I was dreading doing the follow-up HSG test, mostly because of how painful the first one was. But there was no way around it, I had to have this HSG test to determine if my last surgery cleared all my uterine scarring. If any scarring remains that would mean I can’t move forward with IVF. So a lot was riding on this HSG test.
Post-Surgery Follow-up Appointments (HSG Test & Ultrasound)
I was praying this follow-up HSG test would not be as painful as the first one, but I really had no idea what to expect this second time around. I’ve heard from other women on the Asherman’s Syndrome forums that as long as you had a successful surgery and uterine scarring was properly removed, your pain level should be less with the second HSG test.
For this second HSG I openly talked with the nurse and doctor about how nervous I was, which I think helped because they were able to talk me through it. There was some pain, but it was brief, only for a few seconds. I’d say the level of pain this time was 4 out of 10 when she was putting in the catheter. I was so scared that that level of pain would increase that my anxiety started to go up.
I was so nervous about the process and remembered how painful the first HSG test was. My nerves now had me saying out loud, “I don’t think I can do this.” The doctor paused and asked me, “tell me what’s going on, what is the pain like? Is it like a pinching, a pressure, or cramping?” I thought about it for a few seconds, but then I realized that I wasn’t experiencing pain, it was pure anxiety. I’m glad she asked me questions about what the pain was like, because it made me realize it wasn’t pain, it was just anxiety. I told her that it wasn’t bad and that we could continue. I was able to complete the HSG test, feeling a bit rattled by my nerves but thankful I didn’t chicken out. So in the end, this second HSG test was in fact significantly less painful for me.
The radiologist seemed to think there was something on the ultrasound indicating scar tissue remaining, yet my nurse (calling on behalf of my doctor) said the exact opposite a few days later. She read the report to me, deciphering the medical jargon and said that the flow of the dye in my uterus indicates everything is clear and functioning correctly. I still plan to ask the doctor in New York (at my future IVF clinic) what he thinks. But it sounds like things are looking good and I am cleared to do IVF. Yay! Oh but wait, now I have to decide when to do IVF while COVID is going on.
Navigating Fertility Treatment During COVID-19
I decided to sit down with my husband and brainstorm our options for what we should do next, now that my scarring has been removed. In the past, my doctor said my best option was IVF, but that was before anyone knew about my septate uterus. Now that my septate uterus has been surgically corrected my odds of a successful pregnancy have gone up. “After surgery, between fifty to eighty percent of women with a history of recurrent miscarriage will go on to have a healthy future pregnancy” (Healthline, 2018). Pretty amazing right?
“So why don’t you try to conceive naturally again?” you may ask me. But I have a history of having Trisomy 15 and 16 miscarriages, indicative of an egg issue, not a uterus issue. My doctor in California believes that there are most likely multiple issues going on with me, including my septate uterus and my eggs most likely. Thankfully he fixed two issues, the uterine scarring and the septate uterus. But the egg issue is much more complicated. After asking multiple doctors the question “What is the best way for me to have a healthy baby with reduced risk of another miscarriage?” they all said, “IVF.” I’ve asked three different doctors this question, and they all explain their reasoning relating to my egg quality.
I told my husband, “The amount of money I’ve spent on four corrective surgeries after my last miscarriage from conceiving naturally, equals what we could have paid toward IVF instead.” Just looking at the numbers and my past history shows that IVF would actually be my best option, physically, emotionally, and financially. It just makes sense for us. But there are two hurdles left to deal with before we do IVF again, the money needed for IVF and now COVID.
At the moment I am considering holding off on pursuing IVF until I get the COVID vaccine, which seems to be anywhere from 3-6 months from now. I know my biological clock is ticking, but it’s so risky to travel right now for treatment. I think I can wait a few more months. Plus that will give me time to figure out funding IVF treatment, which will mostly likely include getting another job. Hopefully I can get a second job, it’s hard to say in this economy, we will see.
I still have my initial phone consultation with my new RE in New York. I think he will understand me postponing treatment for a bit, but I still want to hear what I can do in the meantime to prepare for treatment. I want to make sure all my ducks are in a row before I do IVF again. There’s the administrative ducks; medical history, insurance information, and ROIs. Then the physical ducks; a food plan for fertility, exercising, and supplements. Then of course the financial ducks. These are not all of the ducks that need to be in a row, but you get the idea. There’s a lot of moving parts to doing IVF. I’m hoping this upcoming consultation will get me going in the right direction at least.
So a few posts back I talked about how I found a lump in my breast. I found out recently that thankfully my mammogram and MRI show that it is not cancer. My doctor said, “We should still remove it, or at least do a biopsy, but it would be better to just remove it completely.” After careful thought and about a month to think it over, I decided to not do the biopsy or lumpectomy, at least not right now. I based my decision on the fact that the mammogram and MRI show no cancer as well as when my doctor said that the odds of it being cancer are less than 1%. If it’s less than 1% then why would I have surgery? I suppose she wants to be cautious and remove it out of an abundance of caution since I have a family history of breast cancer.
I’ve been on and off fertility medication a decent amount of this year, so that too could be contributing to the size of this lump. So I decided to continue monitoring the lump over these next few months. If it’s still hanging around, I will get a second opinion before I decide to do a biopsy or lumpectomy.
Oh my, do we have a lot of catching up to do! In my previous post I talked about how I did an HSG test for the first time. I hated it. But I apparently needed it more than I realized. The images and results determined I did in fact have Asherman’s Syndrome. The series of events that took place afterwards included a flurry of phone calls and emails to multiple doctors to coordinate treatment, as well as a lot of research on my part. Within about one week of diagnosis, I was on a plane headed out for surgery in California. I found out later there was even more to the story of what was going on with me.
Why I Fired My Previous Fertility Team
I decided to seek a second opinion in addition to my current OBGYN. Why did I seek a second opinion? I’ve done a lot of research online about my diagnoses and I discovered I was not tested for a lot of things over the years, including a basic karyotype test, which I will talk about later.
I learned there were substantial gaps in my treatment. So I fired my previous OBGYN from earlier this year, as well as my previous out-of-state reproductive endocrinologist. Not only was I continuing to have miscarriage after miscarriage but I also had two rounds of IVF with no success. Not to mention a lot of missing diagnostic tests that were never suggested to me over the years. One of those tests included an HSG test, which I learned is a pretty routine test to take with recurrent miscarriages but it was never done on me. I just recently learned new information about this HSG test that was shocking and could completely change my future treatment plans. I’ll get more into that in a bit.
I was told over the years by several doctors “It’s just bad luck” and “keep trying.” But if you have recurrent miscarriages, this type of advice is at the very least negligent and at worst it can be deadly. I’ve heard of stories where women follow this advice and experience major health risks when they miscarry and hemorrhage to the point of needing emergency care, only to find out that they were missing vital diagnostic tests that could have potentially prevented the entire scenario with proper treatment. I have a new diagnosis I will talk about in a bit, one that was missed by doctors who told me to “keep trying.”
Several months ago I decided to seek diagnostic testing from two new OBGYNs simultaneously, mostly because my trust in OBGYNs and fertility doctors has taken a nosedive. I believe that in my complex fertility situation, I needed to move on and try something different with a new fertility team. I’m still deciding which one I will make my primary OBGYN. But for the time being two brains are better than one right? I will probably decide on who I want to stick with after a few visits so I can compare who I feel has the best individualized treatment plan.
I also fired my out-of-state reproductive endocrinologist for different reasons. They never requested an HSG test, therefore I never knew I had Asherman’s Syndrome, then they implanted my one and only embryo (PGS tested normal) but it failed to implant and I realized afterward they didn’t even test my endometrium lining the day of my transfer to see if it was thick enough for implantation. The previous week my lining was too thin and they said, “hopefully it will be thick enough by transfer day.” But like I said, I learned after the fact they didn’t even measure it. These were just a few of the reasons I decided to kick them to the curb.
I am currently seeing a new doctor in California who specializes in corrective surgery for Asherman Syndrome scarring in the uterus. This A-listed doctor who comes highly recommended is unfortunately retiring the end of this month. I feel like I finally found a real gem amongst all the other dirt out there, but at the very least he has been able to point me into a new direction for treatment. So now I will need to find a different reproductive endocrinologist if I want to continue with IVF treatment.
Three months ago I set up a phone consultation with an IVF clinic in New York. I wanted a clinic that had great reviews, quality care, innovated treatment techniques, and that was more affordable. Cost was one of the biggest concerns for me, but I also sought out this clinic because they actually consider reproductive immunological issues during treatment. My past doctors either told me they don’t have the capability to test for reproductive immunological issues, didn’t know who did test for it, or they were completely dismissive of the fact that I wanted to do it at all. None of them ever followed up with a referral for me, I had to do that research on my own. Even though reproductive immunology is controversial, why would a doctor not even consider the realm of possibility that my body may be rejecting embryos due to immunological issues? I’ve had six miscarriages and they all end at about six weeks and a few days, I would think a doctor may ask themselves, “Hmm…I wonder why the embryo continuously stops growing around the same time? Maybe her body is rejecting the baby due to immunological issues.” I’ve seen six different providers over 4.5 years and not one of them did immunological testing, even if just to rule it out.
But this IVF clinic in New York I’d like to go to seems much more innovative compared to the more run of the mill treatment I received in the past. The fact that some of their medication protocols are specific to women with immunological issues gives me hope. Even if I can’t afford the whole battery of reproductive immunological tests, I want to rule out some of the more basic immunological issues at the very least. I deserve individualized treatment, not cookie cutter plans that continuously fail. You also deserve the best care possible with a doctor who will actually listen to you, does the proper diagnostic testing, and comes up with a treatment plan based on previous scientific studies similar to your own diagnosis. I’ll be doing a more in-depth post on when you should potentially fire your provider and seek out a new one.
Karyotype Test Results
I’m glad I found two new OBGYNs willing to work with me, because they both thought of different tests I was missing. While the first OBGYN suggested I do an HSG test the other said I should do a karyotype test. A karyotype test is a simple blood test. I’m not sure if it was because I was located in Alaska, or if it was the usual process, but they said they wouldn’t have my results for up to three weeks. They had to process my test out of state. I can’t recall if she said it was being processed at the Mayo Clinic or the Cleveland Clinic.
