Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Coping with the Stresses of Infertility

Looking back on the last three years isn’t necessarily an easy thing for me, especially when I think of the emotions, anxiety, and depression I often felt about anything and everything stemming from trying to get pregnant.  It’s hard to explain the kind of heartache you go through when you feel like you’ve lost something as precious as motherhood through a miscarriage, only to find that month after month and year after year that was the closest you had ever been to your dream of becoming a parent.  Most of the time when I look back on those years, I try not to think about it.  Even though I am now seven months along in my pregnancy, they are still painful memories and reminders of what my husband and I might one day have to face again. 

I started out writing this post intending to simply talk about ways I coped through the stresses of infertility, and although there are many things I did find to be helpful, for the most part I look back and think of ways that I could have coped better, and how I should have been more positive.  I’m embarrassed to say there were periods of time during those few years that I mostly just existed- and I can’t even tell you how grateful I am for a husband who was so patient, loving and supportive of me even when I felt unable to be more than just that: existent.  And consumed by the one thing I couldn’t have despite everything wonderful that I did have.   There are many people I’ve known who struggle with infertility and pregnancy loss that I’ve felt have been much stronger and more positive than I am.  

But this is what I’ve realized:

·         The feelings I have of guilt and shame do absolutely NOTHING to help me.  They didn’t do anything to help me during those difficult years, when I felt a sense of failure and embarrassment not only because I couldn’t get pregnant, but also because I couldn’t overlook my inability to get pregnant and be happy anyway.  And they don’t do anything to help me now.  Please do not be hard on yourself! And if you find yourself struggling with that like I have, be as empathetic with yourself as you can realizing that what you’re going through is hard, and there will likely be times that the best you can do is just to simply exist.  Infertility is a much harder thing to go through than many people will ever come to realize, and comments will be made or left unsaid that will leave you feeling like the pain you feel is more than what it should be. 

·         Be careful if you compare your own ability to handle the stresses of infertility with another’s.  There is nothing wrong with admiring someone and being inspired; however, as much as we think our situation might be similar to someone else’s, or what they’ve experienced is far worse than your own circumstance, you might only be seeing a small part of the entire picture.  Don’t let someone else’s experience diminish your own. We each will handle something much differently than another.  And that’s okay, because our circumstances, environment, the support we feel, and our own emotions are unique to us.

·         It’s important to find a source of support.  If you are experiencing infertility with a spouse or a partner, find a way to be a support to one another.  My husband was definitely my primary support, but I found it helpful for us to also have at least one person outside of our relationship that we could talk to as well.  Whether it be through your spouse, family, friends, or someone you know that has experienced infertility as well, there is nothing quite like knowing someone else is understanding of and willing to listen to what you are going through. 

·         Finding something therapeutic to you is completely necessary, especially when calming the anxiety and depression that can often accompany infertility.  For my husband, this was soccer. For me, working out, listening to music, and reading books played a huge role.  However, as silly as this might sound to some, getting two little puppies was more therapeutic than we ever would have realized when we brought them home!  They have definitely been our babies for the last two years, and snuggling up to them after diagnostic exams, doctors appointments, blood draws, infertility treatments, negative pregnancy tests, and long days was always really soothing to me.  And it still is.  Find something that can be that same kind of soothing for you. 

For those that are reading this and struggling with infertility, realize that your situation is unique and it is hard.  I find myself having a lot of compassion towards you and what you’re going through.  Be patient with yourself and recognize that you’re going to have days where you might feel strong and at peace, and days or even long lengths of time where you feel you are barely making it. I’m still trying to ease up on myself and accept that I did the absolute best that I could. I hope that in some way my experience is able to help, or at least soothe, some of the distress you might be feeling in this moment.

