I was left with eating disorder after I spent £75k trying to get pregnant – I ate half a banana a day, says Rhian Sugden | The SunApril 8, 2023
AS a little girl, model Rhian Sugden dreamed of the day she would become a mum.
She imagined four little boys running around causing havoc as she tried to corral them in a home full of laughter and love.
But Rhian and ex-Corrie actor hubby Oliver Mellor are among the one in seven British couples who find it difficult to conceive and have spent the past four years trying for a baby.
Rhian today reveals the couple have spent over £75,000 on IVF treatment after undergoing a sixth round last Autumn.
On Mother’s Day this year, she posted an emotional picture to her Instagram stories.
With tears streaming down her face, she wrote: “The reality of Mother’s Day for an IVF warrior. It’s hard.”
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'I felt like a failure'
Rhian, 37, also tells how she became so anxious undergoing treatment while her mum Anita, 72, fought bowel cancer that she developed an eating disorder.
She dropped 15kg because a feeling of “being choked” left her unable to eat.
The former Page 3 girl said: “Last year was the year from hell.
“I’m in a much better place now but in the summer I was so anxious that I felt full all the time and everytime I tried to eat I felt like I was being strangled.
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“It was a really horrible choking sensation and for about three months I lived on a square of chocolate and half a banana every day.
“Oliver booked a meal at a nice restaurant for my birthday in September but I physically couldn’t eat food.
“Mum was recovering from bowel cancer and we were undergoing IVF and tests and I just felt so overwhelmed by everything.
“I felt like a failure.”
Mother's day difficulties
Rhian is now on anti-anxiety tablets which have helped put her on an even-keel saying: “They’ve changed my life. I feel like a new person.”
Mum Anita, diagnosed with cancer in July 2021, has also recovered from her ordeal after an operation to remove part of her bowel and 100 hours of chemotherapy.
Rhian said: “Mum is the strongest woman I know. I don’t know how she went through all that.
“She’s like my best friend and she’s been there for me through everything.”
Rhian says while most days she can cope with her IVF process, being ‘spammed’ with happy pictures of babies and parents on Facebook on Mother’s Day proved too much.
She said: “It was just one of those days where everywhere I looked there were pictures of happy mums and happy babies and, while I’m at the point where I’m no longer jealous of friends who have children, sometimes it’s just hard.
“For the last four Mother’s Days I’ve thought to myself ‘that will be me next year’ and then it hasn’t happened.”
As a stunning model Rhian appears to have it all; a perfect figure, a gorgeous husband, a loving family and exotic holidays.
But behind closed doors she faces the stark reality that she might never be a mum after being told by doctors that her egg count is that of ‘a woman over 45’.
The invasive in-vitro fertilisation process is a world away from the glamorous photo shoots that show off her enviable body.
Rhian had one round of IVF on the NHS at the start of her journey in 2019 and she and Oliver, 42, have funded another five – the latest last Autumn.
She said: “I found the first four rounds very difficult but I’m more used to it now.
"It’s hard because the doctors take out your eggs, fertilise them, put your eggs back inside you, then you wait for two weeks, convince yourself you’re pregnant and then you’re not.
“Then you come crashing down and also have PMT symptoms times 1000.
“I don’t know how Oliver copes sometimes! He usually gives me my hormone injections because he very much wants to feel part of the process.”
'We will just have to keep trying'
In February, Rhian underwent an invasive test which involved scraping the higher part of her cervix to make sure she can carry children.
She got the results back on Valentine’s Day – and it was good news.
Rhian, of Manchester, said: “We are both really happy about it so we will just have to keep trying.
“It was a pretty painful procedure and as far removed from the glamour shoots as you can imagine.
“But those glam pics that people see, that’s just work
“I can get dolled up and promote something for work but that’s just my uniform.
"The other day I went to the post office in my pjs with my unbrushed hair and my tyre got a puncture. There I was at 3pm in the afternoon in my pyjamas!”
Rhian and Oliver, who live in Manchester, married in 2018 in Kalkan, Turkey, after six years of dating.
Rhian says she feels “pressure” to give Oliver a baby – even although he constantly reassures her that she is enough.
She said: “When we got married, having children was the next stage. It was part of our plan. But I’ve just ended up with three cats and a dog who are my furbabies.
“As a kid I always wanted children, I wanted four or five boys but at this rate I’ll be lucky to get one.
“Oliver doesn’t put me under pressure but I know he would love to be a dad and that his parents and mine would love to be grandparents, so I put myself under a lot of pressure.
'It consumes your whole life'
The model adds :“Trying to have a baby just consumes your whole life.
"We’re lucky enough to be able to fund IVF rounds ourselves so it must be even harder for women who can’t afford to keep going through it.
“People say just keep trying but who has a spare £15k lying around for treatment all the time?
"It cost us so much money. It’s not just the IVF either.
"I’ve tried every diet, from the Mediterranean to expensive organic ones and drinking beetroot juice because it’s meant to be good for your womb lining. I take regular supplements too.”
Rhian, who also runs a gift card business, says far from stripping her confidence, her bid for a baby has given her more self-assurance.
She said: “This past year has taught me resilience and I’ve connected with lots of women on forums and at clinics who are all going through the same thing. We help each other along and build each other up.
“So many women I meet say they are embarrassed about finding it hard to conceive but I think we need to talk about it more. There’s nothing to be ashamed of and there are so many of us in the same situation.”
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Rhian says she and Oliver may end up looking at other options should IVF continue to fail.
“There are lots of different options like adoption, donor eggs, surrogates,” she says. “I’m still hopeful.”
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