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A Real-Life Interview on Achieving Pregnancy With Infertility

A Real-Life Interview on Achieving Pregnancy With Infertility

Kindara | April 21, 2021 | trying to conceive
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Infertility is an experience that can be full of frustration and isolation. Like menstruation and menopause, it's also something that's stigmatized by society at large, and therefore often goes undiscussed, even though it's incredibly common —1 in 8 couples have trouble getting pregnant, and 7.4 million women of reproductive age have sought help from a health care provider in order to conceive (1). 

In recognition of National Infertility Awareness (April 18-24), we're elevating the voices of women who have lived with infertility, and asking them what they want folks to know about their experiences. Leslie, a 34-year-old writer from New Hampshire who's currently pregnant with her third child via IVF, spoke with us about her story. 

When did you first know or suspect that something might be going on in regard to your fertility? 

Leslie: There's a legend in my family about the extreme fertility of the women, so I expected it to be easy to get pregnant. I'd been on a low-dose of birth control for many years to deal with my heavy periods, so I had no idea what my actual cycle would look like when I stopped taking it at 28, but my cycle started lengthening; I'd have 120-day cycle, then a 20-something day period, so I went to the doctor. 

What did you learn about your fertility? 

Leslie: Both of my fallopian tubes were blocked, so there was a really low possibility of conceiving naturally. I was born with them that way. I'd used ovulation sticks, and at my pre-conception visit, my doctor told me that if I couldn't pinpoint a fertile window, sex every other day (which is exhausting and very not fun) should be successful. I didn't know I wasn't ovulating at all. Fertility is an area of medicine where there's no preventative care, so I didn't know about any of that before I started trying to get pregnant. You're supposed to wait a year before seeing a doctor if you're under 35 and not getting pregnant, but I say advocate for yourself, investigate if you think something is wrong, don't wait for the medical establishment. 

What were your next steps? 

Leslie: Because of the situation with my fallopian tubes, we went past IUI and straight to IVF. We froze 16 embryos, which is a lot, and went through IVF three times. Every transfer resulted in a pregnancy, which is also rare. You get a blood draw for a pregnancy test instead of a urine test, and they call to let you know the results. I had stopped having hope in order to protect myself, so I was in disbelief when they told me I was pregnant. 

The first pregnancy lasted 11.5 weeks. It turns out that I had a uterine septum, which is a wall in the middle of my uterus. If I had known about it beforehand, I would have had surgery before we started IVF. If you do have an anatomical issue, think carefully if you want to try to conceive before you have surgery. It's really easy to play the "what-if" game. 

Did insurance cover all your procedures, doctor's visits? 

Leslie: I had very good insurance, but surgery to unblock tubes isn't done, it's not effective, so that was the end of the road in regard to solving the problem outside of IVF. They told me, "if there was a surgery to solve the problem, we would cover it. 

With doctors, it comes down to being pushy. Not that you shouldn't trust doctors, but there's not a lot of science around infertility. The doctors have to design treatments for the average situation. If they treated every case as extraordinary, they'd end up paying for so many unnecessary tests to prove that the average case was exactly that. Unfortunately, I was the extraordinary case, and when I was treated like the average one, I didn’t receive the care I needed. 

You talked about the role of communication in navigating your infertility experience. Tell us about that. 

Leslie: I wasn't going to pretend to not be doing IVF, it was good to be able to say I'm overreacting and this is why - it's hard to keep it a secret, out for all these doctors appointments. Everyone's waiting with you. If it goes well, you have people who are on the journey with you. I'm a huge advocate of keeping your community as large as you want to. 

I really had to let people know what was going on. There were so many doctor's appointments, and the drugs I took before the embryo transfer made me crazy. Talking about it kept me sane. And we're not allowed to talk about, we're not even supposed to talk about what we experience in pregnancy, in menopause. You're not alone, but you don't know that. Deciding that that was b******* was extremely important for me. When I talked about it with people, it opened a door for them to talk about their own experience. You feel less alone checking your cervical mucus and your basal body temperature, trying to figure out what's going on.

Kindara can connect you with a supportive community of others who are learning about their bodies, their reproductive health, and their options when it comes to infertility (and more). You can read Caitlin's story of how the women she met kept her sane while she navigated her infertility journey.

About the interviewer

Chanel Dubofsky's writing on gender, reproductive health, popular culture, and religion, can be found in New York Magazine, Lilith, Rewire, Modern Fertility, Cosmopolitan, and others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Instagram at cdubofsky.

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