CHESTER triplets Catherine, Jonathan and Helen Haywood will always be grateful to the IVF team at Liverpool Women’s Hospital.
If it wasn’t for consultant gynaecologist Charles Kingsland and his team, the 19-year-olds simply wouldn’t be here.
Their parents Sue and Phil had tried unsuccessfully to conceive for four years before seeking medical help. After a battery of tests at the Countess of Chester Hospital, they were told they had ‘unexplained infertility’.
Their Chester consultant suggested they contact Charles Kingsland at the Royal Liverpool University Hospital, where a new IVF unit had been established.
“It was extremely daunting,” said Sue. “IVF was so new, we didn’t know much about it and to us it seemed such a huge thing to do.”
An emotional and physical rollercoaster then followed as the Haywoods embarked on a programme of tests and injections. The first cycle of treatment ended in failure. The second succeeded – and then ended in miscarriage at 11 weeks.
“It was absolutely devastating,” said Sue. “It was my husband’s birthday and I knew something was wrong. It was a really grim time.”
After another break they tried again – and Sue became pregnant.
“The guidelines were just changing to prevent multiple births so when I was told that only two embryos should be put back in, we begged to have three,” she said.
“Charles agreed as the new policy was not yet in place – though he warned that it could end in triplets.
“I will never forget that first scan at six weeks and Charles and sister Christine Malone telling me, there’s one heartbeat; and another; and another. We were ecstatic.”
Sue was admitted to the Countess of Chester Hospital at 21 weeks, to be monitored daily up to the birth, which happened nine weeks early after a massive bleed followed by strong, unstoppable contractions.
Hours later after an emergency caesarian, the triplets were born. Catherine weighed 3lb 3oz, Jonathon 3lb 13oz and Helen 2lb 11oz.
“They were tiny but healthy; it was absolutely fantastic and a miracle. We had two beautiful girls and a handsome little boy, we felt so blessed, and amazed that it all started in a laboratory petri dish. We actually saw the first cells dividing and multiplying at the start of their lives, before the pre-embryos were put back into me.”
The couple , who live in Guilden Sutton, didn’t hesitate to tell their children how they were conceived.
“We are incredibly proud of them all so when they were old enough we told them they were IVF babies – and they told their friends,” said Sue, who is assistant head teacher at Guilden Sutton Primary School.
Catherine said: “When we were studying biology at school the teachers were very interested in us and used to refer to us in class. We were probably one of the last sets of triplets to be born by IVF and it does make me feel quite special.
“I think that because of everything that mum and dad went through, I feel very lucky that it all worked. It seems almost a miracle that they had all three of us and we have all grown up in good health.”
Twenty-one years after the first IVF unit was established in Liverpool, a new, expanded Hewitt Centre has opened at Liverpool Women’s NHS Foundation Trust, able to provide 2,000 cycles of fertility treatment per year.