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Couples Who Had Difficulty Getting Pregnant Are Sharing Their Experience And How They Approached Their Different Options

Note: This post contains mentions of pregnancy loss.

Despite what we might've learned in sex ed back in the day, getting pregnant is not very easy for a lot of people. In the United States, about one in four women (26%) have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term, according to the CDC. Recently, I asked members of the BuzzFeed Community to open up about their fertility journeys. Here is what some people bravely shared:

Below are some definitions for acronyms and terms that will be seen throughout this post:

PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) is a hormonal condition that often women in their 20s and 30s will get diagnosed with. Those with PCOS may not ovulate; they have high levels of androgens and have small cysts on their ovaries.

IUI (intrauterine insemination) is a procedure that consists of placing prepared sperm into the uterus.

IVF (in vitro fertilization) is a procedure that combines eggs and a sperm sample in a laboratory dish. When the embryo is fertilized, it is then transferred to the uterus. 

Clomid is a medication that helps treat those who don't ovulate regularly or at all.

1."My husband and I decided to start our family about seven years ago, and we quickly realized there was an 'issue.' I have severe PCOS and do not ovulate on my own. I started gaining weight, and my anxiety got out of control."

"We started the fertility journey with hormone-stimulating medication and had a successful IUI. Then, when we were ready for our second. We had 4-5 failed IUIs following, and I was devastated. We decided to switch to a different fertility clinic with more 1:1 care.

The waiting process after egg retrievals is the most painstaking experience. You wait for phone calls, and they aren't always good. We successfully transferred frozen embryos in December 2021; our baby girl just turned 18 months.

We are now getting ready for our next transfer tomorrow!!! Terrified, nervous, excited. The past seven years have been a roller coaster of emotions, but I'm so happy for where I am."

baileyditullio

2."My husband and I were married at 25 and started trying to conceive at 30. Attempted IUI, then IVF from 32–34. I did become pregnant with several IVF rounds but miscarried five times between 8–13 weeks gestation. We never had any answers for our infertility or miscarriages. We tried surrogacy twice, transferring our eggs to a surrogate who never conceived. At that point, we moved to adoption and had been on the waiting list for just a few months when we found out I was pregnant without assistance."

Pregnant person at a medical check-up with a doctor displaying an ultrasound image

3."I was diagnosed with a very unusual case of ovarian cancer at 25, and since at the time I still thought I'd want kids, my oncologist had me IMMEDIATELY start fertility treatments so I could save eggs before any procedures (they weren't sure if they'd have to perform a full hysterectomy until the very last minute). I had just been dropped by one of my insurances and the other didn't cover anything related to fertility (the first one probably didn't either tbh). I had to apply for all kinds of things from different local and national cancer funds and hold fundraisers and yard sales just to be able to afford the shots, and while eventually the Livestrong Foundation came through with supplying all my shots, it didn't happen until the end of my treatment, so I donated them to someone else at the fertility specialist who may have needed them. I had to drive all over my state just to find pharmacies with the shots in stock."

"I had no problem administering the shots because I'm fine with needles, but it did get uncomfortable as my body began to produce a bunch of eggs. I was seeing specialists in NYC tied to Sloan Kettering, who was handling my cancer, so I had to drive 1.5 hours into the city every single morning during my cycle just to get checked, mostly via vaginal ultrasound.

Many women find those terribly uncomfortable, but it wasn't so bad. I ended up with 16 healthy viable eggs in the end, but since then, I gave permission for them to be thrown away. It was SO incredibly stressful, but somehow, the urgency of everything going on allowed me to simply do it and save all my panic and anxiety attacks for after it was all finished."

purpletruck35

4."I'm going on year five of TTC (trying to conceive). I have been through Clomid, IUI, and now round two of IVF (the first ended in a miscarriage). We've also been on an adoption waitlist for just about two years. We are mentally, physically, and financially exhausted. If one more person posts a pregnancy announcement, I think I'm going to crack."

Two people holding hands across a table, with another person watching, in a supportive setting
Vm / Getty Images

5."I've been happily married since 2006. We decided to try to have a baby about a year after we were married. I went to the doctor and was told I had PCOS and was told it would be hard for me to have children without help. I started out with just simple medication and that didn't help. I underwent different procedures to check my fallopian tubes and ultrasounds to check for cysts. We then moved to artificial insemination two times and that didn't work."

"We were out of luck because our insurance wouldn't cover anything else. We just keep trying for years on our own with no luck. We had finally saved enough money for IVF and tried three separate times to retrieve my eggs, again with no luck. By this time, I was 41, and age was a factor. I was devastated. My fertility doctor suggested we move on to donor eggs. My husband and I discussed this option over and over to see if we really wanted to use donor eggs.

We both agreed that having a family was always so important to us, so we decided this was our last chance, went all in with everything we had, and chose a donor. We bought 16 eggs from an anonymous donor. Twelve fertilized, and eight made it to blast. I went in for my first transfer and was successful! I loved being pregnant and enjoyed every minute of it! I now have a beautiful son who will be a year old soon, and we still have seven embryos for future use, and we plan to have one more. I never thought I would be a first-time mom at 43, but I am so thankful we have our son and wouldn't change our journey for anything!"

