Time TTC: 3 years
Diagnosis: IVF, Endometriosis, Male Infertility, Sperm Issues, Genetic Testing, Ureaplasma infection
Strategies: Ovulation Charting / Tracking, Fertility Diet, Fertility Yoga, Supplements, Reflexology, Acupuncture, Lifestyle Changes
My fertility story
My husband and I have been TTC for 3 years now. I came off the pill in December 2014, 5 months before we got married – in the knowledge of the fact that it can take some time to work out of your system. I remember being very excited and considering the possibility of having to hide a pregnancy from wedding guests if we got lucky.
Despite my initial optimism, we were also pretty realistic. We decided not to try too hard at first, just see what happens. We were enjoying being newlyweds. Sure, I would do a pregnancy test (and often a second one) every month, and end up being a little disappointed, but I was also realistic that it wouldn’t necessarily happen immediately so we just kept trying, tracking ovulation, paying more attention to fertile windows. A year or so in I was beginning to worry and started discussing testing with my husband. To say he was reluctant was an understatement. I think it came down to fear of problems, but I felt that if we did have a problem then it was better to know what we were dealing with and know what could be done than carrying on the dark. So that summer… I decided to go ahead and at least get myself tested.
Bloods were taken (one test was lost so it took months) and when they did eventually come back to show there was nothing initially to worry about. I finally got my husband to have a semen analysis, and here we found our problem… we had the motility of a sloth. 5% progressively motile (vs 40% considered normal).
We were referred to the fertility clinic and I underwent a series of further tests; ultrasound, HSG, hysteroscopy, laparoscopy, and various blood tests for various things along the way. A suspected fibroid turned out to be nothing and mild endometriosis was treated. My husband had no tests (despite my questioning the doctors as to whether he should see a urologist) and we referred for IVF with ICSI as our only option. In preparation for IVF, I decided to visit an acupuncturist as I understood that this could improve chances of successful IVF.
It was only through visiting this fantastic lady that the options for testing for possible causes of our male factor infertility were properly considered. She referred us onto an andrologist, who identified a ureaplasma infection (known to have an effect on sperm in men and also miscarriage in women) and an ultrasound identified a varicocele, also known to have a big impact on sperm production.
It has taken months more (months that are by this time having a significant impact on my mental health) but having undergone treatment, we should begin to see improvement in my husband’s sperm. This is timely as this will coincide with the deadline for us to undergo our NHS IVF with ICSI. We are ever hopeful that this is going to work for us. I am terrified on all counts and just hope we will get there.
What was your lowest point in your journey and what helped you recover from it?
The lowest point of my journey was discovering that I had not just 1 but 2 pregnant sisters-in-law within weeks. The timing was awful as it coincided with the postponement of my planned first round of IVF (which I am still yet to have). I am still recovering from it, but I have taken two months off work, and this definitely helping me process some emotions and try and build up my emotional reserve.
Where I am right now in my journey
After 3 years, we are currently waiting to embark on our first round of IVF, which we need to begin before April when our NHS funding window will expire. We postponed from the original date that we were given after an advanced seaman analysis suggested we should look into the cause of some of the abnormal sperm parameters more closely. Further testing found a ureaplasma infection as well as a varicocele. Treatment of both of these could greatly improve our chances of success with IVF, or if we are very lucky, natural conception. We won’t see any improvement from the treatment my husband received until the beginning of March, so we are hopeful that the improvement will be significant enough that we will have a much better chance of successful IVF.
What I learned from my fertility experience
The major learning has been that infertility is still treated as a female problem. Despite our issues being down to sperm abnormalities, my husband has been ignored by the system, while I have been afforded every possible investigation and treatment. It was only down to visiting an acupuncturist that we have been able to investigate the sperm issues more thoroughly, and as a result, identify a varicocele and ureaplasma infection that can be treated, and hopefully improve our chances.
Men should be given more investigation (not treated my gynaecologists) and ureaplasma should be taken more seriously as a bacteria that can impact fertility.
If I had to start my fertility journey again: What would I do differently
Trust my instincts over what the doctors tell me and push for more male factor testing, rather than just go along with what the system tells me
My favourite resources about fertility (websites, books, blogs or articles)
Twitter – hunting out the people and sites that deliver information
What I would tell someone else going through infertility right now
Learn how to really communicate with your partner. You will come from different places, find different things hard, have different ideas on how to handle the issues you face and have different feelings towards the people around you and the things that they say and do. This is all completely normal, but you will need to learn how to make each other feel listened to and understood while holding your integrity and opinions. This means learning how to actively listen, be interested and want to know why and how your partner feels. At the end of it you may still hold differing opinions but you will understand each other better and both feel more supported as a result
My favourite inspiring fertility quote
Sometimes its hard to see the rainbow when there have been endless days of rain