Made In Aldridge

‘Made in Aldridge’ is a regular e-news feature which tells the story of a woman’s or couple’s experience at MFS and the impact of the result on their lives.

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Ava Louise Coombes

When a young couple experiences the loss of their hours-old daughter, and are then not able to conceive and then suffer repeated early miscarriages, they must really feel the odds are stacked against them ever becoming parents. Danielle and Stuart Coombes always imagined children in their lives but they never imagined what they would experience before the birth of Ava Louise.

Danielle and Stuart Coombes waited for seven years before the birth of Ava Louise
Danielle and Stuart Coombes tried to conceive for seven years before the birth of Ava Louise

When they conceived in 2005 they thought they were truly blessed. They had great jobs as a catering manager and a travel company director, respectively and now they were going to be a family.

But their 20 week scan revealed their baby had a congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), where some internal organs which should develop below the diaphragm are wrongly located in the chest cavity, and the chance of survival was 50/50. “The odds were even but I always thought our baby would be OK,” said Danielle. “Babies with CDH who live for 24 hours can have surgery to correct the condition and we believed this is would be the case for our baby.”

Their daughter Bethany looked beautiful and perfect when she was born and Danielle and Stuart got to hold her for the first precious moments of her life. But severe CDH complications meant she lived for only 11 hours.

“Losing Bethany left us numb,” said Danielle. “We were young, naïve and totally optimistic and never thought our baby would die.”

After only a few weeks they returned to work – although Danielle found it hard to settle into the old routine and resigned after a couple of months. They married in 2008 and then started trying again for a baby.

“We’d conceived easily before and we were still young and so we thought they’d be no problems getting pregnant again,” remembers Danielle. “But after 18 months of nothing happening, we went straight to MFS to try and get some answers.”

In April 2010, following tests at MFS on both Danielle (28) and Stuart (35), the couple was amazed to learn that sperm quality was probably the reason why they had not managed to conceive again and so ICSI treatment was recommended.

Instead of the 150,000 sperm required for each mature egg in standard IVF treatment, ICSI requires just a single good quality sperm which is injected into the middle of the egg using micro-manipulation via a needle 1/10th the width of a human hair.

Danielle says: “Again we were naïve and thought there would be no reason why we couldn’t conceive – we’d already done it once! But looking back, losing our baby Bethany had a major impact emotionally on me and physically on Stuart. All that time he was being my rock and being brave and getting on with life, but the hurt was taking its toll on him in other ways.”

So Danielle and Stuart were delighted after their first ICSI cycle when they got a faint blue line, showing that she was pregnant. But this turned to heartache when a few days later Danielle started bleeding and she knew she was suffering an early miscarriage.

“We were going through our very own fertility nightmare,” said Danielle. “All the grief of losing Bethany came flooding back as we had to deal with losing another baby.”

A few months later in May 2011, Danielle and Stuart had their second ICSI treatment, which again resulted in a positive pregnancy test. A scan at MFS at six weeks revealed a single healthy heartbeat and then they waited for their first ante-natal scan at 12 weeks.

But more bad news followed at the scan when Danielle was told that the baby had stopped growing at around nine weeks.

Before starting the third ICSI cycle Danielle and Stuart had a thorough follow-up with MFS clinical lead Dr Abey Eapen, to review the treatment. Both of them agreed to increase their exercise, improve their diet and reduce the amount of alcohol they drank and Stuart began a three month course of anti-oxidant vitamins. Dr Eapen also suggested some tests for Danielle to diagnose the causes of her early miscarriages.

“We were amazed when a test result showed that I had Factor V Leiden, a blood clotting condition. We thought all the fertility problems were male factor but this showed why I wasn’t able to maintain the last two pregnancies beyond a few weeks.”

Factor V Leiden is an inherited cell imbalance which increases by up to eight times the chances of micro-clots in a woman’s blood, so increasing the chance of an early miscarriage.

Following the third ICSI cycle in May 2012, Danielle was treated with daily blood-thinning injections and a low steroid medication. She was also scanned at MFS at six, eight, 10 and 12 weeks, to carefully monitor the development of the baby and reassure Danielle and Stuart that all was well.

Danielle and Stuart were nervous at their 20 week scan, but were reassured that their baby was growing perfectly and there was no indication of CDH.

Ava Louise Coombes was born at Walsall Manor Hospital on 31 January 2013 weighing 8lbs 12oz.

"She's perfect!" says Danielle

“Despite everything we went through, I never imagined a life without a child,” said Danielle. “But sometimes during my pregnancy I couldn’t allow myself to believe we were actually going to have a healthy baby.

“Ava is now three months old, but she was seven years in the making and she’s perfect – she’s our dream come true.”

Dr Abey Eapen said: “Recurrent early miscarriage is a very isolating condition. But tests are available to diagnose the cause whether the pregnancy is achieved naturally or following fertility treatment.

“Thanks to these tests Danielle and Stuart didn’t have to experience further heartache and they were able to become parents to the baby they wanted to have for so long.”

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