If you are trying to get pregnant you NEED to read this!!! I’ve been struggling with infertility for going on eleven years, and believe me when I tell you it has been HELL. I don’t want ANYONE to suffer the way I have. That’s why I believe EVERYONE seeking or undergoing fertility treatments should read this FIRST! I had to learn the hard way but you don’t have to. I beg you, PLEASE learn from my mistakes!!!
After 10+ years, a miscarriage (MC) a divorce, three more miscarriages, three OB’s, a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) a surgery, a dermatologist, an immunologist, and now an embryologist I feel like I SHOULD know everything there is to know about infertility and how it’s treated. I am not an expert! Trust me, I did NOT set out to be an expert on any of this and I never will be. I am still learning every day. Like you, I just wanted to get pregnant and have a baby like everyone else, but I wasn’t lucky, and I didn’t know enough to get the right treatment. I believed a LOT of lies and wasted a lot of time. The crazy thing is, most of those lies I was hearing came from DOCTORS!!! Okay, some were midwives, PA’s, NP’s, the Internet etc. but they were MOSTLY medical professionals, and they were LYING TO ME!!!
I have compiled a list of myths, and I am sure most of you have heard some (or all) of these. I want to pose a disclaimer at this point. ALL of my miscarriages were early term, at or before 12 weeks, and we are now pursuing IVF. Therefore, most of what I am sharing relates to my personal experiences with early-term MC’s and just starting IVF. Your experience is undoubtedly different from mine in at least a few ways. I don’t claim to be an expert on what is true for everyone, but through experience I have learned that most of this is true for most people. So, here you have it, my personal “Myths List”…
1. The male partner does not always need to be tested. WRONG!!! There is at least a 50% chance that your embryo will die because of “bad sperm”. The ONLY time you get a good embryo is if you get a good sperm AND a good egg AND that good sperm gets to the good egg. That makes your chances of getting pregnant with a healthy (“good”) embryo less than 25%, and those chances do NOT get better or worse with each cycle.
2. If you collect a semen sample at home for IVF you only have 20 minutes to get it to the testing facility. According to my embryologist (Dr. A) you can actually have up to 2 hours. Now, this is specific to IVF. It might be different for other treatments or for other diagnostic purposes, but for our initial SA before starting IVF we have been told we have 2 hours to get it to the lab.
3. You cannot use lube when collecting a sperm sample. Again, this is specifically for IVF, but yes you can. Our embryologist actually recommended we use a sperm-friendly lube (like Preseed) to make the process more comfortable if we felt we needed lube. He says it simply does not matter if we want to use lube. (By the way, I am in no way sponsoring Preseed. That’s just what we use at home. There are other “sperm-friendly” or “conception-friendly” lubricants. Just do your research.)
4. You can get a definitive egg count using blood tests (AMH levels). Wrong again. AMH is never definitive. Don’t believe me? Have your AMH tested this month, and then do it again on the exact same cycle day the next month. They’ll be different, even if just slightly. Even if you only lose ONE egg that month, I’ll bet your levels will show a decent difference. That’s because these tests aren’t exact. They are flawed. There is no way to get an EXACT egg count – NONE.
5. Multiple miscarriages with more than one male partner means the miscarriages are the “woman’s fault”. Well, this is just beyond ignorant, but my dumb ass believed it – for YEARS. I now know that even a good semen analysis doesn’t mean the male isn’t contributing to fertility issues. I’ve had 4 miscarriages with three partners – my ex husband, my ex boyfriend, and 2 with my current boyfriend of almost 5 years. Guess what? Absolutely NONE of my labs or diagnostics indicate that the miscarriages were “my fault”, but I had doctors (reproductive endocrinologists even) telling me it was ALL ME, to the point that they told me my partner didn’t even need to do a semen analysis because it was “most likely” my problem, not his. (Refer back to Myth # 1.)
