Trying to Conceive: Our TTC Journey

Like for many, our journey of trying to conceive had been a rollercoaster of emotions: from being excited, to fearing the worst, and everything in between. Every waking moment is consumed by constant changes in emotions over trying for a baby. No matter what you do though, it only gets harder as each new cycle arrives… and fails.

One thing I found reassuring throughout our journey was reading other women’s stories. Whether through blog posts, forums, podcasts, videos, or even speaking to a friend who has been, or is currently going through it themselves – it’s all been surprisingly helpful. I say ‘surprising’ as I suffer with health anxiety and usually I’ll get panicked by reading a bad experience related to something I’m going through. But this time it had the opposite effect.

This will be a long read, I warn you now.

When our journey began

In December 2020 I came off the pill after eleven years being on various contraceptives: Microgynon, the Implant, back to Microgynon, then Cerazette. Three weeks later I had my withdrawal bleed and from there I fell into a regular 29 day cycle.

Shortly after that, we started trying. I didn’t jump straight into tracking my basal body temperature (BBT), doing OPKs or checking other fertile signs. I simply approached trying to conceive thinking, if it happens, great; if it doesn’t, we’ll try again. It was easier to think that way in the early days as we were naive and believed it’d happen in the first couple months, if not the first time. After a few failed cycles, I knew I needed to be more in-the-know of what my body was doing, so I began tracking my BBT and taking OPKs.

Understanding my cycle

Unfortunately, the cycle I started tracking was also the cycle I had my first dose of Pfizer (Covid vaccine). Since then, my cycles went from being 29 days to 32 days. Since tracking that cycle, I discovered I was late ovulating – was it off the back of the vaccine and my body just settling itself? Or had I always been late to the party? 

As the cycles went on, I found my ovulation day would hover around day 19 to 21, but my luteal phase would become sporadic: some cycles it was 9 days, some 12, and only one being a full two weeks. The fortunate thing was, I was ovulating and within the same window each month – so I took that as a positive and held on to it tight.

Fertility assessments

Although we were only on our seventh cycle of trying to conceive, it’s only natural to be thinking, “could there be something wrong with me? Or even with my partner?”. As I suffer from health anxiety, I knew this worry of something being wrong with my body would linger over me until I knew for sure. So, for peace of mind we booked a private fertility assessment in the middle of Cycle 8.

We had a joint Fertility Assessment at Manchester Fertility which was £405 in total. It included an analysis for my husband, an AMH blood test and internal scan for myself, followed by a 30-minute Zoom consultation one week later to discuss the results.

Being diagnosed with Adenomyosis

One week later we got our results via a video consultation. As expected, everything was normal with my husband. For me on the other hand, I was unexpectedly diagnosed with mild adenomyosis and told I have some tiny cysts in my uterus. I’d never heard of this before, so it was a lot to take in and understand. It’s very odd as I didn’t suffer with any symptoms you’d associate with adenomyosis; irregular periods, painful sex, bleeding mid-cycle etc. but I did suffer from painful periods.

Of course my main question was, “does this affect fertility?”. In short, it’s still possible to conceive naturally, but adenomyosis plays a part in affecting implantation. They recommended an endocrine assessment to check my hormone levels, as well as a HyCoSy. For the former, I’d go back to my GP, for the latter I politely declined and thought, “it’s fine, I don’t need it as we’ll fall pregnant soon”. I was wrong… well, depending on what your interpretation of “soon” is.

Fertility Specialist Referral

I called my GP and talked them through everything, sharing the reports from the private clinic and discussing our ttc journey so far. That’s when they decided the following:

  1. Book blood tests to test progesterone, Prolactin, FSH and LH
  2. Be referred to a fertility specialist

I was hopeful they’d book me in for the blood tests to confirm my hormone levels and check I was ovulating, but I wasn’t expecting a referral to a fertility specialist. At this point, we’d been trying less than a year, so it concerned me that they found the need to refer us before a full year of trying. At the same time though, I was grateful that for once I was being listened to by a doctor and not dismissed as though my issues are nothing of concern – unfortunately that’s the norm after being diagnosed with health anxiety.

Blood results

My blood results confirmed I was ovulating and that all my hormone levels were normal. The next step was to see what our fertility consultant advises us to do next.