I got the good news that my karyotype test results came back normal, my doctor was able to officially rule out a balanced translocation. But I found out afterwards that my husband could also take a karyotype test too. I’ll see where his head is at with this. I want to respect the fact that he really needed a break from treatment, so something like this could be done maybe in a few months if he wanted to. He understands that although I am not actively pursuing IVF right now, I am most definitely in the phase of doing any diagnostic workups.
In the not so distant future I can restart IVF again, armed with more information and possibly a better outcome. I am also mentally preparing myself for the possibility of getting these workups to determine whether and when I should move on from trying to have a biological child and instead look into other options. Knowledge is power, and I feel all these tests will help me decide what is best for building my family.
Do some of your own research on karyotype tests to find out if you might benefit from taking this test. If you’ve had recurrent miscarriages your doctor may recommend a karyotype test on you and your partner. In my particular case, they wanted to rule out whether I had a balanced translocation which could have possibly explained why I had miscarriages due to the babies having a chromosomal abnormality. Although my chromosomes were determined to be normal from this karyotype test, I still had miscarriages due to Trisomy 15 and 16 (both due to maternal origin). We also had a triploidy miscarriage (due to paternal origin). From what I understand, a karyotype test is a type of genetic test that looks at your chromosomes.
Remember, just because your individual karyotype test results come back normal, this does not mean that your male partner does not have an abnormality. Ask your male partner to get tested as well. Like I said before, my husband asked for a break from fertility stuff for a bit, which is fine because I have at least a dozen other tests I can do on my own in the meantime.
Asherman’s Syndrome + Septate Uterus Diagnoses & Surgery
In my last post I talked about how read my HSG test report and saw he word synechiae. I googled the word synechiae and realized there was an actual name and diagnosis for what was happening to me. Asherman’s Syndrome. In a nutshell, Asherman’s Syndrome is when you have damage to your uterus to the point where scarring forms. If the scarring is bad enough it can close up the cervix entirely, backing up the menstrual flow with nowhere to go and causing potential for major complications. I’ve heard of some women who didn’t think much of their Asherman’s diagnosis, unaware of the importance of getting it treated, and they landed in the emergency room with immense pain. They would find out later the reason they weren’t having a period was their scarring literally blocked off the natural menstrual cycle. It’s a worse-case-scenario kind of situation, but given my bad luck (reproductively speaking), I did not want to chance it by not doing anything to treat it.
I sat there in my appointment with my new OBGYN who was talking about how severe my scarring was and how I would need surgery. She felt she was unable to help me, due to it being such a complicated and delicate procedure, on top of the fact that she had never performed this procedure before. “I don’t think what I would do would be any different from what Dr. X did.” Dr. X being the one she believed actually caused the damage. She thought it would be best if I see a specialist and avoid repeating another surgery that could make my scarring worse.
I asked who she would suggest I see to repair the scarring. She named a doctor from the fertility clinic out-of-state that I had zero luck with after two rounds of IVF. Nope, not happening. I was not going back to the clinic I felt like had several major oversights with my treatment. I have more information now about things that they failed to help me with that they should have done earlier. Some of those things included an HSG test, karyotype test, and a basic recurrent pregnancy loss panel that should have been done on me years ago. She had no other suggestions for any other specialist who could help me, so I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I joined several Asherman’s Syndrome groups online to learn more and to gain access to resources. This was actually how I found my doctor who ended up performing the surgery. I found a post where someone asked, “Which A-list Asherman’s Syndrome specialist would you recommend?” I was amazed at how many people responded, and most of them kept repeating over and over the same two doctor’s names. There were a few others who mentioned some of the lesser known doctors that helped them. So I narrowed it down to two doctors.
I chose the doctor whose technique included using a balloon stent to help prevent scarring from reforming, therefore reducing the number of subsequent surgeries. I called his office and found out he was retiring by the end of the month, so I had to quickly make arrangements if I wanted the opportunity of getting his help. He was so highly regarded in the Asherman’s community.
After a flurry of phone calls, emails, and lots of paperwork I somehow managed to get everything set up and I was on the plane to California for my treatment in just over one week. I essentially went from just learning about my new diagnosis one week, to getting corrective surgery from one of the top doctors the next. It’s pretty unheard of when it comes to reproductive medicine to have such a quick turnaround with treatment time. It was headspinningly fast, yet also really satisfying knowing I was getting things done so quickly, so I could hopefully move on with my life.
Before my surgery my doctor sat down with me after looking at my HSG images and said, “This doesn’t actually look like severe scarring like the initial report says they found. I mean there is some scarring I’m seeing, but not severe like they are saying. If you look here, it should be horizontal, but your uterus is like this…” he held a piece of paper at a sharp diagonal angle across the image of my uterus. “This looks like a congenital disorder, a septate uterus,” he explained to me that a septate uterus is a birth defect and showed me how my uterus was misshaped, which can affect my ability to get and stay pregnant. This could be a major reason why I keep miscarrying.
He was the very first doctor to ever tell me that I may have a birth defect in my uterus. I was shocked to hear this news. I was so shocked I didn’t know what to say other than, “Really?” He said again, “We won’t know for sure if that’s what it is until we are in there and see.” During the surgery I was put under general anesthesia, and when I woke up I got a lot more information on what was going on.
He told me he removed the uterine scarring and inserted the uterine balloon stent to help prevent the scarring from reforming. I would need to have the balloon in for one week, which isn’t that long compared to other times I’ve heard these can be in for several weeks. He also said that I did in fact have a septate uterus and he was able to easily correct this birth defect during the surgery. So basically this surgery was like a three-for-one kind of deal; 1) remove the scarring, 2) reduce or prevent future scarring, and 3) correct the septate uterus. No wonder this doctor is so highly regarded.
I think his well-trained eye with decades of experience was easily able to spot my septate uterus, whereas none of my local medical team were able to do this over the nearly five years I’ve been seeking treatment. I’m so thankful I was able to get into seeing him, literally the week before he retired. I was super time-crunched but everything worked out for the best.
If someone were to ask me, “What does it feel like to have a uterine balloon stent in?” I would say, “It feels like you are walking around with a blown-up balloon inside your uterus.” No joke, that’s exactly how it feels. I would say I was consciously aware of it about 95% of my waking day because I could feel and sense it that often. It occasionally would feel achy and painful on rare occasions, but only briefly. But then again that could have been pain from the several other things that had been performed on me during that surgery.
I avoided bending over to pick up anything, because I was afraid of the stem popping out. My doctor in California said, “If the stem pops out, just shove it back in,” he said it so matter-of-factly. But I’m sure he saw the terror in my eyes and then he followed it with, “It’s not that big a deal, it happens sometimes.” Needless to say, I avoided bending over for fear of needing to “shove it back in there.” You never realize how often you need to pick things up until you are trying to avoid bending over. Thankfully I had a gripper tool I used to pick up anything I dropped on the floor around the house.
After one week, I got the balloon stent removed by my second-opinion OBGYN back in Alaska. Yes, I was seeing two OBGYN’s locally, trying to determine which one to go with regularly. The first one told me she would remove my balloon stent but when I happened to call for another reason and asked if she was still good to go with the procedure I was told she was “on vacation for two weeks.” No one called me from their office to tell me she could not do it anymore. To top it off they offered ZERO solutions to help me that day. I called them several times afterward and still they were of no help. I was left high and dry with no solution on who would remove my balloon stent that had to come out at a very specific time.
So I had to scramble to coordinate another doctor to remove it. Thank god I was seeing a second backup OBGYN at a different clinic. When you deal with all the crap I’ve had to over the years with fertility issues, it’s good to have a backup doctor, and this is a prime example of why. If I did not have a backup doctor I would likely still be stuck with the uterine balloon stent inside me, beyond the recommended time the doctor in California told me it should be in.
It wasn’t until three days afterward the first clinic (with the doctor who bailed on me) called me back to say they had someone else arranged to take it out, but I told them, “I made arrangements with another clinic that was actually able to confirm they could take the balloon stent out at the proper time.” I didn’t say it with anger, I simply said it with finality because this situation was an excellent reason to fire them too. It’s completely unacceptable to leave your patients high and dry like that. At the very least, arrange a substitute doctor to perform your procedures that are time-sensitive.
The backup OBGYN who performed the balloon stent removal was very nice and incredibly knowledgeable about Alaska and why we don’t have a reproductive endocrinologist up here. She essentially said that she thinks the reason is that there isn’t a big enough population in Alaska to make it fiscally doable for an RE to be in Alaska and to do any IVF treatment. The lower the population the less likely an RE will be able to sustain their practice. The way she described it made a lot of sense to me. She also mentioned there used to be an RE in Alaska but she was up here only by happenstance, because her husband’s job was relocated in Alaska and she happened to be trained as an RE already. This RE passed on her knowledge and expertise to the clinic I ended up seeing to remove my balloon stent. I was starting to feel like I was finally in the right hands.
Unfortunately the actual removal of the balloon stent was quite painful, but it only lasted for a few seconds. The level of pain I experienced was right on par with how bad the HSG was for me, except the HSG pain was going on for much longer. I was so happy to have that balloon out of me. Having it removed felt like a new chapter of my life in a way. The scarring was gone and the birth defect in my uterus was corrected from my recent surgery. It felt like a new lease on life. It may not be the end-all-be-all to my fertility issues, but it certainly got rid of several major obstacles.
Also, while I was down in California I was able to do an actual recurrent pregnancy loss panel like he had recommended. I had my blood drawn for these tests. I had seventeen, yes seventeen vials of blood taken from me that day. The lab worker suggested I sit in the lobby for a bit afterwards and the front desk guy brought me water so I wouldn’t pass out. That’s a lot of blood! I got tested for various things like Lupus, Natural Killer cells, prolactin, and a bunch of other things. I’m glad I was able to do some immunological tests, although it’s not as extensive as a full reproductive immunological workup. I did some research on that and I don’t have near enough money to afford that.
So what are my next steps now that my balloon stent is removed? Well I need to continue taking estrogen for 30 days after surgery, then progesterone pills for the last of those 5 days. If I understand it correctly, the estrogen helps to somehow prevent the recurrence of scar tissue developing, possibly due to keeping the endometrial lining more thin.
After I’m done with the medicine, and after my cycle restarts I’ll need to do a repeat HSG and also a pelvic ultrasound to confirm that everything is looking good and no scarring has reformed. On the off chance that scarring does reoccur, my California doctor who recently retired, suggested a doctor on the East Coast for me. He is also a specialist treating Asherman’s Syndrome. So I have him in mind, just in case it happens again. If everything looks good, yours truly will be arranging treatment at a new clinic for my next IVF cycle in New York.
