INFERTILITY / IVF TALK

My Infertility Journal, Part 1: The Journey to Unexplained Infertility

Megan Tansom | April 16, 2019

My husband Ryan and I have been together now for over 12 years. The first 2-3 years we were in college, we got married in 2011, we got a black lab in 2012 (obviously the next step after marriage), and we started trying for a baby in 2012 as well. We went an entire year before seeking fertility help as that is what I was told by my current OBGYN. In 2013 we had lots of tests completed. Ryan had a procedure done and we started looking at how we could move forward from there. 2014 and 2015 were filled with lots of fertility meds and intrauterine insemination procedures which is where my journal starts.

I started writing down my thoughts and feelings during this process which I have now split up into several posts. Because it is from my actual journal, you will see I am using present tense as I was writing things down as they happened. I also added additional explaination of the process and terms so you will also see me talking about it in that perspective. Here is my first infertility journal post. Warning – I was pretty emotional during some of these posts and I also am in no way, shape, or form a trained medical professional – so if some of the terms are not completely correct, forgive me.

Also, the photo above is my sister-in-law, Alex, and I at a family Thanksgiving. When you are with someone (or married) for awhile, it is natural for your family and friends to ask when you are going to get married or have a baby. When we planned this she wasn’t engaged but she had to go on and ruin it and get a ring that week. 🙂 I don’t believe anyone asks these questions to be hurtful but sometimes that is the outcome when people don’t know what you are going through. I thought it would be funny to just put our truth out there (actually wear it) so our family didn’t have to secretly watch if I was drinking or not. I truly did find humor in the sign but also it was sad at the same time since we were at the start of this journey and did so wish we were pregnant. 

First journal entry from early 2015 which I labeled “The Process” – 

Yes, it has been a process. I don’t feel like journey is the right term yet. We have been trying for a child for almost 3 years now. We thought it would come easy. It seems to for everyone else. After about a year, we started to get some testing done. They (doctors I guess) make you wait at least a year at our age. We were around 26-years-old then. We were young, we have time, at least we weren’t pushing 40 trying to have kids, right? This is some of the super helpful advice or thoughts we got from people. In all honesty, we probably weren’t ready right away. We ARE young, but that just isn’t something a couple struggling with infertility wants to hear. I feel as though we are over ready and still waiting now.

Initially we did preliminary tests and a semen analysis. Yep, exactly what you think. People all up in our business checking things out Ryan doing some things he never thought he would in a clinic room. My “numbers” seemed to come back normal (whatever that meant) and Ryan’s were sperm count and mobility were a bit low. I had an HSG procedure complete, or a hysterosalpingogram. Basically, under observation of a radiologist, my uterus and fallopian tubes were filled with a contrast to see if they were functioning correctly. Sometimes women have a blockage here so the egg can’t pass or something else funky going on. I saw the contrast shoot right through meaning mine results came back “normal” and functioning. I should have taken that as good news, but our infertility was still unexplained at this point.

With Ryan’s numbers and state of the varicose veins wrapped around some important parts of the baby making anatomy, we decided he should have varicocele surgery. Not fun, but at least we thought we might have our answer. Fix the varicose veins in his nether regions and his numbers would improve. We would be good to go! Right? Nope.

Semen analysis: A sperm analysis involves checking a sample of semen for overall sperm health.The process can help doctors to determine the underlying cause of a person’s inability to conceive. (Medical News Today)

 

Hysterosalipingogram: A hysterosalpingogram (HSG) is a procedure that uses an X-ray to look at your fallopian tubes and uterus. (WebMD). Check out more about what is done and how it is done here.

 

Varicocele: A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins within the loose bag of skin that holds your testicles (scrotum). A varicocele is similar to a varicose vein you might see in your leg. Varicoceles are a common cause of low sperm production and decreased sperm quality, which can cause infertility. (Mayo Clinic). Learn more here.

Ryan’s surgery and recovery were a bit rough. WAY more rough than his man colds (he is super healthy and doesn’t get sick often but when he does, o man… The world is ending). During this time, my OBGYN that I had been seeing since my teen years, left his practice. RIGHT when we needed a doc we trusted the most. We called a local OB that a few of my friends and coworkers recommended and told them we were having issues getting pregnant. They scheduled an ultrasound with a Physician’s Assistant since “they are the ones that handle infertility” at their practice. Sounds good. I didn’t know any better. Looking back now, we should have gone directly to a specialist, a Reproductive Endocrinologist, but how would we know that? I relied on the OB to tell/guide us and that proved to be a mistake. Side note – I know a lot of people going through infertility that have success with and love their OBGYN. I am not saying you shouldn’t talk to your own doc or go through the process with them, just telling my experience.

After our second IUI, I started to question their process and communication with us. I never got all the information I asked for and the PA didn’t seem to be able to answer my simple question about sperm counts or the procedure. She took offense when I asked her if we should go to a specialist and not do round three with them. Obviously, something wasn’t working. I couldn’t get an appointment with Dr. Corfman at Midwest Center for Reproductive Health until late July (2015) so we went ahead with our third (and worst) IUI. After that, we were done with that place.

Maybe our three intrauterine inseminations at the OB were legit, but they sure did hurt. I almost passed out and reacted terribly to the third. This, later I found out, should almost never happen. If the PA was trained correctly, the procedures should be relatively painless. Again, I didn’t know any better. Thankfully after three rounds they recommended we see a specialist anyway.

More on that next time.

IUI: Intrauterine insemination (IUI) is a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman’s uterus to facilitate fertilization. The goal of IUI is to increase the number of sperm that reach the fallopian tubes and subsequently increase the chance of fertilization. (American Pregnancy Association). Learn more about the technical aspects of an IUI here.

 

Reproductive Endocrinologist: A reproductive endocrinologist, sometimes referred to as an RE, is an obstetrician/gynecologist (OB/GYN) physician specialist who has completed a three-year fellowship of intense training in various aspects of endocrine disorders related to the reproductive system in both males and females. One area in which these doctors apply their skills is infertility. (Selwyn Oskowitz MD, American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists). Learn more about the role of an RE here.

REFLECTION TODAY: Looking back now at this first post of my journal, I can remember how CONFUSED I was during this whole process. There was no one there to tell me what to do, what to expect, where to go, or what path to take. I felt very alone and just pretty helpless. I am a “get it done” type of person so having no real answers was really hard for me. I titled this “The Journey to Unexplained Infertility” because technically after a year of trying you are deemed “infertile” and after three IUI attempts and medications, we still didn’t have a reason. I just wanted that REASON. There had to be one. Yes, Ryan had his surgery but that was more to help our chances and not necessarily THE REASON. Also with IUI it kind of takes away the motility/mobility factor so WHY wasn’t it working?! We were put into the “unexplained infertility” category which is an annoying and even more confusing place to be. We spent thousands of dollars (insurance took a back seat after we were labeled infertile) and we still didn’t have anything to show for our years of trying… not even an explanation.

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