Unerfüllter Kinderwunsch

Leonie* (30 years old) has had an unfulfilled desire to have children for almost 2 years

When and how did you realize that having children was difficult for you?

 

That is a long story. Years ago, when I was very young, about 12 or 13 years old, I started taking the pill. Unfortunately, I didn’t react well to it at all: I gained about 12 kilos and then stopped taking it immediately. When I stopped taking the pill, I lost all the weight again, but it was clear to me that the pill was not for me. I then tried the Nuvaring as a contraceptive, since the hormones are supposed to work much more locally with the ring. I also had severe side effects: I had bad migraine attacks and water retention. 

When I went to the US, the cost of the Nuvaring was so high that I went back to taking the pill. As to be expected, I once again reacted very badly to it, leading to my decision not to use hormonal contraception at all. That’s why I had a copper IUD inserted. After 3.5 years I had it removed and then noticed a short time later that my periods only lasted a short time. That is where I noticed. I decided to go and consult my gynaecologist about this. 

 

How did the visit to the gynaecologist go, and what happened after that?

At the gynaecologist’s I had blood drawn at the beginning of my cycle to check whether I was ovulating. According to the examination, everything was fine. I just couldn’t really believe that. I hardly ever had my period, if I got my period at all it lasted for a maximum of two days. Instead of a regular period, I had constant spotting. My gynaecologist then sent me for lavage of my fallopian tubes, which also came up without a diagnosis and left me wondering why it just wasn’t working for me. The last thing I did was an at-home test with a saliva sample. This did not help me much either. With these results in mind and having conducted further research on my own, I came to the conclusion that I might be affected by a luteal deficiency and therefore took maca root in the second half of my cycle (which was also recommended in the saliva test).

Of course, wanting children is not just a woman’s thing, so we have now also had my boyfriend’s semen analysis taken. And actually, something did show up in the semen analysis. So we already know that probably only an ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) will be an option for us. 

 

How did you feel at the time?

From the very start, I did not feel taken seriously by my gynaecologist. I actually changed doctors. When I brought up that I felt something was wrong with me, it was just dismissed. I also didn’t feel like I was getting a holistic examination. Only the most obvious thing was done, a blood test, where I did not even know what exactly was being measured.

I felt really frustrated and helpless.

I didn’t know where to go with my concerns and found it to be insanely difficult to find a gynaecologist who really takes a holistic and in-depth approach. You don’t know the details, you just read hundreds of things on the internet. In addition, you have to pay for everything so that you can get to the next step with your family planning. It’s really easy to lose interest in this whole process. Even if I were to go to a fertility clinic because of my partner’s findings, I still don’t know if this would be the right treatment for me because I haven’t been diagnosed. We were almost grateful for my partner’s diagnosis because it takes away some of the uncertainty and we now know that we can continue in this direction. 

But I am still missing a diagnosis or at least the certainty that I have been examined holistically. The results of the blood test at the gynaecologist were only given to me briefly by phone stating that all values were good. But as far as I know, only the standard hormones like progesterone and estrogen were tested.  This is one of the reasons I am testing my fertility with LEVY, to get to the roots of my fertility and understand it in dept. 

 

Can you tell us more about your partner’s semen analysis results? 

My boyfriend went to an andrologist, where he had two semen analyses performed at different times. At the second one, we thought it was a better result than the first one because the doctor said it looked better, BUT some things were not okay. We were a bit disappointed because we were optimistic at first, but then we got the results. In the end, it only confirmed the first semen analysis. It was a shock for me at that moment, because in the end, it is the woman who is treated and not the man. But still, it was very important for me to have this certainty.

The worst thing is this uncertainty.

 

How do you deal with the topic of trying to have a baby? Do you talk about this openly with your friends and family? Or do you keep this topic between you and your partner? 

I am relatively very open about it. In retrospect, I sometimes think I started talking about wanting to have a baby too early. I have no problem talking about it in front of my friends, but I also assumed in the beginning that it was me.

Now that my partner has the diagnosis, it is not or not only me. I sometimes feel bad talking about it because it’s a whole different story for men.
I am lucky to have a friend who got pregnant after four years thanks to artificial insemination. She shared a lot from her journey with me. Because of the early communication of our unfulfilled desire to have children, the expectations are of course somehow there. Even if none of my friends and family asks, and I am very grateful for that, I sometimes subliminally notice that they are thinking about it. That puts me under pressure, even if no one asks. 

Now there are also other issues. If we have to get married so that we can get financial support from health insurance companies for infertility treatment – so that’s a big issue again. 

In addition, there are family circumstances in my case. I have a mentally handicapped sister. That’s why the thought that I am now 30 years old, and the probability that my child will then also have a disability is only increasing, weighs heavily on me. That’s why I don’t want to wait until the state decides that unmarried couples should also receive support, but want to take action immediately.  

When did you reach the point where you said: I have to do something, I want to become active in my desire to have children?

After half a year I already thought that something was wrong. From the start,  I was watching my cycle and taking my temperature. In addition, I was also having spotting and so I quickly started to think that something may be off. After half a year I wanted to become active, but it really drags on. The whole process takes a long time: you have to wait for an appointment with the gynaecologist, then for the blood draw and then for the results.

That’s a long way. And you don’t feel well supported along the way.
You look for most of the answers on the Internet, and one website says one thing, another says something completely different. This is very unsettling. Unfortunately, I don’t have the feeling that I’m in good hands with my gynaecologist and that I can ask him anything. I don’t have the feeling that he is there to help me. Unfortunately, it is always me who has to call the doctor after the examinations, he does not do that. And so I am in limbo all the time. Having a good gynaecologist is important, but also really difficult to find.

 

What would you like to see in our healthcare system when it comes to the unfulfilled desire to have children?

Above all, accessibility to one truth and not several. I would like to be able to recognize the right symptoms more quickly and I would also like respective help to be more easily accessible. Everyone should have the choice to be examined by experts in case of suspicion. I would like to be taken seriously and not just be a number in the system. And that you can exchange information with other women who have gone through similar experiences. An unfulfilled desire to have children or even miscarriages are still totally stigmatized. A real exchange is not offered at all. 

 

Do you have any helpful tips you’d like to share? Or maybe examples of what other people have done that has been good for you?

I think it’s very important to be open and ask questions. But you shouldn’t judge in the process. And what I was told by my friend who had her child through artificial insemination was: “Don’t wait! Don’t follow the normal rules of when to get your fertility checked. Try to get everything checked out quickly.” That was very valuable to me because when you realize for yourself that something is wrong, you don’t have to spend a year trying around and keep getting disappointed. I really find this statement, “Try it first, you haven’t been trying for a year yet,” totally absurd. Therefore, I would also pass on this advice. 

In general, the exchange with my friend, who was affected by it herself, was and is super helpful for me. It is normal and it can happen that having children is a real challenge. 

What doesn’t help at all are comments like “you shouldn’t work so much”. Yes, I have a stressful job and I’m also a bit career-driven, but I don’t like to see that as the cause of the problem with our unfulfilled desire to have children. 

 

You have said for men it’s a whole different story when they find out that their fertility is limited. Why do you think that?

I think it’s because of society. We’ve talked about it and we don’t know any men around us who have a problem with their fertility. That means my partner doesn’t have access to anyone who is in a similar situation. All of his friends have children, so that makes it even more difficult for him. He keeps stressing that he is a normal guy. He has nothing, no diseases, is always healthy and that is now his only ‘flaw’. I think that does a lot to a “man” who thinks about masculinity in a certain way. For him, it is, therefore, worse than for me. Women are in this respect perhaps still stronger than men. 

 

Dear Leonie*, thank you for your openness and for sharing your story!


*name change due to privacy 

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