 - Rachel


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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Endometriosis Treatment: How to Make Your Own Castor Oil Pack

After I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Endometriosis, I underwent a few surgeries in an effort to remove the endometriosis and be able to conceive a child. After several months of still not achieving pregnancy, I found out that the endometriosis had come back and I was right back to where I started! I was so frustrated and immediately started to research more natural ways to help decrease my endometriosis. During my research, I stumbled upon something I found really interesting and decided to give it a try! I want to make it clear that I have no medical proof that this was successful in shrinking my endometriosis, or in helping me achieve pregnancy. However, I was at a point where I was willing to try anything, so I did! What I found was Castor Oil packs! Here’s what you need to know about them and how you can make some of your own!

A Castor Oil Pack is basically just a cloth that is soaked in castor oil and then placed on the skin. This helps circulation and can promote the healing of the tissues and organs underneath the area of the skin that you place the pack. Castor oil has been used for centuries because of it’s incredible healing powers. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties and promotes an immune response when used topically instead of orally.[1]

In regards to fertility, Castor Oil Packs can be beneficial in supporting ovarian health, supporting fallopian tube health, supporting uterine health, detoxifying before conception, and supporting egg health.[2] Castor Oil packs are specifically great for women who have endometriosis as castor oil has been shown to increase lymphocyte production. Lymphocytes are disease fighting cells and are great in combating endometriosis and in reducing the pain that endometriosis causes women each month.[3]

If you feel like giving this a try, here is how you can make one! At first, I was really overwhelmed. But after doing it, I found that it was not as overwhelming as I had anticipated and I actually really enjoyed the process.

What you will need:

·         One flannel/cotton cloth

·         One bottle of castor oil- This can be purchased at a health foods store or Amazon.

·         Plastic wrap- Cut this one to two inches larger than your piece of flannel/cotton cloth.

·         Hot Water Bottle (the floppy kind) or an Electric Heating Pad- Personally, I preferred the electric heating pad because I could control when it got hot and for how long, etc.

·         Container with a lid- This is to store your cloth once you are done. For me, a mason jar worked great.

·         Old clothes and Sheets- Castor Oil will stain your clothing and bedding.

How to Prepare Your Pack:

·         Place the cloth in your container and soak it in castor oil. Make sure it is saturated, but it doesn’t need to be dripping.

·         Place the cloth over the affected area of the body. For fertility purposes, this will be your lower abdomen.

·         Cover the cloth with plastic.

·         Place the hot water bottle or electric heating pad on top of the plastic. Leave it on for 30-45 minutes. This is a great time to rest and relax!

·         Remove the pack and cleanse the area with a dilute solution of water and baking soda.

·         Place the pack back into the container and store it in your refrigerator. Each pack can be used 25-30 times before it needs to be replaced.

For best results, women should use a Castor Oil pack 3 times a week for 30-45 minutes each time.

I hope you give it a try! I really enjoyed it, and although I don’t have medical proof that it worked, I really felt like it made a difference and the relaxing time you get while doing it was totally worth it!

- Kamryn

[1] Bond, Miranda. (2015, March 24). Why Castor Oil Packs are great for Endometriosis. Retrieved from www.myendocoach.com/castor-oil-packs/
[2] Barton-Schuster, Dalene. ( 2015, November 1). Castor Oil Therapy for Reproductive Health. Retrieved from www.natural-fertility-info.com/castor-oil-therapy
[3] Bond, Miranda.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Water Hysterosonography: AKA H20 Ultrasound

Many times, before your fertility clinic will proceed with any type of treatment, there are certain tests that need to be done, to help ensure the treatment has the greatest chance of success. One of those is the HSG exam which you can read about here. However, there is another test, called a Water Hysterosonography, or in short, an H20 ultrasound. This may be done in exchange for the HSG exam or your doctor may request that you complete both. Either way here is a little bit of information about the H20 Ultrasound.

A H20 ultrasound is basically a specialized procedure that is used to examine the inside lining of your uterus. It can check for abnormal bleeding, endometrial polyps or sub mucosal fibroids. Checking for these things is important before moving forward with a treatment such as an IUI or IVF because if the lining of your uterus does have any of these things, it can prevent a successful implantation of the embryo.

