My Journey Through Infertility

Tuesday, May 19, 2015 - 11:45
 Me and my Husband on my 30th Birthday (December 2013)
 
Infertility, a word that so many people hear but not all of of us know how is feels to go through it or know how to deal with people going through it. So I wanted to write this blog from my perspective, after trying to conceive for about 4 years. About 3.5 million couples are affected by infertility in the UK. Around 1 in 7 couples may be struggling to conceive. I am one of 7 children, so I always thought my Mum was fertile, I will have no problems. I was wrong! 
 
Me and my husband have been trying to conceive for over 4 years now. It is nothing compared to some people! I have read some really heart felt stories of pain that others have gone through. Stories of hope and stories of hurt in the knowledge that they will never conceive. I am writing this blog mostly for other people who may be starting their journey at the doctors and also for people who may want to understand a little bit more about what someone may be going through. After all infertility doesn't just affect the individual going through it. It can also affect friends and family around. I know that many people in my life have wanted to help, but didn't know what to say or do. I totally understand this, and if I was on the other side, I too would not know what to say. I will go in to more detail about how you can help a friend/family member going through Infertility, in another blog. I will just say this for now. Just being there, and letting them know you are there if they need you is perfect. 
 
My journey started back in January 2012 when I decided I would go to the doctors after trying to conceive for about 1 year without any success. At this point I was not worried, I just thought it was best to check if there was anything wrong. 
 
First of all I was offered blood tests to check if I ovulate ok. That came back normal. 
 
I was then referred to the hospital for a scan to check my ovaries. This was an internal scan. Everything came back normal. 
 
My husband had to give a semen analysis to check everything was normal there - and everything came back fine. 
 
I was then referred to a gynaecologist to discuss the next steps. After having a discussion with the gynaecologist we got talking about my menstrual cycle, and I told them about how painful they were. They suggested I may have endometreosis - and without much further investigation I was referred for an operation to have a laproscopy to look inside to see if there was any sign of endometreosis. 
 
I went for this operation in January 2013. I had to be put asleep for the operation. After the operation I was taken onto a ward and told by my the surgeon that no sign of endometreosis was found and that my tubes were clear and everything looked normal. This should be a happy time, finding out there is nothing wrong with you. I must admit though, I felt a little frustrated, as once again I was told everything was 'normal'. Finding out I had something wrong with me is not what I wanted, but I did want answers!
 
Recovering from the operation took about 3 weeks in total. Although I was feeling a lot better after about 5 days. I had to take just over a week off work. My belly button looked really freaky at first and I wondered if it would ever look normal again, but It is now back to normal, thank goodness! My stomach felt very tender after the operation and I felt a tugging feeling inside me. This feeling didn't completely go until about 3 weeks. Also I remember experiencing shoulder pain. This is caused by the air that they put into you. They also put dye into me to look to see if my tubes were blocked. My tubes were all fine. I was told not to worry when my wee is blue. 
 
The next stage was going on clomid. I started clomid in January 2014. With each stage, you are given a sense of hope, thinking this may be the thing that works.
 
I was on clomid for 5 months. This is a medication that i had to take to force ovulation. I had been told that I ovulate fine, but because of procedures I was told to go on this medication before they offered IVF. With this medication came mood swings, hot flushes, thrush and an overall feeling of depression. I felt by the 5th month that i wanted to stop the medication, as it was just making me feel awful and I didn't feel I was benefiting from it, as I already ovulate fine. The doctors agreed to let me stop a month earlier than planned. 
 
So after clomid not working I was told that the hospital in Lancaster would refer me for IVF in Manchester. I was referred in about October 2014. Many people ask me what IVF involves. Here you can read more about IVF
 
I then had to go through all the same blood tests I had in Lancaster at the IVF clinic in Manchester. This all started at the beginning of 2015. 
 
Both me and my husband had to get bloods taken. I had another internal examination and Paul had to give another semen sample. 
 
Once all the test results came back we were referred to a specialist to go through our results and tell us what the next stage would be. Paul was told everything came back normal with his tests. I was told that there was polycistic ovaries appearance on my scan, but after asking me a series of questions like, do I have regular periods? which the answer was yes, they decided that they were still going to treat us as 'Unexplained Infertility' because there was not enough evidence to say it is polycistic ovaries. I also was told that one of my hormone levels was higher than normal. This was the AMH level. This is a good thing with IVF, as it means I have a high ovarian reserve and will therefore be more likely to retrieve a good amount of eggs through IVF. 
 
