This is a post I’ve been wanting to put together for a long time. It’s one of those post I thought of before I even started this blog. My husband and I experienced a path of trying to conceive that could have gone so many different directions, and I want to write/share about why we chose the way we went. Also, why I would encourage those having a delay in conceiving, to question each next step and maybe not just follow directions…but listen to your gut.
I want to start by giving a little bit of background on my stance on the modern day Western medical field. I grew up in the suburbs with a normal family and way of life. Immunizations, you bet (still think so). You got sick, you went to the “normal” doctor, you got some medicine, you got better. There was no considering Chinese medicine, Herbology, change of diet (though doctor recommended, but nobody did…) or anything like that. Just run of the mill waiting rooms, lab coats, and lolly pops at the end. I liked my doctors and continued this way through college, there was no need to think outside the box and I hadn’t gone through anything serious enough that I would need to consider other options, my docs took care of me and I was thankful for that, still am. Then we started TTC (trying to conceive), and suddenly I felt the need to question my normal.
Today, I see modern day Western medicine and the wonders & progress its made to help and save so many- I’m a believer. But, as with anything else, you always need to find what is right for YOU. Its just like working out when you’re pregnant- do what feels good for you, your body and trust your gut. Sometimes that is going to force you to stray from the usual, not only is that ok, but it might save you some grief down the line.
Now for our story and the sequence of events. We got married in Sept 2014, and honeymoon’d in July. I went off birth control in January after our wedding, and decided I wanted to take about 6 months off of it before we really “pulled the goalie.” Yeah that’s fun, condoms when you’re married- never again. Waiting 6 months- no medical reason, its shown to be fine to start trying right away after being on birth control, but since I had been on BC since I was 15, mentally, I wanted to give my body a chance to fully get re-adjusted. This came with the lovely side affects of my skin returning to its 13 yr old self, along with horrible heavy periods…break outs (bad ones), cramps and holy flow. I had cystic ance, scars and a heating pad by my side after having no issues on the BC for so long. I tried everything besides prescription cream for my face because we were TTC. I powered through it, after all this now was my “natural” self. I just accepted it because Honeymoon time was coming and that was when we decided to start “trying.” My control freak side assumed we would try, and surely within 3 months probably get pregnant. We were already envisioning telling our families around the holidays. No one in my family ever had issues TTC. I had clockwork cycles. It should be noted, I was working a full time, high paying, high stress job at the time as well- I’d been there for 4 years. My husband traveled often, but we got relatively lucky and were able to work around it most of the time. Then months started going by…3, 6, 8. Nothing, just increased disappointment each month. Then the stories came from everyone: “It took my cousin 5 years,” “My aunt adopted then got pregnant naturally,” yada yada yada. I was very aware 6-8 months wasn’t that long considering, but I also wasn’t one to sit around and “just see,” I decided to proactively get checked and start doing little things that could possibly help.
Yep, eating pineapple while ovulating, taking my temperature every day, downloading tracking apps and decided to see an awesome Herbalist that went to my gym to see if there were any supplements I could take. She was my first step outside the box (more on this below). Then, I went to the OBGYN- two of them. Blood test for my hormone levels- normal & drawn probably 4-5 different times. I honestly couldn’t keep track of what they were testing- I just put out my arm and waited for any red flag results, and paid the bills. I took Clomid 3 times- oral medication that can be used to stimulate ovulation. It works by blocking estrogen receptors at the hypothalamus, which is an important “hormonal control center” for the body. When this happens, the hypothalamus is stimulated to release follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH)– basically boost your ovulation. Then a year came around, along with a couple hopeful false alarms and the disappointment increased. My OB decided to test my AMH, which is a marker for ovarian (egg) reserve and is assessed via a blood is a marker for ovarian (egg) reserve and is assessed via a blood test. In addition, she ordered a A hysterosalpingogram (HSG) which is an X-ray test. It looks at the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes and the area around them. This is a lovely experience. Lying on a huge X-ray table, they pretty much pump x-ray dye up into your uterus to ensure the fluid is making it through to your ovaries and that all is “clear.” Sometimes because its like a “flush out,” women find they get pregnant after…no such luck- just the good memories of fluid and diaper status after…blugh, but all was well with the test. My husband also got tested, bless his heart. Even with all the bullshit I was doing to get tested, for some reason the visit he had to go through just seemed so…procedural…which seems so wrong for the circumstances. He didn’t complain once, got tested, and everything was in great shape.
Then I got a call about my AMH level. I remember I had just gotten a call from my best friend, telling me she was pregnant with #2. This was the 5th friend that had gotten pregnant within the time we were trying. Of course I was happy for her, but I also cried when I hung up, then 2min later I got the call from the doc. My AMH level was .7. WTF does that mean? “The ideal and normal AMH level for your age (31) is 2, and you’re at .7, meaning your egg reserve is low and diminishing faster than others- you’re like a 40 year old trying to get pregnant.” She recommended I see a specialist, and to jump on it quickly because now my clock was ticking. Well holy shitballs- here I was thinking after all these “normal” results, it was just taking us longer, but now I’m learning, taking us longer was because my egg supply was running out? Immediate reaction- tears, teary call to husband, Google.
Pivotal moment: Google. Search: “AMH low levels,” “Can you still get pregnant with low AMH,” and on and on. Results geared toward seeing a specialist, which then indicated an IUI or IVF. An IUI is an Intrauterine insemination (IUI) where they place 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. IVF is a more serious & expensive procedure where fertilization attempt takes place by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and then manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory dish. The embryo(s) is then transferred to the uterus. So romantic. This was terrifying, were we really at this point?!
