Category Archives: IVF Memories

Simply Fertility’s Embryologist and Laboratory Director Andy Glew looks back at four decades of fertility treatment

As National Fertility Week gets ready to celebrate 40 years since the birth of the first IVF baby, Simply Fertility’s Embryologist and Laboratory Director Andy Glew looks back at four decades of fertility treatment:

“My career started in 1984 when I was given the opportunity to work in a government funded institute specialising in animal reproduction and genetic research.  My position was funded by Professor Iain Craft, a pioneer in IVF treatment, and I soon found myself working in some of the most prestigious private hospitals across London.

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Lorraine Smullen talks about 40 years of IVF

The Times of an Embryologist

Lorraine Smullen, expert in Embryology at The Hewitt Fertility Centre, who has been involved in the treatment of patients born in the 1950’s right through to the 1990’s, tells us about the changes she has seen in Embryology over the years.

When did your Embryology career begin?

In 1989, at the Royal Liverpool Hospital ACU, where the workforce was just 5, a much smaller team than the 130 we have today. I moved with the team from the ACU across to the Liverpool Women’s Hospital when the centre became the RMU in 1995, later to be renamed The Hewitt Fertility Centre. ‘Embryologist’ wasn’t a job title back then so we took on university posts initially.

What are the biggest differences you have seen in the lab?

The most significant change that has occurred in embryology was the introduction of double witnessing, in the beginning you were your only witness, whereas now every stage is verified by either a second embryologist or a radio frequency identity tag.

Media was made by us in the lab, we purified our own water and used plasma from each female patient’s blood collected two days prior to her egg collection, worlds away from now ordering in CE marked media from manufacturers. We also pulled our own pipettes over bunsen burners and used our mouths to pipette before tools called Bibijets were introduced.

We were limited to culturing embryos to day 2, and on this day we would ordinarily transfer 4 embryos. Multiple pregnancy rates were high at this time so we reduced this to 3 embryos, then to 2 when culture media was developed to culture embryos to day 3. Now culture media has allowed for culture to day 6 and following the HFEA ‘One at a time’ initiative to reduce multiple pregnancy rates, single embryo transfer is the most common practice.

What could you not be without now in the modern day lab?

ICSI (Intracytoplasmic sperm injection). Before this was introduced, IVF was the only option for all patients, all sperm samples were prepared by layering the sample underneath media, allowing the good sperm to swim up, we would then take the ‘hazy layer’ from the tube and mix this directly with the eggs. This was extremely frustrating when sperm quality was poor and therefore fertilisation rates were low.

Our lead consultant returned from an overseas conference telling us about an exciting new technique he had learned of, we jumped on board and ordered in an ICSI rig. Although again, we had to make our own needles for this in the beginning, I specifically remember one occasion spending so much time and care making a perfect holding pipette, then just as I had my eureka moment, I dropped it on the floor! Once manufactured pipettes were introduced we began to see fertilisation from ICSI and now this is routinely used for patients with poorer sperm samples.

What other revolutionary changes you have seen?

When freezing and thawing came in, this meant we could store surplus embryos of good quality and offer patients the option of frozen cycles. Most recently timelapse has been introduced where we can monitor embryo development via cameras within the incubators, not only meaning that the embryos are undisturbed until they are removed from the incubator for transfer or freezing, but also we have a wealth of information on each embryo and can use this as a selection tool for which embryo is best.

Finally, could you tell us one thing you miss from the old days?

Due to small patient numbers we would know every patient by name and enjoyed afternoon tea with them on the day’s in-between their appointments!

Many thanks to Lorraine for sharing her IVF memories with us for National Fertility Awareness Week 2017.

Louise’s Story

Louise Plumpton

My name is Louise. I am 35 years old and was born with a condition called Turners Syndrome. This is a Chromosome condition which amongst other things affects the reproductive organs. My husband and I have undergone the necessary test and it has been confirmed that we will be unable to conceive without the help of egg donation.

We started our IVF/egg donation journey 4 years ago at Livetpool Womens hospital and we have been lucky eoungh to gain NHS funding. At our first conultation we were told that to have a better chance of finding a donor we should advertise ourselves as donations of this sort are very sparse. This came as a bit of a shock. After being given one or two ideas we came away feeling a little deflated not really knowing where to start. We started by using an information poster given to us by the hospital conaining a reference number. This was the start of a 3 and 1/2 year advertising journey which we found quite difficult, not only was there a cost implication it was the fact that some places wouldn’t help share the information for us. Finally in July 2016 a donar came forward which started another type of journey which again has had lots of ups and downs. We were lucky enough to recieve 9 eggs 5 of which fertalised. Then the process of treatment and transfers began 1st cycle didn’t work, 2nd cycle worked but unfortunately I had a miscarriage at 7 weeks. After increasing medication and adding in other meds aswell the last three cycles haven’t worked either, the last one being recently. As you can imagine it’s been a tough road which has left myself and husband with lots of questions and things to think about. Fortunately we do have a second round of funding but it’s just the time it takes to find a donor.


An #IVF Journey


It all started the morning the world woke to the news that Oscar Pistorius had shot dead his girlfriend through his own bathroom door. That was the day I came off the contraceptive pill – February 14th 2013.

Fast forward to September 2016, and we’re nearing the end our first round of IVF.

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Sheffield Baby 1989

It was an experience that was extraordinarily common, and yet so uncommonly extraordinary. This experience, enjoyed by my wife and me, was the arrival of our first-born, a son. A miracle of human existence perhaps,  but a miracle that happens millions of times each year around the world.

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Message from Lesley Pyne

When I was 35 we decided the time was right to have children. After a few months nothing had happened and we were referred for IVF. Over the next 3 years we went through 6 rounds, stopping when I was 40. We knew we needed to draw a line in the sand but it was so hard. We were never offered support or help of any kind and felt as if we were the only people in the world who couldn’t have children. Only our parents knew and talking to friends about it felt impossible.

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My successful and amazing story of my ivf treatment

I wanted to send you my successful and amazing story of my ivf treatment. I was trying to get pregnant for about 4 years and after coming off the pill still nothing had progressed and I was still not able to conceive naturally.

After so many blood tests and not getting anywhere I was referred to the hospital who then proceeded to help me for a whole year. I found this to be a long and very stressful procedure; after all the long and hard injections on my 30th birthday I had my eggs retrieved and on the 10th of May I had a call from the embryologist to tell me how many eggs were fertilized – 14. On the 14th of May I had my embryo transfer and on the 25th may we found out that we were having a precious little bundle of joy and that I was 4-5 weeks pregnant. My first cycle worked which was simply just amazing. At my twenty week scan back in September we found out we are having a little boy; I simply can’t believe that I’m going to be a mummy – due the 1st of February 2018. My family are amazed and we all can’t wait to meet him.


Miracle Makers

After almost 3 years of trying naturally, we finally get to share the news that we are pregnant! After our first round of IVF with the Hewitt Fertility Centre. We can’t thank you enough for making our dreams come true. You are miracle makers.

IVF Memories from Louise Brown

It is very strange to think that those cells dividing in a petri dish 40 years ago became me! Patrick Steptoe and Bob Edwards suggested my middle name “joy” because they said IVF would bring joy to so many people.  That joy is still spreading today. My heart also goes out to those for whom it has not been successful.