We started trying to get pregnant with our first child in summer of 2007. After trying for about 5 months I found out I was pregnant. I had a very light line at around 10DPO (days past ovulation.) I called the doc and made an appointment for 8 weeks. I called my younger sister and told her I was pregnant. She told me that she was pregnant too!! I was so excited, I couldn’t believe we were finally going to be parents and that I was going to be pregnant with my sister, we were due within days of each other. My husband and I were completely ecstatic.
However, a few days after I got the positive test, I started having some light brown spotting. Alarmed, I called the doctor and they told me to come in and drew my blood to check my beta levels. 2 days later, I got the first result back – 72. I went that morning for another draw and didn’t get the results back until Monday. We went and saw my husband’s father and stepmom that weekend, and told them we were expecting. But in the pit of my stomach I was concerned something was wrong. Monday evening, my doctor called me and said my HCG levels had gone up to 90. In a healthy pregnancy, they expect the HCG levels to double every 48-72 hours. Mine didn’t even come close. She said I was going to lose this pregnancy.
There really aren’t words to describe how I felt in that moment. I didn’t really believe it. I hadn’t even had a chance to get used to the fact that I was pregnant…and I was being told that it was already over. I felt like I was losing a tiny piece of my soul. I couldn’t stop crying for days. The miscarriage itself physically wasn’t difficult, kind of like a heavy period, but it was so hard to know that I was losing my baby.
The doctor advised us to wait until after I had my next period to try again. Well, we didn’t try, but we didn’t exactly avoid either, and I ended up getting pregnant again. This pregnancy felt completely different from the start. It felt STRONG. I had very strong symptoms shortly after ovulation, so strong that when I went in to have my progesterone checked at 7DPO, I asked for an HCG test as well. After all, I threw up in the shower that morning and that’s just not normal!! Sure enough, I got those results back and my first beta, at 7DPO, was 79. 2 days later it was 250, so it more than tripled. This pregnancy was a strong one and I went on to have a healthy baby boy in July 2008, E, who is the light of my life and the source of my hope.
I wish my story ended there, but it doesn’t. When my son was a little over a year old, we decided to start trying again for a second child. I had a Mirena IUD put in 8 weeks post partum and I had that removed in early November 2009. The doctor said we could start trying to get pregnant right away, so we did. We went on a vacation to Curacao for our 5 year anniversary, which coincidentally was right around ovulation time. The last day of our vacation I felt very nauseous and threw up. This was very similar to my pregnancy with E, so I excitedly told my husband. A week later, a pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions, I was pregnant again…first try! I was excited, but I couldn’t really believe it had happened so fast. I went in to get my HCG levels drawn and my first number was 112, which seemed ok, and my progesterone levels were normal. However my second number came back and it had dropped to 76. I was losing another one. I was very sad, but mostly just shocked. I hadn’t really expected to get pregnant so fast and it was gone before I even had a chance to get used to the idea.
My doctor said we could try again whenever we were ready, and given that I had gotten pregnant with my son immediately after my first loss, we decided there was no reason to wait. So we didn’t. And, lo and behold, immediately I became pregnant again. This one felt good to me…it seemed that maybe this was how my body worked, I had a “practice round” and then the real thing. I went in the morning I got a positive test. I knew the HCG number would be low because I had had a negative test the day before, and it was. My first HCG beta was 14 and my progesterone levels were normal, which made me nervous, but I was optimistic. My second number was 38!! It more than doubled and I started to breathe easy. I asked the doctor if I should come in for a 3rd draw and he said only if I wanted to. I decided to go in for the 3rd draw just for peace of mind. When the doctor called back and said my number had dropped again, down to 7, I couldn’t believe it. 3 times…..what in the world? This 3rd loss really devastated me. I just kind of thought that 2 was enough, that this one would work out. And it didn’t. I was losing another one. I started to think, for the first time, that maybe there was something wrong with me. Maybe this was more than just “bad luck.” I scheduled an appointment with my doctor and he ran the Recurrent Loss bloodwork panel on me. He agreed to look at my uterine lining since I had recently had my IUD removed. I decided to get my body into tip-top primo shape for the next pregnancy. I started acupuncture, I stopped drinking completely, started working out daily, took my vitamins, ate healthy foods, etc. I wanted to make sure that my body was READY for the next pregnancy so that it could hang on.
My recurrent pregnancy loss bloodwork panel did not show that there were any issues. I did not have any genetic, blood clotting, thyroid or hormonal issues based on the tests that were run. However, my doctor sent to have my uterine lining checked and that showed that there was a problem. My lining, at 7DPO (or cycle day 21), measured 3mm the cycle after the 3rd chemical pregnancy. A healthy lining typically measures 10-15mm, so this was clearly an issue. With this information he agreed to start me on some estrogen the days leading up to ovulation to thicken my lining. I also voluntarily began taking Metformin, typically a treatment for PCOS, but it also helps your body create extra progesterone which can also thicken the lining. This was on the suggestion of my older sister who had gone through infertility issues in the past. I also started taking progesterone supplementation at 3DPO.
At the beginning of my next cycle I went to see an RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) because they have access to more testing and more experience with helping people get pregnant. I went on day 10 of my cycle, and when she checked my lining it was 8mm, which was adequate to support a pregnancy and I still had several days of estrogen left to take. The RE said that we could try if we wanted to. So we did. And, we got pregnant again. This time I was in a near panic from the start. I had my typical symptoms, throwing up around 5DPO, lots of nausea. A week later I got the positive pregnancy test and the next day I went in to get my HCG levels drawn. My first number came back – 54, progesterone normal. I was happy with this number, it seemed to be a strong first number. The next draw came back – 72. Doubling time: 76 hours. You will remember that it should be doubling within 48-72 hours. At this point I knew it wasn’t going to work. I just knew it. My third draw came back – 90. Not even close to doubling. It was over again. 3 losses in 4 months. And I had done everything right: ate well, no drinking, took all the meds, exercised (but not too much), did regular acupuncture, I did it all….and I still lost it. At this point I was just PISSED and confused and angry. Angry at my body for letting me down. Angry at my mind and heart for hoping. And I was terrified. I mean, it seemed like there really WAS something wrong with me, but what?? And how can I fix it? Is it fixable? How many times do I have to go through this?
And so here is where this blog begins – after my fourth loss as we try to figure out where to go from here. My husband and I have gone on to do more diagnostic testing to determine what might be going on. And I have started researching many other options that have not yet been offered to my by the medical professionals who are currently treating me. I have realized that recurrent chemical pregnancies are kind of rare, and it seems that the conventional wisdom of testing for recurrent miscarriages does not necessarily cover all the possible causes for recurrent chemical pregnancies. I feel like I’m being lumped into a category of either generally “infertile” (which I’m clearly not, I get pregnant every time I try) or recurrent later miscarriage (and by later, I mean after 6 weeks), when whatever causes these chemical pregnancies is very different from what causes losses at 6 weeks and beyond.
I have realized that I need to take this into my own hands. I need to research on my own and then talk to the doctors about what I have found. And if they aren’t willing to help me then I will find someone who will. Thankfully, my father is an OB-GYN and in the past week I started discussing a lot of this with him and he has started to help me look through different medical journals to investigate other options. So that’s where we are today. All updates going forward will be found on the main part of this blog. I hope that you find some interesting information here as well.
Click HERE to read this blog from the beginning.