What I’ve Learned from my Fertility Nightmare

Eloise Edington  |   23 Dec 2021

Our FHH community (download the free app here) is forever a source of guidance, advice and support for one another and the shared stories offer insights and tips for coping with (in)fertility and fertility treatment.

Today, Kristie shares her and her partner’s story about recurrent miscarriage and unexplained fertility.

Thank you for your story, Kristie.  We send our love and support.

Over to Kristie…

My partner and I have been together over eight years. We weren’t trying not to get pregnant; we had the attitude “if it happens it happens”. In 2019, we sat down and spoke about properly trying: ovulation predictor kits, possible apps, prenatal supplements – you name it, we were prepared.

I turned 30 in March 2020 and that was our date to really go for it with the “trying” but unfortunately, nothing was happening for us. We are young, fit, healthy, we don’t smoke at all or drink to excess and have healthy BMIs.

I went to the doctor for some blood tests and everything came back normal. Mark went for a sperm test and everything was normal, too.

Not as smoothly as it started

Fast forward to November 2020 when we were referred for IVF:

Our funding was approved right away, we started our protocol on 6th February with egg collection on 22nd and a fresh embryo transfer on 27th. Everything went so smoothly, the stims, the scans. The clinic collected 12 good eggs but at this point, when my partner gave his sample, they found a protein in his sperm which causes it to stick together meaning his body doesn’t recognise it as sperm but as a foreign body. (This would have been caused by a trauma pre-adolescence.)

The embryologist advised 50% sperm agglutination would be classed as an issue, and Mark was at 47%, so the embryologists did ICSI anyway – just to be on the safe side. Seven of the 12 eggs fertilised and five made it to day five blastocysts.

We had three A Grade embryos, one B Grade and one C grade.

Worst fears confirmed

The first embryo was a fresh transfer, we got a positive pregnancy test after 12 days and merrily skipped our way through to our six-week scan. It was too good to be true… We arrived at the scan and the sonographer was so quiet I just knew something was wrong. Our worst fears were confirmed; no heartbeat. My body held on to the sac so I had to have it surgically removed the following April.

I got my period again in May and we started our frozen embryo transfer (FET). Again, everything went smoothly, although the drugs were more brutal this time around. Once again, we had a really strong positive pregnancy test just eight days after transfer. My anxiety was high but that was to be expected. At week five, I started to feel some cramping – it was quite mild but I began to bleed.

It happened really quickly, one big bleed and it was all done in four hours. It wasn’t even that painful; it felt most unjustified, like, “was that really it?!” We went for a scan and the sonographer confirmed it was all over, again.

Spiralling into blind panic

Come July we geared up for Round Three – we decided this time around we would use two embryos to improve our chances. No one was interested in testing us for anything else. We were told, “We would like you to have three [miscarriages] before we go down that route” – I will never forget those words.

I did reflexology, meditated, had acupuncture and counselling, and bought all new supplements to give us the best possible chances. Again, the protocol went well and FET number three was upon us.

We had two perfect embryos transferred and I had all of the same symptoms as before so convinced myself it had worked again for us.

The anxiety was insane.

We did our pregnancy test and it was positive but very, very faint. This sent me spiralling into blind panic again; I continued to test for the new few days and the lines went from faint to strong, back to faint and then to negative. This was almost harder than the miscarriages; how had we just lost another two perfect embryos?

We were then offered extensive testing, all at our own cost. We spent thousands on DNA fragmentation testing of the sperm, karyotyping for both of us, full blood screening for autoimmune and clotting disorders for me but absolutely nothing has come back.

For those who live in the US, you can receive $65 off an at-home sperm-testing kit by Legacy when entering code DADLIFE65 at checkout.  Find out more here.

A mental health break

We have one little C Grade embryo left and we plan to go again in February 2022. One whole year exactly since the first transfer. I have found a new acupuncturist who has a good track record, we have changed all of the supplements using a kinesiology technique to understand what I am missing. Our clinic advised us not to bother testing our test embryo as it is so invasive and just go for it and hope for the best. They seem so casual about it all as they think it is just bad luck as nothing wrong with us – I’m convinced they’re missing a trick. We’ve taken a bit of a mental health break over the last four months to enjoy Christmas and each other again.

Kristie and Mark after a frozen embryo transfer.

A different approach

For the last embryo, I’m going to do a completely natural cycle with no drugs at all, although the clinic have recommended a course of prednisolone to see if that helps. It is terrifying because it this one doesn’t work then it means another full cycle with egg collection, genetic testing and freezing them all.

Kristie’s advice to others

Enjoy all of the things you can do and that are possible during this time. Remember the things you love and do more of them.

If you have no children yet, try to embrace the freedom and see the positives.

If you already have children but are struggling to conceive more, embrace doing the things you love with your children.

Remember: Nothing is our fault and we didn’t cause our fertility struggles. Although it feels all-consuming, never lose sight of the good in your life.

We love Kristie and Mark’s story of perseverance and hope.  If you have a story you’d like to share, get in touch with Holly, our journalist, via FHH’s Instagram messages.

If you’re looking to talk about your experiences with others in a similar position, download our free community app here.

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