Unexplained fertility: my journey
16th October 2018
I was trying for a baby with my husband for three years. At first we did the classic ‘trying but not trying.’ We tried that for 18 months. I pretended like it was still the early days and told myself it was normal for it to take this long. But I knew that I was stressed about it. The pressure is on the minute you make that decision. It does affect your relationship, your sex life, from the minute you mention you are trying. Three years is a long time, and it really started to take its toll.
We tried everything – the natural lubricant that’s meant to help the sperm, saw a nutritionist, took supplements. I didn’t really drink for the whole of the three years, went to yoga, meditated. I wanted to take control of the situation. When I look back it I went quite hardcore. I did everything that could possibly help. I used the pee sticks, and that’s when I realised I might not be ovulating. So we went to our first IVF clinic, and I did my an AMH test. We sat in front of the Doctor and he told me that I didn’t have many eggs, and that IVF was my only option. He told me I should implant two eggs and try for twins because it was probably my only chance. I’d been trying to maintain that everything was fine up until that point, so to be told that was really hard. I’m quite proud of myself really, I didn’t take that as the only answer and went to go get a second opinion. I just felt like the Doctor had told me in such an insensitive, impersonal way, and I at least wanted to be under the care of someone I trusted.
I went to a different IVF clinic, which had a much more holistic approach. They said we could try a number of different things like Clomid and IUI, but because I was three years in and it was unexplained I didn’t feel I had it in me to try for another 6 -12 months. I knew that if it didn’t work I wouldn’t be in a good place to do IVF, because I’d be feeling very negative. So I decided to go for IVF. As I’d made all the lifestyle changes for the last three years, I could skip that part of their process. And so I did the IVF the next month.
I thought I’d find it really hard, but I really just tried to go for mind over matter. Sadly the first attempt didn’t work. I’d read that you are much more likely to be successful on the second try, rather than the first. I think a lot of that is down to the fact it’s such trial and error with the medications and how your body is going to respond. But when it didn’t work, it really took its toll on me. I decided I would give myself one day to cry it out, get it out of my system and move on. Even thinking back to that day now makes me feel emotional.
A few months later we tried again. I’d frozen one egg – so this was my second transfer with my last egg. With it being the last egg, I just thought it definitely won’t work. So I was much more prepared for the fact that it might not work. Before I did the blood test to see if I was pregnant or not, I’d already started bleeding quite heavily. So I’d already dealt with it, and was planning for the next round. I had to do the blood test anyway, and they told me I was pregnant. I didn’t believe it. They really had to talk me round. The midwife said it was one of the funniest conversations they’d ever had with anyone.
For the first four months – when I thought I was going to be enjoying the first few months of pregnancy – I had a hemorrhage in my cervix, and so I was bleeding constantly and pretty much bed bound. So, again, I really prepared myself for the fact that the pregnancy probably wasn’t going to work and tried to focus on how wonderful it was that I can get pregnant.
When I was 14 weeks pregnant the midwife called me – didn’t even bring me in for an appointment – and told me I had tested positive for HIV. I was completely out of my mind, I called my husband and I said I’m going kill myself. I wasn’t thinking straight. I was devastated. I had another test, and it was completely fine. It was a false positive which apparently happens quite often. My midwife was pregnant, so I didn’t want to stress her out, so I just accepted it was a mistake and moved on.
When you have an IVF pregnancy you are immediately classed as a high risk pregnancy. So when you are at hospital, you’ve really got to listen to what they are saying. So overall it was quite a complicated journey. But to my amazement, the pregnancy just kept going. And in the end, I had a healthy, happy baby.
Even though there were lots of ups and downs, I enjoyed the whole thing. Just from a science perspective it’s just amazing that they could get me pregnant. It’s so hard to know what contributed to that – it could have been the fact it was my second try, that it was a frozen egg, the intralipid infusion. In truth, you need so many different factors to come together in the exact balance. That’s the thing, the more you understand how complicated it is, the more it can niggle away at you. I remember my Doctor saying to unexplained infertility can literally be 1 in a million things.
What I found really frustrating, is the amount of people who just told me I needed to relax. Stop trying and you’ll get pregnant. Have a big drink and you’ll be fine, “I got drunk on my honeymoon and got pregnant.” I just found that deeply unhelpful. I also remember my partner going for a sperm test, and the result coming back as excellent quality. And I remember thinking well that’s just brilliant, it really is just me. One thing the clinic did tell me, is that the test doesn’t tell you whether the sperm DNA has fractured, and that is stress and lifestyle related. Lots of partners I know – who had a good sperm test result – just carried on with their lives. They still went out to the pub and got drunk. While the woman is just left still trying to piece together the puzzle – is there a different omega 3 I should be taking? So I really think it’s so important that both partners take that wellness approach together.
One thing that I found out, is that my mum had an early menopause. It was only going through the IVF process and having to answer those questions, that I went back and asked her. Women don’t think about it, they just think about trying before they are 35. Well what about if in your family there is a history of early menopause? I realised that me trying to have a baby in my early 30s, was more like someone else in their late 30s, 40s. If I’d have known that, I’d probably have started trying earlier.
I think ultimately, for me, the biggest lesson is to have everything in your arsenal – have as much information as possible. For some people that won’t be right – I have friends who just don’t want to know – so how you feel emotionally really impacts how you approach the situation. I’m just so thankful that we were able to get to the place where something worked.
I was also lucky enough to hear stories from friends. One friend of mine had two uteruses. She had quite a few miscarriages, and gave birth to a baby who only lived for 20 mins. That was absolutely harrowing. The next pregnancy she had, they had the same problem at birth, but managed to keep the baby alive. Her twin had IVF five times, never had any good quality eggs, and so decided to get a donor egg. They were due to fly out to do the transfer and she suddenly got pregnant naturally! So I heard a range of emotions and stories that helped put my situation in perspective, and made me realise that I’m not at the end of my journey.
In terms of advice, it really helped that I trusted my clinic. It was at that point that I relaxed, there was a team of people getting me pregnant – and I figured that was better than just me and my husband. I would also say to not put pressure on yourself. Don’t listen to people when they tell you to relax, it’s such a massive part of your life. I know people say, what is meant to be is meant to be. But I don’t believe that, if I’d have believed it I would never have had any children but I’ve got an 11 month son now.
One thing that people always say after IVF, is that you’ll get pregnant straight afterwards. And I was like of course I won’t, I have unexplained fertility. But I had one period, and then I was pregnant. I had an early miscarriage, but I now have every faith that I can get pregnant. We are going to start trying again in the next few months, and after a difficult few years it’s just so nice to feel positive about the situation.
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