It appears that these posts have essentially been long form versions of journal entries. I had different ideas of what I wanted this blog to become. But, here we are. I haven’t talked much about our infertility and TTC journey here. But, you can easily find updates on my Twitter feed. I have been pretty open there about my experiences and our infertility journey.
While I wanted this blog to offer a lot of tips and tricks for different things in life, I have found that I have not been doing much besides sharing my experiences. However, I do believe that my experiences and lessons can be very helpful for others who may be going through similar situations. So, while these posts may be different that expected, hopefully you will see more of them in the future. Also, I hope that this is relatable and helpful for others.
Infertility and TTC for Two Years
2021 has already proven to be a rough year for everyone. And March is normally a busy month in our household. My husband’s birthday is St. Patrick’s Day and historically, it was a time where we would start to venture outside and start our adventure season. March of 2020 was a HUGE deal in several ways. We had closed on the new house and officially moved into it on March 14th. Then, March 16, 2020 EVERYTHING shut down for the beginning of “two weeks to slow the spread”. We just celebrated the one-year anniversary of that the other day. Is anyone else back to normal like the powers that be promised? No? Yeah, neither are we. But Texas is fully open again finally.
This month is also a rough one for me. This month marked two years since we were both cleared as good candidates to have a baby. Our doctor ran all the normal blood work to see if we were healthy, conducted all the exams and said we were good to go. Hubby needed a Tdap booster, and I needed an MMR booster.
Two years later and we are finally being seen by a specialist to see why we are struggling. We are officially working through infertility.
What We Were Doing
When we were given the clearance to start trying for a baby, we were told that we did not need to see a specialist for anything until after a year of trying with no success. But we were encouraged to start taking vitamins to help with conception and help with development whenever I did end up pregnant. Our doctor also advised us on some dietary changes. I wrote a previous post when we first started out with what our plan was (here), but we definitely took it a few steps further after we broke the one-year mark.
Hubby and I are now on several additional vitamins. After all kinds of research, we are both on CoQ10, L-Carnitine and vitamin C supplements (please be sure to talk with a doctor before starting any new supplements). All three are good for our reproductive health. Hubby is also on a multi-vitamin, probiotic for men and fish oil with DHA and EPA. I am taking a prenatal multivitamin as well as a prenatal probiotic, and fish oil with DHA and EPA. All of our vitamins either come from all-natural brands like MegaFood, Garden of Life, or Care/of. Again, with a lot of research, we made the decision to go as natural as possible with our vitamins. We have also taken a lot of things out of our diet all together.
We are slowly taking processed foods out of our pantry. This has been a little difficult this last year as we bought some things in bulk to prepare for the pandemic. We didn’t want to just throw it out. So, as we run out of something, we buy a cleaner and/or organic option. Thankfully, our budget allows us to buy a lot of organic foods. Any produce where we eat the peel or essentially the whole piece, we buy organic for sure. We have a local butcher shop in our new little town that we go to and the meat there are amazing. HEB also has great options for grass fed, all-natural meats that we buy regularly as well.
We do still buy pre-packaged foods, but I try my best to avoid soy and any oil that isn’t olive oil and other added preservatives. But there are just some things that we enjoy and are working to make them just treats every once in a while.
We have also cut down our sugar intake quite a bit. Soda consumption has been cut, we making more foods from scratch or buying products with no or little added sugars. We also are avoiding all artificial sweeteners. We are avoiding stevia as well because I read that it may have contraceptive abilities. At the moment, we are doing our best to only consume real sugar and monk fruit, just not a whole lot of either.
We have previously been tested for most of the food sensitivities as well and we know we don’t react to carbs or anything like that. Celiac disease foes run in my family, so we wanted to look into that long ago.