6. Immunological issues (auto-immune diseases, immune deficiencies, overactive immune systems, etc.) are often direct causes of miscarriages. FALSE! In fact, they are most likely NEVER related to miscarriages. How do I know this? Dr. A studied immunology for over a decade, convinced women’s immune systems were attacking embryos. After all those years of studying how immunology related to infertility and miscarriage he realized it doesn’t – not in the slightest, at least not 99.9% of the time.
7. Most miscarriages are causes by either a defective egg, a defective sperm, or both. Not exactly. This is a half-truth. Dr. A (who has developed and is actually working on developing new diagnostics and treatments for infertility and has people traveling hundreds of miles to see him), says it’s the embryo that’s defective, not necessarily the egg or the sperm. An embryo is either viable or it’s not, and that can be determined in the first five weeks, which brings me to the next myth.
8. An OB can’t see you until you’re 8 weeks pregnant (8 weeks after the first day of your most recent period) because pregnancy isn’t even really detectible until then. Yes they can see you before 8 weeks if they want to, and yes pregnancy is detectible. In fact, if they would start monitoring you as soon as possible (a lot of people find out they’re pregnant at 3-4 weeks when they miss a period), they would be able to tell you if the embryo is viable or not long before 8 weeks. If you’re doing timed intercourse, they could start ultrasounds almost right away to monitor for a sack. In other words, they could monitor your sack via ultrasound and take your HCG blood levels and WARN you of an impending miscarriage, instead of letting you just figure it out for yourself. Also, giving you meds (progesterone, aspirin, etc.) to “prevent” miscarriage means they are legitimately concerned you will miscarry, which means you probably will, and they probably KNOW you will miscarry and are giving you false hope. The meds won’t stop it from happening. In fact, 8 weeks is WAY too late to do anything to help you, except prescribe pain medications. Again, research in the UK shows that taking these meds never prevents miscarriage, and there is no such thing as “stopping” a miscarriage.
9. The best thing to do if you know you’re miscarrying – just get a D&C and get it over with. My embryologist studied miscarriages for years. That’s how he got into embryology. One of the first things he learned was that doctors weren’t studying the miscarried embryos to see why or how they miscarried or what was wrong with the embryos. To learn more, he retrieved the miscarried embryos and studied them. Your doctors could (and probably should) be studying your miscarried embryos instead of just digging them out of you and throwing them away. They’re useful. In fact, they might hold all sorts of secrets that you’re throwing way because someone is telling you that is what you should do. The best way to understand why you miscarried is to study the miscarried embryo, and the only people that generally do this are embryologists. (“Embryology literally means “the study of embryos”!) Your midwife, OB, NP, and even an RE (reproductive endocrinologist) won’t likely do this, but an embryologist most likely will, especially if you ask them to.
10. A pregnancy can be “saved” with meds or bed rest. I’ve been told to do this, and have done it hoping to save a pregnancy. I’ve taken bed rest in the first trimester to save a pregnancy that was already lost. Aspirin can be helpful if you have a clotting disorder, and progesterone can help if you have a hormone disorder, but without being diagnosed with those conditions, you aren’t stopping anything from happening with meds. Early miscarriage is almost always an embryonic defect of some sort, and that defect existed at conception in 99.9% of cases. It was destined to miscarry from Day 1 and there was never anything you could have done about it (in early miscarriage).
11. Issues like endometriosis, PCOS, or a uterine septum (or a septate uterus) will always cause a miscarriage or difficulty getting pregnant. This one is kind of specific to my particular situation but might also apply to you. How many of you suffer from something like PCOS or endometriosis? How many of you have been told that’s why you can’t get pregnant or stay pregnant? Again, this is only half true. In SOME cases, moderate or severe endo, PCOS, or a uterine septum (or other issues) can cause infertility, miscarriage, or both. Guess what? There are LOTS of people with reproductive abnormalities in their bodies who DO conceive and carry to term. There are also people with “normal” parts who can’t get pregnant or have suffered miscarriages. These things are subjective because they’re specific to each couple and each individual cycle, pregnancy, or embryo. Also, it is not always necessary to “fix” these issues to get pregnant or carry either.
