Claire Richards has lost five stone in her desperate bid to get pregnant, and Now's Jess Spiring can well imagine why

Claire Richards has raised some eyebrows recently. Pictured looking, dare I say it, a little bit gaunt, there’s been further speculation about what’s fuelled her determination. Where’s the fitness DVD? The lifestyle website? The collaboration with Fat Fighters.

But no, gorgeous 37-year-old Claire has dropped to 9 stone because doctors told her that to have the best chance of conceiving she needs to get – and stay – at a healthy weight.

The married former Steps singer is so open and honest, I can only presume that she had no trouble falling pregnant with Charlie, 7, and Daisy, 5.

And I can well imagine her bewilderment when, ready for her third, nothing happened.

When I was in my early 30s after years of panicking about contraception, I was ready to have my own children. Almost immediately I fell pregnant with twins. And much to my sorrow, lost them at 12 weeks. To say I was heartbroken would be an underestimate. I felt broken.

While I had a horrid round of D&Cs, I felt surrounded by pregnant women stroking their blooming bellies. On one especially horrid occasion, one of my knocked-up best friends dragged me out for supper promising not to talk about her baby, then proceeded to talk about names, basinets, babygrows and buggies for the whole night.

Her joy was only matched by my despair. After faking my interest and delight in her happy news, I wept all the way home. I couldn’t even turn to my closest friends!

The only thing that would fix me would be to fall pregnant. So I set about doing everything I could. I drank less, took handfuls of vitamins and read everything I could find about fertility. I took my temperature and was militant with my poor husband, Reuben, when we were in the fertile zone (looking back he never had it so good or so often, arf!).

And every month, when my period came, my longing and desperation grew. The toilet cubicles at work were home to many a stifled sobfest and I learned to fix my face in a delighted I’m-so-thrilled-for-you smile whenever yet another friend or colleague announced her pregnancy.

I wasn’t overweight but if, like Claire, I had been it would have been a synch to restrict my diet. If every cake or curry I rejected would take me one step closer to my baby it would be worth the deprivation.

Eighteen months after my miscarriage and more miserable than I’d ever been in my life, Reuben flew to America for work for two months. I thought there’d be no way we could get pregnant. A couple of weeks before he left, and having missed my now meticulously documented ‘fertile window’ I gave up.

But once I’d come to terms with my disappointment, at last I had an ‘oh well, that’s that then’ attitude. In truth I was almost grateful for the break. And of course, a week after he’d left, there was the blue line.

Looking back, I think the stress had messed with my fertility, like it does with many women. Doctors are wondering if Claire’s yo-yo dieting has disrupted her hormones, but it didn’t stop her having the first two.

So could it be that Claire’s extraordinary dedication to her weightloss is more about her primal need to have another baby, and that she’s in the same sad and stressed state that I was? I certainly hope not.

And given that people telling me to ‘lighten up, it will happen’ was about as fruitless as nailing jelly to the wall, all I can wish for Claire is that some happy happenstance occurs that makes her too busy to think about it for a while, and in that respite from the conception obsession the magic happens.

I wish you all the luck in the world, my lovely. But enough with the weightloss.

NEW PICTURES Claire Richards‘ weight loss story in pictures

Claire Richards: How I’ve lost 5 STONE to have a baby