Written byAlyssa Hustedt, guest blogger
Did you know that 1 in 8 women will experience a thyroid imbalance or disorder in their lifetime? In addition to those diagnosed, there are many others who do not fit the medical criteria of thyroid disease but will feel the effects of poor thyroid function. The thyroid gland influences almost every cell in your body and its hormones play a huge role in maintaining health, vitality and even fertility. Today, I am here to share with you the signs and symptoms of a thyroid imbalance, which lab markers to ask your doctor for and what you can do to support your thyroid naturally.
The thyroid gland is a small, butterfly-shaped organ at the front of the neck and its function is to take iodine and other nutrients and convert them into thyroid hormones—thyroxin (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Every cell in the body depends on these hormones for regulation of their metabolism. Thyroid hormones regulate body weight and control the rate at which the body produces energy from food thereby directly impacting energy levels. Hypothyroidism can cause infertility by preventing ovulation and adequate levels are critical in pregnancy because these hormones greatly influence growth and development of a growing baby.
Signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism can include feeling sluggish or tired, difficulty losing weight, dry skin, hair loss, constipation, cold sensitivity, lack of sweating, feeling mentally sluggish, depressed, experience a “pins and needles” sensation like when a limb falls asleep, puffiness in the face and/or neck or have loss of the outer 1/3 of the eyebrow.
Not as common–but just as concerning–are the signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism. These can include increased BMR, weight loss, increased appetite, heat intolerance, hypertensive tendencies, feeling anxious or irritable, difficulty falling asleep, may suffer from rapid or irregular heartbeat, brittle hair, an increased number of bowel movements per day and hyperpigmentation of the skin or flushed skin (a red face).
Many, if not all, of us have had our TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) tested because many doctors solely rely on TSH to determine if there is a thyroid dysregulation. TSH is not a thyroid hormone itself—it is the hormone that the pituitary gland uses to signal to the thyroid to release thyroid hormones. Anything below .5 can be considered hyperthyroid and anything above 5.5 hypothyroid depending on the lab you use. These numbers may be a bit opposite of what you would expect and that is because when your thyroid hormones (T4 and T3) start to get low the pituitary will begin to “yell” at the thyroid gland resulting in higher TSH. In other words, the pituitary starts to send more TSH to the thyroid to signal it to start releasing more hormones. The opposite is true as well: when thyroid hormones are sufficient or too high in the body, the pituitary will back off sending TSH to the thyroid and the number will drop. As a functional practitioner, I like to see TSH between 1 and 2. This is a much narrower range than lab range but is generally where a person feels the best. The closer the TSH gets to 3 and beyond, the more you may begin to experience hypothyroid symptoms.
The problem with only testing TSH is that you could be missing some key components in the equation. For example, your TSH could be perfectly normal (so between 1 and 2) but your T4 and T3 might be out of lab range low and cause hypothyroid symptoms because you are not obtaining adequate amounts of actual active thyroid hormones. When I run a lab panel, I like to see the full picture. This includes TSH, Total T4, Free T4, Total T3, Free T3, Reverse T3, T3 Uptake and TPO & TGB antibodies. Testing for the TPO & TGB antibodies is important with any thyroid imbalance because this will indicate if you have any thyroid autoimmune (meaning that your body is producing antibodies that attack and destroy the thyroid gland itself). This is something to be concerned about and supplementing for autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or Graves ’ disease may look different than only having a thyroid imbalance or insufficiency. The autoimmune component in any system of the body should not be ignored.
SO what can you do to support your thyroid gland?
- If you have any type of thyroid imbalance, dysregulation or autoimmune, it is crucial that you eliminate all gluten from your diet. Gluten is like the Devil to your thyroid gland. Besides the fact that gluten is a gateway to leaky gut and other autoimmune conditions, thyroid hormones and gluten molecules look very similar. Gluten sensitivity can exacerbate an attack on the thyroid and in return Hashimoto’s can set up gluten sensitivity.
- Focus on eating a nutrient-dense diet. Throw out the packaged foods, sugary drinks and drive-thru meals. Eat to nourish, not deplete your body. Choose whole, well-sourced foods. Shop on the outer edges of the grocery store and always check labels for added chemicals and preservatives.Specific nutrients to fuel your thyroid include: Iodine which can be found in sea vegetables. Selenium (which helps turn T4 into active T3) found in well-sourced brazil nuts, fish, eggs, raw dairy and grass-fed meats. Zinc is in seafood, beef and lamb, pumpkin seeds and mushrooms. Magnesium can be found properly prepared beans and nut, brown rice and green leafy vegetables. Other nutrients to support thyroid include Vitamin C, A, B2, B3 and B12. You are likely to obtaining these vitamins if you are eating a nutrient-dense, well-sourced diet and if your body is properly digesting. Side note: You can have a pristine diet but if you are not properly digesting and absorbing your nutrient rich foods, you can become deficient.
- Removing toxins. Toxins will compete with iodine specifically. Remember that the thyroid’s job is to turn iodine into thyroid hormones. Certain halogens have a similar structure and will compete with iodine—specifically fluorine, chlorine and bromine. One of the reasons you may be struggling with an underactive thyroid is that you are not getting acquiring adequate amounts of iodine and in turn your thyroid is displacing iodine with these toxins. Estrogen dominance is another condition that will affect the thyroid. Also emotional toxins affect the thyroid. Prolonged stress will fatigue the adrenal glands and cause the thyroid to put on its breaks. This can be any kind of stress—illness, being in a bad relationship, work stress, overuse of caffeine or alcohol, lack of sleep, excessive exercise, prescription drugs, persistent fears, financial stress and more. Any kind of stress if it becomes chronic can become toxic to your life. Learning how to manage stress is the key.
- Lastly, if you struggle with thyroid issues, I encourage you to find a functional practitioner to work with to help you investigate further into where the root of your imbalances lie. Is it poor digestion? 20% of your non-active T4 is converted to active T3 in the gut. And 40% of that conversion process happens in the liver so if your liver is not functioning correctly it can prevent that conversion from happening. Or maybe it is adrenal fatigue or food sensitivities, anemia or heavy metals. Working with someone who can help you support these systems, not just manage them but work towards healing can seriously change your life.