—Kelly, 43

6."I never grew up with the desire to have children, but I wanted my partner's child. I believed we were good people who would raise good people, which is what the world needs more of. We started trying in our mid-late thirties and after a year or so of nothing, we went to a fertility specialist. We both went through tests that showed no biological reason for our infertility. We did IUI which cost $350 each time. After some time we stopped, and later we ended the journey altogether. The sorrow, frustration, and physical toll that the process already took on us was enough. We don't want children no matter what, and our happiness and fulfillment don't hinge on having them."

"Now we're dealing with the fall out. Structured sex eventually took all intimacy from our relationship. My self-esteem tanked as infertility brought out all the worst things I ever thought about myself: broken, unlovable, unworthy. I am bitter over other people having kids, especially those close to me. I've turned completely inward and spend little time with friends or family. My partner lost a parent during this time, complicating their feelings even further. Our communication and ability to support each other have fractured.

Infertility grief is a real thing that is ignored, heavily misunderstood, and lasts a lifetime. You don't have a funeral for a dream. It's embarrassing and shameful, so it's kept in the dark. Often, I wish we never tried.

I am working toward a better future where my emotions do not rule me, and I hope to have a loving relationship with myself. I consider myself Childless Not By Choice (CNBC) and have found comfort in that community. Also, pets are everything.

If you want to be sensitive to this, understand that children can be a difficult topic for some of us and not considered casual conversation. One response I give when asked about being childfree is: that some of us don't want kids, some of us lost them, and some of us can't have them. Guess which one I am.'"

—Anonymous

7."I got pregnant right away at 33, only to have a miscarriage at eight weeks. After another year of trying with no luck, my OB/GYN sent me to a fertility clinic. After what felt like a million tests, our diagnosis came back as 'unexplained infertility,' the shrug emoji of diagnoses. We spent a summer trying IUI before turning to IVF. My egg retrieval resulted in 15 healthy eggs, of which nine were fertilized."

Two adults cradling and gazing at a newborn baby

8."Starting at 31, my husband and I tried to get pregnant for two years. We went to a fertility clinic, did one cycle of IUI, and I got pregnant with my daughter! Two years later, we tried once (without assistance from a fertility doctor), and I got pregnant with my son. You truly never know what will happen!"

—Jackie, 35

9."I went through years of treatments, endometriosis diagnosis, surgery, drugs, IUI, IVF, and wasn't able to get pregnant. It contributed to my marriage falling apart, as well as friendships failing. Many people who don't have fertility issues can't understand the emotional toil it takes. I still need to explain to people why I don't have kids (I'm a teacher who loves kids!) and that IVF isn't always successful, which many people still don't understand — I spent so much money, too! My body changed, and my relationship with my body became damaged as well. My family still makes comments about me not having kids, as if it was a choice. I've accepted it, but it's still always a painful reality."

Woman sitting on a bed facing a window with closed shutters, room appears dimly lit

—Kim, 44

Alvaro Medina Jurado / Getty Images

10."I was a gestational carrier for another couple twice. There are a lot of requirements, including having my own children, being financially stable, clearing medical and psychological screenings, etc. The couple had already done IVF to create and freeze embryos. Once my screening tests were completed and a lengthy contract was drafted and notarized, I underwent the frozen embryo transfer cycle. I didn't have to do an egg retrieval process or anything, but I did still have to do progesterone shots IM every night until about 10 weeks of pregnancy."

"My husband and I have become close friends with the couple we carried for and our kids even call their kids "bonus cousins"! I'm thankful to have been trusted with this incredible responsibility, and I appreciate that my own kids understand that families are grown and created in many different ways. To the people dealing with infertility: you are amazing, resilient, powerful, and enough. Your pathway to parenthood might not look the way you imagined or hoped, but it's valid and you'll get there one way or another if that's what you choose."

—Anonymous

11."I waited until 30 to finally settle down and get married. We started trying for a baby immediately; my husband and I can't see a future without children. We stopped using protection after I had a cervical cancer scare and had my IUD removed, even before we were married. In my follow-up pap to retest for cancer, my doctor asked if I had planned on having kids. That was never a question for me, the answer, even in my younger, wild years, was yes. 'Well, if you have not been using protection and you have not gotten pregnant yet, you are at the age where you need to start thinking about your options.' So I went to numerous appointments - I had ultrasounds on internal parts of me that I didn't even know existed, had the oh-so-wonderful test where they shoot your fallopian tubes full of dye to make sure they are open, my husband had to do his business in a cup, etc."

"We were then referred to a top-of-the-line fertility specialist, which came with more doctor appointments, more ultrasounds, SO MUCH BLOOD WORK, and as it turns out, I had a uterine septum (a congenital abnormality which affects an extremely small percentage of women, yay me) and was told there was next to no way for me to get pregnant and if I did, I would probably miscarry. I then had a surgery to correct this.

