Rachel recently reached out to me with her story in which she did multiple rounds of IVF before thankfully, becoming pregnant. Here's her story:
“Like any typical girl, I grew up looking forward to one day, starting a family. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that it wouldn’t be that easy. My story starts like any other. After some time without conceiving, I met with my gynecologist who prescribed me some medication (Clomid) to stimulate ovulation and increases the likelihood of getting pregnant. I didn't even think twice about it. I remember thinking to myself “OK great, I'll take this magic little pill and everything will be fine”. But a few days later, I got a call that said, “Rachel, I'm really sorry but you have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) and you need to see a specialist". Having no idea what this meant and how it impacted fertility, I started googling and making appointments with every top specialist. When my appointment came, we did all the tests- HSG, more blood, and SA (semen analysis) for my husband just to rule him out and yup, it was just me with the problem. At 25 years old, I had diminished ovarian reserve- essentially, a low number of eggs which makes it harder to become pregnant. Because of this, we skipped some steps and went straight to IVF. I had no idea what to expect but simply went through the motions. With my first IVF retrieval (where they retrieve all the eggs that were just stimulated by weeks of medication and injections), they only retrieved 2 eggs. After that, they fertilized it with sperm and only one egg made it to “transfer” (which is when they implant the embryo into the uterus). Over the next 2 weeks, I kept thinking, “Great, I’m pregnant.” Looking back, I realize how naïve I was. Sadly, I wasn’t pregnant. I was so upset. Never in my right mind did I think that it wouldn't work. I was devastated. Confused and heartbroken. Somehow, I picked myself back up. I then went to see another doctor who told me that I will most likely never have a child using my own eggs - there are too few and they are way too old. So I switched clinics. My next doctor suggested doing mini IVFs in which they stimulate you but with lower doses. Unfortunately, I only produced one egg which wasn’t viable so it was time to move onto another plan. But what now? After some research, I found another clinic. THE clinic. My new doctor had me taking two new vitamins but again, they retrieved only one egg which sadly, wasn’t viable. At this point, we decided to start all over again with a fresh, new cycle. Something about starting over is very calming- so many possibilities, new hopes and dreams. It’s the anxiety once the cycle actually starts that made me second guess everything. This time, were able to retrieve 3 eggs. 3!! That was the most I had ever retrieved. One wasn’t viable but 2 made it to transfer and appeared to be of good quality. We transferred both of them, and one stuck. Thank Gd, I am now 23 weeks pregnant (probably further along by the time you all read this). It’s amazing and crazy. It took four IVF attempts before we found the right treatment plan but it finally worked. To anyone reading this- there is always hope. I really never thought I would be pregnant with my own eggs, I even looked into egg donation but somehow, it worked. I’ve learned that despite the frustration and exhaustion, it was crucial that I didn’t give up.”
Rachel’s story helped me to realize that society has placed such misconceptions around infertility in general that it sets us up for disappointment. I personally, thankfully, didn’t need IVF in the end but we certainly contemplated it. I researched it, got a second opinion, and was weighing the pros and cons. I was mentally preparing myself for the possibility but couldn’t yet commit. I started to think hard about what I was so apprehensive about. It wasn’t injections or early morning monitoring because I was already doing that. It wasn’t the physical side effects because those were temporary. It took me some time but I began to realize that my apprehension was due to the fear that IVF may not work. What would that mean? Where would I go from here? It was scary. Our logical minds think A+B=C. If I take this medicine and do what my doctor says, I will get pregnant. If I fertilize the egg and implant it into the uterus, it will stick. But unfortunately, the frustrating thing with infertility treatment is that it oftentimes, doesn’t make sense. Doctors don’t always have the answers and they can’t predict what treatment is going to work. So we just go with the flow while struggling, emotionally and physically, to cope with it all. Rachel’s post also highlights the importance of finding a doctor you are comfortable and confident in, as well as being educated and prepared. The truth is, some people are okay being blissfully naïve while others, like myself, find that education and preparedness help ease the anxiety and help us feel in control. Whichever category you fall into, you always have the right to slow down the conversation, ask questions, seek information, and challenge your doctor. You may not be in control of much in this journey but you can feel more prepared by being well educated and being your own advocate. Ask for what you need, whether it’s from your doctor or your partner or your friends. You are the driver. Take control.