Genetic Testing can minimise miscarriage risk

A new mum from North Somerset who struggled for years to have a baby has said how grateful she and her husband are to have had access to genetic testing prior to their successful pregnancy last year and says with hindsight she wishes they’d done it sooner.

Eloise Morton, 41, who gave birth to baby Martha in December 2023 after trying for four years, said: “The cost of genetic testing is quite high – it cost us £2,500 – but genetic abnormalities are the reason for a lot of miscarriages so maybe it would have meant we avoided the heartache of some of the miscarriages we endured.”

Eloise runs and manages the Bristol charity the Square Food Foundation, which works to reduce hunger, improve health, and bring people together through food and cooking.

She and IT consultant husband Duncan, 45, married in 2017 and started trying for a baby the following year. After three months, they were delighted to have a positive pregnancy test, but unfortunately Eloise miscarried after six weeks.

They kept trying, using ovarian testing kits to maximise their chances of success, and when there had been no further positive results within 12 months, they consulted their GP.

Standard blood tests were done but the couple were dismayed to learn they would have to wait a further 12 months for an NHS consultation. And before that referral could happen, Covid struck.

At the end of the first lockdown the pair were referred for diagnosis to the Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine (BCRM) as NHS patients.

Eloise was relieved to learn that her ovaries still contained a healthy number of eggs for her age, but investigations revealed there were fertility issues both on her side and on Duncan’s. One of Eloise’s fallopian tubes was totally blocked, the other substantially blocked, and Duncan’s sperm were “not great swimmers.”

This meant they were eligible for NHS-funded IVF, and decided to stay with BCRM for their treatment, having been impressed by the team’s performance and record to date.

In April 2021 Eloise had 18 eggs extracted, of which 14 produced good embryos. Because she’d produced so many, the decision was taken to freeze all the embryos and have a pause before proceeding with the next stage of treatment, in order to avoid ovarian overstimulation.

The first frozen embryo transfer (FET) took place six weeks later and resulted in a pregnancy, but Eloise had a miscarriage 10 days later.

Investigations done at this point revealed there were no evident problems with her endometrial lining or elsewhere, so a further two FETs were carried out but without a resultant pregnancy.

After FET number four the couple had a positive pregnancy test result, but a routine scan at seven weeks revealed no pregnancy, although Eloise’s hormone levels had not returned to normal. As a result, in June 2022, she underwent surgery to eliminate the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy.

After such an emotionally and physically draining experience, Eloise and Duncan chose to take a year out of treatment and recuperate. They also decided they would request genetic testing of the best of their remaining frozen embryos so they could maximise their chances of success when they restarted.

Of the five frozen embryos tested, two were normal.

Happily, the first of the screened frozen embryos, which was implanted on 02 April 2023 led to a successful pregnancy and on 6 December 2023 baby Martha was born.

The couple have one good screened frozen embryo left in storage at BCRM and a number of untested embryos which could also be screened if the pair decide they would like a sibling for Martha.

Eloise said: “For now we are just enjoying our beautiful baby, and we’re looking forward to involving her in the activities we enjoy doing together as she gets a bit older.

“I’m looking forward to resuming my Saturday morning Parkruns, and there’s a junior version of that, and we’re also looking forward to introducing Martha to the ski slopes.

“We like activities that are fun and community-based,” said Eloise, who runs and manages the Bristol charity the Square Food Foundation, which works to reduce hunger, improve health, and bring people together through food and cooking.

BCRM has one of the best success rates with IVF and other fertility treatments in the UK and is involved in innovative research covering a range of fertility issues. The clinic is based at Aztec West, near the intersection of the M4 and M5 motorways, giving easy access for patients throughout the South West and Wales as well as further afield.

fertilitybristol.com