I’ve been very open about our fertility journey… because.. well.. that’s who I am. You wanna know? Ask me, I’ll tell you. And sometimes I might even do it with tact. And lots of people will say to me “how’s it going?”. This loosely translates to: what are you doing to fix it? So.. I’m going to tell you about that part.
We were told we were excellent candidates for IUI, which I’ve mentioned.. and perhaps you’ve googled. Long story short. My husband has a “date” with a cup, they spin his sperm around in some kind of machine, take out the crap and hop the little buggers up on speed and prepare them for injection into my uterus. I get to spread my legs and get my cervix clamped while they insert a small cathetar into my uterus and inject the “washed” sperm. That’s it. The procedure is covered by OHIP which is nice, but we have to pay $200 out of pocket to get the sperm washed. Leading up to an IUI, I have to do bloodwork and ultrasound to monitor my follicle development and detect impending ovulation. This involves attending at our clinic on day 11 (our clinic is 100kms from our house and takes us about an hour to get to) or 12 to have blood drawn, and to have a vaginal ultrasound. If it’s Monday through Thursday (and sometimes Friday) I can do my bloodwork locally. Blood must be taken every day until my LH surge is detected. I say “sometimes Friday” because they are not so hot at getting my bloodwork to our clinic on weekends. So, depending on what day of my cycle Friday is, I’ll play a little game of chance. Weekend monitoring must be done at the actual clinic. And bloodwork gets done in the morning. So this means going to the blood clinic daily and potentially 2-3 trips to our fertility clinic before we go for the procedure. Once, my ovaries were playing tricks on me and I monitored for 14 days straight before ovulation!
We typically get “the call” in the afternoon and then must attend at the fertility clinic in the morning for the procedure. So it’s very short notice. Once, they called us at 7am and said “today’s the day”.. needless to say, it was a stressful mess to get there. My work is not family friendly at all and I’ve not made it public knowledge there. So it means calling in “sick” for me or taking some time for a “medical appointment” .. but it’s all last minute because we never know until the afternoon before.. if we’re lucky!
We did one round of IUI unmedicated. But feeling impatient, we agreed to medication for all our subsequent rounds. I started taking a drug called Clomid, which I took on days 3 through 7 of my cycle. The side effects are moodiness and brutal hot flashes. What it does is help your ovaries make more than one mature follicle. Each month, a woman develops follicles on the ovaries. Typically, only one will mature and be released at ovulation. The more eggs, the more chances at one being fertilized. After one round of Clomid, they added Femara (which is actually a breast cancer drug) — it does something similar — honestly, I’m not sure why it’s good to combine them… I read the literature.. but I don’t remember. I do know that I responded well and developed two mature follicles each cycle. I don’t need any other drugs, because I surge on my own. Some women need a drug to be able to surge.
Keep in mind, the problem they have identified is our low sperm count. But, they treat me with the meds… I’ll vent more about that later.
So like I’ve said, we have done 4 rounds of IUI with no success. At our last IUI, the sperm count was so low that we could practically name them all! (That’s an exageration, of course, but we made that joke because humour is better than reality sometimes.) Given our ongoing “failures” (because that’s what they feel like), they finally said those three little letters… IVF. This is In-Vitro Fertilization, for those looking to unravel the acronyms. And for good measure, they suggested ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). Long story short again, lots of meds to force me to create lots of eggs which they harvest with a big needle. They take the eggs and force the sperm into it to create an embryo. If an embryo develops, they put that in my uterus and hope is sticks and grows. It’s very expensive ($6000 — another $4000 for meds, but those are thankfully covered by my benefits), it’s a lot of stress, and a lot of medical appointments. And… and… there’s about a 30-40% chance of pregnancy. That’s a lot of money for maybe… there’s a 60-70% chance of not getting pregnant.
I also have an ovarian cyst — which no one can definitively tell me if this is interfering with anything — so I’ve had to get a referral to an Gynecologist. The fertility clinic suggests surgery so if we have IVF, all my “guns will be blazing”. I’ll add here that the cyst has not interfered with ovulation except for the extended month that I mentioned. My follicle stopped growing on that side, but my other ovary kicked in a grew me another follicle. I’m not prepared to submit myself to surgery until someone can tell me that the risks outweigh the benefits. Sometimes surgery on an ovary can result in damage making things worse.
So everything is on hold until after that Gynecologist appointment in March. Feeling the need to take my medical care into my own hands, I did a little research on treatment of low sperm count. Shocking that we should actually think to treat the identified problem, I know! We were told by our clinic that the only thing you can do for low sperm count is lifestyle change and take a bunch of vitamins. Turns out there’s more to the story that our clinic has vastly neglected. A slight glimmer of hope was found when I told my husband to go to our family doctor to have his testosterone tested. Turns out dude has REALLY low testosterone! And do you know what that effects? Sperm count and quality!! Our clinic really dropped the ball on this one.. I’m not pleased. They didn’t even send my husband for tests… which is something that is done standard at other clinics according to someone else who is experiencing a similar situation. So my husband is currently having this investigated and hopefully treated.
So that’s what we’re doing to fix it.