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Baby joy for couple who travelled 15,000 miles and spent their life savings on IVF treatment.

Perihan and Chris Cartledge went on fertility courses in Germany, the USA and Turkey in their six-year quest to have baby they longed for.

A couple desperate for a child travelled 15,000 miles for IVF treatments on three continents before a specialist back in Britain finally gave them the baby they had longed for.

Perihan and Chris Cartledge spent their life savings on fertility courses in Germany, the USA and Turkey in their six-year quest.

But it was a doctor in Liverpool who ­diagnosed Perihan with a condition that had caused her body to repeatedly reject the pregnancies.

Perihan and Chris Cartledge 1

And cuddling baby Laila Rose, mum Perihan, 40, insists: “It was worth everything – the money, the time, the travel, all the years of waiting, even all the disappointments.

“I just can’t imagine having another baby other than Laila – it was her we were waiting for.”

Perihan and Chris Cartledge 2

Perihan learned at just 20 that she may have problems conceiving, after being diagnosed with polycystic ovaries . She says: “I was young and wasn’t even thinking about having babies .

“I’d always had irregular periods, but when the doctor told me I might need treatment to have children I did find it quite hard.

“I didn’t put much thought into it at the time, but it was always at the back of my mind that I might not be able to get pregnant.”

German-born Perihan met Londoner Chris while they were both working as engineers in Germany. She talked with him about what might lie ahead – and the couple started going for tests even before they were married.

Perihan and Chris Cartledge 3

She explains: “It was always something we discussed throughout our relationship. I was open about the possible problems and Chris was understanding and supportive.”

The couple began their first round of IVF treatment in Germany in 2010 – but that proved unsuccessful. Three more rounds followed, but each time a devastated Perihan did not conceive.

She says: “I was upset, but during the transfers I’d had the feeling it hadn’t worked.

“You feel sort of incomplete as a woman, that was the worst thing for me. Not only had the treatment not worked but you feel like there is something wrong with you.

“It is something you can’t control. It’s not your career or money, something that you can work hard to fix. It is completely out of your hands and out of your control.”

Perihan and Chris Cartledge 4

But Perihan adds that, although the setbacks were hard, the couple were determined to stay positive about their dream of a family.

She says: “Chris was so supportive. He never put pressure on me, he was always there and talking if I needed to talk. If I needed to be left alone, he just knew.

“After each failed attempt we had doubts – and the more failed attempts you have, the larger those doubts become.

“But I believe a large part of the treatment process is about having a positive attitude and it was important to try to see each new attempt as a fresh start.”

Armed with that positive attitude, the couple started to look further afield.

They were given hope after a friend who had been trying for a baby for 16 years had become pregnant after having IVF in Los Angeles.

Perihan and Chris Cartledge 5

Perihan and Chris decided the same treatment might be able to end their own agony.

She explains: “To start with you’re so naïve you don’t really know what to do, you just listen to others. I don’t think this was the right treatment for me though. It’s normal to have 12 to 15 eggs – I produced 33. I looked pregnant during the treatment and had quite a lot of pain due to the aggressive nature of the stimulation. It cost us a lot of health, money and nerves.

“What was good for our friends didn’t work for us. Out of 33 eggs, only two embryos were OK to be transferred. Both were transferred at the same time, but I didn’t fall pregnant. The doctor couldn’t believe it hadn’t worked.

“You think you have to believe everything the doctors are telling you, but over the years you learn what makes sense and what doesn’t.”

The heartbroken couple returned home to Germany – but their global mission for a baby was not over yet. A friend recommended a doctor in Istanbul who had a good reputation, so Perihan and Chris, 39, headed to Turkey.

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First, the doctor urged Perihan to have surgery to treat her polycystic ovaries and then allow herself a year in which to fall pregnant naturally – which, amazingly, she did.

But the couple’s joy was short-lived as Perihan miscarried after just eight weeks.

She admits: “It was devastating, but it is for any woman who miscarries. After a while we saw the positives – it was the first time we had conceived naturally. It gave hope for the future.”

Chris and Perihan then decided to try their sixth round of IVF, this time in Turkey. Once more, it failed.

With a change in Chris’s job meaning a move back to London, Perihan could no longer bear the stress of travelling for treatment – so they asked their Turkish doctor to recommend someone in the UK. He put them in touch with Dr Rafet Gazvani from The Hewitt Fertility Centre, who suggested Perihan may have a high number of natural killer cells.

These are a key part of the immune system which act fast to kill off tumours, but which can be so aggressive they attack the pregnancy as a foreign body.

Dr Gazvani explains: “There appeared to be no particular reason not to conceive.

“Where implantation of the embryo fails with no explanation, or when a woman suffers recurrent miscarriages, the immune system may be the culprit. The fact is the embryo is an invader – its genetics are not the same as the mother.

“The mother’s immune system should fight it but in fertile women it somehow lets the embryo survive.”

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Dr Gazvani found Perihan had eight times the normal number of natural killer cells. She was given a special infusion to reduce them before a further round of IVF treatment – and this time she became pregnant. The infusions continued until she was a third of the way through her pregnancy .

But after her previous heartaches, Perihan remained wary. She says: “We tried to enjoy the pregnancy as much as possible, but whenever it was time for a check-up or a scan, we were preparing for the worst.

“We’d been through so many disappointments I just didn’t believe we were actually having a baby. I’d bought about a hundred pregnancy tests on eBay and was doing maybe 10 or 20 a day.

“Even when you see the positive test, then you want to hear the baby’s heartbeat, then you want to see the baby on the scan, then you feel the baby move and you want to see your tummy growing.

“Laila was born a few weeks early and was quite small, but she’s healthy and is now nearly ten months old. We hope other couples in a similar situation can be more aware of the options.

“Chris and I went through all the low points on this journey together – now Laila is with us, he couldn’t be happier. He looks forward to getting home every evening to play and enjoy his time with her.”




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