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Thursday, March 20, 2014

What the church doesn't tell you about fertility and having children

You've been waiting for the perfect guy.  And now you think you have finally found him.  It's not that you put your career first.  It's just that you have to have a career nowadays if you aren't marrying right out of high school.  You have to think about how you will support yourself and be a wise steward of your time and resources.  You get busy and start saving, like a smart woman should.  You pray and hope, but you don't sit there and read Bride's or name your future children.  You see friends having babies.  You wait.

And like all Christian girls, you pray to meet the right man.  I mean, forget Mr. Right or Mr. Perfect.  You were even realistic looking for Mr. Right Kind of Man.  You said no to the Mr. Wrongs.  And then you finally did meet him.  And you got married at 35, or even older...  Is it wrong to hope that God will still bless you with children?

And it was fun to get to know him, and finally have sex with someone and have it be fun. And that's when the problems started, too.  You weren't pregnant after 18 months of trying.  Just so you know, that's too long to wait.

Or, even worse, you were late.  You were pregnant.  And then you lost the pregnancy.  Your body miscarried.  Don't blame yourself.  Not all pregnancies reach full term.  Life doesn't necessarily begin at conception.  It's always hard.  But it's not your fault.  There wasn't anything you did wrong.

Infertility is defined as actively trying to get pregnant for 6 months and not being able to if you are over 35.  For the younger couples, they get 1 year of actively trying before they are considered infertile.  It hurts and it's frustrating to hear the bad news that only a fertility specialist will give you.

A fertility specialist is also what is called a Reproductive Endocrinologist.  He or she will monintor your cycle and initiate testing.  Here's a taste of what you might have to look forward to.

  1. Blood Testing.  A blood test will reveal what your hormone levels are like and how your system is responding. A good reproductive endocrinologist will also check your thyroid levels.
  2. Transvaginal Ultrasound.  Just like a doctor uses an ultrasound to see a baby, the doctor can also use ultrasound to check the condition of your uterus and ovaries.  The doctor can actually tell whether or not you are ovulating and if you have ovarian cysts or uterine fibroid tumors.  Uterine fibroids can cause miscarriage, and are typically benign.  And the kicker is, they still aren't sure what causes them.  Traditional gynecological exams won't reveal anything wrong if the fibroids are small.  And, yes, it's called transvaginal because the doctor uses an ultrasound that goes through the vagina.  Ouch.
  3. Hysterosalpingogram (HSG).  Iodine-based dye is injected into to the uterus transvaginally.  (You're going to get used to that word.)  Then an X-ray is taken.  This test determines the health of your fallopian tubes and any abnomalities, such as those nasty fibroids.
  4. Sonohysterogram.  If you are allergic to iodine, they use ultrasound instead of X-ray.  It's not as good as the HSG, but at least it's something.
  5. Surgery.  Lucky you!  You have fibroids, but if they are removed, you will be able to carry a pregnancy to term.  There are as many different kinds of fibroids as the are surgeries to remove them.  There are minimally invasive techniques, depending on the size and location of the fibroids.  Luckily, nowadays, most women are not pushed into getting a hysterectomy like my mother was.
  6. Lucky men!  They get a test, too!  Most men find this humiliating.  They are ushered into a room with some porn and expected to ejaculate into a cup.  This is an important part.  In the case of one of my friends, they were not able to have a child because of low sperm motility.  They had to resort to in-vitro fertilization to get help with even conception.
So, what are the options?
Before jumping to invitro fertilization, there are ways of enhancing a couple's fertility so they have a baby.  Most of these treatments are focused on the female reproductive cycle.

  1. Medication to stimulate ovulation.  You can leave it at that, or add:
  2. Intrauterine Insemination.  Through this process, the doctor inserts the sperm high in the uterus rather than leaving this to chance.  It gives the sperm a running head start.
  3. In-vitro.  Vitro is glass.  Utero is uterus.  90s kids should know utero, if for nothing else, because Nirvana's last album was titled "In Utero."  The doctor takes sperm from the man and eggs from the woman and brings them together in a Petri dish.  Oh, not so fast!  How does he get those eggs?  After giving the woman medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs, he collects them by inserting a needle into the woman.  Ouch!  Instead of leaving it to chance, the doctor can also insert a sperm directly into the egg.  Voila!  Life begins.  At least you hope.
  4. Egg donors and sperm donors.  (It's not you, it's me!!!  Or maybe it's you.)  Sometimes people decide to accept a "donation."  Sometimes it's someone they know.  And sometimes it isn't.  It's hard to know what you are getting.  Some people are so happy to be pregnant that they don't care once they are.  Every couple decides what is best for them.  Some people would rather not do this.  And if they have done it, they might not be forthcoming about it.
The church can be overly judgemental.  Yes, life is sacred, but making everything about life beginning a conception proves not to be true all the time when you study the human body.  It is only a potential life.  I'm sure that this will be a sore spot for black-and-white thinkers.  Fertility doctors can help you decide what's right for you.  But honestly, if you do find yourself talking to them, you may realize that you should have married younger.  I just want you all to know some of what you're getting into when you marry late.  Some women do have children late in life.  It's time to call them lucky if they didn't need any extra help.

It's tough out there.  If anyone knows, I know.  Life is hard, and it's tough out there.  Good luck everyone. I hope you find Mr. Right Kind of Guy soon!

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