Blog about having premature ovarian failure and trying donor IVF with my sister's eggs

Archive for the ‘premature ovarian failure’ Category

Hello HRT my old friend

One of the great things about being pregnant was that I didn’t have to take HRT (hormone replacement therapy) as my placenta magically produced oestrogen which was otherwise lacking in my body as my ovaries stopped making it when I was in my mid thirties – hence my premature ovarian failure.

While I was pregnant I asked my IVF doctor and my obstetrician when I would need to begin HRT after I had my baby. Both said I should wait around six months and then go back on it.

Well given the state of my poor old head, we’ve had to bring that date forward somewhat.

I restarted it about five days ago after my psychiatrist contacted my endocrinologist to confirm it with her. And I’m already feeling better. It’s amazing what a difference HRT makes – without it a girl can feel so anxious, withdrawn and down.

Upping my oestrogen means any remaining breast milk is drying up but breastfeeding my wee babe was already out of the question since I began on the antidepressant Pristiq last week.

So my mood is gradually lifting and I’m slowly feeling a little better. It can only improve I hope.

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Anxiety and postnatal depression

Apparently anxiety is a symptom of depression. I’ve been anxious for years now and my doctor says it’s possible I could have benefitted from antidepressants a long time ago.

First I was anxious and upset about having premature ovarian failure which I was diagnosed with about six years back with no follow up support or counselling.

Then I was anxious due to the biological effect of my premature ovarian failure ie: not having any oestrogen actually made me anxious and gave me insomnia. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) helped alleviate some of this but only after about three years of living on my nerves without it.

Then, my husband and I moved from the UK to a new country  (Australia) without jobs and minimal social connections. We made our way on our own but it was tough going while trying to come to terms with premature ovarian failure and the ensuing infertility. It was our own doing but sometimes I think you bite off more than you can chew!

Then we tried IVF as a doctor believed he could get my ovaries working. When nothing happened it was devastating and very anxiety inducing. Once again that doctor offered no follow up counselling or support.

We began working through our infertility and accepted we would be childless until three of my beautiful friends came forward to offer us their eggs. While this was amazing, it was still a very anxious time trying to work out how and whether to proceed with these kind, kind offers.

Then my darling sister offered and we decided to move forward and try. But that whole process was also very stressful as I wanted to give her room to back out at any time and the thought of that happening was terrifying. Then I felt anxious putting her through the physical ordeal of egg donation, as well as splitting her family while she travelled from NZ to Australia to undergo the treatment.

Getting pregnant the first time as a result of her donation was massively exciting but also very nerve-wracking. When that pregnancy ended in miscarriage we were devastated. But somehow we got back on the horse and tried a second embryo transfer with no luck, before I fell pregnant again on our third attempt with our beautiful daughter.

All through the pregnancy we lived on tenterhooks. Would I miscarry like I did the first time? What if the baby had something wrong with it? When I began bleeding early on it was horrendously anxiety invoking but luckily that stopped and we now have our gorgeous girl.

All the while I was working in a job with a psycho boss who demanded far more than I could deliver and played with my emotions in ways that disgust me when I think back to it.

So anxiety has been my constant companion for a long time and is it any wonder that everything just mounted up and landed me in a big heap now?

The great thing is that I’m finally getting treatment for a depression that may have been lurking for a long time as a result of our trials – and hopefully anxiety will be a toxic shadow I can discard forever.

Breastfeeding after menopause

Some breastfeeding women have litres of milk literally frothing at their nipples with which to feed their babies but their babies aren’t very good at latching on and sucking. Others have nipples red raw and bleeding from nursing their little ones. I have apparently perfect nipples for breastfeeding and have thus far nursed my daughter with no pain, grazing or bleeding.

But my milk supply is seriously limited and it’s most likely down to the fact I have gone through early menopause. Bummer. So to begin with each feed consisted of me breastfeeding my daughter for about an hour and then topping up with about 70 ml formula. The whole process of feeding, topping up and settling her back to sleep would take about 3-4 hours by which time it was time to feed the poor tyke again – arrghhh.

Suffice to say we were both exhausted and crying for most of the day.

Since coming into the hospital, things have improved as I am now expressing all my breastmilk and then feeding it to her in a bottle. This has radically cut down the length of feeding time so the poor babe can get back to sleep much faster to regain her energy for her next feed.  It has also cut down the amount of formula I am topping her up to because we now know how much we are feeding her. She therefore has more then halved the number of explosive pooey nappies she was having because we were overfeeding her – poor wee thing.

But my breastmilk may still not be best for my baby. This is because it does not contain the usual levels of hormones that other mum’s breastmilk has, as my oestrogen level in particular is so depleted no that I no longer have the placenta supplying my body with it (or my ovaries which went to sleep years ago). My paediatrician suggested that if this is making me feel like crap it may well be making my baby feel like crap too.

So I’m currently weaning her off my milk which I’m finding a sad process as it was the one thing I seemed to be able to do well even though I couldn’t seem to supply her with enough milk.

So while we may be able to trick our post menopausal bodies into nourishing and carrying a baby, the boobs are not so easily coerced.

