#FlipTheScript: The Pill and Infertility Challenges


#FlipTheScript: The Pill and Infertility Challenges

by Paloma Zuleta
April 23, 2018
a concerned woman with a man's hand on her shoulder

I was 36 when I met my husband, and he was older. Almost immediately after meeting, we fell in love, were engaged and got married. Knowing we didn’t want to wait, and considering our respective ages, we started trying for a baby right away. After 6 months of taking my temperature, buying ovulation kits in bulk, and trying everything short of standing on my head after intercourse, we saw a doctor. Our journey to get pregnant had begun, and little did we know what lay ahead.

During this time, Google was not my friend. I couldn’t help but look up if any of the things I loved to do were somehow preventing my body from conceiving. Was it the running? Did I have mercury poisoning because of the seafood? Was it that I ate too much meat? And most importantly, could it have been the fact that I had been on the pill for almost 20 years? I started taking oral contraceptives at age 18, so how on earth could I reverse the possible damage?

We met with the first fertility specialist in 2012, and proceeded to undergo 5 failed IVF procedures. After almost a year with doctor number 1, he requested to meet to discuss our next steps. It was at this meeting that I heard the phrase that will forever more be cemented in my mind: “it’s time to wrap it up.” Apparently, we had exhausted all our options, there was nothing more he could do, and it was time to move on. I remember feeling numb, standing up, and walking out of his office in shock. We weren’t going to have a baby. My husband, however, was undeterred. Without missing a beat, he thanked the doctor, and got the nurse to make a copy of every single page in my file, even the post-it notes. After we both had a good cry, we collected ourselves and thought of next steps.

We decided that we needed a second opinion, and this time we were going to the best. For us that meant consulting with our brilliant brother-in-law, a well-respected physician in Ohio. We gave Fred our file and per his recommendation we met with fertility specialist number 2, who upon reviewing our file told us, “I think there is still a chance”. The protocol with doctor number 2 was considerably less aggressive and it worked—I was pregnant with our first daughter after the first couple of months.  Within 6 months of her birth, we went back to doctor number 2, and started trying for another baby. She was born 15 months ago. Thankful and blessed don’t adequately begin to express how I feel every day.

The truth is that being on the pill didn’t impact in any way my ability to conceive. Rather—and science supports this—women over a certain age have more reproductive challenges. In addition, studies have found that women who quit the pill after using it for an average of seven years, 21% were pregnant in one month and 79% were pregnant in a year. Personally, being on the pill for close to two decades allowed me to have the life I wanted. For me, that has meant finishing school, and the opportunity to work in both state and federal branches of government, unions, and the non–profit sector. Because I had the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant, I lived life on my own terms.

Whether it’s conceiving or adoption, for some people building a family can be an emotional rollercoaster ride. I was ready to give up countless times and leaned on my loving husband’s strength, resolve, and faith when I had none left. I don’t have any advice other than to say, don’t give up trying to have a family. They came in all shapes and sizes and are worth every tear shed.

Learn more about National Infertility Awareness Week here.