Real Life: The Prize of Not Losing Hope

What do you do when you are young and faced with infertility? Ami shares her personal story.

WORDS RACHEL KWEK

Being a young couple, Ami and her husband did not expect themselves to be faced with infertility. Although one’s personal infertility is not something always easy to talk about, Ami reveals the details of the situation she faced and how she got her first child.

An Inkling
Ami had been married for a year when she began actively seeking medical assistance to conceive. “A year of trying for a baby may not seem that long to some people, but for someone with regular clockwork menses, regular intercourse (thrice a week), religious charting of BBT (basal body temperature) and absolutely no contraception since marriage, something in me didn’t feel right,” Ami recounts.

A Shocking Truth Revealed
Worried that something could be wrong with her and her husband, she consulted a rather popular gynaecologist. Not only did Ami monitor her ovulation closely with help from her doctor, she tried to time intercourse with it. However, her efforts over three months bore no fruit and it was then her gynaecologist suggested that a sperm analysis be done on her husband’s sperms. The results shocked Ami and her husband and confirmed the couple’s niggling worry that their difficulty in conceiving naturally had a physical cause.

While a typical male has 20 to 100 million sperms, the analysis revealed that Ami’s husband had a total sperm count of about one million and only 28 per cent of them were motile – able to swim to an egg.

The couple could not even qualify for IUI (a procedure in which good sperms are selected and injected directly into a woman’s uterus to up the chances of conception) as it would require about five million sperms. Ami was sadly turned away by her gynaecologist, who told her that the quality of her husband’s sperms was so bad that IVF might not even be feasible. What came out of the consultation was confounding for Ami; she could not understand why they were faced with this situation when her husband was only 28 years old then, did not smoke, ate healthily and was relatively active. “I remember walking out of the hospital, and only crying when I got into the car,” Ami says.

Clinging on to Hope
Refusing to believe it was hopeless for them; Ami booked herself an appointment with a hospital’s fertility department for an IVF pre-assessment the following week. It was late May in 2013. Ami expected a three-month wait but someone cancelled her slot and she began IVF consultation in July. A series of tests conducted on Ami showed that her body was in good condition for conception. In fact, the level of her antimullerian hormone was so high that she was at risk of OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome) if she proceeded with IVF. The antimullerian hormone is secreted by developing egg cells and is generally a good indicator of a woman’s egg reserves. On the other hand, her husband’s second sperm analysis results were worse than the first: he had about 300,000 sperms and only 2000 plus usable sperms according to IVF criteria. That ruled out traditional IVF (whereby one egg is placed on a petri dish with about 100,000 sperms) for them. Instead, Ami and her husband had to go for ICSI IVF – whereby one good sperm is chosen by the embryologist and injected into an egg.
    
She was put on medication to prepare her body for the IVF cycle subsequently. It was followed by 12 days of daily injections to stimulate more eggs to grow by the day they were to be extracted from her ovaries. When the time came for the procedure to be taken to the next stage, 11 mature eggs were retrieved and eight of them were successfully fertilised. On the third day of culture, two best-looking embryos were placed in her uterus. After that, Ami and her husband prayed hard that one of the embryos would implant successfully and become their baby. In October the same year, the couple’s prayers were answered. “It was surreal. I finally conceived,” Ami recalls wistfully.

Hopes Dashed and Rekindled
Unfortunately, the couple’s joy did not last. Eight weeks into Ami’s pregnancy, her baby had no heartbeat and her doctor confirmed she miscarried. To have their hopes raised and then dashed was heartbreaking for them. Ami opted for her foetus to be naturally flushed out and mourned for a month. Despite the setback, Ami was determined to have a child of her own. Through a second round of IVF during which frozen embryos from her previous cycle were used, Ami became pregnant again in March 2014. This time, she carried her baby to full term. Ami recalls how she could not truly relax during her pregnancy as she had friends who experienced second-trimester miscarriages. Even when she was in her third trimester, she was fearful that her baby would be stillborn. Ami could only put her mind at ease when she held her baby in her arms.
    
Looking back on her conception journey, Ami has this to say: “I remain eternally thankful for my “kiasu-ness” in wanting to conceive faster and the medical advancements for the sweet little boy sleeping right next to me now. I hope that women who have been trying actively for a year or years without seeking help do so as soon as possible. Do not take things for granted thinking there can’t be a problem. We are a young (below 30 at that time), healthy and active couple, yet we would not have a chance to become parents if not for IVF.”
    
Amy’s story is a reminder of how young couples leading healthy lifestyles can have difficulty conceiving naturally. By sharing her experience, Ami hopes to encourage young couples not to be afraid to seek help when they need to.

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