The procedure it self is pretty basic. First, your doctor will perform a pelvic exam using a speculum to identify the cervical canal. From there a small catheter or tube is positioned in the cervical canal and into the uterine cavity. At this point your doctor allows a sterile saline water to be injected into the uterus. This basically blows the uterus up like a balloon and then a transvaginal ultrasound is performed to look at the lining of the uterus. Once your doctor has seen everything he or she needs to, the catheter is removed and you are all done.

I had this procedure done twice before my first round of IVF. Most people don’t need to have it done twice, but I was lucky enough that, due to a mix up in my cycle days, I had it done twice! My experience with it was actually really good. Everything went in the exact order as spoken about above and I didn’t experience any pain at all. Things did get a bit uncomfortable when they had the ultrasound wand and catheter in because it gets a bit crowded, but it most definitely was not painful. It was also a bit of a weird sensation when they filled my uterus with the saline water. It kind of felt like I was being frozen from the inside out. By far the worst part of the whole procedure was when all that saline water had to come out. I imagine it’s a lot like having your water break! After the procedure, I did experience a bit of cramping throughout the day, but nothing severe and if you are super concerned about it, just take a few Tylenol before starting!

Overall, it’s a procedure that you don’t need to get too nervous about! It is definitely worth having done, and, after just a quick 15-20 minutes, it’s over and you can have peace of mind knowing that nothing inside your uterus will prevent those little embryos from implanting.

- Kamryn

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Infertility After My Miracle Baby

This is a post that I have really gone back and forth on writing, and I really feel that I have to start it out with this disclaimer. My little girl is now 13 months old and if she is the only child that God blesses my husband and I with, then we are more than grateful for her. She is the best thing that has ever happened to us and more than enough for us. That being said, infertility forces you to look at your future and the future of your family in a completely different way.

At the hospital, when she was laid on my chest for the first time, I could not have been any happier. We had worked so hard for this moment, the best moment of my entire life. For one quick second I remember thinking, “Enjoy this. Savor it. You may not get this moment ever again.” So that is what I did. It took so long to get her here, that I was afraid of losing her. I was afraid to have a desire to want more children, because I didn’t want anyone to ever think that I wasn’t grateful for the wonderful gift that I had already received. Over the past few weeks, I have learned that wanting another child does not mean I love her less or don’t recognize my miracle. In fact, part of the reason I would love more children is FOR HER.

To be honest, I didn’t know if I would EVER feel ready to try to expand my family again. Going through infertility the first time was such a difficult time for me. I couldn’t imagine going through the needles, the doctor’s visits, and the stress of it all again. But here I am, 13 months later, thinking that someday my sweet girl would make the most amazing older sister. She is so sweet, kind, and loving and LOVES other kids so much. I can imagine her giving her little brother or sister hugs and kisses, holding their hand as they toddle down the hallway, and fighting over their favorite toys in the living room. I want to be able to give her those experiences, a best friend who loves her no matter what and has her back at all times.

I have always pictured myself having three children, and maybe a fourth if that felt right for my family. However, infertility has forced me to revisit my dream. First of all, can we afford three children? We have two snow babies (frozen embryos) right now. However, I really want to be prepared to fully pay for another round of IVF or adoption if they do not work. If that were our only chance and it failed, I’m not sure I could handle it emotionally. I need to know we are prepared no matter the circumstance. That being said, in order for us to be able to save up enough for that, it will take a while. So, that is what we are doing now. We are saving every extra penny we have, so that if and when God tells us it is time, we are ready. Secondly, what if our two embryos don’t make it? To us, those are our babies. And that will be a very heartbreaking time for us. Thirdly, can I do it? Can I handle the emotional and physical stress of it? Going through IVF the first time, I had no idea what to expect and I think there is some kind of strange grace in not knowing. I feel like I have worked it up even more in my head now, after going through it, and am stressing more than I need to! Depending on the results from our snow babies, if we do need to move forward with another round of IVF or adoption there are so many things to consider and so many different challenges for each situation.
I feel like I have grown a lot and feel very differently approaching and battling infertility now than I did two years ago, which I am grateful for. Before, hearing pregnancy announcements and going to baby showers were very difficult things for me. I was so happy for my friends, but I was also desperately sad and jealous for myself. Even after getting pregnant, it was hard to get rid of that feeling. I was constantly having to remind myself that I was pregnant, same as them, no matter how I got there. Slowly those feelings finally decreased. Now, many of my friends are having their second child and I am much more at peace with these announcements and invitations than I was before. However, I still catch myself wishing it were that easy for us. Wishing that my husband and I could just decide we were ready for a second child and start trying. Wishing we didn’t have to figure out how to come up with an extra $20,000-$25,000. Wishing we didn’t have to go through the stress of infertility. It is at these times that I have to remind myself how good God truly is and how grateful I am that we are able to have children. No matter the circumstance, as long as God tells us to persevere, that is what we will do. Infertility is hard, but it is not the end. We will have the family God desires for us, no matter our diagnosis.

- Shauni

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Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Make Nutritional Choices To Boost Your Fertility

Eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle is something we should ALWAYS be trying to work towards, but it is also very important for conception and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. 

Here are just a few reasons that it’s important to focus on healthy choices:
v Helps with hormone imbalances
v Gives you energy
v Creates/maintains a healthy reproductive system
v Creates optimal health
v May decrease chances of a miscarriage1

According to a Harvard study that was done, switching to a fertility diet decreased infertility by 80%!2  That just goes to show that there is something in this journey of infertility that we may actually have control over, and it has a pretty big weigh in too. 

It only makes sense that if your body isn’t healthy, it’s probably working overboard just to take care of itself without adding another little person into the equation.  Obviously there are other factors to consider when trying to become pregnant, but whether medical intervention is necessary or not, why not boost your chances of pregnancy by making sure your health is at it’s best!

One of my favorite books about maximizing fertility is Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility. I love how simple and to the point it is, as well as the different infertility stories that are shared throughout the book that are so easy to relate to.  Some of the key nutritional guidelines suggested in the book to follow include:

v Eating fresh, seasonal, and organic food
v Eating whole grains
v Eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables
v Eating healthy fats
o   Essential Fatty Acids such as fish, flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil are some of the best sources to get those Omega-3’s. 
v Getting an adequate amount of quality protein
o   It has been found that not getting enough protein is linked with poor egg quality.
o   Ideas for protein sources include:
§  Meat
§  Fish
§  Eggs
§  Dairy
§  Vegetable sources
§  Beans
§  Lentils
§  Brown rice
§  Quinoa
§  Other whole grains
§  Nuts
§  Seeds
v Choosing alkaline foods
v And of course, DRINK PLENTY OF WATER!  (General recommendation is 8, 8 oz. glasses a day). 

*One of the above suggestions listed is eating organic foods and this is something that I struggled with as they can be SO expensive! BUT, there are some major health benefits, especially for those who may already be having problems regulating their hormones.  Non-organic foods contain chemicals, pesticides, and other contaminants that are hard on our bodies.  Non-organic meats and dairy have added hormones that interfere with our own, making it difficult for our bodies to find balance.  

v Foods to stay away from:
v Trans fats
v Refined sugar
v Artificial sweeteners

Basically, if you stick to whole foods, you’re golden!

My favorite part of all is that they recommend following the 80% rule- they don’t expect you to eat 100% healthy 100% of the time. In fact, they want you to cheat! Thank goodness.  It’s all about making realistic goals for yourself that you’ll be able to stick to and be positive about, rather than causing unnecessary stress to something that can already be stressful.  The key is consistency.3


1 Rodriguez, Hethir.  The Natural Fertility Diet: How to Eat for Optimal Fertility.  Retrieved from http://natural-fertility-info.com/fertility-diet

2 Rodriguez, Hethir. 

3 Sami S., David; Blakeway, Jill.  (2009).  Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility.  New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company

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