If you and your partner are struggling to have a baby, you’re not alone. You should know that every 1 in 4 couples in Nigeria is infertile and that infertility may arise from one factor or a combination of factors.
Susan and her husband Joseph, tried to conceive the “natural” way for about two years but failed to succeed. But after taking a simple blood test, she learned that she had elevated Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH) levels. The couple was told that elevated FSH indicates diminished ovarian reserve which is associated with a reduced number of follicles or eggs, often of questionable quality.
Statistically, her chances of a successful pregnancy were not good and this information inspired her to visit a fertility clinic. At the initial test, her FSH level was 22, she was alarmed to know that normal FSH levels for many young fertile women may be below 10 during the menses. Later in the month it rises dramatically, this is why the test is done on day 2-4 of the cycle.
Susan was 35, and since FSH is the main pituitary hormone responsible for development of the egg in the ovary, the worry was that if her ovaries were losing follicles, the FSH levels would keep rising. An average reading of 22 was considered to be a severe indicator of advanced ovarian aging. She gathered after a series of counselling that a complex feedback mechanism makes the FSH level rise to 30 or more in menopause.
By normal standards, the level of FSH reading of over 20 for Susan was an indicator of extremely low prognosis for spontaneous pregnancy and even infertility treatment like insemination or IVF.
After many tests and considering all their options, the couple decided to move forward with in vitro fertilization (IVF). They had appreciable success and ended up with a few healthy embryos. The fertility centre transferred two embryos. Susan was nearing 37 and couldn’t take any more negative pregnancy tests.
The couple finally ended up pregnant after pooling embryos from two IVF cycles and they were ecstatic. The ecstasy doubled after an early ultrasound showed Susan was pregnant with twins. It was unexpected, but the couple felt it was deserved.
At 14 weeks, they found out they were having a boy and a girl, which was exactly what they always wanted, but trouble began shortly thereafter.
Susan started bleeding at 16 weeks; she just felt off and told her husband to take her to the hospital one rainy morning at about 4am. Joseph felt it was all nothing but he took her all the same
The hospital checked her and said it was just some spotting, so they recommended that she have a checkup with her OB/GYN. On the way there, Susan started cramping regularly.
Within 2hours of onset of cramps, she felt a bulge and an urge to bear down or push in her vagina.The doctor quickly rushed her to delivery, where at 16 weeks gave birth to the babies. Unfortunately they were unviable and passed away shortly after birth.
Susan quickly got over the disappointment and got pregnant again not too long thereafter, but it ended in another miscarriage. There was now a big question, why?
Susan soon found out she had an incompetent cervix. She learned that 1 in 100 pregnancies have this issue. After finding a support group, Susan learned that she could have a surgery called trans-abdominal cerclage (TAC). It was invasive and would mean a huge scar, but it would give her a 95 percent chance of carrying a baby to full term without bed rest.
Within about four months, Susan had healed enough to try again. They used up the remaining frozen embryos and ended up with twins again. She is now the mother of two amazing girls even though she went through a lot and was heartbroken for quite a while, she knows how blessed she is to have had them.
Susan believes that infertility advocacy is important because all hopeful parents should know that hope and help is available. According to her, through all of this, through so many tears and so many negative pregnancies, she learned that God has a plan.
She has learned to live with not knowing why she lost her twins, but she does know for sure that there is a happy ending for so many people who have gone through this process.
She also has advice for hopeful parents who are facing infertility. To those who are still trying, she says don’t let your dream of becoming a parent die. Keep trying, know it will happen, one way or another.