Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Infertility in the news


Since infertility has been a big subject in my life the past few years, whenever I see things in the news about it, it peaks my interest. Recently a study has come out about men's declining sperm count. "Sperm counts in the West plunge by 60pc in 40 years as 'modern life' damages men's health." The decline shows no sign of stopping either. That is crazy when you think about it!

The article also said that poor sperm can be an indicator of other health problems; Aside from the obvious implications for reproduction, the researchers said the declines were consistent with reported trends in testicular cancer, the number of children born with one or both testicles missing, the onset of male puberty and total testosterone levels. This is not something that should be ignored. There were several possible reasons given in the article; chemicals... BPA... processed meats... but I got the impression they don't really know for sure. If there are chemicals in the food that we are being exposed to that are causing problems like this (plus who knows what other issues could be attributed to it such as cancer), something needs to be done.

The same study was also covered in the Daily mail, which is a tabloid paper. They commented about how women are typically "blamed" for infertility when often it is the man at fault. I really wonder when the blame game of women "being career women" and "waiting too late" is going to stop. Anyway, the article mentioned that maybe men and women will have to start freezing their sperm and eggs when they are young for future use! This is not an ideal solution for numerous reason. It's an interesting idea though. I'm currently reading "The handmaiden's Tale" for my book club and articles like this make the book seem not all that far fetched!


The comments under both articles (there and on the facebook pages) were despicable though. Firstly there were lots of people blaming "feminists" and "feminism". That made my blood boil. Come on! Some people seriously think that women having equal rights and being allowed to work and vote for instance is causing men to feel so threatened that their bodies produce less sperm?! Give me a break! The other most prevalent comment was about "overpopulation" and that this sperm issue is hence "a good thing". That also upset me. I can see how over population can be a problem is certain countries especially with poor access to family planning and contraceptive measures but in the western world we have the opposite problem. Germany has an aging population for instance. Many couples these days only have one kid on average, or none at all! And people not being about to have the choice to have children is in no way a "good thing". I wouldn't wish infertility on my worst enemy! It is heartbreaking to go through.

By the way I wanted to add that by using a picture of the manly Jon Snow from Game of Thrones I'm not in any way suggesting that there might be any issue with his swimmers... But if there were, it wouldn't make me think any less of him!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Weeks 7-9

Trigger warning: pregnancy discussed


Things have been a little up and down since our first appointment where we saw the heartbeat. Mainly great but I've also had some very anxious moments.

Dr. Peppy, the doctor at our fertility clinic gave me a plan for how to taper off Prednisolone the steroids I've been taking. It was quite a steep drop. I was to go from 15mg a day to 10mg then three days later drop again to 5mg then three days later to 2.5mg and then stop completely. I reduced the first amount from 15mg to 10mg but then I noticed my glands were slightly swollen and I wondered whether it might be a side effect. I also started to get nervous about going off the steroids so soon. I did some research online and most women who take prednisolone to reduce inflammation stay on them till the twelfth week of pregnancy before then gradually tapering off.

So I decided it best to phone the immune doctor to confirm with her. The treatment plan I had been given just said to reduce once the heartbeat was established but it was vague. When I phoned and explained the situation the lady at the practice seemed alarmed and said I shouldn't have reduced already, that it was too soon! She said that she would get the doctor to email me to tell me what to do. Obviously that phone call worried me! I decided to not reduce any further and to stay on 10mg until I heard from the doctor. It took several anxiety filled days before I got an email from the immune clinic. The email emphasised again that it had been too soon to go down without having my natural killer cell level activity rechecked. I was asked whether I wanted another treatment plan sent out to which I immediately replied in the affirmative. I was freaking out after the email though. Really worried that I might have ruined everything. My sister had also told me all about a friend of hers who had had a traumatic missed miscarriage at 10 weeks recently and I couldn't stop thinking about it which probably didn't help my worries.

Hubby thought we should trust dr. Peppy. Another friend I asked thought I should listen to the immune doc who is the expert in the area. Hubby offered to phone the practice to discuss what I should do. I thought that would be a good idea because I didn't want anything to be lost in translation (remember all the communication had been in German)! The email had come across as very harsh! But then things in German can often come across that way to non native speakers. Anyway hubby phoned and discussed my treatment with the doctor - He said that the fact that I reduced the prednisolone wasn't that bad, the issue was that I had gone down too severely, I should have only reduced by 2.5mg amounts not 5mg. The new plan was that I stay on 10mg for another two weeks (till week 10) and then in one week intervals start to go down by 2.5mg.

