This week, in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week, I will be highlighting various types of infertility, conditions that may cause infertility, and types of loss. I hope you’ll follow along for education and connection. Let’s all do our best to end the shame and the stigma surrounding infertility; I’m pledging to do my best in my daily life to #FliptheScript.
You’ve tried everything to make a baby. Timed intercourse, charting your cycles to find out what your most fertile days are, putting your legs up in the air, even taking over the counter decongestant meds that can help thin bodily fluids to help the sperm “swim” faster towards their ultimate destination. But still, month after month, only one line appears on that dreaded pregnancy test instead of two.
You go to the doctor, who suggests running some tests to see if everything checks out okay. So you and the hubs get some tests done, and everything looks great! Good news, right? So you keep plugging away (literally and figuratively…). And month after month, still no dice.
This time, the doctor diagnoses you with “unexplained infertility”. Meaning that modern medical science can’t really tell you why you aren’t able to make a baby. Basically the equivalent of shrugging shoulders, this diagnosis definitely lands high up on the level of frustration meter. Stuck in a virtual no man’s land. Aren’t doctors supposed to tell you what is wrong, and then tell you how to fix it??
This is the situation Dale and I found ourselves in a little over a year ago, after trying in earnest for about a year (the arbitrary mark that “they” say you should try to have a baby for before you should get some testing done). We ended up going through two medicated cycles, under the advice of my OB. I took medication to encourage my body to ovulate, even though we knew I was already ovulating normally. When that didn’t work, we sought the advice of a reproductive endocrinologist (aka fertility specialist, aka RE), who led us through three more medicated cycles with intrauterine insemination (IUI), before we decided to move on to IVF.
Some people diagnosed with unexplained infertility will go on to conceive naturally, albeit maybe in a bit longer of a time frame than they may have wanted. Others may need a bit more assistance – or a lot more, in our case. And truth be told, we may end up conceiving naturally in the future, and have heard many anecdotal stories of others in the same shoes who conceived with no issues after needing IVF the first go round.
The thing is, it’s kind of a miracle that anyone gets pregnant – ever. The conditions in the body need to be completely optimal: the right time, the right place, the right consistency, the right sperm, the right egg. It’s a wonder that any of us even exist. So unexplained infertility can often be explained that despite best efforts, for whatever reason there just wasn’t the perfect storm that would allow sperm to meet egg successfully.
How to best support someone with unexplained infertility: offer support, not advice. A shoulder to lean on goes a lot further than asking if they have tried cutting out caffeine or if they are putting their butt up on a pillow. Trust me on this one.