Western Doctors Failed Me On My Fertility Journey

THE LONG ROAD TO TRUSTING MY INTUITION

 

It’s hard to distinguish between intuition and paranoia. While intuition is often a soft gentle guiding nudge, paranoia is riddled with internal conspiracy. Yet, when I was a few months into trying to conceive, I couldn’t make out the difference between the two. 

My intuition was nudging at me, hard and abrasively, that something was wrong, but my response to this constant intuitive poking was cloaked in daily colossal fear, anxiety, and a deep knowing that I would have to figure out the answers on my own—or at least that’s what every doctors’ visit confirmed.

I made my first appointment with an OBGYN four months into trying. It would take six weeks to see this highly recommended doctor, and during the intake process, I lied about how long we had been trying (a recommended six months). My appointment with the doctor felt lukewarm. She wasn’t overly nice or concerned with my inability to conceive. “You’re so young; I really wouldn’t worry about it,” she said nonchalantly. I pressed about doing blood work and a sperm checkup and six weeks later, I was sitting in her office again, anxiously awaiting the results.

It’s hard to distinguish between intuition and paranoia. While intuition is often a soft gentle guiding nudge, paranoia is riddled with internal conspiracy.

Alexandra D’amour

“You have old eggs,” she said, this time colder than the first time, and continued to speak in medical terms I had never heard before. She then told me my husband’s sperm was “off.” I couldn’t comprehend much of what she was telling me because my brain could only compute one thing: What if I never have kids? In shock, I asked a million questions while holding back tears, and with one foot quite literally half way out the door, she made it clear she had other places to be, “I would try for a year, and if you’re still not pregnant, look into IVF.” 

I left feeling broken, alone, confused, and also weirdly happy knowing that I was right, that something was indeed wrong. A few months later, after another defeating blow of a negative pregnancy test, I found myself Googling fertility specialists. I felt a strong nudge that my OBGYN could be wrong, and my search results included a specialist two hours away called “the egg whisperer.” Optimism and hope flooded my body.

A month later, I was nervously sitting in her office with my husband. The egg whisperer was warm and caring, and took a deep interest in our “situation.” She told us to “walk her through everything,” as her assistant handed us cups of tea. For the first time in ten months of trying, I finally felt seen and heard.

It’s deeply uncomfortable to have a rectal exam performed in a sterile environment, let alone being with a doctor who gives you the creeps.

Alexandra D’amour

As she looked over my bloodwork, she expressed anger over the fact that I was told I had old eggs. “It’s dangerous to tell a woman something that isn’t true because it can plant deep seeds into her subconscious and cause immense, unnecessary stress,” she said frustrated. She scanned my husband’s sperm count, and laughed when I said we were told his sperm is “off.”

“He is five points below what we consider normal, but things like stress and lifestyle can impact these results on a daily basis. I’m not concerned about it. At all,” she said. 

I left her office that day tearfully happy. We had a plan. We were going to check if my fallopian tubes were blocked, and I scheduled an internal and external ultrasound to check on fibroids, the quality of my eggs, and any other issues that may be detected. She also referred me to another specialist to perform a rectal exam to ensure I didn’t have endometriosis. 

Four weeks later I went to my rectal exam, and upon immediate glance of the doctor, I felt uneasy. He winked at my husband as he explained the procedure, and then asked my husband to leave the room. I reminded myself that the egg whisperer told me that he was “the best of the best,” and suppressed my dismay. 

It’s deeply uncomfortable to have a rectal exam performed in a sterile environment, let alone being with a doctor who gives you the creeps. “It looks like you work out,” he said as he pointed to my stomach, often staring for too long. I don’t know what the standard of ethics for doctors is exactly, but I would hope complimenting someone’s body while their finger is up their patient’s fucking ass is at the top of the list of big no no’s. 

Once I got dressed, he said I might have endometriosis. “I feel a couple of bumps, but the only way to find out is through a laparoscopy,” he said confidently. “But I actually advise against it because it can really interfere with your reproductive system. The only thing I would recommend is birth control, which of course makes no sense since you’re trying to have a baby.” 

