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February 2019

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Inflammation and Infertility

February 25, 2019

Written by Laura Gilstrap, Guest Blogger

The female body is amazing. We are creatures of resilience. Of elegance. Of beauty.  We carry life, birth life, and provide nutrients for life…all while working full time jobs, running households and hitting the gym. Literally, we are astonishing.

The immune system of a woman also deserves a lot of attention. When you really think about it, our reproductive system has an incomparable capacity to resolve inflammation. Each menstrual cycle, we clear tissue and waste and then quickly regenerates back to base-line.  Only to do it over and over again.

So, lets break down inflammation. There are 2 forms of inflammation – acute and chronic. Acute inflammation is just that, a quick addition of blood flow to the damaged area to promote healing. It is characterized by the presence of white blood cells and phagocytes (immune cells that clear the inflamed area.) Acute inflammation is a natural part of many reproductive process. Hormonal changes resulting in egg maturation, ovulation, and endometrial lining changes all have a normal inflammatory component. 

Chronic inflammation on the other hand, results when the acute immune response remains active. Chronic inflammation can disrupt ovulation, hormone balance, and implantation. Conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, early menopause, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, poor sperm and egg quality, and premature ovarian failure have all been linked to chronic inflammation and adverse pregnancy outcomes. Inflammation is also likely to be associated with other prominent aspects of PCOS including insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction, and cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors. (1).

As a woman battling PCOS, I am no stranger to chronic inflammation reaping havoc in the body. I can still remember being diagnosed.  The OB told me “you will never have children naturally.”  I cried.  Oh, did I cry.  And then…I researched.  I read anything and everything there was to read about PCOS.  It became my life.

Because of PCOS, I battled years of painful infertility treatment. I found myself alienating fertile friends, avoiding events with children and young families, and feeling overcome with anxiety. Having the knowledge and motivation to combat PCOS’s inflammatory properties is how I survived this life-changing syndrome. Honestly, any reproductive concerns that incorporates excess pain suggests the body is experiencing a large amount of inflammation and needs to be addressed personally, medically and/or holistically.

Recently, inflammation has been heavily studied as a fertility challenge because inflammation is a very complex biological response of vascular tissue to a harmful stimuli.  Basically, it means the body is reacting to an irritation, infection, or injury.

One of the most important markers of inflammation is C-reactive protein (CRP). CRP is an acute-phase reactant produced by hepatocytes under the stimulatory control of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6 and tumor necrosis factor ? (TNF?) (2). Growing evidence supports the concept that CRP may not be the only marker, but also a mediator of inflammatory processes (3,4).  Investigators at The Center for Human Reproduction, under the leadership of David H. Barad, recently completed a study which demonstrated inflammatory blood markers, CRP and IL-6, had statistically highly significant predictability if elevated with diminished IVF outcomes (pregnancy and live birth rates) and increased miscarriage risk.

Inflammation is both triggered and worsened by stress, lifestyle and diet.  If you’re looking to begin the healing process, holistic and natural therapies are great starting point. Here are a few ideas:

  • Just Relax! (Which is literally the WORST thing you can ever say to an infertile woman). But sadly, it’s true. Chronic stress stimulates the inflammatory response. Try incorporating therapies like yoga, fertility massage, meditation, mind-body programs, nightly baths, aromatherapy, journaling or anything that resonates with you, to reduce stressors in your life.
  • Consume more fresh and raw fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruit and veggies are high in antioxidants and food enzymes, which act as natural anti-inflammatories. Their antioxidants help quench free radicals which run rapid in inflamed bodies. Fresh foods are also alkalizing and detoxifying, helping to remove chemicals like uric acid.
  • Eat More Fat! Yep…I said it…EAT. FAT.  Now, hear me out…

The body needs a healthy balance of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids for multiple reasons such as reproductive health, blood clotting, blood pressure control, and immune function. Excess consumption of Omega-6’s can trigger the body to produce pro-inflammatory chemicals potentially leading to chronic inflammatory diseases. In general, Omega-6’s are pro-inflammatory while Omega-3’s are anti-inflammatory. (5)

Omega-6 fatty acids are found in plant oils such as sunflower, safflower, and corn oils, but they are also present in cereals, corn-fed animal fat, and wholegrain bread.

