When do we seek help?
The typical time to see a doctor when you are concerned about infertility is after a year of TTC (Trying To Conceive) if you are under the age of 36. Both Chris and I are 32, we had discussed when we would seek advice, which was of course as per the guidelines suggests. But ten months in, Chris had a new doctor’s routine physical where he explained our dream of becoming parents. The doctor recommended a routine blood work up; this is when we found out that Chris’s testosterone levels were very low. And so as our doctor provided a suggested specialist fertility clinic.
In the UK, things may have gone a little differently. We probably would have had to wait a year and at least one minute to be able to get any tests unless we had symptoms.
So after a serious amount of research, including finance checking, we made an appointment with the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine – this organisation was the pioneers of IVF. We took the first appointment we could get, and so after 11 months of TTC we were taking the first steps towards a diagnosis. This was pretty scary. I was in denial, I really did not want to go to the appointment. Chris was eager, with his testosterone levels being so low, I understood why it was important for him. Within the last eleven months we had experienced twelve of the dreaded two week waits. (Those two week waits deserve a whole blog on their own, so I won’t talk about them right now.) I can have a very short cycle of 22 days so we were able to pack a few extra chances in 🙂
A bad history with doctors
Why was I so nervous? Well my history with the doctors in the UK is not a great one. I spent several years in my early twenties making numerous trips to the doctors to diagnose the cause of my sharp, random, abdominal pains, painfully heavy periods and diarrhea. After many tests ruling out anything serious, my doctor concluded that my pain was either IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or Endometriosis. To diagnose Endometriosis I would require a laparoscopy – the last resort – and not a favoured diagnosis method for someone so young. Therefore, she recommended I first try an exclusion diet to rule out foods that might cause the pain. After four weeks of experimenting with my diet I discovered a notable correlation between my pain and eating potatoes, wheat and acidic type fruits such as pineapple. The pain also got worse with stress a notable IBS symptom. There is no test you can take to diagnose whether you have IBS or not. But it fitted my symptoms and so I tried many treatments. My IBS was very bad at university – I had spent two days out the field training with the Army, eating the Army freeze dried ration packs (packed with potatoes and wheat!!!), this plus a particularly stressful moment tipped me over the edge, the pain was so excruciating I passed out and woke up in hospital. When I told the hospital I had IBS, they discharged me immediately with no further questions. And since then I have managed my IBS through diet (and recognise that stress is likely to be a bad day for me!!).
So why do I not like the doctors? My experience with doctors in the UK has always been one of a feeling that I am wasting their time. I have yet had the opportunity to experience them here in the US as I have in the UK. So far so good…..the major difference is that I am paying a lot of money for the doctor here in the US and I have a choice, but in the UK it was ‘free’, and beggars can’t be choosers (although much has changed in the NHS over the recent years, there is more choice available now)!
Our first appointment with the Fertility Clinic
I can tell you that I felt sick to the stomach about going to our first appointment together, I must have gone to the toilet at least three times in the hour before. I knew it was a ridiculous feeling to be having, but this time I had Chris to hold my hand with me, and after discussing the first steps with our new doctor, it wasn’t all so bad. In fact, I left with a feeling of huge relief.