It will all work out in the end – breathe & repeat

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I definitely never used to be one of those people who believed in cliche sayings like “everything will work out how it’s supposed to,” “what’s meant to be will be,” “we’re only given what we can handle,” blah blah blah. But when you’re going through something like this. Something so crazy, so out of the blue, and so so out of your control, you kind of have to believe in more to get through each day. If you don’t, the depression and sadness and confusion about the ultimate question (why? why me?) will eat you alive.

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You have to believe you will see meaning in all of the crap one day. You have to believe you will look back and realize this was just a blip on the radar. You have to believe that everything will work out as it should even if it’s not how you thought it would be.

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There is more than just the whole infertility thing plaguing our household lately. My husband has also been laid off from his job during this challenging economic time. Infertility and the prospect of spending thousands of dollars on fertility treatments + my husband not working and unable to find work does not a happy/comfortable marriage make. Things are hard lately. Really, really hard.

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So I’m forcing myself to take deep breaths to not freak out and to just relax. It’s hard. So, so, SO hard. But I’m taking it one day, one hour and sometimes one moment at a time. And in the meantime, I’m also forcing myself to enjoy the beautiful small pieces of the every day. Despite all the bad there is so much to be grateful for still.

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I might get hairy and angry

Well I picked up my DHEA prescription today and I will start on it tomorrow along with the other supplements I’m currently taking. I’m about 10 days into this new plan and don’t really feel any different yet. I know I need to give it at least 30 days to really see changes though.

DHEA is an over-the-counter supplement in the states but in Canada you need a prescription for it. It is a pretty common supplement for ladies with POF or DOR (Diminished Ovarian Reserve). Just google DHEA and Premature Ovarian Failure and you will get lots of hits, including this blogger who thinks it may have helped her get pregnant!

As my doctor pointed out to me several times, there are no scientific studies or clinical studies to prove that DHEA helps, however, it is widely used by fertility clinics especially as women are gearing up to do IVF.

How Does DHEA Improve Fertility?
Published research by CHR has shown that women with diminished ovarian reserve (due to advanced age or premature ovarian aging, POA) tend to have abnormally low androgen levels, and that a good androgen level is essential to development of eggs in the ovaries.

DHEA supplementation helps these patients by increasing the androgen levels within their ovarian environments to a normal range, which improves egg quality. High-quality, healthy eggs develop into high-quality embryos, which have better chances of implantation and lower risks of miscarriage. Through our research, we have found that DHEA supplementation in women with DOR raises androgen (testosterone) levels and increases pregnancy chances via androgen receptors on the developing follicles. Increase in pregnancy chances appear to be particularly pronounced in women whose androgen levels rise successfully after DHEA supplementation.

Source.

However, because DHEA raises androgen / testosterone levels it can apparently have some pretty wicked side effects that include unwanted hair growth, voice deepening, and irritability or anger. I guess my fertility doctor has prescribed a fairly high dosage for me of 75 mg per day (the pharmacist told me they usually start patients on 10 – 25 mg per day). So I need to pay close attention to my symptoms over the next 30 days or so, especially as with hormone medication changes can be very gradual and not necessarily happen suddenly. He specifically told me to watch for extra feelings of irritation and anger.

While those side effects don’t sound fun. At all. Maybe while I’m getting hairy and angry I will also get pregnant! I guess only time will tell but for right now I’m willing to try almost anything 🙂

Doing my research

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I recently ordered these two books off of Amazon and also purchased It starts with the egg: How the science of egg quality can help you get pregnant on my kindle.

Now I already am someone who spends a lot of time reading for pleasure, and it’s one of my favourite hobbies, so I admit I’m not spending as much time reading these books as I would like to. But I have been spending about 15 minutes reading The Infertility Cure every night while I sip on my cup of raspberry tea. I wanted to share two passages from it that had me vigorously nodding my head:

“Shouldn’t the goal be to help the patient’s body function at the highest possible level, with all systems, including reproduction, working as designed? Shouldn’t the best kind of treatment focus not on curing individual symptoms but rather on restoring balance to entire systems that are out of whack?” 

I’ve really noticed this in dealing with Western Medicine. I’ve heard from OB’s “oh well your hormones are high so we will put you on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to regulate that.” Well, no, WHY are my hormones so high and out of whack? I am only 27 years old. There must be a reason my body is acting this way. This is why I’ve been consistently seeing the TCM doctor and also taking sooo many herbal supplements and trying to make dietary changes. If I can restore the balance in my body I absolutely want to do that.

“I advise you to devour all the knowledge you can about fertility. Take control of your own health, and trust yourself. No one is in tune with your body like you are. You have to learn to trust your instincts until your individual solution emerges. Above all, know that you are not broken; you are not deficient. No matter what the outcome of your own personal journey, you are whole.”

