Channeling

I decided that all of this infertility experience and knowledge and pain had to be good for something, so in March/April I took up two new challenges:

I created the Infertility Safe Media Database. I was so tired of being bombarded with hurtful/upsetting content in TV and film, to the point where I’d resorted to watching YouTube playthroughs of horror video games. (Side note: I recommend MrKravin, and John Wolfe).

If every media outlet gives you pain, how do you get through the day? By checking there first. And so far it has been really well received in the infertility community on Reddit and social media. Spread it wide, friends!

I also signed up to be a mentor at Fruitful. It’s a free matching service for people who are relatively close to each other, matching those with experience in infertility to those who need guidance and support. I’ve been matched lately with someone I really like talking to, and it has felt good to share my experience and advice.

They say this affects 1 in 8 people – so the more resources out there the better.

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Fertility Workups [UK]

So I thought I’d write a bit about the process of getting fertility testing here in the UK, in case it helps others. It also helps me to get it all out.

NB:  This information is based on my own personal experience in Scotland. Your experience may vary, and I’m by no means an expert.

 

WHEN

Basically, the recommended time to be trying (if you’re under the age of 35) before they’ll start testing is now 18 months. Most couples conceive within a year, with almost all conceiving within 18-24 months.

However. If you have any other obvious issues going on (erratic periods, painful periods, no periods, very long cycles, etc) they will test you from 12 months. If you are over 35, they will test from 12 months if everything seems as it should, or 6 months if you have any of the aforementioned issues going on.

 

HOW TO GET THE BALL ROLLING

First port of call is your GP.  You’ll need a basic idea of your cycle history, notes of any issues you’ve noticed, any vitamins you’re taking, etc.  They will ask about your sex life, so don’t be shy.  Some GPs aren’t as knowledgeable on your options, but they’ll know how the referral process works at least.

 

THE REFERRAL

Your GP will then organise to refer you to your local Fertility clinic or centre. NHS centres are hospital-based (well the ones I’ve come across) and will send back a letter to you and your Dr explaining how the process works and what tests they need run by your GP.  My GP knew what they’d ask for so prepared me for it ahead of the letter, but your letter will most likely ask for the below:

  • A chlamydia swab test (self-swab, you do this at home and drop it in)
  • A blood test early in your cycle (between CD1-CD5) measuring levels of LH, FSH, E2, Prolactin, Testosterone, TFTs (I’ll explain what these are shortly).
  • A blood test around CD21 to test your hormone levels to see if you are ovulating
  • A Rubella test (immunity, rather than whether you actually have it!)

If your partner is also at the same GP they will get him sorted at the same time to get an SA – sperm analysis.  If it’s not at the same GP, his name will be noted on your referral and he will have to go to his own GP and give your name/mention the referral to get the ball rolling on his side.  Note: SAs are done “at least” a month apart, so that will hold things up – nothing will happen until both are done. Get your man on it ASAP.

After all of these tests have been completed, then you will go on the waiting list.

 

THE TESTS

LH –  Luteinising hormone:  Early in your cycle this hormone stimulates your ovaries to produce E2 and then surges before ovulation to get your body to release the egg.

FSH – Follicle-stimulating hormone:  Like LH, this is released by the pituitary gland to stimulate follicles to release an egg for ovulation. It is the main hormone involved in producing mature eggs in the ovaries. This test will help to assess your ovarian reserve.

E2 – Estradiol:  Estradiol is a form of the hormone estrogen. The ovaries, breasts, and adrenal glands make estradiol. During pregnancy, the placenta also makes estradiol. This test can indicate how well your ovaries are working/if there’s any cyst issues. Low levels of it can indicate PCOS.

Prolactin:  This is another hormone released by the pituitary gland. This test ultimate helps to rule out problems with the pituitary gland or hypothalamus. Increased levels of this can mess with ovulation.

Testosterone:  Too much going on can indicate PCOS. Too little means you’re not likely to get ovulation going.

TFTs:  This is a thyroid function test.  Your thyroid can play a big part in how your body regulates everything, and needs to be at an optimal level to get pregnant. If your thyroid is over or under-performing, conceiving can be difficult.

 

THE WAITING LIST

In Edinburgh right now the standard wait is 12 weeks. This means from GP to Clinic, you’re looking at 14-18 weeks before you’ll see anyone.  The tests need to be done (including the spaced-out SAs for your dude) and then the clinic needs an available appointment that you can both attend.  So don’t think it’ll be quick and that you’ll get assistance immediately, you need to just keep trying, unfortunately.

 

WHAT HAPPENS THEN

Well, I don’t personally know but I know the possibilities – they could want to scan my ovaries, they could take more blood, they could organise an HSG (dye/scan of your tubes), they could end up doing an op to see what’s going on in there.  I’ll do another post/update this one once we’ve had the appointment.

 

YOUR OPTIONS

There are many! From IUI to IVF. And I plan to go over them at some stage in future, after our appointments.

 

AND OF COURSE

You may not need any of this. My hope is that we will fall naturally before any of this shizzle happens. At the moment I appear to have one issue which I will cover in the next post.

 

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Coming up next: My results and where we stand.

Excellent Web Resources

Here are some online tools I’ve found super helpful!

ctpCountdown to Pregnancy: This site not only has an account function where you can track your cycle, it also has calculators to work out ovulation and due dates (including important dates throughout the entire pregnancy, not just the end date!), and forum boards/feedback areas for your home pregnancy tests. Well worth checking out! I love that I can compare symptoms from current cycles with my previous one, so I know that yes, I am just being crazy. I do use a bunch of apps on my phone to track everything, but it’s really nice having another web resource as well.

twwTwo Week Wait:  This site is helpful for those who are obsessed with others’ stories. I love the bfp by dpo area where you can read posts from folks detailing what symptoms came up for them each day.  The majority of felt ‘symptoms’ each month are due to progesterone, not pregnancy, but it helps to read what others experienced – and post your own, if successful! (I journal mine for comparison too).

ffFertility Friend:  I’d be surprised if you’re TTC and not using FF.  It’s not the prettiest or most intuitive site/app, but it really does seem to be very accurate and it is always comparing your symptoms/cycle to others in the database. It has a “cycles like mine” feature, a cycle dates planner, and much more.  I check it daily, even if it’s not the TWW.

redditForums:  Everyone needs someone to talk to, right?  I’ve found throughout this whole process that there are very few people willing to speak openly out in the real world about what they’re going through.  Online discussion forums have been a bit of a godsend to me.  I find Reddit forums particularly helpful. Well worth signing up and making a “multireddit” to track all of them at once.

Any other good web resources you use?

 

Getting It All Out

Just a short post but I wanted to recommend something I’ve found really helpful.

 

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Journalling.

Oh yes, most of us had them, didn’t we? Journals as teens. Angst bleeding into the pages from our very dark and sad souls.  I do not want to read mine. They are probably so, so awful (and I imagine full of overdramatic lies).

When I was 16 I started a livejournal and found an amazing community around it. I also had a private livejournal, and wow. That was just amazing for my brain.

So now, at 31, I’ve found great solace in private journalling again. And I now use Penzu. (This is not a sponsored post in any way, by the way – pfft, you think I can get sponsorship?).  Penzu is free with upgradeable features, and I did end up going for that because I like having multiple journals and pretty cover art (I’m a magpie, okay?).  Journals default as private but you can also share your journal with anyone you wish.

So yes. Go get emosh. Let those feelings out. It helps, I promise.