My Fertility Journey.
When I was about 23 my mum was diagnosed with an under active thyroid
which can be hereditary. When she told me her symptoms, I was sure I had
it too. However, NHS tests with my GP said I was fine. I was offered
antidepressants instead, which I refused as I was not depressed, just
frustrated that I wasn’t being listened to.
I started doing my own research and I KNEW my GP was wrong. I read how
it would be almost impossible for a person with an untreated/under treated
thyroid problem to get pregnant and if by some miracle they did, to stay
pregnant. As I was so young and nowhere near ready to start a family this
wasn’t my main goal for fixing for thyroid, my overall health was.
I found a private doctor who confirmed that I had an underactive thyroid and
advised that I would have to treat myself privately and self-medicate.
Although an expensive route, I was prepared to do anything to be healthy. Over the years, more and more info and support became available, (I thank god for thyroid uk and it’s forum) so I was able to have more affordable and therefore more regular blood testing which I do myself and adjust my medication accordingly. I went back to my GP’S who were shocked at my private results and agreed that yes, there certainly was an issue with my thyroid. (I still self-medicate, as lack of funding means the NHS are unable to give me the most important medication I need.)
When I got to 35 years old and I was ready to become pregnant, all 3 of my babies were conceived on the 1st months of us trying. By refusing to put my health solely into the hands of someone else, I had changed my body from infertile to massively fertile, very quickly. Imagine if I had listened to them- I wouldn’t have my beautiful babies today-a truly scary thought! I guess the moral of the story is trust your instincts, then do your own research so you can become your own health advocate. No one is going to care about your health and fertility more than you.
Please know that your GP only tests 2 or 3 of the 8 things that must be tested in order for you to have had a thyroid test. For some this may be enough. For others, like me, it is not. Do not let a GP tell you your ranges are “normal”. What they say are normal, ranges massively from GP to GP and anyway, normal isn’t good enough, “optimal” is what you need to have great health and fertility. Keep printouts of all your results to help you interpret your results.
You should have the following things tested. If your GP won't or can’t test all of things (sometimes the GP wants to test them but their request is refused by the lab) then it is certainly worth getting a private blood test with a company such as Blue Horizon or Medichecks.
Once you are pregnant, read the book “Your Healthy Pregnancy with Thyroid Disease by D. Trentini and Mary Shomon”. Many GP’s don’t know that medication needs to be increased at different stages during pregnancy, and the different ranges your results should be in etc.
I hope it doesn’t seem like I am bashing GP’s or our wonderful NHS, because that really isn’t the case. However, a GP once told me they have half a day training on the thyroid, during medical training, and my personal experience is that there is much work to be done on patient care within this area. I was determined not to fall through the gap.
I am now pregnant with my 4th (and final) baby. Unlike the first 3, this baby took a lot longer to conceive. My 1st baby was conceived when I was 35, my 2nd when I was 37, my 3rd when I was 39. I am now 42, and I think it had everything to do with my age. This time we were trying for 6 mths, and had a “missed miscarriage.” This was my 2nd missed miscarriage, my 1st was in between baby 2 and 3. Every loss is hideous, but missed miscarriages really seem to be the cruellest of the cruel. I continue to have many pregnancy symptoms long after the baby has died, and it is weeks before the correct messages are sent between my body, in order for my body to let the baby go. I didn’t have any spotting or stomach ache and my pregnancy symptoms were still going strong both times. The 1st time, we found out at our 12 week scan. I had never even heard of a missed miscarriage, so we practically skipped in the scan room, super confident that we had “made it” to 12 weeks and were going to see our baby. I knew as soon as they didn’t turn our T.V. on to see the baby and they said the words I’ve come to dread “have you had any spotting”? They told us the baby died at 9 wks. I was taken upstairs to receive treatment. I decided on the tablets so I wouldn’t have to stay overnight. Also, I had work to go to. Of course, you can cancel, but I teach Hypnobirthing to ladies who could be due any minute, and I didn’t want to let them down as there might not be time to reschedule. Also, it helped as I was able to focus on something else rather than the pain (emotional and physical) of what was happening.
I found out about the 2nd one at a private scan at 8 wks. After the 1st, I was scared about it happening again, so I booked in for private scans on the 1st 12 weeks. I was told the baby wasn’t measuring anywhere near 8 weeks, was there a chance I’d got the dates wrong? I knew there was no chance and the baby had died at 5 wks and 5 days. The sonographer suspected the same, but as the baby was so small, she couldn’t say 100% for sure. If my dates were wrong, then the baby was just too small to see a heartbeat yet, which is why the hospital wouldn’t treat me for another 3 weeks. I was sure of my dates, so this just seemed so cruel. I was booked in for a D and C in 3 weeks time. The day before my appointment, I passed the baby naturally, whilst ironically, on a training day to learn how to become a fertility support coach-you couldn’t make it up! I was driving to London and back from Manchester, bleeding all the way, on one-point stuffing Macdonalds napkins in my knickers whilst driving on the motorway, until I could find a chemist or supermarket. This is either the most depressing story I’ve ever written or, it is insanely funny?....Sometimes you have to just give into the absurdity of it all and inappropriate laughter is there to help you through…?
After this I went to my GP to have some blood tests. Everything was fine, I was ovulating. My husbands sperm was swimming fine. I was given an ultrasound on my stomach. I’m not sure what they were looking for, but apparently all was fine. I was put on a waiting list to see the hospital fertility clinic. It was 5mths before I got an appointment and this appointment was a phone call. They didn’t tell me what it was for. Turned out that this phone call decided if I would be able to get a face to face appointment with the clinic-I hadn’t realised it was an audition! As I already had 3 children I was very much discouraged from attending the clinic. I was told there was nothing they could help with. When I asked if I was entitled to have further blood tests, she reluctantly said yes. When I asked if I was entitled to a scan to test my ovarian reserve, she reluctantly said yes. When I asked about the fertility drug Clomid, she said it was very unlikely I would get it as I didn’t fit the new guidelines. When I asked if I was entitled to speak to a consultant about it, she reluctantly said yes.
