returned to the womb to grow and develop, just as with a normal pregnancy. It can either be carried out using your own eggs and your partner's sperm, or with eggs and sperm from donors.
This is different to egg freezing, when they aren't mixed with sperm, but instead stored to be used in the future. Freezing healthy sperm or eggs while young can increase the chances of successful fertility treatment.
The process has six main stages, which include, as per the NHS:
1. Suppressing your natural cycle
Your natural menstrual cycle is suppressed with medicine, to make other medicines used in the next stage of the process more effective.
This is done either via an injection that you'll be taught to give yourself every day, or as a nasal spray, continuing for around two weeks.
2. Helping your ovaries produce more eggs
You'll next be given a fertility hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) to help your ovaries produce more than one egg at a time. This is with the aim of collecting and fertilising more eggs, increasing the choice of embryos to use in your treatment.
3. Monitoring your progress and 'maturing' your eggs
The development of your eggs will be checked with vaginal ultrasound scans, and sometimes blood tests. Before they are collected, you'll have an injection of another hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) to help them mature (ripen, ready to be fertilised, in a sense).
4. Collecting eggs
Your eggs will be collected with a needle passed through your vagina and into each ovary, with the help of an ultrasound, taking around 15 to 20 minutes.
You'll be sedated during the collection, but might experience cramps or a small amount of vaginal bleeding afterwards.
5. Fertilising eggs
This is when the eggs are mixed with the sperm in a lab to fertilise them. Sometimes, each egg might need to be injected individually with a single sperm, called intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI.
The embryos will then continue to grow in the lab for up to six days before being transferred into the womb, with one or two of the best chosen.
You'll have been given hormone medicines to help prepare the lining of the womb to receive the embryo.
6. Transferring embryos
When the embryos are placed into your womb, this will be done with a thin tube called a catheter, passed into your vagina.
The procedure is more similar to having a cervical screening, or smear test, and you won't need to be sedated. The number of embryos that will be transferred should have been decided before starting treatment, which can be dependent on your age and which IVF cycle you're in.
If any suitable embryos are left over, they can be frozen for other attempts.
After embryo transferral, you should wait around two weeks to have a pregnancy test to see if it has worked. For more information, see our useful guide on the fertility treatment in full, including who's eligible.
Support and more information
You can also contact the Fertility Network UK on Monday, Wednesday and Friday on 0121 323 5025 or at email@example.com, or on Tuesday and Thursday on 07816 086694 or at firstname.lastname@example.org, between 10am and 4pm.
Additional reporting SWNS.