This passage meant so much to me. The diagnosis of infertility and especially of Premature Ovarian Failure, has been so so difficult to handle and has made me ask the universe over and over again why this is happening to me. What did I do to my body to make this happen? Why can my body not do the one thing it’s “supposed” to do as a woman? It’s an incredibly difficult thing to deal with and some days are certainly harder than others.

This passage really stood out to me and was an important reminder that all I can do is trust myself and do everything within my power to try and lower my hormones and strengthen the quality of the eggs I do have left. I am so glad I did trust my instincts and started pushing to be referred to an OBGYN after only 5 months of being off birth control rather than waiting the usual 1 – 2 years many women do! I am so much further ahead today simply because of that.

Anyways, I will continue to post as I make my way through these books but even though I’m only a few chapters into it I highly recommend The Infertility Cure!

ALL the supplements!

So in my quest to tackle this diagnosis as aggressively as possible in a natural, holistic way for the next 12 – 18 months I ended up spending $200 at the natural foods store this afternoon. I am starting an aggressive new daily supplement regime tomorrow to accompany the dairy free/gluten free diet I have already been doing for the last three weeks. I have been pretty strict with the dairy-free and a little more easygoing with the gluten free (I couldn’t resist bannock the other day)!

Anyways, here is the supplement regime I will be following as of Monday, February 8:

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Prenatal Vitamin (1 capsule 1x per day) – Every morning.

Probiotic 5 million (1 capsule 1x per day) – Every morning. I have read and heard a lot about gut health being key when it comes to infertility so I started taking the probiotic a couple of weeks ago. By the way, good gut health is extremely important for everyone, infertility or not. Check out this extremely informative documentary from CBC about the importance of microbes in our gut!

Vitamin D (25 mcg 1x per day) – After reading this article about the correlation between women with POF also having a deficiency of Vitamin D I decided to add a daily capsule to my regime!

Chinese Herbs Tincture (2x per day) – This is given to me by my Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Doctor who specializes in fertility!

The following are things I am going to start taking based on the recommendations found on this blog.

Coenzyme Q10 (200 mg 4x per day) – As per the One in Ten Million Blog: Coenzyme Q10 is safe to take and may improve the availability of mitochondrial energy production for the maturing oocyte and developing embryo, thereby reducing the rate of chromosomal nondisjunction and improving implantation in older infertile patients.

L-Arginine (500 mg 3x per day) – Again, as per the One in Ten Million Blog: L-Arginine is an essential amino acid that supports healthy circulation; and often called the miracle molecule by researchers, L-Arginine has shown to offer some supportive fertility benefits to both men and women. More than 10,000 medical citations have been written by researchers investigating the effects of L-Arginine on human fertility. L-Arginine is a precursor to nitric oxide, an important molecule that promotes vasodilation (relaxation of the blood vessels), which is important for healthy blood flow.

Royal Jelly (1000 mg 1 x per day) – And, again, from the One in Ten Million Blog (this blog is like my bible!): Shown to help balance hormones. This makes it beneficial to those individuals that suffer from a hormonal imbalance, as it helps to provide support to the endocrine system. It can also help with problems that are related to hormonal imbalance, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome or irregular menstrual cycles. Some studies have shown that Royal Jelly has the propensity to mimic human estrogen, which can help those that suffer from low estrogen levels. Royal Jelly is rich in amino acids, lipids, sugars, vitamins, and most importantly, proteins. It contains high levels of vitamins D and E, and also has ample levels of iron and calcium. As all of these are essential to proper health and organ function.

Myo-Inositol Powder (1 tbsp 2x per day) – Just google myo-inositol powder for fertility and you will get lots of different results on it’s benefits. Here is a synopsis from this website; Inositol (Myo-inositol) keeps coming up in the literature a s a supplement to take if you want to improve egg quality. It is one of the B vitamins and it has been found in the follicular fluid of higher quality eggs. Animal studies have shown that myo-inositol helps with blastocyst development. Myo-inositol is especially helpful for women with PCOS, but other women may find it helpful as well. This B vitamin is thought to increase insulin sensitivity of the ovary which helps egg quality. It is recommended that a woman who is trying to conceive should take it three months before they try to conceive while their eggs are forming in their ovary.

Melatonin (3 mg 1x per day) – As per this study; Healthy melatonin levels are necessary for optimal fertility. Eggs, like all cells in the human body, are exposed to free radicals that can cause DNA damage. Melatonin actually acts as an antioxidant in the ovaries, removing free radicals and preventing cellular damage. Because healthy egg production is the first step to conception and a healthy pregnancy, these findings suggest that healthy melatonin levels are crucial to fertility.

Maca Powder (1 tsp 1x per day) –  Maca powder supports hormonal balance and balances the endocrine system. Here is a synopsis from this article; Containing 31 different minerals and 60 different phytonutrients, Maca is a nourishing food for the endocrine system, aiding the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands (all involved in hormonal balance.) Maca has the ability to affect key hormones in both women and men without containing hormones itself.

Raspberry Leaf Tea (1 tea bag per night) – Right on the package it says that Raspberry tea is to be used as a uterine tonic to aid in preparation for childbirth.

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I plan to strictly follow this regime for the next 30 days. I will also be getting 8 hours of sleep per night, eating mostly gluten and dairy free, reducing my caffeine and alcohol intake, drinking tons of water, trading high intensity exercise classes for low-impact ones like yoga and barre and going to weekly acupuncture sessions. In approximately 30 days time I will head back to the doctor to get more bloodwork done and see how my levels are.

FINGERS CROSSED!!

All of the emotions

I’ve never been a terribly emotional person. Well, I should re-phrase that, in the privacy of my own home and with those closest to me, I can be quite emotional (ask my husband if I cry much and he will say all the time)! However, in public I hold it together. I do not cry in front of people, especially people I don’t know!

But since getting this diagnosis I cry All. The. Time. For awhile, I tried to hold it in, but then I just started letting the tears flow. In the fertility doctors office, during bloodwork and other testing. I really let it all flow when I got my HSG done last week. Below is a definition from google but more specifically, they have to insert a thin tube through your vagina and into the uterus and then push dye up into the uterus.

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This test had to be rescheduled a couple of times because I was having some spotting during the first appointment and then the second one had to be rescheduled due to the OB-GYN’s schedule. I had been dreading it for well over a month. Anyways, I went to the hospital, completely dreading this appointment and hating the fact that I had to get it done. I had been told that the procedure itself wasn’t too bad but that afterwards there can be really bad cramping and I should take the afternoon off work.

I had the opposite experience where the test itself was SO PAINFUL AND AWFUL. I actually sobbed on the table when the clamp was put down on my cervix. It was really difficult to get the catheter inserted into the tube so they had to keep pulling and adjusting my cervix, it literally felt like my insides were being scraped out. And then when the tube got inserted up my tubes and into my ovaries it was the deepest, most painful feeling ever. It made me get an intense wave of nausea and I was sure I was going to throw up. Oh my gosh, I can’t even fully explain it. I’m sure my crying and tensing up certainly didn’t help with the pain, but I just couldn’t help it.

Looking back, I’m sure some of the crying and being so upset and worked up is just due to the fact that I am still so so upset and confused about why this has happened to me. Why are my ovaries failing me when I’m so young? Why do I have to get all this invasive testing done when I’ve always taken care of my body? I’ve always ate well, exercised, I’ve never done drugs or heavily drank so why the f*&% is this happening to me? As much as I’m trying to accept it and be OK with it I’m still very upset, mad and confused as to why this has happened.

And so, while I was laying on my back in the hospital, knees up to the ceiling and a male OB-GYN was between my legs poking and prodding all those emotions came rumbling out of me and I lay there sobbing convulsively. Actually kind of hilarious when you look back on it.

One good thing that came out of this horrible, awful test is that my tubes are all clear. Thank god I finally had a test done that didn’t have bad results. Now if we could just get that 1 egg to make it’s way down those clear tubes, we’d be sailing!

 

My Story

I used to say that I wasn’t even sure if I wanted children. For many years I would tell people that if I had married a man who didn’t want children I would be OK with that. I was never that woman who felt the need to have a baby or be a mother. Then I made it into my late 20’s and my friends started to have children and even though I still felt uncertain I decided it was time for me to start trying as well.

At this point I had been on birth control for 10 years straight. I would take my the 1 week break each month and have a “period” but I hadn’t been off the pill for any length of time since I was 16.

In January of 2015, still really unsure if I was ready to have kids, I went off the pill and I didn’t get a period. In April of 2015, my husband and I ditched all protection while on vacation in Hawaii. In May of 2015 I started having severe hot flashes and night sweats. I went to my family doctor to get my hormones checked and my levels came back very high. I finally had my first cycle after going off birth control in June of 2015, then two weeks later I had another cycle that lasted 10 days! I had day 3 bloodwork done, my levels were still high.

In September I was referred to an OB-GYN and it took me two months to get an appointment. In November I had another cycle and had more day 3 bloodwork done. My levels were still very high (at their highest I think my FSH hit 131). I saw the OB-GYN in November and they sent me for a whole ‘nother batch of tests and then referred me to the fertility clinic in a city 2.5 hours away with a tentative diagnosis of Premature Ovarian Failure (POF).

My husband and I went to the fertility clinic at the end of January 2016 and were given the official diagnosis of Premature Ovarian Failure (POF). I also had my AMH tested at that time and it came back at <0.08, which means I have very few eggs. Certainly not as many eggs as a healthy 27 year old should have.

And here I am, ready to try it all – weekly acupuncture, chinese herbs, a gluten free and dairy free diet, supplements, cutting back on exercise, whatever it takes! In 12 – 18 months if I have not been successful at lowering my FSH through natural means I will finally be ready to consider donor egg IVF, but until then I will do everything within my power to get pregnant naturally.

Thanks for reading!

PS: I have found a lot of hope by reading this blog: http://one-in-ten-million.blogspot.ca/