Awareness: Infertility

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week and as most of you know, Justin and I have experienced our own struggles with infertility.

Although I have personally always been pretty transparent about our journey to parenthood, I know there is still such a HUGE stigma in regards to the infertility community. I'm hoping that sharing this information with all of you normalizes infertility discussions just a little more. The experiences and hardships are different for everyone but listening to the stories of others truly does aid in our understanding.


I have PCOS. Polycystic ovarian syndrome is the root of my infertility. It is a hormone disorder that impacts roughly 200,000 women each year in the United States. PCOS does not mean I can not get pregnant (obviously). PCOS alters my hormone levels which makes it harder to ovulate or produce healthy eggs consistently - and you kind of have to ovulate and produce healthy eggs when trying to conceive a baby without medical intervention.


When Justin and I decide we'd like to try for another baby, we seek out the assistance of a reproductive endocrinologist who then prescribes a medication that assists in the growth of my follicles (eggs). This drug is called Follistim. Follistim is a man-made form of a hormone that occurs naturally in the body. This hormone regulates ovulation, the growth, and the development of eggs in a woman's ovaries. This also ensures that we are growing a healthy, viable egg each cycle. When I ovulate on my own I don't always produce a healthy egg each month. That is the hurdle that has created my infertility. It's a hit or miss game. With a husband that was always a call away from deploying, we knew we didn't have time to wait. Once we have a healthy viable egg (monitored ultrasounds for 7-10 days to measure), we use an HCG trigger shot (Novarel is the drug brand we've always used) to induce ovulation (release of the egg from the ovary). Once we take the trigger shot, it's timed intercourse for us and we wait the 14 agonizing days to find out if the cycle was successful or not. 

Now that I've gone over my background, I also want to go over some of the confusions and frustrations I have due to others not being informed enough OR not deeming our infertility actual "infertility" because stimulating my ovaries and being able to go home and "color" with my husband to make a baby isn't their idea of infertility. I cannot tell you how many people have emailed, messaged, or called me because they assumed that since I was battling infertility, this must mean that Justin and I have been doing IVF. WRONG. In vitro fertilization is a process of fertilization where an egg is combined with sperm outside the body, in vitro... As I stated above, we utilize timed intercourse. Please don't assume that couples battling infertility are automatically IVF patients. There is a process of testing and planning before you even know that you are going to do IVF. Some couples use Clomid (oral medication that can be used to stimulate ovulation) for a woman to stimulate her ovaries to get a viable egg paired with timed intercourse. Some women use something more potent (like me) and use an injectable to get their healthy egg paired with timed intercourse. Some couples use IUI to get their miracle baby (Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman's uterus to facilitate fertilization). Some people do use IVF as a treatment but that is also once other options are exhausted (unless that's their only route given). IVF is expensive and still not a guarantee. Some couples use donor embryos, donor sperm, or surrogates. Everyone's infertility journey is different so please do not assume. Ask questions, if they are willing to share. I can't tell you how frustrating it has been to clarify information based off of assumption. 


 If we are going to raise awareness and put an end to the stigmas, we need to work on ourselves as well. Like some of you, I have miscarried babies. Like some of you, I have wondered if I would ever be able to carry a child of my own. Like some of you, I have agonized over the idea that I might always be the person congratulating others on creating life, but never be the person being congratulated. Like some of you, I have had a reproductive surgery to check out my reproductive organs. Like some of you, I found a potential reason for my infertility and the culprit of why I miscarried (uterine septum). Like some of you, I have had countless RE appointments, bloodwork, and ultrasounds. Like some of you, I have gone through giving myself a shot for days on end, just for a cycle to end in disappointment. Like some of you, I have had successful cycles that resulted in pregnancy. Like some of you, I have beaten my infertility and I am a parent. The thing is, there is no gauge in this community. Having problems conceiving is the bottom line factor and all should be welcomed. I have had (on numerous occasions) other infertile couples attack me (verbally) out of their own frustrations because "I already have kids"... I have had other infertile women KICK ME OUT OF ONLINE SUPPORT GROUPS because "I only used Follistim"... I won't be naive and pretend that I'm not grateful that Justin and I have one of the least invasive routes of infertility, but it is still an extra step to expand our family. It is still infertility. If you made it through all of that, I want to first say: Thank you. This isn't an easy subject at all and I know all around the world hearts are broken and hope is being held onto because really at the end of the day we all just want to be able to experience parenthood. If you feel ill-informed, I encourage you to ask questions, visit and try to be supportive when you can to those that are going through it.

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