IUI vs. IVF

Karen Jeffries, @hilariously_infertile
Karen Jeffries, @hilariously_infertile
Part teacher. Part Mom. Part wife. Fully inappropriate. Forever infertile.

I had no idea that I was infertile when I was initially diagnosed with infertility.  I was young, young for New York City standards, 29 years old.  I never thought that I would struggle with infertility, ever.  But, there I was, at the fertility clinic learning about my options to conceive with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).  I, now, have two young daughters, both conceived through infertility treatments, but the difference between going through infertility for the first child and for the second child is actually more drastic than you would think.

We conceived my first child through IUI and Clomid.  It was my second round of IUI with Clomid, but my fourth round of Clomid, and my eighth month of trying to conceive, which in hindsight doesn’t seem that long, but when you are trying to get pregnant, every month feels like an eternity.  I’ve later learned that it is not as common as you would think to become pregnant from an IUI, but most doctors, and most insurance companies, always want to try the least invasive procedure first.  After my first failed IUI for my first daughter, I was a wreck.  I cried and cried.  I drank a whole bottle of wine.  My husband mentioned to me that he thought I should start eating organically.  That set me off, I felt that since I have a medical diagnosis, eating organically wouldn’t really make a difference.  I have since learned what an important role healthy and nutritious food has for anyone’s general health.  At the time, I just wanted to cry into a bag of Cheetos without judgment.

The next morning, after my failed IUI, I woke up to the news that Snookie from Jersey Shore was pregnant.  This was 2012, Snookie was not yet rebranded as a totally competent mother.  Snookie had just been dragged from a Jersey bar by her hair the weekend prior.  I remember thinking, That seems right, I’ve devoted my whole life to children, with a master’s degree in education, but yes, Snookie is pregnant.

When I was going through those first rounds of infertility treatment with my clinic everything was a massive deal to me.  I had dozens of unanswered questions.  Would I never get pregnant?  Do we need to look into adoption?  Will I be able to maintain a pregnancy?  Would I need a surrogate?  I think the scariest part of initial fertility treatments is all the unknowns.  The unknowns that keep swirling around in your head and make you feel crazy.  You’re not crazy, by the way.

Eventually, I did get pregnant with my second IUI.  I remember the date, it was February 10, 2012.  My older sister, who lives in Chicago, was pregnant but not due for another five weeks.  She called me around four in the morning and told me she was in labor.  I went to my IUI with a flight already scheduled for that afternoon.  I was a mess.  Am I allowed to fly immediately after an IUI? I thought to myself.  I decided that it didn’t matter, being with my sister was more important.  I went straight from the fertility clinic to LaGuardia Airport to get to Chicago.  I was beyond emotional, to say the least.  I came to peace with the idea that this round wouldn’t work.  How could it work with me, a ball of nerves, on a plane, crying my eyes out because I am going to miss the birth of my first nephew because I can’t get pregnant?

Two weeks later I found out that it did work.  That crazed IUI got me pregnant with my first daughter, Zoe.  Now for all the next questions in my head.  What if I miscarry?  Can I carry a baby to term?  And all the other questions that expecting moms go through.

It turned out that I was able to carry my baby to term and I delivered a healthy baby girl that November of 2012.

When my first daughter turned 18 months old, we started fertility treatments for my second child.  We knew we wanted them around three years apart.  My husband believed that IUI would do it again for us, but I knew.  I knew.  I had a feeling that I was going to need IVF this time around.  The one thing I have learned through this is that when a woman says, “She has a feeling,” – don’t mess with that.

We started on IUI and Clomid again.  My doctor told me that because I don’t ovulate, due to my PCOS, it makes no sense for us to try to get pregnant on our own.  Back to the clinic for us.  The first round of Clomid was the same dosage that got me pregnant with my first daughter – nothing happened, I didn’t even ovulate. In my second month we increased the dosage and did Clomid and IUI again.  Failed.  Again the next month.  Failed.  Again the next month.  Failed.  Again the next month.  Failed.

Every month the nurse practitioners would call me, in their sweetest we-have-to-tell-a-woman-she’s-not-pregnant voice and tell me exactly that – I wasn’t pregnant.  I knew already because I always tested at home.  Every time they were so kind and sincere, and I kept saying, “It’s okay, I have a child. – It’s okay, I have a kid.”  Truly, that is how I felt.  I felt that it was okay that I wasn’t getting pregnant for all these rounds because I had an amazing little toddler running around and I knew that some families don’t get that.  The perspective of our situation was not lost on me.

Going through treatments the second time seemed all-around easier too.  Although logistically harder because I have a toddler in child care and I was working full time.  We also had moved to the suburbs so I had to drive an hour into New York City for all my appointments, which was more difficult, but generally speaking, the second time was easier emotionally for me, while still harder logistically.  I found myself not obsessing about the outcomes of every cycle.  I was more relaxed.  Those questions that consumed my head with my first treatments all had answers now because I had been through it.  I knew that I could get pregnant and maintain a pregnancy, it was just a matter of time for my doctors to figure out the correct infertility cocktail recipe to get me there.  I was a science experiment, with many variables and few controls.

After my fourth failed IUI, I decided, and my husband supported me, to move forward with IVF.  I knew very little about IVF, but I trusted my doctors.  Once I started IVF I realized that I had reached the VIP level at the clinic.  I was there every other day during my cycle.  It was December.  My advice: don’t do IVF in December, if you can help it.  December is a crazy enough month without injecting yourself with hormones.

Still, the difference between the second round of fertility treatments and the first round of fertility treatments was drastic.  If I had to go through IVF for my first daughter I would have been an emotional nightmare.  Comparatively, IVF for my second child was, emotionally, no big thing.  Once you have caught your child’s throw up in your bare hands, everything else seems not so bad.

I learned how to administer the injections on myself, which I had never done before in my life.  I learned that I needed more leggings in my general wardrobe.  I learned that if I didn’t want to go to a party, I didn’t go, and I was fine with that.  I learned that I could handle way more than I ever thought I could, even when I cried on the morning of my egg retrieval because there was a power outage at my toddler’s daycare and we had to leave her with my parents, who are the “not-so-great grandparents.”

I tell my followers this often: I will never sit here and tell you that everything is going to work out in the end, because I don’t know that to be true, but what I do know is that you are way stronger than your infertility and you can get through this. I, also, now know, that there are many different options for people who are struggling to conceive and I’m happy that GoStork is helping make those options clear to patients.