Caffeine and caffeinated sodas are my downfall. I remember when I was in college, I would drink so much coffee and caffeinated drinks to stay awake and focused to get through my school work. Caffeine was easily a part of my daily routine…and a lot of it too. When we started TTC, I did some research and learned that excessive caffeine consumption can affect egg health AND it can increase the risk of miscarriage once a woman is pregnant. So, I have significantly cut my intake. Coffee is a treat now and I only drink it in the first half of my cycle. Once ovulation has happened, I will avoid most caffeine. I do still drink green tea as it can help with progesterone production, but the caffeine there is minimal.
Gone Plastic Free
Through research I have learned that plastics often have a lot of chemicals that can cause endocrine disruptions. That can often affect hormone levels and cause infertility. The chemicals are also carcinogenic. So, we are working on being as plastic free as possible. 90%+ of all of our food storage containers are glass or silicone. Our pots and pans are slowly being transitioned into all stainless steel or cast iron. No more non-stick coated pans for us. We are transitioning to solid bars of body wash and shampoos. We have stainless steel water bottles to drink from and use our filtered tap water (thankfully our local water company does not add fluoride either).
Unfortunately, many of the products sold in stores are in plastic containers. So, we do our best to actively buy products that ensure BPA free packaging and move our food over to another type of storage whenever possible.
Clean Personal Care
Even before TTC, I have been working on cleaning up my personal care products. I always buy from cruelty free brands and avoid anything made in China. I have been slowly adding ingredients to the list of what to avoid that I will eventually be only using berries, clay, and ash for my makeup products. But I am okay with that. In the long run, my skin and body will thank me for it later on.
There is no salicylic acid nor other BHA, AHA nor retinols in any of my products just to be safe for when I do eventually get pregnant. These are all great ingredients for the skin, but research shows that they could cause damage to developing fetuses. So, I’d rather avoid them during this season just to be safe.
Hubby and I have gone aluminum free for deodorant to avoid heavy metals in our systems. I think it is a benefit for TTC, but it will also help reduce the risk of lymphatic cancers as well as early onset Alzheimer’s.
I will go into further depth about different ingredients in beauty and skin care products in a later post. But, it is safe to say that anything that even has a hint of toxicity is either already out of our house, or is next on the list to be re-evaluated.
Clean Household Products
Our household products are not safe from re-evaluation either. I will admit that we will always have bleach in the house. There are just some things that I feel like will always call for bleach. We have taken very seriously when it comes to what we are exposed to as well as furry and little feet in the future. For our floors, we use cleaners made from hydrogen peroxide or vinegar. Lysol is still used in the house, but sparingly. Generally, for air fresheners, we use Fresh Wave as they are safe for dogs and little ones. I love the idea of essential oils for air fresheners, but you really need to be careful about essential oils and pets. Be sure everything you use is safe for all members of the family.
I recently learned that paraffin wax candles can throw carcinogenic toxins in the air that can affect all members of the family and cause endocrine disturbances. Ooof. That isn’t healthy for anyone at any time. But it definitely isn’t good for people who are trying to have a baby.
The next thing on the list is our laundry detergents. I already use Mrs. Meyer’s for fabric softener because it smells amazing! The detergent is going to be a hard one to change because our household has some skin issues. We currently use Tide Free & Clear, and no one reacts to it. So, it will be really hard to change out as it could cause rashes. So, we shall see.
So, my and hubby’s mental health has been on quite the rollercoaster since our TTC journey started. Our mental health took a hard hit in the beginning of lockdown because everything we loved was closed. We were season pass holders to SeaWorld and would go a couple of times a month during the warmer months and that wasn’t an option for us. Our only real way out of the house for months was to walk around our neighborhood, and that just wasn’t the same for us at all. Thankfully we had several ways to still stay connected to our friends. We were able to play Xbox with them weekly and that really helped with our morale.
When it comes to TTC, we have a mental health cycle that seems to correlate with mine. Every time I hit my fertility window, we are super optimistic and geared up to make sure that cycle is THE cycle where we are successful. Then, during the two week wait we are kind of on edge. We try to stay optimistic, but the waiting just gets to us both every single time. I can barely wait 10 days before I start testing. Every single month I will test for four days and see nothing but indents, evap lines or straight up negative tests.
