When a doctor says “I can’t help you”

I did 5 cycles with my own eggs before switching to DE.  Five cycles is a lot – a lot of money, a lot of hassle, a lot of pain, a lot of tears.  But when I look back now on it, and ask myself “am I sorry I did it?”  the answer is, basically, no.  If I had known going in what was ahead of me, yes, I would have gone to DE or adoption immediately and not looked back.  But I didn’t know what was ahead of me, and as a result doing the cycles was necessary for us to feel that we had really exhausted the possibility of having biological children before we were ready to move on.

There is only 1 cycle that I really regret, and that is not the last cycle but cycle #2.  Cycle #1 I had done at a clinic relatively close to my podunk hometown.  It had not gone as well as I had hoped – 3 embryos were transferred on day 3, one so fragmented it looked like pizza and the other two having a pretty meager cell count.  I ended up pregnant, but went through a low beta hell and ended up miscarrying.

When I went in for an ultrasound during the hell period, the friendly RE on call told me not to worry, just being able to get pregnant was a good sign, and many women go on from a miscarriage on the first cycle to get pregnant on the second.  Unfortunately this RE had apparently not studied my chart carefully enough, because when I went in for my follow-up appointment my own RE told me that things didn’t look good, my embryos were of poor quality, and this was probably because my eggs were getting too old.  I was in a “gray area” where maybe I could get pregnant and maybe I couldn’t.  She was reluctant to let me cycle with them again, and thought I should start thinking about donor egg.

So what did I do?  Did I listen to this doctor, for whose special expertise I had paid a ton of money?

No, of course not!

I had just gotten pregnant, I was so close, this couldn’t be taken away from me so quickly.  I begged and pleaded with the clinic to let me cycle again.   Eventually they relented and let me do so.  And the cycle was a total disaster – they put me on microdose Lupron to get my ovaries in overdrive and then blasted me with massive doses of Follistim.  The result was a giant dominant follicle and the dreaded phone call on the day of transfer, “Your embryo is probably dead, do you want to transfer or should we call it off?”  We decided to transfer but knew going in we were probably just giving the embryo a more comfortable burial.

Something that still pisses me off to this day is that when I asked my nurse at the clinic why I had gotten a dominant follicle, she said “We don’t know, sometimes it just happens.” “It just happens”, my foot.  It happens when you are undersuppressed, and I was undersuppressed because I was on microdose Lupron instead of regular dose.  I switched to Cornell after this cycle, was put back on regular Lupron, and made lots of eggs and lots of beautiful-looking embryos.  Sadly, none of those stuck either, at least not for good, but at least the clinic knew what it was doing with me and had an appropriate protocol.

So was my first RE right when she said that I wouldn’t be able to have a child with my own eggs?  I don’t know.   I miscarried on cycle 4 because of a chromosome deletion, a problem that is not age-related; it is, as my RE said, “just bad luck”.   Maybe if my luck had been different I would have carried to term, or maybe I was lucky just to get pregnant at all.  But what my first RE was really right about was that she couldn’t help me. She did not know how to handle the problems we were presenting her with.  She told us so but we did not believe her, and as a result we wasted energy and money on a cycle that might have worked if we had switched to a clinic thatdid know how to help us.

If I had it to do over again, I would say that when your RE tells you they don’t know how to help you, it’s because they really don’t.  It doesn’t mean you have to give up – you may be able to find another doctor or another clinic that can help you.  But cycling with an RE who tells you they don’t know how to get you pregnant is a waste of time, energy, and money.  When a doctor says “I can’t help you” – believe them.



  1. Phoebe said

    I’m really amazed at how many cycles you have done! I would have given up long before you.

    I had two dominant follicles with the microdose flare protocol. I assumed that I was over suppressed even by the small amounts of lupron, not undersuppressed. It was explained to me that the way the microdose lupron works is that in the beginning of your cycle, it is supposed to stimulate your ovaries. At the end of your cycle, it is supposed to suppress your ovaries. It works for some older women, but not for others, like me. For my next protocol, all forms of lupron were out, and I had a much better response.

    • nishkanu said

      Well, maybe it would have been smart to give up a little sooner, but anyway…

      Thanks for the extra info re dominant follicles!

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