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When Kelsi Burley got married 3 years ago, she and her husband were ready to start trying to conceive right away. The two had been together for six years, and they knew they wanted to start a family. Kelsi got a positive pregnancy test within the first two months of trying. “We were super excited,” she said.
However, about six weeks into the pregnancy, something seemed off to Kelsi. She began to experience very heavy bleeding and intense back pain. “I told my husband, I need to go to the emergency room. This isn’t normal,” Kelsi said. She knew something wasn’t right, so the two of them went to the hospital right away. It was there that she found out that she had an ectopic pregnancy. The doctors told her this can be detrimental to her health- even fatal- and that she needed surgery right away.
While reflecting on the experience, Kelsi said, “I went from being pregnant an hour before to being rushed into surgery the next hour.” It all happened fast. She had the surgery and remained healthy and safe, yet she bled for four months straight after the event. She had to go to the doctor every week to get her HCG levels checked, and they just weren’t going down. She had to get medicine injected to make her levels decrease. After that, the numbers did start to go down. It was four months until they went back to zero.
Kelsi and her husband took a break in trying to conceive after this, as this was extremely hard on her body. They waited about a year before beginning again. Kelsi began using ovulation strips, timing intercourse, and taking pregnancy tests each cycle. To her dismay, she continued getting her period every month. After a year of trying she went to see her OBGYN, who did an HSG test to check Kelsi’s tubes. That’s when she found out that her tubes were blocked as a result of her surgery. “I was super upset, but my doctor told me it was actually good, because now we had an answer. Now, we knew why this wasn’t happening for us,” Kelsi said.
She went to see a fertility doctor soon after receiving this diagnosis. “I didn’t even know what I was doing,” Kelsi said, “My first appointment, they told me about the price, and that I’d be administering shots, and I was shocked. I don’t think I realized what I was getting myself into.” She was surprised at the lack of knowledge she’d had before the appointment. She felt as though she’d been thrown into this process, unsure of how to navigate everything. “This wasn’t taught to us in school- I had no idea about any of this. Even though infertility is pretty common, I still didn’t know anyone who went through this. It wasn’t anything familiar to me,” she said. “I was surprised that I was going to be trusted to give myself all these shots. They told me so many things about the process that I hadn’t known- it was information overload.”
Kelsi went through a standard IVF cycle. In her first retrieval, she got one egg. She said, “It was super disappointing. I thought, what did I do all these injections for?” The egg was fertilized but did not make it past day five, and therefore did not become an embryo. This was devastating for both Kelsi and her husband. They decided to wait a few months before trying again, as the process had been hard on her body and emotional wellbeing. She felt like she needed more time before jumping back in. After two months they began a second cycle. Her doctor upped her hormone dosage and added a growth hormone, hoping to retrieve more eggs this time around. Kelsi did about nine days of injections, but her body ovulated on its own. Her eggs dropped and they weren’t able to do a retrieval. “I had gone through all these injections and then my body just had a fluke and ovulated by itself, which I didn’t even know was possible,” Kelsi said.
She decided to go straight into a third round of IVF. The doctor has told her that it’s rare to ovulate amidst an IVF cycle. He had seen it happen before, but he assured Kelsi that it wouldn’t happen again. They used the same protocol in the third cycle, which made Kelsi nervous because she was worried she’d ovulate again. However, she felt different this time around. “I felt like my ovaries were literally popping out of my body, which I had never felt before,” she said. When it was time for the retrieval, they got seven eggs, which all fertilized. Two eggs made it to day five, and two more made it to day 6. In July of 2020 Kelsi got one embryo transferred, which did not stick. In September of 2020, she transferred two embryos to increase her chances of success.
After a two week wait in which she did no testing at home, Kelsi returned to the clinic, where she found out that she is pregnant. Kelsi and her husband are overjoyed. On her Instagram platform, she posted the news, saying, “One ectopic pregnancy, three rounds of IVF, one surgery, hundreds of injections, countless blood draws, numerous appointments a week, thousands of tears later.... WE ARE PREGNANT! We are so early in the game where people don’t normally share this early, but staying cautiously optimistic.” Kelsi plans to continue sharing her journey as she embarks on this pregnancy.
When Kelsi thinks about her experience with infertility in general, what stands out to her is the lack of information most people know about these topics. “I always felt like I was finding out new information,” she said, reflecting on the fact that it took her three or four months of trying to conceive before she learned to use ovulation strips to track her cycle. She felt like she was thrown into IVF, and learned about it as she went. “I didn’t learn about any of this growing up. It wasn’t covered enough. With so many women going through this, it’s frustrating that no one is taught this,” Kelsi said. That’s why Kelsi is passionate about sharing her story in the fertility community. “It’s like a different universe,” she said. “It’s therapeutic for me to share. I get a lot of support, and so many messages saying things like, ‘your posts help me so much, they make me feel less alone,’ or ‘I’m not comfortable sharing my journey, but I love that you do because it really helps me’.” The community supports and inspires one another.
Kelsi doesn’t sensor her story, because she believes it’s important to share all the realities of infertility. She talks about her marriage, her sex life, and the strain of infertility on her relationship. “There’s a lot behind the scenes,” she said, discussing how infertility impacts all areas of life. It’s important to Kelsi to be open and honest about all that she has experienced. “I was ashamed,” she said, “To not be able to perform this basic biological function, you begin to feel ashamed. But now, after sharing my story, I feel more comfortable about telling the people in my life that we’re doing IVF. I talk about it so much, because I want people to know what’s going on. I want people to learn, and to understand what I’m going through.” Kelsi believes that sharing stories and supporting those who face obstacles in conception is what will normalize infertility, and ultimately allow women to feel more confident and in control of their fertility journeys.
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