When Ceri Griffiths was offered IVF supplements, the 37-year-old accepted, hoping it would greatly increase her chances of having a baby.
But, instead of the family she so desperately longed for, the restaurant owner was left with nothing but heartbreak.
Now Ceri, who suffered three miscarriages during her grueling 10-year fertility struggles, fears she’s “wasted” her first round of collected eggs.
Although Ceri’s Four The supplements, none of which have been shown to work, were paid for in full by the NHS, other women are not so lucky. For example, if Ceri, from Wales, had gone private, undergoing the same procedures could have cost her over £10,000.
Ceri Griffiths-Kennard suffered six failed pregnancies after nine rounds of IVF over 10 years
Ceri and her partner, Oliver, pinned their hopes on complementary IVF treatments, but now feel ‘abandoned’ by the NHS and feel their eggs were wasted.
Some couples longing to have a child have said they regret spending their life savings on fertility treatments and the few extras that are offered.
Speaking about the devastation of repeatedly going through the trauma of a failed pregnancy, Ceri told MailOnline: “Every time you do it, it gets harder and harder.” It blows you away.
It has been very hard. It has also been very difficult for my husband (Oliver). If anything, he has made us stronger together. And he is so supportive. I think he has affected his mental health as much as mine.
One supplement Ceri was given during her nine rounds of IVF was an “endometrial scratch.”
As the name suggests, doctors physically scratch the lining of the uterus, apparently releasing chemicals that make it more receptive to the embryo.
However, this is marked ‘amber’ by the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA) regulator, which means there is little evidence to show that it increases the chances of pregnancy.
Five plugins fall into this category. Ceri received four of them, some of which were carried out repeatedly.
However, he claims that no doctor explained how the supplements had “contradictory” evidence about how likely they were to actually help.
Speaking of her scratching experience, Ceri said: “The hospital staff were lovely, but the procedure was horrible.
They just suggested that I should do it. They said the theory is that it stimulates blood flow to the area to encourage a healthy uterus. That’s all they said.
“Only after doing my own research in the last month or two did I know there was no evidence.”
After losing her fallopian tubes to a blockage at just 23 years old, Ceri was aware that it would be impossible to get pregnant naturally.
It meant that IVF was her only option because the eggs are fertilized outside the body and implanted in the uterus, replacing the role of the fallopian tubes.
In 2013, Ceri, who was living in Lincolnshire at the time, had her first round of IVF through Care Fertility Nottingham, paid for by local chief health officers.
After just one round, complications began to hinder the couple’s dreams of having a baby.
Ceri, 29 years old at the time, was diagnosed with Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). She can cause women’s ovaries to expand dangerously. In severe cases, victims may be left struggling to breathe with blood clots in the lungs.
Ceri’s first round ended in a chemical pregnancy, a miscarriage that occurs within the first five weeks. An embryo forms but then stops developing; it can happen so early that many don’t even notice it.
Ceri, pictured with her husband Oliver and their dog, says the Hewitt fertility center routinely gave her four amber-labeled treatments, out of a possible five.
After relying on these potentially useless supplements for a decade, she was devastated after suffering three miscarriages. She lost one via a chemical pregnancy before five weeks and miscarried twice before eight weeks; the last one was a twin shown in the scans above.
After a second failed attempt in Nottingham, the couple began to mentally wrestle with the fear that they would not be able to have a family of their own.
Ceri and Oliver moved to Wales in 2014 to work in a trailer park, so they were referred to a clinic closer to home: Hewitt Fertility Center at Liverpool Hospital for Women.
He had another seven rounds with three other plugins: elective cycles freezing and time-lapse imaging, artificial egg activation and embryo glue.
Among them, they claim to help select only healthy eggs, promote hormone production, and reduce developmental interruptions in an attempt to increase the chances of pregnancy.
However, none of his attempts were successful. At the Liverpool center, Ceri suffered two miscarriages, one at six weeks and one at eight weeks.
She says she was never told about the HFEA traffic light system and that the practice of providing people with supplements is taking advantage of vulnerable families who want to have a child.
“If you ask me, it’s all a scam to make money,” he added.
It has been incredibly hard. I feel angry and I feel disappointed.
She is now lodging a formal complaint against the NHS after it says it allowed her “to check all her eggs without even referring her to a recurrent miscarriage clinic for further testing.”
She believes the supplements gave her a false sense of security and by not seeing a specialist, her eggs were “wasted.”
As Ceri’s body clock ticks, she desperately tries to find funding for another opportunity with a specialist.
She says she needs to fight to find at least £12,000 for a new cycle to collect more eggs.
She wants to freeze the leftover embryos developed from the eggs for future use with a miscarriage specialist.
Thousands of Brits go through a similar emotional roller coaster every year, as one in seven couples face difficulties conceiving.
Around 53,000 Britons went through the IVF drain process in 2019, according to the HFEA.
A trusted spokesperson for Liverpool Women’s Hospital said: “We would like to apologize for the discomfort caused to the patient as a result of her experience.”
“We have reached out to the patient to allow us to look into this further to better understand the issues and identify where we could have done better.”
What are the different complementary IVF treatments?
Red Complementary Treatments:
- Assisted hatching: Using lasers, acid, or tools to poke a hole in the protein layer that surrounds the egg and embryo; some think this helps the embryo “hatch”.
- Endometrial Receptivity Matrix (ERA): Taking a biopsy of the endometrial lining of the uterus to test which genes are expressed; some think that ERA finds the optimal time for an embryo to be transferred to the uterus.
- Immune tests and treatments for fertility: Using many different techniques to suppress the immune system; some believe that the body can reject a baby because half of her genes are from her father.
- Intracytoplasmic Morphological Sperm Injection (IMSI): Using a microscope to see detailed images of sperm
- intrauterine culture: Instead of the fertilized eggs developing in an incubator, they develop inside the uterus using a small device that is then removed after a few hours.
- Physiologic Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (PICSI): A technique used to select sperm to help identify those that can bind to the acid that is used for sperm injection.
- Preimplantation genetic testing for aneuploidy (PGT-A): A test that looks for abnormalities in the number of chromosomes; some believe it can indicate whether a baby will be born with a genetic condition.
Complementary amber treatments:
- Artificial Egg Activation Calcium Ionophore: A technique that stimulates the egg with chemicals to help trigger development.
- Elective freezing all cycles: Freezing all cycles and none are transferred ‘fresh’
- Endometrial scratching: The lining of the uterus (the endometrium) is ‘scraped’ with a plastic tube to release hormones to make the lining of the uterus more receptive to the egg.
- Hyaluronate-enriched medium (for example, EmbryoGlue): The solution that retains the embryos before transferring them is enriched with hyaluronan; some believe it improves the chances of the embryo implanting in the uterus.
- Time lapse footage: Thousands of images are needed to see embryos grow without disturbing them; some say it helps select the embryos most likely to become a baby.