The fats I recommend eating are Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), also know as Omega-3 Essential Fatty Acids. EPA is the lipid structure our body uses to make beneficial prostaglandins that reduce inflammation.

Rich dietary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include cold water fish such as salmon, trout, herring, tuna, and cod, and green leafy vegetables, flaxseed, and rapeseed oils. Increase intake of monounsaturated fats from plant foods like avocado, nuts and seeds, and olive oil also help fight inflammation and nourish the reproductive system.

Optimal dietary intakes of the Omega-6’s and Omega-3’s?ratio should be around 1:4?(6).

  • Increase Fiber and Pre & Probiotic Consumption: Kombucha, unprocessed whole grains, legumes, and beans help to regulate insulin levels, metabolize excess estrogen, and pull inflammatory toxins out of the body.
  • Kick Gluten to the Curb! Gluten is a protein found in grains. It’s common in foods such as bread, pasta, pizza, and cereal. Gluten provides no essential nutrients. People who are sensitive to gluten can have symptoms anywhere in the body when partially digested gluten fragments leak from the intestine into the bloodstream. Unlike other proteins, gluten is not completely digested. In some people, the immune system sees gluten as the enemy and will unleash compounds to attack it, causing inflammation in the intestines as well as other organs and tissues.
  • Daily Turmeric (curcumin):?Turmeric contains curcumin, which is widely studied for its therapeutic effects on IL-6, CRP, and TNF-?. One particular study published by the Journal of Reproductive Infertility studied 72 female rats with outcomes showing that the anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects of curcumin on PCOS may be due to its inhibitory effect on expression and levels of TNF-?, serum IL-6 and CRP. (7) Take turmeric or curcumin with a meal containing fats (they’re fat soluble) and be sure to include black pepper extract to boost its absorbability and bioavailability.
  • Proteolytic Enzymes:?Enzymes like trypin, rutin, bromelain, papain, pancreatin, and chymotrypsin are thought to help break down the chemicals involved in inflammation.

Typical acute inflammation is a necessary component for cellular repair during ovulation, menstruation, implantation, and birth. While acute inflammation helps repair your body, chronic inflammation is detrimental to homeostasis and is known to be the root cause of a variety of imbalances in the body.

You can reverse the damaging effects of inflammation on the reproductive system just by making healthier lifestyle choices. Limit alcohol, caffeine, and/or smoking and by eating clean and colorful. An inflammatory response can also be triggered by physical, mental, and emotional stress.  Take a step back and focus on yourself if you have to. Inflammation reduction will not only help your reproductive system, it will help promote a healthier mind, body, and soul for you AND your future baby.

Just remember, your path may be a different one, a slower one, but are on it and your goals can be reached.

References

  1. Ross R. Atherosclerosis–an inflammatory disease. N Engl J Med. 1999;340:115–26

2. Castell JV, Gomez-Lechon MJ, David M, Andus T, Geiger T, Trullenque R, et al. Interleukin-6 is the major regulator of acute phase protein synthesis in adult human hepatocytes. FEBS Lett. 1989;242:237–9

3. Han KH, Hong KH, Park JH, Ko J, Kang DH, Choi KJ, et al. C-reactive protein promotes monocyte chemoattractant protein-1–mediated chemotaxis through upregulating CC chemokine receptor 2 expression in human monocytes. Circulation. 2004;109:2566–71

4. Venugopal SK, Devaraj S, Jialal I. Effect of C-reactive protein on vascular cells: evidence for a proinflammatory, proatherogenic role. Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2005;14:33–7

