Years of irregularity
As an 11-year-old experiencing my first menstrual cycle alone with my dad, in the middle of the Canadian wilderness, during an unguided canoeing, camping, and fishing trip, I should have known that I was destined for a life of female problems.
During my pre-teen years I would go months without having a cycle, and then when I finally had one it would sometimes last for up to a month causing me to become anemic. Eventually, my doctor prescribed birth control pills in an effort to regulate my cycles and it worked.
Fast forward to my college years and my cycles were still irregular without the assistance of birth control pills. I’ll never forget a gynecologist appointment I had during that time when my doctor first speculated that I had polycystic ovarian syndrome. I had never heard of that condition before and it scared me. My doctor tried to tell me that I was lacking some of the classic symptoms, like obesity and excess hair growth, as if that would make me feel better, but it didn’t. Now that I was older, for the first time, I saw my menstrual problems as more than just an annoyance and started to worry about the implications they would have on my future.
When my husband and I first decided we were ready to start a family we hit a brick wall of confusion. Of course, I stopped taking birth control pills, but how was I supposed to conceive a baby with irregular cycles and no way of knowing when or if I was ovulating? You can read every article and blog post out there about ovulation cycles and conception tips but if your menstrual and ovulation cycles aren’t consistent, that information is practically useless and you’re left flying blind. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we needed help.
After returning to my gynecologist and asking for guidance she recommended the “low tech” method described below. This was after we conducted a sperm sample analysis and a (fairly unpleasant) hysterosalpingogram (aka, an HSG test) to rule out other problems besides irregular menstruation/ovulation. She suggested that we try this method for six months before resorting to more “high tech” methods (like fertility injections or in vitro fertilization).
- Take an oral medication called Provera to initiate my menstrual cycle (if needed)
- Take an oral medication called Clomid to initiate my ovulation
- Starting on day 10 of my menstrual cycle, take an ovulation test daily to determine when I’m experiencing low, high, or peak fertility
- Do the baby dance when the time is right!
- Have my blood tested on day 21 of my menstrual cycle to measure my levels of progesterone (if my progesterone levels were too low, this indicated that the dosage of my medications should be increased for the next cycle)
- Wait about two weeks since the last baby dance, take a pregnancy test, and cross my fingers that it worked!
- If the pregnancy test was negative, start the process all over again
We followed this method for several months, increasing my medication dosages as needed, before we got our first positive pregnancy test. Unfortunately, that pregnancy ended in a miscarriage (I’ll be sharing my miscarriage experience in the next blog post). But, three years after my miscarriage when we were ready to try again we followed the same method and I’m now in the 17th week of a healthy pregnancy expecting twins! Note: Having multiples is a possible side effect of infertility treatments — my husband and I have no history of twins in our families, but we’re thrilled!
- Find a method that works for you to track your ovulation
- My doctor told me several times that even if you’re perfectly healthy there’s only about a 25% chance of getting pregnant in any given month because the window of opportunity is so brief. So, when you’re trying to overcome infertility, timing is everything!
- During my first pregnancy, I used a small store-bought paper calendar to track the start/end of my menstrual cycle, when to start taking each medication, results of my ovulation tests, etc.
- I used the fertility monitor below during my first pregnancy for daily ovulation testing. I ordered it on Amazon and although it was a little expensive it was very helpful. Note: This fertility monitor still uses ovulation test sticks that are sold separately. So, if you decide to use this monitor make sure that you’re stocked up on test sticks before your menstrual cycle starts (I learned that lesson the hard way).
- During my second pregnancy, I discovered an amazing (and FREE) fertility tracking app called Ovia. You can find it in the app store here (also available for Android phones here). This app was a game changer and completely replaced the paper calendar and fertility monitor for me. Of course, I still had to use ovulation test sticks but I no longer had to buy the special ones for the fertility monitor which cut costs.
- Keep your chin up!
- Let’s face it, infertility sucks. It can be extremely frustrating, discouraging, and depressing to go through this rigorous process month after month only to be faced with yet another negative pregnancy test, while every other woman in the world seems to be getting pregnant in her sleep.
- Try to focus on your own journey, instead of comparing yourself to other women because that will only lead to envy and self-destructive thoughts and behaviors. Alternatively, develop a support network of other women who are experiencing infertility to share struggles, tips, and wins. Infertility does not have to be something you are ashamed of and connecting with women who are on the same journey can be very therapeutic.
- Take comfort in the many examples of women in the Bible who overcame infertility. Did you know that, in the Bible, every instance of a person that sought God to conceive and birth children eventually had a child? Some of the verses that helped me cope with infertility and miscarriage were: Isaiah 66:9, Jeremiah 29:11, James 1:12, Philippians 4:6,7, and Psalm 130:5.
If you’re struggling with infertility, I’ve been in your shoes more than once. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, concerns, or just to chat.