It has changed my life. I have spent most of my life in a state of extreme fatigue and being able to experience the flip side has been amazing. Life truly is so different when your body is working the way it was intended too and the opposite is true as well—life can be so crippling if you are facing a chronic illness or if you have a thyroid imbalance. My heart goes out to you today. Don’t give up. Keep searching, keep seeking, find a practitioner that can give you answers, guidance and direction and move you towards a full and happy life. Doing things naturally is not easy—it takes some determination, disciple and patience but it is WORTH it. YOU are worth it.
Written by Anna Berry, guest blogger
Growing up a family was something I always wanted. Pretty much my whole life I thought getting pregnant was such a simple thing. I mean that’s what you learn in school, TV, and movies. A man and a woman have unprotected sexual intercourse (or sometimes protected if you’re lucky ;)) and you’re pregnant. Boom! Easy peasy right!!!?? Nope, not for us anyway or the 1 in 8 couples that deal with infertility.
My husband and I met in high school but didn’t start dating till after school when we were 19. The relationship started off pretty causal but pretty quickly turned serious. I knew I loved him pretty early on. Of course we went through our ups and downs but at 24 we got engaged and were married at 26. We had a plan for the most part and that included trying to get pregnant when we turned 30. Well when we turned 27 that plan to wait till 30 went out the window. My friend had her little boy and I was obsessed with him. I immediately told Tom (my husband) that I think we should start trying for a baby because I had baby fever. We decided I would get off birth control which I had been on since 18 (because I was sure I’d get pregnant if I wasn’t on it) and we’d start to try without really trying. We did this for about 6 months and each month Aunt Flow would show her ugly face. I went for my annual GYNO appointment and mentioned it to my doctor. She said to try for 6 more months using ovulation kits and then if we’re still not pregnant I should contact an infertility doctor. So, after 6 more months and not getting pregnant I contacted an RE.
Once I finished with all the different tests, I was told everything looks good. Which was a relief but also frustrating cause we weren’t getting pregnant. Once we found out I was good Tom decided to get checked. His results came back not so good. He had low sperm count, low motility, and abnormal morphology. I was always a little worried there would be an issue because he had a varicocele in his teen years. The good news was he didn’t have the varicocele again so he didn’t need surgery. I had switched insurances by this time so I started to see a new infertility doctor. She looked at both our results and felt that we would probably be able to get pregnant with IUI.
After a little over year and half of trying things on our own, in June 2016 we did our first IUI. I’ll never forget that first HCG shot. I was terrified and freaking out. Tom’s numbers post wash came back really good so we were extremely hopeful. The TWW was terrible. All I wanted to do was take a pregnancy test and find out if I was pregnant. Well when I finally took one it came back negative and it was a little heartbreaking. I think we both thought we had good numbers and gave the sperm a good head start so we will definitely get pregnant. We tried again in July but Tom’s numbers weren’t that great. He’s a firefighter so we think environmental issues decreased his sperm. After that IUI failed, we took a little break. We just needed to reset and get back to being us. We started again in October but we got another negative pregnancy test. Tried again in November but yet again negative. Finally, in December we spoke to our doctor about moving on to IVF. We were going to try IUI one more time but if it didn’t work we wanted to move on. She agreed that she thought that was a good plan. I remember it all so well..I was supposed to take a pregnancy test on December 13th. I was pretty hopeful but after all the fails I didn’t get my hopes up too much. Once again it was another fail. It was hard but the sad part about it was it felt normal. That’s such a sad thing to say. I was so use to it that I almost feel like it didn’t faze me like it had before. My doctor’s office called and I let them know it was negative and we made an appointment to come in to discuss IVF. I couldn’t believe it. This was never something I ever thought I was going to have to do. Tom and I had talked about it before and we both were so unsure we’d want to go that route, but once the IUIs kept failing we knew we would definitely try it. We wanted a family so badly we would’ve done whatever we could to make one.
A week after my 30th birthday I started my injections for IVF. The shots were not easy. I wasn’t as scared of them as I was when we first started our journey, but there were more of them and some of them stung. For 11 days Tom or myself injected 3-4 different medications into my abdomen and I also took an oral pill to help my body create more egg follicles. January 25th 2017 was our egg retrieval day. I was so nervous but excited at the same time cause I felt like we were finally making moves to where we wanted to be. My doctor retrieved 19 eggs!!!! We were ecstatic! On day 5 we were told that 6 embryos made it to day 5 and were maturing well. 6 was a good number but after getting 19 eggs we were a little upset cause we definitely thought we’d have more. We opted to do the PSG testing on the embryos. After the PGS testing we ended up with 5 beautiful embabies.
For our 1st IVF cycle we did a medicated cycle to help my lining thicken and make sure everything was going to be nice and comfy for our little embryo. I didn’t respond to well and my lining wasn’t as great as we would’ve wanted it to be. On March 3rd we transferred one of our little embryos. I remember when it happened I cried. All I could think was this is it. I am officially PUPO and I am so happy. We are getting the family we wanted. Throughout the 10 day wait for the blood test I didn’t feel anything. I had no pregnancy symptoms or even implantation pain or bleeding. I was pretty positive I wasn’t pregnant. My husband was trying to be more positive but I just couldn’t because I had read all these things saying I should be feeling something and I wasn’t. When the doctor called on the 13th and told me I wasn’t pregnant I was devastated to say the least. Even though I had already felt that I wasn’t to actually hear it was so different. To me that was our baby it was our DNA and it felt heart wrenching that I couldn’t keep that little embaby alive. I was on a hike with my friends and I tried not to let It affect me. The worst part was Tom was at work. I knew he was waiting for my call and to have to call him and tell him it was again negative was even more heartbreaking for me. I remember getting home and just screaming and crying and not understanding why this was happening. Being alone at any point of the day when you find out your IVF failed really isn’t something anyone should ever do.
I spoke to my doctor the next day and we decided we wanted to go forward right away with another transfer. As soon as my next cycle started we were at the doctors. We decided to do a natural cycle this time and let my body kind of do its own thing without medication. I also stopped drinking caffeine and alcohol and added acupuncture to the mix. This time my lining looked amazing. I responded so much better to just letting things happen plus I think acupuncture probably helped. On April 6th we transferred our beautiful hatching embryo. When I saw the picture of our embryo and it was hatching there was something that came over me and thought “this is our baby.”
