Coventry Evening Telegraph 14 April 2009
ONE in six couples will seek specialist help in their bid to have children, pinning their hopes on fertility treatment to bring them the joy of a son or daughter.
But there’s no guarantees and while hopes are high success rates can be low, so anything which can boost chances of conception is worth a try.
For three friends from Nuneaton acupuncture was the key to four very welcome arrivals.
Karen Hambridge reports…
ADORING mum Sam Chamberlain cuddles her 17-month-old daughter knowing she is her little miracle. Had Sam taken the advice of a hospital consultant, baby Mia would never have born.
Ten years ago, Sam was advised to have a hysterectomy leaving her no chance of ever having children.
Thankfully, Sam, 37, sought a second opinion on how to treat her problems of polycystic ovaries and endometriosis and now she’s a happy mum to a beautiful baby girl.
But it’s not been an easy journey for Sam and husband Neil, 41, from Attleborough, Nuneaton.
The couple, who married in 2000, have spent five years and thousands of pounds in their quest for a family.
Sam’s problems meant conceiving would be challenging if not impossible and fertility treatment was their only choice. But after failure followed failure the couple were beginning to give up hope.
Then Sam started to have acupuncture and everything changed. The years of heartache and struggle became merely a marker on the way to joy. Sam, who works for North Warwickshire Borough Council, recalled: “Getting pregnant is one of those things you just think is going to happen, you never think you are going to have a problem. But when I started being ill and was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries and endometriosis it was suddenly a huge issue. My consultant at the time at George Eliot Hospital told me I would need a hysterectomy, it was the only thing which would stop the heavy periods and excruciating pain. It was such a drastic measure, I was only 27. I collapsed when I came out of his room, a nurse had to come and help me.”
Refusing to believe major surgery was her only option, Sam saw another consultant who offered a treatment plan which kept her fertility intact. Even so Sam knew conceiving naturally would be struggle so when she and Neil decided to try for children they turned to the Centre for Reproductive Medicine at University Hospitals for assistance.
They began ICSI treatment, a procedure where a single sperm is injected into a egg. Sam was put on fertility drugs to stimulate egg production and on the first round it seemed like there was an abundance of eggs to harvest.
But disappointingly when it came to collect the eggs the tiny spheres were seen to be cysts, not eggs, the scan could not distinguish between the two. A second attempt produced three eggs but none resulted in pregnancy. “It was a rollercoaster for us, it was a really hard time,” said Sam. “You are up and down all the time. You keep going to the hospital and you are full of hope and expectation. It’s a cycle where you have six weeks when your body is going through treatment then you have an embryo implanted and you wait three weeks to see if it’s successful.
Each time I bled at day ten, it was devastating. I felt I had actually lost that baby. I know it is really early and if it had happened naturally you wouldn’t even know, but I knew something was there, that it could have become a life and it was heartbreaking. But you have to pick yourself up and try again.”
Before the third attempt Sam went to a lecture at the Coventry centre by an acupuncturist who said therapy seemed to help some couples conceive.
With nothing to lose she started sessions and the next time her eggs were retrieved there were nine – three times the number from the second attempt. It meant she could have fresh eggs fertilised and implanted but also have some frozen for later attempts.
“It was brilliant – it meant we had more chances and if the fresh ones didn’t work we weren’t simply back to square one,” said Sam. “We knew the chances of frozen eggs being a success were much smaller than fresh, but at least it was a chance.”
When none of the fresh eggs proved fruitful Sam and Neil decided to take time off.
“You end up putting your life on hold,” explained Sam. “You don’t book holidays, you don’t go out. Everything is centred around that one goal and when you suffer disappointment after disappointment it can be too much to bear.
Neil was fantastic. He had to give me my injections each night because I couldn’t face doing it myself and whenever the attempts failed he was strong for me. It got to the stage by the third time we started to think maybe it would never happen and we needed to get on with our lives, we still had a relationship to nurture ourselves.”
Sam continued with the acupuncture however, finding it helped with her condition, and offered a very welcome chill-out and stress-busting session. When her original therapist became pregnant herself she was recommended to Lois Francis. And it was Lois who was treating her when she and Neil went for a fourth attempt, this time with a frozen embryo.
“We knew the chances were much lower but we were ready for another shot. And it worked. I was absolutely staggered.”
Mia came along in October 2007, a little miracle for her proud mum and dad. For Sam there is no doubt acupuncture made all the difference. “Being a mum is fabulous, it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done but the most rewarding and to think if I’d have listened to that doctor all those years ago she would never be here.
And if it wasn’t for the acupuncture she might not be here too. The acupuncture was the only thing I did differently throughout having treatment, I believe it helped me get pregnant. It helped bring me my little miracle.”
WITH a history of fertility problems council worker Kirsten Phillips knew having another baby might be difficult.
But she and husband, Paul, 35, from Stockingford, Nuneaton, were keen to expand their family and give son, Lewis, five, a little brother or sister. Kirsten, 36, explained: “I’d had several miscarriages and I had an ectopic pregnancy before I had my son – I just had a lot of trouble conceiving. I’d always wanted to have children so it was very hard.”
To nudge things along Kirsten began taking Clomid, a fertility drug which increases the number of eggs the ovaries produce. After six months though there was still no sign of pregnancy.
“Then I started to see Lois in June, after Sam got pregnant, and by October I had caught. It was a bit of a shock, I suppose I was thinking it would never happen.”
Kirsten had never had acupuncture before but buoyed by her friend Sam’s happy success she was willing to give it a go. “I hadn’t known what to expect. It wasn’t like having hundreds of needles stuck into you like you might think. It was very relaxing, it was just a few needles in certain places with certain triggers.”
After conceiving Kirsten carried on with the acupuncture to help with morning sickness and anxiety. “It helped me relax and supported the pregnancy,” said Kirsten. “With my history I was never going to be 100 per cent relaxed for the nine months but the acupuncture did help. It’s hard to explain how it made me feel. It was comforting and calming.”
TRACY Newnes, 38 and husband Barry, 36, from Stockingford, Nuneaton, had been going through IVF for two years before turning to acupuncture.
Tracy, who became friends with Sam and Kirsten while working at Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council, knew she had problems with her fallopian tubes and conceiving naturally would be difficult, if almost impossible.
So after a fruitless year she and her husband sought assistance and were told IVF was the way forward.
“I’d had nothing like acupuncture or any type of complementary therapy before but I think we had all started thinking along the same lines – we were all keen to give it a go because we thought it couldn’t hurt and it might just help.
“It wasn’t like I thought with lots of needles, a lot of it was relaxation and stress relief. “I was able to talk to Lois and get concerns off my chest. It was nice to see someone else who you could talk to and go and relax and not be anxious for an hour.”
Tracy had two IVF attempts and three attempts with frozen embryos, two while she had just started the acupuncture. But it turned out third time was a charm and soon Tracy and Barry discovered they were expecting twins. Now a proud mum to Melissa and William, Tracy is convinced acupuncture provided just the prod her body needed.
“It might not be successful for everyone but I believe it made a difference to me.”
ACUPUNCTURIST Lois Francis, has clinics in Coventry and Nuneaton. She was a founder member of the Zita West Network for Reproductive Health.
She has a special interest in working with couples who are having difficulty conceiving and over the past few years has seen a steady increase in couples with unexplained fertility as well as clients who come to perhaps boost their chances while undergoing fertility treatments.
Lois said: “It’s a complete package – assessing diet, lifestyle, stress levels and teaching relaxation techniques so couples can feel they are really back in charge of their own fertility.”
Coventry Evening Telegraph 14 April 2009