I wanted to take a break from IVF for a little bit, maybe six months or so. But I still wanted this time to be somewhat productive, so I decided now would be a good time to look into getting a new OBGYN and ask about any testing that I may not have done yet. As it turns out there were several tests missing. I am now seeing two OBGYNs, and still deciding which one I want to see regularly. I am also seeing a specialist for something more serious than my fertility, that will affect when I’ll be able to do my next IVF cycle.
HSG Test Results
From what I hear the HSG test (Hysterosalpingogram) is one of the more routine tests done on women who have recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL) or unexplained infertility. One of the new doctors I am seeing suggested I do an HSG test because there is no record of me doing this test. When she described the test to see if I remember doing it, it did not sound familiar. I told her that I’ve done SIS tests, but I’ve never done an HSG test.
Back to the drawing board…Waiting to speak to new OBGYN about any missing fertility tests.
For those of you unfamiliar with HSG test, it is one method to see if you have blocked tubes or scar tissue in your uterus, which affects a woman’s ability to become pregnant or continue to carry a pregnancy. They use contrast dye to see if there are any abnormalities. I had done a little research on HSG tests and learned women who experience more pain during the procedure tend to have scarring of their uterus or blockage in their fallopian tubes. There were three women performing the HSG test on me. One was the radiologist inserting the catheter and dye, the other was moving around the x-ray machine, and the third was in training.
I was expecting maybe a level of pain similar to my SIS test, which normally tends to feel uncomfortable, but not unbearable. But this HSG procedure was really different. After she inserted the catheter she said there was a little balloon on the end of it where the dye goes through or something. Honestly I can’t remember exactly what she said because I was crying in pain.
If I had to describe the pain I’d say it was one of the worst pains I’ve felt in my life, but it would come in very short waves.My pain would go up each time she put a little more dye in. It feels similar to miscarriage pain, at least that’s what it felt like to me. I really was not expecting this test to be this bad. In the middle of the test I wanted to tell them to stop everything. I wanted to get up and leave in the middle of it. The thought crossed my mind as I was laying there crying, I want to just give up on trying to have a baby. I can’t take any more of this.
I focused on deep breathing. I probably sounded like one of the women in the maternity ward with how loud I was breathing. I didn’t care, it was helping me somewhat. I was also doing a grounding technique that tends to help me, where I push my thumb and pointer finger together. But the pain was so intense at times that I was pushing my thumb nail incredibly hard into my finger. The nurse in training seemed to feel really bad for me and offered her hand for me to hold a couple times. I told her “it’s okay” and thanked her for the offer once the wave of pain subsided.
It sucked, like really sucked. But I got it done and over with. I experienced cramping off and on over the next few days. I’ve heard this test and the level of pain each person feels really varies. Some women don’t really feel much of anything, while other women describe it as being brutal. It really depends on what is going on inside your tubes and uterus.
The results of the HSG procedure were that my tubes looked nice and clear, but I have significant scarring in my uterus. This can cause recurrent pregnancy loss and infertility.The report reads, “Significant scarring and synechia within the uterine cavity narrows the body and lower uterine segment.” I read the sentence and one word stuck out to me ‘synechia.’ Synechia? What the heck is that? I decided to Google ‘synechia uterus’ to try to learn what that word meant, because my doctor didn’t mention that word to me. Mind you, I am reading this report that was emailed to me after I spoke with her.
My Google search: Synechia uterus
Google results from Cleveland Clinic: “Asherman’s syndrome is an acquired condition (one you are not born with) that refers to having scar tissue in the uterus or in the cervix (the opening to the uterus). This scar tissue makes the walls of these organs stick together and reduces the size of the uterus. Asherman’s syndrome is also known as intrauterine synechiae or uterine synechiae. Synechiae means adhesions. Asherman’s syndrome is also called intrauterine adhesions (IUA).”
My doctor told me I would need another surgery to remove the scarring. Problem is, sometimes the surgery to remove scarring can also create more scarring. With my most recent miscarriage I needed three subsequent surgeries to clear my uterus. This surgery would make it the fourth. I am now wondering if I have endometriosis, which can cause scarring to reoccur over and over. I’ve never been tested for endometriosis, so it’s possible I may actually have it, which would explain why I’ve needed surgery after surgery to remove scarring.
From the little I understand, it looks like it is more likely the scarring I am experiencing may be from complications from the D&C procedures I needed after my last miscarriage. But that does not mean I don’t have endometriosis, it has not been ruled out yet. This HSG test opened a real can of worms and is leaving me with more questions. Even if I decided to stop trying to have a biological child, I would need this surgery regardless because ignoring Asherman’s Syndrome or Endometriosis can lead to more and more scarring, severe pain, and issues with menstruation.
On the bright side I am happy that I am getting the necessary testing done that I need if I want to continue IVF treatment. I am surprised my previous two Reproductive Endocrinologists never thought to do an HSG test. I’ve heard from some women in the infertility forums that this test was done on them fairly early on. But I suppose it’s better late than never. I am scheduled for my pre-op appointment this Friday, where I will learn more about the surgery. They told me the first step they want to do is a hysteroscopy. Which I’ve had done in the past, but it sounds like they may only do a hysteroscopy this first time and not the actual scar tissue removal at the same time like what my previous OBGYN would do. I’ll find out more here in a couple days what their plan is.
After seeing the first doctor who recommended an HSG test, I saw another OBGYN to get another opinion. This second doctor said that it was good I was going to get an HSG test done and agreed with the first doctor. She also recommended I do a Karyotype Test where they look to see if there are any other genetic issues I may have which could be contributing to the miscarriages. We already know I have the MTHFR gene mutation and both doctors agree that this mutation may or may not be contributing to the miscarriages. Both said that MTHFR gene mutations are common and there isn’t enough studies to make clear correlations between MTHFR and recurrent miscarriages. They also both said that it’s possible I could be the exception and that it could be a contributing factor.
While the first doctor decided on an HSG test, the other one decided to do a Karyotype test. She asked me, “Have you ever been tested for a balanced translocation?” I told her I was fairly sure I was tested for this, because I saw a geneticist years ago. I explained both my husband and I took the Natera Horizon 274 Test which analyzes your blood to see if either partner is a carrier for genetic diseases. But she said, “I don’t see anything in your records indicating you were tested for a balanced translocation. I am fairly certain this is not a part of the carrier screening.” As it turns out, my records do not show anything relating to a karyotype test. She suggested I do a Karyotype test to check for a balanced translocation.
Years ago I remember calling my reproductive endocrinologist and asking her if I had a balanced translocation, after I had done some research on my own about it. I remember her saying, “If you did the Horizon 274 test, then you’ve been tested for a balanced translocation.” But this new doctor is saying the exact opposite of what she said. I told this new doctor, “It would not surprise me if they never tested me for a balanced translocation because they told me the wrong thing before about how I did not have the MTHFR gene mutation and I found out years later I really did have it. So let’s go ahead and do the Karyotype test, especially since there is nothing in my record about a karyotype test.” For the karyotype test it was a blood draw. I called today to check if my results were in yet (since it’s been two weeks now), but they said this test typically takes longer, upwards of three weeks. So now it’s a matter of just waiting.
More Surgeries, One for Something More Serious
While I am waiting for the results from the Karyotype test, I will be speaking with the surgeon this Friday about what to expect for my uterine surgery to remove the scarring they found during the HSG test. I think it’s good that I am seeking out different opinions because both discovered tests I was missing. This is what I wanted, I wanted to know if there was anything missing. I feel good that the wheels are in motion, and I am making progress in a way during this break from fertility treatment.
But I have also been doing testing for something completely different. Let me take you back to earlier this year…
In January 2020 I first discovered a small lump in my breast. I didn’t think much of it at the time because it was so small and felt only slightly different from the rest of the tissue in my breast. I decided to make a mental note of how big it felt and see if it changed at all in the coming months.
Months later I was preparing for my frozen embryo transfer with hormonal injections and I gained some weight. The lump felt a little bigger this time, but I figured maybe because I gained weight, or even because of the hormones I was on. The embryo failed to implant and I stopped taking injections because I wasn’t pregnant. I assumed maybe my body needs to have a menstrual cycle or two before this lump will get smaller.
I’ve had two menstrual cycles since then and lost some weight. But instead of the lump getting smaller it feels as if it’s nearly tripled in size. My mom has had cancer twice, breast cancer and then endocrine cancer inside her lung. My dad also had cancer. So I am considered high risk. About four years ago I asked my previous doctor if I should get a mammogram but she told me that I was too young. When you are younger breast tissue is more dense, which makes it more difficult for them to see anything on the mammogram. That doctor actually told me she would not refer me for a mammogram unless my mom’s doctor wrote a letter of referral to her, then she would consider a having me do a mammogram. My mom’s doctor was totally on board with doing this, but he retired shortly after and I never got that letter.
It seemed like a difficult process with several hoops to jump through, not to mention my doctor seemed dismissive about screening me. But I was concerned because my mom had aggressive breast cancer and my dad had just passed away from lung cancer although he was not a smoker. I think anyone in my position would want to at least get screened. But after trying to talk to my doctor again about screening she said the same thing and persuaded me not to get screened. I thought, “Maybe I am too young. Maybe I’m worrying for nothing.” So I decided to drop it for a while.
But now that I can actually feel this lump and it’s grown quite a bit in less than a year, I decided I really do need to get this checked out. Since my mom’s original doctor who was willing to write the referral had retired, Mom suggested I speak with the doctor who did her surgery to see what they say. They referred me to do a mammogram really quickly, within just a couple days.
Not a spa day. Wearing robe just before doing my first mammogram.
X-ray machine used for my recent mammogram.
The radiologist said she could definitely feel something. After waiting and waiting to hear the results, the radiologist assistant relayed the message to me that the radiologist couldn’t find any signs of cancer and to “come back for your next mammogram at forty years old.” She also said, “sometimes our breasts just get lumpy, maybe your fertility treatment had something to do with it.”
With this news I almost decided not to even go to the follow-up appointment with the doctor. But I’m glad I did. My doctor also said that she could definitely feel something. “It feels like a tumor.” At first my brain stopped comprehending anything she said after ‘tumor.’ She explained the name of the tumor she thought it was but I was in a daze, only hearing ‘tumor.’ How could that be?