At least I am getting a little more rest and my daughter is feeling a little more comfortable now we are on a new feeding regime in hospital. It is certainly one of the things that has contributed to my postnatal depression.

What a difference a year makes

Four-Seasons-Trees

Waiting for a baby can seem interminable but it only takes a year - sometimes less - for things to change completely

Waiting to conceive a baby can be unbearably long, lonely and painful but things can turn around so quickly.

In just a year, we have undergone donor IVF with my wonderful sister from New Zealand; conceived, miscarried, had a negative transfer, conceived again and are now awaiting the arrival of our first baby in five days’ time.

Conception and pregnancy followed six years of grief, uncertainty and personal growth, all of which began with my diagnosis of premature ovarian failure at 35.

I grieved then for my young womanhood (going into premature menopause made me feel like an unattractive old crone), my periods (truly!), the children we would never have; our first IVF cycle that yielded zilch eggs and for the life we’d had before my diagnosis.

More recently, we grieved for the little baby we lost last year to miscarriage – it felt like our hearts had been ripped out.

But all the grieving and uncertainty helped us to become more thoughtful, empathetic and kind. It made us rethink what being a beautiful, sexy woman or man really means (it doesn’t mean you have to be fertile) and what life would be like childfree (books called Silent Sorority and Sweet Grapes were particularly helpful).

So what a journey it’s been!  It has been truly remarkable for which we are very thankful.

If it can happen for us, it can happen for others too.  I can’t wait to read about other people’s success stories – I know they are out there, or about to begin.

Rubbish at conceiving but great at pregnancy – dispelling my concerns

Having no eggs with which to conceive a child made me doubt my body and ability to carry a baby (I thought that perhaps I’m not meant to have a baby if my eggs are used up?) – but this pregnancy has changed all that.

My pregnancy has been fabulous with no afflictions (yet). My skin has been clear, my back straight and strong, my abdominal muscles elastic and still holding up without the need for support pants, the skin on my belly is stretch-mark-free and I have no varicose veins.

Even being long in the tooth for a first time mother (I’m 42) has not caused me to crumble under the physical strain of pregnancy.

The only complication is that my baby is lying sideways and showing no inclination to move its head down like all good, compliant babies should (!) but as I’m having a c-section, it doesn’t matter.

This makes me feel a little smug when I hear about much younger and more fertile women struggling with pregnancy aches and pains. I know – it sounds like a bad case of schadenfreude but I’m so pleased that FINALLY,  I can do something well in the reproductive area!

But it’s also good news for all those other infertiles out there who may have the same worries about pregnancy, should they conceive. Just because you may not have good eggs, or for whatever other reason may find trouble conceiving – it doesn’t mean you’ll have a troubled pregnancy – isn’t that great news?

Things to do with placentas

Ever eaten pate made from someone else’s placenta? I haven’t, but my sister and brother in law did unwittingly when their friends served it up to them over dinner once. Yuck yuck yuck!!!

Placentas come in handy in other ways too – mostly notably that they house and nurture a baby during pregnancy (no kidding Einstein!). I’ve also heard of people planting trees over them in their gardens etc.

I’ve also recently found out that another fantastic use for placentas is as a temporary replacement for HRT (hormone replacement therapy).

Apparently your placenta begins to produce oestrogen at around 10 weeks’ pregnancy, meaning the ovaries sit back and take a break for a while (until you stop breastfeeding after you’ve had your baby). I guess they stop producing any eggs to stop any new babies being made while you’re pregnant.

The very cool thing for people whose ovaries have stopped working (like me) is that we don’t have to take HRT during pregnancy as we have oestrogen swimming around in our bodies, care of our placentas.

I am delighted! I love that my body can magically do this. I wonder if there will ever be a way to harness our placentas in this way when we aren’t pregnant, so we don’t have to take HRT?

Deflated

The nonchalance, needles, lack of yoga, avoidance of alcohol and shellfish didn’t make a smite of difference as my pregnancy blood test came back negative.

I asked my husband how he felt and he said deflated, which is pretty much how I feel. Just numb and flat. As if one of those acupuncture needles (or perhaps it was my blood test needle this morning) has pricked our little balloon of hope.

And I was beginning to convince myself that my sore back was a symptom. Christ knows why it’s sore if I’m not pregnant. How dare it be sore and tease me into thinking it could be a sign!

So now I have to go off all my medication for a few days. That includes the oestrogen that my ovaries no longer make. This means I’ll end up having a horrible hormonal crash in a few days, which is when my period should also start. Brilliant – definitely something to look forward to.

But after all the nastiness, I’ll be able to go back on my oestrogen to start building up my womb lining again. This is something I seem to be good at – my doctor is always pleased with the thickness of my endometrium. So all going well, I could be up for another transfer in a few weeks – how crazy is that?

If we keep going at this rate (rapid fire transfers but no pregnancies), we’ll be through our embryos in no time. Now there are six left. I don’t know why but I am reminded of that nursery rhyme ‘Ten green bottles hanging on the wall’…..do you know it? Hopefully our story will have a different ending…