BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Sunday, 16 October 2005, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Sian's tale: the cost of Chlamydia
On a modest estate in Sheffield, Sian Wathen, a 24-year-old mum is very much in love with her partner Neil.

They met five years ago through Sian's brother. She had just given birth to Lewis with a previous partner. But that relationship ended, and the young couple are now looking at a life together and want to have a child of their own.

Sian Wathen and her partner Neal
Love Hurts
Sunday 16 October 2005
22:15 BST, BBC One

Two years ago, however, Sian had incredible abdominal pains. The pain was so intense that she could barely walk. She was eventually brought to a hospital and after a urine test was diagnosed as having Chlamydia.

The pain was from pelvic inflammatory disease - a common consequence of untreated Chlamydia. Sian's partner Neil also went for a test but he was negative. It must have been passed on by a former partner some time ago.

Sian was told it was Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted infection, but she had never heard of it. It was only when she attended Sheffield's GU clinic to receive the antibiotics to treat the infection, that the possible consequences were explained. Chlamydia, if left untreated, can cause infertility. Sian was terribly upset. She and her partner Neil had been trying to conceive a child for some time:

"I've always wanted a big family. I've already got Lewis but I'm with Neal now and I want his child so we can all be a family, together."

Health professionals cannot pinpoint the exact time when someone becomes infected with Chlamydia, but Pelvic Inflammatory Disease is a sign that Chlamydia had been present in the patient for a long time.

The operation

Professor Bill Ledger
Professor Bill Ledger treated Sian at her local hospital
Sian is seeking help from her local hospital - the Royal Hallamshire in Sheffield. She is lucky - some of the UK's most skilled professionals in the field of STIs and fertility work there, and she is assigned to consultant Professor Bill Ledger. She is told that she must have a laparoscopy - an operation to find out how bad the scarring is in her fallopian tubes. That procedure will reveal if Sian can ever get pregnant naturally again.

In September, Sian went for her operation. She has slept barely two hours. Her partner Neil is working away. Her son Lewis is staying with relatives. Her Mum, Lorraine, calls round early in the morning to accompany her.

It's got to me because it's got to her and I can see when she's depressed and things
Lorraine, Sian's mum
They make the nine mile journey to the hospital by bus. It takes them 45 minutes, and whilst they banter for most of the time, Sian is nervous. The tension is etched across her face. She says she feels sick.

Once in the hospital, the consultant, Prof. Bill Ledger comes round to reassure Sian about the procedure and answer any last minute questions.

Once he is gone, Sian and Lorraine are left alone.

"I didn't think I were bothered about going down to theatre", says Sian, "but I've realised today I am. I'm always thinking bad things anyway aren't I. Oh what if I don't come round. Normal things that people think about you know."

Lorraine is also worried. "It's got to me because it's got to her and I can see when she's depressed and things."

But she covers up well, very well - like she's laughing now but inside she's crying.

And Sian and Lorraine begin to cry. Within a short time, Sian is changed into a hospital gown, and makes her way to surgery

Five hours later, Sian is fast asleep. Her Mum Lorraine is sitting by the window of her hospital room.

Professor Bill Ledger enters the room, and in a hushed voice, stirs Sian to consciousness.

"Sian... Hi Wake up... Me and my friends have come to see you. You'll be itchy from your anaesthetic."

Bill waits a moment, to allow Sian to take in the situation.

"You had your laporoscopy, no problems, all was straight forward and the womb and ovaries are pretty normal but you've got adhesions in your pelvis and also at the top of your tummy which will be from Chlamydia."

"And I can't get any dye to go through your tubes and we tried hard. So I think the reason you're not getting pregnant is because your tubes aren't working and the way around that is to put you through the IVF programme and we can do that."

"And we're good in Sheffield at IVF and we get good results and it's not as hard as people think but there's not a chance really with operations that we're going to get your tubes working again and get a pregnancy naturally, OK? But it doesn't mean you can't have more children."

Sian has taken in the information immediately. She knows exactly what this means. She begins to cry.

Prof Ledger turns to Lorraine:

"Anything you want to ask me tonight Mum?'

"Not really no, I'm just disappointed."

"I know... think on and we'll talk it through in the morning."

The future

There's no price on a child's head, is there?
Back home with Neil and five-year-old Lewis, Sian has had time to contemplate the future:

"I'm still upset that I can't do it naturally. And my fears were more on you [Neil], weren't they, like what he'd think and how he'd react to it and whether he'd still want to be with me because I couldn't conceive naturally.

Neil, an electrician, is one of life's laid back characters. Whilst he admits being disappointed, he is also optimistic that the couple can still try IVF.

"I ain't got a clue about it. I just know it costs money. They say about 2,500, don't they? I've read things in the paper where people have paid up to, like, 100,000 trying to have kids."

"I can save up. But, it will be all right, won't it." Sian replies.

"Yeah. There's no price on a child's head, is there?"

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific