Inspiration…and testosterone

Since starting this little blog, I’ve enjoyed finding other bloggers to commiserate with. But in finding bloggy friends, I’ve done my best to avoid blogs of people who were already pregnant. (Exceptions include Vanessa at Yeah Science! – the name of her blog was just too tempting,  and JoJo at An Infertile Road, my very first follower, who got pregnant – on her first IUI! – while I was following her.) I avoided pregnant bloggers because I wanted to shield myself from having to think about pregnant women, a sentiment that Jenny at Dogs Aren’t Kids expressed so well in a recent post.

The problem with this strategy – at least for me – is that it didn’t leave much room for optimism. I loved that there was/is no shortage of support and excellent company in my misery…but I also found myself doubtful that treatment could work for me. I mean, it didn’t seem to have worked for any of my other bloggy friends, so who was I to expect that it would work for me?! (Another problem with this strategy is that it makes me a little bit afraid of actually getting pregnant – like this amazing support system will suddenly vaporize as all my new friends go running for the hills!)

Since my last post, I took advice from Kimberly at No Good Eggs and joined my local Resolve support group. I haven’t been to a meeting yet (the next one is November 19th), but I joined their online forum. On this forum I found inspiration in the form of a Protocol Buddy – someone who followed my weird IVF protocoland had the same baseline AFCand got pregnant! And she writes a blog! I am so encouraged!

Furthermore, this experience gave me the courage to face my fear of pregnant infertility bloggers, and I started reading Jen’s blog, Overworked Ovaries. (Jen’s name and cute avatar kept popping up in the comments section on all my favorite blogs, with hints that her infertility issues might be similar to mine.) I’m about halfway through reading her posts (oldest first), and I find it so exciting to read a story that I know has a happy ending! It’s also great to see that so many of her awesome bloggy friends haven’t abandoned her, but are following along and cheering her on through her pregnancy. And I can’t help but think this is what it’s about! This is what I want!

And I feel hopeful.

*****

Now, let’s talk about testosterone. But first, the disclaimer:

I am NOT an endocrinologist, or any kind of medical professional! This blog does NOT purport to offer medical advice, medical opinions, or recommendations. Please take this for what it is – the ramblings of an infertile woman trying to make sense of her complicated treatment protocol!

*****

Last night I applied my final Androderm patch. The night I applied my first patch, I noted first that it is weird looking. C calls it my third nipple.

ImageI wasn’t exactly sure how to apply it, so I checked the website. Clearly they are not marketing to women trying to get pregnant:

Image

I couldn’t help myself, and decided to check out the website for Estrace cream for comparison:

Image

I’ll leave it to cleverer folks than me to comment…

Anyway, I waited to write about the testosterone-priming until now, partly because I was hoping dreading expecting to observe some side effects. I observed none. This fact makes me a bit skeptical that this low-dose patch would actually do anything for a 200+ lb man with low sex drive. Then again, that’s not why I am taking it.

And why am I taking it?

From what I can tell, the use of androgens (broad term for male sex hormones including testosterone and DHEA) to treat infertility patients is pretty new, and pretty controversial. Most of the papers I read were written by physicians at the same few clinics. But I think the gist goes like this:

  • Recent studies suggest that Diminished Ovarian Reserve is a condition characterized by the reduced ability to make androgens (including testosterone). This correlation seems to be especially strong in younger DOR patients. (Interestingly, several of the papers contrast DOR with PCOS, a condition characterized by overproduction of androgens…)
  • Testosterone is produced in the ovaries, in ‘theca cells’. Testosterone from the theca cells enters the ‘granulosa cells’, where it is converted to estradiol. (You can read more about estradiol in this post.)Image
  • Granulosa cells are the cells that surround the developing follicles and help prep and develop the eggs for ovulation.

The thought is that in theory [insert head tilt and two-handed gesture] since DOR patients can’t make as much testosterone, supplementation (through a gel or patch, or indirectly by taking DHEA – a testosterone precursor), will stimulate the granulosa cells to do their thing and prep those eggs. This is supposed to “enhance follicle recruitment” (more eggs) and “promote follicle growth and development” (better eggs).

At least a few studies seem to support this theory, showing a greater number of large follicles and better overall pregnancy outcomes for DOR patients treated with androgens (versus untreated DOR patients).

*****

I start stims (Clomid 100 mg + Menopur 150 IU) tonight, so I guess we’ll see!

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22 Comments

  1. When I joined the blogging scene I thought I’d only want to read about people who weren’t pregnant but were single and trying, like me. I started following a few others because I liked their perspective on things. I’ve been pretty much left behind by everyone and am now being lapped so I find it hard to read anyone new because it’s pretty much a given that they’ll get pregnant before me. But I’m always glad to find bloggers who have a unique outlook that I enjoy – like yours.

    Reply
  2. When I started blogging I was like you, and followed pretty much only one pregnant blogger who was a success story in a situation similar to mine. I surrounded myself with other DOR bloggers…and now quite a few of them are pregnant. Which means that I get to celebrate their successes, but it can also be tough sometimes as I feel like the one who is left behind. And it means that I’m always looking for new blogs to follow because I do have times when I find it hard to read about pregnancy, as much as I love my bloggy mom friends. It’s tough. Blogging can be a double edged sword that way.

