Pregnant - Difficulties Conceiving

12:17:00 AM

If you've been a follower of our blog or know us well personally, you'd know from one of our earlier posts in 2015, "Baby Talk", that we had asked for some advice and encouragement on the condition that Mel was having - her irregular menstrual cycles. Thank you for those who had emailed and messaged us on FB to share similar conditions and what you did about it. Mel felt more encouraged hearing success stories from our readers :)

The topic of Fertility and Pregnancy still remains a sensitive one to talk and share about nowadays. 

It was difficult to get help resources other than googling for answers on our own or consulting a professional (a gynaecologist), which you may end up getting confused by the different suggestions they were all giving, just like we did. Especially when each doctor says "you don't have a problem". Then why so, were we not getting pregnant?

Last year, after sharing with close friends on the condition both of us were facing, we were surprised to find out that we had so many friends with similar conditions that we had. And one of them asked for us to blog about it, so that others will be aware and be encouraged by our story. So here goes...

1. Stress

When we got married in Jan 2015, by Chinese new year that same year (Feb 2015), merely one month since we got married, relatives already started asking when would it be our turn to get pregnant because several cousins were heavily pregnant then (mind you they didn't get married one month ago like we did).

Another CNY in 2016 passed and we had just settled down comfortably in our new home for less than half a year, and again, we got the same questions. We weren't trying for one, then.

It was tough on our bank accounts when we brought forward our wedding, and then had to rush to find a home to live in... so thinking about getting pregnant amongst all this madness would just be too heavy for us both.

Furthermore, Mel had been seeing a TCM regularly since 2015 and her condition had not really improved yet by 2016. So the doctor advised her to take it slow and easy because she felt she needed more time to strengthen her body.

Not forgetting, we only planned for our Honeymoon in Oct-Nov 2016 so there was no way we would have wanted to cancel the trip or spoil it if Mel has to battle with morning sickness there!

"The stress came in many forms. Not just from work, but also psychologically. Especially when people didn't know I was having a problem and thought that we weren't trying hard enough, or that they thought we didn't want to have children".

So you can imagine how we felt every time we had to answer such "when is Mel getting pregnant" or "what are you waiting for?" questions.

2. Seeking (more) help

Having seen the TCM for more than a year, Mel's condition did start to improve. While her menstrual cycles were still irregular, at least they came and she felt less lethargic. The Doctor did advise back in 2015 that Mel's body was still weak and even if she got pregnant, she may not be able to hold the baby in for more than 3 months (high chance of miscarriage due to lack of blood and weak kidney). But by the end of 2016, after coming back from our Honeymoon, we did tell her that we want to start trying for a baby already and she advised us to go for a pre-baby screening.

We opted for the pre-baby screening test by NTUC Income ($620.60 per couple) and it was held at Thomson Wellth Clinic. We felt that having it done at a clinic we've never been to before would give Mel a second opinion since our usual Gynae at Gleneagles kept telling Mel after every ultrasound scan that she didn't have any problem.

What's included in the package:

Core component:
Medical consultation and examination (including review)
Urine analysis

Blood tests:
Haematology (FBC, ESR, PBF, blood group)
Total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, cholesterol total/HDL ratio, triglycerides
Hepatitis Bs antigen and Hepatitis Bs antibody, Hepatitis A lgG antibody
Sexually transmitted diseases (VDRL and HIV)
Thalassemia screen

PAP smear
Rubella screen

Semen analysis

Mel also topped up for a transvaginal ultrasound as advised by the Gynae at Thomson, since it would give more accurate results.

Feb 2017, 2 weeks later, we headed back for the review of our test results and while Mel's scans and results showed no abnormalities, we found out that Ben had Teratospermia (Abnormal Sperm Morphology), something we wouldn't have known if he had not gone for the analysis.

In fact, the amount of healthy sperms that Ben's specimen had was only <1%!

Because the Gynae couldn't give an explanation on the cause of it (how it happened) and said there is no treatment for it, all she could ask us to do was to go back for a re-test one year later if we haven't conceived. So, we decided to bring the results to the TCM and seek her opinion.

Here's the address of the TCM clinic that we have been going to for Mel's issues and Ben's eczema problems since 2015:

Dr. Yang Rui 杨蕊 (female)
Tong Xin Tang Clinic
441, Pasir Ris Drive 6, #01-58, Singapore 510441, Singapore

Dr. Yang explained that the likely causes of abnormal sperm morphology are: Stress and Radiation. While acupuncture treatment would help men with low sperm count, unfortunately, it wouldn't help with treating morphology.

What she advised was medication to control Ben's stress level and that he had to stop doing certain things like keeping his handphone in his pants pocket or using his laptop on his lap. Ben also bought the FAZUP Anti-radiation patch for mobile phones onboard the plane on one of our trips. Apparently, it is supposed to help reduce exposure to radiation by up to 99% when you stick it at the back of your phone.

3. Persistence is key

As mentioned above, Mel's condition did start to get better at the end of 2016. Her cycle became more regular but while most women would have about 12 chances to conceive a year, she only had about 6 or less chances as her cycle was on average 40 - 50 days instead of the textbook 28 day cycle.

While it worked for most women, she tried charting her Basal Body Temperature (BBT) to gauge her ovulation period, it didn't work for her. Thus, we couldn't plot anything and there was little to judge from. Coupled with Ben's issues of Teratospermia (it was so hard to remember this term so we called it "Spermozootopia". Haha!), every cycle that went by was a game of trial and error.

Then came April and May where her cycle stopped again, this time like before, for a much longer period. It was probably due to stress from planning a friend's wedding, planning a family vacation and the sudden change in job scope. Mel was back to square one, feeling quite down and upset that Ben asked if she wanted to stop all medication for now and just relax.

"I felt lost at that time because I thought that slowing down on my teaching and going for a holiday would cut down on my stress level and make me feel more relaxed. But missing it and having to wait for my period to come meant I was delaying our chances of getting pregnant again."

Mel's period resumed in June and we were more persistent in making it work this time round! She was more diligent in making sure her body had more rest, more tonics (With the TCM's advice, she took a herb medicine called 三七 every morning, boiled longan red date tea to drink alternate days, took 姜母茶 twice a week to raise her basal body temperature, had a hot pillow on her abdomen area every night etc.) and of course, we prayed extra hard.

We're pretty sure that coupled with our families prayers, that magic worked and Mel got pregnant this cycle! What could have gone wrong previously was that we were working on a 28-day cycle and that meant that whenever Mel thought her period was going to come, it was actually her ovulation period instead. This time round, since she had a few months history of having a 40-50 day cycle, we worked around that and for once, the ovulation test strip gave a dark positive line on the 32nd day.

4. Keeping the baby, regardless

When we started to be stable in our relationship, we talked about children and family planning. It's definitely not a topic that should only be discussed after marriage.

We talked about how fast after marriage we wanted to start a family and also about "what if’s". Like what if one of us has issues with our health and we can’t have a baby of our own, and if adoption was part of our plans etc..

"I knew that I would have some trouble getting pregnant due to my irregular cycles, so I wanted to make sure that whoever I married was aware of that and would be open to the idea of adoption because I really wanted to be able to bring up a child and I knew I had it in me. Ben was totally on the same page as I was and was fully supportive. We had similar goals and I was thankful for that. I knew I found the right person."

Needless to say, we also talked about raising a child with disabilities. For us, we knew it wouldn’t be easy getting pregnant, so regardless of the baby's condition, we knew we would carry on with the pregnancy as long as neither one of us was in a danger zone.

So we knew our answers when the Gynae spoke to us about the Oscar and NIPT tests and we told him upfront that we would not want to go ahead with it. He did give us 1 more month to ponder over it and I guess he sort of knew that we wouldn’t go ahead with the tests no matter what, because he didn’t even need to ask us again at the next appointment and just asked us to sign on the form to acknowledge that the clinic had already briefed us about it but we chose to decline the tests.

It’s not about the money. We could also opt for the cheaper test which has a really high accuracy rate as well. But growing up, we've learnt not to be pressured by others' thoughts. After all, the test results would not guide us as to how we can prevent "it" from happening in future. It’s purely a genetic test and I think having a negative result may deter us from trying for another baby in future.

Hearing baby's heartbeat at the 1st gynae appointment was such a relief and Mel was only about 6 weeks pregnant then.

"I didn't express any form of excitement or happiness when Mel told me that she was pregnant. All the time I was cautiously optimistic because I didn't want to look disappointed if anything were to go wrong before the baby was stable. When I finally heard the baby's heartbeat via the ultrasound, I teared."

Every night when we say our prayers, the only thing that we ask for now is for us to all be healthy and safe :)

In a few days time, we will finally get to hold our baby in our arms. It has been an emotional journey for us from trying to conceive to getting past the trimesters. And as "scary" as what people tell us parenthood is all about, we are looking forward to this new chapter of our lives!

A big THANK YOU to our readers who have been supporting and reading posts all the way from our Wedding Prep Journey, to our Wedding Day, to us sharing about our Married Life, then getting Our Own Home, and now to us Getting a Baby. We hope that our stories have touched, helped or encouraged you in one way or another and we hope to keep this blog alive even with the baby coming along :)

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