I took a break, I backed up, I stopped freaking out- and when I say break, I mean like 2 days. I drove my 45 commute in silence, and somehow, I felt like I was thinking clearly. Logic came to my head, then I Googled more and started to come across a multitude of success stores of women who had lower AMH than me and had gotten pregnant naturally. I had 5 friends who had gotten pregnant, did they have their AMH tested? I asked them, they did not. Because they weren’t having issues, their AMH didn’t need to be tested. Do you see this issue? There is no control element to this AMH indicator because they don’t test women who get pregnant. Any one of them could have had an low AMH, and gotten pregnant, but we’ll never know. This is the point where we said no, no specialist. It was normal for my doctor to tell me to see one. After all, it was her job to send me to where she believed I could get help conceiving, and she had gotten a test result that indicated I should do so-so, of course that was what she advised. But to me, this AMH thing was not enough to bring on the stage of stress, financial and personal hardships that would come with potential IUI or IVF. My gut just said I couldn’t do it- there wasn’t enough back up that THIS was the issue, especially after hearing and reading so many stories of women with as low as .01 AMH getting pregnant naturally after they had pretty much been told they were barren.
So now what? I went and saw 1 more special nurse practitioner. She was the mother of my herbalist, and I wanted her opinion because she was educated about her daughter’s natural remedies, but obviously also the western medicine. She pretty much looked me in the eye and said AMH isn’t really an indicator anymore, too many people were successfully getting pregnant with a low level. This may have been where I found what I “wanted” to hear, but I didn’t care. A professional confirmed my thoughts. She offered , in addition to herbs, a medication if I wanted it- I couldn’t tell you what it was because I turned it down when I could see in her face that it wasn’t necessary. Then she also suggested acupuncture.
At this point, I was pretty steadfast about how a specialist wasn’t right for us at this time. I decided to revisit my herbalist, and start acupuncture. I wasn’t even sure what acupuncture was, but lots of people swear by it. To me, it was kind of amazing when I went in and she could “read” my pulses. I really couldn’t tell if this was for real or she was bullshitting me. I’m still not sure the “major” affect it has on me, its kind of like getting poked with needles (not painful) then taking a nap. I had a fertility treatment done over a course of time and started to enjoy my acupuncturist and the process- hopefully it would work.
I also started considering looking for a different career option. Though I was going to slap the next person in the face that told me to “stop stressing, that can be a serious factor.” I started to hear them. But easier said than done, like, “oh sure because you just said so, I’ll eliminate the stress from my job immediately- wow I feel better.” No. It’s like when someone tells you to “relax” when you’re pissed off. Welcome to an amplified pissed off person- reverse affect. I just had been living at the same level of stress for 4 years, and didn’t really feel like I was stressed out. The idea of making less money seemed more stressful.
I continued on for a few more months, then my husband got a new position which allowed me to explore a part time job that had peaked my interest as I was also thinking about getting involved in a start up- this way I could do both. Then finally, one day, my gut said go for it. I discussed it with my husband, we were in a place where I could make less for a little while, I could try the start up, and take the part time job to supplement- it was time and our guts said so. So I jumped, the next week, no notice, immediate resign. It was weird, scary and great all at the same time. I went to the gym right after, worked off my nerves.
I was loving the idea and opportunity my new situation presented. I worked with my herbalist and acupuncturist and continued treatment with both. A few weeks later, I was late. The hubz was out of town and I took about 4 of those Amazon pregnancy tests because I had a million. Faint line and I’m not convinced. I waited until the next morning, took 3 more, faint line. I called the doc, went in for a blood test, and holy shit I was pregnant. I needed to hear it from her, confirmation, and I got it. I couldn’t believe it, I told my husband pretty much as soon as he walked in the door the next day and I’ve never seen his jaw drop so far.
So here we are, 25 weeks along expecting a little girl. My point to this post is not to say, refuse to see a specialist. My point is to say take the route that truly feels like the right way to go for you, whether that is herbs, a specialist, adoption, or just keep trying. The choices we made had a larger affect on us in our daily lives- for the better. I now have a part time job that will allow me to spend more time with our girl, and bring something in as well. I’m not stressed, I am able to support and spend time with my husband, and it allowed me to opportunity to hopefully relate with some women out there going through a similar experience. Our 16 months of trying is nothing comparatively to many others, but that’s no reason to discount it or keep my story quiet. I’d rather offer support, encouragement and share anything useful that I can.
Below is a summary of the things I took or participated in while TTC. It’s not a cheap list… And I’m scared to add it up, but in my mind it was a much less expensive option than the specialist alternative. I want to shed some light on the items that came with our decisions (note: do not take or purchase any of these things without consultation first. The herbs and frequencies of visits for me varied each month based on where I was)
Herbalist: Some of these 3 times a day- I purchased one of those old people’s pill boxes to carry around in my purse and keep track…
Liquid Vitex (YUCK)
Fertility Treatment (1x/week for 2 months)
Bi- weekly Treatments
Blood Draws: 5
Pinapple (who knows)
OVIA App for tracking
Goddess Prenatal Vitamins
Fertilaid Prenatal Vitamins
“Regular” trying- which trust me when it becomes “all business” it’s not as fun as it seems.
– The time we conceived was actually not a time I thought it was possible, so there’s another wrench.
Please share if you know someone that would appreciate reading this- I know I would have.
Final note- I still go see the doctor today who told me to see a specialist. I like her, she still has my best interest in mind and supported our process. I’m just sure now to question everything that is being recommended for MY body.