Biggleswade woman's heartbreaking battle with endometriosis has happy ending
A Biggleswade woman who spent a heartbreaking six years trying to get pregnant is spreading the word about Endometriosis Awareness Month this March.
Claire Lathlean, 37, and her husband struggled for months to conceive, with the couple unaware that Claire had endometriosis, a progressive disease which was damaging her reproductive and other vital organs.
Now a mum-of-one after successful IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic, she is sharing her story to raise awareness of the damaging impact which the condition, and the surgery sometimes required to treat it, can have on a woman’s fertility.
Claire said: “I was in my 20s when me and my husband, David, first started trying for a baby and so we didn’t really imagine that we would have any issues.
“We waited five years before seeking help but when I told my GP that my mum had also struggled to have children and had a condition called endometriosis she referred us for tests straightaway.”
Up to half of women with endometriosis – where tissue can grow over the ovaries and Fallopian tubes as well as other organs – are affected by fertility issues.
Around one in 10 women in the UK have the condition and a family history of the disease can increase the chances of developing it.
Symptoms vary but can include: painful, heavy or irregular periods; pain during or after sex; painful bowel movements; fatigue; and infertility.
Claire said: “I’d always had heavy periods, although I assumed everyone else did, but I didn’t have some of the other more debilitating symptoms.
“I ended up having surgery to remove one of my Fallopian tubes and an ovary.
“When the surgeons opened me up they also discovered that my bowels and intestines were completely stuck together by endometrial tissue and had to be lasered apart.
“It was a real mess and my operation ended up lasting five-and-a-half hours. I was told that I had stage 4 endometriosis, which is the most severe stage, and that came as a real shock.”
Early egg freezing can preserve the fertility of young women in advance of the surgery associated with endometriosis.
Claire wasn’t aware of the option to freeze some of her eggs, but fortunately still had one intact remaining ovary after her surgery.
“After my operation I was told that it was still technically possible for me to get pregnant naturally with just one ovary, but my chances were reduced, so we were referred for NHS-funded IVF treatment at Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge,” explained Claire.
The couple were delighted when, after successful IVF treatment at Bourn Hall, Claire fell pregnant in early summer 2017 and nine months later, on February 7, 2018, she gave birth to daughter Mia.
Claire is still surprised at how many people she speaks to know very little about endometriosis – particularly the role it can play in reducing a woman’s fertility.