Msc Reproductive Medicine Graduate Is Challenging The NHS Egg Freezing Policy
Rhiannon Hurll suffers from a debilitating gynaecological condition that affects 1 in 10 women in the UK and after 11 years she has had enough. The 21-year-old Msc Reproductive Medicine Graduate is leading a revolution in women’s healthcare with a petition on egg freezing.
Since she was 11-years-old, Hurll has endured constant pelvic and abdominal pain which, at times, prevents her from leaving her bed. Hurll had laparoscopy surgery at age 11, then at age 13 she had an IUD inserted, she then had another laparoscopy surgery at age 14, at age 16 she had a cystoscopy, a hydro distension and a catheter fitted, then at age 18, after a third laparoscopy surgery, she was finally diagnosed with Endometriosis.
This is a long-term condition in which tissue, similar to the lining of the womb, starts to grow in other parts of the body. It is found in four stages ranging from surface level to deep infiltrating which is when the condition can become life threatening and affect the function of other organs.
Over the past few years, Hurll has taken on the role of Endometriosis advocate on her Youtube channel which documents her journey, Hurll is very open about her condition and encourages people to ask her anything.
Hurll's Instagram: @rhiannonhurll
“I was always in doctors offices being told about my body, looking at scans, identifying the signs of different conditions so I have become very open talking about it,” said Hurll. “I had been living with this condition for a decade now and the pain had never gone away so I actually just felt relieved they had an answer for what it was.”
However, there was one part of her diagnosis which sparked a new focus for Hurll; Endometriosis has a 50% chance of causing infertility. “I never really thought about having children,” said Hurll. “But suddenly I was being told I would have to start trying soon or I might not be able to have them and when that choice was taken from me I wanted to have options.”
Endometriosis can cause infertility through a distorted pelvis, scarred fallopian tubes, altered immune system functioning, changes in the hormones or altered egg quality. However, the likelihood of infertility is unknown until the woman starts trying to conceive. “I’m 21, I’m single and I haven’t begun to think about children so this feels completely unfair,” said Hurll.
As a response, Hurll has started a petition for the government to 'Fund an NHS Scheme to Offer Egg Freezing to Women Diagnosed with Endometriosis.' The NHS currently offers IVF treatment to certain women with Endometriosis however Hurll believes this isn’t good enough: “IVF is fine if you want to start trying to conceive right now but my problem is about preserving fertility and it does nothing for that.” Through the influence of Hurll’s social media platforms, her petition gained over 41,000 signatures.
In the UK, when petitions reach 10,000 signatures it requires a response from the government. The response came from The Department of Health and Social Care, who referred to The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the guidelines currently in place to treat women with Endometriosis. They said “the Government expects CCGs and clinicians to take full account of relevant NICE guidelines” which states that “the management of endometriosis-related fertility problems should have multidisciplinary team involvement with input from a fertility specialist.”
Hurll believes that the response is “awful.” She said: “I feel like they disregarded the whole point of the petition and just focused on their current Women’s Health Strategy. They didn’t focus on anything the petition says. The NICE guidelines don’t say anything specific about egg freezing.”
But, Hurll isn’t stopping here. Her experience with infertility has inspired her to become a clinical reproductive scientist in embryology. “I want to be talking to women who are going through similar things to me,” said Hurll. “I want to be able to find the best way to help them get pregnant.” Last year she achieved her masters in Reproductive Science and Ethics at the University of Kent. Hurll will soon be able to turn her struggles as a patient into promise as a medical professional.
Explore Hurll's Youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@Rhiannonhurll