During this 9 day wait I really didn’t feel much again. I also was religious about all the myths that help with implantation. I ate pineapple, I wore socks, I only ate and drank warm things, and I pretty much sat on the couch throughout the 9-day wait. Did it help? Who the heck knows, but I tried it because at one point it worked for someone. There were 2 days where I had like a dull cramp but other than that I felt no different. This again made me think that it didn’t work. This time Tom was so positive and he just kept saying “I know you’re pregnant.” I kept saying “I don’t think I am.”
On the day we went to get the blood test done Tom and I went to breakfast. During breakfast I looked him in the eye and said “I need you to be prepared for this to be negative again. I haven’t felt much and I just don’t feel pregnant.” He just kept being positive and saying I was pregnant. He asked if I would take a pregnancy test when we got home so when the doctor called we would already be expecting whatever she had to say. I really didn’t want to I just wanted to wait to hear it from the doctor. When we got home I went and sat on the couch and he walked up to me and said “Well are you gonna take a test.” I finally agreed but told him he couldn’t come in with me because I had to do some other business in the bathroom (LOL). He said Fine, but don’t look at it till I can come in.” So once I was done I opened the door and called for him to come in. Right before he got to me I looked at the test. I immediately started crying. Tom said by my look and the way I said his name he thought it was negative. I than looked at him and said “this thing says I’m pregnant.” I had never seen those 2 pink lines before. I had always just seen 1 and squinted a lot to make sure there wasn’t 2. I couldn’t believe it I was in shock. I was so happy. We were finally pregnant!!! A couple hours later our doctor called and confirmed that we were pregnant. It was the best news I’d ever heard.
On December 21, 2017 I gave birth to our little chunky monkey Clayton Michael Berry. He makes us so happy and I couldn’t imagine him not being here. Even though during the wait I was skeptical about being pregnant I will never forget that feeling of looking at his embryo picture and thinking this is our baby.
Infertility is hard and it sucks. I knew nothing about it before we went through it. I had friend after friend get pregnant and have babies while Tom and I were trying. Every pregnancy announcement or baby announcement was a little heartbreaking. I couldn’t help but be sad for Tom and I but happy for the person. It was such a strange feeling. The good thing was we had a really great support system. I was really open about our struggle. It made me feel better when I could get it off my chest. Tom was completely different. He didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. It was hard for him to even speak to me about it. I couldn’t bottle it up. When I did I would just have a breakdown. The only time I was able to keep things a little bit under wraps was during our 2nd transfer. I had told people with the 1st so when it was negative it was really hard to let people know we weren’t pregnant. So, we decided to keep the 2nd a little hush hush. I still spoke about it a little just didn’t give many details. I am eternally grateful to all my friends and family that were there for us. I don’t think I would’ve been able to get through this without them.
To all those infertility Survivors congratulations. You are a true warrior. To everyone still going through it don’t give up. You’ve got this! Stay positive if you can. I know it’s so hard but the end result is so worth it. Talk to people if you can, join a group or blog. Honestly, talking to people really helped me. I made 3 really great IVF friends from one of my infertility apps.
It’s true that for some couples, getting pregnant is as easy as one night of fun. But, here’s the dirty little secret that we don’t talk about: It’s not always that easy for everyone because conceiving is really all about timing. No, not only the big picture timing of family and career planning, but also timing in the cycle. When you know your cycle, you can double your chances of conceiving, and Ava’s technology helps women do just that.
Ava recently confirmed that more than 1,000 babies from around the world have been born from women using the company’s cycle tracking Ava bracelet to help them conceive. The first Ava baby, Jace McGee, born in St. George, Utah, was announced in August 2017, and the company’s first “celebrity Ava baby,” Emerson Tolbert (daughter of “The Bachelor/Bachelor in Paradise” stars Jade & Tanner Tolbert) was born last fall.
Using sensor technology, this bracelet can monitor key health measures and determine a woman’s unique fertility window in real time, , all while she simply wears it during sleep. Women sync it with the Ava app in the morning, avoiding the hassles, mess and invasiveness of other fertility tracking methods like ovulation strips and BBT thermometers. The Ava bracelet was proven ,in a recently concluded clinical study at the University Hospital of Zurich, to detect an average of 5.3 fertile days per cycle—in real time—with 89 percent accuracy.
Hear from the women whose journey to motherhood was possible with the help of Ava:
Lauren welcomed her baby boy Landon after years of struggling with painful and debilitating endometriosis. Managing this condition was difficult, involving multiple surgeries and the possibility of infertility. She said, “When I thought about getting pregnant originally, I thought you just went to it and you try and you prayed for the best. But with Ava, I got to see that you could see what was happening from your pulse, from your body temperature, from how much sleep you’re getting. I realized that there were so many other components that went into it that I never knew or even thought to know beforehand.”
Briana, like many women, thought it would be easy to get pregnant. She even says, “My mom always said with her and my dad, the second they tried, the next month she would be pregnant, so I thought it would be the same for us. But, it didn’t really turn out that way.” She adds, “I had been trying all these other things for 11 months unsuccessfully, and the first cycle I use Ava, we become pregnant, finally.” She also found that, “The most important thing I learned about my cycle is that I was ovulating a week outside of when my fertility apps told me when I was ovulating, so that was definitely the biggest and most important factor of all.” Briana welcomed her baby girl Ariana earlier this year.
Jade, a contestant on the Bachelor, started trying to conceive shortly after getting married but felt like she didn’t quite understand how to approach the process. She found that, “I think one of the biggest misconceptions that I had about trying to conceive and ovulation is that I thought you had about a 48-hour window to get pregnant, and so I thought it was really hard to get pregnant. And using the bracelet, I found out that there are actually five or six days, and that just gave me some relief to know that there is more time that I actually could get pregnant.” After two cycles of using Ava, she was pregnant, and she welcomed her baby girl Emerson last year.
Lindsay, who works for Ava, found that even with all the knowledge of fertility and cycle tracking, there were still bumps along the road. After experiencing a miscarriage, it took another three cycles before she was pregnant. She says “The nice thing about Ava is that there are so many things that are outside of your control when you’re trying, and it can be really stressful. But, I knew that at least the thing I had control over—timing intercourse around ovulation—I had under control, and I could cross that off my list, and that was the thing I didn’t have to worry about.” Lindsay welcomed her baby boy Wyatt in May 2018.
