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Infertility Treatment: Background and Expectations


Today, I am going to give you a brief overview of my infertility treatment and our expectations for IVF. I am working on a post that will explain the IVF protocol itself! 

Quick warning, this is a long post with lots of words. If you aren’t into that, go check out my guest post for Laura at This Runner’s Recipes about Training During the Holiday Season!

My Infertility Treatment

Infertility treatment is a bit different for everyone. Get a brief overview of my background and expectations as we begin the IVF protocol process!

My hope in sharing this is that you will be more educated about infertility treatment and the IVF process itself so that you can support those around you who may be going through the process as well. Please remember that everyone’s story is different, and even if they have an infertility treatment and protocol identical to mine, that does NOT mean that we will have the same result. I’m going to break this up into a few parts, but today I am going to give you look at my hormone background, infertility treatment, and our expectations for how things might go.

Infertility treatment is a bit different for everyone. Get a brief overview of my background and expectations as we begin the IVF protocol process!

I want to thank you ahead of time for keeping your comments supportive. If you have something that might be a bit more critical to say, I would rather you email me. That is not to protect me, but rather to protect others going through this very emotionally sensitive process.

I am undergoing treatment at Northwestern University’s Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility clinic. So if I refer to REI, that is what I mean, not the outdoor goods store! Another great place to be sure, but my doctor’s office doesn’t have a climbing wall…

My Hormonal Background

I have never had a normal period, other than after I came off of birth control in my late teen years. The last time that I had a normal period without the help of birth control December 2008, 6 months into my relationship with Alex. Unfortunately, that December, whether due to school stress or changing hormones and the beginning of a Crohn’s flare, I stopped getting my period, and I did not have one for 3.5 years.

I underwent hormone replacement therapy while I was at Columbia (for graduate school, graduated 2012) While doing HRT did help me gain my period back, it likely also forced the situation and has made it harder for me to get a period now without the help of extra hormones. Upon arriving in Chicago, we decided to “reset” my body by pulling me off everything but birth control. I lost my period again between but had a brief recurrence of my period while training for the 2014 Twin Cities Marathon. Yes, I started getting my period again for a short time during my highest mileage! So this is not an exercise and weight issue.

When I am not on birth control, my hormones are at levels that are essentially peri-menopausal. or even of a teenage boy! That is at just about any weight, whether or not I am exercising. This is not simply a weight/stress/exercise/Female Athlete Triad issue. If it was simply a matter of higher weight, lower stress, and lower exercise, you can probably bet that I would have done that. And I have. And I continue to.

Infertility Treatment

The good news is that all of my “equipment” is in working order (uterus, ovaries, etc). We just basically need to jump start the car and then place it into gear.

Infertility treatment is a bit different for everyone. Get a brief overview of my background and expectations as we begin the IVF protocol process!

I was on birth control until February of this year, and we have tried 3 rounds of Clomid-type drugs (which are supposed to cause you to ovulate) this summer. Unfortunately, the stress and anxiety issues of the spring (without the birth control hormones to help me regulate myself mentally and emotionally) had caused me to lose the weight I had worked to gain, and we took some time off from the process to put weight back on and get to a better mental place.

I would like to put it out there from the start that we are NOT surprised that I am needing to do IVF. From the start, my doctor (a specialist in reproductive endocrinology and fertility) told us that we would likely have to do IVF. We decided to do the Clomid to give it that boy scout try, as it were. But taking those medications was like giving me a placebo; it did NOTHING. Not an iota. 

I won’t lie, though we knew that the first round of Clomid hadn’t worked (I had felt NO changes at all since starting it), it was still disheartening when that first ultrasound showed no follicles (a lack of ovulation), and my blood work was as if I’d just taken tic tacs (without the minty fresh breath). You always hope….

Now, there is often an intermediary step called IUI, or intra-uterine insemination. Aka the “turkey baster method.” You take Clomid and then an injection to stimulate ovulations and inject sperm straight into the uterus. My doctor from the start said no to that for me as we are not going to risk multiples with my treatment. Because of my Crohn’s Disease (and autoimmune disorder) and the sensitivity of my body, we are worried about what carrying multiples would do to me body; it could be dangerous for both me and the baby. IVF is the safest option for both myself and the (hopefully!) kiddo.

IVF Protocol Expectations

Because this is already getting a bit long, I am going to save the overview of my IVF protocol until later, and instead keep to my mental and physical states heading into the process. Physically, I am back at and actually above where I was a year ago (which is great!), but my hormones are starting at zero. Oh, and I don’t have a broken back, which is el mas excelente. (Can you believe that it has been a year since I got Sven and Olav?)

We are going to start me first on birth control, which will be the first steady hormones in my body since February. I am honestly looking forward to it (famous last words, right?). I am hoping, even with all the additional stress and uncertainty, that having steady hormones in me again will help me mentally cope with the uncertainty to come as we deal with my infertility.

Infertility treatment is a bit different for everyone. Get a brief overview of my background and expectations as we begin the IVF protocol process!

I will start my injections to stimulate ovulation between Christmas and New Years, and I will have to cease all exercise beyond walking and lifts that don’t cause me to twist or wrench my abdomen just after the New Year (I will explain that in a bit). Because, as I said, my “equipment” is in working order, the injections should successfully stimulate ovulation for the egg retrieval. I don’t think Alex will mind me saying that his part of this has been checked, and he is at normal volume and potency. Then they will create embryos and implant ONE not long after (again, more later). I will be on progesterone during this time and likely into the first trimester.

If we are honest, we are not expecting this to work the first time. We expect the ovulation and retrieval to go ok, but we don’t expect the implantation to take the first time around. Obviously, we would be ecstatic, but it would be a surprise! Insurance is covering 4 cycles of IVF, and after that we will decide what to do next. But we are prepared that we might need to adopt to have our family. 

Infertility Treatment: Thoughts and Mental State Going into IVF

Speaking for myself, I will breathe the first sigh of relief when I see follicles on that first ultrasound following the start of injections, and the second sigh of relief when we have viable embryos. The third will be saved for a successful implantation, and a cry of delight if the whole shebang is successful (obviously, there will be screaming during the birth).

In this instance, I am keeping my eye on the prize but living in the mile, as it were, and trying to ignore the uncertainty that comes with shooting myself up with tons of hormones. The last time that I had a crazy hormone response, I put on 20 lbs in just a few months, and that weight was uncomfortable, mentally and physically (I literally felt like the Michellin man, and I couldn’t get into my clothes). But if that is what happens, well, that is what happens. I am not all that worried about the weight I will gain during pregnancy–I’m barely even thinking about it. Just like marathon training, I am changing my body, my expectations, for an end result. Marathon training has given me so much strength, and it is time to show just what running marathons means to me and for me.

Poor Alex...

Poor Alex…

Then again, ask me the same question in a month. 

Suz has her eye on the prize + is ready to start IVF! #infertility #pregnancy #IVF Click To Tweet

I hope this helps put my situation into a bit more context and helps you understand where we are sitting at the moment with regards to my infertility journey. I know that so many are dealing with a much more challenging protocol and set of circumstances, and I am thankful that we have (at the moment) a good chance of getting pregnant. My heart goes out to all dealing with infertility

Again, I will ask that you try to keep your comments positive. Please understand that if it were as easy as gaining weight or _____, I would have done just that by now! 

Does this help? What questions do you have?

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