Sarah: What if someone had tested my hormones earlier?
I got my period in my teens and pretty soon after that, I got birth control pills that I took for several years until I met my husband and we decided that we wanted to have children. I had never thought about if my menstrual cycle worked as it should and well, when you go on hormonal contraceptives, you do not know. My husband and I knew that it could take a while to get pregnant, but I had no idea that my period would not show up at all. It never started after I stopped taking the pill. When I started looking for help, my doctor stated that I had eggs, but for some reason, I did not ovulate.
After a year of trying, we contacted a fertility clinic and for six months we tried several different methods. Among other things, I took hormone injections that would kick-start ovulation, but this either led to an overproduction of eggs or when we lowered the dose of hormones, no eggs at all. It was also discovered during the examinations that my uterine lining was very thin. Despite this, there was not much focus on finding out why my ovulation did not occur, or why the mucous membrane was thin – they simply focused on trying to solve the problem with hormone medications.
After two years of trying without any results, we decided it was time to try IVF. My problem with not getting any eggs continued even when we did IVF, despite hormone stimulation we only got one egg. However, we had huge luck because the fertilization of this single egg was successful and we got a healthy and lovely girl.
Sometimes you wonder how you have the strength to continue fighting when you know it will be difficult, but the longing for siblings was great. And despite our history, it turned out to be more challenging than we could have imagined. It was found that my uterus had grown again and that I needed surgery. Any other way an IVF was apparently completely out of the question. The luck from the first time did not repeat itself and after four failed attempts we began to feel certain hopelessness. But then I got pregnant on the fifth try, we were so thankful!
But then the things that can not happen, just happen. The ultrasound in week 14 showed abnormalities in the fetus that did not look good at all and we had to make a very difficult decision to terminate the pregnancy. It was awful and sad, both because we lost something we had longed for and been very happy about, but also because we knew it was not just to "go home and try again." It was a tough time, both my husband and I felt like we did not have time to mourn, and I also had to undergo several surgeries. I felt very bad mentally and got depressed.
In total, there were 11 IVF attempts and another miscarriage. We paused for a while to not to completely perish, but somewhere we still found the drive to continue, and eventually, our second daughter came to the world. It is very easy to forget yourself and your general well-being during a fertility treatment – you get a tunnel vision and can not focus on anything except for succeeding.
After my second birth, it became clear that my body was not feeling so well. I had severe problems with heavy bleeding and eventually, I saw a doctor who decided to finally get to the bottom of my problems. He was researching hormones and wanted to find the actual cause of my original problem – that I was not ovulating. It turned out that I had very low estrogen levels. So that was the explanation why I never got my cycles back when I stopped taking birth control pills. In addition, it can lead to osteoporosis and later cardiovascular problems, so even though I now have my children, it felt very good to know about this.
I was referred to another doctor who specialized in sex hormones, and the first thing she told me was that I weighed too little and that I had to eat more and in a different way. She wanted to try to start my ovulation naturally, without medication, and she gave me prescriptions to start eating more animal fat. She explained that when it comes to sex hormones, there is a difference between fat and fat and plant-based fat does not have the same effect on sex hormones as animal-based.
I have always struggled with my digestion and have a very hard time digesting eggs, salmon and sausages, so instead I was prescribed to eat crazy amounts of butter and cheese. We tested this for a year, I only gained 1.5 kg in weight, but for the first time in 15 years, I got my ovulation back! It was not completely regular but I ovulated – it was absolutely incredible!
What did I learn? I wish that all women got to learn more about their bodies and hormones and had the knowledge to understand that an irregular cycle always means that something is not right. And that you earlier focused on understanding the reason for the problems, not just solving it by medication. When you want to have children, it is difficult to focus on anything other than having that child, so the earlier you can identify imbalances the better.
Hormone health is very complex, but it is easier to test your hormones than you think – hormone tests are a fantastic tool for understanding where to start. I have really learned the hard way that hormonal health is not just about having children, but about our well-being in general.
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