Late last year my husband and I found out that we would (more than likely) not be able to conceive without the help of infertility treatments. When I first heard the news, I was devastated. I went through a few different emotions, including feeling worthless, because as a woman I felt it was my job to bear a child; if I couldn’t do that naturally, what was my “purpose?” Yes, it probably sounds silly, but an infertility diagnosis is hard to swallow. It took me a few months to be really ok with it, and I’m still nervous about the journey that lies ahead of me. What follows is a small snippet of the journey we have been on with this diagnosis, and an update on where we are in the process now.
***If you are squeamish about terms like uterus, eggs, sperm, or cervix please just skip this post. Also, I am not in any way, shape, or form dispensing any medical advice. Please see your doctor for any concerns with fertility.***
To begin, how did we get diagnosed with infertility? We began (like almost all couples) by trying to start a family naturally. I had always been concerned that I might not get pregnant naturally though (a gut feeling), and so I began talking to my doctors about this concern early on. I began with my local OB who felt that with actively trying and charting my basal body temperature (a technique many women do when trying to conceive) we should see results in six months. I then spoke with my CF team (who had given us approval for having a baby quite some time before) and was referred to a high-risk OB to establish a relationship prior to getting pregnant. At the high-risk OB appointment, the doctor suggested that we get a baseline ultrasound just to see how everything looked. Upon review of my ultrasound, it was determined that we would probably not be able to conceive naturally. The ultrasound showed that my one ovary was filled with cysts and they couldn’t find my second ovary at all. This led my high-risk OB to immediately refer me to an infertility specialist.
The infertility specialist, or R.E. (reproductive endocrinologist), met with David and me and upon reviewing the ultrasound came to the same conclusion as my high-risk OB. He then began discussing our options with us. It was a long appointment, filled with information, but I left feeling that I firmly grasped the options we had before us since he broke them down into laymen’s terms so well. Basically, we were told that we had a few problems going against us. The first was the anatomy of my body, and the second was my CF. With my CF, I produce thick, sticky mucus that builds up everywhere. Therefore, any number of things could be blocked with this mucus. We were then told we have two different options: IUI (intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization). Let me explain the two briefly.
IUI – Intrauterine insemination allows the doctor to take the sperm and bypass the cervix. In other words, the sperm is deposited into the uterus allowing for greater likelihood of sperm meeting egg. Typically, a woman is also given Clomid or other drugs to ensure egg production and ovulation. IUI is much less invasive than IVF, and it is typically the first step in an infertility diagnosis. Also, IUI has a high risk of multiples. Basically, with IUI, the doctor is not able to easily control how many eggs are produced and thus the risk of multiples is higher. Kate Gosselin (Jon and Kate plus 8) used IUI and wound up with sextuplets.
IVF – In vitro fertilization allows the doctor to fertilize the egg outside of the body resulting in higher success rates due to the fact that the “sperm meeting egg” part of the equation is already taken care of. With IVF, a woman is given hormone injections for a length of time to allow her body to produce a LOT of eggs. Then, the woman is put under anesthesia while the doctor goes in and removes as many mature eggs as possible. The eggs are then fertilized with sperm in a laboratory. The doctor will then transfer a predetermined number of embryos back into the women’s uterus (the unused embryos may be frozen depending on the couples wishes) to maximize chances of conception. With this procedure, the risk of multiples is controlled. Yes, many women have had multiples with IVF (think octomom), but that was due to a doctor putting in too many embryos.
After explaining the risks and benefits of each procedure, the doctor told us his thoughts but said it was ultimately our choice. Our R.E. stated that he wants us to go straight to IVF due to the lowered success rates of IUI combined with the higher chance of multiples in IUI. He stated that with IVF I will be only implanting ONE embryo at a time which means ONE baby as my body could not easily carry more than one.
David and I debated over and over again about whether or not to try IUI first, but we ultimately decided to go straight to IVF since the overall success rates are higher and the chances of a multiple pregnancy are GREATLY reduced. My doctors have been overwhelmingly supportive about me carrying a baby and becoming a mom, but my time frame of “optimum” health is dwindling away pretty quickly which is why it’s even more important to try the higher success option first.
So with that decision under our belt, a variety of doctor’s approvals were needed prior to starting the process. As of last month, we finally got our last approval letter in which means we are set to begin the IVF process in the next month or two. It’s crazy to have waited so long and now it feels so..all of the sudden.
For those of you with objections or concerns about the IVF process, please know that while I respect them, I would ask you not to voice them. I understand why people have objections with the process, especially on religious grounds, but until you have been in this situation, I ask that you not judge others who are going through it. As for concern over my health, I understand and am greatly appreciative of prayers and good thoughts sent our way. That said, I have NORMAL lung function and my diabetes is in REALLY GOOD control. I’ll have a high-risk pregnancy, but I’m in the best time of my life to carry a child. Also, please know that ALL of my doctors have signed off on this saying that I am perfectly fine to do this, and I will be monitored to the extreme during the entire pregnancy. Again, prayers or good thoughts are appreciated, but as this is written primarily to help others who may suffer from infertility as well, please refrain from posting any negative commentary as it is a sensitive issue to myself and to the other thousands of women who struggle with an infertility diagnosis. Thank you.