John and I met in 2006 through a mutual friend. We went on our first date and just clicked. Both of us were recovering from heartbreaking ends to previously relationships. Four months later we were engaged, everyone thought we were insane, but we just knew. We were married in October of 2007 and start our journey as a couple. I was 25 and he was 32, starting a family just wasn’t in our plans; after all we had plenty of time. I was working full-time as a school teacher, working on my masters degree, and cheering on The Roar. John was working as the Director of Tennis and Fitness at a local country club. We throughly enjoyed our time as a couple. We began kicking around the idea of starting a family in late 2011, but nothing serious. In March of 2012, we went on a last minute trip to Miami to visit the very friend who introduced us to one another and had the time of our lives. On the way home, we resurrected our family conversation and decided that we were finally ready after 5 years of marriage. I was 29 and John was 36.
I stopped taking my birth control, had one regular period, and when it was time for the 2nd period and it didn’t come I was super excited; until the negative test. The next month came and I still didn’t have a period. I found it a little strange, but thought, “Maybe it’s my body just adjusting. No big deal. My annual is June. I’ll ask then.” In June, I went to my doctor and had everything checked out. Everything came back fine, he said, “Give it until August. Your body is just adjusting.”
August came and went still no period. I called my doctor and he decided to run a bunch of tests; everything came back fine. So he said, “Okay, lets wait until the end of October. In the meantime, have your husband go have his sperm checked.” John went and got checked out during this time. Everything came back perfectly normal. But, October 2012 came and went; same story. At this point my doctor decided to start my period with progesterone and coupled with Clomid. Seven months later, I still wasn’t pregnant.
In June of 2013, we decided to begin seeing a fertility specialist. He ran a bunch of blood work, everything was fine. Then, he did an HSG, one tube was completely clear and the other was inconclusive. His response was, “Well, we could do a laparoscopy and have a look, but I don’t think it necessary since you’ve never had any endometriosis symptoms. So, mostly like you are just sensitive to the dye. Let’s test your husband again since he’s older (he was 38 at the time).” Everything came back normal, in fact they said his results were that of a man in his mid-20s. They said, “Well, we really aren’t sure what’s going on. We can’t find anything. Let continue with the progesterone, but instead of Clomid we will use Letrozol, an ovulation trigger shot, and IUI.” Did that twice, July and August…still no baby. By now, John and I were extremely frustrated and we decided to chill; take a couple months and decide from there. In the meantime, I started looking for another specialist since I was less than pleased with our current one.
I talked to a lot of people and everyone kept recommending JCRM. John and I decided we would try again with a new doctor. We had our first appointment with Dr. Fox on Nov 6, 2013; my 31st birthday. He reviewed all our files and then started with some rather interesting questions for me: Are you an athlete? Yes, I run, dance, do yoga, weight train, etc. Do you eat a low fat diet? Of course, always have. Have you always been super active? Yes. What sports did you play in elementary, middle, and high? Gave him the exhaustive list. When did you start you first period? 14. Why did you go in Birth Control at 16? Irregular periods.
Noticing a trend here??
The questions continued: Does your family have a history of diabetes? Yes.
After a very long conversation Dr. Fox said, “Okay, first thing I want to do is a laparoscopy, just to look around. Then, I want to do a 3 hour blood glucose screen with an insulin test. Despite the fact that you are very thin, you can still have issues, especially eat a low fat diet. I also want to run some deeper tests on your hormone levels. What I think we are going to find is a combination of things. You may have some mild endometriosis even though you’re asymptomatic. There may also be some insulin-resistance considering you genetics. But, the big culprit is most likely a hypothalamic dysfunction.” I said, “A what?? Never heard of it before.” Dr. Fox explained to me that most people haven’t since its relatively new and is just surfacing with those of us who grew up in the 80s and early to mid 90s.”
He explained that prior 1980 there weren’t gyms on every corner, 5Ks and marathons every weekend, Zumba classes, yoga classes, etc. People still worked out, but nowhere near the extent to which we do now. As a result, they are seeing is a huge increase in infertility rate in female athletes. Why? Hypothalamic Dysfunction.