So after meeting with the consultant we were told we would be referred for IVF and that we would receive a letter within 3 weeks. I got my letter at the beginning of March. I received the letter the day after I came on my period, and you are told to ring up on the day your period starts to request starting treatment. So I was told to ring up on my next cycle. This was a little frustrating, but I thought at least I'm getting very close to starting IVF now! 
 
I just tried to keep myself busy that month whilst I waited for my period to start (who would of thought I was actually looking forward to my next period for once). I had a lovely month doing all the things I love. I did loads of singing with my friend, we even did a couple gigs together. I also spent time writing songs, recording, working on new business ideas and spending time with friends and family. 
 
My next period came and I rang up to see if they could get me in this month. I was told that after Easter they had quite a back log, so they said they would ring me up in the next few days. I waited 5 days and still had no call. I received my call a week later. I was told that me and my husband were invited in for my injection teach. 
 
The Injection Teach needs to be completed before you can go start IVF. We had a call the day before our injection teach, to say our injections and medications would be arriving tomorrow. I said that is fine, but explained that we were in Manchester getting our teach and wouldn't be back until after 12. They said our delivery would be between 1-6pm. 
So we arrived at the hospital for our teach at about 7.30am. We stayed over in Manchester the night before, to make sure we could get there on time. 
 
We had to wait 1 hour before anyone even saw us. Then finally we had a 10 minute meeting with a nurse taking us through the process of IVF and she gave us a booklet that explained each medication and injection that I would be on. I was told that I would be on the short protocol. I was told that I would be taking Menopur from about day 3 of my cycle. I would be on this injection every day for about 2 weeks. I was also going to be on Cetrotide, which I would start 3 days after I start Menopur. I was told that I also had to take Metformin every day because I have over stimulated ovaries. It helps to reduce the risk of Ovarian Hyper-stimulation Syndrome
 
We were then invited into a room with other couples going through IVF to have our Injection Teach. I am so glad Paul was with me for this, because it was more complicated than I thought it would be. I simply thought I would get a pack of injections and just put the needle in me. We have to mix up the powders for each injection and we have each been given different measurements that we will be on. I am on two injections daily, plus medication. I am on the lower amount for each of my injections, because I have a high ovarian reserve. 
 
I received a call at about 11 am that day, about the delivery of our drugs. I was told that the man was outside our door with our delivery. I explained that I was told that he wasn't meant to arrive until after 1. He said that the drugs needed to go in a fridge, so he asked if they could go to a neighbour. I didn't want this to happen! It is not like a normal package going to a neighbour, it is very personnel. I rang my sister and she got in touch with my other sisters finance. He said the delivery man could take them round to his house. What a nightmare. I was on this phone call, trying to sort this out, whilst I had a needle in me, taking bloods. 
 
I felt quite happy and ready to go, after this day. I was a little nervous about the injections, not really about the injection itself, more just about getting it all right. Paul seemed to understand it all though, so this put my mind at ease! 
 
Now the waiting for the next period. You have to ring up on day one of your next period to request starting treatment. So long as they can definetley fit you in, they will invite you in for another blood test and internal scan to check if your hormone levels are right to start IVF. If everything comes back normal, you will recieve a call that afternoon to tell you to start your injections. 
 
Once you are accepted for IVF you are told to use condoms when having intercourse, because if you got pregnant in the meantime naturally and then it didnt show up on a blood test, it wouldnt be good if you were taking the injections. 
 
My Injections In the Fridge
 
 
It is a weird feeling, looking forward to my period. I have always had really bad periods, so I normally dread coming on and I really appreciate the time when I am period free:) So it is weird now that I look forward to my next period to start, so we can get on with our IVF journey.
 
So my May period came. I was actually 2 days late and I thought, how could I be pregnant, we had been using protection? That would be a miracle! My period did come along however and I rang up and I was told that I had to come in for a final blood test and internal scan before my injections could start. So I went to the hospital on day 2 of my period. I woke up that morning with really bad periods, so it was really hard to get up and out for 6 am! 
 
So I had my blood test then I had to wait 2 1/2 hours for my scan. I went for my scan. I have got so used to these internal scans and blood tests now, that I don't think twice about them. I must of had at least 6 different internal scans now over the last 2-3 years. I will never dread a smear test again! That will seem so easy! After my scan I waited for the nurse to see me. I was told she would explain everything about my injections and when to start taking them ect. 
 
When I went in to see the nurse, I was landed with information that I didn't expect! I was told that the lining of my womb was quite thick. Mine was 9mm and It needed to be about 3-6mm to start the injections. The injections thicken your lining, so they want you to start your injections when the lining is down to a base of about 3-6mm. I was told that I should come back for a scan the next morning, because after a day of bleeding on my period it should get thinner over night. I went home a little disappointed because I really thought I'd be starting my injections and getting on with my IVF journey. I picked myself up and did what I have been trying to do the whole way through, and try to find the positive side. The positive side in this case is that it wouldn't be good to start IVF if my lining is too thick and therefore not good for conceiving. So I felt it was for the best. I decided instead of getting down, I would look forward to a day out in Manchester with Paul.
 
The next day was a Saturday so Paul decided to come to Manchester with me for my scan, so that we could spend the day in Manchester after. I had my scan and whilst I was in there the nurse doing the scan, just told me as it was, and said that it hadn't got any thinner. In fact she said she was measuring parts of my lining as 12mm. So 3 mm more than yesterday! I knew that this would probably mean that once again I wouldn't be starting my injections that night. Me and Paul went in to see the nurse together. She told me what the other nurse had already told me. I assumed before going in, that she would probably ask me to come back in a couple days to do the scan again, to see if it gets any thinner. Instead she told me something I hadn't planned for. She said unfortunately the lining of your womb is still way too thick. She said you will most likely need to go for a hysteroscopy. This is a procedure used to examine the inside of the uterus (womb). It's carried out using a hysteroscope, which is a narrow tube with a telescope at the end. Images are sent to a computer in order to get a close-up of the womb. She said that they may be able to scrape away some of the lining. I was told that I would have to wait for a call from the consultant to confirm what my next step would be. 
 
I held back the tears and kept it together and just accepted what she was telling me. Me and Paul walked out of the hospital, both feeling disappointed. I had a cry as soon as I left the hospital. I just felt so frustrated at this point, as I'd really prepared myself for starting IVF. At this moment in time, I found it so hard to see any positive side. I just felt frustrated, hurt, annoyed, and once again a feeling of will this ever happen? Me and Paul talked it through as we walked into Manchester City. Paul is always so good at talking sense and making me see things a little clearer. I felt better after talking, but at this point I was still feeling very frustrated, as now I didn't even know when IVF would start. 
 
We went home after having lunch in Manchester. Neither of us really felt up to looking around or doing much. When we got home we looked up about the lining of the womb and why this may cause problems if it is too thick. I found some really useful articles that explained to me when that the lining of the womb shouldn't be too thin or too thick. If the lining is too thick the embryo may have trouble implanting. 
 
I felt better after reading up about this. It helped me understand the nurses decision. I felt now that it wouldn't be good to start IVF, as my chance to conceive may not be as good. I want to have the best chance with my IVF cycles, as I only get 2 chances on the NHS. So even though I was still feeling upset, by the evening, I felt that it was the right thing. This knowledge definitely helped me feel a little more focused again. 
 
I got a call on Sunday afternoon ( 17/05/2015) from the consultant to tell me that I would definitely need to have a hysteroscopy. He said that my lining was very thick, so they would need to look inside to see why this is. He said that they would also need to do a biopsy just to make sure everything is ok. If needed, they would be able to scrape away some of the lining, to make it thinner. If this is the case, I was told I would probably have to wait a couple months after that to start IVF. 
 
HYSTEROSCOPY
 
So now the waiting begins again. I was told it will probably be about 3-6 weeks before they can do that operation. So I can't just sit around waiting. I know that if I don't want to let myself get really down, I will need to keep busy. This is one of the reasons I decided to start writing this blog. It is helping me focus. 
 
Thank you for reading. 
 
I will keep you posted on the next stage of my journey. 
 
Ruth