National Infertility Awareness Week is April 21st-29th. Many people are unaware of this awareness week due to the lack of openness many people have about this private topic. To fully appreciate and understand this struggle, you’d need to spend weeks, months, or even years following a person who is struggling to get pregnant. My goal is to take you through my timeline with fertility treatments to understand how long many women have to deal with this taboo topic in silence.
During these months, my husband and I tried naturally to conceive. Frustrated when months and months go by and still no smiley face or plus sign on the pregnancy test. Wasting hundreds of dollars on a variety of ovulation kits, finding out later that they were telling us nothing about my body.
After being scheduled for my yearly exam with my OBGYN, I decided to discuss with her our struggles and see if it was time to take another course of action. My doctor agreed and first ordered a Hysterosalpingography, or HSG test. This test was a fairly painful test that showed if your fallopian tubes were working correctly. Luckily, when they shot dye in my tubes, it all came back normal. This meant my doctor would put me on a variety of oral medication to try to get my ovulation in order. This meant that over the next few months, I would try multiple pills and the occasional blood test to check my hormone levels.
Still no luck in the baby dust department, so we moved onto a new plan in the upcoming months. We were asked to choose a fertility specialist from basically a list of business cards. We called one doctor, based on location, and made an appointment. He started me on injections that month, hoping the additional hormones would help me get pregnant. This meant up to 3 shots a day in my abdomen for about 2 weeks straight. Hoping all the medicine would help at least 1 egg mature enough to be fertilized. This also meant coming into the office (about 30 minutes away from our home) every other day to have a vaginal ultrasound done, as well as blood work to check my egg growth. Of course, my journey continued into more months of frustration. The next month, we had to take “off” due to letting my body regulate back to normal. Month 17 led to the same course of action, only ending with intrauterine insemination (IUI). We followed the same 3 shots a day, with some days adding more medicine to help the growth, and ending with one last shot (HCG) in my butt to push ovulation. This time when they believed I had at least 1 mature egg, they would do the IUI (inserting sperm a specific amount of hours after my HCG shot). Sadly, another negative blood test showed no pregnancy. At this point, we didn’t want to continue to waste our money. We decided to get a second opinion with another fertility group.
We made an appointment with another practice down the road. It was an immediate connection, and we knew we would “break up” with our other fertility specialist and go with the new doctor. Our new doctor orders a sonohysterogram, which checked my uterine lining to make sure there were no significant issues. We decided to move forward with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) the following month. Unfortunately, a cyst was present at my initial IVF appointment, which meant we would have to postpone IVF this month. Finally, the next month I was cyst-free, which meant a few shots in my stomach every night for two weeks, which began to become painful, as I was running out of places to stick the needle. Along with the shots, I had appointments every other day for over 2 weeks in which they would do a vaginal ultrasound as well as blood work to monitor my levels. I also went through acupuncture a few times during this time to help egg growth, which meant more [tiny] needles! Finally, when my numbers looked good, my doctor gave us the okay that it was time for the IVF retrieval. This meant a shot was given 36 hours exactly before the surgery time to help release the mature eggs. I was put under for the outpatient surgery so they could safely remove all eggs, hoping many would be mature enough to fertilize immediately after. Each day over the next 6 days, my doctor would call to let me know how many eggs have continued to grow and show change towards fertilization. The most stressful week ever, not knowing if everything we went through would give us a chance to have a baby.
We were able to get a few to fertilize, which meant I would wait another month to let my body recover and go back to baseline. Then the following month we would transfer the embryo in hopes that it would “stick” and I would be pregnant. The transfer process would include progesterone shots every day, as well as oral medications to prepare my body for pregnancy. And…it finally worked for us!
The crazy thing is we would do it all over again if we could have our little guy in our lives. So, if you know someone who is struggling with fertility issues, know they are going through not only physical pain from the procedures, shots, and tests, but mental pain from the agony of not knowing when and if they will ever start a family, and financial strain that all of these uninsured tests put on couples.
Sending hugs out to the women out there that are still struggling with infertility issues, and thinking of you during your struggles, many of which are much more painful than mine.