There were two Social Media campaigns run recently that I got involved with, miscarriage awareness week and fertility week. I had a look through all the posts linked with the relevant hashtags 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. Afterwards 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. 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) I wish we had 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 my GP 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. Then after our failed FET 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? After trying two others, I now have a brilliant Acupuncturist. She is helping me with fertility but she also helps with other things too, knee pain, bad sleep etc, she looks at everything. It could be a placebo effect, who knows, but it makes me feel good every time I see her. Find the people who listen and make you feel good.
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) 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. Ideally you would work with a nutritionist who can help find what is right for you. *Updated edit – I have since worked with a Nutritionist, Rosie Tadman who has been amazing in pinpointing exactly what I should be taking. Skip the guessing and find someone like her to help 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, genetically modified foods, soy, pesticides, sugars and artificial sweeteners. It Starts With The Egg also has a chapter on foods to eat and avoid. I’m mentioning these books because they helped me get on track but I picked what I wanted from both, rather than committing to everything laid out. I am not someone who could follow such a restrictive diet, so please don’t get too caught up in this. I found keeping a food diary helped and actually when I did this, I saw for example that I wasn’t eating enough fruit each day. Knowing I am doing as best I can is sufficient for me.
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 the #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. Going through infertility can be really lonely so it helps to have people around you who will support and listen to you. And if you find that people on social media starts making you feel jealous or you find that you compare – mute and unfollow where needed. And if you haven’t yet, delete Facebook!