For those who don’t know: The two hormones responsible for stimulating ovulation each month — follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) — are produced by the pituitary gland in a specific pattern during the menstrual cycle. Excess physical or emotional stress, very low body weight, or a recent substantial weight gain or loss can disrupt this pattern and affect ovulation. Female athletes typically have low body weight and/or body fat, plus we put our bodies under excessive physiological stress. This causes infertility for some us.
In that day, we scheduled my surgery for the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and I went yet another round of blood work. December rolled around and my follow-up appointment was set for December 16th, 2013. My husband couldn’t go because of work, but my mom came with me. No offense to my dear husband, but this turned out to be a good thing.
My diagnoses: mild endometriosis, mild hyperinsulinemia/hypoglycemia, and a hypothalamic dysfunction. Dr. Fox explained that he cleared out the endometriosis during surgery. As for everything else, he place me on a high fat/high protein/low card diet (30 net carbs per day), an estrogen patch, and told me to dial my workout schedule way back. I could walk, do yoga, and do slow burn weight training, but that was it.
Between January and March 2014, we did three rounds of pills and injections with natural timed intercourse. I was on progesterone, Letrozol, Gonal-F shots and an Pregnyl (ovulation trigger shot); ultrasounds almost every week, it was insane…and nothing…by now the strain, emotionally and financially was beginning to take its toll on our previously strong marriage.
In April, Dr. Fox said we could do another round of our previous or we could do IVF. When I asked about the possibility of another IUI, he said we could, but most likely wouldn’t make a difference since there wasn’t a male factor. We weighed the pro and cons of each, but left without making a decision because I had personal, moral issues with IVF. I felt it was too much like playing God. We took the months of April and May to focus on patching up our marriage and weighing options.
As for my personal , moral issues, my grandmother suggested I speak with I spoke youth minister at my church. Come to find out, that’s how she had her daughter. I felt a lot better after that. But, that still didn’t solve the financial burden. Interestingly enough, my insurance paid for all the diagnostics and even paid some of my meds for the ovulation cycles. Still, we had already spent a small fortune and IVF is expensive. We spoke with our families and they agreed to help us out.
We took that final step and started the IVF stuff in June. I went back on birth control and metformin. After my July period we started the pills and injections. There was a lot of medication, I had to give myself injections twice a day, ultrasounds every week, etc. When the time finally came, Dr. Lipari took over. During on of my final ultrasounds, he got a little uncomfortable with all the follicles on my ovaries and dialed back my meds. He had me come back like two days later and he was still uncomfortable. I was on the verge of hyperstimulating, which can cause major issues. Dr. Lipari ended up triggering me a day early with a different protocol than originally planned. Two day later on Saturday, July 19th they did the egg retrieval surgery. While I was in surgery, my husband was upstairs making his donation to the cause. They harvested 12 eggs and did a fresh fertilization that day. I received a call the next morning that 11 of the 12 eggs had fertilized and five days later I had 7 blastocyst embryos and went in that afternoon for the transfer.
Initially, John and I wanted to transfer two embryos, but Dr. Lipari and the embryologist Gary advised against it. Apparently, my embryos were about as high a score as you could get. If we just transferred 1 the success rate was 52% with a 1% chance of twins. If we transferred 2, it would only increase my success rate to 60%, but gave me a 42% chance of twins. Needless to say, we went with 1 and froze the others. Then, the two week wait…which was the worst.
I couldn’t hold out, so on Saturday August 2nd I did what you aren’t suppose to and took a home pregnancy test. It came back positive. John and I kept our excitement in check and the information to ourselves. On Monday, August 4th I went in for a blood test. At 2:30 that afternoon, I received a phone call confirming the pregnancy. We had our first ultrasound on August 14th which continued every week until October 2nd , at which time I was released back to my OB and he took over from there.
Now, I am 32 weeks along with just 8 weeks to go. Baby Patrick is expected to make his debut on April 11th.
What I want women out there to know is…don’t lose faith. There are those of us who have been where you are and we know the pain all too well. But, we are here for you and are keeping you in our prayers.