Initial hospital testing – for us, well and truly categorised in the ‘despair’ section of the hope-despair-repeat cycle. From what I can gather through my copious research (honestly, I feel as though I’ve done more Google searches than a PHD student) this is normally a relatively swift process. Check female, check male, identify the problem, off you pop with a referral to the fertility clinic. I’m over simplifying a process which I know causes major heartache in every couple having these tests. We were lucky in that our problem was identified. I can’t even begin to imagine how unexplained fertility must feel. However, I’m over simplifying purely because for me it wasn’t the actual tests that caused the despair but the inability to complete more than 1 test at once. Our journey seemed outrageously inept – something I hope was an unfortunate one-off set of coincidences rather than general procedure.
To the tests… (not all of them, but the ones which provided the most irritation)
- Standard vaginal swabs – nothing traumatic, although mild BV discovered and a trip to the GP for antibiotics. Then what was going to turn out to be a customary 3 month wait before the swabs could be repeated.
- Sperm sample – including the well-documented panic drive to the hospital, little pot in hand, to get to the lab within the 1 hour window.
- HSG somewhere in the mix – not too traumatic other than it hurting like a b****
- Low sperm count identified – re-test required (cue panic drive with the little pot). No female problems, if it’s low again you’ll be referred at your next appointment (apparently).
- Blood tests which revealed that, despite having the MMR vaccine as a child, I wasn’t immune to rubella. Trip to the GP for a vaccination, 1 month wait until I could have the booster then yet again, 3 months for the vaccine to have done its job and be out of my system before another appointment. We’ll get this out of the way, you’ll be referred at your next appointment (again, apparently).
- Low sperm count identified again. Now this is the part that infuriated me the most…did you have 3 months without drinking and smoking between samples like you were told to? No because we weren’t told to. Don’t get me wrong, my husband doesn’t drink in excess and has never smoked, but he does like a pint at the weekend and we do enjoy the occasional gin. Cue 3 months of him not being allowed to drink anything before re-testing his sperm. Thankfully he took it as the ‘well you won’t be drinking for 9 months so this is nothing’ train of thought rather than being too bothered about it. How sensible would it have been if these 3 months could have been during my rubella-immunity 3 months? Don’t worry, you’ll be referred at your next appointment (yet again, apparently).
- 3 months later – no change to the sperm count. Haven’t you been tested for Cystic Fibrosis within your genes? We can’t refer you until this has been done. Cue tears of anger/disappointment/frustration etc.
I’m aware that this entire post sounds like one long moan when people are just trying to do their jobs and what’s 3 months in the grand scheme of things? 3 months was never the problem – being told at every appointment that the next one would be when we’d be referred and having to wait several more lots of 3 months was the problem. The further problem was that it took, you guessed it, 3 months for the referral to make it from the hospital to the fertility clinic.
Fledgling optimism finally sprouting at the point of referral…you know the rest.