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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Woman, 30, born without a WOMB is refused NHS funding for IVF 'because she would need a surrogate to carry her baby'

  • Nicola Rickards was born without a womb due to a congenital condition
  • Was told by her consultant she was the ideal candidate for IVF funding
  • The local CCG has turned her down as she would need a surrogate
  • She is heartbroken her lack of womb doesn't make her an exceptional case

A woman has been denied the chance to become a mother after being told the NHS will not fund her IVF, despite the fact she was born with no womb.

Nicola Rickards, 30, is desperate to start a family with her partner, 33-year-old Matthew Cornock, an assistant site manager.

But she was was born with Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome, a condition that means she has no womb or cervix, but does have ovaries.

Miss Rickards said her consultant told her the condition makes the couple  'ideal candidates' for funding for IVF.

But, because the couple would need a surrogate to help them realise their dream of parenthood, they have been denied funding for the fertility treatment by their local clinical commissioning group (CCG).

Miss Rickards, of Gloucester, says she is heartbroken that her lack of womb doesn't make hers an exceptional case.

She said: 'I understand they only have a finite amount of money, but to be told we aren't deemed an exceptional case was heartbreaking.

'I've appealed three times, but got nowhere. I've even been to the NHS headquarters to meet with some of the most high up bosses.

'Several members of the panel teared up while I was telling my story, but I was still denied funding.

'I didn't choose this, I was born with it. It feels as if I'm being punished for something I can't help.'

The cause of Miss Rickards' Mayer Rokitansky Kuster Hauser syndrome (MRKH), remains a mystery.

The condition, which is also associated with kidney, bone and hearing difficulties, means she does not have a womb, but still has ovaries and fallopian tubes.

She was diagnosed after she turned 19 and still had not started her period.

The diagnosis was made via an ultrasound and a keyhole laparoscopy - a procedure where a camera is put inside of the abdomen and pelvis through a small incision.

'I didn't think much about what the future implications would be at first. I was a teenager and kids were the furthest thing from my mind,' said Miss Rickards.

'But, as I got older, the reality set in. With MRKH, I haven't experienced much in the way of physical day-to-day affects.

'The psychological affects have been horrendous, though. I've recently started having bereavement counselling, because it almost feels like a loss.'

Miss Rickards, a mental health nurse, and Mr Cornock first applied for IVF funding in April this year, after being told by their consultant that they were 'ideal candidates'.

They were devastated when their local CCG rejected their application.

The couple appealed three times, but were repeatedly told the same thing – they would not be granted funding because their case was 'tagged with surrogacy'.

According to their commissioning policy list, Gloucestershire CCG, who dealt with the case, do not currently support or fund surrogacy or any related treatments, including fertility treatment, to those with surrogacy arrangements.

'We feel discriminated against. If I could carry my own child, I would, but that just isn't an option,' said Miss Rickards.

Finding themselves out of options for pursuing NHS funding, the couple have instead set up a GoFundMe page, in the hope that they can raise enough to pay for the treatment themselves.

They have currently raised around £800 of their £2,500 target.

Each cycle of IVF will cost them £3,000, as well as expenses to their surrogate, once they find one.

Miss Rickards is speaking out to raise awareness of MRKH, and hopes her story will provide comfort to others who are struggling to start a family.
'There's always been a stigma around infertility,' she said.

'People need to speak out more and be more open. That way, it'll become less of a taboo and those going through it will realise that they aren't alone.'

A spokeswoman from NHS Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said the organisation does not support fertility treatments directly associated with surrogacy arrangements.

She said: 'We are sorry that the individual concerned is unhappy with the outcome.

'There is a process that allows individual funding requests to be considered, and this takes into account both the current clinical evidence available and individual circumstances.

'The CCG's policies take into account NICE guidance (which does not support surrogacy) and evidence of clinical and cost effectiveness.

'The CCG does not fund experimental treatments such as womb transplants, surrogacy or any assisted conception treatment associated with it.'


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