5. E. Patterson,   R. Wall,  G. F. Fitzgerald,  R. P. Ross, and C. Stanton. Health Implications of High Dietary Omega-6 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids. J Nutr Metab. 2012; 2012: 539426

6. Calder PC. Polyunsaturated fatty acids, inflammatory processes and inflammatory bowel diseases. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2008;52(8):885–897

7. S. Mohammadi, P. Kayedpoor, L. Karimzadeh-Bardei, and M. Nabiuni. The Effect of Curcumin on TNF-?, IL-6 and CRP Expression in a Model of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome as an Inflammation State. J Reprod Infertil. 2017 Oct-Dec; 18(4): 352–360

If you’d like to connect with Laura, you can find her on Instagram and her Nutrition Instagram, as well as Facebook and her Website!

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs

Renewed Hope

February 19, 2019

Written by Krystle Edelson, Guest Blogger

Our story with secondary infertility includes some of the darkest days of my life.  Many days I wondered when the sun would shine in my heart again, but what I’m hoping to highlight by sharing our story, is that while it was overwhelmingly difficult, and the weeping felt like it lasted for endless evenings – the hope and promise of “joy in the morning” we find in scripture is true.

My husband and I talked early and often about starting our family. Because of a family history and inconsistent cycles, I figured we might have a harder time conceiving. So, we decided together to start “trying” for a family about 2 years into marriage. After months turned into over a year, we were recommended to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist (fertility doc). Once we got up the courage, our Dr. was able to assess things and get us on track to conceive only 3 months after meeting him. Fast forward to today, and we have a precious 5-year-old biological daughter. She is our delight and joy. Now, after all the early days of sleeplessness and sheer exhaustion began to wane, we started talking about continuing to grow our family.

While the months of “trying” stretched on for us, we figured we just needed a little extra help again. Back we went to our doctor, who recommended a procedure that we had gone through before conceiving our daughter. Now just a couple months back into the game, I went through the procedure, and that following month I conceived. We were shocked and thrilled! But that thrill was short-lived after some testing revealed I was expected to miscarry. At that time, I had heard the statistic that 1 in 4 women will miscarry; I had read the countless stories of tear-filled mommas who had gripped their bellies with the hope of life only to see it fade away from reality. I knew that thought is never far from a new momma’s mind, still, we clung to the promises and sought to hold that little life with open hands. And while I tried to prepare my heart for the worst, once the little life inside me slipped away I realized one can never fully prepare for the emotions that come.

After giving my body a little time to heal, we jumped back in with a new plan and renewed hope (if you’ve walked through infertility you know that cycle of excited hope, anticipation during the two-week wait, and disappoint when it doesn’t happen – all too well). Well, four months later we were pregnant again! Then just a few weeks later, on the eve of our 6th wedding anniversary we found ourselves grieving over another child we didn’t get to meet. We hugged our JG a little closer and pressed on, weary but still very hopeful.

Fast forward to the nearly 3-year mark of praying, hoping and waiting, we had completed our 14th (yes, 14!) and final IUI. I know this gives some people early in their wait heart palpitations! BUT before you go and allow your heart to fear, please keep in mind the reason we did so many, is simply because every genetic test, procedure, ultrasound, and (many!) blood tests had come back completely normal. Our doctor always expressed that he believed it would happen again for us, and my husband’s insurance was very comprehensive. Additionally, each cycle was “perfect” medically speaking.

Throughout these exhausting months, and multiple miscarriages we always sought to press on in trusting the Lord’s timing and the wisdom He gave to our doctor. But then came the point, where it was clear my body couldn’t keep up with the physically and emotionally exhaustive treatments. It was our personal decision to not move forward with IVF, and so we made the difficult, but confident decision to stop everything.