What a waste of a thousand dollars, I thought. “That guy was a fucking creep,” my husband said as we walked back to our car. It would take months for me to tell him about the deep discomfort I felt during the exam, the intuition I ignored.

A month later, my husband and I were sitting in our car awaiting the call from the egg whisperer to provide our final results. “Everything looks fine!” she said happily. Confused, we asked her about the endometriosis. “There’s really no way of knowing, but my professional guess is that you’re fine,” she continued. My husband asked a few more questions as I tried to decipher if I was feeling relieved or angry. Finally, the egg whisperer parted ways with these final words, “I would try for another six months, and if you’re still not pregnant, come back and we can try IVF.”

Three doctors and a year later, and I still had no real answers other than suggestions I was both fine and yet needing IVF.

In between each visit, there were hours, days, and weeks spent in dark places on the internet, scarrowing through fertility forums from 2004, yo-yoing between feeling optimistic and utterly defeated. Your friends say things like “the moment you relax, it will happen!”, which both indirectly and unknowingly blames you for your inability to conceive.

Alexandra D’amour

These highlights of my fertility journey are important because they are moments no one really talks about. And certainly, no one talks about how this anxiety-rousing waiting process impacts your mental health. In between each visit, there were hours, days, and weeks spent in dark places on the internet, scarrowing through fertility forums from 2004, yo-yoing between feeling optimistic and utterly defeated. Your friends say things like “the moment you relax, it will happen!”, which both indirectly and unknowingly blames you for your inability to conceive. 

I ended 2018 feeling emotionally, physically, and spiritually exhausted; spent the first six months of 2019 recuperating from the toll my fertility journey had taken on my body and my spirit; and while we continued having sex, we weren’t actively trying. I desperately needed a break. 

It wasn’t until June 2019, that we decided to try again. I’m not sure why, but again, I felt a nudge to book an appointment. But this time, with a naturopath. During our first appointment, she spent over an hour understanding our history. “I know everyone keeps saying I’m fine, but I just feel like something is wrong,” I pleaded with her. Never once did she make us feel rushed, and she understood my urgency.

Some of my friends were on their second kid, and here I was, still trying to figure out what the fuck was wrong with my body and urging someone to believe me.

Alexandra D’amour

She immediately ordered extensive blood work, and three weeks later, we were sitting in her office again. “I can’t believe no one ever checked your hormone levels,” she said stunned. “You’re estrogen dominant. Your levels are three times what they should be.” The doctors I’d seen never once mentioned my hormones or tried to educate me on their function. 

“Don’t worry; you’ll get pregnant,” she said firmly. “We just need to sort out your hormonal imbalances first.” 

When I left her office that day I should have felt elated but I was fuming. It could have been so simple, had someone taken the time to listen to me when I urged for further testing. While I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason, I felt like I had wasted two years and thousands of dollars for nothing. Some of my friends were on their second kid, and here I was, still trying to figure out what the fuck was wrong with my body and urging someone to believe me.

While I have no personal qualms with the egg whisperer, my experience with her proved to me that the fertility industry is indeed a business—a very profitable and expanding one. By 2027, the fertility industry is estimated to be worth 37.7 billion dollars. I don’t want to discredit the amazing things IVF has provided to so many families, some of my friends included, but I have to be aware of the fact that IVF is incredibly lucrative. It was suggested to me several times, and while we may eventually need to go that route, my hormonal levels should’ve been checked before suggesting a $14,000-$18,000 investment. When profits are weighed against women’s health, women’s needs will never be the first priority.

At the very least, I wish western doctors took me seriously when I said something was wrong. I wish they wouldn’t have rushed me when I asked questions. I wish they would’ve looked at my case as an individual, and not started sentences with “Well, for most women….” I wish they spent less time guessing and more time investigating. Less time promoting the only “cure” for infertility, IVF, and more time getting to the root cause.

When profits are weighed against women’s health, women’s needs will never be the first priority.

