Is it infertility? Sharing signs you might be infertile, symptoms of infertility, and how and when to seek help if you think you may be struggling in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week.
National Infertility Awareness Week
If you didn’t know, it’s National Infertility Awareness Week, and a week very near and dear to my heart. I always feel a little funny writing about infertility when I’m pregnant, but this little miracle baby reminds me every day how lucky I am he’s on his way. Each doctor’s appointment reminds me of how many appointments, shots, pills, thousands of dollars, and tears I’ve invested so much time and energy into fighting the infertility battle.
Our first son took years to get. The funny thing is, I’d been diagnosed with infertility with my first husband almost a decade ago. The problem appeared to be mine and we started treatments back then. I viewed it a bit as a blessing at the time that it didn’t work out, but learned so much about my body and what I was up against back then that even after my divorce I had medical counseling and intervention for a myriad of endocrine issues.
I’d put marriage and babies out of my mind after an unexpected divorce, and when life gave me a second chance with Jacob I was very up-front that adoption may be the only way we’d become parents. Good news, we firmly believe in adoption and have five adopted nieces and nephews we adore.
Seeing an Infertility Doctor
I’d had every doctor reassure me that I was in such good health that when we were ready, we could get help and have a pregnancy happen in a matter of months. I really had so much hope and so much faith that this would happen. I am a religious person and figured God had me with the right person this time so kids would come easy. We knew the problem, we knew what I needed, and we should get right down to business with the right medication instantly.
Years later I found myself in and out of bouts of depression with each no I got. Every month yielded a new hope, and every month hurt.
Sensitivity With Infertility
Let me add here that I always appreciate the sensitivity of others saying, “Oh we’ve only been trying for months, you tried for years. I have no right to be disappointed.” But I also want to tell anyone reading this who may have struggled with waiting for a pregnancy when your heart is set on it that you are 100% valid being sad.
This isn’t a competition! It takes some people one Clomid pill to ovulate later and triplets pop out. It takes some people years and failure after failure with IVF to get a baby. Getting a negative when you hope for a positive hurts just as bad with each negative. My first one made me cry and hurt my heart worse than I expected. My 100th felt easier to accept in some ways, but I cried just as hard mourning this may not ever happen.
The struggle of wanting a baby and not being able to conceive is a very real thing. No matter the time it takes, this is a pain that should be born together, not a competition of who has it worse. You will find support in the hearts of any woman who really knows your pain. Sensitivity is great, but you are completely valid feeling sad mourning something you don’t have that your heart aches for.
So if you’ve been trying to conceive for a while and you’re starting to ask yourself, am I infertile? Am I struggling with infertility? I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned that I wish I’d been told sooner.
Signs You Might be Infertile:
- Missed cycles or irregular cycles.
If you’re longer than 30 days between cycles, you may want to see a doctor. I was a solid five weeks in my most regular time, thinking I was normal. The doctor that diagnosed me with PCOS told me even 31 days can be a bit long and is worth being looked at. If you think you’re off, talk to your OB first about normality.
- You have really extreme cycles.
Can you not function for a day or two? Is it so light it’s hardly there? Once again, these are awkward things most people don’t openly talk about, but you should keep track and talk to a doctor about.
- You don’t ovulate.
I was recommended the book (affiliate link) Taking Charge of Your Fertility when I was in the throes of it the first time. I read the book cover to cover and learned more about my own body than I could ever imagine! I think it should be required reading for every woman to understand her biology. But learning how to chart and to watch for specific signs lead me to diagnose myself with a lack of ovulation. It also helped immensely to take data to a specialist when I finally saw one. She diagnosed me with PCOS quickly due to my charting. I’d highly recommend doing this the same for anyone thinking you may experience signs you might be infertile in any form.
- Your sex drive seems off. I’m not one to say what is normal or abnormal. But I will say if you never want it or always want it, you probably have some hormone imbalances. That’s the root of infertility and it may be a sign.
Additional Infertility Symptoms
- You’ve been trying for a year and you aren’t getting pregnant.
Every infertility doctor I saw told me that one year is the mark when they start to take you seriously. Particularly if you’ve been charting or using ovulation tests and think you’re normal but still aren’t pregnant, it’s time to get some medical help. I know a year can feel like an eternity. But trust me, I’ve had a lot of friends start to chart and try and after so many months it does eventually happen. If it doesn’t for you, you are likely struggling with infertility.
- You experience more than two miscarriages in a year.
