Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting Pregnant. Part Two.

I try not to take for granted that my profession and education sometimes puts me ahead of the game so to speak. But, I know in this case it is what pushed me to seek better answers, better solutions, and most of all trust in my body.

First I talked to my acupuncturist. I had been receiving treatments for stomach issues on pretty regular basis for several years and the woman I was seeing at the time also happen to treat a lot of woman receiving IVF treatments. She immediately recommended that I start taking chaste tree berry to help naturally regulate my hormones. After a little research I felt confident with the recommendation and started the gross little drops daily. Around this time we also put a bid in on our house and started making plans for our big move. It allowed for some distraction and prevented me from concentrating to much on the issue. I also started working out 5 days a week before work, stretching daily, and focusing even more what I was foods I was putting into my body.

Months and months go by. No baby.

At this point we're almost a year into "trying." More of our friends are getting pregnant and having babies. More and more people are starting to inquire about our intentions to start a family. What do you say?..."My ovaries suck" Realistically you know that very few people actually want to hear about your problems. Besides, what did I expect them to say in response?

I did confide in a few close friends that we were trying but it wasn't a topic I really wanted to talk about in real depth. I knew at the time and even more so now that I was shutting people out of the discussion. I had very strong feelings that I wanted to conceive a baby naturally. I really wanted to trust if I wasn't getting pregnant it was because my body knew something I didn't. I think I knew the more I heard other people doubting that the more I would myself.

I decided to spend money out of pocket to consult with a holistic medical doctor with more than 20 years of experience in woman's health who was not covered by our insurance. Unfortunately in our healthcare system it's difficult to find a doctor that will spend an entire hour listening to you and talking to you about not just your 'problem' but your diet, your sleep habits, your entire lifestyle. I feel very fortune to have had the access to such a remarkable woman and healthcare provider.

After our examination, consultation, and another round of blood work, I was diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Basically woman with PCOS have a hormonal imbalance that prevents ovulation. The ovaries start to grow follicles that would normally develop into a mature egg but with PCOS the hormones necessary to stimulate full mature of an egg are absent, so the follicles build up and remain on the ovaries as a cyst.

It is the most common cause of female infertility and unfortunately they don't really know what causes it. There is a lot of information on the web about PCOS symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. I didn't really fit the typical prototype but a lot of things did make sense after I was diagnosed: I had been struggling with acne for a long time; I had a lot of trouble losing weight, particularly from my midsection even with a strict diet and exercise; I had suffered with irregular and painful menstrual cycles; and of course the whole infertility thing. All of these things (aside from the actual infertility) had actually started to improve since I initiated the chaste tree berry, which I took as a good sign. The doctor recommended that I continue with the chaste tree berry, try a gluten free diet, serious re-evaluate my life in order to find ways to decrease my stress levels, and start getting acupuncture again.

A few more months go by with little change. At this point I decide it's time to get a new OB/GYN. After a bit of trial and error, I ended up finding a great practice and an open minded doctor. He completely agreed with the PCOS diagnosis and even confirmed it with an in office ultrasound of my ovaries showing loads of cysts. When I told him I was looking to treat the problem as naturally as possible, he responded, "I would love to help you but I don't really know what we can do to treat this naturally." I believe he was really sincere. Sadly, he really didn't know any options that didn't include medication or invasive procedures. He gave me a prescription for Clomid, what he thought was my best option and recommended I try to chart my basal body temperature (which I was already doing at this point).

I carried around that prescription for months. It was stuffed in the back section of my planner where I would occasionally come across it. It seemed easy enough to pop a pill for a few day and like magic we'd have a baby. But, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. It just didn't feel like the right thing to me. It was getting to the point where Jim was even leaning toward giving it a try. The poor man had been listening to me for over a year. Every month you have to go through the same emotions....Overthinking symptoms such as fatigue just hoping that it means something.The negative pregnancy tests. Waiting for your damn period so you can get started on your next try. Getting your period. Calculating your ovulation window which is really hard if you're cycle is irregular. Hoping that you nailed it this time. Trusting your body. More waiting.

In the end you're left trying to convince yourself that it doesn't mean you have failed as a woman. I just kept thinking about how a woman's body was meant to do this, but what if mine wasn't. I know that a lot of woman face problems with infertility and deal with very similar emotions. I also know that other woman have trouble conceiving a second or third child or have to face the hardships and emotions after a miscarriage. But there is something so isolating and desolate about not knowing whether you are even capable of getting pregnant at all. For some people these emotions are so strong that they'll do anything to get pregnant, including expensive medication and invasive procedures with terrible side effects, serious potential risks, and no absolute guarantee that you'll get pregnant or avoid a miscarriage. The emotion of all of it seemed like more than I personally could ever handle. Jim and I decided at the two year mark we would start looking into adoption.

So, how did I end up getting pregnant? I continued taking chaste tree berry, until the end of my first trimester in fact to support my progesterone production. I quit my stress producing job, stop commuting over an hour one way to work, and tried to surround my life with all things zen and calm. I sought out regular acupuncture treatment and herbal remedies. Including a concoction meant to dissolves cysts that caused me to have the worst case of abdominal bloating, followed by an extremely heavy period with deep red clots. During this period a cyst in my arm also noticeably reduced in size. I followed this by a course of Chinese herbs designed to support each phase of your menstrual cycle by taking a different blend each of the four weeks. I continued to support my body through good nutrition, exercise, and yoga.

Through it all I had confidence in my body and trusted the process. It was probably the hardest part of it all. I had to constantly remind myself that my body needed time to adjust to the changes I was making through natural supplements and my chosen treatment options. As a chiropractor I'm constantly telling patients that healing takes time. Your body doesn't adapt to changes, good or bad, overnight. I don't think I've ever understood so fully why people take the easy way out. But, I've also never been so happy that I had the strength, knowledge, and support to take the long road.

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