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Fertility Tests and Treatment

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a blog by Melinda Davis, July 11, 2011

To read more of Melinda Davis' Fresh Conceptions blogs, CLICK HERE.

One in eight American couples deal with infertility, so I thought I would share my first steps into fertility tests and treatment for anyone finding themselves venturing down this road. Please know that every couple and situation is different, so just because this was the road I traveled doesn’t necessarily mean yours will be the same.

Initial Medical Fertility Tests

The initial medical tests were done by my Ob/Gyn’s office. At my first appointment I was given a physical exam (similar to a pap smear) and asked a series of questions about excessive hair in unusual places (nipples, chin, face, etc.) problems with acne, the frequency of my cycle and about how long it would last. I have issues with hair, acne, very irregular cycles, and my blood test showed my hormone levels were off.

After that initial visit my doctor scheduled me for a vaginal ultrasound, which showed a lot of cysts on both ovaries. With all of those results, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

Fertility Drugs

The first fertility drug I was prescribed was Clomid. I’ve learned this is pretty typical, but I know others who have started with a similar medication to help with ovulation. Many times doctors will prescribe this medication even if there aren’t ovulation issues, because it’s still supposed to help couples conceive and is an easy step into fertility treatment without getting too involved.

I know a few couples for whom this has worked, and the nice thing is you only have to take it for five days early on in your cycle. My Ob/Gyn gave me a refillable prescription, and we tried Clomid for a few months along with me charting before moving on to more testing with a fertility doctor (reproductive endocrinologist).

For women with PCOS, another common medication is Metformin. When I visited my fertility doctor, he immediately had me take this along with Clomid. Metformin is used to help regulate your sugar levels, and I was told it is a pretty standard medication for those dealing with PCOS.

Testing by the Fertility Doctor

When my husband and I first saw our fertility doctor, our initial visit was a consultation. I had my original test results forwarded, and he took time to talk to us about what was going on. He suggested I get an HSG “dye” test to check my uterus and make sure my fallopian tubes were open, another round of blood work and another vaginal ultrasound so he could see if anything had changed over the last few months. He also set up an appointment to have my husband tested. He said it was important to know that all of the “plumbing” was working before moving into fertility treatment so we weren’t just treating one issue when something else was going unnoticed.

Putting a Treatment Plan in Place

Once we had our results, our fertility doctor was honest about next steps and what our options were in terms of fertility treatment, and he let us decide how aggressive we wanted to be. He also gave us a timeline saying if this option doesn’t work after so many tries, then he would recommend moving to the next option for so many tries and then as time passed he would let us revisit our plan, and would offer new recommendations based on the progress he was seeing.

For me, having a plan in place and knowing how long we should try a certain treatment before moving on helped me during the fertility treatment process. I was glad to have a doctor who only recommended a certain number of intrauterine ineseminations (IUIs) or in vitro fertilizations (IVFs) because it helped me find peace in knowing the odds of success and knowing that I had a compassionate fertility doctor who valued our success more than a dollar sign.

I will say that I have heard of couples getting pregnant after an eighth IUI or 12th IVF, so the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to your personal journey is to choose the fertility treatment plan that works best for you as a couple.

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