Clearblue Fertility Monitor Review

As promised, here’s the skinny after wrapping up my first cycle of using my new (well, new-to-me) Clearblue Fertility Monitor.


Background

A fertility monitor is more advanced than ovulation prediction kits.  A FM measures and compares both luteinizing hormone and estrogen, as opposed to strictly an LH surge. The FM is also more sensitive and accurate.  And, a bonus for me—there’s no test/control lines to squint and analyze. Huzzah!

Using a fertility monitor is easy enough (although I still recommend reading the entire instruction booklet. Considering the financial investment of the monitor, you’d better believe I read that booklet cover to cover!).  You simply power the monitor on first thing every morning of your cycle to determine two things: 1. Whether the FM wants to be fed a test stick; and 2. Whether your personal fertility chances that day are low, medium, or high.  You POAS (must be FMU), insert the cleanly capped stick into the FM, and wait five minutes.  The display then shows one of the following:

  • 1 bar = low fertility.
  • 2 bars = medium fertility.
  • 3 bars = high (“peak”) fertility, replete with a pic of a tiny egg.

If your cycle ends in a BFN, pressing the monitor’s only button (aside from the power button), tells it that a new menstrual cycle has begun, and the whole process repeats.


First Use

A FM learns your individual cycle over time. I hope this means that it requires less test sticks over time too, because I went through ten of those suckers this cycle alone ($)!

After receiving my monitor in the mail and giving it a thorough cleaning, I reset its internal computer, which you should do when buying a used one.  A reset means it knew nothing about my cycles, and we started out our very intimate relationship as strangers.  The FM asked for its first test stick on CD6 and required daily testing until it was finally satisfied on CD16.

The FM provides not one but two days of high or “peak” fertility. Unlike OPKs, the positive window for the first peak day lasts 24 – 36 hours (as opposed to 12 – 48 hours for OPKs).  I liked this narrower window because it really helped me to pinpoint the exact day I was the most fertile.


Convenience

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The actual fertility monitor. 

Clearblue’s fertility monitor is palm-sized and discreet.  There’s no wording or other markings on the monitor itself that could give away its function to someone who stumbles upon it.  This makes me feel comfortable traveling with it or leaving it in the cabinet when guests use my home restroom.  However, I have an older model; the newer monitor pics I found online look very different than my monitor, pictured above.  The monitor could also easily slip into my pants pocket or purse, if needed.

And, as mentioned above, the most convenient part is not having to interpret test lines!


Fertility Monitor vs. Ovulation Prediction Kit

Eventually, I may reach to the place where I replace my OPKs with the FM.  That said, I took no chances and still used Wondfo OPKs my first cycle.

I began OPK testing on CD10 and received a positive on CD11.  Conversely, the monitor begin testing on CD6 and gave me the first of two positives on CD12. Clearly, one was wrong.  But which?  I wonder—absent blood tests and a few dates with an RE—how to know.  I wish I’d bought this monitor during my days of visiting infertility docs, as it would’ve been handy to know which test was right!  One day’s difference might not sound like a big deal to an outsider, but, since the ovulated egg is only solidly good for twelve hours, that one day can make or break a cycle.

To be safe—and much to Jake’s delight—-we took no chances and TTC’ed on CD9, 10, 11, 12, 14, and 15.


Consensus

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Clearblue advises that you not interpret your results based on the test lines.  But I still do anyway, because I’m fanatic like that. 

Being that I’m gearing up for cycle number two, the monitor failed in that I didn’t get pregnant.  It’s not entirely the monitor’s fault though: all it can do is advise me the best day to have sex.  It’s no miracle worker.

I completely forgot to reset my monitor on CD1 this month, mostly because I stowed the thing away weeks ago and am not yet in the habit of resetting it monthly.  However, if you’re forgetful like me, there’s a way to override the FM’s computer and catch it up to your current cycle day.  Good work, Clearblue, for making an option ‘B’ for women like me who space out on these kinds of things!

VERDICT:  I think I’ll keep using the monitor for the next few months.  When/if I: (a) stop TTC, (b) get tired of buying test sticks, or (c) get pregnant, I’ll either resell it online or give it away.

Overall rating: A.

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When Does Endo End?

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I hate endometriosis.

I’m writing this post at the end of an exceptionally bad cycle.  Except this cycle, and the one before it—and the one before that—were all exceptionally bad.  Worse, in fact, than the usual degree of bad.  Something is wrong in my body, specifically my uterus and hormones, I know it in my heart and I know it in the symptoms that manifest.  Yet every doctor I visit does nothing but send me on my way with words of regret that there’s nothing they can do.

What constitutes a cycle being “bad” are my ovarian pain levels, the number of days of irregular bleeding, and the amount of cramping.  This cycle I began bleeding 4DPO, or CD17.  Last cycle I began bleeding 2DPO, or CD15.  I bleed daily throughout the remainder of my cycle.  Then I get my period, which is a different kind of bleeding.  Finally, the bleeding ends.  But the ovarian pain?  It doesn’t end.  Ever… never.  EVER.  After a new cycle, the cramps resume at ovulation and I continue cramping the rest of my cycle until approximately CD2.  Irregular bleeding has been going on for two years now.  Ovarian pain has been nonstop for more than six.

All of these factors cause Jake and my love life to take a serious nosedive.  We’re fortunate if we can have sex ten days out of any given cycle.  Once the bleeding and pain begin, we have to kiss sex goodbye.  I hate that not only can I not provide him children, I also have to deprive him in this way.  It’s not fair that this affects him too.  My feelings of failure mount.

The level to which endometriosis is beginning to affect new aspects of my life is causing me emotional pain.  I feel defeated and hopeless more often than not.  I find myself retreating inwardly in ways I can’t describe.  Normally I can tough it out.  But I’m getting beat here: beat by this disease, beat by this pain, and beat by the knowledge that I have no control over any of it.  The white flag of surrender is so close; it’d be so easy to wave it and cry uncle.

I feel desperate for relief.  I’m endlessly seeking a reprieve, but it’s elusive.  Pain meds work only for the short term.  A hysterectomy is not an actual solution.  Docs tout hysterectomy as a “fix” only because the the almighty dollar reigns.  Birth control pills for someone who’s TTC is the most laughable solution I’ve heard.  (As an aside, why on earth would I feed my body estrogen [BCP] to help tame a disease that feeds off of estrogen?)  There is no answer to endo, and it angers and frustrates me to the point where I could scream.  I feel like I’m shaking my fist against the wind, one tiny sliver of resistance among a storm of catastrophic proportions.

The struggle is wearying.  Slowly, systematically I’m wearing down.  Yes, things could be worse, much worse; I’m aware of that.  But just because the struggle I’m facing isn’t as grievous as it could be doesn’t mean it’s still not a real struggle.  I cry because I just want the pain to end, the bleeding to end, and—sometimes—even the TTC to end.

The Lord knows that I’ve prayed for healing.  I’ve gone to healing rooms for prayer and to the alter at church services to receive prayer from others.  I’ve believed, stood firm when it seemed bleak.  Yet I also know that I live in a human body that’s subject to aches and pains and problems.  Faith isn’t a magic cure-all to make our ills disappear.  Faith doesn’t make the daily reality of pain and the symptoms any less real.  I wish I knew where the balances lies in my beliefs vs. the medial decisions I have to make.

Even though I know it’s not a cure, I find myself tentatively navigating the waters of having a hysterectomy.  The prospect of no more ovary to hurt and no more uterus to cramp and bleed is like a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gray sky.  Long-term hormone replacement therapy, increased cancer and dementia risks, and loss of libido aren’t thrilling prospects.  But I wonder if they’d be outweighed by the years of pain and bleeding relief I’d find in between.  I can’t believe I’ve reached this point, because I’ve always been so anti-hysterectomy.  But anymore I find myself slowly drawn to the idea.

Of course hysterectomy = no baby.  I guess I have to keep holding out for that.  For awhile at least.

Sorry for the negative post today, but I just have to be real.

 

 

 

Circle + Bloom Giveaway

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Nearly three years ago I purchased Circle + Bloom’s IVF/IU Mind-Body Program meditation set, which is a 4-CD set of meditations for women going through ART.  As it turns out, C+B accidentally included two disc “1’s” in my order.  When I wrote to notify the company of the error, C+B generously sent me another full CD set as a replacement—not just a replacement disk, but the entire set!

Now I have two (well, 1.75) once-used C+B sets collecting dust on my bookshelf.  Since I spent good money on them—and since I now regret my very secular purchase of something I disagree with on a spiritual level (meditation)—it’s time to re-home these babies.

Which brings me to this post.  I’m going to give away both sets to two people who can use them.  Each set is valued at $59USD.  Now, I haven’t opened the disk cases in quite awhile, so I can’t say for certain who will get the set with two disc-ones, but, hey—it’s free!  All I ask is that you are someone who currently follows my blog or I follow yours.  If you blog anonymously and enter the giveaway, I promise promise promise not to reveal your identity EVER.  Because #1 that’s totally uncool, and #2: then you’ll know my identity too—leverage!

