Fertility hindsight is always worth passing on. Here, IVF babble co founder Tracey Bambrough shares her story and her own fertility hindsight
Having been through so much to eventually become pregnant on the wrong side of 45, I wanted to share with you some of the obstacles I came across and explain what helped me achieve parenthood, against the less than 2% odds.
I wasted so many childbearing years because I didn’t have any knowledge of what could be causing my issues to conceive. When I did see three gynaecologists I wasn’t offered any specific blood tests or any other investigative tests. I was told an ache I had in my lower abdomen was a digestive issue – and even dismissed because of my age!!
Tragically I suffered an ectopic pregnancy and multiple miscarriages and then failed my first IVF attempt. I decided I would deal with my second, and final IVF attempt, with a totally different mind-frame.
Here I have listed my advice based on my experience and I hope it helps with your decision making too. As I say, please don’t make my mistake and wait until it’s almost too late.
The importance of blood tests
After 6-12 months of trying unsuccessfully to conceive, it is absolutely imperative you speak to your doctor and have relevant blood tests and scans, whatever age you are. There’s a whole gamut of things that could be causing you to not be able to conceive, with a simple resolution once the issue has been diagnosed.
Blood tests will check your hormone levels, detect the quantity of the eggs you have left and give an indication your chances of conception.
When I was finally investigated with the correct blood tests, my consultant discovered that my thyroid level was too high and my progesterone was quite low.
Since a child, I have had digestive issues and at times a bloated tummy but had always been told it was IBS. However, following a simple blood test by my IVF consultant, we discovered I had a thyroid imbalance which can cause infertility along with digestive issues! With levothyroxine given to me to balance my thyroid levels, my issues disappeared!!
I had no idea at any point prior to having this test how incredibly important it is for your thyroid to measure between 1-2.5 to aid conception let alone the impact an over or under active thyroid can have on your body.
Finding out that I had low levels of progesterone, I began to take supplements, but it was later on, post transfer that I truly realised the importance of progesterone.
When I started bleeding in the first 2 weeks of pregnancy, I was concerned I was miscarrying. I immediately injected the progesterone oil that was given to me in a pack in case I started spotting, as well as the pessary I had already been given to take. Incredibly it stopped the spotting. I continued using them until 16 weeks.
Doctors say that post 12 weeks it isn’t necessary to continue with progesterone as the uterus takes over in the production of this hormone at that point, however, I did continue using it regardless for a few weeks post this.
I completely believe Progesterone helped me to not only help the embryos to implant.
The importance of scans
Equally as important as the blood tests, is a scan to check your uterus is healthy and doesn’t have any obstructions such as polyps, fibroids, scar tissue or adhesions, which can all go totally unnoticed and also without symptoms, to indicate an issue . . . equally to ensure your fallopian tubes are clear and not blocked. A hysterosalpingogram [HSG] can do this.
Ensuring your fallopian tubes are clear is so important, even with IVF . . . the liquid from a blocked fallopian tube can be like a poison and infiltrate the uterus and generally make it a very unpleasant environment for any embryo to want to embed! Even just to clear your tubes may give you the chance of getting pregnant naturally.
Ahead of my second IVF, I had a scan and it was found that I had a lump which ended up being a polyp, this was removed ahead of going ahead with my final IVF.
Since starting my period as a child of 10 years, I would spend the first day or two of each period in agony, sometimes almost fainting because of severe pain. I thought it was just how it was. Even travelling to work on a crowded train in my 30s I remember having to get off a train at an earlier stop than I should have to sit on a bench on the platform with my head between my knees because of the severe pain I was in. It was 30 years on from my 10 year old self, following a laporoscopy, that I discovered I had endometriosis.
At 41 I suffered an ectopic pregnancy which blocked one of my fallopian tubes and from then on would have lower abdominal sharp pain on and off. My GP was amazing and referred me to a couple of gynaecologists, but no one picked up on anything. It was only when I saw the incredible IVF consultant, Geoffrey Trew, and explained my history, that he sent me for a hysteropingogram which confirmed his thoughts – I had a blocked tube resulting from the ectopic and a polyp in my uterus.
The importance of semen analysis
In amongst all this, let’s also not forget that your partner should get tested too! Either one or both of you may have issues that can be resolved with treatment or as simple as change of diet. My husband, Ben, was tested and there was a slight issue which was treatable through supplements and upping his selenium intake, which he did through brazil nuts!
A possible indication of your childbearing timeline
I feel compelled to mention that I would suggest you should perhaps find out from your mother when she went through the menopause, if she has as yet.
My mother went through the menopause in her late 50s and for me that was a blessing, which means that there was a chance I would have the ability to have healthier eggs for longer and have a chance, however small, of getting pregnant a little later in life.
My grandmother had a couple of her children in her 40’s too. Again a good indicator. It absolutely doesn’t always mean that you will follow your mother’s genetics in this way, but it can be an indicator for some and having this knowledge, whatever age you are, can give you the strength to go your doctor and to have an AMH blood test which gives you an indication of your egg quantity. It also then gives you the power to make the decision to freeze some of your eggs for when you’re ready, or the option and time to consider other alternatives.
The route to parenthood can be harsh, emotional, physically and mentally tiring and can impact your relationship too. Don’t lose sight of the fact there are many ways to achieve your wish. If one route isn’t working, consider another. Take a step back and analyse the circumstances – if you’re not happy with your consultant, go see another one, but ALWAYS ensure you have had all relevant tests.
And remember – DIAGNOSIS REALLY IS KEY.
Would you like to share your fertility hindsight? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org