Monday, January 24, 2011

Our Infertility: A History

A little history of our journey through Infertility

Nick and I have been married for four years and have been trying to conceive for three and a half. As soon as we decided it was time to try for a baby I went right away to check and see if I was ok. 

I have had horrible periods my whole life but no one ever suggested anything was wrong. Normal people take pamprin or midol for their pain and I was taking 1600 milligrams of motrin just to get a dull ache for the pain. Throwing up, fevers, sweating and chills went happily right along with getting my period every month. Needless to say I wanted to get checked out before we started our adventure. 

The first step in your infertility journey is to make sure that your husbands "swimmers" are legit. Since every female test is considered to be invasive the doctors always want to rule out what is called "male factor" before they start testing on the girls. So poor Nick had to "donate" three times on base over a period of two months because the first sample came back with a poor result. Needless to say after following up with the urologist and a few more samples, we do have "male factor." What that means is that we have poor motility and poor count.

Next we moved on to testing me. I went to a doctor who said that she thought I might have Endometriosis. To make a long story short she convinced me to have a laparoscopy done that would be minimally invasive and if she found the disease she could burn it off. I was surprised having had terrible periods my whole life that no one had ever suggested that I have this disease. The doctor told me she thought it was because I didn't have all the symptoms, which is what they call "atypical." The surgery took place in 2008 and afterwards she told me she saw no signs of Endometriosis.

 I had this surgery during Nicks first five month deployment to Iraq.

This was troubling since my periods seemed to grow worse each month and twice I had to go to the ER and get drugs intravenously to stop the pain. Tricare referred us to the Reproductive specialist in Little Rock and to a wonderful doctor named Dr. Miller. This was about six months after the first laparoscopy with the doctor that said I did not have Endometriosis. Dr. Miller asked if I minded doing another surgery for him to look around and see if the first doctor was wrong in her diagnosis. He told me that since it was his specialty he knew to look for things that she couldn't see. Since insurance covered it and I could go to work the next day I said yes. 

After this surgery Dr. Miller woke me up with some interesting pictures. I had Endometriosis EVERYWHERE. He said he had no idea what the other doctor was looking for but you didn't have to be a specialist to see all the locations of the disease everywhere inside of me. He burned all of the spots off and told me that fifty percent of people who have the surgery once, fixes the disease and it never returns and the other half has to have repeated surgery every few months or every year. 

Two weeks after the second surgery, we went through another five month deployment to Iraq.

 As of today I am scheduled to go back in for another surgery because the disease has continued to grow. 

Dr. Miller also discovered that I had what was called cervical stenosis, which means I have a much smaller than normal opening to my cervix. Having a baby will fix this problem forever but with the Endometriosis it makes it much harder to get pregnant in the first place. He told me with the three problems that we have:

1. My Endometriosis
2. Cervical Stenosis
3. Male Factor

We had a less than two percent chance of getting pregnant on our own. :(

I was put on 15 milligrams of vicoden to control the pain of my periods and we started our drug cocktail of fertility meds. Finally an answer to my pain AND the beginning of starting our family!! 

Our insurance covers all the medications and ultrasounds that you have prior to either an IUI or an IVF but it does not cover the actual treatment itself. So, with that knowledge in hand we set off to do a three month course of clomid with timed intercourse. Clomid, is a pill that you take for four to five days on your period to stimulate your follicles to produce larger eggs, also has the added benefit of making you hormonally insane. 

When that method failed, we moved on to stronger drugs, an injectable called Gonal F. We did a few cycles with this with no success and were told that we needed to move on to In Vitro to have the best chance at getting pregnant. 

At this time we happen to discover that Wilford Hall at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio was one of the two hospitals in the United States that did fertility treatments at a reduced cost to military families. There was a six month to year wait to get an appointment and then another three month wait after your initial orientation to the program to get a one on one visit with the doctor. We were lucky and got into an orientation only four months after getting on the waiting list. Another lucky happenstance is that I also got to have my one on one the very same day!! It turned out that only myself and the girl that I traveled down there with were there for IUI, (Inter Uterine Insemination) so he took us right away. The others were there for In Vitro. 

Three months after my consultation with the doctor Nick and I traveled down to do our first IUI. Our doctor at San Antonio (Dr. King) told us that he didn't think that we had a very good chance with IUI with all of the factors that we had going for us and recommended that we head straight to In Vitro but IUI is completely free of charge where In Vitro is $5000. Since we didn't have that money we decided to try an IUI. 

When we went down for the procedure I also found out that I had a third factor, which was that I have an annotated cervix. What that means is that my cervix is angled instead of straight. This made for a painful catheter insertion and a the doctor up on top of the bed I was in, feet on either side of my thighs trying to get it in!! Looking back on it I'm sure the view would have been hilarious if I wasn't in any pain!

 Two weeks after the procedure Nick headed out for his third five month deployment to Iraq and I headed to the Emergency room since the procedure didn't work and left me with a five centimeter cyst on one ovary and a cluster of cysts on another ovary. They were removed and I waited on Nicks arrival back to the states. 

Now we are at present day and Nick is on his four deployment to Iraq. He is set to come home in May and we are fundraising our way to our first In Vitro in August of 2011 in San Antonio. I'll be sure to let you know how it goes!