I was SO freaking anxious to get all the infertility tests done. My husband and I had gone through a lot, so around 6 months of TTC I was so anxious. I was due for a papsmear around month 8 and when I went in, I had asked my OBGYN a few fertility questions and when we could start fertility testing. I had assumed I would get the brush off of don’t bother until 12 months, but I didn’t. She was very kind and said whenever I wanted to, we could start. So we decided on 2 more months and then we would start.
Round 1: the OBGYN.
Those 2 months came and went, so we started with the fertility testing. Many of the tests have to be done on particular days of your cycle, so it can throw some things off if your timing isn’t right. I needed testing on day 3, day 21, and a few others. It just so happened I was also out of town for one of those so it got pushed back a month. These tests are checking for egg reserves, making sure I’m ovulating, hormones, etc. My husband also had to do a semen analysis. After these basic tests came back, our OBGYN basically said sorry can’t help and referred us to an RE (reproductive endocrinologist, or infertility specialist).
Round 2: the Specialist.
To get into the RE was another time sink. The RE’s office was great, but my insurance was a pain. I have to get approved to visit a specialist, which can sometimes take weeks. And in order to get a referral, I have to go in to my PCP which also took weeks. An aside – my PCP was less than useless. She had zero clue on fertility and I knew more than her. These are statements that were made: infertility is so rare, you just have to relax and go on vacation and it will happen, we don’t know the causes of infertility… all blatant falsehoods. Anywho, at least I was able to advocate for myself which is important in this long journey.
While I was waiting for the referral, I was too antsy so I just decided to go ahead and go to the RE and pay out of pocket for the consult. While there, we were able to get some answers about what steps were needed next. Our RE basically ordered a zillion more tests. And because my insurance approval took a month to come in, I had to wait another month until I could get tested. Sensing a pattern here?
Eventually, my insurance came through and I was able to proceed with diagnostic testing. Thankfully, most insurances cover this! I got at least 10 vials of blood taken all at once. Diseases and risk factors were checked, more hormone levels, and a whole host of other things. It had been about 3 months of testing up until this point. I thought woohoo we’re finally done! Nope.
Round 3: the Surgical Procedure.
Most doctors either want an HSG, which is where they use a balloon catheter to check out your uterus, tubes, etc. to make sure everything looks good, or a hysteroscopy, which checks out the same things but just does it in a different manner. Thankfully, my doctor ordered a hysteroscopy – I say thankfully because I went under general anesthesia and didn’t feel a thing, and most people find the HSG very painful. So in order to have my hysteroscopy, I had to go on birth control just to regulate my cycle and help time the procedure right. I was SO bummed to have to go on birth control and to wait a whole month, it felt like the opposite of what we were trying to achieve. In hindsight though, I loved it! One stress free month where you aren’t constantly worried about your body and your sex schedule! Sorry if that’s TMI. But hey, we’re already talking about my uterus and catheters so why not.
I went in for the hysteroscopy and it was easy breezy. Felt a little crampy for the next day, but other than that I was stoked because it actually was our last test!!! But then surprise, they wanted me on birth control once again because a lot of doctors like to do that leading up to treatment. The second that cycle was done we were back in our doctors office coming up with a treatment plan and starting treatment. I loveddd this because it felt like for once in the entire process we were taking matters into our own hands! Take that infertility!
Round 4: being DONE.
So finally after the hysteroscopy we were done!! Five months of testing, at least 15 vials of blood, surgical procedures, semen analysis, and it was over with.
I had heard that one of the number one pieces of advice given from older to newer infertility patients is to be patient and realize that things take a while. But of course me being me, I brushed that off and thought we could rush through things. NOPE. Hopefully people won’t have to go through the insurance circus that I did, but I would still say to expect it to take a while. And if something is off in your results, expect possible retests or further probing tests. Basically, expect more tests than 10th grade English class.
Most importantly, this diagnostic phase is a time of questions and learning. You ask your doctor everything you can think of when you get a test result back. What it means, what its impact on treatment may mean, and how this impacts your success rate. I learned so much by asking both my doctor and infertility forums. This is a whole new medical world and it takes time to understand what on earth it all means!