I am also able to reduce the Granocyte injections from every third day to every four for two weeks then every five days. I felt very relieved after that phone call! That said I was still nervous for the eight week scan. This time the appointment was done at my local gyno. It went great thank God! The baby is actually starting to look like a tiny person now, not just a dot! It was really incredible to see the head and tiny hands. Everything looked perfect. The doctor also gave me a book about pregnancy. Afterwards I got another Intralipid infusion done.

The only bad thing was that my doctor was pretty against flying at all during pregnancy. He said it increases the risk of thrombosis and miscarriage slightly so we would be taking a risk travelling to Dublin for my brother's wedding. Hubby and I did discuss whether we should cancel the trip but I really wanted to go. Also lots of people have flown pregnant and been ok so I felt like it should be fine. That doesn't mean I wasn't anxious though! I avoided the x-ray machines in the airport and even wore a "belly band" which is meant to protect against radiation which I'd ordered online! We had a great time, it was so nice seeing everyone. I even told a few friends and an aunt who had been praying for us and knew about our struggles our "news" in person, which was lovely. Everyone has been extremely happy for us. It still all feels surreal though to be honest! I wonder when it will actually feel more real. Part of me is scared at times to enjoy it too much in case I jinx it, but then the other part wants to enjoy every second!

I noticed a few more "symptoms" kicked in since week eight. If I let myself get too hungry I will start to feel quite nauseous. My sense of smell is sharper. I've also been feeling more tired and I've been more forgetful too! After the Ireland trip, I felt exhausted. Work was quite stressful too for various reasons. Then a few days later for the first time in this pregnancy I had some red spotting. It happened late at night. It reminded me of the awful miscarriage I had after our first IVF and for several seconds I just thought "Oh no, no, no..." However it was only a small amount of bleeding and it stopped soon after thankfully. I found it hard to sleep that night and kept wondering what I should do - go to the hospital, phone my gyno in the morning or do nothing and assume everything is fine. In the end I decided to call my doctor first thing. When I phoned and explained about the small amount of bleeding (but no cramps) I was told to make my way there immediately. That was quite nerve wracking as you can imagine! It was a different doctor this time but she was very nice. She checked my cervix which was closed and the right length, and she couldn't locate the source of the bleeding. She said that some spotting can be normal in the first trimester. Then she did a scan to check on the baby.

At first it just looked like a blob this time! I couldn't make out where the head was. She said the baby was in a funny position with his/her head leaning over the body looking at the feet. We both stared at the screen and there was no sign of a heartbeat at first. It seemed like it took forever while the doctor kept moving the ultrasound wand around. I was thinking something like "Oh God, oh God, please can the baby be ok". After what felt like an eternity but was probably only a minute, she found the heartbeat and everything was fine! She did comment that the baby was "small". I didn't like the sound of that. It took ages to get a measurement because of the awkward position but it looked like baby is about a week behind in growth. The doctor said not to worry though. She also wrote me off sick for several days and told me to rest at home and take magnesium. If I have any more bleeding or get cramps outside their practice opening hours then I should go straight to the hospital.

Luckily everything has been fine since then. I've just been taking it very easy. Watching lots of The Good Wife again! I go back for another scan early next week. Hopefully the baby will have grown more by then. I'm trying not to worry about the growth thing. I read on online forums that it's normal enough in the first trimester for the baby to measure a week ahead or behind. I also think that the baby's awkward position could have messed up the measurement. So that's a run down on the last few weeks! Only a few more to get through until, please God, I'll make it safely into the second trimester.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Silly question of the day



This question was doing the rounds on social media recently. If you had a choice of taking a blue pill and restarting your life at age 10 but with all you know now, or of taking a red pill and waking up age 45 with 50 million dollars, what would you choose?

I did think about it for a moment but to me it's clear, I would go for the blue pill! Why would I want to wish the next ten years of my life away? Sure I would get a million dollars but so what, to me the years in between spent with friends and family are a lot more valuable! I do realise that being in a position to turn down a million dollars probably also shows that I already have a certain amount of privilege. I have a roof over my head and plenty of access to food and health care. I'm sure there are lots of people who would be desperate for the money for various reasons.

Life is short and the thought of getting more time is appealing. That said, I don't particularly like the idea of having to start at age 10 all over again! I would have to go through the teenage years with all those crazy hormones, immature friends, not to mention exams which doesn't sound particularly appealing. However I have gained a lot of knowledge by now that I think I could manage it!

The main advantage for me of course would be the opportunity to spend time with my late Mum again. She passed just before my 23rd birthday. The idea of getting another 13 years with her would be amazing. And this time I would make sure we have more quality time. The idea of having to watch her get sick again is hard though, but maybe with my knowledge I could send her to the doctor earlier so she could get diagnosed sooner. I would try to be a better daughter this hypothetical time too.

I also wouldn't care as much about what other people think of me. As I've gotten older I've realised how little that really matters and that you should rather be true to yourself.

I would invest in shares, haha! Google, Facebook, Apple... maybe that way by age 45 I'd easily have saved a million dollars.

I was considering whether I would study something different at university for a total change but then I realised that the subjects I picked (German among others) ended up leading me down a path where I met my now husband and moved to Germany. I'm very happy with these decisions so I'd probably be better off studying the same topics and not changing any of the big life choices I made in the past.

It is also possible that maybe I would drive myself crazy trying to stop awful events which I would know in advance about. There's this character from ancient Greek mythology called Cassandra. She was given the gift of foresight but no one ever believes her so it becomes a horrible curse.

Which would you pick if you were given the choice? I guess choosing neither is also an option.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Heartbeat


Trigger warning: pregnancy mentioned.


Firstly I wanted to say thanks so much for all the lovely comments and messages from everyone! It really means a lot to us.

Well I finally the day I've been waiting years for arrived. It was my first pregnancy ultrasound ever! The appointment wasn't till 5pm and it felt like such a long day waiting for it. On the way to the clinic, hubby and I both felt pretty nervous. I couldn't help thinking that either it was going to be an amazing moment or an awful one! Once we were called in to Dr. Peppy we spoke for a few minutes and then she suggested we do the ultrasound. I jumped up, pretty eager to finally see what's going on in there!

She started having a look and pretty immediately found something - the gestational sac with a tiny fetus..and a heartbeat too! I literally burst into tears at that stage! Mostly from relief to be honest. Just all the anxiety had been building up and I was so relieved and happy to know that everything is ok! The doctor also confirmed that there is only one baby in there. I did feel a little sad thinking about the other embryo that didn't make it but we are still absolutely delighted with one. A multiple pregnancy would have had more risks. We would be so grateful for one healthy baby! Once I pulled myself together and stopped crying I was able to ask some questions. It was so amazing seeing the little heartbeat! You can't really see much at this early stage (six weeks), just that something is there. The baby is only the size of a pomegranate seed!

Then Dr. Peppy discussed all my meds. I am to continue taking something for my thyroid plus baby aspirin. The Granocyte injections will be kept up every three days until I reach the 2nd trimester. I will need to continue getting the intralipid infusions every two weeks until then too. Progesterone tablets and steroids I can gradually start reducing now. And then she said that that would be my last appointment there, the next one would be at my local gyno! Wow, gradation from the fertility clinic already. We thanked the doctor profusely for all her help. She could see how happy and overwhelmed we were!


Afterwards I got another Intralipid done. That took almost two hours. The clinic had really bad reception so it was ages before I was able to message my family to let them know how the appointment went! Everyone was delighted. To be honest this whole experience still feels completely surreal. Sort of like I've woken up in a parallel world where our dream is actually coming true. This morning I phoned my gyno and arranged an appointment for two weeks time. I'll be eight weeks pregnant by then, please God.

I don't think either of us will be able to fully relax until the second trimester to be honest. I still have a fair bit of anxiety. That said, I am absolutely loving the thought that there is a tiny baby growing in there right now. I'm praying so hard that it will be a viable pregnancy and the little one will stick around. So far my only symptoms have been increased appetite, sore boobs, tiredness and lots of heartburn! Hubby is excited too. He's even been thinking about how many months he'd like to take as parental leave (In Germany, you get 14 months to share among the parents). It's so amazing to dream and imagine.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Nice high number


Six days after our first blood test I went in for the second one. I had to get up at 5.30am in order to get to my clinic as early as possible so that I would make it back to my office in time. I didn't mind too much though. After all the challenges of going through IVF it wasn't such a big deal and I'm excited to have a reason to need a second blood test. I also got some of my prescriptions renewed while I was there. The clinic told me they would call between two and three pm. During my lunch break I went home hoping the results might be ready early but no such luck. Hubby was going to get back earlier from work that day so we agreed that he would phone the clinic to find out the results but not tell me until I came home just in case the news was bad.

That was the idea. In practice when I didn't hear anything from hubby I started worrying that maybe it was bad news and he was waiting to tell me in person! The time passed really slowly in the office before I was able to get home and the half hour before I got back, I started getting really anxious thinking how devastating it would be if the news wasn't good. As soon as I arrived in front of the house, hubby rushed out to meet me, smiling, and said it was good news! Thank you God!! I burst into tears again, this has definitely been an emotional time for me lately haha! Happy tears though.

He told me the HCG has gone up to 2343. Amazing!! I put it into into HCG online calculator and it said that's a normal doubling rate. We have an appointment in a week's time for the first ultrasound. How exciting! At that stage we should finally find out whether there are one or two embryos growing and if we are lucky see a heatbeat/heatbeats. It feels so surreal thinking about that! I am still on cloud nine and can't stop smiling.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Pregnancy after loss and cold showers


After the happiness and surprise eventually came the worry. Pregnancy after a loss can be a tricky one to deal with. I remember that hard week after our first IVF when I was technically pregnant but with a low HCG value and was told it could go either way. There was a little spotting some days but it always went away. I had some mild symptoms such as tiredness, increased appetite and sore boobs. I kept doing pregnancy tests hoping the line would get darker but it grew fainter instead which was probably a likely indication that it was non viable. The longer I remained pregnant the more I had hope though that maybe it would still be ok. However the miscarriage begun the night before when our first scan at our previous clinic would have been.

I can't help having some anxiety regarding this pregnancy. I found a link online where you can calculate your miscarriage risk and it said mine was about 26% (at four weeks, it goes down the longer you remain pregnant)! That was stupid of me to look it up. However I then came across a more reassuring link and when you take our strong initial HCG value into account it seems promising that this could be a viable pregnancy. I keep reminding myself that there is no reason to assume that everything isn't fine. This pregnancy already seems stronger than my last (which was a year and a half ago. Crazy). I have barely any symptoms though of course it's super early at this point, just four weeks. It just feels surreal most of the time!

I did a second pregnancy test yesterday for some reassurance and there was a strong second line which was nice to see. The next stage is to go back to my clinic for a second blood test and provided all goes well I could have the first scan a week later. Wouldn't that be exciting!? At our new clinic they make you wait a week for the second blood test which seems so long! I have a dentist appointment that day so I asked if I could come in a day earlier (Monday) for the blood test and that's fine. The HCG is meant to be doubling every few days. A slow rising HCG can be indicative of a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. A scan at around 6-7 weeks should be able to show a heartbeat and once a heartbeat is present, then the risk of miscarriage drops to around 5%. So if I could get to that stage I can imagine I'll breathe a huge sigh of relief. One minute I feel ecstatic and love thinking about the future, and another I try to reign myself in, thinking I shouldn't get ahead of myself so early.


In other news, there have been some unexpected house costs lately. There's a problem with our water heating. It came to a head the day of the result actually. Hubby was all stressed but I was barely thinking about it. He said, "don't you care if there's no hot water and you have to have cold showers"? I think my reply was something like, "I would gladly take cold showers for all nine months if I can have a healthy pregnancy!" Anyway it turns out the problem has gotten worse so I have been having to have cold showers lately, haha. And I don't mind as long as the baby or babies on board are doing ok. That said, we are getting someone to come to the house to try to fix the problem as soon as possible. We are hoping it won't be too expensive. There have been quite a few unforeseen repairs that have come up ever since we moved in. I don't think our surveyor did a great job at predicting stuff!

I also wanted to mention that I know I have a lot of followers who are still in the midst of the infertility trenches. I will try my best to be as sensitive as possible regarding our news and I certainly don't intend to turn this into a "pregnancy" blog now. Occasionally I will mention it but I plan to write about plenty of other things too. Of course, it's still at an extremely early stage so I don't feel like I am out of the woods yet by any means but I am incredibly grateful to have reached this point!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Is this for real? Overjoyed!


This morning I went to my clinic for the blood test. I told the nurse that I had already tested yesterday and gotten a positive and asked about getting more prescriptions for my meds. I also inquired about when I should get the next Intralipid infusion done. I had brought it with me just in case. The nurse gave me the prescriptions I would need, about one week's worth by the looks of things and then told me they would administer the intralipid for me today!

I was glad to get it done rather than have to come back a different day though I was annoyed at myself for forgetting to pack a snack. I'd had breakfast at 8.30am but I wouldn't end up getting home until around 2pm. I was told the clinic would phone me between 2 and 3pm. Dr. Peppy who had been on holiday was back and it was really nice to see her again. I asked her what HCG value would they like to see today and she said at least 50.

I only got in the door around 2pm, had some lunch and then around half an hour later the phone rang. I was too scared to answer it! Hubby answered and put it on speaker phone. The woman from the clinic sounded happy so I already had a good feeling. She said that it was positive and all the values were great! Hubby asked what the HCG value was exactly and she said...wait for it... 239!!! Can you believe it? What a great value!!

Back during my first IVF, I only had a value of 28. This pregnancy already feels different and stronger, thank God!! I phoned my Dad on skype and he cried, it was so sweet. I was crying too! This is honestly like a dream come true, though it still feels surreal!

Next week I go back to my clinic for a second blood test. No scan yet unfortunately. They seem to just want you to do several blood tests before the first scan. It's extremely early days, like I'm only 4 weeks now. But, I am so grateful and amazed that our fourth and final IVF may be actually working!! Today is the best day!! Thank you so much everyone for all the support and lovely comments.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Happy tears


I had been debating the merit of testing a day or two before the official blood test. A single pregnancy test was in my drawer so it wasn't like I'd have to actually go out and buy any. For several days I went over the pros and cons of testing early. The main advantage being an extra day to "prepare" myself if it were negative. The last few days I have also had quite a few ups and downs.

One moment convinced this hasn't worked as I don't feel anything and with my bad luck in terms of trying to have a baby why would it? I'd even started thinking what we would do if it failed. Places we could visit for instance Barcelona or Malta sprung to mind. I also was wondering whether it would then make sense to make an appointment at our clinic to find out their thoughts and how low are chances are. However then I'd remind myself to stay hopeful a bit longer. The evening before last I started noticing some twinges around my ovaries which I couldn't help thinking could be a good sign. I've also had heartburn quite frequently. Although anything can be a side effect from all the drugs and hormones!

Ok, I'll get to the point... Before breakfast I decided to sneak away and do a test before hubby could tell me not to. Once I saw the dye initially just create the control test line and nothing else I looked away thinking "oh no, I can't bear this if it will be negative" and I started praying desperately while I waited.


About minute later I peeked at the test and to my absolute shock there was a second line. I looked again closer. It was definitely there! I double checked the instructions on the test, I was doing it right. Then I burst into tears! Extremely happy tears. I was shaking from just feeling so overwhelmed. I'm delighted! I am honestly really happy to have come one step closer. When I went back to the bedroom to tell hubby who was only just waking up, I burst into tears again. At first he got worried and couldn't tell whether I was happy or sad! I managed to get out that they were "happy tears" as he hugged me.

This is just stage one. The next hurdle is getting a good strong beta value at the blood test tomorrow. After our first IVF the HCG value was only 28 which implied it could end up being an early miscarriage which it sadly was. A number over 50 would have been better but ideally over 100. Hubby is still very apprehensive and worried. He told me he's anxious I'm getting my hopes up too much. I told him I am just taking it one day at a time and today I can be happy! I know I still have a long way to go. But the amazing thing is that one or both of our embryos implanted and as of right now, I am pregnant!! Please God the blood test will go well tomorrow.