Infertility Advocate , Wonder Woman Writer
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After three years of unsuccessfully trying to conceive, she went on to try six Clomid cycles, three IUI inseminations, and four IVF treatments, of which only the final one was successful. It’s important to know that all of this happened before the advent of PGT-A (or as it used to be known, PGS).Following her journey, she became an powerful infertility advocate, talking about her experiences to help other prospective parents who were going through the same difficulties she did. To get us all up to speed, infertility is a disease or condition of the reproductive system. Jennifer points out – and it can’t be stressed more – it’s a medical issue, not a personal fault. Understanding that basic point helps afflicted patients cope better. It affects one out of every eight couples in the United States. 11.9%, or 7.4 million women received services intended to help with infertility in their lifetime, according to the Centre for Disease Control.
Get yourself and your partner tested if you’re having problems conceiving. Chances are your issue originates within a minor defect or hormonal imbalance which can be corrected without the need for a full blown IVF cycle.According to Jennifer, a lot of patients only see their gynaecologist for assistance with their infertility issue. While they can help with the initial testing (AMH/FSH), a reproductive endocrinologist should be consulted if you’ve had two or more miscarriages, or if you’re over the age of 35, or haven’t been able to conceive for more than a year. The first course of action recommended by gynaecologists is a cycle of Clomid. It’s considered to be the first line of defence against reproductive issues, however, most people aren’t aware that there are limits and recommendations for treatment; depending on your age and/or diagnosis, no more than three to six cycles should be performed. In fact, over a prolonged period of treatment (around six months) it can actually have an adverse effect and exacerbate the original issue, making it even harder to conceive. Despite this, a lot of doctors keep their patients on Clomid longer than is necessary before moving on to other treatments. A common issue experienced by women are recurrent miscarriages. It’s recommended to see a reproductive endocrinologist if you’ve experienced more than two miscarriages – they could be caused by autoimmune or endocrine issues, or uterine or chromosomal anomalies. Don’t accept the excuse that it’s “just bad luck”. Jennifer also advises prospective parents not to stick to just one doctor. Getting a second opinion is always a smart choice, especially if you’ve been seeing the same doctor for a long while – a fresh pair of eyes can sometimes spot something the first doctor missed, or suggest an alternative method of treatment. If you decide to see an infertility clinic, be aware that many of them have cut off ages for treatment. Some clinics will not see you if you’re over the age of 42 and want to be treated using your own eggs. Chances for success using that method aren’t the highest and the clinics don’t want to risk their success rates. Because of practices like this, remember to not live or die by SART success rates when choosing a clinic. Additionally, always ask about “shared risk” and “cash back” IVF multi-cycle programmes. Some clinics will not accept you if they know they’re going to have to give money back to you (in case your treatment proves difficult, or if qualifying testing reveals issues which may prevent you from receiving a successful IVF treatment). Ask a lot of questions, know what you’re getting into. Another inside tip: don’t hold up your treatment just to see a particular doctor. In places where there’s a lot of people on staff, or in university based practices you do end up meeting most of their doctors anyway. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the odds of you having a baby on your first IVF attempt are 29.5%. These odds stay steady through your fourth attempt, but it jumps up to 65% by the sixth. Jennifer believes it’s important to know this fact before your first attempt, as the knowledge can be comforting in case it doesn’t work on the first go. Some people assume IVF is like this magic bullet that just works on the first attempt. Not knowing the reality and the odds can cause additional stress and mental strain in case the first cycle doesn’t work.
Your partner is your main source of support, but constant worrying about fertility is just going to cause strain. Assign a fertility-free period – a night every other day, where you do literally anything BUT talk about fertility. Use a swear jar if you have to. This will keep your spirits up and your mental state more peaceful. Force yourself to have a period of time during which you simply don’t think about your treatment and have some fun. Infertility affects all aspects of your life – from the relationships with your friends and family, through mental and physical health, to your career.The big thing about infertility and other similar diagnoses is that they tend to occupy all of our attention, thus intruding on all of those aspects of our lives. There are two things to remember here: first of all, infertility doesn’t define one’s self or one’s worth – it’s simply a medical issue that can affect everyone and that can be treated with modern medicine. The second thing is that stress caused by infertility tends to exaggerate our negative emotions regarding certain aspects of life. In order to fight that, remind yourself that there are definitely other areas where you keep succeeding. Stress related to infertility can also cause you to view everything in your life through its prism; it makes it seem like your whole life is defined by this one issue. Jennifer recommends doing whatever it takes to keep you safe – do not isolate yourself from your friends and family and spend time with other people, doing things that give you happiness and peace of mind. Additionally, joining a support group – offline or online – can be a massive help. Being able to talk about your experience with other women who are going through, or have gone through the same process is incredibly therapeutic; they are also an invaluable source of information and tried and true methods for keeping calm and carrying on through stressful times. Fertility Lifelines offers a list of support groups. Check them out. Knowing your options when dealing with infertility issues is always a good idea. Just understanding that modern medicine offers you a literal arsenal of choices and approaches on how to tackle the problem is empowering – because it makes you understand that you’re not powerless. Understanding that you have the information, resources, and tools needed to make decisions regarding the issue give you the confidence necessary to maintain a positive outlook on things. Talk to your doctor, do your research and learn as much as possible. Here are some of the options recommended for patients in various scenarios:
Remember you’re not a bad person for having negative thoughts about yourself, but remember that infertility is just a medical issue that could happen to anyone. It’s just that – it doesn’t define your worth as a person; it’s just a problem that can be solved. You’re not a bad patient for asking your doctor questions. Don’t base your entire life around fertility – you’re a human being and you have other things in your life; maintain a healthy balance to stay sane.If you’d like to reach out to Jennifer, feel free to connect with her on Twitter (@the2weekwait) or Instagram (@jennyjaypal).