Dafne welcomed the first Ava baby in Spain. After trying for months without success, she turned to Ava and was pregnant within in her first cycle. She says, “I can definitely say that the Ava bracelet was my amulet in this process, helping me complete my dreams and never could I have imagined it would be so simple and fast.” She also found that Ava continued to help her during pregnancy, sharing “I continued to wear Ava while I was pregnant because it gave me control, and I could download the charts and share them with medical professionals.” Dafne welcome her baby boy Luca earlier in 2018.
Rebekah welcomed the first Ava baby in the U.K. She found out she was pregnant just before celebrating her 25th birthday, and she says, “My favorite thing about using Ava is that everything is all in one place. You’re not trying to collect all these bits of data separately and then put them all together yourself. You just open up the app, and it’s all there.” She also found that the Aa communities supportive, saying “It’s really nice to speak to other people going through the same things, so you can all obsess about your [Ava] graphs together.” Rebekah welcomed her baby boy Benjamin in March 2018.
Sabrina welcomed the first Ava baby in Switzerland. She began using Ava after her first child was born and was trying for a second child. She says, “I breastfed my firstborn for a long period, which had had a big impact on my cycle. So, when I wanted to get pregnant again, I wanted to avoid any frustration during this process this time around. I really wanted to be sure to use an efficient and recognized cycle tracker.” Sabrina welcomed her baby Noemi earlier this year.
Written by Kathleen Hedges, guest blogger
If you asked me at age 5 what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would answer quickly and with such pride “a mom!” I grew up with that dream of motherhood forever in my mind. On January 3, 2014, I met the man of my dreams, we quickly decided on forever and both of us wanted a family so when we got married on May 9, 2015, we started trying to grow our family.
I tracked my cycles, read books, followed old wives tales, and we prayed, prayed more, and waited but each month the test was still negative. Each time I took a test my heart broke a little more. I felt so helpless and alone while all my friends were getting married after us and getting pregnant before us. It felt like each month passed so slowly waiting to see if we were pregnant yet.
After about 6 months I knew something was wrong. It felt like such a struggle. My parents and my mom’s parents also had a hard time conceiving. My parents had to take hormones to conceive me and did an IUI for my sister. My grandparents couldn’t conceive so they adopted my aunt and then ended up having 3 biological kids after, so in turn I felt infertility was apart of our story as well. I called my OB-GYN and set up an appointment after about a year of trying. She ran every test she could and they all seemed normal. She then requested a semen analysis and when the results came back, she didn’t quite know how to explain them, so she sent us to a urologist (who probably had the worst bedside manner of any doctor ever!). We went to see the urologist about a week before my birthday and he looked over the results, examined my husband, and told us 100% there was no chance we would have children of our own. He didn’t tell us about IVF but I knew we were meant to be parents. When we left the office I couldn’t believe it I was in shock and then hysterical. I didn’t know what to do.
About a week after I had come to terms with infertility, I called our insurance. I wanted to know about fertility coverage and if there was anything we could do. By some miracle our insurance covered both IVF and IUI at 100%. It was the only thing I needed to hear. I called the doctor’s office who had done the semen analysis and who my OB-GYN has recommended and booked an appointment. I figured I would meet the doctor and see if he was the one for me or if another one might be better. A week later when we drove up to the office with all our test results in hand to show him. I was so terrified. I didn’t know what was about to happen.
But, Dr B was amazing! He looked over our tests. He was honest and genuine and I knew we were right where we were supposed to be. He said there was almost no chance we would ever have children on our own but with invitro fertilization we could. I remember so clearly the tears flooding my eyes because he told us “We will get you your baby”.
Our first round of IVF was set to begin and they sent us the drugs and syringes. Wow -it was overwhelming. I sat in shock when I opened up the box. How could all of this be the way to get our sweet baby? The hormones, the tears, the needles…I hid it all from those around me, except for my husband and a few people no one knew how hard this journey was.
Our egg retrieval was great! They got 19 eggs and 9 were fertilized and made it to day 5! We had 9 embryos! We transferred the best looking one and I had to spend 3 days on bed rest and continue taking the hormones. On November 23, we found out we were pregnant! It was so wild because almost instantly, I was so sick. I could hardly eat, wanted to sleep all the time and remember thinking “How could this be? I’m only 10 days pregnant”.
December 5th we went in for our first ultrasound at 5 weeks pregnant. They could see the sac and the baby growing inside. Everything seemed to be growing correctly and the doctor brushed off my extreme sickness. We went back a week later and the doctor said “There is the baby…and there is another baby!”
I can’t even remember how many cuss words came out of my mouth. I made him check again. “Yes there are two!” The shock was overwhelming. We couldn’t get pregnant and we had transferred one embryo and we were having two babies! Identical twins. I couldn’t get over it. The doctor said sometimes one twin doesn’t make it so we would check again in a week. So we did 7 weeks and our little twins were still there and we got to see their heartbeats. We would have a few more appointments before the fertility doctor would release us back to an OBGYN who specializes in high risk multiple pregnancies to be cared for until our little ones came. The next week we came back and there they were both little twins tucked in tight and hearts beating strong. Dr B was happy our littles were growing and after Christmas we would have one final appointment with him, then we would get to meet our new OB.
Over the holidays we announced to our families we were expecting identical twins due August 3. I was still extremely sick and I lost 12 lbs in a matter of weeks. I was happy our family was finally growing by 2 blessings! I was extremely worried about how they would grow inside me and if I would make it to full term, if they could be healthy. My husband tried reassuring me that everything we be wonderful and our two little blessings would be here before we knew it.
We started our new year in Yosemite talking about how it would be our last one before we had two littles along with. Our next appointment came Jan 6 and for some reason my heart was still worried. The doctor brought up the ultrasound and there were our babies and no heart beats…no movement…no life inside me and I didn’t know. My life came crushing down. How could this happen to us after all the struggles it took us to get here why were we disappointed again? It was surreal leaving the office. How did we come in expecting two miracles and leave with our dreams crushed? Our identical twin girls were now our angels. The lives we had planned for them in our minds were gone. Jan 9 I had a D&C which was the worst thing to ever experience and suddenly it was just us again. No family to grow. I couldn’t stop thinking about the twins.
My husband has got to be the strongest man I know. Everyday my heart broke, everyday I broke down and he picked me up he helped me to find my strength in all this mess. I don’t know how I would have ever made it without him. We lost our two precious baby girls and he carried us and our marriage and protected it with all he is. We still wanted to grow our family and decided to go forward with our IVF journey. In March, we started again with the pills, shots, and the craziness. It only seemed harder this time.
