Infertility impacts approximately 15% of couples in America and is a result of abnormal functioning of the male or female reproductive systems. Because I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), I live with one of the most common causes of infertility in women.
To be clear, my goal with these posts is to be open. Over the past year and a half I've done a lot of searching to find experiences and stories from women living with PCOS and/or going through fertility treatments, and so far I haven't come up with much. Because I want to hear about what other women are experiencing, I am sure that others out there feel the same. While I know this is my story, I hope that by sharing it openly I will help someone else through whatever they are experiencing.
It's been a while since my last infertility update, but a number of you have reached out to see how we are doing and where we are in the process, so I felt like an update was in order!
If you remember from my last post, our doctor in Florida had encouraged us to find a fertility specialist after we moved and start exploring the process of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). We had a busy late summer/early fall with moving and getting settled in Pennsylvania, so I waited a bit to schedule this appointment. What's nice about where we live now is that we have significantly more options when it comes to doctors. With close proximity to Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City, it took a bit of time to research and make our choice! We ended up choosing a doctor who works within the Penn University Hospital system. She specializes in treating patients with PCOS, patients who have experienced pregnancy loss and has studied the impacts of being overweight and trying to conceive - a trifecta of things that really described me and our situation!
We scheduled our first appointment in October and were immediately so happy with our choice. Our doctor listened to our experiences in Florida and offered a couple of options for us to consider. We had to have additional blood work, refresh some testing, and have some new tests administered (including a hysterosalpingogram) to round out both our medical histories, but once we did we would be set for any treatment path we wanted to choose.
After all the testing was complete, we had our follow up appointment to learn of the results and determine our plan of action. Going into this appointment, Kurt and I were expecting IVF to be the recommended course of treatment based on what our doctor in Florida had said. But, we weren't given that as our only option! Because of our test results, I actually tested out for PCOS, meaning that the symptoms I once had were not present anymore. While some PCOS effects would linger and still make getting pregnant a bit more difficult, I didn't need to treat PCOS and infertility at the same time anymore.
We also learned that my AMH is very high, my fallopian tubes are open and my uterus is the right shape and size to support pregnancy, and there was nothing out of the ordinary in any of Kurt's results either. All of this allowed us to choose to continue with additional rounds of Clomid! The one change we decided to make was to add a trigger shot to tell my body when to release the egg when the time was right in my cycle.
Since that appointment, we have done three rounds of Clomid and started a fourth at the beginning of this month. All of them so far have resulted in great follicle development and a great uterine lining, so my body is responding very well to this treatment right now. I had a follow up appointment with our doctor yesterday to talk about how long we can continue this treatment option for and was really happy with her recommendations. We can have up to five more rounds of Clomid before we would need to consider moving to IVF.
In these rounds of Clomid we can also explore adding Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), but because our fertility issues are caused by my inability to ovulate regularly, it isn't something we have to try if we don't want to. IUI is more typically used for patients with "unexplained" infertility, which is not what we have. If we were to choose to try IUI that would be the point where treatment costs became out of pocket costs. Anything that is marked as "infertility treatment" is not covered by my health insurance, so it's absolutely a big factor to consider as we move through these next few months.
We are still working to make some changes to our diet and health choices. Any weight loss I'm able to achieve could help increase our chances of Clomid working, so it's a focus for the spring! We are also looking for ways to stay positive and talk about what's going on with friends, family and, in some cases, trained professionals as well. There are so many emotions that come along with fertility treatments that it's sometimes hard to manage. But knowing that we have a support network in place who listens and is trying to understand our current course of action is very helpful.
If you're thinking and praying for us, we are so grateful!