Nadine & Ben Cottrell from Cardiff were childhood sweethearts who married as soon as Nadine turned 18. These days getting married so young is quite uncommon, but this Christian couple were sure that they had met their life partners.
Shortly after marrying, Nadine started to suffer with serious stomach cramps and gained a lot of weight without changing her eating habits. She consulted her GP and was referred for a scan, this revealed that she was suffering with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. The couple researched this on the internet and learned that it could affect her fertility.
With this in mind the couple decided to start a family as soon as possible as they had her age on their side. The couple tried for over 12 months without achieving a pregnancy. They consulted their GP who said that, given her medical condition, their best option was to try In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF).
The couple consulted a private IVF clinic in London and further tests revealed that Ben had a very low sperm count. The clinic froze Ben’s sperm and a few weeks later the couple underwent a full IVF cycle. At the egg retrieval they found that Ben’s semen sample contained no sperm and they decided that he would need to have surgery to remove his sperm, as he was on the operating table he was saved from the painful procedure at the last minute when some sperm was found that could be used from his sample.
Nadine was now aged 20 and was very frightened by the procedure of having her eggs retrieved, she said, “It was a really painful procedure and I felt everything.”
However, after all the anguish of trying to conceive, their prayers were answered when a pregnancy test gave them a positive result.
At their first scan they were overjoyed to be told that they were in fact expecting twins.
By 16 weeks the couple had announced their baby joy to everyone and were busy planning for their arrival when their world came crashing down as Nadine miscarried the twins.
The couple were devastated and couldn’t believe that they were going to have to go through all the pain and anguish again with another IVF cycle.
Nadine & Ben pulled themselves together and started looking on the internet at other IVF options. They then found Barbados Fertility Centre and sent them an email giving an outline of their medical history.
They were contacted by an IVF Nurse Co-ordinator from Barbados Fertility Centre who explained how the procedure worked and arranged a medical consultation with Dr. Skinner, Head Clinician at the clinic.
Nadine said, “From our initial contact with Barbados Fertility Centre, I felt very relaxed and was sure if anyone was going to help us it was here.”
In 2007 the couple made the journey to the Caribbean island of Barbados, and were able to pay for flights, accommodation, and treatment for less than the cost of treatment alone in London. The couple were also reassured by the clinic's high success rates and gold seal of approval from JCI International, which is a health accreditation body in the USA.
Ben's sperm was tested every few days and Nadine was put on medication to stimulate her ovaries. They underwent a full IVF cycle again and got 5 good quality embryos. But because of losing the twins Nadine was scared to have more than one embryo transferred back to her womb so the clinic froze 4 embryo’s and just transferred one embryo, however this did not result in a pregnancy.
Barbados Fertility Centre uses the latest technology for freezing embryos called Vitrification. This is not widely available in the UK at present.
Nadine said, “We were disappointed that the treatment hadn’t worked this time, but it was such a good experience we still felt that we had made the right choice of clinic. The egg retrieval didn’t hurt and we both had faith that they were going to get us our baby.”
Three months later the couple returned to Barbados and underwent another IVF cycle using the frozen embryos, again the couple were really pleased with the treatment and returned home to wait the agonising 14 days until they could do a pregnancy test. However, it again came back negative.
By this stage, the couple had been trying for a baby for over 5 years and Nadine was physically and mentally exhausted. She felt her mind and body needed a rest. It was such a difficult time for them as Ben’s sister had two children in the same period, and Nadine’s brother also had a new baby. Nadine said, “It was so hard watching the arrival of these new nieces and nephews and we just kept praying that one day soon we would have their little cousin to join them.”
In May 2008, the couple flew out to Barbados and really hoped that this would be third time lucky for them. They did all their medication in the UK before they travelled, but when they got to Barbados Ben’s sperm test revealed that his condition has got a lot worse and that he would indeed have to undergo an operation to surgically remove his sperm.
Ben said, “I can’t tell you how painful the operation was, I still get pains from it even now.”
This time the couple decided to try with two embryos being transferred back to the womb to see if this increased their chance of success. And after another 14-day wait the couple's prayers were answered once more. Nadine was pregnant with a single baby.
Dr. Skinner advised that Nadine was suffering from a weak cervix and that she would need to be stitched at 14 weeks in order to keep the baby, this was something that had not been advised in the UK when she was carrying the twins.
On the 18th January 2009 Nadine and Ben became the very proud parents of their beautiful daughter Faith.
Ben said, “We always had faith that we would get our baby so it seemed right to call her that!”
Nadine & Ben are keen to share their story as so many couples suffer in silence concealing their infertility from friends and family. They wanted people to know that they are not alone and that the right help is available if you are prepared to leave the UK for treatment.
Patient story supplied by the Barbados Fertility Centre.