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a guest post by Valerie B
First comes marriage
When my husband and I got married, we agreed we would give ourselves 5 years before we would even discuss babies. It was great; it gave us plenty of time to be us and enjoy each other.
As soon as the 5-year mark came, I was beyond ready to start the baby discussion.
I was in my first-year teaching and to say it was a stressful time would be an understatement. We decided we would get serious about trying once the school year was over. In the meantime, I went off the pill, so I could track my cycle.
Little did I know there was a lot more to it than that…
What is infertility?
Infertility is a couple who has been trying to conceive for at least one year with no success whether that is carrying a baby to term or not getting pregnant at all.
Infertility, it never crosses your mind. You have spent all of this time preventing pregnancy. How could you possibly have infertility issues?
Trying to Conceive
We were about 4 months into our journey when I started to have a feeling something just wasn’t right. I made an appointment to see my OBGYN, who I have been going to for years.
All he did was ask me if I was getting my period each month, and because I said yes, he said I was ovulating and that I was fine. He only offered to test my TSH to pacify me.
My TSH came back at just over 2. Since it is considered in the range of “normal”, he called and said everything was fine.
Why is this happening to me?
In our one year of trying to conceive, we didn’t get pregnant, not one time.
At this point, you are asking questions and doubting yourself.
You have a love/hate relationship with babies and kids. Your social media makes you cry daily because no one else appears to have problems getting pregnant.
As far as baby showers go, you either go and try to keep it together, or you send a gift and your apologies.
All the while, all you can think is: this isn’t fair. Why is it happening to me? What have I done to cause this?
In this trying to conceive journey, it is really easy to get sucked into a black hole of darkness and even harder to see the light.
Once you make your first fertility appointment, the hope and excitement starts to return.
When should you seek a fertility specialist?
If you are under the age of 35, you should seek help if you have been actively trying to conceive for at least one year. If you have a good OBGYN, you could probably get them to run some tests sooner.
If you are 35 or older and have been trying to conceive for at least 6 months, you should seek a fertility specialist.
We impatiently waited one year before we went to another OBGYN. She was honest and immediately gave us a referral to a fertility specialist. They were in the same building so we went to the office to fill out paperwork and make an appointment.
What can you expect at your first fertility appointment?
Honestly, the first appointment is about gathering your background information and medical history.
Some places will discuss your options, and others won’t discuss your options until after you have taken all of the tests. This way they have the results and can give you a true course of action.
The first fertility clinic we visited waited until all of the tests were in to discuss our options.
It is your subsequent appointments that are the most important. The ones where you will come back and start determining where you and your significant other stand fertility-wise.
What are some of the tests for fertility?
All of the following tests are dependent on certain cycle days.
Regardless of where you go (in the U.S.), you and your significant other will go through a blood test.
With the blood test, they are checking the woman’s ovarian reserve (Anti-Mullerian Hormone or AMH). This test will tell the doctor roughly how many eggs you have left, and if you have the ability to harvest eggs that can be fertilized.
Your FSH or Follicle Stimulating Hormone and Luteinizing Hormone (LH) will also be tested through blood work. FSH is produced to make good, mature eggs.
My TSH was also tested again. Since it was above 2, I was put on a low dose of Synthroid. It turns out your TSH levels need to be below 2 for conception something my OBGYN missed.
There will be more to your blood work depending on your situation and past history.
My blood work and my husband’s blood work came back normal.
I was then required to go through a vaginal ultrasound to look at my ovaries and uterus. They would also count how many follicles I was producing.
I don’t quite remember the technical name for this next test, but a catheter was inserted into my cervix and water was inserted. If water gushed out, my cervix was considered “normal”.
After that, I had to do what is called a hysterosalpingogram, or HSG. With this test, they insert a dye into your uterus and fallopian tubes to determine their functionality. This test is performed by a radiologist.
My vaginal ultrasound, cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes were all normal.
My husband underwent a semen analysis which was also normal.
I go into more details about each test in my fertility testing post.
What are fertility treatments?
All of the boxes were checked, and we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility. A diagnosis, I fondly call, a “cop out” diagnosis. This is when the doctor has done “everything they can”, and still, they cannot determine why we can’t get pregnant. Or, my version, they WON’T try to find out why.
