I wanted to share a really big part of our lives right now. Some of you who follow my social media pages may already know a tid bit of this journey. The idea is to use this to update everyone along our treatment and keep a diary sort of. Infertility has been such a taboo topic, and I am hoping that sharing our struggles will allow others a chance of opening up, seeking medical advice, or even having the hard conversation to start. I put off this post for so long, it never seemed just right. I have typed and re-typed half a dozen times. I came to realize that there were simply not enough words to fully explain the heartache and emotions of this part of our lives, but I want to share it as raw as it is.
Just a little bit of back story, ever since high school I struggled with awful intense periods. We tried years of birth control to help this, which unfortunately didn't. I was diagnosed with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) during that time as well. My testosterone was through the roof which is also caused by PCOS. That can make your regular cycle off and can cause you to not ovulate at all.
We have been trying to conceive for several years, with no luck. After following up with my OBGYN they said give it another year of charting and we'll talk. Charting is where you monitor through thermometers and ovulation kits to determine peak fertility days. So, we did. After a year, we still weren't pregnant. At this point I had put on a fair bit of weight, as in over 100 pounds. This time, the doctor said I needed to lose weight. In 7 months I lost 115 pounds, without any medications or surgeries. We went back to the doctor and they recommended just waiting it out, I am young so there's no hurry. I felt so completely deflated at this point, I had done absolutely everything I was told and felt like this journey was only getting worse.
I called around to fertility specialists in the area without a recommendation. Many of them weren't accepting new patients or wouldn't accept a patient without a referral. I finally found one, the soonest appointment was about 6 months away. So, we begin the waiting game again.
I immediately wasn't crazy about this doctor, we just didn't vibe well. I kept telling myself, if he will help us get pregnant I can handle the terrible bedside manner. This appointment was a bit different, they did a ton of bloodwork and background history. I finally felt like maybe we would get some answers. The doctor confirmed my PCOS through my bloodwork and ultrasound. They recommended a daily medicine of Metformin and timed doses of Femara. Metformin is typically for patients with diabetes, it helps with PCOS as well. It helps to control insulin levels. Femara is taken on certain days of your cycle to help start ovulation.
We tried this combination for 4 months and it still wasn't working. I was ovulating naturally on my own monthly prior to this, so Femara didn't make a difference on that aspect. We went back to the doctor and they recommended Dale going in for male testing. That took a couple weeks, relatively quick in the fertility world!
Our fertility doctor actually called us when the results came in from Dale's semen analysis. It was not good news. We had officially been diagnosed with extreme male factor infertility. They recommended seeing an urologist who specializes in male infertility. We had several recommendations for one doctor. It took us about 3 months to get an appointment there. We repeated the semen analysis just to make sure it was accurate, and it was. Sometimes you can have bad results from taking a cold medicine or being sick previously.
The urologist had a good game plan for us. I am a list person so this was great news. It gave us an idea of what the road ahead looked like. He was VERY upfront with us, and I love that. I don't like things sugar coated. If something is going to hurt, tell me now so I can avoid the panic attack when it happens. He said we would probably be looking at an intense fertility treatment option, but he wanted to try some other easier ones first. They have worked for a lot of his patients! We went over our diagnoses to fully understand our fertility plan. One of the diagnoses was Dale's testosterone was very, very low. First, we had an ultrasound to make sure there were no blockages, that came back pretty clear. Then we had various medications to try. The male body produces new semen in three month intervals so, we would need to try a medication for three months and have a new semen analysis to see results. We knew going in this would not be a fast fix.
Dale immediately started a concoction of vitamins to help male fertility and we added in Clomid. After three months, it didn't make a difference. He tried doubling the dose, again no change. Next he tried Femara, the same medication I had used. The idea of this is that it will raise the testosterone level in men. A side effect is that it pulls the bone marrow and will make your bones hurt, osteoporosis type pain. The next semen analysis three months later showed it didn't work again. So, he doubled the dose. Well, Dale's body was in so much pain he could barely move. It took almost an entire month for the medicine to get out of his system and his bones to stop hurting. After doing these the options were running pretty slim. The next couple options included an exploratory type surgery on the pituitary gland and testicles, that was very risk, and insurance wouldn't touch it. We took a couple weeks to digest this information and decide our plan going forward.
We ended up switching to another fertility doctor that we had a much better connection with. It is so important to have a good feeling and connection with a doctor who is involved in SUCH a big part of your life! We LOVE, LOVE, LOVE our new doctor, I couldn't say enough amazing things about him. He had a 10 month wait (we got a call to take someone's cancellation after only 2 months!).
After the new fertility doctor had all of our records, he wanted to repeat a couple of tests to confirm things. Fast forward a couple days and we have a bit more devastating news, we simply aren't ready to share that publicly yet. But, it meant we didn't have a lot of time to make a decision if we wanted to use our own sperm and eggs. We honestly weren't expecting to start any fertility treatments until after finishing our house. Just because we were emotionally, physically, and financially stretched at this time. Our amazing doctor told us to take the weekend to let everything sink in and think on what we wanted to do. He gave us his personal cell number and told us to text him or call at any time if we decide how we went to proceed or have any questions.
Each appointment we were given bad news made for a long ride home. Our specialists are close to an hour away. I'm so lucky to have a husband that truly understands my needs when I am devastated. I prefer to take time to let things settle and just be to myself. This was a really long, quiet ride home and I went to bed as soon as we got in for the night.
So, we were now at the road of more invasive fertility options. Some of the options we went over were doing an IUI (Intrauterine insemination) and IVF (in vitro fertilization). Since insurance won't cover these the price tags along with them and success rates were big topics for us.
An IUI is where they take the sperm and insert it into the uterus and hope it connects with the egg. The idea behind it is that it increases the number of sperm making it that far. It is relatively quick and painless and runs around $3,500 for one procedure. IVF is where they extract the eggs out of the woman's body and put it in a petri dish with the sperm and still allow the sperm to penetrate the egg naturally. There's another option with IVF called IVF with ICSI. This would still extract the eggs from the female but then take the sperm and physically inject it into the egg. ICSI is helpful for those with extreme male factor infertility. Traditional IVF runs around $14,000 and IVF with ICSI runs about $19,000.
Our chance of conceiving naturally was less than .01%, through IUI less than 5%, traditional IVF about 10%, IVF with ICSI around 45%.
We decided to proceed with IVF with ICSI. The process is very, very long. We know the end goal and that if it is successful it will all have been worth it. Thank you so, so much everyone for the kind words, thoughts, prayers, and shoulders to lean on you've give us!!!!!
I want anyone who is on a similar journey to know, you do not have to go through this alone. There are so many support groups and people who are there to lend an ear to. If you want to reach out to me, I'd love to listen and chat anytime. It can feel so lonely during these times, sometimes you don't even want to talk, just have someone to be around. The longing and heartache is difficult, unbearable really. My heart goes out to you, everyday.