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Tips For Traveling During IVF

IVF with a Low Egg Count: Alex's Story

IVF with a Low Egg Count: Alex's Story

As part of Prima's interview series, "Fertility Journeys Beyond the Clipboard", guided by Jenni Quilter, we hear from Alex, a 33 year old woman living in Dallas, who is currently going through secondary infertility after her first child was born via IVF.

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"Fertility care is like a rollercoaster–it just feels like it’s going to turn on a dime."



This all began at the end of 2017. My husband and I had been not trying, but (also not preventing) a pregnancy for about a year when I went to my OBGYN to run a blood panel. I had very low AMH–like, undetectable AMH. My doctor gave me the results and the recommendation of a reproductive endocrinologist, but was pretty dismissive overall, and left me to my own devices beyond a short phone call. Google is not the best rabbit hole to go down when you’re given an infertility diagnosis. My husband came home to find me in a puddle of tears on the floor. I was 27, and I thought I was never going to be able to conceive. 



We were living in Dallas at the time, and we had no infertility coverage through our insurance. We were newly married, and had no savings. So we were pretty limited in what we could afford to do. The reproductive endocrinologist–who I really liked–suggested we try a round of IUI with hormones. We did two cycles where  I took FSH and then did a trigger shot. In the second round I conceived my daughter. My doctor said I had about a 5% chance of success in my situation. 



There was no baby shower, no maternity photos–we missed a lot of the rituals that come with being pregnant. 



I wish I could say the pregnancy was uneventful. Just past 23 weeks, my water broke and my daughter was born. She weighed 1 pound, and it was really touch and go–she went through brain surgery, heart surgery, eye surgery…we lived in the NICU for four months, and she came home right about when she was actually due. She’s caught up with her peers in every measure since, but there was no baby shower, no maternity photos–we missed a lot of the rituals that come with being pregnant. I had only felt her kick for the first time the week before she was born. 





I was part of a Facebook group then called Low AMH / DOR Sisterhood, which was for women in the same situation I was in, and through that group I met a woman, also living in Dallas, with the same diagnosis, attending the same clinic, and we conceived just a week apart. When I was in the NICU she messaged me and said she was visiting the hospital for an OBGYN appointment and could she stop by. It was the first time we’d met in-person. Then she ended up in the NICU too–she developed pre-eclampsia and she had to deliver at 30 weeks. We ended up being alongside each other in the hospital for a couple of months, and we’ve remained close ever since. 





The way they had to do the c-section meant that I needed to wait a while before trying for a second child, and so we gave it 18 months before beginning again, and then two years passed with us just trying to fall pregnant naturally.  We moved to the East Coast during this time, and now we had excellent fertility coverage through our insurance, so when we decided to find a fertility clinic, we had more options to pursue. I’ve found another doctor I like a great deal, who specializes in women with DOR (diminished ovarian reserve), and we’ve followed a pretty low-hormone dose course of action so far. I’ve had four retrievals with pretty dismal results. The first time, only 1 follicle responded, and we had to convert to an IUI. The second time, I had two follicles, but only 1 mature egg, and though it fertilized it didn’t get past 4 cells. The third time, we had three follicles, but I ovulated too early. For the fourth time–which was 10 days ago–it looked like we had 4 or 5 follicles going into surgery, but there ended up being only 1 egg there which fertilized, but didn’t get past day 2 or 3. I really trust my doctor, and I’m going to talk to him next week and reassess. There might be some underlying complications to this infertility we can address. 



My husband has been extremely supportive, but it’s hard when it just doesn’t affect his body in the same way.



I’m 33 now, so this journey has lasted eight years so far. My husband has been extremely supportive, but it’s hard when it just doesn’t affect his body in the same way. Couples therapy has been very helpful. My family has been extremely supportive, but it’s also a little complicated. My daughter’s birth was traumatizing for them too–at the time, they lived across the country–and so when I wanted to try for a second child, it took a while for them to come around to the idea. My sister has told me she’s not currently comfortable with the idea of egg donation. This compounding secondary infertility–if that’s what it is–is more emotionally complicated than I would’ve ever guessed. I still have some trauma from the birth of my daughter as well, but seeing a therapist has helped, and being open about it with my friends and family has brought some clarity and peace. Fertility care is like a rollercoaster–it just feels like it’s going to turn on a dime, from going really well to going really poorly, to going well again, to being ready to give up, to being willing to try something else next week. It may be that I’ll consider embryo donation. The journey hasn’t ended, that’s for sure. 




March 2024  
Written by Jenni Quilter. Jenni Quilter teaches at New York University. Her most recent books are Hatching: Experiments in Motherhood and Technology and New York School Painters & Poets: Neon in Daylight, for which she was a finalist for the 2014 AICA Award for Best Criticism. She has written for the Los Angeles Review of BooksThe Times Literary Supplement (London), Poetry Review, and the London Review of Books.

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