I was even more confused because she said she didn’t think it was cancerous yet because it feels softer, and cancer tends to feel harder. I didn’t even realize you could have a tumor and it not be cancerous. “Given your family history and your high risk of developing cancer we should schedule surgery, but first let’s do an MRI.” She said an MRI is more sensitive to finding cancer compared to a mammogram, which can miss seeing cancer especially in younger women with more dense breast tissue.
I asked my doctor if she thought my recent fertility treatment may be causing the lump and she asked, “Did you have the lump before the treatment?” I let her know that I did in fact feel the lump before treatment. She didn’t have a clear opinion either way whether she thought the lump got bigger because of the fertility treatment, but she did point out the fact that this lump was here before treatment.
I told her I was hoping to start up with IVF treatment either by the end of the year or early next year. I asked her “What’s the longest I could go before needing this surgery on my breast?” and she said, “Before the end of the year, and before you try IVF again.”This seemed to add a new level of urgency to the situation. Before I asked her that question I figured she would tell me several years, because it didn’t seem cancerous just yet. But we won’t know for sure until I do an MRI if it’s cancer.
She went on to say regardless of what the MRI shows, we should remove it because I am at high risk of it turning to cancer. So at best, this surgery would be preventative and at worst I could find out that I have cancer with this upcoming MRI. I may need to do a biopsy, which I need to ask her if that is different from the surgery she is talking about.She was very clear about the fact that I should not do IVF again until this lump is removed. She explained my individual odds of getting cancer is a little over 25%. I was actually considering cancelling this appointment beforehand because I was certain she would say the same thing the radiologist said, “next mammogram at 40” but this doctor said, “Radiologists can miss things. Some women in their 30s do get cancer.”
I left that appointment feeling completely blindsided with the news. I was not expecting that at all. I assumed she would also be dismissive like my previous doctor years ago, instead she was already talking about doing surgery. I take what she says very seriously because I truly believe she saved my mom’s life. They scheduled my MRI for the earliest time, several weeks from now. At this point we have not scheduled surgery yet because the MRI may show that it has spread to other parts. My mom’s breast cancer was the type you could not feel, and could only be seen on MRI as tiny specks all spread throughout. So it’s possible that this is more than just a single lump. It’s also possible it’s not cancer, but my doctor still wants to remove this lump to prevent it from turning into cancer.
Emotionally, I am a wreck, I’m not going to lie. Not only do I have yet again another surgery for my scar tissue in my uterus but now it’s looking like I will also need this surgery to remove the lump in my breast. It’s really overwhelming that both of these are happening at the same time, on top of the fact that I need both surgeries in order to move forward with IVF treatment. I still haven’t processed this news fully, I truly feel like I am in a daze and none of this is real.
I suppose instead of spinning off into space with worry, I should ground myself by being grateful for finding out this information. I am so thankful these doctors are doing their best to really investigate what’s going on with my health. They really are on top of things. I am glad I decided to seek out new doctors for my care, because I could have been dealing with so much worse physical health later down the road.
I need to practice other healthy coping skills in addition to gratitude. None of this news is easy to digest. But last night I was able to find some dark humor in the whole situation. I joked with my husband, “They are taking parts from me there [pointing down] and now here [holding boob]. What’s going to be left of me?” I laughed and I was able to get him to laugh too. I didn’t think I would be able to find humor in any of this but maybe this coping skill, among others, will help me get through all of this.
As much as I wanted to dive right into fertility treatments after my recent FET did not work, it just isn’t realistic for us. We are physically, emotionally, and financially tapped out. So we are taking this time to heal, recenter, and reevaluate. I want to use this time wisely. I’d like to try treatments again in the future, as well as possibly fostering or adopting. But right now we really need to take a break.
Have you taken a break from trying to have a baby? What advice would you give to someone considering taking a break? What helped you the most during that time? Please comment below.
Sometimes you just hit a wall. You’ve exhausted every option available to you, and you have to rethink how you are doing things. In my last post I talked about how our recent frozen embryo transfer did not work. The embryo did not implant, so technically I did not become pregnant. It was very sad for both of us. Over time I’ve become accustomed to plans not working and loss. I’ve found that it stings less and less over time, but the disappointment is still there. After seeing how this was affecting my husband, I realized the best thing for both of us is to take a break.
Initially he asked for a month-long break from treatments, certainly reasonable and doable. Well it’s been one month since my embryo transfer, and I think we need a longer break. The decision to wait longer is mostly a financial one. We just don’t have the money for treatments or any family building right now. We’ve put all our eggs in one basket with this fertility treatment (pun intended). But I realized I also put us on the back-burner. I wanted to share a list of things we sacrificed in order to pursue treatments.
Things we put on pause for fertility treatment:
Getting a house (living in a neighborhood that isn’t always safe)
Finishing college degree (I have about 1.5 years left on second degree)
Buying a car
Rarely buying clothes (my home attire consists of an obscene amount of holey clothes)
Saying “no” to vacations because “I might be pregnant by then” or “I’m pregnant and don’t want to risk another miscarriage by traveling” and of course “I can’t go on vacation, I don’t have the money.”
Weight loss goals out the window when doing fertility treatments. Fertility treatment = Bloats McGoats
I could go on and on about how planning and saving up for treatment impacts literally every facet of my life. If you’ve been on treatments, you know exactly what I’m talking about. I think that building a family, no matter how you do it (treatments, foster-to-adopt, adopt, etc.) can take so much out of us if we let it.
But what if we flip that idea on its head? What if instead of believing we are losing something or missing out on something, we could instead view it as something we are gaining? I’ve experienced a lot of loss through miscarriages and IVF rounds that did not work. If you were to tell me right after a miscarriage that I am ‘gaining something’ I would not have been very happy with you. But if I pull back and look at the big picture of what I’ve learned over these years, I truly have learned a lot.
The biggest thing I’ve learned is building resilience. I’ve learned and accepted the grieving process after each loss. With my first miscarriage that happened years ago, I laid in bed for two weeks straight. Other than using the restroom and occasionally getting food, I was tethered to that bed. I listened to a lot of music that spoke to my grief. I cried more than I have ever cried in my life. I cried so much that I physically ran out of tears and could not cry anymore, which I did not even know that was possible. It was shocking, devastating, and heartbreaking.
But when I had more miscarriages, the emotional pain lessened over time. You become used to the possibility that it might not work. You learn to become realistic. I still feel sad when it doesn’t work out, but nowhere near what it was like with my first loss. That first loss was debilitating.
I think a realistic approach to treatments is to hope for the best and plan for the worst. I don’t believe in the whole “don’t get your hopes up” idea. If you are feeling hopeful, despite the odds, let yourself fully feel it. You can be simultaneously hopeful and planning ahead if things don’t work out. In fact, that is how I’ve gotten through all these years of trying. I allowed myself to feel happy and hopeful when things were looking good and I also mentally prepared myself for the possibility that things wouldn’t work out.
I had a plan in place to prepare for a loss or round of treatment that didn’t work. I asked myself, “What are some healthy coping skills I can do to build myself back up if I do lose this baby (or if my treatment doesn’t work)?” I thought back to other times in my life when things were difficult and what helped me then. I wrote down my plan so that it was tangible and I could refer back to it. I would talk about my plan for healthy coping with my husband. My plan became my safety net as well as what helped get me back on my feet. Over time and with practice my safety net became stronger and I got back on my feet a little quicker each time. I highly recommend creating a go-to healthy coping skills list for yourself. No matter what loss you experience in life, this can really help you build resilience.
I wanted to share a book I started reading recently called Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg. It’s all about loss, grief, and building resilience. I think it is really well written and the lessons learned can also be applied to the grieving process of failed fertility treatments, miscarriages, stillbirth, infant loss, etc. If you are experiencing a loss related to family building, I highly recommend seeking out books not just on that subject, but on the grieving process in general. There’s a limited number of books that talk about the grieving process during miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant loss. So I’m thankful that I’ve decided to expand out my resources beyond the scope of miscarriage grief, because learning about other types of grief opened up so many resources for me. I’m finding that learning about grief on a broader scale has opened my eyes to many other voices and lessons on how to build resilience. Hearing peoples’ stories about grief from losing a spouse, an older child, or being diagnosed with cancer has helped me to learn what they did to stay strong and become resilient in time.
So, circling back to my original thoughts, this break from my fertility treatment is all about reconnecting to who I am as an individual and who we are as a couple. I plan on doing a post in the future, summarizing my break from fertility treatment. That future post will probably be related to more practical ways to navigate your break from treatment. For now, I will be sharing tid-bits along the way of things I’ve learned.
What have I been up to lately now that I am taking a break from treatment? Recently I went on a camping trip with my husband. It was an amazing trip. We didn’t go anywhere new, we’ve been camping there a handful of times. But this time I was able to take my mind off treatment and focus on us. I really do feel like it helped reconnect us. It was a lot of fun and while I was there it felt as if we rekindled a part of ourselves that was there before trying to have a baby.
Stoked! Kurtis starting the bonfire for our recent camping trip. Camping is one of our favorite hobbies.
I’ve also been focusing on trying to lose weight and get healthier. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting and lost almost 9 pounds this month. I still have a ways to go but it’s a good start. I’ve been cleaning the house more and trying to get more organized. We’ve been doing more hiking and walking. I’ve been trying to move more in general. I created an Instagram account dedicated to weight loss, self-development, and goal setting. You can follow my account @goalsandconfetti on Instagram. If you haven’t already, you can also follow me at @hopingforbabyblog.
I plan on taking this time to review more books, shows, podcasts, ect. about not only fertility treatment but also other family building options. I’ll be posting my reviews soon on this site, so be looking out for those. There are so many great resources on family building out there. I plan on updating my Resources & Products page for you all too.
As you probably remember in my FET Prep Week 15 post I was stressing about how my body decided to start my cycle, rather than adjust to my medication protocol. Well as it turns out I had a cyst that was totally taking hostage my plans for my frozen embryo transfer. Instead of cursing this cyst that very much deserved cursing at, I had a “whatever” attitude, bordering on ambivalent about everything.
So this is the third fertility treatment I’ve done (two egg retrievals before and now this FET), and I can without question say my body never does what is expected of it. It was incredibly frustrating for me, especially when I spent almost one month out of state waiting for my eggs to get to the correct size for my second egg retrieval which ended up a complete bust anyway. But instead of being totally thrown for a loop with this frozen embryo transfer I decided to take a different approach. I told myself ahead of time, “You know your body is a rebel, so plan for things not to go according to plan.” This actually helped, because when things inevitably didn’t work out as planned I was able to keep my s**t together and say to myself, “Well duh, you know your body, and you know it’s not going to be aligned with their schedule. So don’t stress. Just focus on your next immediate step.”
