I was 28 when I went off the Pill, a sort of experiment for myself to see if everything was “normal.” I had been diagnosed with some autoimmune issues, as well as endometriosis, in my early 20s and wondered if this might have any impact on my fertility. I was all-too aware of the fact that, despite personally knowing so many women who had children naturally in their late 30s and even 40s, the first major “drop” in fertility and egg quality comes at age 30; the second at age 35.So there was a chance that everything was perfectly ok. But if by any chance things didn’t go according to plan, I knew I wanted time on my side.First a month, then two and then three went by without getting my period after coming off the Pill. The nurse at my gynecologist’s office assured me that this was totally normal and that I should take a pregnancy test to make sure I wasn’t “accidentally pregnant.” Every month I took a test: Every month I saw that I wasn’t pregnant. And the months continued to go by without a period in sight. And then my hair started to fall out.
Something Is Wrong: I was still trying to force myself to operate under the assumption that everything was fine, that it was perfectly normal for my body to need some time to “adjust” to life post-birth control. But when my hair started coming out by the fistful, it was my husband who finally sat me down and broached the idea that maybe the shoe that I had been waiting for to drop just had.So I returned to my gynecologist for some initial testing. When he called me with the results, he said, “You need to see a reproductive endocrinologist.” I was 29 at the time.It turns out my estrogen and progesterone levels were both abnormally, significantly low. My AMH (anti-mullerian hormone), an indicator of ovarian reserve, was abnormally high. Bottom line: I had too many eggs and too few female sex hormones. Something was definitely amiss fertility-wise.
Going On the IVF Fast-Track: As I learned from my reproductive endocrinologist, my situation was hardly out of the ordinary. It’s a common misperception that infertility is something solely based on age, that incorrigible “biological clock” that ticks so loudly for most women. There are a number of conditions that can cause infertility, from endometriosis to ovulatory disorders (which amount to over 30 percent of cases of female infertility alone), from luteal stage defects (in which the body fails to produce the necessary thickness of the uterine lining needed to maintain pregnancy) to PCOS (a hormone disorder related to diabetes that can cause irregular or absent periods and the failure to ovulate). None of these issues have anything to do with a woman’s age.Then, the other shoe dropped: My husband and I learned that we were both carriers for Tay-Sachs, a rare and fatal genetic disorder, that gave us one in four odds of conceiving a child who would be born with, and die from, the disease. That sent us straight on the fast-track of IVF with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD). That would allow us to create embryos that could be biopsied and tested for Tay-Sachs, so only non-affected embryos would ultimately be transferred. IVF would also allow us to circumvent my hormonal and ovulatory issues.Shortly after my 30th birthday, IVF became an all-consuming presence in my life. The six months that took place between my first hormone shot (given after my husband and I both attended our infertility practice’s injection class, which I failed at miserably) and our last shot (delivered intramuscularly in my butt using the biggest needle I have ever seen in my life) are a blur now.
Light at the End of the Tunnel: Of the 16 eggs that were initially retrieved from me, 12 were mature, nine fertilized, five made it to day 5 of growth, and two of those five tested free of Tay-Sachs. We transferred one of those two and were shocked in the best possible way to find out the transfer was successful. Through a phenomenal act of science, I’m now 14 weeks pregnant with my first child. A baby girl is growing inside of me.We still have one remaining frozen embryo. And so, when we seek to grow our family by one more, IVF will become a way of life for me yet again.