My Infertility is Unexplained: Case Study
With just weeks to go now before the birth of her first child, Sarah still dare not relax and enjoy her pregnancy. “I am 34 weeks now but every minute of every day I mull over everything that could go wrong, how I will feel if something bad does happen – I suppose it’s inevitable after trying for a baby for 10 years,” she says.
Plans for a Large FamilyWhen Sarah and her husband Gavin married on her 25th birthday, she had completed her degree and was a successful lab technician in one of the departments at Bristol University. “I was well thought of and had worked there for four years and knew that I could come back part-time if I wanted to, so we had no hesitation in trying for a baby straight away,” says Sarah. She carried on going to work each day, thinking about maybe three or even four children.
“After six months, nothing had happened and I was promoted. I was working hard, enjoying being married and it didn’t seem like an issue. There was plenty of time but six months turned in a year, then into two and no sign of a missed period. I began to worry,” admits Sarah.
Fertility Tests BeginThe couple’s GP was very sympathetic and advised them that, as they had already been trying for two years, they were eligible for fertility tests straight away. “I was relieved – I felt as long as we could identify the problem, we could do something about it. Gavin’s sperm were tested – and were absolutely fine and then I had ultrasound and a laparoscopic investigation and well as blood tests. Everything came up negative – my fallopian tubes were clear and fine, I had no endometriosis or any other obvious condition. My ovaries seemed fine and I did temperature measurements that looked as though I was ovulating,” explains Sarah.
The couple tried eating a healthier diet, giving up alcohol, monitoring Sarah’s temperature each month to make sure they were having regular sex at the time when she seemed to be ovulating but, still nothing happened.
Seeing a Fertility SpecialistAfter a total of four years of trying, Sarah’s GP referred them to a leading expert in fertility in London. “I was still young at 29, so we still had a lot of hope but we began to save madly just in case we needed IVF in the end,” she says.
After another very thorough round of tests, nothing obvious was discovered. The consultant then advised them to start treatment for unexplained fertility, which happens to around 10 to 20% of couples who experience fertility problems. “That at least made me feel better – I thought we were the only couple this was happening to,” says Sarah.
Fertility Treatments TriedThe first step was to try something fairly non-invasive – intrauterine insemination. “It seemed strange why this would work when introducing the sperm into me in the usual way hadn’t, but we gave it three goes. I then took clomid and we tried another four times and then I started having injectable gonadotrophins. We were then supposed to have lots of regular sex, but I didn’t feel like it on the hormone treatments, so the only avenue left was IVF. After six years of trying, we eventually went through our first cycle,” she reports.
Failed IVF TreatmentsOver the next three years, Sarah and Gavin went through four cycles of IVF, all of which failed. “Again, the most frustrating thing was, no-one could explain why. There just didn’t seem to be a reason. I didn’t get pregnant in any of the cycles. Even the consultant thought that there must be something seriously wrong that they hadn’t spotted and I had another laparoscopy. Still nothing.”
Sarah and Gavin had been trying to get pregnant for nine years by this time and decided to take a break. “I was still only 34 and we decided to spend some of the money we had been saving and just have a holiday – we went to Spain for three weeks and just tried to forget, but it was hard. When we came back I went back to work and we did succeed in switching off a bit – so much so, I didn’t realise for three weeks that I had missed a period!” Amazingly, after all their tests and treatments, Sarah had fallen pregnant naturally when they were on holiday. “We were so happy, but then we have worried constantly,” she says.