My Route to IVF
I always knew I would have trouble getting pregnant. At least, by the time I stopped trying not to get pregnant, I knew I’d have trouble. My period had been irregular for most of my life and, although I never thought much about that in my 20’s I came to understand that it would make it very difficult to conceive by the time I started trying in my mid-30’s.
I got married to my sweet husband when I was 35. About a year after our wedding, we started talking about having a baby. We were living in San Francisco, California at the time and both had busy jobs. We had longed to be parents and it seemed like a good time. I knew that I was of “advanced maternal age” and that I had the wonky periods so I didn’t waste much time before I sought assistance.
Of course when I was younger, I never imagined that I would have trouble conceiving. I figured that I would fall in love, get married, and then gaze deep into my husband’s eyes during a beautiful tropical sunset with a glass of champagne in my hand and become instantly pregnant as birds erupted into song all around me. Alas, that’s not quite how it panned out.
My first step was to go see a local acupuncturist who specialized in fertility. Her Yelp reviews seemed to indicate that I would be pregnant by the time I got back to my car after my treatment. All her reviews gushed with marvel about how this woman was able to take a woman from being crippled with infertility to the glow of pregnancy with just a few hours of lying on a bed with needles in their skin. Sign me up!
Although I suspected that I needed more help than this and I wasn’t really sure that I believed in acupuncture, I wasn’t quite ready to admit that I needed medical intervention at that point. I thought I could start with something low impact and see if maybe I didn’t have as big of a problem as I feared I did.
Dr. Oldershaw had a beautiful, calming office in the East Bay of San Francisco. Her receptionist was heavily pregnant at the time, which I took as a good omen. After describing my concerns to Dr. Oldershaw, she recommended that I have my thyroid tested right away. She told me that in her experience, the vast majority of her patients who are struggling with infertility had an issue with their thyroid. She was completely right. After being tested, I discovered that I had Hashimotos Syndrome, a very common disorder of the thyroid which is easy treatable with medication. Woohoo! Problem solved! Pregnancy, here I come. Right?
Wrong. After being on medication for a few months, and continuing with my acupuncture treatments, my period still had not regulated and I was not pregnant.
At this point, I was still seeing my gynecologist and she was giving me blood tests at various points in my cycle to see if I was ovulating. After a few months of still not getting pregnant, she told me that I needed to go see a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) in a fertility clinic. An ob/gyn knows what to do with your once you’re already pregnant but they aren’t necessarily the best ones to help you get pregnant. She knew she was out of her depth so she passed me on to the infertility experts.
I decided on the fertility clinic at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Fujimoto at UCSF was the doctor assigned to me and I liked him right away. He made it seem like a scientific issue that just needed to be worked out. I liked that. I didn’t want to be treated like a special porcelain butterfly with a unique problem. I wanted my infertility to be solved like a puzzle. He ordered a series of tests. Some easy, like blood tests; and some much more invasive and painful like a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), which is an x-ray that checks if the fallopian tubes are open. It was unpleasant, to put it mildly.
In the meantime, my husband had to have his sperm tested as well. Dr. Fujimoto told us that almost 50% of his patient’s infertility issues were related to the male partners. He told us that a “good” number of sperm was 15 million. Husband had more than 90 million. Nope, he wasn’t the problem.
After all our testing it was agreed that our issue was polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). That is a hormone disorder that can cause all kinds of issues and makes getting pregnant very challenging. Dr. F assured me that there were many things we could try to help me get pregnant so we started with Clomid and an IUI. Clomid is a medication used to trigger ovulation and an IUI is an interuterine insemination, aka the turkey baster method.
We did 4 of them. None of them took.
By this point I was 37 and Dr. F told me that it was time to move on to IVF.