It took approximately 1,095 days, achieving pin cushion status, countless negative tests, the mourning of precious lives lost in between, every bit of the Holy Spirit’s help and a whole village of people praying for us, but we finally arrived at a place of peace and acceptance. It was a long season of wrestling, waiting, listening, hoping, and ultimately surrendering. Good, but hard soul-work that has yielded an intimacy with Christ that we wouldn’t trade for the world.

But our story doesn’t end there. When I pause and reflect on where secondary-infertility has brought us today. There’s no denying that the providence of my unfulfilled desire to carry another child brought us to hearts pregnant with the hope of another child who does not share our DNA; yet, was always meant for us and us for him, from the beginning of time. We just arrived home in November with our son from China. That’s right! All the years of heartache weren’t without purpose, they led us straight to our precious son.

Unexplained infertility would have never been our plan to bring us to our son (and it’s not always the answer for everyone walking the same road), but here we are, and I find myself unable to thank God enough for His infinite wisdom and for allowing us this front-row seat to watch Him work in details big and small. 

Now, for those still in the wait, still longing with the worst anticipation to see their wombs and arms filled with life, I only have so many words I can share here, but in case you’re grasping for some hope right now, I wrote a post here to encourage others. If you feel so led, please take a moment to read. You are beautiful sister, and your identity is not wrapped up in being a mother – or not. God is faithful to help you bloom where you are planted right now. Keep pressing on and fighting the fight of faith!

If you’d like to connect with Krystle, you can find her on Instagram or her Blog

Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

A Note For My Littlest Valentine

February 14, 2019

Written by Brooke Papp, WTF Contributor

To my littlest Valentine growing in my belly –

Your daddy and I have been waiting for you for quite some time and we are anxiously awaiting your arrival!

After our two losses of angel babies before you, I can’t say we had given up hope but I can say we were slightly defeated so with every single movement or kick or body slam on my bladder, I am amazed at the strong little girl you are. You are definitely the Rainbow we’ve been waiting for after our storm.

I can’t wait to meet you and see who’s features you have or if it’s the perfect mixture of both of us. I can’t wait to be there for your milestones and hear your fears and dreams and listen to your imagination soar.

I can’t wait to be tested in all the steps of parenthood and to grow together in ways I didn’t know were possible. But for now, just finish cookin’ and we will meet you when you’re ready to make your long awaited debut.

Happy Valentine’s Day to the one who is going to change my life and be my forever Valentine, your daddy and I are already so smitten!

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If you’d like to connect with Brooke, you can find her over on Instagram


Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

The Path Less Traveled

February 12, 2019

Written by Marci Thomas, Guest Blogger

Hi Friends! I am excited to share a little bit of my story with you. I am a 37-year-old single and never married lady who is ready to be a mom. I work a full-time job as a paralegal at a large, full-service law firm.  I have worked in the commercial real estate and banking department for almost four years.

When I’m not at work, I am with family and friends, and I am outside as much as I can be. I am family-oriented and would rather spend my Friday nights sitting on my sister’s couch watching Sofia the First with my 2-year-old and 10-month-old nieces than to go out to a crowded restaurant. My enneagram number is 2 with a 3 wing, and my love language is quality time, and I show love by being generous with my time and buying thoughtful gifts just to make someone’s day. I usually don’t care what we’re doing; I just want to be around people, but don’t ask me to eat sushi. I’ve tried that and it was not my favorite meal.

I don’t remember getting my first baby doll, “Christy” (which sounded more like “Fristy” when I said it with my toddler-lisp), but I know I loved her. I loved her so much that she had an identical twin that mom would swap out so she could wash the well-loved cloth-baby doll. I was a mom before I could walk. And then a wonderful person (I don’t know if I know who) gave me a bigger, more life-like doll when my sister was born. I mothered that doll for years. She still sleeps in her cradle in my closet. When I was 8 ½ years old, my youngest sister was born. I traded in my dolls for her. I think it’s safe to say she was my first real baby. And she’ll be 29 years old next week.

