Here’s a little bit of our journey in trying to get pregnant, what has not happened yet – so I guess I should say that this is our journey by finding out about our infertility. I do have to tell you, that at some point, this gets graphic, so if you don’t want to read it… it’s better to stop now! 🙂
About three years ago, we decided we were going to try to get pregnant. Little we knew about the journey we would have. Trying to get pregnant itself… well, anybody can do this exercise. And if someone tells you “It’s easy” – that’s a lie. Each person is different and each case is one case. Ours is not the easy one.
I remember that I was close to two semesters to finish my degree, so the timing would be perfect for us. I would have the baby when school was over, and then have a year off taking care of the kiddo. I have always been the kind of person that plans everything out and talk it over, look at dates, etc. It was no different when thinking of getting pregnant.
As I was still at school, I remember having a meeting with my Program Head and tell him that I was planning to do that. The idea was to get an insight to see if the timing was right – you know, finishing school and having a baby might not always be the best plan, so I wanted to talk it over, discuss, and understand what would implicate being pregnant while still going to school. Well, he was just happy for my decision and said the school would do anything they could to make my pregnancy comfortable without missing classes and such.
Little I knew that I was way ahead of the curve. This “trying” is already taking us 3 years, and I have graduated 2 years ago now.
When we were at one year of trying, we decided to go to the doctor and see what was going on. This was May of 2017. The doctor asked me about my cycles, if I got pregnant before, how much sex we have, asks my husband about his life, etc. And then decides that it’s best to start testing my husband first since men’s exams are less invasive than women’s in these cases.
Off goes my beautiful husband to do his first Semen Analysis. We get called back into the office for the results. Surprise, surprise. The lady doctor (first time was a man) gets the results and says: “the results came back and there is no sperm in your semen analysis. I had never seen that before, only low count, and am not sure how to deal with that. I am sending you to a urologist”. Wow! How incredible it is to get the news that there’s no sperm from someone who says “I have not seen it before!” & “Don’t know what to do”.
Nothing is easy in this Canada of ours where health care is so amazingly appreciated by everyone, so we get a referral to a urologist and almost two months of wait for a consultation. We get there and the urologist, very kind man, asks us a bunch of questions, examines my hot husband and asks for another Semen Analysis. At this time, he does not really go into the causes or what it is, he just wants to confirm these results.
Off goes the poor guy again. Splash, splash into the cup! I guess that at this point, what was supposed to be less invasive for men, becomes a bit annoying. Because really, who likes to time out their orgasms and take a cup with that to a laboratory?! And it needs to be warm! Results come back and we return to the urologist. Surprise! Surprise? No sperm. And let’s make it clear, it’s no sperm. Meaning zero – not a low count, not a little bit… just niente!
Then comes the name for that: Azoospermia. Meaning, no sperm. The urologist says that there are two types of Azoospermia: Obstructive and non-obstructive. He says that based on the exams there’s no obstruction. He gave us a very good comparison: basically, imagine you have clogged plumbing. You need to have whatever residue that is impeding water to go through. That would be obstructive azoospermia. That could be fixed with surgery.
However, in non-obstructive azoospermia, there are several things that can cause that, like: genetic defect, previous cancer, cancer treatment, some kind of accident, low level of testosterone, etc. So… surprise, surprise! The urologist said: “I am not sure what to do from now on. I haven’t seen a case like this, so I am referring you to a specialist in Vancouver and meanwhile, I will already refer you the Fertility Clinic, because the wait is quite long. I think we should put Mabel in as well”. This was at the end of November 2017 (you can see that since our first consultation with the first doctor, it has been 6 months already).
And here we go to Vancouver in January 2018. Very busy medical office, I guess he really must be a specialist. We come in, he examines the testicles (or balls for the closest ones), asks questions and says: “this is non-obstructive azoospermia, but I am not sure what is causing it, let’s have a genetic test because all your other tests were normal”. Off we go to have the genetic testing done (Which is not covered by our amazing health care plan). This test takes a bit longer for the results to come back, so around March, we get a call from the specialist in Vancouver. Basically, my husband does not have anything genetically wrong. At that point, without much understanding… we celebrate.
Sometime later, Alex gets an email with the appointment date at the Fertility Clinic: April 25, 2018. I guess the wait is indeed long. And guess what: it’s the only (!!!!!) fertility clinic in Victoria.
Months pass by… pregnancy announcements at all times, and friends having babies. Our appointment date finally gets here. The same thing, the doctor asks us questions, family history, everything… And says: “You have a few options. We can do up a TESE or a MESA, which are biopsies of the testicles to see if we find any sperms. However in your case, if we find sperms, they might not be viable. Or you can also adopt or choose a sperm donor”.
THAT was our appointment. I am NOT kidding.
Just so you know the differences between the two procedures that he mentioned: MESA is basically a biopsy, where he would insert a tiny needle and aspirate the testicles looking for sperm. TESE is like surgery, and you have to go under general anesthesia, and he would basically CUT THE TESTICLES IN HALF to look for sperm. The chances of finding something with MESA are of about 15-50%, and the chances of finding sperm with TESE are of about 40-65%.
You might find it high. But in this particular case, that there’s no obstruction and no other known cause for azoospermia, the chances of finding a sperm that is actually viable for an artificial procedure are… well… very, very low. Chances only of the sperm surviving after this are even lower.
And, let’s not mention that for the first procedure, it would cost us about $10,000 + any chosen artificial method of insemination. I guess in this case, we would have to go IVF (In Vitro Fertilization), which would be another close to $10,000 (per try). The second procedure that the doctor offered us, aside from being SUPER MEGA invasive, would be around $20,000 + the cost of IVF. These numbers do not include any medication. They are just the procedures. And these procedures are not covered by our health plan.
So yes, THAT was our (dis)appointment at the Fertility Clinic.
At least we found out that we wasted thousands of dollars on condoms! (Yes, doctors were also amazed by how much sex we have!!! And sorry, I had to end with a joke!).
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash