Like many women having trouble conceiving, Wendy assumed that the problem was with her.
“When I first started my job as an OB-GYN nurse practitioner, I had a kind of baby fever,” says Wendy of her strong desire to be a mom. “At the same time, it showed me firsthand how common it is to have fertility struggles. In a way, witnessing my patients endure miscarriages and infertility made my own struggles even more stressful.”
Wendy and her husband Jon (for the sake of anonymity, these are not their real names) grew concerned after they’d been unable to get pregnant after a full year of trying. As a medical professional, Wendy knew this meant that an underlying condition was likely preventing them from conceiving. It was time to seek help.
“I assumed that the problem was on my end, because I wasn’t having regular periods,” Wendy explains. “My OB-GYN started me on Clomid, and after three rounds of medication I was still not ovulating regularly. At that point, we decided to seek treatment from a fertility clinic.”
Pinpointing the problem with fertility testing
When Jon and Wendy first visited TRM, they each received fertility testing, which included a semen analysis to determine Jon’s sperm quality. Patients are sometimes surprised to learn that male factor infertility plays a role in approximately 40 percent of all cases of infertility. Because of this, it is critical that fertility clinics evaluate and test for both female and male causes of infertility.
Shortly after their round of testing, Wendy and Jon made an appointment with Dr. Rink Murray to discuss the findings of the evaluation.
“When I scheduled the appointment, my husband was at work so he couldn’t make it. Dr. Murray told me that from the numbers he was looking at on the semen analysis, Jon most likely had a varicocele causing low sperm count, but he couldn’t be sure. He said in vitro fertilization (IVF) would be an option, but he first wanted us to see a urologist.”
Varicoceles are enlarged veins within the scrotum that can negatively affect sperm count and quality. Fifteen to 20 percent of all men, and 40 percent of infertile men, have varicoceles. Most of the time, they do not cause any symptoms outside of infertility. Varicoceles increase the temperature of the scrotum, which in turn decreases sperm quality and motility (movement).
“The diagnosis was an eye-opener – a real game changer,” says Wendy. “We thought all along that I was the problem!”
Infertility is a tough pill to swallow
Shortly thereafter, Jon was referred by Dr. Murray to a local urologist. The urologist was able to confirm the presence of varicoceles, and advised the couple that their odds of conceiving would increase if the varicoceles were surgically corrected.
Jon underwent outpatient surgery in September of 2014, and by December of that same year Wendy found out that she was pregnant. The surgery worked. Wendy soon returned to TRM, ultrasound photo in hand, to express her thanks to the doctors and staff.
This couple’s case serves as a reminder that taking the time and appropriate measures to identify the underlying cause of infertility can often save a lot of time and heartache. In Jon and Wendy’s case, their struggle to conceive was corrected by a simple procedure without the need for more costly treatments like in vitro fertilization (IVF).
In August of 2015, Jon and Wendy welcomed their firstborn son into the world, and they have plans to start trying for another soon. Wendy advises anyone struggling to conceive to seek fertility testing sooner rather than later.
“Fertility issues are a hard pill to swallow,” she says. “People have absolutely no idea what it’s like unless they’ve been through it personally. Don’t let anyone stigmatize you or make you feel bad for seeking fertility treatment.
“I don’t think that it’s God’s will for someone to struggle with infertility any more than it’s His will for someone to have diabetes. It’s a medical condition. And the sooner you get diagnosed, the sooner you can get treated.”