So, hey: If you’re down for possibly scoring a free C+B meditation set, submit the form below.  I’ll draw two random winners on June 1, 2018 and mail the set to you.

Peace.

 

Opting Out of M- Day

It’s fast approaching. That day of the year. The one that fills me with a special kind of pain: Mother’s Day.

Reminders of MD are unavoidable, as everywhere I turn advertisements oh-so-helpfully remind me of its impending arrival: “Don’t forget mom!”, “The perfect gift!”, “She’s worth it!”   It’s epidemic.

All my life, MD has been the one day that I yearly want to kick in the nuts.  See, I never knew my mother.  And the person who later became my so-called stepmother managed to scar my psyche in myriad ways against the concept of mothering…  but that’s entirely too much crap to cram into a blog post.  Toss in six-plus years of infertility and three miscarriages and here’s the result.

This is only pain talking.  Deep pain.  Real pain, not to be mistaken with bitterness.  Just sayin.

The last several years I purposely avoided church on MD.  Then last year on MD—fueled by some unexpected bout of starry-eyed over-enthusiasm—I attempted to attend church.  I lasted exactly ten minutes, congratulating myself on my valiant strength in the face of adversity all the while.  That is, until I encountered a fellow parishioner who’s five years younger than me and has four children.  Wearing matching mommy-and-me dresses, she and her youngest toddler paraded through the church hallway holding hands, smiling, and basking in compliments on how adorable their matching garb was.  Yep: that was the catalyst.  Jake and I ducked out before service even began.

I won’t make that mistake again.  This year I’ll resume skipping church; avoid restaurants; stay away from the grocery store; flee Facebook like the plague.  Instead, I’ll hang at home with Jake, Puppy, Netflix, and a pint of almondmilk ice cream.  Maybe even pop a painkiller, because this is the third consecutive year that I’ve had my period and monster cramps on MD weekend.  *insert extra gut punch*

Sometimes you just need to protect your heart.

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All’s Quiet on the Fertility Front

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Another month-long delay on updating this blog?  You guys are probably used to that by now, I’m hoping.  I’m such an unreliable blogger.  Really, there just hasn’t been much to say on the fertility front.  Here’s some mini highlights to tide you over though.

First, in an act of age-related desperation, I caved and purchased a fertility monitor. Well, a used one that is.  And before anyone “Ewwws!” me, the monitor was used one time, four years ago so c’mon now.  Besides, it’s not like I’m going to be licking the thing.  Even though urine is sterile, I still disinfected the crap out of the machine with rubbing alcohol as soon as I opened the package.  In its user manual, Clearblue “strongly recommends” that women not sell their used monitors, but…. psssssh…  I know corporate greed when I see it.

I spent $80 for the monitor itself, plus an extra $20 for three months’ worth of testing sticks. Thank you, Ebay, for the cheap deals!  Straight retail would’ve cost me $150 for the monitor and another $50 for the test sticks.  I was pretty stoked to save a few bucks while simultaneously dropping $100 for a machine that tells me when to have sex.  ‘Course I can’t actually use the monitor until my next CD1.  Update to follow on how it works!

Also, somewhere between now and my last post I turned 36.  *gulp*  That may have had something a lot to do with buying the fertility monitor.  The feeling of not being able to afford any more missed cycles is real.  Time’s a tickin’!  I feel all this self-induced pressure to finally resolve already, one way or another.  Jake and I are closing in on seven years (!) of TTC and anymore it’s all I can do to try just one more month… just one more month…. just one more month…

In other news, Intermenstrual Bleeding: It’s Still a Thing.  Except lately it’s been accompanied by new, weird pains in my lower uterus.  The best way to describe the pain is like someone inserts a needle into my skin sideways and then vigorously, repeatedly jerks the needle up and down, over and over.  The pain waxes and wanes and mostly occurs during my luteal phase.  It has me concerned.  But I’ve learned by now not to even bother an OB/GYN or RE with these kinds of legit concerns, because they just customarily dismiss me: “It’s only your hormones being out of whack,” “Nothing we can do about it,” “You should consider another IVF (because that will stop the pain???),” rinse. repeat.

My next step is to schedule a consult with the renowned Dr. Seckin in NYC about this issue.  He’s, like, THE dude to see if you suffer from endo and all your docs have basically written you off as an overly-emotional hypochondriac.  I was able to score incredible, awesome, unbelievable, AND amazing medical coverage through Jake’s new job, which will make my visit practically free.  The only catch?  I have to wait six months for my benefits to start (thank you, Pennsylvania, for the delay).  In the meantime, well, I don’t know.   I suppose that I’ll just deal.  Pain meds help.  Lots of pain meds….

Update to follow on the fertility monitor.  I get the impression that the monitor and I will become close buddies over the coming months.  Perhaps a cute nickname is in order?  Drop your suggestions in the comments below!

Peace.

 

 

 

3-Year Blogoversary Musings

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It feels like just yesterday I was posting about my two-year blogversary on WordPress.  I blinked and another year has passed!  Last year when I lamented about two years of infertility blogging, I really expected things to be different for me within a year.  My fertility status, unfortunately, remains unchanged.

What’s more, is that many bloggers who underwent successful IVFs around the same time as my two IVFs (September 2015 and April 2016) are now busy working on their second babies.  And I’m over here just… here.  Stiiiiiiiiiiiiill trying for my first.  I feel pretty left in the dust, like that kid who keeps getting held back a grade in school, over and over again, and ends up graduating when he’s like 22.  I know I shouldn’t compare myself to others; I’m on my own very unique timeline.

I’ve started every single new cycle since last year full of optimism.  I do it all perfectly, to the ‘T’—all the right supplements, timing sex just right, paying close attention to my ovulation.   Then around cycle day 20ish, I begin deflating: the bleeding starts up; my ovary pain kicks into high gear; my temperature won’t reach optimum heights.  My faith quickly slinks into a downward spiral, and I scratch off yet another month.  I don’t understand why my time hasn’t come yet, and I have to restrain my impatience.  Another full year of infertility wasn’t in my plans.

Despite all of the above, there have been many, many blessings in my life since my two-year blogoversary post; I can’t lose sight of the rays of sunshine amidst these clouds.  Besides, no matter how much it hurts (and it totally does freaking hurt, every day), life is so much more than whether I have a child.  So much more… So I’m believing for a cheerier post for my four-year blogoversary, Lord willing.  A lot can happen in a year.

Peace.

Those Late Periods

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A couple years ago I stopped taking monthly home pregnancy tests.  Stay at this game long enough and you’ll longer need them.  My BBT alone tells whether I’m pregnant: if my temp starts dropping around 10DPO, then it’s certain I’m out that month.  My last two pregnancies taught me that my temp skyrockets when I’m pregnant, even immediately post-transfer.

This past cycle my period was late.  I rarely have late periods—my body’s great at cycling like it should.  A cautious hope with a type of nervous expectancy for a BFP began to set in.  After all, starting 11DPO I’d been having strange poking pains in my lower right uterus which were so weird because—since I’ve no ovary on that side—it rarely sees any action.  But, my temp began dropping on CD24 and hope remained dangling on the edge of caution.

I fleetingly thought about taking a HPT from my arsenal, but—honestly?—I just couldn’t be bothered.  I couldn’t be bothered to continue tracking my symptoms, either.  I eventually forgot what cycle day I was on.

Ambivalent was the best word for my feelings on the matter.  Ambivalence causes me to think I don’t want this as much as I used to.  It causes me to wonder if I’ve become a resigned, faithless, half-hearted TTC-er.

On the same morning when my period app reminded me that I was three days late, I finally took a HPT.  It was negative.  And I mean negative just like that cutesy “BFN” acronym—a big. fat. negative.  I felt nonplussed by my results.  And as I’ve done many times over the years, after thoroughly scrutinizing for a squinter, I chucked the test in all its stark white one line-ness into the trash and got up to go about my day.  Scratch off another month and move along, I valiantly told myself, intending to go about my day business as usual.

A mere half hour later, where did my so-called valiant “strength” land me?  Why, sobbing to Jake on the sofa while cramps overtook my body and the beginning of my period approached!  Through big ugly tears and out of my desperation, I devised implausible ways to pay for another IVF.  I lamented my fate as permanently childless.  I gave voice to the feelings of failure, the tediousness of endless TTC, and the general hopelessness that is constantly trying to get the better of me.  The battle is real; so is the enemy.

Here I’d been moments before thinking I was so tough and had become ambivalent—also known as hardened—to this years’ long process.  Turns out, I’m still all mushy in the middle.  Most months I don’t allow myself to feel the feelings.  But they’re all still there: faith and hope mixed with failure and tears.  Gratitude mixed with feelings of unfairness.  Impatience mixed with patience.

All this from a late period.  I’m grateful to learn that I still have an emotional connection to this process, to know that I’m not hardened by it as I’d secretly feared.  Sometimes this Tin Man just needs a little oil now and then to know for certain.

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