Alternatives

The thing about fertility, both when you’re dealing with MFI (which we’re not) and when you’re dealing with issues on the woman’s end (which we probably are), is that every health decision feels like it has real potential to be significant. A lot of women I’ve talked to have made lifestyle changes when it came time to try to conceive, and often, when infertility comes into the picture, that kind of thing gets moved to the forefront.

However, as the months pass, it seems like it’s more and more difficult to know what’s the quackery and what’s real. There’s Soy Isoflavones (apparently like Clomid), baby Aspirin, acupuncture, and herbal supplements. Not to mention yoga, meditation, and guided imagery. So, what’re my thoughts on this, 12 months in?

Interestingly, I haven’t found a lot that’s actively dangerous. There are, however, a lot of things that people need to be careful with. If Clomid won’t improve whatever your situation is, don’t do Soy Isoflavones. If you take baby Aspirin, you have to act like you’re on a blood thinner – because you are. So, that’s important to keep in mind, too. As a rule, I’ve tried to stay away from things that require thinking like that.

Herbs and Vitamins

Obviously, I take my required prenatals. I went by the generics from the local pharmacy, although I hear you should go for the fancy organic ones. So far, I’m not convinced on that one. I also take generic pharmacy Vitamin D3 because apparently most people in places with winter end up with at least a little deficiency, and it’s been shown to dramatically increase fertility.

I tried Red Raspberry Leaf for a while. Unclear if it did anything, but I stopped taking it because it was upsetting my stomach. I am trying Evening Primrose Oil this month – I’ll let you know how that goes, but so far, no untoward side effects. Not sure if there are any positive effects either, but still.

Acupuncture

In late October, I decided to start acupuncture for my migraines. It really helped mitigate them – I was missing school and all kinds of things, and that has really diminished. In February, I started going specifically for fertility. I had hoped to move to a clinic that focuses on women’s issues particularly, but right now the cost is prohibitive. We still might make the move if we end up at the RE – we know that that could cost a lot more, and it would be best to try as much naturally as we can.

Other Lifestyle Changes

There are the obvious ones – I’ve stopped caffeine entirely (which I think helped my indigestion a lot). I’m very careful about when I have alcohol – since I’m charting my cycle, I know where I am about 90% of the time, and when I’m unclear, I steer clear. This has meant some creative explaining to friends and whatever on occasion, since we aren’t talking about TTC in person, but most times, people haven’t noticed.

Very recently, I’ve started trying to get more exercise. With school, I have a tendency to be very sedentary – my life revolves around reading, doing assignments and writing papers – all of which require long periods of sitting. To help keep myself moving, I’ve started trying to do a little more walking around, as well as using our Wii more. We have a couple of exercise games, several of which are quite fun and get me moving for a half hour at a time without feeling it. In addition, I just started working with a friend of mine on starting yoga. She is a teacher, so she’s helping me feel out what’s the best routine for me and things. One of the things we’re working on is loosening my tight hips, which is supposed to help fertility – the idea is to improve blood flow to the area. Can’t hurt, right?

Overall, our attitude has been to try to improve my overall health – focusing on things that improve fertility, but in a holistic manner. Hopefully, this’ll help us get a natural BFP – or at least, puts me in the best possible position for when we have to turn to advanced medicine.

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Public v. Private Tragedy

While the US (and, I suspect, large parts of the rest of the world) is still reeling from the tragedy in Boston, I have several friends who are dealing with what I call “private tragedies.” They’re not personal tragedies, in that, a personal tragedy is generally something that a lot of people know about. I’m talking about things that people don’t talk about – or if they do, it’s on forums like this – impersonal, unconnected with their everyday life.

The thing about a national tragedy (and the sadness is piling up this week – Chicago is flooding and the explosion in Texas seems like a nightmare) is that, on an individual level, it does one of to things. First, it can give you perspective. In general, our day-to-day troubles aren’t that important, and it’s good to find perspective. Things that can seem really overwhelming get brought down to size when thinking about life and death. That can be really helpful. But, on the other hand, in the infertility world especially, it can serve to delegitimize what is already often secret pain.

“I mean, all it is was a failed cycle. Not that big of a deal, right? We can at least do a FET…”

“Based on what we found today, our only option might be IVF, and that’s before we’ve even started any other treatment…”

But here’s the thing – just because there was this big tragedy doesn’t make the pain you’re feeling in your own life less worthy. It’s a different experience to find out those things out on a day when there’s so much else going on, but it doesn’t make the repercussions on your own life less. You hear it occasionally “Oh, but nothing else matters right now except [insert tragedy here].” But life doesn’t work like that – you can’t turn off your own life when something happens.

