Being Kinda New to This Whole Fertility Thing: A Reflection After 6 Months

I have always been interested in alternative medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine in particular, which is one reason why I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to learn and observe while I work here. Considering, however, that I am a twenty-something who is not currently poised to pursue pregnancy as a viable option in my life, I initially applied for the job being more interested in the Oriental Medicine aspect of it than the fertility aspect. I do have two kids... but both of them are goats. And I plan to keep it that way for at least awhile longer.

Since coming to work for TCRA I have learned more about reproductive health than I ever anticipated knowing, and I must say, it has been a fascinating journey into a complex and surprisingly beautiful world with a heavily coded language. I will never forget my first day of training on the job, when I misheard a patient on the phone, and had to ask Tiffany what an "IBM transfer was." She laughed, and I got the rundown on IUI, IVF, and other of the various procedures of Assisted Reproductive Technology. Since that day, I have been assigned various reading projects to get me up to speed on the basics of reproductive health, fertility and infertility, and ART procedures. and have learned a lot just from being immersed in the practice environment. As I have learned and grown more involved over the past 6 months, I have had the amazing chance to learn just a small fraction about the human reproductive cycle, and a lot of it has surprised me!

There's far too much information that I've been introduced to to really go over in one small blog post, and I realize that for many of our patients, much of the knowledge about reproductive health and fertility related issues that have been revelations to me are old hat. Our patient population are a learned bunch. Many of them, upon discovering a fertility or reproductive health issue, have read extensively: studying the biology, the technology, and the terminology behind reproductive medicine. But, with the overwhelming volume of information out there, a couple of the factoids I found most interesting might be worth a mention.

I started out knowing next to nothing about the male reproductive system... at least not anymore than I needed to know at a fundamental level. Learning about some of the nuances of that, I've found it particularly interesting. For instance: "When the sperm leave the testicle, they are fully formed but have no motility (movement)... It takes about 72 days for the sperm to begin its development and progress through complete maturation. Any abnormality in this complex system can result in subfertility or infertility . Since it takes almost three months for sperm to develop fully and be transported, it stands to reason that any treatment which improves sperm production can take up to three months to be reflected in the ejaculate (p. 42)." Woah! Three months? I thought it was just a point-and-shoot sort of thing.

The other thing that I was astonished by was that the chances for conception, even in a completely healthy and normally fertile couple, were so low every month. A couple "with normal fertility who have intercourse at or about the time of ovulation stands about a 20 to 25 percent chance that a pregnancy will result (p. 36)." I'd always thought that there was something more like a 50/50 chance for conception every month... nothing like only 20%. And that's just in couples that are 100% healthy, who have sex on the right days, and who have zero history of infertility problems. Reading about that statistic entirely changed my whole conception of pregnancy. I'd heard it referred to as miraculous before... now I actually kind of believe it.
When I started six months ago at TCRA, I had a healthy respect for and appreciation of the kind of work done by reproductive acupuncturists and specialists. That respect has only grown... [insert pregnancy joke here].

Citations taken from: "Conceptions and Misconceptions: A Guide Through the Maze of In Vitro Fertilization and Other Assisted Reproductive Techniques." (Hartley & Marks Publishers INC., Vancouver, BC 1998)