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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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.

happy_mothers_day3

 

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.

 

 

 

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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REPOST: Year in [fertility] Review: 2017

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**originally posted on December 15, reposting today because, well, 2017’s end is imminently looming. Praise God for a new year!**

Somehow—in a blur of time and events and dates—another year is quickly drawing to an end.  I’m kind of stunned to find myself writing about 2017 ending, and so soon it seems!  And I’m kind of [read: very] disappointed to find myself still blogging about fertility stuff as we move into another year.  Even so, I’m immensely grateful for God’s goodness and protection during this year.  Fertility issues are just one part of the whole of my life.

So for those and myriad other reasons I can’t write here, I’m okay and moving still toward a deeper peace.  I continue to have moments of anger, frustration, and sadness about our inability to conceive.  Some days I can’t sense the light; I can’t see how this infertility will ever resolve; I feel my faith weaken.  But, overall, I am sustained by God’s peace and a strong sense to continue to wait patiently… although I’m notoriously impatient.  Character is being built here.  The process is uncomfortable.

As I look back over the year, here are the highlights of 2017 when it comes to our TTC sojourn, good and bad:

  • SUCCESS: A successful laparoscopy in March that opened my Fallopian tube and cleared away lots of adhesions.
  • SUCCESS: Ovulated 12/12 month this year.
  • SUCCESS: Normal cycle lengths 12/12 months this year, ranging from 24 to 31 days long.
  • SUCCESS: 11/12 luteal phases that were 14+ days.  Goodbye, luteal phase defect of 2016!
  • FAIL: My average 2017 ovulation cycle day was CD12, usually falling on CD 9 or CD10.  Hello, too-short follicular phases.
  • SUCCESS: Diagnosis of mystery bleeding.  Finally!
  • FAIL: Diagnosis, but no cure for mystery bleeding.  Intermenstrual bleeding continues.
  • FAIL: Why, in my mid-30s, do I still have monstrously painful periods?  I thought that period pain decreased with age?  (Actually, when I think back to my teen years and early 20s, my current period pain looks like a walk in the park.)  I still have to take prescription painkillers and spend a day or two in bed each month.  So, this mini-rant counts as a fail.
  • FAIL: Perhaps the biggest fail of them all: still not pregnant.  Yeah…

Our 2018 fertility plans remain open-ended.  Jake and I are in preliminary talks about going another round with IVF.  I’m quasi open to it; he’s much more cautious.  We totally cannot afford IVF and if we do decide to do it, I’ve no idea where the funds will come from. Like I said, it’s preliminary.

I’m in the process of changing my health insurance over to  Jake’s plan.  I found a clinic that—believe this?—SPECIALIZES IN ENDOMETRIOSIS (huzzah!).  And when I say specializes in, I mean that endometriosis is ALL THEY DO, all day.  The entire office is dedicated to patients suffering from endo.  Once my insurance has been squared away, I plan to make an appointment.  I so need a doctor who will actually help me, and I’m hopeful that this place will be the answer.  It’s an hour away and 90% of the drive involves major congested roads but I don’t even [mostly] care.

Even though it’s two-odd weeks til the new year, I’m pleased to see 2017 on its way out.  Never liked the odd numbered years as much for some reason.  I’m ever hopeful that 2018 will usher in new beginnings in our fertility sojourn.

Peace.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time…

… of the month: ovulation day! ** Obviously. It’s way too soon for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, although the stores don’t seem to know that and are already peddling their holiday wares. Sending a shout out to this all-important monthly milestone and the many accouterments that go along with. There’s a lot of bad in the world these days. Why not celebrate the little things?

Women (i.e., me) with one ovary really do ovulate every month! Like a person with one kidney, as soon as an ovary is removed the remaining ovary takes over the work of both. I’m amazed how God saw to it to design the human body with these capabilities. While it might be overtaxing to my lone ovary to be doing all the egg releasing itself during these last 13 years, I’m just grateful it’s still doing its job.

Here’s what a typical month looks like for me at ovulation, in pictures:

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One of my most-used apps. The shooting uterine pains I could’ve done without though.

 

Baby making makes you good at math.
Recently added to my fertility routine. I recommend consuming by disguising them in smoothies (wheatgrass) or stirred into coffee or chai tea (maca), because these supplements taste pretty nasty on their own.
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Fortunately, bromelain and selenium come wrapped up in foods that actually taste good! Here’s my monthly pineapple purchase, accompanied by a handful of Brazil nuts.
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The battalion of my supplement army, lined up and ready for battle
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Trust, but verify.

Let another two week wait begin.

Peace. ❤

 

** The most wonderful day of the month actually occurred 4 days ago.  I delayed publishing this because it seemed too trite to post during either the hurricane or on the anniversary of 9/11. 

3 in 1: Kate 3, Marixsa 0

My initial reaction when reading that Kate Middleton is pregnant yet again? Jealousy. Not a pretty thing to admit… but let’s be real. After all, she’s managed to have/is having three babies in the span I’ve been trying for just one.  It’s like a special little punch every 1.5 years or so when she has another baby/pregnancy and the media ogles over every.single.detail, ad nauseum.

This world is an unfair place. The sun shines and the rain falls on us all: the fertile and the infertile, the royal and the average, the easy pregnancies and the ones borne of needles and clinics and dwindling embryo counts.

Once I got that ugly part of my humanity out of the way, I began thinking how being pregnant can be hard.  I found myself even feeling sorry for Kate!  Now I don’t follow celebrity news, but I don’t live completely under a rock either: I know that she’s suffered with extra crazy bad morning sickness during her pregnancies.  And I’m sympathetic.  Remembering back to my own short-lived pregnancies and how physically ill I felt, I can’t imagine enduring that feeling on a larger scale for a much longer duration. It can’t be fun, no matter how easily conception happened. 

I’ve also read some very unkind comments on here from my fellow IF community about royal pregnancy #3.  I completely get the sting, because I felt it too: it’s like a regular painful pregnancy announcement, except on crack. But it makes me sad to read such harsh posts from others who’ve walked the hard roads of IF treatment and difficult pregnancies themselves. 

I totally agree that it’s “unfair” how she gets yet another one. Life is unfair, God certainly promises us that. It’s full of ugliness, full of perplexity, full of opportunities to be resentful. So to extend congratulations to someone for her “easy” pregnancy—royal or otherwise—seems like the right way for those of us suffering with infertility to push back just a little. To resolve kindness in place of inequity, even when it stings.

This isn’t some misplaced chastisement for the real pain that this overblown pregnancy announcement can have on us. All I know is that, since all this infertility business started in my own life, I’ve handled waaaaay more than my fair share of pregnancy announcments badly: I’ve been jealous, envious, angry, bitter, and probably some other unlikeable adjectives. But looking back, I can see that secretly harboring those reactions and feelings got me nowhere. In fact, carrying such negative weights actually made the fight harder than it already was (well, is). 

Six years into this thing and I don’t want to live that way anymore. That choice is mine: it’s one of the few choices I get to make when it comes to babies and pregnancies and how I’m going to walk out this sojourn. 

Peace.