    Reply
    • Oh, and replying to myself to add that I’m also on the testosterone experimentation train, in the form of DHEA. I’m on month two out of three or four before we try another IVF round. A few more eggs wouldn’t hurt, but what I’m really looking for is better quality. I really hope this stuff works for me…a lot of the other DOR ladies have had success after taking it (coincidental? causal? no way to know) so maybe at some point I’ll have my own success story to post.

      Reply
      • Yeah, I’m thinking I’ll ask Dr. Y about DHEA if this IVF cycle doesn’t work…hopefully not!

  3. I think I’m in the minority here when I say I started following mommy blogs before I followed infertility blogs. Before I was diagnosed, I was reading blogs about young women who had just gotten married (like myself) and those of course turned into pregnancy and mommy blogs over the course of a year.

    Now, once I got diagnosed, I actively searched out women struggling with the same thing I was. I recently realized that I’ve been skipping over the posts made by the mommy blogs that I used to follow so closely. Its certainly harder for me to read about them complain about their children while I’m fighting for mine.

    One of my biggest fears about getting pregnant is losing all of the support that I’ve gained in these last few months. However, I think that we become so close with each other by reading each other’s stories and cheering each other on, that very few would actually stop reading a blog if the writer got pregnant. At least I wouldn’t.

    As for your testosterone, I would have to agree with C, it does look like a third nipple. Very strange indeed. I must say, if I stumbled up on the Estrace website, the image of a woman wrapped up in a flower wouldn’t make me want to run over to my doctor and ask him to prescribe it for me. Who thinks of these things?!

    I know I’m a day late, but I hope that the stims went well! Sorry for the novel of a comment.

    Reply
    • Marketing is hilarious. (Either infuriating or hilarious; I usually try to see it as hilarious…) And the stims started well so far. Thanks. 🙂

      Reply
  4. Good luck! You have such an exciting protocol. You are so right about finding inspiration from Mommy blogs. I started reading a few infertility blogs before I even had an inkling that IVF would be in my future and many of those ladies are now pregnant, or new Mums. It helps me to believe that one day, oh so hopefully, it could be me.

    Reply
  5. Thanks for the shout out! SO glad you joined a group! You won’t regret it!

    Reply
    • I’m really excited for my first meeting. It really took you beating me over the head with it, though, so thanks!

      Reply
  6. I can understand why you don’t enjoy reading the blogs of a pregnant woman. When you are trying to conceive it feels like their are pregnant women EVERYWHERE and they are stalking you and you certainly don’t need to find them in your off time. But I found that you get sort of attached to the blogs you read and you cheer them on and hope that everyone of them becomes pregnant.

    Reply
  7. I had the same when I started blogging: I was totally avoiding blogs from pregnant women and got very annoyed of blogs with infertility related titles that had lots of information on pregnancies or babies. I started following only blogs of people who were trying. I got attached to them and now I generally follow them even after the plus has arrived. But it also depends a lot on how the blogger deals with the pregnancy. I don’t mind hearing of the miracles when they are considered to be so. But I get really annoyed of complaints or bragging-like posts from former infertiles, so I leave those blogs.

    Reply
  8. I’m so glad you found reason to be hopeful! I would cling like crazy to stories like mine while we were still ttc. And now that we’re done, I do continue to gravitate to blogs with similar stories to my own- those who were unable to complete their families the way they though they would. Though there’s very few like mine out there, so instead, I spend a great deal of time supporting those still in the trenches!

    What is the deal with the marketing strategies for androderm and estrace??? Men taking androderm will return to their rugged, former selves, and women taking estrace will… emerge from a flower, naked? Huh? I don’t get it…

    Reply
    • Thank you! I knew you’d be able to poke fun at the websites better than I could. 🙂

      For the record, over the 3 weeks that I was taking Androgel/Androderm and Estrace, I did not once run a marathon OR emerge naked from a flower. False advertising!

      Reply
  9. Oh wow… third nipple… could they possible think of anything else to make us feel like such dolts while going through IF treatment?? What’s that? You’d like neon blue goop oozing out your lady bits all day? Done! Bruises all over your stomach? Presto! Honestly…

    I feel you on the bloggers-becoming-preggo thing. I think you just have to be selective in who you choose to keep following, because some writers will lift your mood and give you hope while others just succumb to boring memes that talk about weight gain or what size fruit the baby is. Someone like Belle at Scrambled Eggs, for instance, I chose to keep reading because she was always honest about the stress and fear she experienced while pregnant, and never rubbed it anyone’s face that she was all glowing and better off or whatever. In any case, be selfish, and just scrap whoever makes you feel like shit. 🙂

    Despite the “science” name in my blog title, I actually suck ass at it, so don’t have any real wisdom re: DHEA… but I did REALLY want to start taking it while trying to get pregnant. I just read so many great things about it and my DHEA was shown to be pretty low on tests. My RE kept refusing, but I still think there’s something worthwhile there. Hope it works!!

    Reply
  10. Can we talk about that opening line on the Estrace site though? “If you are experiencing the symptoms of vaginal atrophy due to menopause…” Vaginal ATROPHY? *faint* lol

    I started reading only blogs of those TTC with DOR or POF. I then opened it up to those TTTC. And more recently (mostly due to some amazing success stories) I am okay with reading blogs by those who WERE TTC with DOR and are now pregnant. But for some reason if you were just TTTC and didn’t have DOR and you’re pregnant now… I just can’t go there yet. I’m sure I will be more inclusive in a few weeks. Right now, I can only read about your success if you had a similarly sh*tty CD3 test. It’s strange, but there it is. :/

    Reply
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