By Aasma Day
Krystal Telford was desperate for a baby. It seemed everyone else around her was either pregnant or proudly pushing their newborns in their prams. It had got to the point where she and husband Kevin had stopped going to friends’ baby showers and christenings. “We just could not deal with being around babies as we were too devastated,” she admits to HuffPost UK.
The couple, who live in County Durham and have been together for 10 years, had first been referred for
Losing Three Babies Left Me Feeling Like A Ticking Time Bomb
Krystal and Kevin went on to have seven rounds of IVF, each one resulting in a pregnancy – only for the embryo not to survive beyond eight weeks. The pain was incomprehensible, says Krystal, now 30.
“You become so isolated when you are going through IVF,” she says. “It is all-consuming and takes over your life. All you want is to see those two lines. It is absolutely heartbreaking when you lose babies. It got to the stage where I was so scared, I was almost waiting for it to go wrong.”
After seven miscarriages, Krystal knew there must be some reason why she was unable to carry a pregnancy. Doctors carried out numerous tests and told her they couldn’t find anything; that she’d just been unlucky and should keep trying. But Krystal was adamant and after her seventh miscarriage, in 2016, she asked for what doctors call the “product of conception” to be tested.
That test revealed that she was carrying a ‘translocation of chromosomes’, medically known as Robertsonian translocation of chromosomes 15 and 22, a rare condition that doesn’t affect Krystal’s own health, so she’d had no idea. However, it was being passed on, leading to an imbalance in her embryos.
Specialists told her it was “making her babies incompatible with life.”
The couple were referred to see a genetic counsellor – someone who helps patients make informed choices about genetic testing and reproductive options – and then sent to CARE Fertility in Nottingham for Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGT). It was there, in 2018, that the couple had one further IVF cycle, resulting in 11 embryos.
PGT involves testing the embryos created in an IVF cycle when they reach day five of development. A small sample is removed from each one and sent to the lab, with the embryos frozen until the results come back. The test checks for the number of chromosomes in each sample to see if they are balanced for the mother’s translocation.
For someone with Robertsonian translocation, two thirds of the embryos will have either too much or too little genetic material and will be unbalanced, resulting in miscarriage, but one third may well be viable.
In Krystal and Kevin’s case, five of 11 embryos created were found without the imbalance and, in early 2019, one of those was transferred into Krystal – the result is baby Mollie-Mae, who was born in September, weighing 7lbs 13oz.
Laughing happily, Krystal says: “This time last year, Mollie was in the freezer!”
In fact, after a smooth pregnancy, Krystal actually had quite a traumatic birth with her longed-for daughter. She had to be induced at 39 weeks and Mollie-Mae was delivered using forceps. Shortly after the birth, Krystal herself suffered a massive haemorrhage, losing two-and-a-half litres of blood, and was given emergency surgery.
But all’s well that ends well, she says. Mollie-Mae is now three-months-old, thriving and bringing her parents lots of joy.
“This will be our first Christmas together as a family,” Krystal tells HuffPost UK. “It is strange to think that last Christmas, Mollie-Mae was in the freezer!
“In all honesty, it is still hard to get my head around the fact that she is actually here. It still feels like we are babysitting someone else’s baby and I feel like someone is going to come and take her home soon. It still feels like a dream.”
While genetic testing of embryos is the subject of ethical debate in the medical community, Karen Sage, genetic counsellor and PGT consultant at CARE Fertility Group, explains that when couples have a history of recurrent miscarriage, and doctors suspect a structural rearrangement of chromosomes, a blood test for chromosome analysis can be carried out.
“It is fantastic when this treatment works for couples who are fertile and keep suffering the tragedy of miscarriage,” she tells HuffPost UK.
“This couple have a great success story as they fortunately got an answer as to why they were having miscarriages and were offered a possible solution and had a baby on their first attempt using this technique.”
She adds: “This is the optimistic side of genetic counselling and for me, it is a joy and privilege to help patients by testing them to have a baby free of a genetic condition. When it works, it is wonderful.”
Krystal’s advice for women suffering recurrent miscarriages is to trust their gut instinct if they suspect something isn’t right.
“When doctors told me I had just been unlucky to have had the miscarriages and to keep trying, I never accepted it, as it had happened too many times and I knew there must be a reason,” she says. “Just listen to your own body and gut instincts and keep persevering and going to the doctors.”
She also advises people to “talk, talk, talk”, she says. “Try not to keep what you are going through to yourself. If your friends and family know what you are going through, then they are better equipped to understand and support you.”
“It takes some pressure off you and allows you to vent, cry and show any emotion when you need rather than trying to always have a happy face on.”
Krystal and Kevin still have four frozen embryos from their last IVF round, giving them the option to try for another child – and a sibling for Mollie-Mae – in future. “We have another four on ‘ice’ if we want any more children in the future,” says Krystal.
But for now, they’re simply looking forward to their first Christmas together as a family and seeing all their baby’s milestones to come.
“We are very lucky to have had a happy ending with the arrival of Mollie-Mae.”