GROWING up, Rhian Sugden dreamed of becoming a mum – and secretly hoped to have three kids with her dream man.
But the former Page 3 girl has been left “devastated” by the news she may never have a baby.
Tests last week revealed Rhian has the egg count of a 45-year-old woman and even if she does have IVF, her chances of conceiving are just two per cent.
Manchester model Rhian, 32, explains in an exclusive chat: “I feel like my womanhood’s been taken away from me.
“Being a mum is all I ever wanted and to find out there is so slim a chance of it happening is heartbreaking.
“There have been a lot of tears. I have even come out in a nervous rash all over my body because it’s upset me so much.”
Rhian married Coronation Street star Oliver Mellor last September – and friends have asked when they will start a family ever since.
She says: “Everyone kept saying, ‘Are you pregnant yet?’ But the truth was, we’d already been trying for two years.”
Fearing something was wrong, the couple went for tests last week – but nothing could have prepared Rhian for the results.
“I was told that I may never be a mum – and I’m heartbroken,” she confesses.
“Doctors said I have the egg count of a woman over 45, meaning it’s unlikely I would ever conceive naturally.
“It also means the odds of getting pregnant by IVF have gone down from 30 per cent to two per cent – which was pretty devastating to hear.”
'I feel I've let the side down'
Rhian explains that the couple shared their keenness to have kids from the moment they began dating.
She says: “Growing up, I always imagined I would have a nice little family one day, as I think most women do.
“Oliver and I talked about it fairly early on and he felt the same – although he wanted a boy and a girl and I wanted three kids.”
Because Oliver, at 38, is slightly older than Rhian, the pair started trying for a baby seriously a couple of years ago.
Rhian has had operations to remove cysts from her ovaries in the past – leaving one ovary smaller than the other. But she was reassured that this shouldn’t affect her fertility.
At the private clinic, however, it was a different story. Oliver was told he had super-sperm, worthy of a donor, but that Rhian’s medical history meant she might not be able to conceive at all.
She says: “They gave us the results of the blood tests which monitor egg count and my world came crashing down.
“Since then, I’ve been in pieces. I find myself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about it and it’s just awful.
“To start with, I felt ashamed. I felt bad for myself but more so for Oliver because he really wanted a family and I feel like I’ve let the side down.
“I worry that I’m going to stop him having a family because there’s something wrong with me.
“But he’s been amazing. I couldn’t have asked for better. When I get upset he’s there for me and he says he isn’t bothered but then he has to say that doesn’t he?”
'My mind says 'yes' my ovaries say 'no'
Rhian admits it never occurred to her that she wouldn’t be able to conceive naturally.
She says: “I’m really healthy – I go to the gym, I eat healthily, I don’t smoke and I don’t drink a lot – so this has come as a huge shock.
“I mean, I knew fertility goes down after 30 but you get into a stable position to start a family and then you expect it just to happen.
“But in my case, my mind says ‘yes’, my ovaries say ‘no’.”
Rhian has now spoken to a naturopath about boosting her fertility and she is going on a special diet and supplement plan to try to increase her egg health.
In October, she and Oliver are going to try IVF but first the newlyweds are going to have a honeymoon – which is long overdue.
Of the painful process that lies ahead, Rhian admits: “I know the IVF can take its toll emotionally and the egg retrieval is quite invasive, but I’ve tried not to ask too many questions.
“Some people need two or three cycles to make it work and it’s £5-10k a cycle.
“Hopefully we will get one cycle on the NHS but with a two per cent chance it could still be tens of thousands before I get pregnant.
“That’s why I want to do everything I can to try and boost my chances through natural means.”
'It feels like the end of the world'
Rhian made headlines last week when she posted the news of her infertility fears online.
Writing on Twitter she said: “I received some pretty devastating news this week about my fertility – which means I will be trying IVF later this year.
“I wasn’t going to share this news but I feel the need to highlight the struggles that a lot of women are going through.”
Explaining her decision to go public further, Rhian says: “When you get told you might never have kids you feel like you’re on your own.
“You feel like it’s the end of the world. I know it’s not but when you haven’t spoken to anybody else about it, that’s how it feels.
💫⭐️ Wishing for a miracle 💫🌟 pic.twitter.com/aP1kQfK8V6
“That’s why I decided to share my news on social media. Oliver was apprehensive about the post and said I should be prepared for trolls to say negative things but I can’t begin to tell you how much support I’ve had.
“I have been flooded with messages from people with success stories and people offering me help and I’ve been overwhelmed.
“So many women have come forward to say ‘We were told we had zero per cent chance’ and they’ve ended up with a natural conception.
“That’s left me feeling much more positive.
“A lot of women don’t want to talk about infertility because they are embarrassed or ashamed or they don’t feel like a proper woman any more.
“But I’m now convinced it’s better to share it and connect with others in the same boat.
“I was a wreck last week but after seeing the support this weekend, I feel so much better.
“I know now that I’m not alone. And that gives me hope I may yet be a mum.”
The drop in fertility and the success of IVF
Most women are born with all the eggs they will ever produce – roughly one to two million – and they slowly lose these over a lifetime.
A woman has around 300,000 eggs left at puberty and will then lose up to a thousand a month in her fertile years.
Only the best eggs are released but the quality of these drops off the older a woman gets.
It’s believed this is why women closer to the menopause struggle to conceive naturally.
In vitro fertilisation (IVF) involves removing an egg from a woman’s ovaries and fertilising it using sperm in a lab.
The fertilised egg, also known as an embryo, is then transferred back into a woman’s womb to grow.
In 2010, roughly one in three women under 35 who had IVF went on to have a live birth. But that figure fell to just 1.9 per cent for women over the age of 44.
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