Being a mom is the only childhood dream that I still carry with me. I wasn’t the girl who had her wedding planned out before graduating high school, but I had my babies named. I did want marriage, and I still do, but I’ve been a single girl for a very long time, and I’m happy with being single. But not being a mom makes me sad.

There was a restlessness stirring in me a few years ago, but I shoved it aside because I was too busy focusing on my career as a paralegal. Somewhere along the way I convinced myself that the restlessness was career-related, and since the next step up for a paralegal is an attorney, I thought that was what I was supposed to do. I researched what I needed to do to get into law school, and I even took the LSAT. I’m proud of myself for doing it, but I didn’t have peace about going to law school.

Around the time that I was trying to figure out what I was supposed to do next, a friend of mine was promoting the non-profit she founded to support kids in foster care. I paid close attention to the message she was sharing, and the statistics shattered my heart. And then the restlessness came back. I knew that there was more that I could do. I remember telling my dad that I knew I could do more than financially contribute or volunteer, I could open my home. And so, I began to research foster care, particularly the eligibility requirements. I was excited to learn that my singleness did not disqualify me. My plan was to foster kids and eventually adopt.

The further I got in my research, the stronger the desire to adopt a baby grew. I continued to pursue both fostering older kids, and adopting a baby. I even considered embryo adoption. In November 2018, in the heart of Adoption Awareness month, I had a consultation with an embryo adoption agency, and a consultation with an infant adoption agency. That’s when I found out that my plan of fostering kids while waiting to adopt wasn’t going to work, primarily because I did not want to wait the required waiting time, and also because my agency won’t let a person be a part of two programs at the same time.

On November 8, 2018, I made the decision to pursue domestic infant adoption. I didn’t have to pray about it. I just knew. My formal application was accepted not long after that on November 14th, and I am currently waiting for an approved home study, which I hope to have by the end of March.

Becoming a mom by adoption is not what I imagined. I did have plans to adopt one day, but I was going to do that with a husband after we had at least two kids already. Now that I have so much invested in this adoption journey, I can’t see becoming a mom any other way. I have not experienced this level of peace before now; the decision to go back to college in my 30s comes close, but it is not the same type of peace. I just know that this is what I’m supposed to do, and I’m not going to wait until my life looks like my dreams.

I am choosing to be a single mom, and I know that is not a choice that many people understand. I met resistance from some people, but overall, this has been a fun journey and I would never go back.  

If you’d like to connect with Marci, you can read more about her adoption journey here, or find her on Facebook or Instagram

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs

The Broken Road

February 6, 2019

Written by Whitney Ellis, Guest Blogger

My mother reminded me a few years ago about a conversation we had while I was in Nursing School.  I had told her that my dream job would be to work with moms and babies in their homes.  I was fascinated with breastfeeding and wanted to support new moms.  I ultimately fulfilled that dream by working for 10 years as a Public Health Nurse, visiting first-time (mostly young) pregnant moms and their babies in their homes.  I loved my job and as challenging as it was, it was very rewarding.  I did not have children of my own at that time, but I had no doubt that being a mother was in my future.  

10 years ago this February, my husband and I danced our first dance to “God Bless This Broken Road”. The song was fitting for us and how met and ultimately got married.  Little did we know that a few years later as we began trying to start our family that our wedding song would take on a whole new meaning.  

Our journey to having a baby started soon after we got married. I was 33 and he was 35 at the time and we really had no reason to believe that we’d have any trouble getting pregnant. A year went by and then 6 more months before we went to see the Reproductive Endocrinologist my Ob/Gyn referred us to. We sat in a waiting room with one door on the right for those who were already pregnant and another door to the left if you couldn’t get pregnant.  Several tests later and we had a reality check. 

My husband had “very bad” sperm and I had “old eggs”.  Ouch! Is this how healthcare professionals in this field speak to their patients? We moved forward with hope.  Clomid, IUI, two-week waits, clomid, IUI, two-week waits…and over again.  Finally, standing at the nurses’ station reviewing my lab results, our RE declared that I will not be a mother on my own without donor eggs or adoption.