Note: I had a uterine septum pop up in an ultrasound after my last MC. First of all, this is a congenital defect so I’ve had it since birth and NO ONE noticed it, not during the first three miscarriages, and not in 10 years of struggling and going to all those doctors. My midwife caught it and referred me to the RE (reproductive endocrinologist) to have it evaluated. He did a saline sonogram (sonohysterogray or SIS) to evaluate the seriousness of the septum and to determine if it was contributing to my infertility/miscarriages. He insisted surgery was needed, and when he did the surgery he also removed Stage I endo and a very small, internal uterine fibroid. I was told this was likely the ONLY thing causing all my issues, and it could have been fixed after my very first miscarriage almost 7 years ago. I was devastated to know my issues could have been fixed so long ago. Well, guess what? Dr. A could tell, just by looking at my surgical records and all the measurements of the endo, the septum, and the fibroid, that I didn’t likely need that surgery after all. I almost want to post the description of my surgery from my medical record just so you can be as traumatized as I was when I read it. It’s graphic and was most likely unnecessary. Needless to say, I’m pretty upset about that too. As long as my insurance doesn’t find out and try to back bill me the $18k+ they paid for it I guess it’s water under the bridge and I just shouldn’t complain. I did lose about 1/2 a pound after they cut everything out, after all.
12. All reproductive specialists are created equal. I think it goes without saying this is a huge lie, but your OB might not tell you this. Hell, they might not even know! S/he will probably give you a list of specialists and just leave it to you to choose who you go to with very little direction or help from them. I live in a rural area where there might only be one or two practitioners specializing in any given field within driving distance of me. I am aware some areas are worse than mine. I am, at least, positioned within three hours of Indianapolis and a little over an hour from Saint Louis. Some people are HOURS away from the nearest major city. I’ve read stories of couples who have moved just to be closer to their RE’s office. I am certainly glad it didn’t come to that for us because that would have been one of the worst decisions we ever made! My point is, do your research, and if you don’t like the options given to you, ask for more options and consider the investment you’re willing to make if you need to travel very far from home. I am driving two hours one-way to see Dr. A., and for the first few months it will be 4-5 times a month. The cost is enough, but there will be missed work, wear/tear on my car, and the cost of gas, copays, and food.
My fourth miscarriage occurred a year ago this week. It started with some severe abdominal pain on the right side. It felt like I was being stabbed. I went to my local urgent care. They asked if I thought I could be pregnant. I told them I wasn’t on any kind of birth control but my symptoms didn’t point to pregnant, and I had JUST been on my period about 12 days before, so they didn’t do a pregnancy test. They had me pee in a cup, but it was to test for UTI or kidney infection. They also drew blood and still came up empty-handed, so they decided it could be appendicitis and scheduled me for a CT with contrast (dye) and they prescribed Norco for the pain. I went the next day for an emergency CT. I thought I might die during the CT I was in SO MUCH pain! Later that afternoon I got a call from one of the nurse practitioners at the urgent care telling me all they found was some “fluid on my abdomen” and they thought it might be in my uterus so they were referring me to the area’s best OB. I actually saw the midwife, but I was fine with it. She delivered some of my friends’ and family members’ babies and she’s SO gentle, laid back, and calm. That’s when I found out I was pregnant. I was scared to death. I knew instantly that it would miscarry. I just KNEW it would, and it did about a week later. They did an ultrasound to verify the miscarriage and that’s when they noticed the septum in my uterus and decided I needed to see an RE.
