5 Crucial Infertility Decisions

There is a general assumption that pregnancy will happen in the first month of trying to conceive. That actually is not the case. I know that this comes as a surprise to many. Under the best possible circumstances, people conceive 15 to 20% of the time in any given cycle, assuming that everything is healthy and working.  I was really shocked the first time I heard this statistic. When you are not conceiving easily or it’s taking time, it is crucial that you become your own advocate. There are many decisions to make along the way when you suspect that you have an infertility problem or when you are already in treatment. Here are 5 crucial infertility decisions for you and/or your partner to make that can make the road a little smoother.

1) If Your Intuition Is Pinging, Trust It.
Your intuition is pinging as you try to conceive but things are not going according to plan.  This may come as a sense or a whisper in your mind. It doesn’t always come with words that you can explain or that others can understand. So you check it out with others. Your OB/GYN, your partner, your friends, and others may tell you not to worry, that you have time, that you are young, that you just need to believe or relax or be positive, or that you are trying too hard. I am from a family with a lot of doctors. I like doctors. I am not a physician and I trust their training. However, I trust my intuition just as much as I trust their training. Please trust yours. For example, you know that there is a difference between menstrual cramps and excruciating pain when you get your period.  You are the only one who is living in your body. Intuition is an important type of data. Pay attention. Trust it.

2) Don’t Wait to Go to a Doctor.
Many people live in a place of denial about their fertility. The idea of having a fertility problem can be frightening. It can be difficult to get your mind around it. I understand. Here’s the problem: denial makes problems worse. A lot worse. Denial wastes time that you won’t be able to get back later. I understand that going to a doctor can make a potential problem feel very real and very scary. Make a phone call anyway. If your partner is the optimist and you are more of a realist or pessimist, make an appointment with a doctor. Just do it. Make the phone call. Get some blood and semen testing. It is good to have data, even if you do not like the results. If you are near 40, run to the infertility clinic. If you are in your 20s and you are having trouble conceiving, run to a clinic as well. The decisions we do not make intentionally are the ones that become what I call “non-decision decisions”. Those lead to a lot of internal regret later on.

3) Go to the OB/GYN AND the Infertility Specialist. Get a Second Opinion.
People usually think about going to an OB/GYN when there is the possibility of infertility.  OB/GYN’s take care of “female problems”, right? Well the answer is yes and no. OB/GYN’s are terrific at caring for you when you are pregnant. However, most just dabble in infertility treatment. People will usually start with an OB/GYN because of insurance coverage. That’s fine. It is a good place for an initial conversation. However, going to the OB/GYN can also be affected by your own sense of denial. Denial can become an unintended self-fulfilling prophecy. Let me put it to you this way: if you are having a heart attack, a family practice doctor can probably take care of you. However, you would be better to go to a cardiologist, don’t you think? Unfortunately, people stay too long at the OB/GYN’s office, wasting crucial time that could have been spent better at the infertility clinic. Get a second opinion with an infertility specialist. It is not personal. Your OB/GYN will not be offended; if he or she is offended, you might consider finding a different doctor. This is about your journey, getting to the root of the problem and finding an appropriate solution that will get you pregnant and bring home a baby.

4) Be Flexible About Trying Different Infertility Treatment Options.
It is not uncommon that someone will go through different levels of infertility treatment. You start with Clomid or Letrozole, both oral medication. That doesn’t work so you add intrauterine inseminations (IUIs). That doesn’t work so you drop oral medication and you at injectable ovarian stimulation medication to the IUIs. That doesn’t work so you do in vitro fertilization (IVF). That doesn’t work so you consider donor eggs, donor sperm, donor embryos, working with a gestational carrier (i.e., a surrogate), or choosing to adopt. The many different starts and stops of family building are painful.  They create the hope/uncertainty/devastation roller coaster. Unfortunately, this can be part of this very difficult journey. Fortunately, there are a number of choices. You do not have to like anything about this process. That is a fact. But here is the truth—the people who are the most flexible about trying different family building options are the ones who end up being parents.

5) Know When to Keep Going, When to Rest, and When to Stop.
Family building can feel like a never ending treadmill.  Sometimes you can keep up with it.  Sometimes you just feel like you are running and running but not getting anywhere.  Sometimes you can hardly hang on.  You don’t have to power through this, even though you wanted be a parent years ago. Take your time to think things through.  Plan the journey whenever you can.  Decide the best doctor or clinic.  Decide when you want to start something new.  Decide when it is time to take a break.  I know that taking a break can feel like a defeat or that you are losing time, but it is not.  It is time to regroup and recharge.  People going through chemotherapy take a break in between treatments to catch their breath.  Do the same with infertility treatment.  You can also decide when it is time to stop.  This is not giving up.  This is when you get to stop banging your head against a wall that is not yielding.  Stepping back from the process may be painful or it may be a relief.  Again, it allows you to catch your breath, observe, and gain some perspective on where you have been.

There are many other decisions to make along the way.  I’ll be writing about that as well.  For now, know that you have some control over decisions on this journey.  Use your wise mind and your intuition to find the best path at any given time.

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