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'Infertile by 30': Ashleigh was climbing into bed when something ruptured inside her

By Maddison Leach|

Ashleigh Sillar was 21 when she climbed into bed and something ruptured inside her. Months later, doctors told her she'd be "infertile by 30".

"I couldn't see and I could barely talk. I was just like, 'I need to get to a hospital right now,'" she tells 9honey.

"I didn't even put shoes on. I didn't grab my handbag with my wallet or my ID, so I presented at the Alfred Hospital emergency department looking like a crazy person."

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Ashleigh Sillar horse riding at 16.
Ashleigh Sillar had been dealing with debilitating pelvic pain since she was 15, with "horrible periods" and irregular bleeding. (Supplied)

Sillar had been dealing with debilitating pelvic pain since she was 15, with "horrible periods" and irregular bleeding, but the agony that night was like nothing she'd ever felt before.

Laparoscopic surgery at 18 had shown that her right ovary was "deformed" and wasn't functioning, but it didn't explain her pain.

She put up with it until her "hand was forced" that night.

When Sillar arrived at the hospital she was in so much pain that she thought she was going to pass out; she actually hoped that she would, just to escape it.?

Doctors had to pump her with three doses of morphine before she was coherent, then they found the source of her agony; a large cyst on one of her ovaries that had ruptured.

Ovarian cysts are fluid-filled sacs that attach to the ovaries and can be cancerous and though Sillar's weren't, they were the cause of her ongoing pelvic pain.

Ashleigh Sillar at 21, after the ovarian cyst ruptured.
Ashleigh Sillar at 21, after the ovarian cyst ruptured. (Supplied)

Fortunately, the ruptured cyst was on her right ovary and hadn't affected her functioning left ovary, so Sillar wouldn't need emergency surgery.

But specialists warned that her fertility C which was already low because she only had one working ovary C was at dire risk.

"Ovarian cysts can lead to infertility in multiple ways. If it's severe endometriosis - or Chocolate cysts - torsion might happen, and the patient could potentially lose the ovary," Dr Kokum Jayasinghe, Fertility Specialist at Melbourne IVF, tells 9Honey.

Torsion is when a cyst gets so big that it twists the ovary and can cut off the blood supply, killing it and damaging a woman's fertility.?

Surgery to address ovarian cysts can also impact fertility.

WATCH: Doctors remove a 21kg ovarian cyst from young woman?

Sillar was discharged from hospital with a dire warning to "look into some type of fertility preservation" before it was too late.

Six months later, she sat down in Jayasinghe's office to discuss her options after tests showed her fertility was dangerously low.

"My reproductive age was 11 years my senior, so at 21 I was equivalent to a 32-year-old trying to conceive," Sillar says.

"They predicted that by the time I was 30, I'd be completely infertile."

At 21, Sillar decided to freeze her eggs in the hopes of being a mum one day.?

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Ashleigh Sillar with her husband Jack in 2021.
In her mid-20s Sillar and her partner decided it was "now or never" and started trying for a baby. (Supplied)

Being so young worked in her favour and she was able to freeze a number of really healthy eggs, but doubts about her ovarian cysts and fertility lingered for years.

"Every time I bled when I wasn't supposed to, or I had horrible pain when I shouldn't have been having pain, it was a constant reminder," she says.

She feared another cyst would rupture and ruin her chances to conceive naturally, so in her mid-20s Sillar and her partner decided it was "now or never" and started trying for a baby.

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When she didn't fall pregnant after 18 months of trying, they went to Jayasinghe and started IVF.

Sillar knew there was no guarantee she'd fall pregnant right away C or at all C but freezing her eggs so young gave her hope.

"It felt like, 'this is why we froze the eggs eight years ago,'" Sillar says, but she was still nervous when the first embryo was implanted.

She needn't have been; the first round of IVF was a success. Sillar was going to be a mum.

Ashleigh Sillar announcing she was pregnant with her first daughter, Isla.
Ashleigh Sillar announcing she was pregnant with her first daughter, Isla. (Supplied)

"It was amazing. I've honestly never felt that great," she says of the pregnancy, which had a surprising effect on her body.

Pregnancy hormones seemed to lessen the symptoms of her ovarian cysts, including a large chocolate cyst that had grown on her working ovary, which had prevented her from conceiving naturally.

Sillar welcomed daughter Isla in May 2022 and then went on the progesterone only pill to mimic her pregnancy hormones, providing huge relief after years of pain.

Just over a year later, she got the shock of her life; despite her ovarian cysts, fertility issues and being on the pill, Sillar was pregnant again.

It felt like a miracle.

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Ashleigh Sillar while she was pregnant with her second daughter, Grace.
Ashleigh Sillar while she was pregnant with her second daughter, Grace. (Supplied)

"My takeaway was how lucky I was to be able to have that first pregnancy, because it really kick started my body" Sillar says.

"To be able to have our second daughter, to be able to conceive naturally, completely against the odds, it's just mind blowing to me."

Baby Grace arrived in January 2024 and Sillar, now 30, couldn't be more smitten with her daughters after fearing she may never become a mum.

Though the ruptured cyst at 21 was terrifying, Sillar considers it a "blessing in disguise" because it raised the red flags about her fertility before it was too late.

If that cyst never ruptured, she may never have frozen her eggs or had her girls.

Ashleigh Sillar with her husband Jack and daughter Isla.
"My takeaway was how lucky I was to be able to have that first pregnancy." (Supplied)

Now she wants other Australian women to look into their own reproductive health and take the reins on their fertility.

"It's really important to go and see the right doctors and not just rely on going on the pill until it's time to have a baby, which I must have been told three times by various doctors," she says.

"If you have any inconsistency in your health, if you're having really painful periods, or you've got endometriosis, go and see a fertility specialist, get assessed and get a plan in place."

Jayasinghe adds that it's important that Australian women are educated about how various reproductive issues including ovarian cysts can seriously affect fertility.

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