Our first Fertility Specialist consultation

Only six weeks after making the referral, we had our first consultation at our local fertility clinic. One thing to note is, we’re classed as Mid Cheshire Hospitals, so that waiting time is based on their availability. Other hospitals could be sooner, or later.

We didn’t know what to expect in all honesty, but we left feeling a little frustrated. We ran through all our notes, where I was in my current cycle, my husband’s health etc. and then we got on to the multiple blood tests I’d had done via my GP. Turns out the dates they were completed on were all wrong, so I had to wait to have them redone! We were then advised that once I had my blood tests redone in approximately 10 days from then, we’d then have to wait up to 4 weeks to be contacted with another consultation appointment to discuss the blood results, and also see what our next steps are. Frustration here also came about because I felt like my adenomyosis diagnosis had been brushed under the carpet like it was nothing. But, I tried to remain as positive as possible.

Our second consultation

Fast forward six weeks, on 15th March we attended our second consultation. This consultation felt more productive. We felt like we got a much better understanding of my adenomyosis, got reassurance that my hormone levels were all okay, and discussed our fertility journey to date. Off the back of this appointment, I was referred for a HyCoSy to check my fallopian tubes weren’t blocked. This was the final test I needed to be carried out to check everything is okay before the clinic decided what the plan of action is. If my tubes were blocked, we’d go down the IVF route and apply for funding asap. If my tubes were absolutely fine, we were advised to keep trying for another six months and then go down the route of IVF.

The HyCoSy

Once my period arrived, I called the clinic to book in my HyCoSy to discover, for various reasons, I could not be seen until July 2022. That just wasn’t going to happen for me. I was already losing sleep over the thought of this procedure, so needed to be seen sooner. The only solution to that was to go private…again. This cost £475 and included being told the results there and then – no waiting around. So off I went on 27th April 2022 to Manchester Fertility again, to go through the one procedure I was most nervous for.

I’ll be honest, my experience wasn’t pleasant. A quick 15 minute procedure turned into 50 mins, with 40 mins of that spent with the speculum in and a team of 3 nurses in the end struggling to get the catheter through my cervix. Then, after what felt like hours of waiting, they finally got it through and completed the rest of the HyCoSy within 20 seconds – no joke. All that waiting for the actual procedure to be over in less than half a minute.

In hindsight, if there hadn’t been difficulties with the catheter, then the experience of the HyCoSy genuinely wasn’t bad, nor painful. It really did feel like your usual period cramps, but they just come on far more suddenly versus the gradual build (in my experience) the day of your period. However, the cramping after the procedure once we were back in the car (my husband drove) was far worse than my usual period pain. The pain left me feeling sick and weak, but it vanished in 20 minutes, leaving me again with just mild cramping and spotting. 

The test showed that my left tube was perfectly fine, but they did struggle to find my right tube for a bit which showed there could’ve been a minor blockage which the dye thankfully flushed out. But neither fallopian tube was blocked – hurray! The nurse then shared that fertility can increase by 60% in the six months following a HyCoSy, so I was feeling very relieved to know it was all over, get confirmation there’s nothing serious stopping us from conceiving naturally, and that I just had to focus on enjoying the journey of TTC, not stressing over it. 

Discharged from the fertility clinic

We shared the report of the private HyCoSy with the NHS fertility clinic and had our third consultation on 10th May 2022. We discussed what the next steps were given we knew there was nothing that stood out for either of us as an obvious blocker for conceiving: my husband’s sperm was healthy, my egg reserve was fine, my hormone levels were normal, no cysts in my ovaries, and my fallopian tubes weren’t blocked. The only thing that remained in our notes was my adenomyosis. 

Our consultant advised that we go away and continue trying since the HyCoSy. As the HyCoSy can increase your fertility significantly up to six months post-procedure, there was a good chance we’d conceive naturally. However, their only concern was my adenomyosis, despite the scans showing this is only a mild case. So, we agreed that if we did not fall pregnant four to six months after the date of the HyCoSy, we would contact the clinic again and start the referral to the fertility hospital and apply for IVF funding.

So, we were discharged from the clinic that day and left to try naturally for six more months. Four days later, on 14th May 2022, I found out I’m pregnant! I had ovulated just days after my HyCoSy, which must’ve been the best timing ever. I’m now due in January 2023.

Photo source.

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