Every now and then there are Social Media campaigns run in the world that is Instagram, that I like to join in with. I don’t tend to get involved or have the time for these things (too busy pretending to be busy) but two that were run before Christmas, miscarriage awareness week and fertility week, I felt I had something to contribute towards. The idea of campaigns like these is that you share a post talking about the fertility problems you are going through or have experienced and you use the relevant hashtag so people can look through all the linked posts. The overall outcome being that hopefully in sharing, it will join people together and make others feel less alone. After taking part I had a look through all the posts and read many honest and open stories. Stories from women who are desperate for a child, who have various problems that prevent them from having one naturally and whose only option is assisted help. After reading I had a bit of a lightbulb moment (well for me it’s more like someone slowly turning a switch on and off, repeatedly, for a long time) I realised that in hindsight we bowled headlong into IVF when we didn’t need to. There is nothing wrong with my husband or I per se – well, nothing that has flagged up on any kind of test. We easily conceived our first child we just frustratingly can’t conceive a second, we have unexplained secondary infertility. My point being that I realised we didn’t have to have IVF – we chose to have it. Now that I know what a stress and strain IVF is, I think (we both think) we should have waited before going down that route. There were perhaps other avenues we could have explored before IVF. Hindsight eh. Off the back of this lightbulb ping I was pondering about what I wish I could rewind the clock for and go back and tell myself. Here are six things that I wish had been on my radar four years ago.
What tests to ask for
I was pretty clueless when I rocked up to my GP back in 2015 and asked to be referred for fertility tests. I honestly didn’t have one iota what to ask for, I was just desperate to be in the ‘system’ and naturally assumed that being referred meant that all bases were being covered. Fast forward to a year later and a different GP flagged that I had an underactive Thyroid and was still producing breast milk – both these things separately effect fertility in their own way. Had I had a list of things to run through a year earlier, who knows what difference it might have made but at least everything would have been looked at in one go. As a start you should ask your GP exactly what will be tested, what each test means and ask them about the following: LH (Luteninizing Hormone) FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) AMH (Ovarian Reserve) Thyroid, Progesterone and Prolactin.
To be more in tune with my body
I wish I’d been more aware of what was happening with my body. Yes when we tried for our daughter five and a bit years ago I knew about cervical mucus – we can talk about this freely now, no shame – I knew ovulation happened on a certain date etc, but I still didn’t really understand what was going on in my own body. I was putting far too much trust into Ovulation Sticks. My monthly cycle used to be a regular 30 days but my first chemical pregnancy (I’ve had several now, lucky me) put paid to that and my periods then went haywire. After our last failed IVF round, my cycle went back to about 30 days but since September it’s been playing silly buggers and has been anything from 24-35 days. Something is amiss that’s for sure. I read a brilliant book recently called Period Repair Manual (highly recommended whether trying to conceive or not) which is great for finding out more about what’s going on and what supplements to take to help certain things. Off the back of reading this and from simply wanting to know more about what my body was doing, I bought a brilliant device called Ovusense. It helps you pinpoint ovulation by reading your core body temperature. I wish I had had this three years ago because the information it’s given me to date is invaluable. I’m 40 (weeps) and am only really learning how my body works, which is really a bit too late down the line!
Finding a good Practitioner
There are so many things you can spend your money on when trying to conceive, anything from massages, reflexology, acupuncture, hypnotherapy or seeing a counsellor. What will help you best? I saw an acupuncturist for a while then swapped to someone new after my miscarriage. He has been great but I’ve put seeing him on hold for now as it was getting too expensive to go every month. I’ve now found someone more local to me and she is amazing. She listens to everything I saw, wants to know everything that is wrong and what happened with my cycle, whereas the previous practitioner didn’t seem too bothered. I also saw a reflexologist a few years ago but as wonderful as she was, she would regularly tell me off for not taking my basal body temperature. Every time I saw her I’d have to spend ten minutes discussing why I hadn’t taken it (errr I forgot?) but she never really explained why it was so important to do this (I now know, dur) I stopped seeing her in the end because it all got too annoying. However, a good friend has recently qualified as a reflexologist and it’s back in my life again. I’ve come full circle with it and I love it, oh and she doesn’t tell me off. Things come in and out of your life at the right times I believe. It’s whatever works for you, it may take some time and trial and error to find your fit but it will be worth it.
What supplements to take
There are SO many supplements you could take when trying to conceive. Every time you read something new online you fall down a wormhole researching and investigating what has been recommended (well I do anyway). If I read somewhere that taking camel dung capsules would increase your chances of getting pregnant then I’d probably give them a go! (they don’t and I haven’t by the way) It’s taken me roughly the entire time we’ve been trying to find what I think works for me and you need to find what works for you. Research the hell out of this. Obviously there is the standard Folic Acid but what else can you or should you be taking? Read the period book I mentioned above and ‘It Starts With The Egg‘ as a reference point and if you’re on the downward side of 35 like me, have a look at Aimee Raupp’s ‘Yes You Can Get Pregnant‘ (it’s a bit ‘out there’ but still worth a read) I take a few of the supplements recommended in all three books. Pick out things that will (hopefully) work for you.
Knowing the best food to be eating
Something I wish I had been more aware of three years ago is how diet can effect fertility and also egg quality. I finally recognise that I need to nourish my body. I’m eating far less meat and loads more vegetables. I feel like I’m actually helping my body and it appreciates it (apart from at the weekend, everything falls apart then!) The book I mentioned above, Yes You Can Get Pregnant talks about six big no’s when it comes to eating for fertility namely, gluten (can aggravate your immune system), genetically modified foods (similar to gluten and are being linked to autoimmune diseases), soy (can be a hormone disrupter), pesticides (on fruit and vegetables can have a profound effect on your reproductive health), sugars (can cause your blood sugar to spike) and artificial sweeteners (can have toxic effects on our bodies). It Starts With The Egg also has a chapter on foods to eat and avoid. I have been strict at times with cutting out gluten etc but now find that having some, along with a 90% healthy diet and one coffee a day suits me well, thanks very much.
Find your tribe
As cheesy as it sounds this is something I truly believe in now and something I wish I had been more aware of when we started down the IVF route. After my miscarriage I discovered a whole #ttccommunity (ttc = trying to conceive)on Instagram and this opened the door to a group of likeminded, caring women who are going through or who have been through similar situations. Everyone is incredibly supportive and outside of my friends and family, for me it’s important to have these connections. There is whole TTC community on Instagram but I have about four ladies on there who I message sporadically. We check in on each other every now and again and it’s really nice to have those who you can be honest and open with. Going through infertility is often really lonely so you need people around you who will support and listen to you. On the flip side, because Instagram often makes you compare, if anyone makes me feel low or I find myself comparing myself to anyone negatively I mute or unfollow those people. Negativity isn’t needed in your life, find what and who makes you happy. I wish I’d been more conscious of this three years ago.