Miscarriage is the side of infertility I think is even less talked about than lack of pregnancy while trying. It’s a tough thing that’s so hard to deal with and so personal. However, I’m grateful I’ve experienced both sides if for only the reason to help others. If you can’t stay pregnant, there’s likely something wrong. It’s time to see a specialist and see if they can catch warning signs. This is the only way I type this still pregnant. I don’t make progesterone at levels normal people do. I need help to get pregnant, and often, even more, to stay pregnant. You don’t have to suffer through this alone. If you can get pregnant but you are struggling with miscarriage you are part of the infertility club.
- Do you have thyroid problems? Diabetes? Any endocrine issue of any kind? Any chronic medical condition? These are all potential issues that could be impacting your ability to get pregnant.
What Do I Do If I Have Signs of Infertility?
- I mentioned above, but read Taking Charge of Your Infertility and start charting with their charts or apps. Get some data to help your doctor. Get some data to help yourself. The more you understand your own body, the more you can have the right conversations with the right doctor.
- If it’s been a year, go see an infertility specialist. This is often known as a reproductive endocrinologist. I spent years with OBs who specialized in infertility. Nothing against them, but I got nowhere for years. I’ll forever be grateful for the one who said, “We’ve exercised my knowledge of the matter and it’s time to see a doctor who can do more for you.” The moment I walked into my new doctor’s office the conversations got a lot more intense a lot quicker- in the best way possible.
Each month felt like another process of elimination instead of a test tube experiment. My appointments and blood draw often happened daily. But every single one got us closer to the cocktail of hormone balancing for me.
- Have your significant other been seen as well. We know my problem is 100% mine, and that made our infertility journey a lot easier than what many have to experience. Sometimes it’s a simple help for one party. Sometimes it’s an extensive perfectly orchestrated timing for both. You need to know what you’re up against, and sensitively supporting each other with testing and whoever may be the root of the issue is crucial to next steps.
Infertility Support and Help
- Find a friend to bear the burden with. I am lucky to have a best friend from college and several friends from high school going through this. Some I didn’t talk to hardly at all about the matter. But I found my best friend and I were chatting at least weekly texting asking how we were doing. She conceived and I didn’t the first time we were doing treatments together. The next season I did and she didn’t. We stayed close and loving and supportive no matter what. She always knew when to send the text on the days I sobbing in the bathroom.
The coworker I opened up to who wasn’t facing the same thing also loved and supported. It’s great to find someone in your boat. But even if you have a single girlfriend who will love you and cry with you, you’ll be all the better for.
- Find a support group. I thought I had my one friend that’s all I need. But I’ll tell you, even a Facebook group or BabyCenter group can be life-changing. Infertility feels so isolating and just one friend who understands the pain of it all will get you through the hardest times, but finding a group you can say anything to and get a team support feels amazing. Sometimes you just need to be reminded that you aren’t the only one struggling.
Coping with Infertility Emotions
- Set limits and timing on doctors, finances, and next steps. Some people will do whatever it takes and fight for years doing treatment after treatment. They are hard, they are expensive, they have side effects you can’t imagine until you do them. I gained 10 lbs one month due to a new hormone shot with one treatment. I bruised everywhere from trigger shots making it hard to even cuddle my husband. My medicine cabinet looked like I had some kind of addiction with the number of daily pills. We finally decided it was time to set a limit and know when to take a break or when to call it quits.
Our son is a miracle baby because he was that month we said we’re done and my doctor said, one more round of pills and only one trigger shot, only one ultrasound, your body looks so great this month. She was right, and a miracle happened the month we decided it never would. But I’m glad for a time we planned to get some stress relief and take a break.
Two of my best friends married each other and decided pretty instantly after one diagnosis they weren’t going to go the IVF or anything like unto it route. They were all in for adoption.
Make sure the answer is yes for both parties. But have some of those conversations and become a unified team with a plan.
- Don’t be afraid to switch doctors if one isn’t jiving with you. There are different levels of aggression and help. Many think of infertility as Clomid or IVF and don’t know there are a million things on every spectrum offered. I have friends who swear by naturopathic doctors doing hormone balancing. Sometimes natural help for infertility is the right help for infertility! I have friends ready to go with IVF the second it’s time for another baby. Don’t be afraid to find the right fit for you and trust your gut on this one.
Feeling Alone in Infertility
That is probably more than anyone not struggling with infertility needed to know about the matter, but I’ve felt like I needed to write this post for years for anyone who may be silently struggling and just wants some straight up talk to walk them through their fears or thoughts. With National Infertility Awareness Week I couldn’t hold it hold it in anymore.
Know you aren’t alone. Know it’s okay to mourn the loss of something you don’t have. Know there are options and solutions. And know the signs you might be infertile so you are equipped to take the next steps right for you.
More posts about our infertility journey:
Beyond Dinner and a Movie
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