When AF does show her ugly face every cycle, we both have a day or two of sadness and disappointment. Some months I am at peace knowing that we will be parents one day. Other months I am just completely devastated and feel so helpless about it all. I end up so wrapped up in my feelings, I sometimes forget to check in on my husband. Something I really do need to work on. But, whenever I do ask how he is feeling, he is vague about his feelings. I sense that it is because he doesn’t want to add to burden me anymore. I appreciate that, but he does need to be able to tell me his thoughts and feelings. Bottling it all up is not healthy.
Finally Seeing a Specialist for Infertility
Our one-year mark of TTC hit the same time as the lockdowns. All of the clinics were closed for non-emergency visits. Doctors weren’t taking new patients at all and I was unaware of any of the doctors even taking virtual appointments. Even if they did, radiology clinics and labs weren’t doing much for anything that wasn’t an emergency. So, we were kind of stuck. In the early days of the pandemic, we also decided to take a more relaxed approach to TTC because we weren’t quite sure what was going to happen or how bad it was going to be.
Come July, things in Texas were starting to open up more and more and we were feeling a lot more at ease with going into the hospitals, clinics and everywhere else for that matter. So, we amped up our TTC routine again and were actively working towards getting that referral. I scheduled an appointment for a physical in July but was not seen until September for a virtual visit. We went in for labs and met with the doctor through facetime. All our blood work was normal, and she made a referral for me to see a fertility specialist.
As soon as the referral went through, I called and scheduled an appointment. The earliest I could get in was end of October. Fine, that works. There are still a lot of safety measures in place, I get it. Three days before my appointment, the clinic called me and said they had to cancel as the doctor had a medical emergency and would be out of the office. But they couldn’t reschedule because they weren’t sure when he would be back in the clinic. Okay. Two weeks pass and I have heard nothing from the clinic. I tried calling them and no answer. I left messages with no responses.
It was a month after my original appointment that I finally found that the doctor decided to retire…immediately. I really hope that he and his family are all okay. But, I was so frustrated that no one from the clinic called me to let me know. I guess that was because I technically wasn’t an established patient. I’m not sure, but I was just sitting there twiddling my thumbs for a month waiting to be able to schedule an appointment.
Thankfully, I have an amazing primary care physician and she happily sent another referral. This time to an OBGYN. Not just that, but to one of the best rated OBGYNs in the city. My PCP is really great about that. When hubby had to go to see an ENT, she sent us to the best ENT in the city as well. We are so thankful that our insurance allows us to see these great doctors.
I met my new doctor on Election Day. There’s no real significance there. That is just that was when I finally was able to be seen. He is really personable, compassionate, and straightforward and I appreciate that a lot. He doesn’t sugar coat things, but he also isn’t there to make anyone feel unnecessarily bad about anything. In that first visit, I knew I was in the right place and ready to get things started. He had a whole game plan set up for hubby and I to get done. It is almost as if he does this often or something.
Even though my PCP ran blood work to look at our overall health, the OBGYN has a set of tests to run to get a clearer picture to understand why we haven’t had any luck conceiving yet.
So, after my initial visit, my doctor ordered some basic blood work as a baseline assessment. He looked at my AMH, FSH and Prolactin levels. All were within range. So, next he ordered a trans-vaginal ultrasound to take a look at all the inner workings of my reproductive organs. Everything there came out normal as well. So, then it was finally time to take a look at hubby. The doctor ordered a semen analysis to see if his counts were within range and if his sperm were healthy.
The good news is that hubby passed, and everything is good on his side. The bad news is that means our infertility is coming from my end. That also meant that it was time for more diagnostic testing.
