We interviewed the beautiful and inspiring Sophie Blake, mother of Maya, (6 years old) and wife to Scott Nicholls.
Sophie has presented shows for Channel 5, BBC, ITV and Sky Sports. She is currently presenting Speedway on Sky Sports and British Eurosport along side her husband who is 7 times British Speedway Champion.
Sophie is now the British Ambassador for the International Asherman’s Association, a syndrome that can cause infertility through many types of uterine surgery, herself having suffered from the condition.
In 2009 you were diagnosed with Asherman’s syndrome due to complications from the birth of your first child. It took two years for experts to reach a diagnosis. Tell us a bit about your experience with this condition, and what are the symptoms and signs to look out for?
Well, unfortunately my AS story is not a very happy one but please don’t think that everyone ends up with my outcome, they don’t!
My husband Scott and I desperately wanted another baby but my periods never returned after having Maya (now 6) and yet I was in severe pain every month. As you say, frustratingly it took nearly 2 years to diagnose, so when we were given the news that I had severe AS and was almost certainly infertile, we were heartbroken.
It was caused by the manual removal by dilatation and curettage (D&C) for a retained placenta after the birth of my daughter in 2007. I did tons of research on AS and decided to stay positive, not give up our dream and search for treatment. We found a fantastic specialist in London who is one of only a handful of experts in the UK who can operate on AS.
I went through numerous hysteroscopy operations to try and remove the scarring which had obliterated my womb and was covering my cervix. Unfortunately the scar tissue was too aggressive and would grow back within a few weeks. We also had one round failed round of IVF. After numerous hysteroscopys we were given the awful news that the damage was too extensive.
Miraculously at the end of 2009 my periods started to return and after one more hysteroscopy in 2010, I found out I was pregnant. We were thrilled but very nervous after all we’d been through. AS can cause numerous problems in pregnancy and we were put on the high risk list. We were devastated to lose our baby at 16 weeks to placenta previa. It was a horribly traumatic experience and I almost died. The placenta had grown too low due to the damage from the scarring. The AS returned straight away and we were told that another pregnancy would be life threatening. So in 2011 I made the decision to have a hysterectomy.
I realise my AS experience sounds very depressing, however, I am now the UK ambassador for the International Ashermans Association and I am actively involved in helping to raise awareness. Through my experience with the group and the many women I have come into contact with, I know that when treated correctly by an experienced surgeon, many woman do go on to successfully have a child/children.
AS is intrauterine adhesions/scarring inside the uterus and/or cervix and is an acquired condition. It is caused from trauma to the endometrial lining most commonly after a D&C for a miscarriage, retained placenta, elective abortion, fibroid removal etc. In the worst case it can cause the uterine walls to adhere together or the uterine cavity to fill with scar tissue. There are numerous symptoms for AS such as scant or missed periods (but with pain when menstruation should be), recurrent miscarriage, endometriosis and unexplained infertility . For more information there is a fantastic website and a support group set up and run by Poly Spyro called the International Asherman’s Association. It is so important to let women know that there are alternatives to a D&C which could save their fertility.
Describe a typical day-in-the-life in your role as a Sky TV Presenter.
I have just returned to presenting this year. It was hard to commit myself to work with the amount of surgery, procedures and recovery time I have needed over the last 5 years! (15 in total, annoyingly I had other complications on top of the AS). I have returned to reporting on Speedway on Eurosport and Sky Sports. Live television is aways exciting and nerve wracking as you never know what is going to happen! Speedway is especially this way as these guys race bikes without brakes and are fearless! (I am married to one!) I do a lot of research before each show. The crew will arrive hours before going on air to discuss and plan it. We’ll also do a rehearsal and run through of the opening. After that you just have to go where the racing takes you! There can also be a lot of traveling involved so as a mum I also have to make sure Maya is taken care of and make arrangements for our 2 dogs (they are important family members!). My husband also presents on Eurosport as well as racing all over Europe so his schedule is crazy during the season. We are fortunate to get a lot of quality family time together during the winter.
You’re a busy mama, how do you stay looking so incredible?
I have always gone to the gym and enjoyed keeping fit. I started working out with a great personal trainer about 2 years ago who I meet up with every 4-6 weeks. I like short sharp bursts so we do cross fit training which I really enjoy. He gives me a program to work on until we meet again. I also do a Fight Klub classes with him once a week which is a great stress buster! When I find the time I also do pilates and body balance. Scott’s always working on some extreme fitness program and he often challenges me to work out with him, that keeps me on my toes!
Which is your favourite family friendly restaurant in London?
I live in Ipswich now and we are very fortunate to have some fantastic restaurants here in Suffolk which serve fresh locally sourced food. We are all big foodies in our family and luckily Maya will pretty much try anything. We don’t have a favourite place to go to, it all depends on what we all fancy. However, if I had to pick a good family one for us I would pick Milsoms at Kesgrave Hall. It has beautiful grounds for kids to run outside in during the summer, delicious food and a large covered terrace outside. We sit outside with friends and family for hours and never feel rushed. Jimmy’s Farm (Jimmy Doherty) is also close to us and he has a great restaurant there. Maya gets to have a play, feed the animals and a build a den in the woods after.
The nights are drawing in and the winter is on its way. What’s your idea of a perfect family weekend, this time of year?
Weekends are lovely for us during the winter as Scott is away for most of them from March to October. He loves getting to spend some time at home and be able to relax for a while. Weekends always include a walk with the dogs. We have some beautiful country side around here which we make the most of. We also catch up with friends and family, go for bike rides or beach walks, attempt some bowling or go to the cinema. Our favourite lazy thing to do though is to light the fire, get a indian take-way and cuddle up in front good family film or the TV. Also, because of the nature of Scott’s job we can only take our family holiday during the winter so we tend to go away over the Christmas holidays which we all really look forward to.
Share with us your favourite family recipe.
I love cooking and have fun trying out new recipes, some turn out really well, some not so! I’m gluten free due to allergies so I make pretty much everything from scratch to be safe. The best family meals I do are normally fish based. Maya loves my salmon tacos (not too spicy) which are nice and easy to make. I cook the salmon with chopped tomatoes, fresh coriander, onions, mild spices and garlic and serve it with my homemade mango salsa and fresh guacamole, grated cheese and a side salad. She loves getting her fingers messy piling it all into a taco or tortilla. In the winter I’ll make some mexican rice to go with it.
What’s the one baby product you couldn’t have lived without?
Babywipes and muslins! Maya had terrible reflux as a baby so we needed them all over the house.
What’s in the pipeline for you next?
The Speedway season is nearly over so things will quieten down for a while and we’ll get to enjoy some family time.
I am currently helping to organise the International Asherman’s Association stand at this year’s Fertility Show at London Olympia in November. Scott and I have taken part in it since it launched in 2009 and it means a lot to us to be involved. It’s a fantastic way of raising awareness and has been very successful. It gives us the opportunity to not only reach out to women but also doctors, fertility specialists and midwifes, many of whom have never heard of AS or believe (incorrectly) that it is very rare.
How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?
Fun loving, optimistic (most of the time!), playful, energetic, passionate, loving, hectic, a chatterbox, animal lover, sleep lover and someone who really wishes I could sing and dance a lot better than I do!Sophie Blake