Alexandra D’amour

Over the last four months, I’ve been healing my hormonal imbalances through an intense supplement plan and a complete lifestyle change. I’ve also been working closely with a pelvic floor therapist, acupuncturist, and yoni steam gal, and they have all been working closely together to ensure everyone is on the same page. I have a team of women around me, all dedicated to helping me and nurturing me whenever I collapse in their offices. And while I’m still not pregnant, just last week my naturopath shared the good news that my estrogen levels almost halved.

Plus that nagging, constant voice in my head has been slowly dissipating too. For the first time in a really long time, I feel good in my body. I recently told my husband that I actually believe I’m going to get pregnant this year—not because of some wishful thinking or “stay positive” BS, but because that soft, gentle guide—my intuition—is telling me I will be. And after two and a half years of trying, and endless conversations with dozens of women who have felt failed by their doctors too, what I trust more than anything, more than any doctor, is my own damn intuition. 

LET'S TALK: share your fertility journey with us. did you feel supported by your doctor? have you confused your intuition for paranoia?

14 Comments

WHAT READERS ARE SAYING ABOUT THIS ARTICLE

  1. Thank you for sharing your journey, sounds so much like my own unfortunately. I’ve gone to two different naturopaths, and OBGYN (very briefly, similar feelings to yours about how dismissive she was), an acupuncturist, and family doctor. I never realized how delicate hormones were and how we live in such a world that doesn’t differentiate between male and female when it comes to health, diet, and exercise. I was exhausting my body and hormones trying to live in a “man’s world”. I feel way more in tune with my body now I’ve started listening to it and am hopeful my hormones will start to regulate again. Keep listening to your intuition, she knows best!

    Also, I recently read Making Babies by Jill Blakeway and Sami S. David and they talk a lot about IVF and how it’s definitely a business and can be avoided in nearly all cases. Really helpful information regarding lifestyle, diet, etc. that any woman should know even if they aren’t trying to conceive.

    3 likes
    1. Thank you so much for sharing! I will definitely order that book. It’s hard to talk about because I do NOT want to discredit the wonderful things IVF has done for people (even people I love) but the constant pushing of it, especially when things like hormones haven’t even been tested, makes me a little weary. And i definitely know what you mean about regulating hormones in a “man’s world” – the constant pushing through, doing etc. It’s exhausting. Sending you a big hug! xx

      1 likes
  2. I’ve been trying for three years. I wish we could talk about this more openly but there is so much self-doubt and shame in ttc. Thank you for sharing <3

    4 likes
  3. I’ve been struggling since 2016 with recurrent miscarriage. 6 failed pregnancies.. that positive test isn’t even something that’s exciting at this point. I just lost my right tube 3 months ago due to a burst ectopic pregnancy that could have killed me. You couldn’t have been more SPOT ON: Is it paranoia or intuition? I’ve read countless books and try to self educate but after seeing multiple doctors, 2 naturopaths, 1 fertility specialist, 2 OBGYN/ surgeons, energy healers & 4 acupuncturists they all treat me the same.. Just a face in their office that they will be done with in 10-60 mins. It’s a dam shame! Wishing you so much love and luck

    2 likes
    1. Thank you sooo much for sharing! I am so sorry this has been such a challenging journey, and that you haven’t found the right person to make you feel heard and seen. I’ve gone through MANY acupuncturists as well, to finally find someone who is REALLY dedicated to regulating my hormones and it really does make all the difference in the world to know a medical person is on your team. I am sending you a big hug, and also wishing you so much love and luck on this journey! xx

      1 likes
  4. Thank you for sharing this. I have been on a similar health journey (not necessarily with fertility but with hormone issues) and it has been infuriating trying to advocate for myself and not just give in to birth control and artificial hormones which are promised to cure me. This promise comes after doctors visits that last 10 minutes or less with no blood work, no physical exams or an ultra sound. I have sought a more natural approach and am finally seeing some positive results but the journey has been challenging. This is something we all need to be talking about more and encouraging people to tap into their intuition. Sending you all the best on your journey and grateful for this dialogue!