I don’t mean to lessen the pain of Boston – people died, and others lives were changed forever. The institution of the Boston Marathon was changed forever as well. But, there is always space for the kind of life-changing pain that comes with infertility, and neither one diminishes the other.

Pain is pain, no matter the cause. Find your support. And reach out, as best you can – my comments are always open, of course, and so are lots of others out there. Even when you feel the most alone – to quote Mr. Rogers “there are always helpers.”

So…what’s the diagnosis?

In the world in my head, I imagine people sitting around discussing fertility diagnoses like they do on those medical shows, where there’s a rapid-fire discussion of symptoms and possible problems that fit. A round of testing, and suddenly, the mystery is solved. Unless of course you’re House, in which case it’s some brilliant bit of deduction (disclaimer: I have watched +/- 1 episode of House)

What’s Been Going On

So, after 12 cycles, almost all of those charting, we have some pretty good info on what’s going on with me.  The good news is that my cycles are fairly regular. The exact day I ovulate tends to differ depending on the month, but aside from that, it’s between 28 and 30 days. Even the three cycles that were longer followed the same pattern – during a time of stress, my body geared up to ovulate, stopped, waited just about ten days, and then ovulated. Which means, that in all 12 cycles, I ovulated. Big bonus.

DH and I have had some testing done, at around 6 months of trying deliberately. I had an HSG, which showed that my uterus is in fine shape, but there is potentially a blocked tube lurking. It’s hard to say without more investigation, but…that’s there. DH’s Semen Analysis came back normal, so as he says “I’m feeling potent!

Things I’m Pretty Sure it’s Not

  1. Male Factor Infertility (MFI) – Since DH’s SA came back normal, it’s unlikely to be Male Factor Infertility. This is important to rule out, since a lot more cases of infertility are caused by MFI than people realize – it’s seen as a “woman’s” problem.
  2. PCOS – This is a big deal, because I’m fairly sure this why my parents had trouble conceiving. Sometime soon, I’ll write a post talking about the family history of infertility, but for now, it’s nice to know that, whatever is going on, it’s not the same as theirs.
  3. Endometriosis – No symptoms, and no diagnosis. Obviously, this one can lurk in the background, but for now, I’m leaving it here.

Things it Could Be

  1. The most obvious – the potentially blocked tube is actually blocked and has just been messing with our timing, and either opening it or just riding it out for a little longer will get us where we want to be. If so, maybe this will be the shortest infertility blog ever.
  2. Some kind of hormone problem. This would most likely be progesterone, but there are other issues that could be there too.
  3. Premature Ovarian Failure – Meaning, my eggs are older than me and getting pregnant will be hard. Doubtful, as I have no symptoms of premature menopause, but it can also be asymptomatic.
  4. Hypothyroidism – My mother and my aunt (her sister) both have this, so I wonder sometimes if this could be it. I am hopeful that the RE will test for it, and if he or she doesn’t, I will likely ask for it.
  5. Something else that I don’t know about yet. And that’s really where this whole thing is going – what else are the doctor’s going to find out?
  6. Lastly – the hardest to understand – “unexplained” – meaning – we don’t know. And maybe we won’t know.

And that’s the thing of it. We’ve only just begun on this journey, and we don’t know what will happen next.

But we’ve started, and we have a direction to go. So that’s something.

Hello World!

Why now?

In the last 12 months, my husband and I have been trying to conceive our first child. For no reason we know yet, it hasn’t happened for us. We’ve used charting, and I have done a little bit of acupuncture. In February of this year, I had an HSG, which showed that I might have a blocked fallopian tube. At the end of this current cycle, my OB will refer us to an RE.

We had a small moment of hope last cycle – the only one we’ve had so far. It was a very faint second line on a test, the first one we’ve ever had – which was followed two days later by a negative test, and then 36 hours after that, AF. My response to those events and the realization that I needed a place to put those thoughts, is what propelled me to write.

What will I write about?

In part, it will depend on where our journey takes us. Part of the difficulty with infertility is the uncertainty. Another part will be telling the story of where we are now and how we got there. And finally, because it’s important to me, a part will likely be about the role faith is playing in this journey. We are Jewish, and it’s very important to us, so it will be part of my story. But, like everyone, I welcome readers of all backgrounds.

What’s the title about?

The thing is, aside from this, our life is really fantastic. As I was explaining to my husband last night, we are literally living our dream, and while it can be stressful and isn’t perfect, not many people get to do what we are doing. But, even with all that, there’s this one small thing – one small thing that can overshadow everything. So partially, it’s about reminding myself that life is good, outside of this area, and that that is important to remember as much as possible.

The other aspect is that I’m also an only, the product of my parents overcoming infertility in the mid-80s. And I was never meant to be an only – but they never got another miracle. So, I’m an only – and struggling with infertility.

Looking forward to getting to know you, and thanks for reading1