Doctors dismissed my heartbreaking fertility struggles because I already had a son… this is why I’m glad I ignored them
Michaela Warner, from Derby, became pregnant last October and now has a baby son called Harley, nine months
Fertility problems among couples who already have children are being ‘ignored’ by UK doctors, experts have warned.
Problems starting a family affect around 15 per cent of people in the UK.
But another five per cent of people struggle to conceive as parents, when they try to have more children, or after previously being pregnant, but suffering a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
The fertility regulator and charities have now spoken out to highlight the ‘heartbreak’ these people face, as one mother described her seven-year struggle to conceive a sibling for her son.
Michaela Warner, from Derby, was completely unaware she had a 10cm cyst wrapped around her right ovary, which had destroyed her fallopian tube and given her less than a three per cent chance of conceiving naturally.
But, because she already had a child, she felt dismissed by her GP, being turned away approximately seven times from different surgeries when she sought help.
Mrs Warner, 33, only discovered the cyst after taking out a loan for IVF, and having a scan at fertility clinic TFP Nurture Fertility.
The nursery supervisor said: ‘My husband and I had only been together for three months when we conceived our son Cole, who is now 10.
‘It was so easy that we just expected our second child to be the same.
‘But we couldn’t conceive for so many years and it was heartbreaking.
Mrs Warner, from Derby, was completely unaware she had a 10cm cyst wrapped around her right ovary, which had destroyed her fallopian tube and given her less than a three per cent chance of conceiving naturally. Pictured with her husband David (41), son Cole (now 10) and Harley
‘People would ask all the time if we were going to have another baby, and Cole even asked me if we could adopt his cousin.
‘There was the odd comment that I should be grateful to have one child, but no matter how many children you have, fertility struggles aren’t easy.
‘It was painful seeing Cole playing on his own and desperately wanting him to have the little brother he kept saying he wanted.
‘I might never have had another child, or realised I had this cyst damaging my fallopian tubes without the scan at Nurture Fertility, or if I had simply followed the doctors’ advice to go home, relax and keep trying.’
Fertility Network UK has a support group for people with ‘secondary’ infertility, where women who have been pregnant before cannot get pregnant again.
The charity’s chief executive, Gwenda Burns, said: ‘The anguish of secondary infertility is very real and can be just as devastating as primary infertility.
‘It’s important to recognise many people have intense wishes about the size of family they would like.’
Sarah Norcross, director of fertility charity Progress Educational Trust, said: ‘Secondary infertility is sometimes ignored by doctors, and people can be left to suffer in silence, not knowing the cause of the problem.
‘It is a devastating blow for many couples who wish to have more than one child and complete their family.
‘We would like to see GPs pay more attention to this.’
Mrs Warner, and her husband of seven years, 41-year-old forklift driver David, always took it for granted they would have more than one child.
The couple planned to have two children, three years apart, so the siblings could be close in age and grow up together.
In the event, this did not happen, despite every effort from ovulation tests to multivitamins and adopting a healthier diet.
It was only after they turned to fertility treatment that they discovered the problem.
Luckily, after one round of IVF, Mrs Warner became pregnant last October and now has a baby son called Harley, nine months.
She said: ‘I took eight separate pregnancy tests because I wanted to be sure i had actually conceived.
‘I took pictures of my bump all through pregnancy, and videos of Harley kicking.
‘There had been so many times when I previously wrongly thought I was pregnant, because I felt nauseous or my period was late, that I didn’t want to take anything for granted.
‘It was all worth it, but I don’t want anyone else to go through this and be ignored.’
Dr James Hopkisson, medical director of TFP Fertility Group, which provided the IVF which produced baby Harley, said: ‘NHS provision of IVF is rationed, so there is a post code lottery and those who have a child are currently excluded.
‘There are also concerns that pressures on stretched GPs will delay investigation.’
Clare Ettinghausen, from fertility regulator the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: ‘There are several reasons why people may struggle to conceive, even when they have had a baby before.
‘Fertility issues can be very stressful, and we would encourage anyone affected to speak to their GP as soon as possible.
‘Secondary infertility can be heart-breaking for anyone experiencing it and any research in this area is welcome to help understand and support those affected by it.’