Hello and welcome to the intimate details of my life. I am Essential Baby's blogger-in-residence for the conception section, but the irony is, I won't be giving any advice on getting pregnant the old-fashioned way.
The problem is, my husband and I have been trying to get pregnant for more than three years now, all to no avail save a positive pregnancy test last December that lasted all of three days before fading to nothing. The blood test at the end of the week showed I "did not achieve clinical pregnancy", according to my doctor's notes.
I thought that all it took was a bottle of shiraz, a Dolce & Gabanna balconette bra and matching knickers and hey presto, nine months later, a bouncing baby boy or girl would emerge from my nether regions.
We are infertile. Actually I prefer the term sub-fertile. There is something so permanent about infertile and if I get to menopause without having a child then I will accept the infertile tag, but until then, I insist on sub-fertile.
Where to begin? In early 2006 I was editing a parenting magazine and knew absolutely bugger-all about kids, pregnancy, birth and babies. Despite having a midwife for a sister, I had no idea how to get pregnant, other than the basic logistics. I thought that all it took was a bottle of shiraz, a Dolce & Gabanna balconette bra and matching knickers and hey presto, nine months later, a bouncing baby boy or girl would emerge from my nether regions.
If only it was that easy. I started researching all things birth and baby related for my job and came upon Essential Baby, which provided me with many lightbulb moments. I was 29 and thought that I had loads of time to get knocked up. I was all about career, travel and good times. But the more I read, the more alarmed I became.
I decided to stop taking the pill and made an appointment with my GP who discovered I had a condition called polycystic ovaries (PCO) which can cause issues with ovulation and is one of the leading, but easily rectified causes of sub-fertility. I started to use a chart to plot the stages of my menstrual cycle by taking my temperature each day and marking it on a graph. It's a pretty accurate way of tracking ovulation and the good news was that the charts combined with blood tests ordered by my doctor showed I was ovulating normally. A perfect specimen and a great prospect for achieving a pregnancy.
About 8 months after stopping the pill, my partner and I took a long trip to Europe and having so far successfully avoided pregnancy by using the chart method, decided to go for gold. I invested in a bunch of little sticks that measure lutenising hormone in urine. If you get two strong lines on the sticks, ovulation is imminent, and the deed should be done.
So we threw caution to the wind, and I imagined telling our first-born they were conceived in a Munich backpacker hostel. But it didn't happen. No worries, we weren't in any rush. But the months dragged on and finally my GP referred me to a specialist who ordered a bunch of tests to check me out. Loads of blood was taken, I endured a form of torture called a HysteroSalpingoContrastSonography (HyCoSy) in which a contrast medium is pumped into the the fallopian tubes to test they are clear, and my partner was instructed to have his semen analysed more than once, but everything came back normal.
It was then the specialist decided to try me on what many women trying to conceive (or TTC as we call it in the community) believe to be a miracle drug. It was discovered when the contraceptive pill was being developed, but has the opposite effect. Rather than stopping ovulation, it encourages it, so in women with PCOS it can regulate ovulation and help them to conceive. I have a friend who has two gorgeous kids after successful Clomid cycles.
But four months on Clomid resulted in nothing but a couple of extra kilos. My specialist said there was nothing more he could do for us and referred us to a major IVF clinic in Sydney. By this stage it was almost two years since we had really started trying.
The first thing my new doctor did was order a complete workup on me, including a bunch of tests to check whether I had any auto-immune issues. This is a possible cause of recurrent miscarriage or failure for the embryo to implant in the uterine wall and as I have Crohn's Disease - an auto-immune condition - he thought it could be the cause for our lack of conception. More blood was taken - I counted 17 vials before passing out - and my partner was instructed to have another semen analysis, despite his previous good results, but I was convinced I was the one with the issues.
One month before we were due to get married we got the news. I had no problems. I was perfect. Ovulating regularly, a lovely looking uterus, clear fallopian tubes, no apparent auto-immune problems. I heard the same thing my GP originally said - I was a perfect specimen to achieve a pregnancy.
The news for my partner wasn't so good. His sperm count was fine, if a little sluggish, but the bad news was that he only had three percent normally shaped swimmers. 14 percent is considered normal, and with only three percent, the odds of us becoming pregnant naturally were exceptionally slim. And compounding the shape issue, he had something called anti-sperm antibodies, meaning the sperm were clumping together and couldn't move. It was like a rugby scrum in there. They were more interested in sticking together than swimming up to my lovely, fresh and fertile eggs. The good news was that the good sperm he had were of "high fertility potential" according to the Sperm Chromatin Structure Assay (SCSA) which is used to measure DNA fragmentation. This meant that all wasn't completely lost.
Hopefully we can get there, we just need a bit of help. And hopefully, this will be the shortest lasting blog on Essential Baby!
Comment on Prue's journey over at her Essential Baby blog.