Sheree and Andrew's Story
We want to share our story as we think it would help out men with fertility issues and make them realise it's more common than they think and it is nothing to be embarrassed about.
We started trying for a baby in August 2013 as we were both in our early 30's and didn't want to miss out on the baby boat.
We went to the doctor a few times in 2014 and they always said to keep trying for a full year and then to go back and see them if we hadn't managed to get pregnant by then as they could then give us referral to a fertility specialist.
During this time Andrew took a couple of off the shelf fertility tests and got mixed results but generally had indicators that he was fertile.
On the 27 February 2015 with still no luck with getting a baby bump we were able go and see our doctor who had us go for a number of tests and referred us to Fertility Plus. These involved several blood tests for both of us, a sperm sample from Andrew. Andrew got an abnormal result for his first sample and had to go and get another one done. Around a month later we had our first appointment at Fertility Plus with both us nervously waiting in reception area (ok I was nervous, Andrew is fairly stoic) Our doctor gave us my test results first and told us everything had came back great. He then turned to Andrew with a more sombre tone and told us that they had found nothing in the sample. My face dropped and I burst in to tears, apparently the referring doctor who had merely told us the sample was abnormal was meant to give us a bit more information but according to Andrew seemed a bit uncomfortable talking about it. The consultant then asked Andrew to do another round of blood tests and give another semen sample so they could confirm if the first result was correct. After waiting on the results we had confirmation that Andrew has Azoospermia (a complete lack of semen in the ejaculate) or as Andrew likes to put it "he's shooting blanks". One fortunate aspect of this however was that due to it we met the criteria for publicly funded IVF and were put straight on the list.
The doctor then explained us that despite the fact that they found nothing in the samples there still could be viable sperm in his testicles, however to see if there was Andrew was going to have to go through an operation called a TESE (testicular sperm extraction). This is where they cut through the scrotum to expose part of on of the testicles and remove a small part which they then check for viable sperm which are then frozen if any are found for later use. While this may sound painful it's actually not that bad (at least according to Andrew) as they give you a local anaesthetic.
On the day of the operation in late August Andrew was his normal annoying self and didn't seemed particularly phased by things except for when they were trying to get a line into him as it took about 5 goes and Andrew said it was probably the most painful part of the whole operation. While prepping (be prepared for a lot of forms on the day!) the surgeon also pointed out to us that Andrew had low fructose in his previous samples and this was an indicator that he could be a carrier for cystic fibrosis - this doesn't mean Andrew has CF but he carries the defective gene that can cause it and what one of the effects is that the vas deferens, the tube that semen moves from the testicles to the urinary tract in is obstructed or doesn't form correctly so semen can't get through.
It's important to note that while Andrew can still ejaculate it's only the other fluids that usually assists in carrying the semen. The surgeon then directed Andrew to go and get yet another blood test following his operation to be tested for the CF gene.
After waiting around for awhile following the operation we were told the wonderful news that they had managed to get 5 straws from the biopsy. If they defrost well one straw is usually enough for around 10 eggs through ICIS, this is a form of IVF we have to use due to Andrew's condition where they directly inject the sperm into the egg to maximise chances of successful fertilisation as opposed to the "test tube" form where sperm are left to find the eggs themselves.)
Andrew did the blood test after waiting around 4 weeks for the results, unfortunately had it was confirmed that he was indeed a carrier of cystic fibrosis which was the most likely cause for has his Azoospermia, very little is still understood about why and how Azoospermia occurs which is why it's not a certainty. The doctors then advised that I had to get tested to make sure I was not a cystic fibrosis carrier as well as this would mean that any child we conceived would have roughly a 25% chance of having CF. Luckily I am not so we do not need to do PGD (Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) testing on our embryo which would be used to check if any embryo that we get through IVF did have CF.
All told it's been an interesting ride but we are over the moon and so thankful that we live in the times we do with technological advances that we have a chance to still have a little one. In May 2016 we are due to start our first round of IVF both excited and nervous at the same time.