I'm talking about my fertility issues because nobody told me the truth when I needed it
One woman shares her heart-wrenching experience
I got married about 8 years ago when I was 28 and moved to Singapore from India because my husband got a job here. Since he has a travelling job, I spent the first couple of years exploring South East Asia with him. We started trying to conceive when I was around 32 — whenever we could, around his schedule.
The fallacy that you can get pregnant at any time was shattered because the minute you start trying, you are bogged down with instructions from doctors. The right dates, the pressure… it’s not always possible to make time either. Eventually, when I turned 33, we started fertility treatments.
The first level of fertility treatment involved oral medicines that stimulate the egg to ensure that I was ovulating every month — for about 9-10 months. After a year of trying with no success, we were advised to get a battery of tests done, blood tests, tests for my fallopian tubes, etc and that’s when the nightmare began.
None of the steps was straightforward or easy — in fact, they were intrusive, and even slightly barbaric. The way they’re described and the way they turn out are quite different. Your experience depends on individual pain tolerance levels as well. Most of the results didn’t highlight any real fertility issues so the doctor recommended IUI or intrauterine insemination.
Just before ovulation, they artificially inseminate the sperm straight into the cervix. I did this process about four times and it was not fun because after the process, you have to take an injection for progesterone. At this point, I was just going through the motions.
After four unsuccessful tries, my doctor told us we had to move to the next stage: in vitro fertilisation or IVF.
The common solution to fertility issues: IVF
The IVF specialist here was very kind and explained the process as clearly as he could. He told me I would have to take injections in my stomach for 14 days, head to the hospital every alternate day to check the growth of the eggs, the dosage and if the medicine was working.
By this time I was used to being poked at because I had become comfortable with the vaginal tests. But nothing prepared me for the idea of taking 70+ injections in your stomach, right next to your navel, every morning, every night, every afternoon. Basically, any time you could think of, there was some injection that had to be taken.
I took them myself because I was working, it was expensive and I couldn’t keep going to the doctor. At the end of the 15th day, I was ready for the extraction of the eggs and that was the easy part because you’re under anaesthesia. The process wasn’t difficult but it was painful for 4 days after that. I could barely walk or pee, it was like my entire insides had turned themselves out.
Luckily, in Singapore, they have something called the Frozen Cycle, where you are allowed to rest for a month before the fertile insertion. This is where my fertility issues arose — turns out, I had issues with the quality of my eggs. The doctor said there ‘might’ be an issue but he couldn’t conclusively state it since there are people with the same quality of eggs that get pregnant.
He said that this was not considered infertility. After all, my egg did get fertilised. Since it was inconclusive, the second part of my cycle began — where they insert the fertilised egg and the sperm back into the cervix and hope that it will settle down.
I was asked to come back every 2-3 days to take an injection of progesterone, which was not only painful but it was painful for 6 months. You have to take it in your butt and because it’s oil-based, it makes sitting painful. I had to do an insertion of progesterone vaginally 3 times a day — it is intense.
By this time, I had rewritten what pain actually means because these were the least painful of the things that I had gone through.
I’m a progressive person and my family is very supportive, I don’t think anybody would have forced me to do this. I realised that if somebody had given me all the details of what one goes through, physically and emotionally, not just the process, I may not have gone through it at all.
“The only reason I made it through was because I had a very supportive family”
After four years of trying and coping with the disappointment, at the end of my second round of IVF, I decided to stop. Till date, I’m not clinically infertile.
My body couldn’t take it anymore and neither could my brain. There were so many hormones in my body, I felt imbalanced.
One of the reasons I wanted to go through this whole process and range of treatments was because I didn’t want to second guess myself. I’m not someone who talks about her problems. But during these treatments, I went through a gamut of emotions — even touched the periphery of depression.
The only reason I made it through was my family who were like my rocks, including my in-laws.
My husband was my biggest support. Even though we don’t know if the medical problem is with him or me, not once through this process did he make me feel like I was a failure. When people told us two rounds of IVF were ‘not enough’, he’d step in and ask what was enough, then?
The treatments took a toll on us because we’d stopped enjoying sex — it wasn’t fun consulting a calendar first. When you’re going through a treatment, you can’t have intercourse three days before it — fertility issues actually make you feel as unsexy as possible. You’re bloated all the time, you feel like you’re sweating, all sorts of things that don’t make you feel sexy. We love to travel and we couldn’t plan trips anymore.
Not to mention the financial strain that can mess you up. If you’re looking to do this multiple times, you’re going to spend lakhs of rupees. And personally, I haven’t heard of anyone who was successful with just one round of IVF.
“I don’t consider the fact that my husband and I couldn’t have kids as a taboo, we have an excellent life”
The support system that exists on this particular issue is quite abysmal, so I wanted to share my story. I knew a few women who went through 7-8 of these attempts, just to ensure that they got pregnant. Some had their in-laws suggest that their brother have a child and then hand it over to them.
I’d request anyone else trying, to talk about the process because the medical process and what you go through emotionally and physically are different things. The doctors will explain technical aspects to you, but they may not know what you’re really going through.
I don’t consider the fact that my husband and I couldn’t have kids as a taboo, we have an excellent life. But it’s something you have to live with.
We don’t know what we’re going to do next, but for now, I’ve decided not to have children. And for those who are sure they can’t bear children, don’t close your doors on adoption, if you feel strongly about it.
As told to Chandni Sehgal