So what exactly happened? Well I had a fat cyst that was hanging on and was way too comfy, not wanting to go anywhere. Last week my fertility clinic said that if the cyst on my ultrasound was over 10mm I would need to do a blood test to check my estrogen levels. Well not only was my cyst almost double the size they would allow (has to be less than 10mm but I was measuring at 18mm) but my estrogen levels also turned out twice as high as what they wanted. My nurse said, “I’m sure you’ll get your period over the weekend. Let’s schedule a follow-up ultrasound on Monday. In the meantime keep taking your 10 units of Lupron and don’t start the Estrace yet.” Essentially I was not moving on to the next step of medication that I needed to to stay on track with my calendar.
Instead of dreading the ultrasound or being overly optimistic I decided to try to remove my emotions from the situation because it’s something I have zero control over. On Monday the ultrasound tech told me my cyst was still measuring too big, at 12mm when it needed to be under 10mm. Not surprising. I drove over to the hospital to get my blood drawn for my estrogen levels. Thankfully not too long later my clinic called with the good news that my estrogen levels had dropped to baseline, which is exactly what they wanted to see. They also said my lining looks nice and thin, also what they wanted to see at this stage. And as it just so happened, not fifteen minutes after that phone call with my nurse, my long awaited period finally started. I think if it had been delayed any later my whole FET cycle might have been cancelled. My body likes to keep me in suspense.
I find it amazing how everything can look so bleak and pointless and then suddenly things take a dramatic turn around just in time. It is quite head spinning. I think had I not made the decision to try to remove my emotions from this situation I would have been a total wreck. I was like, “Nope! Not going there emotions.”
Now that things are back on track, my nurse had me lower my Lupron dose from 10 units down to 5 units and I am taking an Estrace pill three times daily. Not to mention I’m taking lots of vitamins twice a day. They’ve tweaked my schedule slightly to where my original followup ultrasound was switched from June 24th and is now June 26th. So as long as my ultrasound on June 26th looks good I will still be able to travel to Seattle as originally planned. I should still be able to do my FET on July 2nd as long as nothing major happens.
On Different Pages with Spouse
Of course the stakes are incredibly high. I have only one embryo I’m about to implant. As in, I only have one embryo from two rounds of IVF when the average woman could have three to five embryos after two rounds. I want to do another round of IVF to give this baby a sibling (or if this one does not implant to try again) but I’m not sure my husband will be on board with doing another round of IVF. I know what I want, without question. But he and I seem to be on different pages, with him leaning more towards the idea of fostering.
I am the type of person who likes to have a plan, and right now he does not want to plan anything beyond this current frozen embryo transfer. The fact that he does not want to discuss the future, I think is a coping defense to kind of help him focus on one step at a time. It just so happens that’s the opposite of how I normally function.
Through all of my losses, with the exception of my first, I had a plan in place to help me keep it all together when things didn’t work out. I knew how long to wait after a miscarriage before trying again. I knew the medicine and vitamins I would be on. I would follow my doc’s advice for my next best step. I would hit the ground running, ready to move on instead of wallowing. I always had a plan. But my husband doesn’t want me to plan anything beyond this upcoming frozen embryo transfer.
I tried discussing next steps with him, with an affordable clinic I found (we’re talking one-third the cost). Now that I finally have a diagnosis of MTHFR gene mutation this will also improve my chances of getting the right treatment I need. But after years of TTC and miscarriages I think it’s affected him more than I realized. His way of coping is to not make any plans for the future.
Put yourself in my position dear reader. I’ve had six miscarriages, two egg retrievals, and now I’m about to have an embryo transfer with my only embryo. It is beginning to feel as if this is my one and only shot at having a biological child. And if it does not work out…well I have no idea, because he does not want to talk about the future. Sounds scary right? I literally have no clue what is going to come out of his mouth if this embryo transfer fails. He could say any of the following; 1) let’s foster, 2) lets adopt, 3) how about embryo adoption, 4) we could try another round of IVF, 5) we could live child-free, 6) or what every infertile girl does not want to hear “This isn’t working, I want a divorce.” He’s reassured me in the past he wouldn’t leave me over any of this, but some of us who are infertile may still have this concern in the back of our minds.
Fertility treatments are front and center in our lives right now. I plan my work schedule around it. I’m taking a big pay cut and opting for a more flexible on-call schedule in order to do treatments. For my second egg retrieval I was in Seattle for almost an entire month, which was completely unplanned. Most jobs would not allow for that much wiggle room with their schedule. Instead of planning vacations to tropical places, I’ve had to say “no” time and time again because I would either be doing fertility treatments or I might be pregnant and I refuse to fly while I’m pregnant due to being considered ‘high risk.’ We’ve postponed more than just vacations, but also buying a house. Our life has been put on pause for over four years. I think he’s sick of it.
But with my recent MTHFR gene mutation diagnosis, I found a major missing puzzle piece for my treatment plan. I don’t want to throw my hands up now when I feel like I’m finally making some headway. Not to mention I found a much more affordable clinic. I personally think it would be stupid for me to stop treatment at this point. To completely give up when I have more answers and more resources to help me, well that would be such a waste.
Based on our past conversations, I feel he is ready to move on to fostering. But I’m not ready for that, like at all. I don’t feel I can handle the immense trauma that children in the foster care system have been through. Even if I did decide I was done with fertility treatments, which I am not ready to give up, I feel I would need a long time to grieve that loss before I felt able to handle the immense responsibility of being a foster parent. I’m thinking years before I would even begin to consider it.
I’ve talked with some of my friends who’ve also talked about how they were on two completely different pages with their partners. One of my friends was wanting to adopt, but her husband still wanted to try fertility treatments. None of us really had a clear answer for her, because there is no “right” answer. You always hear the advice to married couples that one of the best things you can do in your marriage is to learn how to compromise. But how do you compromise when it comes to your biological clock? What if you do compromise this and you miss your chance forever. And are you “wrong” for not feeling ready to foster?
From what I’ve heard from others and from what I’ve read from some of the best infertility books, sometimes the “right” choice is the one that resonates most strongly with you. For me, when I’m making tough decisions I imagine myself in the future, lying on my deathbed thinking back on my life and I ask myself this question, “Did I do everything I could to make my dream a reality?” I ask myself this as well when it comes to having a baby. I feel very strongly that I am still in the “fertility treatment” season of my life. I am not quite at the adoption or fostering stage of my life. I know there are some women who do everything all at once; fertility treatments, fostering, and the adoption process. That may work fine for them, but I know myself and I know that would stress me out beyond belief. I know without a doubt that is a recipe for disaster for me.
If this embryo transfer does not work out, I will grant myself permission to drink some boxed wine, eat chocolate, and binge watch reality shows. But soon after that I will get back up again, dust myself off, and get to planning my next step. There’s a Japanese proverb you may have heard of that is simple, yet inspirational for those of us who struggle, “Fall down seven times, stand up eight.” I feel this proverb epitomizes my life right now and I bet a lot of you can also relate. We face so many setbacks and disappointments. But we have to keep moving forward in the direction that feels the best for us.
“Guess what? I started my injections!” I said beaming with a smile. My friend laughed and said, “I’ve never seen anyone as excited as you are for shots.” I just laughed too, it really is an odd thing to say about how you are excited for shots. Most people dread shots and here I am saying bring it on! These shots are to help prepare my uterine lining so my frozen embryo has an increased chance of implanting.
I think these injections have brought more excitement than my first two egg retrievals, because this time I know there is an actual embryo waiting for me. The egg retrievals were all about pumping me up with hormones to get some good eggs. Eggs were the outcome. But this time a baby is the outcome. I’d say right now my hopes are really high, and I am trying to stay optimistic.
I finished up my birth control near the end of the week along with doing the Lupron injections. This is the third time I’ve done Lupron injections, so I feel like I’m an old hand at this. It’s only a little painful if you do it right. It’s such a small and thin needle so it’s not a big deal. I’ve been injecting myself, no assistance needed from hubby here. I may need his help with the PIO shots later on since those are at a weird angle and in the upper butt. Maybe I’ll try to learn how to do those ones on my own.
Approved for Lovenox
I got a phone call back from my doctor regarding whether I should be on Lovenox during my pregnancy. I’ve heard of many success cases of women with the MTHFR gene mutation who were finally able to carry a baby to full-term, with the addition of Lovenox during pregnancy. My doctor acknowledged the fact that the use of this medicine is controversial, mostly due to there not being enough studies on its use in pregnancy for those with the MTHFR gene mutation. He also mentioned that if it helps the mother during pregnancy there is no significant increase in birth rates. He said, “I cannot guarantee that this will help. It’s hard to say.” In a nutshell, he let me know that it won’t cause any harm, but it may not improve my situation by much. I told him, “Even if it may only slightly increase my chance of a baby, I’d like to try it.” And with that he agreed to let me try it.
He told me that I would start taking Lovenox with my first positive pregnancy test, and that my OB would take it from there as far as how long I should be on it. I am excited to try this out and see if this makes any difference. Who knows maybe this will finally be the time that I am able to carry to term. But first things first, this little embryo needs to implant.
Visited Mom this week and spotted this butterfly near her house.
New Vitamins to Reduce Anxiety
In my last post I wrote about how I thought my recent high anxiety might be due to my methylfolate supplement, which for some people does increase anxiety. I re-read the section of “It Starts with the Egg” about the MTHFR gene mutation and how one way people deal with the increased anxiety from the supplement is to balance it out with B12 vitamins. I also added in B6 as it suggests in the book. I wouldn’t say I’m completely rid of my anxiety, but I’m definitely feeling a lot better than I was.
All of my vitamins for FET Prep.
I’m still a little jumpy if I hear loud noises, but I’ll take a little jumpiness any day over what I was feeling before. I was feeling such an enormous amount of dread for the majority of the day, it was awful. Any minor fear was amplified ten times over. Thankfully, I am seeing a positive difference with feeling more at ease lately.
I’ve also temporarily increased my vitamin D dosage, as recommended in the book. I decided to do the two weeks of 10,000 IU. I’ll be wrapping up with the two weeks here shortly then I will drop down to what I was taking before at 5,000 IU of vitamin D.