The Bump in the Road
After hubby’s test came back normal, the doctor wanted to start looking at me again. The next step is an HSG. This is another test to look at my anatomy again, this time with contrast. While my ultrasound came back normal, it does not show very well if there is really something wrong with the anatomy or if something is blocked and that is why we have not been able to conceive yet. Unfortunately, this test is a touch more invasive and cause quite a bit of discomfort. As for the invasive part, it isn’t that much worse than going in for a Pap test. But, then a catheter is inserted to dilate the cervix and contrast is inserted into the uterus. The contrast is supposed to fill the uterus and spill out through the fallopian tubes. While this is happening, a technician is taking x-rays to catch the progression.
The test itself is rather quick. It didn’t last any longer than five minutes. But I will tell you, it is really uncomfortable the entire time. I do have a rather high pain tolerance, but this was not pleasant at all. But, what made it so bad was that I couldn’t move. I couldn’t do anything to readjust to help make the pain go a way for handle it better. I don’t mean to scare anyone. But, just be prepared if you are due for this test. It is so worth it to start getting answers.
Take some ibuprofen an hour before and it will help a lot. That was what a lot of ladies recommended to me and I didn’t do it. Ooops. That was because I was so nervous about the test and just couldn’t eat anything. So, I didn’t take anything to avoid upsetting my stomach. If I had something in my system, it probably would have hurt less.
As soon as the test was finished and before I was even off of the x-ray table, the doctor asked if I wanted to see the images. The answer was yes, of course. I was so nervous about the results that waiting to talk with my OBGYN was not really an option for me. The doctor pulled the images up and showed me what happened during the test. It was there plain as day that contrast did not spill out of my left fallopian tube.
I was still recuperating from the discomfort of the test, but I also just felt gutted to find out that I could have a block. The doctor did say that at an initial look, he can’t say that there is a blockage and that fallopian tubes can just close on their own sometimes and open up during ovulation. What?! Seriously? I learn something new every day.
I walked out still feeling uncomfortable and still rather hopeful. The rest of the day, hubby (who took the whole day off) waited on me and ensured I stayed in bed because I just felt really cruddy the rest of the day. We had Chinese take-out and watched movies that night. The next day I was feeling better, but still had to take it easy. By day two, I was completely back to normal.
The Official Results
The next business day, I requested a copy of the written results and I took a look at them. I am not completely sure what I was looking at, but curiosity got the best of me. According to the radiologist who looked at the images in better detail saw that I have two diverticula on my left fallopian tube. Aside from knowing that is a sort of blockage, I have no idea what that means. I have no idea what would cause them either. I have never had an STD, other infection, trauma, surgery or known disorder that would cause these blockages. So, I will have to talk with my doctor to see what he thinks about the results and go from there. But, knowing that there is a block really just makes me feel so defeated about all of this.
At this very moment, I am not sure what exactly will be the next step or steps in our journey. I still have two weeks before I can see the OBGYN to discuss what to do next. From previous discussions and through my own research, there are still a lot of options for us. There are fertility medicines that can help increase our chances. If the doctor thinks it is necessary and will increase our odds, he may also recommend surgery to verify and possibly remove the blocks in my fallopian tube. But he may not be too hasty in that as my uterus and right side are perfectly normal. We will just have to see.
Until then, hubby and I will continue to do what we have normally done and hope for the best. People have told me over and over that I will be more fertile now for the next three to six cycles. Many women become pregnant within that time after the test. Some believe that the contrast actually helps open the fallopian tubes and allow for egg and sperm to meet a lot easier than before. So, we are hopeful still.
Infertility is such a tough thing to go through when all you want is to have a baby. It is so important for couples to be aware of their health and for women in particular to be aware of their bodies and speak with a doctor whenever a concern arises. A lot of couples need help conceiving and there is no shame in that. If there is a concern that you might be struggling with infertility, be sure to speak with your doctor and request a referral to a specialist that can help you start your family. There are so many reasons why a couple could be struggling with infertility and so many things can be easily remedied. Infertility can be a long journey for some couples, but the end result is so worth it.
If you are struggling with infertility too, I know how hard it can be, but stay positive and know that you are one day closer to becoming a parent.