Today I’m sharing our infertility story in the hopes that it will help other couples out there that are struggling with infertility and going through IVF.
Yesterday we announced our pregnancy! We are almost 11 weeks, which is early by socially acceptable standards to be announcing. However, the reason most people wait to announce is because miscarriages are sadly common in the first trimester. The reality is that infertility and miscarriage are rarely talked about. Things are starting to improve as more and more people are opening up about their struggles and heartaches while trying for a baby.
What has helped me most during our infertility journey is hearing other people’s stories, connecting with other women dealing with infertility and doing countless hours of research. Knowing there are so many other couples out there in our same situation is sad, but also very comforting. I knew when the time came I owed it to the infertility community to share our story.
There didn’t seem like a better time then now to share since it is National Infertility Awareness Week. I will be sharing a series of posts about our story and infertility over the next few days. If you are not interested feel free to skip along, I will be back with new food content next week 🙂
Our Infertility Story
If you have been following along here for a while, you may know we have been struggling with infertility for the past 2+ years. After suffering 2 miscarriages we sought treatment from a fertility clinic last spring.
The first appointment with our Reproductive Endocrinologist
You need a referral from your OB to see an RE. Most OBs will not give you a referral until you have been trying on your own for 1 year if you are under 35 and 6 months if you are over 35. After our second loss our OB referred us to an RE and we made an appointment for a consult. At our consult we discussed our history with our doctor and she explained all the testing we would do. It’s a pretty straight forward appointment, but it can be overwhelming. Our doctor was so kind, did not make us feel rushed and answered all of our questions.
The testing can take a while because some of the tests need to align with your cycle. It took us about 2 months to finish the testing which gave us a diagnosis of unexplained infertility. It seems like this would be the best outcome, right? Wrong. All I wanted was for them to find a problem so it could be addressed and fixed. Unfortunately, more couples than you would think end up with this diagnosis and it really makes deciding how to move forward difficult.
Why we decided to start with IUI
We decided to start with IUI for a few reasons. First off, because we were unexplained our doctor didn’t have any reason to believe that it couldn’t work for us. It is also a small fraction of the cost of IVF and much less physically invasive. We decided we would try 3 IUIs and if they didn’t work we would move on to IVF.
The first was in August of 2019 and it ended in another early miscarriage. This was heartbreaking, but it gave us a glimmer of hope that the procedure did in fact work, there was just something not right with the embryo. We proceeded with another IUI in October and one more in November both of which failed.
Looking back we obviously wish we would have gone straight to IVF. We wasted time, heartache and several thousand dollars on the IUIs. However, if it had worked it would have been a blessing and with unexplained infertility there is no way of knowing unless you try. IUIs only have about a 15-20% chance of success and if they don’t work after the first 3 it is likely they never will.
On the bright side, by the time the third IUI failed we were 100% ready to move on to IVF. Moving to something with a much higher chance of success (50-60%) was a huge relief. Our RE had me try 3 different drug protocols for the IUIs, so she had something to go off of when deciding on our protocol for IVF. A lot of people say your first round of IVF is often a trial run for the doctor (a very emotionally and financially draining trial run…) so we were very lucky to have our first round work.
The Outcome of our IVF Cycle
We started stimulation for our IVF cycle on Christmas Day 2019. I stimmed for 9 days with a combination of Gonal-F and Menopur before triggering ovulation with Letrozole.
Our egg retrieval was on January 5th, 2020 and they retrieved 12 mature eggs. This was a bit disappointing because I had been showing 16 mature follicles on ultrasound, but sometimes not all follicles end up having an egg.
The day after egg retrieval they call with the fertilization report, 9 out of our 12 eggs fertilized normally. This is right on target, they hope for about 75% of the eggs to fertilize.
Our clinic then leaves them alone to grow until day 5 where they hope they will reach the blastocyst stage. On the morning of the 5th day our doctor called with the results, we had 5 day-five blastocysts and the other 4 were still growing! We were ecstatic, statistically you can expect about half of the fertilized eggs to grow to blastocyst so we had surpassed that already.
If they are still growing, they will allow them to continue to grow for up to 2 more days to 6 or 7 day blastocysts. We got one more blast on day 6 and the other 3 did not make it. We were happy to have 6 blastocysts to send for genetic testing.
The genetic testing is done in a separate specialty lab, they send a tiny biopsy of the embryo (cells that will become the placenta) to be tested for chromosomal abnormalities. Because chromosomal abnormalities are the #1 cause of miscarriage we opted for the testing to try to avoid the heartbreak of suffering through more miscarriages.
The testing took an agonizing 2 weeks. We got the results on a Friday afternoon that we had 4 genetically normal embryos! This was the number we had been hoping for from the start and when they only retrieved 12 eggs, 4 healthy embryos felt unattainable. We were so excited and felt a massive amount of relief. It also proved to us what a lot of people in the IVF world believe, it’s not about the quantity it’s about quality.
How was recovery from the egg retrieval?
Since they only retrieved 12 eggs, my recovery was not too bad. Some women get 20, 30, even 40+ eggs and their recovery can be brutal and sometimes dangerous. I spent about 3 days resting, I drank a lot of gatorade and my heating pad was my best friend.
Why we decided on a frozen instead of a fresh transfer
Since we decided to do genetic testing we had to do a frozen transfer. A fresh transfer takes place on day 5 after an egg retrieval so there is no way to get the testing done and do a fresh transfer. Also, there is some research that suggests FETs are better because they allow your body to rest and recover from the egg retrieval before the transfer. But, honestly, if we weren’t doing the testing, I think I would have been fine to transfer on day 5.
Is IVF scary?
To me the only thing scary about IVF is that it’s not a guarantee. A lot of people think IVF has a perfect outcome and that is just not the case. I was scared to do IVF because if it didn’t work for us your options become more limited and even more expensive.
The needles look scary and the amount of drugs you receive at the start of your cycle is overwhelming. But for me the shots were really not bad, a lot of the time I couldn’t even feel them and I was lucky to not have any crazy side effects from the hormones.
Why we consider ourselves lucky
It seems crazy to use the word lucky when you think about our journey. But we truly are lucky in the infertility world. First of all, we are lucky that we even have the resources to afford fertility treatments, most insurance plans (including ours) do not cover fertility treatments, forcing patients to pay completely out of pocket. We are lucky to have 4 genetically normal embryos from 1 egg retrieval. And we are so very lucky that our first frozen embryo transfer worked!
It is not lost on us that our round of IVF went about as smoothly as it could have. Many couples suffer through multiple rounds of IVF just to get 1 healthy embryo, or worse, they never get that one healthy embryo. We feel beyond blessed to have had the outcome that we did. It was worth every shot!
If you have any questions about infertility or need someone to talk to I am always here! Feel free leave a comment or to reach out to me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org