Our second cycle didn’t take and it was another month with a negative test. We scheduled our third cycle we kept praying for our miracle. During the third cycle, we found my husband was being transferred for work and we were moving 300 miles away so during the shots and tears and madness we moved. My husband started a new job and couldn’t come for our transfer so my mom and I drove 300 miles back to Southern California and stayed with one of my best friends. My mom drove me to my transfer and held my hand while we waited. When we finished, we spent the day binge watching tv and laughing. The next day we drove back home, I was so nervous to get my hopes up but when we stopped at a gas station to use the bathroom I bought a scratcher and won! I saved the cash and as we drove home I couldn’t help but have hope. We had moved back to my hometown, we were near our people, this was part of God’s big plan.
A week later on our wedding anniversary we found out our little miracle was coming! It was shocking and hard to feel excited at first. But as the weeks passed and we traveled to appointment after appointment and finally heard the magical sound of her heart beat it got a little easier to believe. We hit 12 weeks we got to go to a regular OBGYN and we got to see her little wiggly body on the ultrasound and it all became real. Our rainbow baby was on the way, after the worst storms we could have ever imagined. As my belly grew so did our joy and excitement. I was sick again but this time I didn’t mind I couldn’t believe I was growing a little human! 19 weeks in, we did genetic testing and our anatomy ultrasound. With our families surrounding us we found out a little girl would be joining our family. My pregnancy was wonderful, I felt stronger and more proud of my body than ever. I was growing a healthy baby girl! I continued running and coaching fitness classes until the day my water broke.
My water broke and I thought our little girl would be here in a hurry. I had carried so small and only gained 12 lbs so I thought our baby girl would pop out tiny and easily. But just like our journey to finally get our baby, fast and easy was not in the plan. I was in for a surprise, this stubborn little girl wasn’t quite ready to make her appearance. After my water broke I endured 39 hours of hard labor, 24 of them completely unmedicated, she was not coming. We got taken in for a C section. To my luck, my OBGYN and the doctor I had nannied for for the last year were the two on call and both got to deliver our miracle. Raegan Kathleen was born at 7:56am January 22 8lbs 1oz and 20.75inches long.
Our rainbow baby girl is here. She is healthy and happy. Each day with her is such a blessing. As I sit here writing this I get to look at our sweet girl, our miracle. This journey was anything but easy but it was worth every shot, every tear, every night I spent awake praying for our baby and I am so glad this helped us to grow together in our marriage and to become the best parents we can be.
What is a rainbow baby? A rainbow baby is a baby that is born after a miscarriage, stillbirth, or passing away of an infant. These babies are the rainbow after the storm.
They are a sign of hope, promise, healing, and remembrance.
Here at What the Fertility, we want to celebrate these precious babes and honor the journey to their arrival. On August 22, we hope you will join us in celebrating the first ever National Rainbow Baby Day!
How can you participate?
We want to see your rainbows! Share the story of your rainbow baby on social media using the hashtag #NationalRainbowBabyDay and honor the rainbow in your life! You can also download the pictures below and use them to spread the word leading up to August 22nd.
Are you still waiting for your rainbow? We hope you will use this day as a reminder of hope and that other have walked in your shoes. This community is waiting and yearning to support you, so please reach out for words of encouragement or advice as your travel your journey.
Buy goodies at our fav shops to help a family bring home their rainbow! We’ve teamed up with some amazing small businesses who are generously donating a portion of their proceeds to Baby Question Foundation, who provides grants to people experiencing infertility. What an awesome way to celebrate and help a fellow infertility warrior! Check out:
Or you can always go directly to Baby Quest Foundation, and donate!
In the days leading up to August 22, we will be sharing stories from those who have weathered the storm and we want to see social media light up with rainbow babies! We want this day to be heard around the world so we can bring awareness to infertility, miscarriages, infant loss, and also the light that we can find after the storm.
Remember: use the hashtag #NationalRainbowBabyDay when sharing pictures and stories of your littles. Or share the images below to bring awareness to the day so others can join in! Be sure to tag us on Instagram at @WhatTheFertility and on Facebook! We can’t wait to celebrate with you!
If you have questions, or would like to collaborate on something special for August 22, please contact us!
What The Fertility wants to celebrate all the rainbow babies that have brought us so much joy after the storm. This story is part of a series honoring the journey to those sweet babes! Join us on August 22nd as we celebrate National Rainbow Baby Day! Be sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook for more Rainbow Baby celebrations and use #NationalRainbowBabyDay to share your own story!
Written by Lena Ridley, guest blogger
5 years ago, I was just about to start the initial stages of infertility treatment. We had been trying for close to two years at this point & I was going to be meeting with my doctor over the coming months to discuss the next steps for us. I remembered being so confused and disappointed that we had tried so long and had not gotten pregnant at all. At the same time I was excited to start moving forward and really wanted to be aggressive with treatment.
In the fall of 2013, we finally were able to meet with our RE and come up with a plan. We did a laparoscopy and an IUI right away using Clomid. It was unsuccessful and we were bummed, but the nurse suggested moving forward with injectable FSH instead of Clomid. We were all for it and in mid-December of 2013 we did our second IUI. 14 days later we would find out that I was pregnant! It was New Year’s Eve and I couldn’t think of a better way to kick off a new year than to finally be pregnant! I took a home pregnancy test and saw the faintest line. My beta came back pretty low at 20, but I was definitely pregnant. They wanted me to return for 2 more repeat betas. My second beta came back at 50, the number more than doubled and I thought maybe we just had a late implanter. Our excitement continued to grow over that weekend until Sunday night when I started bleeding very heavily. I knew that something was wrong and that I was more than likely losing the pregnancy.
The next morning I had my 3rd beta which confirmed that I had experienced a chemical pregnancy as my number had dropped. I was devastated and couldn’t believe what was happening. Over the course of a few months we attempted another IUI only to find out that I was overstimulated both times with too much FSH and too many follicles so it was unsafe to proceed. We decided that we were ready to move forward with IVF which we started in July of 2014. Between July 2014 and December of 2015 I had 3 retrievals (at 3 separate clinics with 3 separate doctors) 3 fresh transfers, and 3 frozen transfers. We used a total of 9 embryos over the course of those transfers, none of which resulted in a pregnancy. We were again totally devastated and weren’t sure where to go from here. We knew that I could get pregnant, even though it was for such a brief moment, I was pregnant at one time.
