Page last updated at 00:01 GMT, Saturday, 27 February 2010

Running out of time to have a baby, at 23 years old

By Jane Elliott
Health reporter, BBC News

Lauren Roberts
Lauren has pain every day

Lauren Roberts is only 23 years old, but fears she might never become a mother.

For Lauren has endometriosis, which results in patches of the womb's inner lining growing in other parts of the body.

Endometriosis, which affects around two million women in the UK, can cause severe pain, heavy periods and infertility.

Lauren once bled for eight months solidly and says she still has daily pain.

Hysterectomy threat

Her gynaecologist has warned her that she faces a hysterectomy sooner, rather than later.

But she is desperate to become a mother and is currently trying to raise £11,000 so she can start IVF next year.

My only option would be to find a sperm donor and pay privately for IVF and become the mum I have always wanted to be
Lauren Roberts

"I have always known I want to be a mum," she said.

"And the older I get the less chance I have got.

"I wonder how long can I cope with the pain until it interrupts my life and I have to say, 'I can't cope with this anymore?'

"Some days I just want to say, 'I want a hysterectomy'. It rules my life."

Lauren has also been diagnosed with polycystic ovaries - in which abnormal control of hormone levels result in tiny cysts developing in the ovaries.

Relatively unknown

Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition, yet only 20% of the general public have heard of it.

Caroline Overton, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist at St Michael's University Hospital Bristol and spokesperson for Endometriosis UK, said the condition could be devastating and there is no cure.

Usually diagnosed between the ages of 25 and 40

Most commonly occurs in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, the bowel, the intestines, the vagina and the rectum

Endometriosis cells behave in the same way as those lining the womb, so every month they grow during the menstrual cycle and shed blood

Normally before a period, the womb lining thickens, then - if no pregnancy results - breaks down and bleeds. Endometrial tissue behaves the same way, but has no way of leaving the body. So the trapped tissue leads to swelling, pain and bleeding

"Surgery can be used to remove the disease, and hormone drugs are used to stem its growth," she said.

"There is no permanent cure for endometriosis and symptoms tend to return with time. The treatments available aim to reduce pain and improve the quality of life for a woman living with the condition."

Lauren, from Essex, said she had started her periods at just nine. She was in pain from the start and for the next few years tried pain killers, five different contraceptives and the coil to try to solve the problem.

She has also had surgery twice to remove the endometriosis, which helped for a short while, but doctors have warned any further surgery would affect her fertility.

"She said the best thing I can do is to start a family as soon as possible," said Lauren.

"I have been ready to have a child for the last couple of years, knowing about this.

"I was not in the best position, being single, to start thinking about a family but I knew I was, and am, ready to be a mum, so my only option would be to find a sperm donor and pay privately for IVF and become the mum I have always wanted to be."

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