After that came a few rounds of birth control to regulate my cycle, and we tried naturally for a few months. After no luck, we did six rounds of Clomid, and let me tell you, Clomid is the devil. It makes you so hormonal; I cried about literally everything. I cried once because I had to buy dog food. I cried because I ordered food and no longer wanted it when it was delivered. I have friends who have gone through IVF, and they have said that Clomid is worse than doing a full cycle of IVF. I honestly don't know how my marriage survived this because even I did not enjoy the person I was. Along with Clomid, we did four rounds of IUI. I cried for a year nonstop, gained 30 pounds, and was miserable.

After about two years of this, maxing out the amount of Clomid that one person can take in a lifetime, THOUSANDS of dollars, we decided to take a break. About a month ago (now 33), I went to get my yearly checkup and blood work done, and it turns out my body is producing next to no folic acid, which is not ideal for trying to have a baby. So, the journey begins again. Good luck to everyone out there trying. Miracles happen every day. Hopefully, one is in my future, too.

—Kelsey, 33

12."I've known I have endometriosis since I was a teenager but had no issue getting pregnant with my son. We got pregnant the first month we tried, which was an uncomplicated pregnancy. But when we tried for number two, I had two miscarriages and then an ectopic pregnancy. This was all over the course of eight months. It was so heartbreaking, frustrating, and devastating."

"We immediately started IVF. The process itself is relatively short but it’s very intense and stressful. Your body and mind go through so much and you don’t even know if it will work. I’m so thankful we were able to get a lot of embryos and the vast majority of them were chromosomally normal. Our first embryo transfer worked and I’m almost 8 months pregnant with a baby girl. My heart breaks for women and couples who don’t have the success we did. This pregnancy has been so hard emotionally; I am constantly terrified that I will lose this baby. Those losses really stick with you forever. But I’ve never been so thankful for anything in my life! I feel honored to get to carry her."

—Emily, 36

13."Like many young women, I felt that I had all the time in the world to start a family. I was not interested in having children in my 20s because I wanted to focus on grad school and my career. I got married at 28 and we decided to wait. Fast forward to 37 and I have had 3 surgeries to remove endometriosis, my fallopian tubes removed, and spent an insane amount of money to freeze my eggs for IVF. We did have one successful IVF pregnancy that resulted in an 18-month-old. I’ve been trying to have another baby for the past 6 months and each attempt has failed. IVF is the most physically and emotionally draining thing I’ve ever done. I have an amazing spouse, but fertility treatments can be hard on a relationship."

Pregnant person cradling belly with hands, dressed in cozy knitwear

14."It’s a long story with a happy ending. Not everyone gets a happy ending in the fertility world, so I feel very lucky. We started trying shortly after we were married when I was 29. I saw a fertility doctor just before my 30th birthday. It turned out I had reduced ovarian reserve. My first IVF was converted to IUI. My next three IVF retrievals resulted in four embryos and three fresh transfers with negatives. During a break, I got pregnant naturally but found out at the seven-week ultrasound there was no heartbeat. We then pursued anonymous frozen egg donation through Donor Egg Bank USA. They were great, but it still took three donor lots and four transfers to have our daughter. I was nearly 38 when she was born."

"I felt so much survivor guilt through pregnancy and postpartum like I could never complain because I had been so lucky, even though there were aspects of that time that had been hard, especially during Covid. My daughter is almost three now, and I'm so happy as our family of three. I'm so glad to be past the fertility stage of my life. Those seven years of pregnancy were so long. I was jealous of others and so sad. Therapy, Zoloft, fertility Instagram, and gratitude journaling helped me. Looking back, I wish I had enjoyed the time more — been happy for others, traveled more (even though we spent six figures to get pregnant and didn't have a lot of spare savings), and appreciated things like free time. But it's easy to say that now in hindsight. Good luck to those of you starting this process, and hang in there to those in the middle. It's a marathon, not a sprint."

—A, 40

Child on woman's shoulders, man beside them smiling, outdoors, casual attire, family moment
Maskot / Getty Images

15."I'm sharing because I think fertility and pregnancy treatment look a lot of different ways. I didn't need help getting pregnant, but I did need help staying that way. I'd had a miscarriage, and my doctor said my progesterone level was upsettingly low. She couldn't tell if that was the symptom or cause of the miscarriage, but she told me to make an appointment if I got pregnant again. A couple of years later, I did, and she immediately put me on a supplement — a vaginal suppository I had to insert twice a day for the entire first trimester."

"For those who have not had to do this, you get this waxy tampon-looking thing that you have to keep in the fridge, and you insert it far enough that it can melt and reach your cervix. You have to lie down for 20 minutes after. No matter how careful you are about washing your hands before, there's just a lot of stuff happening in the area, so I got a UTI and multiple sebaceous cysts on my labia. Even with the supplement, my pregnancy was really risky, and we had to do ultrasounds every appointment to make sure the fetus was okay. Once we got past the first trimester, things got better. It was worth it — my baby is here. But just know that getting pregnant is only step one, and some mamas need more help getting to the finish line, so that's okay!"

—Anonymous, 31

Do you have a story to share about your fertility journey? If so, feel free to share it with me in the comments below.