I’m feeling totally normal so far, this is awesome (touch wood!), so I thought I’d cast my mind waaaaaaaaaay back and tell you how stories such as ours start.

In order to be allowed to do IVF you need to be diagnosed with some sort of infertility.

Here’s how it worked for us.

Well you start by trying to conceive naturally.  You work through ‘doing it’ often, to doing it on the right days, to peeing on sticks to be sure you have the right days… to despair.

It is at this point that you go and see your GP.

So.  The husband and I went to see our GPs (an administrative pain in itself as we go to separate surgeries) and we talked to them about our trouble conceiving.  It is possible to do this any time of course, but (depending on your age) the GP will probably fob you off until you’ve been trying to conceive for a couple of years and we knew this so we went around the two year mark.

The GPs ran some tests.

For the gentleman, there is a test to check your sperm are strong swimmers.  Once a month for three months (because these things naturally vary) you need to save it up for a few days, then collect some in a pot and speedily deliver it for testing.  This then gets analysed for a variety of things that indicate quality.  How much, how thick, how quick etc.

For the lady, a blood test is taken on day 21 of the menstrual cycle to test whether ovulation has taken place.

Or, say hypothetically if the GP has no idea what they are doing they might take the blood test on the wrong day twice, and eventually you might instead be asked to pee in a jar and freeze it once a week for three months, and then return the jars of frozen pee for testing.  Just hypothetically like.

When these initial tests were done, the GP referred us to an infertility specialist.

Following a few months of wait for an appointment, we saw the specialist and he looked over our results to date.  He was great, really helpful.  We’ve never seen him since, unfortunately.

The next step is a further test for the lady.  This is the grossest one, the HCG.  They want to check that your fallopian tubes are not blocked.  So you have to go in, put on a gown and sit on an operating table with your legs in stirrups.  They then insert a tube into your bajingo and squirt some special dye up there.  It feels odd – like you really need to pee, and yet… not.  When it is all in there they take an X-ray.  If the picture comes out fallopian tube-shaped that’s great.  If not, the dye didn’t fill your tubes because one is blocked.  They show you the picture there and then, which is pretty cool.  Then they give you a pair of special pants (cheap fishnet with nappy) to catch the dye on its way out.

And that’s it.  These three tests catch all of the main causes of infertility – poor sperm quality, problems with ovulation and blocked fallopian tubes.  If you have any of these, get thee to the top of the queue for IVF because there is a condition that can probably be treated.

But what if you don’t have any of these?

We didn’t.  We are seemingly reproductively normal.

So we were given a ‘diagnosis’ of unexplained infertility.

Unexplained infertility doesn’t mean there is no medical problem restricting your ability to conceive, in fact there probably is.  But it means that you do not have a problem that the NHS can diagnose easily or help you with specifically. Other more complicated tests would be unlikely to throw up anything that would make any practical difference to their treatment options so they don’t waste their resources on doing them.

If you have unexplained infertility you’re not allowed on the IVF waiting list until you’ve been trying to conceive for several years (three years when we did this but recently reduced to two) because a lot of people do end up conceiving naturally eventually, so after our diagnosis we just had to go away and have another few goes ourselves.  And wait… and wait… and wait.  Until we were allowed to *join* the list early in 2012 which at the time had an advertised wait of a further two years.  Then we had to wait… and wait… and wait some more until we finally came to the top of the IVF waiting list at the start of 2013.

When we first got into all this the timescale we were given was five years from starting trying to conceive to first IVF.  Yes.  Five years.  So in my case you start trying to conceive at an entirely-reasonable-in-anyone’s-book age of 30, and you don’t get to do IVF until you reach the fertility-drop-off age of 35.  Bah.

It ended up for various reasons being more like three and a half years, hurray!  Although it still felt like a hideously long time.

So for us, lots of testing for not much reward and lots and lots of waiting.

Is it easier to have a diagnosis?  I don’t know, it might be hard going to find out that one or both of you have a problem.  This can affect your sense of self, your sense of gender and your sense of purpose in life.  This can affect your relationship, blame can be pointed.  But you can know what you are dealing with and select appropriate treatment options, quickly.  You also have a good idea of likelihood of success so you can make realistic decisions and plans.

With unexplained infertility… well you just don’t know anything except that experience shows you can’t do it.

Unexplained infertility sucks.