    2 likes
    1. YES! So important to talk about how to be our own advocates! Especially when our intuition is nudging us to seek help. I’m so happy to hear that the natural approach has been helping you and that you’re seeing positive results! I’m in the same boat and it’s so encouraging to keep going, and keep researching! xx

      1 likes
  5. Thank you so much for being so raw and honest.

    I’ve struggled in my own fertility journey with dismissive OB’s that we’re pushing and IVF sale to medical doctors that told me that I should’ve tried to conceive when I was younger (I’m only 37). That took a year of my life, going in a out of appointments that just created even more stress in my body.

    I started looking into alternative routes (since my partner is an acupuncturist) he recommended his friend who specializes in fertility and I haven’t looked back. She recommended I get my hormones and iron levels checked as those 2 items were the most overlooked things in the medical world. Low and behold I’m anemic and have high levels of estrogen. I am trusting my journey, grateful for those that have helped along the way and am currently healing and balancing my body.

    Thank you for helping me feel less alone in this journey! Much love to you moon mama! Xoxo

    2 likes
    1. Ugh! So frustrating! I don’t understand why hormones aren’t the FIRST thing checked, especially considering that hormones are usually the reason someone isn’t getting pregnant. I’m SO happy to hear you found answers. I have the exact same thing. High levels of estrogen. I’m on an intense supplement regime that’s helped lower those levels significantly, but one thing that I think has been really helping is infrared sauna.. apparently it helps your liver process estrogen and reduces inflammation in your body. I try to go 2x a week!

      Sending you a big hug! We’re in this together and will be holding our little nuggets before we know it!! And it’ll have been worth every single tear! xx

      1 likes
  6. I’ve been following you for a couple years, and originally found you through common friends. I stayed following because I really appreciated the real talk and vulnerability around periods, hormonal health and relationships. You made me feel less alone.

    I commend you for sharing your fertility journey, and my heart goes to you each and everyday. I know one day you will be pregnant and I can’t wait for that magical moment.

    Through following you over the years, you have taught me to continually advocate for myself, reminded me to tune into how I’m feeling, and reinforced exploring alternative practitioners. You might not have known you’ve been doing all of this, but I have truly look up to you!

    I have been working on my hormonal health for years (adrenal fatigue took a big toll), but my very first “fertility” appointment was last summer. Thanks to you, I didn’t make it with a traditional doctor. I made it with my naturopath and my traditional Chinese acupuncturist. I love my GP, but my instincts told me that I needed to explore the non-traditional path and do what ever I could do to increase my chances of conceiving. Both had a supportive, compassionate approach and expressed that although I had worked on lots, I still needed to work on my yang. Oh that yang! Apparently my uterus was damn cold!

    I’ve spent the last ~ 9 months working on my hormonal health, trying to conceive and doing my best to hold onto hope. Sometimes I thought maybe Alex and I will get pregnant at the same time. When I popped into Instagram and saw your “I just got my period” posts, I would send you my love and hope that the next month was — the month.

    2 weeks ago I found out I was pregnant. My immediate thought was I don’t deserve this. How did it happen so fast? Why did I get lucky? How will I share this with all my friends who are struggling with fertility?

    I am now 8 weeks pregnant and will go for scans next week. Getting pregnant is one thing, staying pregnant is a whole other thing. It is nerve-racking and I am hopeful for a heartbeat.

    I am sharing this to say, thank you. Thank you for being open and honest online with your journey. Thank you for teaching others about their options and reinforcing us to lean into our intuition. Thank you for encouraging patient advocacy. Thank you for being real, but also staying positive and holding onto hope.

    Thank you for sharing your joy and support of your girlfriends who are pregnant. Your support and love for them makes me believe that I will be able to share this journey with those of my friends that are struggling.

    Thank you for everything. You helped get me to today, and for that, I will always be forever grateful.

    Rooting for you. Rooting for us. Rooting for every single womxn on this journey.

    12 likes

Get Our New Stories
In Your Inbox