Fertility and IVF

Growing up, I boldly told family and friends that I would one day be a single parent because I just didn’t think I would settle down. Did I fully understand an impact a statement like that would make? Probably not. However, situations changed as I sped through my teenage years and early twenties, and I found myself a newlywed a few months shy of my twenty-seventh birthday.

Another thing I took for granted was my fertility – that no matter what, it’d be there for me because that was the job of a woman’s body...to grow and nurture babies. Like a lot of women of my generation, I spent many years on the contraceptive Pill to regulate my cycles and protect me from pregnancy before I was ready to become a parent. What I didn’t know was that the artificial hormones were holding my (at this point undiagnosed) endometriosis at bay, which I discovered three years after going off the Pill.

A lovely female doctor set me on the right path, thrusting a wealth of information at me about a condition I’d never really heard of before – and something clicked into place... my painful and heavy periods, back pain, inability to wear a tampon or even have intercourse without tears welling up in my eyes (not from pleasure, either!)... I wasn’t alone and these symptoms had a name. Something real to grasp onto, at last!

My suspicions were confirmed in January 2008 by laparoscopic surgery (with stage 3 endometrial ‘nodules’ found on the back of my uterus and on my bowel), and I now have a lovely picture of my insides on the fridge for all to see.

... Just kidding (it’s in a folder with my bills, and tax receipts).

But in all seriousness, this surgery changed my life. Daily tasks became manageable, and sex became a wonderful thing (especially now that I had a husband to share it with!). It did also force me to think more about having children, as my specialist said that the best time to fall pregnant was immediately after a laparoscopy cycle. He (yes, I had a male specialist) also recommended Zoladex as a follow-up to the surgery. I naively started the monthly injectables without truly understanding the impact that it was going to make on my life.

Did you know that Zoladex is an oestrogen-suppressant? Or that it puts you into a state of artificial menopause to stop the growth rate of endometrial growth? (it’s also used in conjunction with chemotherapy to treat breast and prostate cancers It’s also a drug not widely used by medical practitioners for managing endometriosis anymore, but I didn’t know my options at the time.

I won’t say that the time spent on this drug (March-September 2008) wasn’t the most pleasant of my life. Without the support of my husband and family, I don’t think I would have coped as well as I did... and even that wasn’t very well at times. I did get to experience menopause at the same time as my mother, and I don’t think many mothers-and-daughters could say that’s a journey they’ve made together! But within six weeks of finishing the last injection, my menstrual cycle returned and I began to feel like a woman again.

By this point, my husband and I were ready to start trying for a baby and had just gotten married:

 ...The mythical “right time” had arrived. Or had it?

I remember my former OB/GYN's words... there was a 50% chance that my endometriosis would cause difficulty in conceiving a child and, even though we were only in our twenties, if we hadn't conceived within six months of trying we should seek help.

While I moved on from seeing this particular specialist (we didn't see eye-to-eye on a few things), I sought assistance from a fertility naturopath who helped me to understand more about how my body worked. Together we prepared my body for pregnancy and made my eggs strong through herbs (including vitex agnus castus) and DHEA/fish oil supplements. A year passed and though I was strong in mind and body, conception still hadn't occurred.

In October 2009, we started seeing a specialist attached to Monash IVF and had a Levovist study (similar to a HSG test, but via ultrasound, not x-ray), where dye is run through the fallopian tubes to hopefully flush them out. It turned out that I had a full blockage on one side, and a partial blockage on the other - finally, an answer as to why we might not have been pregnant yet. Further surgery was recommended but we decided against it, as even more scar tissue might build up and cause further blockages. I was crushed and it took me five months to come to terms with having such a low chance (3%, as we were advised) of conceiving naturally.

In March 2010 we started preparations to begin the IVF process, and in July we commenced our first stim cycle, with one embryo at 5DPT (days post-transfer) put back inside my uterus, and an additional four embryos frozen (they're just chillin', you see ;P).

Imagine our surprise on July 31st to discover that this first cycle was a success, and that we were pregnant! Our son Rowan was born on April 7th, 2011, four days before his due date. :)

Three years on and we are going through the rollercoaster that is IVF once more to try and have a second baby, using the remaining embryos from the stim cycle that Rowan was conceived in. Currently, the number of embryos is rapidly decreasing (two left), as of April 2014.

Our family (December 2013)
Rowan from L-R: Birth / Age 1 / Age 2 / Age 3
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