She requested an appointment to test my ovarian reserve and whilst I waited for it to come through, said I should go to the recurrent miscarriage clinic as it seemed I could get pregnant but was having trouble staying pregnant. I didn’t agree, I thought it was the other way around, but I was happy to be getting some help. After the recurrent miscarriage clinic agreed with me, I had an appointment with the fertility clinic. (At Stepping Hill, the policy is that you are seen by a specialist after 2 miscarriages. Many units make you wait until you’ve had 3, so woman in my area are very lucky. Problems could be identified a lot sooner, saving more heartbreak.) One amazing gift is that once you’ve been through this clinic, when you get pregnant, you can book in for an early reassurance scan at 7 weeks. You can have further scans if you feel anxiety is affecting your mental health.
I was given an appointment for the fertility clinic. A computer decided to move this appointment forward. I couldn’t make the new appointment as I was on holiday, but there was no option to tell the computer appointment this. I eventually got in contact with a person on my hol, and told them I wanted to keep my original appointment, not the new one. I was told my original one had been now given away, so I’d have to be given a new appointment, 4 weeks after my original one. Arrrrrrh. More waiting, and all the while, I was only getting older and less likely to get pregnant.
I had an entire speech-with evidence, as to why the consultant should consider going against the new guidelines and let me try Clomid. As I already had children, I wasn’t going to go down the route of having private IVF, which would be brutal on my body, mind and wallet, so Clomid was my last chance.
The new evidence shows that clomid has low success rates for those who are already ovulating.
I had been trying for 18 mths. In that time, I had been tested for ovulation twice. One issue with older women is that it is very common for women not to ovulate every month. Two out of eighteen, was not enough testing to deny me a drug. Also, my cycles were now anywhere between 25-36 days. This inconsistency suggests I wasn’t ovulating every month.
Clomid increases ovarian cancer.
Having a number of previous children, decreases the chances of
getting ovarian cancer. One cancels out the other.
An increased chance of ectopic pregnancy
I’m not going to have IVF, so if I lose a tube after an ectopic, then I
will have lost nothing as I can’t get pregnant without help anyway.
Turns out, I didn’t need my little speech. I told her my cycle length (Anywhere between 23-36 days) and that was enough for her to say that it was unlikely that I’m ovulating every month, and Clomid could help. I got a prescription for 6 mths worth. I now had 6 more chances to get pregnant, before we were going to give up. (I know other people who went to the same clinic and saw someone else, who were given only 3 mths worth.)
A few days later I started, and I was pregnant after my 1st cycle!!!!! Whenever I refer to Clomid, I call it Clomid the wonder drug! I only had a few symptoms from taking it like spots and bloating. (Maybe because I only took it for 1 cycle.) I am now 17 weeks pregnant.
Whilst waiting for my fertility appointment to come through, and after being told that I was unlikely to get Clomid, I had a few people who offered me their leftover Clomid…..I did the responsible thing. I read up about it and the risks of taking this medicine unmonitored and I decided not to take it. However, when taking my prescribed Clomid, I was supposed to have a scan on day 10, but I couldn’t because the only person who did it was on holiday. (They are scanning to check that you don’t have overstimulation that could be dangerous, or if your body is doing too well and you are at risk of producing, high multiples.) They told me not to worry about it. That made me wonder if I should have taken the medicine offered to me earlier…..I am not suggesting for one minute that you do that. I am just sharing my thoughts about the process.
In many ways, my journey was easier than it is for others. As I already had 3 children, I never felt that same desperation that couples without any children may feel. I could say to myself, “if it doesn’t happen, then I will be more than happy with what I’ve got”. At the same time though, every struggle deserves to be recognised. My life was still taken up by appointments, peeing on ovulation sticks, calling home my husband for sex at the “correct time”, hoping that this month is the month and then feeling that disappointment every month when another period shows up. “The cycle of despair” as we refer to it when I have my coaching hat on and I am delivering the “Freedom Fertility Formula” programme to my clients.
Being a fertility coach meant that I was in a good position to stay positive throughout this journey and not allow it to consume us. My husband and I used the “success steps exercise” to make sure we set positive goals for ourselves outside of baby making. So, we set aside time for family time, exercise, and date nights. (I hate that term, it’s so cheesy, but so necessary to keep your relationship strong and have sex outside of the fertile time as well as in it!) I loved the relaxation tracks that come with the programme, especially the ones that helped me visualise my future baby and made sure that whilst the doctors were working on any physical issues that were preventing me from getting pregnant, I was able to do something pro active at home, by working on the mind/body connection. Making sure that my mind was sending helpful messages to my body about getting pregnant and supporting the process rather then putting up blocks. I read about a woman who suffered so much emotional pain after a miscarriage she believed her subconscious was trying to protect her from that pain by stopping her from getting pregnant, so it couldn’t happen again. Once she dealt with that pain, she was soon pregnant. It made total sense to me that the two would be connected.
I wish you all the best with your journey. Some of you will conceive naturally, some of you with help from science and some of you with help from fertility courses like “The Freedom Fertility Formula”. Some of you will decide to adopt/foster and some of you will take a different route all together. Whatever you decide, do your best to support each other and stay sane. Whatever that means to you.
I teach face to face fertility support sessions in Stockport, Greater Manchester. For those in other areas of the country, I teach online, so access is available to everyone. If you would like to have a free, no obligation chat about whether these sessions could be of help to you, then please get in touch to arrange: