Getting pregnant isn't that easy - My story so far
I wasn't going to write this post, I didn't know whether it was a) appropriate or b) whether anyone would want to read it but after asking using the #lbloggers hashtag the general opinion was that if I was comfortable writing about it then I should, because it could help someone out or make them feel better about their situation. I'm not saying that every woman will experience these things while trying to get pregnant but this is just what has happened to me so far.
I spent a good number of years trying to prevent pregnancy; like many young women I've been on the pill and had the contraceptive injection and I just always imagined that I would be able to get pregnant whenever I wanted, I would just have to stop taking the pill for a couple of months. You hear of women who get pregnant just because they miss one pill in the cycle, or the condom breaks and BAM! they catch on. Getting pregnant is all about 'doing it' at the right time, there are actually only a couple of days in every monthly cycle that a woman is fertile (when she ovulates), so providing everything is in working order and sperm meets egg at the right time, you will get pregnant.
I took my last contraceptive pill in April 2012, and was 'not trying but not preventing' (which is having sex without protection but not counting cycle days/doing ovulation tests) for a good 6 months until we got married in the October. I then started to look into what I should be doing to start properly trying to get pregnant and after trawling through various websites and forums I bought some ovulation sticks and a thermometer to test when my most fertile time was every month in the hope that we would have sex at the right time. The problem was that my periods were a little hard to keep a track of; the shortest cycle was 27 days and the longest was 38... which makes finding out when you're ovulating even more difficult!
A year passed and nothing so I decided it was time to go to the doctors to see if they could help (generally doctors won't do anything for you unless you have been trying to conceive for around a year). The doctor sent me for some tests and requested that my husband did a semen test. For men, a semen test is pretty much where it ends and my husbands came back fine so it was kind of left down to me... which isn't a great feeling.
The first step in my case was to go and check that I didn't have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) as I had some of the usual symptoms; adult acne, being overweight, painful, irregular periods and obviously finding it hard to conceive. The way they check for cysts on your ovaries is to do an ultrasound scan, so off I popped to my local hospital for a scan.
Ultrasound Scan Experience
The instructions on the sheet I was give was to make sure I drunk plenty of water one hour before the scan and didn't empty my bladder as a full bladder would show my ovaries a lot clearer. I obviously followed the instructions and the nurse began the scan by scanning my abdomen; she shook her head and said, in a scolding tone 'your bladder isn't anywhere near full enough, you haven't drunk enough water have you', I knew I had, I followed the instructions exactly and explained this to her, she said that she couldn't see anything of my ovaries by scanning my abdomen from the outside and told me only alternative was to do an internal scan. This involved a pretty scary looking probe which would be inserted to allow my ovaries to be viewed from the inside rather than the outside. She made absolutely zero attempt to make me feel at ease about the situation; I'd never had any kind of examination 'down there' so this was quite a big deal for me and her lack of bedside manner really wasn't helping. Nevertheless, I agreed to the internal scan because I knew I would have to make another appointment if I didn't. She inserted the probe and began a scan of my ovaries, this was uncomfortable but not painful and fairly quick. She took a few still shots of what she could see, removed the probe and told me to get dressed. I asked if she could see anything and she replied telling me that she wasn't qualified to interpret the scan results... which is fine but woah was she cold and uncaring about the whole thing, maybe she was having a bad day but I certainly don't think I deserved to be treat in such an unfeeling manner. But it was over and I had to ring my doctor for the results.
Result: Clear; my ovaries didn't have any cysts.
Next I had to have a series of blood tests to determine whether I was ovulating or not; this is done by testing for the luteinizing hormoneat the beginning of my cycle and then again towards the end of my cycle. The results should show a higher level of the hormone towards the end of my cycle than at the beginning; this shows that there has been a surge which indicates that I have ovulated.
Result: Yep, I was ovulating
So now I had to make an appointment with a fertility specialist doctor to determine the next course of action. I went and had a general check up at the hospital, got weighed and all that and was told that I had to lose weight. I knew this, my BMI was way too high (39) and this could be a factor in why I wasn't getting pregnant. By this time I was already going to Slimming World which was a step in the right direction; the doctor didn't dwell on my weight issue for long but she said she wanted me to reduce my BMI to 30 by the time she saw me next (which will be May 2014)... my BMI is currently 34 so I'm doing well :) I had an internal examination and the doctor took several swabs to test for chlamydia and other things which could affect fertility and be quite dangerous if I still had them during the next test she was about to put me in for.
Result: Nope, I didn't have chlamydia
The next test I had to have was a Hysterosalpingogram (HSG), in fact I had it last Thursday, so the experience is really fresh in my mind and it's actually what led me to write this post. When searching on the internet I found such a lack of information about what actually happened to people during this test. You have to ring for an appointment for this on the first day of your period and they will aim to give you an appointment within the next 12 days as this test should be done before ovulation rather than after. To give a brief description of why they perform this test; it's to check whether you have any blockages in your fallopian tubes or any other abnormalities in that area by injecting dye into them and taking x-ray pictures.
I had to go a bit further afield for this test because my local hospital doesn't do it, so off I popped in the car feeling pretty apprehensive about the whole thing... the fear of the unknown I guess! I got to the X-ray department and waited, reminding my husband every 5 minutes of how much I was crapping myself about it. I was then taken into another area where I was asked by a very nice, soft spoken lady to wee into a cardboard hat and gown up leaving my trousers and knickers off. I was comforted somewhat by how the lovely lady was with me, she was so nice. I wasn't allowed to take my husband in with me which made me more nervous but when I saw the size of the room and what was in it I realised why. I was then led into the x-ray room and took a seat while they did a pregnancy test (injecting dye into a pregnant womans uterus obviously isn't a great idea). There were 5 women in the room all at once (2 nurses, 1 radiographer and 2 doctors; one of which I think was a student) which did make it a little crowded and made me feel a bit on edge but the fact that 3 out of the 5 were reeeeally nice made the experience a little more bearable.
Once the pregnancy test came back negative I was asked to lay on the bed under the x-ray machine with my bum on one pillow and my head on another. The whole time they 2 nurses and the radiographer were talking to me and trying to keep my mind occupied. The radiographer explained that when they were about to inject the dye they would ask a second male radiographer to go to the control room corner, he wouldn't however be able to see anything (not that I was bothered, I figure that in hospitals you pick your dignity up when you walk out of the door!). They brought the x-ray machine down to my abdomen and the doctor asked me to part my legs. She shoved the speculum in, and when I say shoved, that is what I mean. It didn't hurt but it just took me by surprise, I expected to at least be told what they were going to do! Then I felt something cold and one of the nurses said right we're going to insert the tube for the dye in now; this is the part I'd watched on YouTube, they insert the tube and then inflate a small balloon inside the uterus (presumably to stop the dye just flowing straight out). Well when they did this my uterus started cramping and I felt the one of the worst pains I think I have ever felt; it was like a really really really bad period pain. I screamed and said 'OW OW OW that is really really hurting' and was almost in tears. One of the nurses said grab my hand and squeeze it as tight as you want, and I really needed to. For me it was the kind of pain which makes you want to writhe around but obviously I just had to lay there and take it. The radiographer then called the male radiographer in and they injected the dye; this felt like hot liquid coursing through my insides, it wasn't as painful as the initial insertion of the tube but it was still bad enough to be breathing heavily and getting teary. The nurses tried to turn my attention to the screen as they took x-ray pictures of my uterus and fallopian tubes but I only managed to get a quick look; I think I could see the dye running freely out of one fallopian tube but I didn't look at the other side so I'm not sure about that.
I just started to get hot and really quite fed up with the situation when one of the nurses said right that's it all done and they pulled the tube out, which was pretty painless and hat was it the pain was gone. I was told to lay on the bed and move up so my legs weren't dangling over the edge and they asked me if I wanted a glass of water - I didn't I just wanted to get up and out. One of the nurses went and got me a sanitary towel which was like having a brick between my legs because she explained that the dye would run out of me and I could have some slight spotting afterwards. Both nurses continued to be really nice, honestly they couldn't have been nicer, they were both saying that I needed to rest for the remainder of the day and they encouraged me to milk it with my husband for as long as possible. I waddled through to the changing room with the pad between my legs and got changed, the nurse popped her head through the door and asked if I was ok and said 'good luck' which I thought was really nice. I didn't catch their names but if I did I would be writing a letter commending the pair of them!
Once out of the changing room I found Jason, I was so relieved that it was all over that we got out into the corridor and I just burst into tears. I felt like I'd had a really traumatic experience, I didn't expect pain like that nor had I ever experience it before. I was given 2 types of antibiotic to help prevent infection and a course of Diclofenac which is an anti-inflammatory painkiller to help with the pain. I didn't actually think I was in pain until I got to the pharmacy, well the cramping started again and I must have looked like I was in labour or something (oh the irony); I was puffing and panting and doubling over with pain for about 10 minutes then all of a sudden it just stopped even without pain relief, which I thought was a bit odd but I was so glad of the let up.Since then I've had a little bit of cramping and a tiny bit of spotting but nothing major; they say if you get heavy bleeding then there's something not right and you need to see a doctor.
Results: All clear...
Insider tip: Don't buy expensive pregnancy tests off the high street when you're trying for a baby, you go through so many of them that it would cost you an absolute fortune. I buy mine from eBay, they are like the ones that they use in hospitals; it's just a stick which you dip in your wee rather than them having all the unnecessary plastic around them! These are only £2.39 and they are really sensitive ones, meaning you could technically test before your period is due.
So that's as far as I have come in my quest to get pregnant so far, I next see the fertility doctor in May 2014 so we'll see the next plan of action then. Since first seeing my GP, my periods seem to have regulated a little more, I've have 2 that have been bang on time recently which really ups my confidence. I see it as my body thanking me for losing some weight by letting my cycles return back to normal thus making it easier for me to chart when I'm ovulating. So we're just going to carry on as we have been for the past however many months and hopefully I won't need to see the doctor again in May.
If you have reached the end of this post then well done! It was a lengthy one but I wanted to make sure that I didn't omit any important details that might make someone else more aware or help them in some way. I don't want to scare anyone with my experiences, I'm not saying that every nurse is as rude as the one who did my internal scan, or that every HSG is as painful as mine was but I think it's SO important to be prepared for example I might have taken a painkiller before my HSG to take the edge off. If I have made one person feel less alone in their struggle to get pregnant then this post was so worth while; I know when you're trying everyone around you seems to be shelling babies like peas which makes the fact that you don't have one when you really want one all the more frustrating and sometimes upsetting.
If any of you ever would like to just talk about your experiences, please email me, I will be more than happy to lend a listening ear and share a friendly word!