MEET two little Christmas miracles – Esther Rose and Heidi Mae Woodcock.

The newborn twins were conceived through IVF against incredible odds, and thanks to the Christian generosity of a friend of their overjoyed York parents, Anna and Matt.

The Acomb couple told today how he gave them about £8,000 to pay for their second and third attempts at IVF after the NHS locally refused to fund the fertility treatment.

“The postcode lottery meant that we and other people in York were unable to get IVF on the NHS when people in nearby places such as Leeds could,” said Matt, 35, a former Press reporter.

“We couldn’t afford to pay for it after our first go failed, but our Christian friend said that if he could help to create a new life, how better could the money be spent? We just couldn’t believe his faith and generosity.”

But when it came to the third attempt, doctors found Matt was producing no sperm whatsoever, and they had to resort to using a frozen sample from three years earlier.

“We were absolutely gutted,” said Matt. “Even three years before, when I was first tested, I was only producing about 30 sperm – and even some of them weren’t swimming anywhere!

“The average amount produced by a man is about 50 million.

“I will never forget the words of the doctor who told me then how little I had. He said over the phone: ‘If I were a betting man, I wouldn’t put money on you ever becoming a father.’ “It felt quite a brutal way of discovering such news. We were devastated but refused to give up hope. We had always wanted children.

“But now they were having to thaw the few sperm I had produced, and that reduced the chances of conceiving even further.”

Matt, who worked after leaving The Press as a media officer for the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, said the church leader was among many Christians who prayed for him and Anna, 33, a York administrator.

He said: “We would like to thank everyone for the prayers and support they gave us.”

In April, the couple went back to hospital to find out whether Anna had conceived, preparing themselves for a negative result. Instead, the nurse offered them her congratulations: Anna was pregnant.

“We just couldn’t believe it. My jaw just dropped to the floor. For once, I was speechless,” said Matt.

But they still faced another agonising three week wait for a pregnancy scan. Incredibly, it revealed they were expecting twins.

Anna said she sailed through the pregnancy, although it ended with a difficult labour before the girls were born safely on December 7 – with Esther weighing 5lbs, 7ozs and Heidi 5lbs, 10ozs.

“I believe a real miracle has happened,” said Matt. “But I also feel so sorry for other people out there in York who are not able to pay for IVF.

“The postcode lottery is simply wrong: people should have the same entitlement to treatment no matter which city they live in.

“It’s also wrong that the treatment’s availability should keep changing, depending on the latest financial situation of the trust, which can give couples hope only for it to be subsequently dashed.”

The taboo of infertility

NEW dad Matt said he wanted to help break the taboo surrounding male infertility.

He said some men had a big hang up about having a low sperm count, but it was a growing problem and nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about.

“Mine is an extreme case that I was born with, but I’m quite philosophical about it,” he said.

“The beauty of ivf treatment is that you only need one healthy sperm to be able to conceive.

“I’m sure the increase in low sperm counts must be leading to a greater demand in ivf treatment.”

Funding for IVF keeps changing

NHS North Yorkshire and York has held three different positions on the funding of IVF treatment during 2010.

Until the end of June, only women aged between 39 years and six months and 40 were able to access fertility treatment, provided they had completed appropriate clinical investigations. Some cases were also considered for patients with an exceptional need. In July, patients aged between 23 and 39 years of age and meeting clinical criteria became eligible for one NHS-funded cycle of IVF.

But in October, the treatment was suspended for the final quarter of the year as one of a number of short-term measures to control a financial overspend.

Medical director Dr David Geddes said the trust recognised such actions would be of concern to many, but it had a duty to protect NHS services for the majority and had made a commitment to review its position at the end of the financial year.