Our fertility journey – BBC reporter shares the heartbreak of failed IVF

Woman in hospital bed and with her husband
Sophie at Lister Hospital and with her husband Jonny

In the UK, one in seven couples are affected by infertility and 47,422 women are receiving IVF.

But despite almost 40 years of research, the treatment fails 70% of the time.

That was the case for BBC reporter Sophie Sulehria who, after multiple rounds of IVF, decided to share her fertility journey.

Man and woman kissing, woman wearing bridal dress
Pic: Adam Drake. Sophie and Jonny on their wedding day

In 2013, Sophie married her boyfriend of two years, Jonny, and six months later the couple began trying for a baby.

When they had no luck, test revealed Sophie had endometriosis and premature ovarian failure.

The couple were devastated to hear Sophie would not conceive naturally.

Writing on her blog, Sophie said: “I didn’t think it could happen to us.

“We’d always wanted children, from the moment we met we talked about it. I didn’t have a thought in my head it would be hard for us. But of course, it was.

“All our friends had become pregnant so easily, it should have been the next step.”

The couple started IVF with the expectation that it was a guaranteed success – a notion shared by many people undergoing the treatment for the first time.

Four years and £40,000 later and all the Sophie and Jonny had to show for six rounds of IVF was heartbreak.

She said: “We first started IVF with hope and positivity.  As naive as it sounds, I didn’t ever think that it may not work. I also had no idea how all-consuming it would be.  I guess why would you know?  But the daily hospital visits, and scans, and blood tests, and copious injections really took me by surprise.  Then of course the 2 week wait – that was the worst part.

“I was convinced the first round had worked.  We had a great quality egg collected and I couldn’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work.  In fact, when the doctor put it back inside me she said “there’s your baby, in place”.  I thought it was a done deal, which of course it wasn’t.  That failure floored us.  I remember feeling deeply depressed for a long time afterwards, and nothing that anyone could do or say would make it better.  This feeling never left us, with every failed round.  Despite knowing our chances were low, as I was only ever producing 1 or 2 low quality eggs each time, I still felt desperately depressed when the round didn’t work.  I still do when I think back to them, I can’t imagine that feeling ever leaving me.”

Man and woman smiling at camera
Sophie with Mr Raef Faris her fertility doctor at The Lister


The brave couple decided to turn their sorrow into comfort for couples struggling to conceive, by sharing their experiences so they would know they’re not alone.

In the BBC Radio 4 series, which documents Sophie going for a round of IVF, the couple investigate all elements of fertility and met people who adopted, fostered, or used a donor.

Sophie said: “ I couldn’t bear that we were going through something so hideous without doing something with it.  Be it to educate, or help others, I needed a reason for the pain.

“I wanted to find someone out there who was on the same page as us, and able to help – someone who was going through what we were going through.

“I couldn’t find anyone.

“There was no one at the same cross roads who had publicly come out and said “I don’t know where to turn.”  So I decided I would try to become that person.

“I have to say that I don’t think I was prepared for the emotions I faced when the piece went out to the nation.

“I couldn’t concentrate on anything after I heard it.  Secondly, I felt naked.  Totally exposed to the nation as this baron 30 something who couldn’t do one of the most natural things in the world, get pregnant.”

Now two months into the series, and Sophie said it’s the messages from other women going through the same grief that have allowed her to continue telling her story so publically.

She explained:”I wasn’t prepared for the response – it was huge.  In the first 24 hours of it going out I think I had over 300 interactions from people on various platforms.  Emails, texts, tweets, Facebook and Instagram messages, phone calls, the lot.  My phone didn’t stop buzzing.  Of course there were the people who knew us and wanted to send their love, many of them shocked that we had been through this for 4 years and they had no idea.  But there were also those people who contacted that I did not know.  The strangers who wanted to reach out and tell me their story, or send their good wishes, or thank us for our honesty.  It was quite overwhelming, and so touching.”

Listen to their fertility journey here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05pfcnq