After our final failed transfer in December 2015 we decided to move forward with egg donation. A girl I had never met in person and barely knew online had messaged me on Facebook and offered herself as a surrogate to us. I couldn’t believe a complete stranger would feel called to make this kind of sacrifice for us! I was so thankful for her offer but explained to her that our next step was going to be egg donation so that I could at least attempt to carry the pregnancy. Without hesitation she offered up her eggs to us and after that our whirlwind few months began. In March 2016 we flew from Illinois where we live to Georgia where our donor lives so that we could formally meet her and her family and consult with our new RE. We instantly fell in love with her family and knew that it was the right decision. Over the months we had grown pretty close via texting and it was an instant connection when we met in person. By June of 2016 our donor was having her retrieval and on June 16th we transferred 1 perfect 4AA embryo.
Our donor gave us results like we had never had, 10 eggs retrieved, 8 fertilize, and 6 make it to blastocyst. We were able to freeze the other 5 and the 1 we transferred decided to stick around for the long haul. Our daughter, our rainbow baby, Georgia June Ridley was born on 2/22/17! Before she was born I knew that I had a chemical pregnancy, a miscarriage, a pregnancy loss, however you want to refer to it, but I never felt like it was validated because I lost it so early on. I almost always referred to our loss as a “chemical pregnancy” because I felt like we lost it so early that I couldn’t consider it an actual miscarriage or a pregnancy loss. Maybe if I would’ve lost the pregnancy at a later gestational age I wouldn’t have felt the need to downplay our loss as much as I did. But Georgia came into our lives I finally began to realize how important that brief pregnancy was and began to wonder what life would be like now if that baby would’ve held on. I’ve always heard people say “it doesn’t matter how early you lost a pregnancy, a life is a life”, it wasn’t until I had a baby in my arms that I realized how true those words really are.
I do know that I could not imagine my life without Georgia and I know that things panned out the way the universe intended. If I would’ve carried that first pregnancy to full-term then Georgia may not be in our lives today, she may not ever exist so I know that even though our journey was longer than we ever expected it or wanted it to be, even though it was so hard, and there was so much heartbreak, I know that it was the journey we were meant to have because it brought us our sweet girl.
Written by Stefanie Cargill, guest blogger
I’ve always wanted to be a mother. Not in a way that most women want to be a mother. I mean deep down, to my very core, it’s what I’ve always wanted to be. To the point that on one of my husband and I’s first dates, I asked him if he wanted kids. I could feel myself falling for him, and if he didn’t want kids as much as I did, there was no point in continuing the relationship. That’s how badly I’ve always wanted children.
Fast forward a few years, and my husband and I decided to take the leap to start a family. We both had great careers, we’d been married a few years, and we’d bought a house. Although it took me convincing my husband we were ready (because let’s be honest, adding another mouth to feed can be terrifying), and everything was in place.
Much to our surprise, we didn’t get pregnant right away. We’d never known anyone to struggle, so this was all new territory to us. Months went by, my period continued to come, and each negative pregnancy test was like a slap in the face.
After about a year, I decided to pay an extra visit to my gynecologist, Dr. G. I started on a regimen of Femara, Estrogen, and Progesterone, to see if we could kick-start something. Although, my doctor told me if that didn’t work, he had a great colleague who was a reproductive endocrinologist that he would refer me to, if the time came. Several months went by, still nothing. Now the frustration was starting to take its toll. It seemed like everyone around us was getting pregnant without any problems!
I read everything I could on basal body temp, cervical mucus and how it played a role in fertility, soaking in every tidbit I could find about increasing our chances of getting pregnant. At one point, Dr. G recommended an HSG (hysterosalpingogram), which I agreed to. In this procedure (which is usually done in an outpatient radiology department), your physician will insert a soft-tipped catheter through your cervix and into your uterus, filling it with contrast dye. This procedure is to check for any blockages the patient may have in their fallopian tubes, as well as any uterine abnormalities (polyps, odd shape, etc.). We tried twice to have one done, but at the last minute (both times) my appointment was canceled due to Dr. G having to deliver babies.
About a year into our fertility journey, Dr. G recommended that my husband see a urologist to test for male factor infertility. So my husband did, and then we waited for the call from the urologist. I still remember that call. We had gone to South Padre Island, TX with some friends of ours when Dr. K (my husband’s urologist) called. Based on his exam of my husband and the results from the sperm analysis, my husband had a varicocele (a varicose vein in his scrotum) that was effecting our ability to get pregnant. Now, most people would be discouraged finding a problem. But I just thought, “Finally! Something tangible!” Because you know what comes after a problem? A friggin’ solution! Dr. K’s solution? Surgical intervention.
Wait, what? Whoa, whoa, whoa. We’re not quite there yet, doc.
I took the results to Dr. G, who recommended that we follow up with his colleague that was a reproductive endocrinologist, Dr. R, who was amazing. Our first appointment with him was spent in his office. He had a gigantic oak desk that he sat behind, and big comfy chairs for the people seeking his help. He asked us what our expectations were with this journey, what procedures we were willing to undergo, and what we knew so far. Basically to make sure we were all on the same page. This journey was going to be tough, but he made sure that we knew that he was on our team.
We brought my husband’s analysis with us. He poured over the results for a few minutes, and very matter-of-factly said that my husband wouldn’t need surgery. He’d gotten couples pregnant before with much worse labs. Well, if the varicocele wasn’t the problem, what was? Are we really back to square one? I was so disappointed! I think Dr. R could sense my disappointment, because he was very reassuring. We would get through this together.
So we started fertility treatments again. We started each cycle with an ultrasound, then went on to Femara, Estrogen, Progesterone, another ultrasound in there somewhere to make sure I was producing mature follicles (which I was). After several months of not getting pregnant, we were labeled with “unexplained fertility”. Everything was working as it should, but nothing was syncing up!
During this time, I felt like everyone around us was getting pregnant. Baby showers galore! I remember getting to the point where I didn’t even want to attend them anymore. Those colorful gift bags with bright tissue paper just mocked me. I’d wander the baby aisles, getting gifts for my friends, and feel a gaping hole in the pit of my stomach. It was devastating to me. My dream of becoming a mother, one that we’d been working so hard for, wasn’t even within arms’ reach. Even though our friends were getting pregnant without even trying.