This was not at all what we envisioned our path to parenthood to look like. Needless to say, even though I still loved my work, it soon became difficult being surrounded daily by pregnant women. We did our best to stay positive.  I joined the local RESOLVE support group where I met so many inspiring women. I heard stories of heartbreak and disappointment. I also learned so much about the world of IF. There were so many paths to becoming a parent.

We found a new RE and I went through more tests and procedures.  I most likely had endometriosis.  This new clinic was a breath of fresh air.  The RE was very positive and felt that getting pregnant through IVF with our own eggs and sperm was possible.  I sought out support from other women who had gone through the rigorous schedule of painful injections and blood tests. I found an acupuncturist who specialized in infertility. My husband was supportive and became an expert at IM injections. I was open about our plan and received nothing but love and support from friends and family.  For us, we wanted to assure that we would be cared for emotionally if the outcome was no baby.

The MDs, nurses, embryologist, and anesthesiologists we encountered at the IVF clinic for the retrieval and transfer were so incredibly kind. I will never forget that. We waited for 2 very long weeks to find out if we could possibly be pregnant. We’ll never forget sitting at our favorite breakfast spot in East Sacramento when we received THE phone call from our nurse.  We were pregnant!

Our smart, funny and sweet boy turned 7 this year. Fast forward 2 years later and our attempts to have a second baby began with a failed Frozen Embryo Transfer and a polypectomy.  Then my father suddenly passed away and we were sidetracked with unimaginable grief. Just months later, to our complete surprise, we saw 2 pink lines on a pregnancy test! We were pregnant and it brought much-needed joy to the family, only to turn to another painful loss when I miscarried at 9 weeks. 

We went on to try one last IVF.  We both agreed that if this did not work out, we would feel we gave it our all and we would focus on what we had…Our marriage and our beautiful boy.  When that cycle failed we were crushed at the thought of our son growing up without a sibling.  Our view began to change though as we saw him creating so many friendships.  A child doesn’t necessarily have to have a sibling to be happy.

It was on a cross country flight as I looked over at our family, the 3 of us, and realized it was perfect.  I let go of my desire to have another baby.  When we got home I packed up the baby gear we had saved up and drove it up the hill to a donation center.  I drove away and the tears started streaming down my face.  I called my mom and told her that I donated all our baby gear and I still recall hearing my grandmother’s voice in the background saying “you know she’ll get pregnant now”. 

2 weeks later, on the morning after my 40th birthday celebration…we saw 2 pink lines!  Today we have a beautiful 2 year and a half-year-old girl.  So yes, that “Broken Road” lead us straight to our 2 precious children. My relationship with my husband was only strengthened as we encouraged and comforted each other.  We received unconditional love and support from family and friends. And it has changed how we relate to others who are starting their families. 

I truly believe we all go through difficulties in life so we can be there for each other. I have since continued to fulfill the dream I discussed with my mother years ago.  I have become an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant).  I will never forget the IBCLC that spoke to a room full of us women who went through fertility treatments to get pregnant.  So many of us were unsure if our bodies would create enough breast milk since we had difficulty conceiving.  Some moms were carrying multiples and anticipated some time in the NICU.  We all benefited in different ways from our time with the IBCLC.  Most of what I took away was confidence.  

As an IBCLC, I strive to understand my client’s goals and assist them in identifying and addressing their breastfeeding concerns.  I want to hear about their prenatal history.  I want to hear about their birth experience.  I provide them with evidence based information and tools that empower them to meet their individual feeding goals. I encourage them and let them know that many women who experience IF go on the have long breastfeeding relationships with their babies.  I give them the same compassion I received years ago by the health care professionals that will always be a special part of my family’s story.  Most importantly, I want the women I consult with to walk away feeling confident in their ability to give their babies what they need.

If you’d like to connect with Whitney, you can find her on Instagram

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