I had asked around before about reproductive specialists. A few people I knew highly recommended this guy in Evansville, Indiana, which is about 90 minutes from my house. One friend in particular absolutely swore by him, called him a “miracle worker”. When the midwife said she would like to refer me to him I was comfortable with the decision. We met for the consultation and no red flags went up (except that he seemed kind of…old, and he looks kind of like Christopher Lloyd.). I’m not promoting age discrimination, BUT a lot of older doctors who have been practicing for a really long time are fairly set in their ways. They believe what they WANT to believe, and they don’t really take much initiative when it comes to researching or understanding new methods. Long story short, the RE was set in his ways. To make for the perfect storm, his staff SUCKS!!! I must mention I worked as a med tech and medical office staff for 15 years before I got into human services two years ago. I know how medical offices work. Their staff is generally under-trained in one area or another (or all of them), they’re almost always under-paid, and these doctors NEVER have a large enough staff. It’s amazing the difference just ONE more staff member could make, but good luck convincing a doctor of that. I don’t want to relive the nightmare. I’ll just tell you there were COUNTLESS mistakes made in my treatment, especially following my surgery. We had issues from delays in scheduling, to meds not getting ordered (or ordered at the wrong pharmacy), to me receiving a lab order with another patient’s name on it. The last straw was when they had me come in for a last-minute ultrasound so I could start some new meds and then they royally screwed up ordering the meds. I didn’t get the meds, and then they STILL billed me for the ultrasound, even though the whole thing was THEIR fault. At that point we were done. I was beyond livid, inconsolable, and we were BROKE. We maxed out all our credit cards. We had been driving 180+ miles round trip three times a month, taking three days a month off work, paying for copays and medications, and we were just absolutely spent! I wanted to give up, but my boyfriend didn’t, and I am glad he reminded me of why we got into all of this to begin with. It’s not about the money or the struggle. It’s about our dream of becoming parents and having that opportunity to snuggle a baby of our own, to love them unconditionally and endlessly, to have a reason to live much bigger than ourselves.
I am still very hurt by how things turned out with that RE. I won’t say his name or the name of his clinic. There is more than one RE in Evansville. You can guess who it is if you want, but I am not out to destroy someone’s reputation. Some of his patients absolutely adore him, and honestly, he’s a kind, gentle man. He was just a bad fit for us.
My goal is to educate other people so they don’t have to go through everything we’ve suffered. Do your research, ask the hard questions, and NEVER take “no” for an answer. If you ask your doctor a question and they don’t know the answer, they should be willing to find the right answer for you. If s/he can’t or won’t do that for you, they don’t deserve to be your doctor – plain and simple. The FIRST time your doctor or their staff screws up, you need to make them aware of it, and make it very clear that you can’t afford to give them too many second chances. You cannot afford to waste your time and money on doctors and staff who aren’t equipped to help you. Don’t let them treat you like just another number. Don’t let them make you believe that you can’t get the help you need somewhere else. I’ll bet you can, and I’ll bet you won’t let the next doctor get away with that crap!
My sincerest hope is that you will NEVER have a doctor treat you the way I was treated. Whether it was intentional or not, I was lied to, disregarded, neglected, disrespected, and violated. They almost made me give up on the one thing I have always wanted more than anything in the world, and that is just not okay. They were more worried about shuffling as many patients as they could through their offices, like cattle, than actually taking care of us. Fertility is a profitable business, folks! Taking a few months to research our options would have been worth it. I would have preferred it to wasting the last year of our lives.
PLEASE, think twice and act once. Don’t be afraid to be assertive, or even aggressive. Just because someone has a degree, some credentials, and a few extra letters after his/her name does NOT mean they know more than you about what is best for you. The moral of the story is, don’t believe everything you hear.
Female Fertility Facts – http://www.mcrmfertility.com/learning-center/female-fertility-facts/
Myths – http://www.mcrmfertility.com/learning-center/myth-of-unexplained-infertility/
Preseed – http://www.firstresponse.com/en/Products/Lubricants/Fertility-Friendly-Lubricant?gclid=CKCej-6SyNMCFYI7gQodGy8LKA