I remember one day in the Spring of 2013 very vividly. I was driving down the highway and one of my dearest friends called me to tell me a bit of news. Her and her husband were pregnant with their second child. She was crying. I felt like I was underwater. I could hardly hear what she was saying, only catching bits and pieces. She was unsure about telling me, because she knew about everything we were going through. I swallowed hard, told her it was okay, and that I was ecstatic for her. I hung up the phone. Even though I was less than two miles from home, I had to pull over. I couldn’t see anymore through the tears. I remember sitting in my car on the side of the highway, my head on the steering wheel, my body wracked with uncontrollable sobs. Why was this so hard for us?! I spent ten minutes on the side of that highway until I was able to regain my composure and finish the short drive home. To this day, that memory still makes me weep.
Through this journey, I lost faith in God. Like, really lost faith. I grew up in a household where I went to church every Sunday morning, every Sunday evening, and every Wednesday night. On top of going to a week-long camp every summer. My best friends were people I went to church with. Our congregation was a big family—we took care of each other. So when my husband and I struggled to get pregnant, I felt betrayed. I distinctly remember one Sunday morning where I was in our master bath, brushing my teeth. I’m a night shift ER nurse, so to get up even remotely early on a Sunday is difficult for me and rarely happens. I was looking in the mirror, looking at my husband, who was hounding me about going to church, since we actually got up in enough time to go. I shook my head no. I didn’t want to go. “Why?”, he asked me. I didn’t want to answer. Tears filled my eyes. “What is it? Why don’t you want to go?” “BECAUSE I’M FREAKING ANGRY!” My husband was taken aback by my reaction. “Angry? At me? Why?” “I’m not angry at you! I’m angry at God! I feel like He’s completely abandoned me!” My entire life, I’d been completely devoted to God and my relationship with Him. Why would He do this to me? To us? If anyone knew how badly I wanted to be a mother, He did.
So how long would we be willing to put ourselves through all the infertility treatments? Don’t get me wrong, I really loved Dr. R and his nurse. They always made us feel like a part of the family. His office staff, on the other hand (check-in and check-out staff) were absolutely horrendous. On multiple occasions, I would be crying when I left his office. I never could understand how someone who works in an office where women are coming to you because they want to have a baby could be so mean and hateful! My husband and I decided to take a break from fertility treatments after an encounter with my least-favorite office staff member. I’d scheduled an ultrasound for the beginning of my cycle and when my period came a few days early, I tried to call in to the office to reschedule my ultrasound. The office staff member told me that it was impossible to reschedule. Her response: “It’s not my fault your period started early. There’s nothing I can do.” I don’t know if it was the stress of everything going on, or if it was all the hormones I was on, but that was it for me. I’d had it. I met my husband at work and told him what happened, and he agreed. After almost two years of trying to get pregnant, it was time to take a break.
And, guess what. We got pregnant. Who knew? Our little miracle baby was born on July 26, 2014. Our lives were complete.
After she was born, I didn’t have a period for a long time. In fact, E was about 16 months old. I didn’t think much of it. I was breastfeeding, after all. I stopped breastfeeding at a year, and didn’t really think about the fact that it took another four months for me to cycle. A few cycles in, I was going to the restroom and had pain so severe in my lower abdomen, that I thought I might pass out. I consulted Dr. Google. I know better. I’ve been an ER nurse for 10 years, a flight nurse for two. But it was the middle of the night, and I wanted an answer. Endometriosis. I couldn’t have a bowel movement, urinate, or even pass gas without being doubled over in pain. It all made so much sense! Our “unexplained infertility”, why I didn’t have a period for so long, the heavy periods. Was it possible, though? I’d never had any symptoms before! I made an appointment with Dr. G to discuss my options. Based on my symptoms, he agreed that it was probably endometriosis. The only way to definitively diagnose it, however, was with an exploratory laparotomy and a D&C. I decided I wasn’t quite ready for that yet, since our chances of getting pregnant would go up immediately following surgery. I didn’t want to have the surgery done twice, so I decided to wait until my husband and I were actually ready to have another baby. However, what I did do was start two different types of birth control to keep my symptoms under control. And it worked!
Fast-forward a few years, and my husband and I have made the decision to have another baby! We had long discussions about whether we wanted another baby or not. Were we ready to go through this again? The long, sleepless nights, the dirty diapers, the chapped nipples. Especially having to go through the painful possibility of not being able to get pregnant again? Are we ready to go through all that again? I’m going to be honest, it put a strain on our marriage (anyone that has been through this can attest to that). The biggest positive thing we have going for us this time around is that when I get discouraged, I can just look at our miracle angel baby and be content with what we have.
It’s been about six months so far. Two of my coworkers are pregnant, which makes this especially difficult. Seeing their growing bellies every day makes me a little jealous, let’s be honest. Actually, if we’re being honest, it makes me really freaking jealous. When I discussed this with my husband, he reminded me that we hadn’t been trying very long. While this is true, I think that infertility is something that marks you forever. I don’t feel like we’ve just started trying for baby number two. I feel like we just pressed the “unpause” button from our previous journey. Like we’ve been trying for two years plus six months. It’s so difficult living your life 28 days at a time. In the six months we’ve been trying, I’ve already gone through 7 pregnancy tests. And each time one of those dang things come back with one pink line, it’s like a fist to the gut. I hate it. I hate this process. The waiting, the disappointment, the fervent prayers sent up every night so that one day, hopefully, our family will be complete. Our family may not be complete, but it’s pretty dang perfect the way it is.
