When my husband and I were ready to grow our family, we did what many couples do — saved money, bought a slightly too big house, and started trying. At first, it was fun and exciting, but little did we know that we were embarking on a journey of unexplained infertility that would cause a lot of pain and heartbreak (but has a happy ending!).
The beginning of unexplained infertility
After just a few cycles of trying, I was thrilled to get my first big fat positive pregnancy test. But a few days later I started spotting, and we experienced our first heartbreaking loss. After the next high of a positive test, followed by the low of another miscarrige, my husband and I decided to consult a reproductive endocrinologist — a fertility doctor.
To my shock, the doctor would not see us until we had been trying for 12 months or experienced three consecutive pregnancy losses. I was devastated; my first two losses were horrible and I didn’t think I could endure a third.
Our IVF miracle
After suffering through our third pregnancy loss in just a few months, we were finally able to consult a doctor. What came next was an unexpected blow: we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility and told that the only option to grow our family was via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Believing we had no other choice, my husband and I saved up even more money and pursued IVF.
After two cycles of injecting myself with medications and hormones (our first IVF cycle failed), we were blessed with our son, Cash. We joke that we named him that because he literally took all our cash!
Even after having my son and all that we’d been through, I knew I wanted my family to grow. But we couldn’t afford yet another round of IVF, and I couldn’t imagine putting my body or marriage through that strenuous process and unexplained infertility diagnosis again.
The power of progesterone
As a PhD scientist, I simply couldn’t get comfortable with “unexplained infertility” as my diagnosis. There had to be a reason why my body couldn’t sustain a pregnancy, and I became determined to figure out what it was.
Using my background in hormones, I began tracking my cycles meticulously. I tracked basal body temperature (BBT), took ovulation (luteinizing hormone, or LH) tests, and monitored the changes in my cervical mucus. I learned more about the different phases of my cycle — follicular and luteal — and the hormones needed to support pregnancy.
The luteal phase is the entire second half of the cycle, after ovulation, and it is during this important phase that the uterine lining becomes receptive to an embryo.
The critical period between seven and 10 days post-ovulation is called the “implantation window,” because that’s when a fertilized egg is best able to implant in the uterus and become a healthy, sustainable pregnancy.
In tracking my cycles, I realized my luteal phases were shorter than the 11 days that would be expected in a typical cycle, which meant my implantation window was cut short.
Studies show that luteal phase differences like mine are caused by low progesterone levels after ovulation. Progesterone is the dominant fertility hormone during the luteal phase; its job is to make the uterine lining “sticky” enough for implantation to occur. Without enough progesterone during the second half of the cycle, and specifically during the implantation window, it can be difficult to get pregnant. A drop in progesterone signals to your body that it’s time for your next cycle to begin, meaning your period will start.
Setting myself up for success
Once I determined I had short luteal phases, I began to suspect I had a problem with ovulation that was causing low progesterone levels. According to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, most cases of female infertility are caused by problems with ovulation.
Empowered with this new information, I went to my doctor who prescribed an inexpensive progesterone supplement. Within just two natural cycles on that supplement, I was able to conceive naturally and carry a healthy baby to term. My daughter, Dylan, is now 8 years old.
Sharing knowledge, sharing power
After opening up about my battle with unexplained infertility and my journey to treatment, I realized just how many women have suffered through similar trauma. So I made a commitment to empower women with critical information about their hormones and cycles to help them take charge of their fertility and health goals.
In 2016, I founded Proov and invented Proov Confirm — the first and only FDA cleared PdG test to confirm successful ovulation at home. Unlike a progesterone blood test which only shows levels at one point in time, PdG testing allows you to test your levels throughout the critical implantation window to confirm you have the best possible chance at successful implantation and pregnancy. Plus, since it’s an at-home pee test, Proov is far easier and less expensive than testing at a doctor’s office or lab.
In my fertility journey, accurate hormone insight made all the difference — and the fix for my “unexplained infertility” turned out to be incredibly simple! Today it’s my mission to share that insight with as many women as possible.
When we take the mystery out of cycle hormones, the power really is in our hands.
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