The other day we “officially” started our infertility journey up at Stanford. I say “officially” because they were technically our second opinion.
You see, after my miscarriage a few months ago, my OBGYN decided it was time to refer me to a specialist. Almost a year of trying, three rounds of Clomid, and a failed pregnancy later, there we were – sitting in a local fertility specialists waiting room, with absolutely no way of denying the fact that there was some kind of problem.
From the moment we stepped foot inside the exam room, red flags started to go up. We were immediately asked a multitude of questions (which I expected) and thrown papers explaining all the “routine” diagnostic testing I/we would be immediately be undergoing.
Bloodwork, ultrasound, HSG X-Ray (where they push contrast dye through your uterus and fallopian tubes to see if you have any blockages or adhesions) – a semen analysis for the hubby.
It was a lot to take in.
They were particularly excited (and I mean that it the most literal sense – they were visibly happy) when they found out I was only day two into my current cycle.
They jumped at the opportunity and swept me into the ultrasound room right away to check my antral follicle count and ovarian reserve. Which was apparently fine, I think, I wasn’t quite sure because conversation quickly shifted to a small cyst on my left ovary. Likely due to the Clomid I had taken a month prior.
After getting dressed and returning to the exam room we were informed of the following:
I was to start on a birth control pill for approximately two weeks to shrink the cyst. After which I would go back on Clomid, followed by a trigger shot – this would give me the best chance of conceiving this cycle.
Hold the phone, lady.
We had some serious questions before we hit me up with the hormones.
Question: I take my basal body temperature every morning and track my fertility signs rigorously, so how could I take birth control, followed by fertility drugs if I am set to ovulate in the middle of that timeline?
Answer: Oh, no, you don’t understand. We are in control now. We manipulate your cycles. Your charting and temperatures are irrelevant from here on out.
Question: I was hoping to figure out exactly what our infertility issue is, why we aren’t getting pregnant, etc. before jumping into treatment. I mean, how can that be done effectively without fully understanding where and what the problem is?
Answer: Well, this is very routine and at the point you are at in your cycle we can actually take action right away. Which is great news!
Question: What happens if we elect to not go on birth control and wait for the diagnostic results before moving forward?
Answer: [confused look, and abrupt change in tone] You could go that route, if that’s your choice.
It was quite apparent, to both the hubby and I, that this was not the norm. Patients don’t pump the breaks with these people. Patients don’t say no. Patients don’t ask as many questions as we did. We were not the type of patients they liked… at all.
RED FLAGS!! RED FLAGS!! RED FLAGS!!
I honestly couldn’t get out of there fast enough. Besides being uncomfortable, I was disturbed. They were just going to blindly pump me full of drugs (injectables I might add) and hope for the best? Without even knowing what our problem was – which was why we went there in the first place… to diagnose and treat the problem!
I immediately called a doctor up at Stanford who came highly recommended by some of our good friends.
Apparently, everyone else got the same memo because the earliest available appointment was over a month and a half out. Or in fertility terms, two full cycles!!
Under those circumstances I wanted to make the most of that visit, not just because it was a two-and-a-half-hour drive to get there but also because the timing of our appointment meant we couldn’t start any type of treatment until September.
So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and follow through with the “routine” diagnostic testing with that local specialist, since it was already ordered – even though I didn’t like them.
My thought was that I could get these “routine” tests out of the way (since Stanford would probably do the same ones), get copies of my results and have them ready and available for my appointment at Stanford. Then at my initial appointment we waste no time and can go straight to diagnosis and treatment! I thought it was a genius plan.
Fast forward to the other day, THE day we had waited almost two months for. Hallelujah!
Let me just start by saying, that in comparison with the local specialist we went to, there is no comparison.
None at all.
Black and white.
A complete 180-degree difference from the moment we walked in the door.
First off, we were greeted by name – like we were checking into a hotel or something. They welcomed us and went over all the required paperwork. Like actually went over it by verbally explaining and looking me in the eyes, not just throwing papers at me to decipher and sign.
Then they handed me a pager. I was told it is used to track where I was in the building and how long it had been since I had been seen last, as a way to cut down on wait time and make sure I was attended to throughout my appointment. Is that real life? Like does that happen other places and I’m just not aware of it? Because back home I have never, not one, even heard of something like that in a doctor’s office. It was awesome and completely unreal.
We waited all of two minutes before being called back. We were brought into an exam room, that looked more like an office and asked similar questions as last time, just not as personal. Within minutes the doctor and his two fellows came in and spent the following hour with me and the hubby!!
He had clearly studied up on our chart because he knew everything, like literally everything. We gave them all our records from the diagnostic testing I had done in the interim and I was actually given a logical explanation for what may be causing our reproductive troubles.
I have always had a short luteal phase, always. For as long as I can remember. Like 10 days short, even on Clomid. Apparently that is a problem and a big red flag because my lining isn’t getting thick enough to sustain a pregnancy.
Given that all our other results came back normal – did I mention that the anxiety provoking, keep me up at night, fallopian tube flushing, HSG X-Ray was likely unnecessary!! Not joking, the doctor at Stanford was baffled as to why I was ordered to do that test after I was just able to conceive (granted it led in a miscarriage). I was furious!!
So the good news is we now have a plan!
This month is a wash due to where I am in my current cycle, but next month I will start a combination of Clomid and progesterone (to help build up my lining). We are also thinking of boosting our chances with an IUI since our insurance will cover a majority of the procedure.
Overall I am excited and hopeful for the first time in a while. I am beyond happy with the doctor we have chosen, his staff and facility – honestly well worth the 2 ½ hour drive (plus I can get Sprinkles cupcakes while I’m up there).
I must say though, this experience really opened my eyes to the medical field in this country. I would give the following advice to anyone in my situation (or really in need of any medical procedure whatsoever):
1. Doctors are not Gods, their word is not gold and they are only one opinion – get a second one, or even a third, before you make any decisions. A good doctor will respect the fact that you are choosing to do your homework to make the best possible decision for your medical care.
2. If that little voice in the back of your head is telling you something is wrong, something probably is. Trust your instincts, your 6th sense, your intuition, your gut, whatever you want to call it – it’s there for a reason. You should not feel uncomfortable or pressured to do anything. Seriously!
3. You are entitled to a copy of all of your records – you may not know it but it’s part of a Federal Law known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Most people are familiar with HIPAA because it protects your confidentiality and security in the medical field, but it also states that you are legally entitled to your medical records – including tests results and reports!
Lots of medical offices claim that they “only release results and reports to doctors”. It is actually a Federal civil rights penalty to refuse to give a patient their records – I don’t know if it’s just that so many doctors and hospitals don’t know this (which is scary, terrifying actually) or if it is literally just too much trouble for them to make copies of the documents, but regardless, it is your right to have them if you want!!
If you can’t tell I ran into this problem while trying to obtain copies of all my diagnostic fertility testing that was done locally – I’ll let you guess who won that fight.
As far as our infertility journey, we are only just beginning but I am extremely hopeful. I know we are the right place and in good hands at the facility we have chosen, and while I am anxious I am also really excited for the upcoming months. I will make sure to keep you posted as things progress.
Thanks to everyone so far who has prayed, sent positive vibes and words of encouragement. I welcome all I can get!!