All of my vitamins lined up. I don’t always take that many L-Arginine though.
I’ve also added in some L-Arginine, but not as much as what is recommended in the book. I’ve learned that L-Arginine can reduce egg quality for a little bit, but help a fair amount with an embryo transfer. Because I am about to do an embryo transfer I decided to take the middle road. A did some digging in the Facebook “It Starts with the Egg” reader group and saw that Rebecca Fett (the author) responded to someone’s question. I can’t remember the question verbatim but it essentially asked, “I have low AMH and am about to do an embryo transfer. If this transfer does not work I want to do another egg retrieval in the future. I am concerned about L-Arginine and how it may make egg quality worse. Should I take less L-Arginine for this embryo transfer or avoid it completely?” Again I don’t remember the exact wording, but I do remember the number that Rebecca Fett suggested to her, “Try 2000mg instead of the full 6g.” For the dosage of pills I have on hand, that equates to only 6 pills per day, as opposed to what she recommends for most others which would be 12 pills. I may take a little more than that, seeing as how this is my only embryo I have. I think as long as I am within the range of 6-12 pills I will be okay with that.
Organized all my vitamins in three different recycled bottles. Makes it easy to grab and go.
For those of us experiencing infertility, pregnancy loss, stillbirth, or infant loss Mother’s Day can bring up so many emotions. Grief can come in waves, and holidays, especially Mother’s Day can be an especially difficult time. Here are six ideas that you might find helpful during Mother’s Day.
1) Take a Break from Social Media and TV
When you are already struggling with infertility, the last thing you need to see is how everyone you know is either pregnant or recently had a baby. It sucks, and can feel isolating. Mother’s Day can be particularly painful for mother’s who have lost a child, had a miscarriage, or have never been able to conceive. But just remember that what you are seeing on social media may not be the true picture of what is actually going on. It’s possible the baby announcement on Mother’s Day that is making your heart hurt was after they had a long period of infertility, and they just never talked about their struggle. On the other side, maybe their happy face is concealing their absolute fear of how they are going to afford their doctors appointments during pregnancy and the high cost of birth. The “shiny happy people” of our social media accounts may be dealing with a lot more than you realize. But what we are seeing are often surface-level snapshots. It’s a normal tendency to want to compare our life to what other people post, but just know that everyone is on their own path.
Taking a break from TV, or cutting back on watching TV is another way to allow space between you and the overabundance of Mother’s Day commercials. It can feel painful and like we are being excluded, especially when we feel like in our hearts we are already mothers. Just remember that these advertisements are meant to motivate people to buy their product, simple as that. Marketing to mothers by saying “you do everything for everyone, today is the day to pamper yourself with the best skin cream out there,” or to husbands, “show her she means the world to you with this beautiful necklace,” or even advertisements directed at adult children, “show Mom you really care with a gift she’ll never forget, spending time with you on her special day.” The advertisers have a target audience for Mother’s Day, and it almost always does not include women who have experienced infertility, pregnancy loss, or infant loss.
If avoiding TV is not practical for you, maybe try pressing the mute button during commercials, or change the channel during the commercial. You can even walk out of the room on the commercial if you need to. Personally, I find diaper advertisements the most painful during Mother’s Day. It’s totally normal to feel a pang of sadness or longing when these commercials come up. It’s okay and healthy to set boundaries around these sorts of things temporarily.
2) Focus on self-care
There are an endless number of ways to take care of yourself. Ask yourself some of these questions to figure out what will help you take care of yourself best:
“What normally helps me feel happier when I am feeling down?”
“What can I do to take care of myself emotionally and physically?”
“How can I focus on something different if I begin to dwell too much?”
It may feel hard to say “I can’t make it” to a Mother’s Day event with our family, but if you’ve recently had a miscarriage or lost your baby in infancy it can be too soon to attend an event like that, it can be the opposite of what you need. Feeling obligated to go, even though you know it will compound your pain, is not really good self-care. You have to really tap into how you are feeling and know when to set limits. On the flip side to that, you need to find a way to let out your emotions somehow, whether it’s on your own or with others you trust. Keeping it all inside will tear you apart over time, get it out somehow. Write it down in a journal, punch a pillow, cry if you want to cry, listen to music, talk to a friend or family member, go for a walk, create a piece of art that shows how you are feeling. Do something, don’t just sit in the pain.
3) Reflect on Your Strength
You are strong, and don’t ever doubt that! You may cry, get frustrated, and impatient, all of that is totally normal. We can’t always be “happy rainbows and sunshine” about the fact that we are not where we are hoping to be in our life. But the fact that you keep putting one foot in front of the other is simply amazing. Our ability to reproduce is not a reflection of our value as a person. You have special gifts and talents only you can share with the world.
You’re reading this post, you are seeking out advice, support, connecting with other women who are just like you. You are sharing your experience, and when you do that we all grow as a community. None of us wanted to be in this “club” but when you hear other women’s stories and the strength they have, you just might realize you are strong just like them.
You may have dealt with heartache after heartache with recurrent miscarriages. Or you feel deep sadness each month when you get your period when you hoped that it would finally be your month to conceive. Or you have experienced the trauma of a stillbirth or losing your baby in infancy. There is an unimaginable amount of grief and longing we all share. I believe that from pain can come tenderness. I felt like no one understood my experience with recurrent miscarriages until I started getting connected with other women just like me in different infertility groups online. It’s amazing how a simple comment or message of support can go a long way to make someone’s day.
5) Speak Up
You never know who you are helping when you share your experience. Sometimes it can be hard to talk about our past. You can choose, when, where, and how to talk about your experience. Who knows, maybe if you talk about your struggles to someone on Mother’s Day, you might be helping expand their understanding. This could in turn help them to be more considerate of those experiencing infertility. You would be helping to break down the stigma of infertility.
If you are more private and not ready to share your story, at least talk to your partner or other women online who know where you are coming from, for example. Find someone to talk to and don’t be afraid to be authentic. For a long time I held back from sharing my story, but when my friend started talking about her pregnancy losses, I felt like it helped to create space to share my story too. Feeling heard and understood on a deep level is one of the best ways to begin the healing process.
6) Celebrate Mom and other Maternal Figures in Your Life
Mother’s Day is traditionally for mothers, but why not expand that out to celebrate other women who have helped you become who you are? Your grandmother, your aunt, your old school teacher. Why not tell them today that they have made a world of difference to you. You don’t have to bring life into the world to help nurture other lives. Some people may think they are not “worthy” of being celebrated if they are not a mother, but I think it’s about time we expand this out to other maternal figures. Their good deeds helped shape you for who you are, just the same way your good deeds have done this for others.
Have your fertility treatments been cancelled due to COVID-19? The uncertainty of infertility treatments is hard enough, and now we face the uncertainty of the COVID-19 situation. Now is the time to focus on what matters most, our health. I recently read that having a higher BMI can increase your risk for having complications from COVID-19. Not too long ago I also read that a higher BMI reduces fertility treatment success. I feel like now, more than ever, I need to get my ass in gear and make some major health changes to lower my high BMI. Due to my fertility treatment cancelling my FET procedure, I am shifting my focus from my FET Prep Series to instead my Weight Loss Series. The weight loss series will be individualized to my own experience, and you are welcome to follow along.
Disclaimer: All content and media on the Hoping For Baby website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health advice.
Countdown Until Target Weight Date: 6 months & 1 day (as of 3-31-2020)
Let me be real with you, I did not feel fully prepared for my FET (originally scheduled April 24th, now cancelled) as much as I wanted to be. My weight has been an issue off and on over the years. My last round of IVF left me feeling extra bloated and I struggled to lose the weight from the hormones I was on. My weight crept up with each infertility treatment, each miscarriage, each surgery, and was compounded even more so with the depression I was experiencing. I kept thinking that my body would somehow magically bounce back to my pre-infertility treatment weight, but it never did.
I can’t blame it all on my infertility treatments though, but I can definitely blame my habits. In order to deal with the stress of everything going on, I became more relaxed with how I was eating. “Fast food today isn’t that big a deal” I would tell myself. Instead of cooking at home I was starting to replace more meals with eating takeout often. Unhealthy food and being a couch potato is a surefire way to pack on the pounds.
But with COVID-19 I had no choice but to make more meals at home. I started eating more veggies and fruits and making healthy dinners. I’m still working, but it’s significantly less hours now. So with my extra time I decided this first week I wanted to really focus on cleaning the house and being active that way. I accomplished quite a bit of reorganizing and cleaning. My measurement of a successful active day was whether I broke a sweat cleaning for at least an hour. As I was cleaning I was either listening to upbeat music, a podcast, or an audio book. Once I get into it, the cleaning process was actually pretty therapeutic for me.
On March 21st, 2020 I weighed myself, the scale flashed 200.6 pounds. It’s not the heaviest I’ve ever been, but it’s damn near it. At my heaviest I was 220 pounds years ago. But I’m facing the facts now, and I’m realizing my situation is serious. I have high blood pressure and I’m pre-diabetic, both of which are reversible. It seemed like it was just a few months ago I was only 180 pounds.
My starting weight of 200.6 (March 21st) to today 195.2 (March 31st).
My last miscarriage was September 2019, which required me to have a total of three surgeries due to complications from the first surgery. My depression increased with each surgery. I had zero control over the situation, there was simply nothing I could do other than follow doctors orders. I had to continuously postpone my FET plans with each surgery. Now with COVID-19 it has been postponed again.
But instead of sinking into a deeper depression and gaining more and more weight I decided enough was enough. Sometimes I tell myself, “I’m going to do the opposite of what I feel like doing today.” Instead of spending an entire day escaping by binge watching Netflix like I wanted to do, I focused on cleaning the house instead. With the consistent daily movement I started to feel better. I didn’t feel quite ready at the time to hop on the treadmill again, and I wanted to ease into exercising by cleaning the house first. I’m feeling much better this week physically and emotionally, and I feel like I am ready to start actively exercising again.
I’m hoping to lose about 50 pounds over six months, give or take. So by October 1st I’d like to have shaved off quite a bit of weight. Even if I don’t reach my exact goal I think any amount of weight loss is better than the weight-gain trajectory I was on. I have no idea how long the COVID-19 fertility clinic closures will last, so I might as well focus my energy into becoming healthier.
Have you decided to focus on improving your health while you are waiting for your fertility clinic to reopen? If so, I’d love to hear the steps you are taking to take care of yourself. Whether you are focusing on your physical health or mental health (or both) please comment below.
