Let's talk infertility — today's post was written by an M+A staffer who is currently pregnant after undergoing fertility treatment. We won't tell you all scientific stuff — your doctor is there for that. But we'll share some of the lesser-known facts about conceiving after infertility in the hopes that it may prepare you if you're going through it yourself.
Infertility is a big, scary word — and the experience of it is every bit as scary, stressful and painful as the term suggests. But here's the most important thing you need to know about an infertility diagnosis: It does not mean you can never become pregnant, give birth or become a parent.
Infertility will probably test your patience, take you to your emotional limits, and make you feel completely out of control of your own body. It is truly something you have to experience to understand...but it's not hopeless.
Here's what you need to know
I've been there. I've seen negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test. I've had my blood drawn so many times, I could pretty much sleep through that needle prick. I've had all the testing done and considered all the daunting options. And I came out on the other side: I'm currently more than halfway through a pregnancy I achieved thanks to fertility treatments, a great doctor, and some incredible luck.
Every experience is different, but what I found particularly tough about my own was the number of unknowns. I found myself wishing someone could write me a roadmap...and the truth is, no one can do that, because every infertility story looks a bit different. With that being said, here are a few things I wish I knew when I was in the thick of it.
Things don't happen immediately
I hate to break it to you, but you almost certainly won't have a treatment scheduled during that first appointment with your fertility specialist (also known as a reproductive endocrinologist). Before you can get to the fertility treatments, you have to go through lots and lots of testing — and sadly, these tests can't all be banged out within the span of a week. Many of them have to take place on certain days of your cycle, so you'll likely find yourself waiting a few months before you can really dive in...and no, the doctors probably won't let you skip any of that testing (trust me, I tried).
The testing exists for a reason
When you think fertility treatments, your mind probably goes straight to IVF (or in vitro fertilization). The truth is, that's just one option, and it may not be the right one for everyone. Others get pregnant through a less invasive procedure called IUI, some may have success with oral medication alone, others still may need to use donor eggs — the treatment options really run the gamut. Doctors will put you through all that testing so they can lay out the best course of treatment for your individual case...and while it's not fun, it definitely beats attempting unsuccessful treatment after unsuccessful treatment, which is a distinct possibility if you're trying something that isn't right for your situation or forgoing steps you need to take before your body can accept a pregnancy.
Your doctors know what they're doing
I'm all for advocating for yourself and listening to your body, but I also wish I had known not to question my doctor's orders too much while I was going through the process. After performing my final test, my reproductive endocrinologist encouraged me to go in for a minor surgery on my uterus before attempting any kind of treatment. I was devastated — not necessarily because I had to go through a surgery, but because the procedure meant I had to push back my first treatment cycle by a month (which feels like forever in infertility land!). Ultimately, I decided to follow my doctor's advice and go through with the procedure. One month later, I had my first fertility treatment...and two weeks after that, I got a positive pregnancy test. In hindsight, I truly believe my first attempt worked because of that surgery. That one-month delay was nothing compared to what I may have had to endure had I not listened to that advice.
Your doctor's office will become your second home
Infertility can seriously drain your time. Between constant monitoring, frequent blood draws, and all the appointments you'll need to attend to get treatments underway, you'll get REALLY familiar with your doctor's office and staff. My advice? Talk to your boss about what's going on, because you may have to miss a bit of work. And make the most of it! Find a cute coffee shop or bakery nearby so you can treat yourself to something after each appointment and stash a good book in your bag to pass the time in the waiting room.
You'll have to be flexible
Sadly, fertility treatments can't always be perfectly planned out because in many cases, you can't predict exactly when your body will be ready for the next step. You should go into this with the mindset that you'll have to flexible with your time, because you just may receive a call one evening telling you to start a new medication or be available for an appointment the very next day.
There may be A LOT of medication
Some infertility patients have to take daily shots, others stick mostly to oral medications...your doctor will explain exactly what you need to to do for your specific case, but just be prepared to fill a lot of prescriptions.
You should take a day off for treatments
When your doctor schedules you for an actual treatment, you may want to devote that entire day to it. You'll probably feel tons of anticipation before your appointment, and your doctor may encourage you to go home and rest immediately afterward. So call out of work (again, this is where talking to your boss comes in handy!), take yourself to a nice breakfast or lunch before your appointment, and head straight home to lounge around for the rest of the day.
If at first you don't succeed, try, try again
Remember this: Not every treatment attempt is successful. Sometimes it just takes some persistence...so if you wind up another negative pregnancy test, feel free to grieve, but don't lose hope. Another attempt may be all it takes. You've got this!
Success? Prepare for more appointments!
If you've had a successful treatment (and a positive pregnancy test! Yay!), don't think you can cut all ties with your doctor yet. Here's where the fun part starts: Infertility treatments are typically followed up by lots of OB appointments with your reproductive endocrinologist — you'll probably have a blood test to determine if you're pregnant, followed by another to ensure your hormone levels are rising. Then you'll probably move on to weekly ultrasounds until you're officially discharged at around 8 weeks. You may still be on medication during this time. Honestly, this just may be the best part of getting pregnant after infertility (aside from the overwhelming gratitude you'll feel, of course!). Seeing your baby (or babies — don't forget that fertility treatments may up your odds of conceiving multiples!) every week? That makes it all so worth it.
Are you going through infertility at the moment? Just remember that there's a light at the end of the tunnel and that we're here for you. Sending you love, strength, and our best wishes.