Tuesday, May 3, 2011

National Infertility Week

We just finished up a week designated for raising awareness of infertility problems.  Coincidentally, it was also the week that I had my first appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist.  Ben and I have been married for a year and a half, and have been open to pregnancy for about a year of that time.  During the last year, I've only had 4 periods.  We would get really excited each time I was late, but pregnancy tests were always negative.  Finally I was able to get in and see an expert.  Blood test results combined with my symptoms have led to the diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).  PCOS affects an estimated 10% of women.  It is basically an imbalance of hormones that can contribute to infertility by halting ovulation.

The good news is that since PCOS is so common, there a multiple resources and online support groups and forums.  From what I've been reading, PCOS and it's unpleasant symptoms can be managed with weight loss (though it is difficult to lose weight due to PCOS), low-carbohydrate diets, and moderate exercise.  

From a fertility standpoint, the solution is to regulate the hormones with medication, and, in effect, force the body to ovulate.  The process, called Ovarian Induction, is straightforward.  At the beginning of your cycle (luckily, mine started the day of my appointment so I was able to jump right in with treatment), you take Clomid pills to stimulate follicle growth.  Later, you also take Bravelle injections to continue to develop the dominant follicles.  The goal is to have 1-2 mature follicles.  When that point is reached (determined by somewhat awkward transvaginal ultrasounds), then you take a trigger shot to begin ovulation. 

Success rates for my age range are pretty promising.  The 18% are pregnant after the first cycle, 27% after two, and 50% after three, 75% are pregnant after six cycles.  As each cycle takes two months and costs about $1,000, we are hoping to find ourselves pregnant sooner rather than later.  So far I am 10 pills, 3 injections, 2 ultrasounds, and 17 days into my first cycle.

Side note:  While this is the same treatment that Kate Gosselin undertook (minus the artificial insemination), the risk for multiples is much lower due to stricter recommendations by the American Fertility Association.  This means if more than 1-2 mature follicles develop, the cycle will be discontinued, preventing pregnancy with multiples.

Anyone else struggle with PCOS or infertility?