This week was a blur. Lots of stuff going on lately. I’m a little behind posting this but better late than never. Last week I mentioned I wanted to stop my prescription medicine and my supplements for a few days to see if it would help with my headaches and migraines. Well, sure enough my daily headache disappeared and I only had one migraine this week. I started back up with my supplements and have not had any issues. This last week I have been drinking non-caffeinated herbal teas. The week prior I was drinking regular black tea which is caffeinated, and the week before that I was still trying to break my coffee addiction. So it was a step-by-step process of finding something to replace the one habit. I’m glad I’m doing this now as opposed to scrambling to break the addiction once I’m pregnant. I imagine my transition off of caffeine probably was a factor with the headaches.
I got in touch with my nurse from my out-of-state clinic to let her know my cycle started. She said I needed to start my BCP (birth control pill) on Day 2. It’s official! This lady is down-regging! And in less than two weeks I’ll be starting all the shots. I’m in the process of putting in my order for all of my medicine including Leuprolide, Endometrin, Progesterone, and Estradiol.
I imagine my headaches will probably return due to starting BCP. In the past I’ve had a low-grade headache with BCPs. I’m taking one that is a progesterone-only pill that does not increase blood pressure. I recommend talking with your doctor about taking a progesterone-only BCP or other alternative if you have blood pressure issues. Years ago I was on a BCP that increased my blood pressure to “stroke levels” my doctor told me. It’s kind of freaky to think that you are feeling completely normal but inside your body is freaking the hell out.
For this upcoming FET I declined taking the BCP when they originally wanted me to start, which was months back. I instead asked them, “What is the least amount of time necessary to be on birth control prior to the FET?” They ended up having me start the pill one month before my FET. If you are about to do your FET or IVF cycle and you don’t like being on birth control, consider asking your doctor what the minimum amount of time is to be on BCP. I’ve also heard some women do IVF without any birth control. I think it all depends on your diagnosis and IVF protocol, which varies from person to person.
Years ago I went to a miscarriage and infant loss support group. I only went to one or two meetings and it was just the group leader and myself. The group leader was dealing with a deep depression after the loss of her infant. I had just experienced an early pregnancy loss. I was trying to be supportive to the group leader because I felt like her loss was so much greater than my own. It was a very sad experience and I tried my best to be supportive of her. I decided to take a break of a month or two from that group because I didn’t feel I was emotionally able to handle it. I found out that group had ended due to low turnout. That experience made me nervous to return to whatever new group would start in the future. But a new group didn’t start for a long time.
Now there is only one infertility support group where I live, and it’s fairly new. I was really nervous to go in. I find it easier to write about it and ask questions in online infertility groups. So it was a big step for me to do an in-person group with people I have never met before.
So this last Thursday as I sat in my car, about to go into an infertility group I had never been to before, I could feel my heart racing. I’ve been able to open up to friends and family about my struggles, but could I do it with strangers? I went in and as soon as I walked into the room with the three other women I immediately felt welcomed. I’d describe the energy in the room as light-hearted, kind, and open. Each of them were interested in my story and how I was doing. I felt like I needed this support to help me before my upcoming FET. I am so happy I went and not only did I feel incredibly supported but I also learned some new things to help me.
Over the years I have opened up with family and friends about my miscarriages and infertility issues. It was a very slow process at first. I had kept my miscarriages mostly to myself in the beginning. I felt like I was the only one dealing with it, while everyone else seemed to have babies so easily. I hadn’t even told some of my friends yet. Years ago my coworker had mentioned the reason she hadn’t had any kids yet was due to a miscarriage. I listened to her and gave her support, and then I told her that I had several miscarriages too. This was the first time I had talked with anyone other than my husband and Mom about my miscarriages. She was so brave to have gone through that and even braver to talk about it. She doesn’t know it, but she was the first person to help me feel more comfortable about sharing my story with others.
That moment, with the two of us sharing our story created a whole domino effect. I started talking about it more easily in time and had no idea how many women in my life had been dealing with exactly what I was going through. It was as if each of us was waiting for someone else to talk about it, and when one person did we all started talking about it. Even the women who hadn’t experienced it themselves always knew someone else who did, and therefore had an idea of what I was going through. Soon enough I had built up a very strong support system of friends, family, coworkers, doctors, nurses, and an online community that was all rooting for me.
There are so many layers to the COVID-19 virus. I admit, I vacillate between being concerned and actively trying to avoid the news in order not to get overly concerned. I think the best thing we can all do is to follow the guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). I’m not going to pretend to be an authority on the subject, so please seek out information from reputable sources.
As far as its impact up here in Alaska. We just had our first case of COVID-19 announced in the news March 12. From what I hear, many people did panic-buying and decided to clean the shelves of toilet paper of all things. Thankfully we did our shopping before it all went down and have a big Costco-sized thing of toilet paper at home. Facebook is flooded with funny toilet paper memes. Other things I’ve heard we are low on are sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer. The other day at work our maintenance guy came in with sanitizing wipes and I heard our contracted painter ask him with intense interest, “Where did you manage to find that?” I get the impression there is a lot of panic-buying going on, but I haven’t gone shopping in about a week, and it didn’t seem bad at all when I did.
Credit: KTUU News I was watching this news report in January.
I’d say for me personally, my biggest concern is when I have to fly to Seattle for my FET in April. As of March 12, 2020 there have been 270 cases with 27 deaths in Washington state. I’m worried about possibly contracting it and it affecting my chances of conceiving and I’m also worried about passing it on to those in my life with immunity and health issues. I’ve heard that if you plan on traveling to do a self-quarantine period of 14 days. So essentially I’m taking the traditional 2WW to an extreme. I planned on being off work for two weeks after my FET anyway, so it hasn’t changed my plans.
I’ve been checking my email from my Seattle clinic for updates. I’m wondering if they will send out an email cancelling any procedures. If they do it’s not the end of the world. I just hope I don’t get pumped up with all these hormone injectables, costing hundreds of dollars, only to find out it has to be cancelled. They did send out an email saying that they are being vigilant about cleaning and telling patients to follow CDC guidelines. I’m sure some women have opted to postpone their IVF cycles.
In 2016 Kurtis and I had decided to try to conceive right after we got married. But we had to change our plans when we found out our wedding and honeymoon locations had cases of Zika. If you don’t remember, Zika is an “Infection during pregnancy can cause a birth defect called microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects” (CDC, 2020). After we learned about the awful effects of Zika, we decided to wait six months to try to conceive after our trip, as the CDC suggested. In a way I feel like COVID-19 is yet again another issue that may potentially delay our plans.
But so far we are still good to go. My husband and I are both healthy and plan on follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid this. We only planned to be in Seattle for a couple nights anyway and weren’t planning on doing anything while we were there other than be lazy in the hotel, so I feel like we won’t be missing much anyway. I feel for the people and their families who have been affected by COVID-19 and hopefully we will find a way to control this virus soon.
Mini Victories for the Week
Went to a new infertility group and shared my story.
Started my BCP.
Work in Progress
Order my FET meds this week.
Plan to work less hours in April to prep for FET.
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Want to find out how fertile you are?
The Modern Fertility test is an affordable test that shows your hormone levels and gives you an overall picture of where you stand with your fertility. I recommend taking this test at least every 9-12 months to keep track of your hormone levels. What hormones will be tested? Depending on the type of birth control you are on they can test up to eight different hormone levels which may include:
This mini-series documentary follows couples from Northern Ireland as they try to conceive through In Vitro Fertilization. In each of the four episodes several couples are interviewed about the ups and downs they experienced through the IVF process. This documentary stands out from many others because they go in-depth with their interviews with the IVF medical team on what they actually do. They talk about each step of the IVF process as they actually show you what they are doing too. It’s one thing to hear about what the embryologists do, it’s another thing entirely to see it. After you watch this series, check out another similar documentary I highly recommend in my review of Baby Makers: The Fertility Clinic (IVF Documentary) which also goes into great depth about the step-by-step process from a medical perspective, as well as interviewing couples about their experience. They also cover some of the biggest concerns that come up for people during their IVF process including whether to seek out therapy as a couple, the impact of hormonal drugs on emotions, coping with a failed round of IVF and miscarriage, and when to stop fertility treatments.
Spoiler Alert! I talk about some of the outcomes of the people from the documentary. Go watch this documentary series first on Amazon or DVD if you don’t want to read any of my spoilers beforehand.
Adrianne and Adrian
First of all, I have to point out how cute it is that their names are so similar. Adrianne and Adrian were married 11 years at the time of the film. She had been trying to conceive since she was 30 years old. Before the show they had already tried three rounds of IVF and sadly none of them had worked. But they were determined to try it one last time, with a fourth round of IVF at Origin Fertility Care in Ireland.
During her egg retrieval they retrieved seven eggs in total. It was really cool to see the embryologist Richard show viewers what the ICSI procedure actually looks like, with his step-by-step narration of what he was doing. It’s such a delicate procedure where they puncture the egg with a superfine needle and insert the single sperm into the egg, all while a tiny tube suctions the egg ever so slightly from the outside, in order to hold the egg in place so it doesn’t float around. Super cool stuff, science is pretty amazing.
Once the sperm is inserted into the egg they wait 18 hours to see if the egg actually fertilized. Adrianne and Adrian said that this would probably be their last time trying IVF. In the end their fourth attempt at IVF had failed and they did not have a child from that cycle. It’s always hard to hear these stories, but it helps me also realize that I am not alone in this process and many others can relate.
Lynn and Glenn
And following the adorably named couple Adrianne and Adrian, is a couple with rhyming names, Lynn and Glenn. Many of the people in this documentary were seeking treatment at Origin Fertility Care. Lynn is the receptionist at the clinic, and her passion for helping others with infertility comes from a true understanding of the struggle. Their first cycle of IVF had failed. They decided to try for a second round of IVF, but while they were waiting to begin that process they conceived naturally. Lynn gave birth to a happy, healthy baby boy. I’ve heard many of these stories where couples were saving up money or taking a short break before doing IVF again but then they naturally conceived. It’s so nice to hear they had a happy ending to their story.