We were told our ONLY options were IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) or IUI (Intrauterine Insemination).
Sometimes, you leave places feeling like you didn’t get any answers, but you still have questions.
We made a difficult decision, but we decided to not start either of our treatment options.
I then decided to seek out other specialists to find the answers to my new questions.
For related reading see: TTC TIPS & TRICKS: WHAT WORKED FOR US TO GET PREGNANT
The article continues below…
Getting real answers
I have always thought I had something going on with my thyroid. I tried for years to have a doctor test something besides the TSH, but because my results were within “normal range” they wouldn’t do further testing.
I found an Endocrinologist who ironically was going through the exact same fertility struggle I was. She knew exactly what I was going through! The sun started to come up again. She tested more than my fertility specialist. She tested my TSH, Free T3, Free T4, Thyroid Peroxidase AB (antibodies), Vitamin D, insulin levels, hemoglobin A1C, Comprehensive Metabolic Panel (CBC), and AMH (again).
With these tests, we discovered I have Hashimoto’s, a thyroid autoimmune disease, where your thyroid is essentially attacking itself. I was also low in Vitamin D which is helpful to conceive.
These were just pieces of the puzzle and so relieving to know.
I saw two more OBGYNs who looked at all of the tests that had been run and thought I had PCOS. At least, that was how I was presenting on paper, but I didn’t have any physical symptoms. Each one wanted to wait to see how I responded to my thyroid medication.
One of these OBGYNs would also say I didn’t ovulate.
There is one last thing I can try on my own before I seek a new fertility specialist.
What if I change my diet?
Once I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s, I started to do some research. I found that it is highly recommended to stop eating gluten. I also have IBS, and it is recommended to give up gluten with this too. I have been avoiding this for 7 or 8 years at this point.
I reluctantly decide to do the Autoimmune Protocol. This diet follows the Paleo diet in a much stricter way. The Paleo Mom gives a very thorough explanation of the diet. I did this diet for only 30 days then I started to reintroduce each food I removed one at a time.
With this diet, I discovered gluten to be the culprit of years of stomach issues. Eating anything with gluten was extremely painful and unpleasant.
But…I still wasn’t getting pregnant.
Finding a new fertility specialist
After another year had gone by, I found a new fertility specialist who also thought based on previous tests I had PCOS, and she wanted to redo blood work and the vaginal ultrasound.
She also said my ovulation numbers were low, but I was ovulating.
When this doctor redid my blood work and ultrasound, I started to present normal and not as if I had PCOS. My doctor credits this to the removal of gluten.
Because of this great news, we were able to start with the least invasive option to try and conceive.
I was started on a cycle of Femara, to be taken on specific cycle days. This medication will help me ovulate and make a greater number of follicles. I was taking 3 pills every day specified. I personally had no side effects while taking this medication.
I had to do another ultrasound before ovulation day to be sure I was making big follicles. Once that was completed, we got the green light to have fun at least every other day.
Pregnant or not pregnant
It won’t happen this way for everyone, but I encourage you to check your diet and lifestyle when trying to conceive. Sometimes that’s all the help you will need. There are situations however where that won’t be enough, but it is always worth trying.
After 2 years of NEVER getting pregnant, we conceived on our first round of Femara.
It was the most emotional and exciting time of our lives. It feels like we waited an eternity for this to happen, and hearing the heartbeat for the first time was the most magical moment.
The trying to conceive journey is not easy and it is not short, but what is true no matter the situation is you have to speak up for yourself. No one knows you or your body the way you do.
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Hi! I’m Valerie…
…the face behind A Peach in the Queen City. I am a former Special Education teacher, and now, I stay home with my daughter. Being a mom has been my favorite and most challenging job yet. I am married to my high school sweetheart, and together, we have one beautiful daughter and 2 adorable dogs. We like being outdoors whether its biking, hiking, or taking a stroll around the neighborhood. With that said, I started A Peach in the Queen City to give hope to women who are a part of the trying to conceive club. I also hope to help new moms and moms-to-be with their journey through motherhood.