Written by Tiffany Johnston, WTF contributor
For those of us who are unfortunate enough to be fluent in the language of infertility, there are few words, so innocuously strung together, that are more likely to elicit a punch in the face as when we are asked “Are you guys having kids?” or “Will you be having another?” When you’ve struggled with infertility these types of questions will never be a simple “yes,” or “no.” We are more accustomed to responding with “Maybe.” or “We hope so!” upon which it’s not hard to assume that the answer truly is far more complex and seeped in misery than the poor soul that dared to ask said question ever assumed. Realistically there is a 98% chance that the poor unfortunate soul asking the question at hand has no idea that you have endured months or years of disappointment, and that weekly you face a myriad of doctor appointments, shoot yourself up daily, and that you have come to track every single day of your month. Recently I brought up this topic with my postpartum counselor and wanted to talk about some strategies and “canned responses,” as she called them, that could help keep us on the right side of the law when those dreaded questions are asked:
1) Take A Deep Breath
Simple enough right? This is probably the most critical part in this interaction, because at this point in the interrogation your heart rate is elevated, pits are sweating and you are suddenly in fight or flight mode. The first few times you run into this question while struggling to conceive, will be like stubbing your toe; all at once your body will suddenly go rigid and it will feel like you just got the wind knocked out of you. In this moment of complete and utter panic, if you only do one thing, remember to breathe.
2) Remind Yourself That It’s Likely Not An Interrogation
Our society has created pre-formulated ideas on when and how we should reach certain milestones, so when we stray off the ‘typical’ path those around us are bound to become inquisitive. What you must remember is that most people are only mildly concerned about your life choices, so no matter how you answer them it is unlikely that it will have any long term ramifications to their day. So aside from a few follow up questions at most, the annoyance should be short lived and fairly painless once you have a battle strategy in place.
3) Consider Using a canned Response
The goal of this is to keep the conversation within YOUR comfort zone, because you do not owe anyone anything, especially not when it comes to your family and body. Come up with a short, sweet, and free of excuses response that you and your significant other are comfortable with sharing. The answers can vary slightly to match the circumstances or audience. We like to have one appropriate for work, family and friends. It is up to you to decide how in depth you go with each group of people but for your sanity have some kind of canned response ready for when the questions start flying.
4) Remember That It’s Okay To Have Boundaries
Our society is one that values simplicity, non-controversial topics, and likes to hide from taboo subjects. This type of thinking tends to lead to superficial conversations and naivety. So, though it is difficult, remember that you and your partner are the ones on the rollercoaster of bitter disappointment, painful procedures, and tough choices. You get to decide who gets the front row seat and who gets the seat in the very back. If your choice is not to share any of your journey with anyone, then own that. Make sure it’s your hand on the on/off switch, no one else’s. There will always be someone that could never relate and has no concept of conversational etiquette. Thus, it is your job as a couple to firmly place and uphold your boundaries, for your sanity, relationship and for the sake of our judicial system.
Most importantly remember that you dear one, are powerful beyond measure, and deserve to feel heard during your journey. Though each of us are different, I encourage you to strive to be vulnerable and connect with other women openly and courageously, strive to root yourself in finding a new more empowered and accepting you. That is capable, and willing to educate others while striving to grow a community full of empathic and enlightened individuals ready to support those facing the rollercoaster of infertility.
Written by Michelle Donati-Grayman, guest blogger
I remember the day we found out we were having twins.
I already knew it, as I had a dream in which my late sister told me she’d watch over my babies, and despite being in a dream state, it was undeniably clear that she used the plural, not the singular noun. My wife, who was the only person I shared the dream with, thought I was crazy. Until the nurse performing my vaginal ultrasound confirmed my premonition.
We were overjoyed to be pregnant with multiples, especially after enduring six months of fertility treatment that wasn’t covered by our insurance as a same-sex couple. But we were equally overwhelmed by the notion, knowing that our lives were about to be turned upside down as first-time parents.
My wife deployed with the Air National Guard about two weeks after that first ultrasound, and wouldn’t return until I was 7 months pregnant. Between her absence, and worrying myself silly about the pregnancy, I didn’t give a single thought about delivery until a doctor at my perinatal practice brought it up to me at about 20 weeks.
“If you can deliver them vaginally, it’s best,” he said.
Over the next several appointments, other doctors, all of whom were male, echoed this point. I started talking to other multiple moms and learned that many who hoped for a vaginal birth ended up delivering one of their twins vaginally and the other via cesarean. I hadn’t made a birth plan at this point, but if I did, recovering from both a vaginal birth and cesarean weren’t in it.
At my next appointment, I saw a female obstetrician at the practice, who also happened to be a twin mom. I asked for her opinion on delivery, not only as a medical professional, but also as a mom of multiples.
“You could be a good candidate for a c-section,” she said.
It was the first time I felt like the decision was my own, and that choosing a c-section wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. After doing my research and weighing the pros and cons with my wife, we decided to deliver the twins via c-section, and would only opt for a vaginal birth if the twins decided to come on their own first. I’m not going to lie, the control freak in me liked the thought of selecting the day and time of birth. I requested to be the first delivery of the morning, so the doctor would be rested and fresh, and that’s exactly what I got.
I wasn’t nervous about the procedure itself, but I also I wasn’t prepared for the responses I’d get when I told other women that I would be delivering via c-section. Most women had an opinion about it, ranging from “I’m so sorry” to “You actually chose that?”
I carried the twins for 38.5 weeks until our scheduled delivery date. I was so anxious to meet the two little people that had grown inside me that the procedure didn’t phase me until I was separated from my wife as I was prepped for surgery. Several minutes passed and as soon as I thought they had forgotten about her in the waiting area, she was ushered in and it was go time. About 15 minutes later, our baby boys emerged into the world three minutes apart. As the medical staff worked to put me back together, I got to enjoy several minutes of skin-to-skin time with our twin boys. After, my wife and the twins were taken to recovery area, and I joined them a few minutes later to resume skin-to-skin and start working on breastfeeding.
I was up walking later that evening, and although the first time getting out of bed was pretty painful, it got easier each time I did it. After being discharged from the hospital I followed doctors orders, taking it easy and getting as much rest as possible, which helped to ensure smooth recovery.
It was such a positive experience that when we got pregnant with our youngest son two years later, I opted to deliver via c-section again. Today I’m a mom to three amazing little boys, and I’m proud of the scar that shows where they left one world and entered another.
I’ve never shared my birth story beyond my close friends and family because of the c-section stigma. And while the procedure isn’t for everyone, it was the perfect birth experience for my family. Having a newborn, or newborns, comes with enough stress. The last thing a mother needs is the added stress that comes with feeling judged by the choices we make during one of the most memorable times of our lives.
I have several mom friends who have shared their amazing home birth stories with me. I’ve been in hospital rooms supporting my sister and dear friend as they delivered their precious miracles into the world. These experiences, combined with my own, has convinced me that however you give birth is beautiful.