Alison and Shean
Alison and Shean talk about how they are experiencing secondary infertility and were trying to conceive for five years. Alison knew she had irregular periods, which were probably impacting her ability to conceive. I’ve seen a handful of different documentaries where it seems common for one partner to be more cautious while the other seems really optimistic by comparison. Alison said, “I’m a realist, and I’m like 50-50 chance, and I don’t like to count my chickens till they’ve hatched.” She goes on to say her husband tends to be the more optimistic during the process, to which he replies, “Optimism and pessimism, neither of them will change the outcome. But I suppose with optimism you have a better time getting there, and that’s the way I try to look at it.” That right there, that statement is worth its weight in gold. It’s so true though, you can hold your breath and white-knuckle through the whole IVF process or you can try to relax and be hopeful about it.
Of their six embryos that were frozen, only four survived. Of those four, two embryos were transferred. During the two week wait, Alison said she was trying to keep her mind occupied by staying busy. And although she had a positive pregnancy test, she later had a miscarriage and lost both babies. I really feel for them with their loss. I’d be interested to hear a follow-up from this couple about whether their remaining embryos resulted in a live-birth.
Mel’s story is so incredibly moving. Mel is 24 years old with three children and she decides to become an egg donor. It was heartbreaking to hear of the stillbirth of her son. She talked about how this greatly affected many aspects of her life. Later, after she had children of her own, she was motivated to donate her eggs, so she could help women who struggle with infertility. It’s so amazing to hear how women like Mel literally give a part of themselves to help others make their dream of becoming a parent come true.
Mel talks about how the timing of her egg retrieval and how it fell on the anniversary of her son’s death, “The fact that it’s all fallen in the same week I think is a bit more than a coincidence.” She also talks about the grieving process itself and how although the pain is still there, she found comfort thinking her son’s spirit is still with her and her family. I cried tears of both sadness and joy for her as she was able to take her pain and help others in such a beautiful way.
The egg donation process was completely anonymous for Mel. Any children that result from her egg donation have the option to contact Mel once they turn 18 years old. Mel was able to write an anonymous letter to her potential children. The medical expenses of Mel’s egg retrieval were covered, but other than that Mel was not compensated at all. Another reason I think this woman is amazing, doing it purely to help someone else. In the end, 12 eggs were retrieved from Mel which not only were enough to help one woman but two. Although one recipient wasn’t able to get pregnant initially, Mel got the happy news that the second recipient got pregnant right away. I think if there was a Woman of the Year award, I think it should go to Ms. Mel. So inspiring!
Jude and Brian
After five years of marriage and dealing with infertility, Jude and Brian decide to pursue IVF. They talk about how they are limited to only one round of IVF per year through the NHS. For those of you unfamiliar, the NHS stands for the National Health Service, the UK’s public healthcare system. I’m from the US and my particular private health insurance does not cover a penny of infertility procedures. So to hear that the NHS offers one round of IVF per year I thought that was absolutely amazing.
I wish this documentary had discussed the NHS’ role with infertility procedures more in depth. It just left me with more questions than answers. I need to do more research and maybe write an article on what I find out. Several couples in this series talk about how limiting the one-round-per year rule is for them. I think they have good reasons to feel this way, especially if they have really low AMH levels for example, because if they wait a year it just may be too late.
Jude and Brian are open to different options though if their round of IVF does not work. They were thinking about fostering and adoption later in their future. Although their round of IVF didn’t work out, Jude said they were trying to focus on other things in life, “God we put having a child in front of anything really, but you have to appreciate what you do have.” They plan on trying a second round of IVF and also looking into foster care.
Eilish and Keiran
After trying for a long time to try to have kids Eilish and Keiran decided to try IVF. Although their first round of IVF was initially successful with a positive pregnany test, they unfortunately lost their baby later with a miscarriage. After they took some time to heal from the pain of the loss they decided to try once again with a round of IVF. Not only did they become pregnant with one baby but two. Eilish had twins, one boy and one girl. She talked about how she was feeling thankful for having her family feel complete now.
Ali and Andrew
What I liked about this couple is they not only acknowledge the issues they were having in their relationship due to the IVF but that they also allowed the cameras to follow them into their therapy session. I also think the producers for the show did a good job with paring down the essential conflict between them that so many other couples can relate to. That conflict is that men can not ever know what that experience is like for women, to inject daily shots, to have the chance to feel life inside, and to also have a miscarriage. It’s just not a shared experience. It’s hard for women to understand that their husband simply cannot understand what it’s like. At best we can have them listen and say supportive things.
Ali wished Andrew knew when and how exactly to comfort her, even when she had a hard time putting it to words what she was feeling. The therapist came up with a great idea of having Ali either gesture or use an object to show that she needed extra support, even without verbalizing it. Andrew seemed really receptive to this idea, because it was a clear visual for him to comfort his wife, no mind reading necessary. I’m sure many of this can relate to that, I’ve only recently gotten better about speaking up when I need support and saying exactly what I need.
Credit: Amazon Prime Video. Ali and Andrew attend a therapy session to talk about how they can better communicate their needs during infertility treatment.
Ali had her AMH level tested and it was found to be normal for her age. Andrew helps prepare Ali’s needles to prepare for her egg retrieval. She had nine eggs retrieved and all nine fertilized, four embryos had properly matured. Of those four mature embryos, two were frozen and two were transferred.
Sharon and Gary
After struggling to conceive, Sharon and Gary were able to do an embryo transfer and had their son. Later they adopted their daughter from Russia. Gary talks about how adopting compared to doing fertility treatment, “In some respects that was more stressful than the IVF.” Sharon used her experience of infertility treatment as well as experience with adoption to help other women. She decided to provide advice to other women who are struggling through the group called the Infertility Network UK. It’s so great to hear stories of women who were able to turn a one painful experience into something that helps so many others. Sharon you rock!
Emma and Ben
Emma and Ben had a miscarriage and later found out that Ben had issues with his sperm in two different ways. Ben had issues with his sperm’s motility and also morphology. Emma is a photographer and decided to use her artistic talent to bring attention to infertility issues. She talks about how through the NHS, they only allow one IVF cycle per year, “For my masters I’ve begun a project about women’s access to reproductive rights in Northern Ireland.”
Ben talks candidly about the issues that had come up between them during their infertility. He had an interview alone with the film crew about the tremendous strain it put on their relationship. Eventually they decided to break up, which was really sad to see. I think the producers showed class with how they talked about their breakup, instead of sensationalizing it they did separate interviews with both Emma and Ben. They asked them individually if both of them thought about having children in the future, not as a couple, but with whomever they start a relationship with. Both said that despite all they went through they would still like to have children in a future relationship.
Jilly and Peter
Jilly and Peter were married five years and had a miscarriage before they turned to trying IVF treatments. Her doctor explained the importance of lowering her BMI in order to improve her odds of implantation success. I’ve heard that some fertility clinics require that the woman’s BMI below a certain number before they will consider treatment, this was the case for Jilly. Jilly seemed to take this news in stride and was able to drop the weight in order to meet the BMI requirements. I’ve heard of this requirement for some fertility clinics in the U.S. and I’m not sure if this is a requirement across the board for all NHS clinics, if you happen to know please comment below.
Maya not only dropped the weight that she needed to but she also looked into alternative methods to improve her infertility including Maya massage. I had never heard of this type of massage before but it specializes in helping improve circulation and hopefully in turn improve implantation. The Maya massage therapist explains that it is most helpful to start Maya massage at least three months prior to doing IVF.
Jilly and Peter opted to do ICSI with their IVF. Although their round of IVF did not work for them, Jilly did learn one new thing that probably explained why she was having a hard time conceiving and keeping her pregnancies. She talks about how her natural killer cell levels were elevated. According to what Jilly was told her levels should be closer to 15% but her levels were at 20%. The episode left off on her maybe leaving the door open for future treatment with this revelation about her natural killer cell levels and how it might be treatable.
Some single women, especially in their 30s consider freezing their eggs in order to preserve their fertility. Whether they find a partner later or not, it at least can provide some comfort knowing they have their eggs to work with in the future. Since fertility rates begin to decline around 35 years old, it’s becoming more commonplace for women to opt for freezing their own eggs. Barbara, who is in her late 30s, was initially unaware that her AMH level was low until she began the blood tests prior to her egg retrieval. When you have a low AMH level you are usually put on a higher dosage of medication for your egg retrieval. I myself have low AMH and was put on a plethora of meds to boost my little eggies growth. Unfortunately, Barbara was only able to have one follicle grow. It was such a low number they decided it wasn’t even worth doing the egg retrieval.
Angela and Mark
Angela had a miscarriage and later learned that she had PCOS, polycystic ovary syndrome.One of the issues with PCOS is that although sometimes a fair amount, and even a large amount, of eggs can be retrieved it does not necessarily mean the eggs are of good quality. Angela had eleven embryos that were frozen, but not all of them survived the thaw or divided properly. It was sad to hear that they had a failed implantation and did not get pregnant. I think it would be hard having PCOS and getting your hopes up with having so many eggs or embryos but then have to face the news that it hadn’t worked at all. I feel like that would be such a rollercoaster of emotions to handle. It seems like it would be so much harder to predict outcomes as well.
Elaine and Andrew
They had tried naturally for 1.5 years with no success before seeking out help from a fertility clinic. Elaine was at risk of developing Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome so they decided to freeze her eggs to avoid this potential complication. With that decision, Elaine made history with being the very first woman in Ireland to conceive by using a frozen egg. It was happy news to hear Elaine doing well with her pregnancy, although I didn’t see a followup in the film about how her birth went.
I think this was an excellent documentary series that looked at different aspects of the IVF process, including the perspectives of both the patients and the medical team. Oftentimes when people are experiencing infertility, the journey to parenthood can take multiple years. For some of the people in this show we don’t get to see whether they eventually became parents or not, due to the fact that we are only seeing them at one point in the journey. Although some were successful in the show, I imagine that many of the others eventually became parents. I’d be very interested in seeing follow-ups from these people on where they are at now.
I found it interesting to learn a little bit about what the experience is like in a different country through a different healthcare system. I really felt for these women and men going through this process, because I know how difficult it can be. The film covered a variety of topics that are common concerns for patients, no matter where they live. After watching this show I feel like it is a good snapshot in time of where we are at with our medical advances and how much further we still need to go in order to reduce miscarriage and stillborn rates as well as the health risks for pregnant women.
Want to find out how fertile you are?
TheModern Fertility test is an affordable option that shows your hormone levels and gives you an overall picture of where you stand with your fertility. What hormones will they test? Depending on the type of birth control you are on they can test up to eight different hormone levels which may include: