Browsing Category

Uncategorized

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

The Heart Wrenching Journey

May 21, 2019

Written by Juliette Lindeman, Guest Blogger

A little over seven years ago I began a journey. A depressing, heart wrenching journey that ultimately led to one of the greatest days of my life.

In my early twenties I had no thought of infertility. I figured that when I wanted to start a family, I would. It would be easy, I had seen my friends and family do it without issues. I got married, and we both worked toward getting our careers going. We had a plan to start our family when I turned twenty-nine.

My doctor told me that it could take up to a year to get pregnant after stopping birth control. That year came and went. I started talking more with my gynecologist about what I should do and I googled so many things. I learned all about tracking cycles, tracking body temperatures, and changing my diet. After the first year had passed without contraception, my doctor recommended I begin Clomid. I remember when I first started the medication feeling so hopeful that I would get pregnant right away, we didn’t. I felt alone, sad, frustrated, and disappointed.

I remember family members repeatedly asking when we were going to have kids. For a while we would say whenever it happens, and then eventually just becoming honest that we had been trying for a few years. Most people would say the same things; “it will happen, maybe you just need to relax”, and my favorite was “once you stop trying you will get pregnant”. They had no idea that every month I would track my cycles, pee on a stick to see if I was ovulating, timing the right days to have sex, lay with my legs in the air encouraging the sperm in the right direction, going to have lab work to check my levels, doctor appointments, and then every cycle for the two weeks wondering if by chance this time I was finally pregnant. Every tinge in my abdomen, sore breast, or bit of nausea had me hopeful, but instead it was month after month of disappointment. Sitting in the bathroom with that negative test, tears in my eyes. These years were so hard for me. Every time a family member would announce a pregnancy I would be bitter. Not because I wasn’t happy for them, but because I didn’t know why it wasn’t me.

Then one day it happened, a miracle! I got my first positive pregnancy test. I was so excited! Unfortunately, the pregnancy was found to be ectopic. I remember the ultrasound tech scanning the monitor not talking, or looking at me. I knew something was wrong. That would be the first of many ultrasounds, lab works, and hospital visits. They believed that the egg implanted on the outside of my fallopian tube. I was instructed by my doctor to go to the hospital to have an infusion of methotrexate because my tube had not ruptured. Methotrexate is a chemotherapy medication that destroys these types of cells. I ended up needing two infusions to bring my hcg levels down. For a whole month off and on I endured severe physical pain, and fatigue.

After the ectopic pregnancy, we were referred to a fertility specialist. We had lots of testing done that did not give us any information as to why we could not conceive; my diagnosis unexplained infertility. My specialist wanted me to visit a local obstetrician to remove my fallopian tube; which appeared to be abnormal after my ectopic pregnancy. My new doctor reviewed all my information and test results. He suggested that we try clomid again, with close monitoring. So I started clomid again, changed my diet becoming a vegetarian, started doing acupuncture, and yoga. A year came and went with no result of a pregnancy.

My doctor suggested that I have exploratory laparoscopic surgery, and hysteroscopy. After the procedure we learned that I had endometriosis and adhesions that were holding my ovaries down. My doctor explained that even if an egg was able to make it out of the ovary that the chances of it making it into the fallopian tube was slim. My doctor was able to remove the adhesions releasing the ovaries. We then tried clomid again, hopeful that this was the key. Months went by with no luck. I was starting to lose hope once again, and my husband and I agreed that we would pursue in vitro fertilization by the end of the year.

In August after coming home from a trip I saw those two little lines on my pregnancy test! I was beyond excited, and also had so much anxiety. My doctor was so amazing. He got us in extra early, so early that all we saw was a sac, and a fetal pole, but it was there in my uterus! We went back a couple weeks later, and we saw the little flicker of a heartbeat; it felt so surreal. I was so nervous my whole pregnancy, I worried that something would happen to the baby. I was afraid to even buy baby clothes because I thought it would jinx it.

Then the day came! May 21, after six years of trying to conceive, and 30 hours of labor; I delivered my perfect angel Lucy Rose, the greatest day of my life. A few months after Lucy’s first birthday we were overjoyed and surprised to find out we were expecting again!  Levi completed our family May 17th of last year. Through my journey I opened up more, and was surprised to find out that close friends and coworkers were also struggling. I learned I was not alone, and have found a wonderful community of supporting women.

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

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

Giving Grace

May 7, 2019

Written by Starlyn Cafferata, Guest Blogger

There are so many moments in my infertility journey that stand out to me, whether they are good or bad. My biggest feeling throughout my journey was that I felt “less than” because of my diagnoses and because it was “my fault”.

Not a single person ever made me feel that way or blamed me, except myself. I often would spend time thinking about how bad of a wife I was because there was a good chance I wouldn’t give my husband a child of his own. Again, he NEVER made me feel this way – if anything, he was so incredibly supportive of me. I will always be grateful for his love through every step of the way.

I remember one particularly bad day – we were sitting in bed after yet another setback and I had just had enough. I turned to him and said, “We should probably get divorced, you’re meant to be a Dad and I probably won’t be able to give you any kids. If we split now, you can find someone that can.” Words couldn’t describe the range of emotions that crossed his face. Hurt, anger, shock – mostly shock. He took a second to gather himself and said, “That is absolutely ridiculous. If we can’t have kids, that’s fine. We can have each other, we can travel, and we can be the cool aunt and uncle. But, we will be together. Because if I have to choose between the two, I’ll always choose you.”

It was a wake-up call. I had been so far in my own guilt, punishing myself and blaming myself that I couldn’t see my teammate trying to support me. I had been grieving and hurting myself and I had to stop. From that moment on I chose to forgive myself, to open up and take the help. God knows I needed it.

Giving yourself grace is the act of forgiving YOURSELF and not punishing yourself for things you cannot control. I chose to take the time that I would have spent punishing myself and allowed my husband to lift me up! I really think that was a huge turning point in the entire process, I was able to handle setbacks better, was able to open up about everything more. It was the best decision I could have made! I really think that allowing myself time to be sad, to be angry and forgive myself for those feelings made my experience better for me. I was able to be more honest with everyone around me and actually ask for what I needed from my people.

I actually saw a quote the other day that made me laugh so hard! “I’m slutty with giving grace to others and stingy with giving grace to myself” – on Instagram – This spoke to me because it is SO TRUE for me! I need to be sluttier for myself! But I’ll always be giving grace to others!

After I chose to really embrace my journey – I went on to hit even MORE roadblocks, more setbacks and more disappointments. Until I was blessed beyond belief to have a successful, easy, joyful pregnancy and have a little angel of my own!

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

Fertility Diet

April 30, 2019

Written by Karina Knight, Guest Blogger

I have always looked back and wondered if I could’ve done anything differently to improve the chances of having a successful pregnancy. What did I do wrong? Maybe I shouldn’t have had that extra cup of coffee? Guilt, pain and unbearable sadness is what best describes the moment they told us “there is no heartbeat” when we arrived at the ER immediately after my water broke with our full-term, healthy baby boy. And then it doesn’t get any better when doctors would say “we don’t know what happened”, “there is nothing we could’ve done”, “it is a statistic, happens in 1 out of 25,000 pregnancies”. In a way, it was a blessing that there was nothing “wrong” when trying to get pregnant with our first born, at some point you just must see your glass as half-full.

As soon as we got the green light from the doctors to get pregnant again, I tried Clomid, estrogen, took hundreds of dollars’ worth of supplements but it still took us 1 year, 1 month and 12 days to get pregnant. Interestingly though, I got pregnant when I discontinued all of these interventions, I just “let go”.

I was extremely careful with everything related to my pregnancy, and more meticulous about my diet. But because sometimes no matter what precautions you take, there are always uncontrollable factors. Our second baby was born at 32 weeks because I had complete placenta previa and began preterm labor due to placental abruption. I was immediately hospitalized and put under magnesium drip for a couple of days to buy time while the steroid shots kicked in to speed up the baby’s lung development. Three days later, we were incredibly blessed to conceive a BREATHING and healthy baby boy who only spent 10 days in the NICU. Despite our fears of complicated pregnancies, we really wanted to have another baby. So, the third time around doctors did not want to use any medications because they felt I did not have difficulties getting pregnant, rather maintaining the pregnancy. This time it took us only 2 months to conceive, we were ecstatic! Everything seemed normal until my 10-week follow-up when we heard again those terrible words “there is no heartbeat”. We were devastated! What was I doing wrong? Were my iron storages low, did I have low levels of folic acid? Endless unanswered questions. We decided to take one last chance, we couldn’t bear the idea of losing another baby. I got back on track with very healthy eating nutrient-dense foods, exercising, hydrating and fast forward 4 months later, we got pregnant again! Finally, the last pregnancy was a “normal” pregnancy where I had no complications and our healthy baby girl was born at 38 weeks.

Like me, there are many stories, all unique which I have been fortunate to be part of for my patients who are trying to conceive and/or carry a healthy pregnancy. The reason for my personal story is to let you know that there is a science behind improving the odds for pregnancy in terms of diet. However, remember that everyone is unique and there are still a lot of gray areas for which there no reasonable explanations. We cannot control all the factors, but we can at least try. The most popular diet is called, the Fertility Diet and about 80% of my patients trying to conceive, get pregnant about 6-months after following the diet. I’m not saying this is the only factor influencing the outcome, but it can help. The diet was developed by Drs. Jorge Chavarro and Walter Willett, both from Harvard School of Public Health. It is based on a comprehensive examination of diet and fertility, an 8-year study of more than 18,000 women without a history of infertility. In another study of women in Spain, those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet (high intake of vegetables, fish, and healthy fats), had 44% lower odds of seeking medical help for difficulty getting pregnant compared to the control group.

The diet improves the ovulation cycle and prevents ovulatory dysfunction which is one of the causes of infertility. It concluded that by following this diet, the probability of infertility is reduced by 28% and by 68% the probability of ovulatory dysfunction. They also found that those who regularly consumed refined carbs, white rice, and potatoes were associated with an increased risk of ovulation infertility. While current evidence on the role of dairy, alcohol, and caffeine is inconsistent, saturated fats, and sugar have been associated with poorer fertility outcomes in women and men. Moreover, women and men with obesity [body mass index (BMI) ? 30 kg/m2] have a higher risk of infertility. This risk is extended to women who are underweight (BMI <20 kg/m2). If a woman is overweight and trying to conceive, the main goal is to lose weight. By losing 10% of your weight, it can improve insulin sensitivity which helps women with PCOS ovulate. But woman who are lean and with PCOS, they can still be insulin-resistant, which can interfere with ovulation. In that case, eating fewer processed carbs and more whole-grain carbs can result in a slower rise in blood sugar and a lower insulin production, which is favorable for fertility.

What does the fertility diet recommend?

  • Avoid trans fats, usually found in baked goods.
  • Opt for healthy fats. Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and lower overall inflammation. Include avocado or olive oil, nuts, seeds, and cold water fish such as salmon and sardines. Cut back on saturated fat.
  • Turn to vegetable protein. Switch 50% of your proteins from animal origin to plant-based, this can reduce the risk of ovulation infertility by 50%.
  • Choose low-glycemic carbs, not no carbs. The type of carbs are more important than they amount. Opt for complex carbs such as whole grains, vegetables, whole fruits, and beans, avoid refined flours. Total carbohydrates do not matter as much if it is a diet with moderate (60%) or low (40%) carbohydrates.
  • Use whole milk and yogurt (it you eat it).
  • Take a prenatal vitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid, start 3 months before you are trying to conceive.  
  • Get plenty of iron from plants, such as dark greens, beans, lentils and combine with vitamin C (critics, red bell peppers, etc.) to increase absorption. Tea and coffee inhibit iron absorption when consumed with a meal or shortly after a meal.
  •  Aim towards a healthy weight per your BMI.
  • Stay hydrated, about 1 ml per 1 kilocalorie.
  • Stay active.

In a recent review, antioxidants, vitamin D, dairy products, soy, caffeine, and alcohol appeared to have little or no effect on fertility.

Talk to your healthcare provider before taking any supplements as they may negatively interact with other supplements or medications. Search for a local dietitian in your area who is familiar with the fertility diet to help guide you towards a personalized nutrition plan that tailors your caloric needs and lifestyle.

If you’d like to connect with Karina, you can find her on Instagram Facebook or her Website!

References:

Gaskins AJ, Chavarro JE. Diet and fertility: a review. Am J Obstet Gynecol. (2018) 218:379–89.

Toledo E, Lopez-del Burgo C, Ruiz-Zambrana A, Donazar M, Navarro-Blasco I, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, et al. . Dietary patterns and difficulty conceiving: a nested case-control study. Fertil Steril. (2011) 96:1149–53.

Chavarro JE, Rich-Edwards JW, Rosner BA, Willett WC. Caffeinated and alcoholic beverage intake in relation to ovulatory disorder infertility. Epidemiology (2009) 20:374–81.

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

The Guilt of Infertility

April 27, 2019

Written by Alexis Kiely, Guest Blogger

My road to parenthood started in 2013.  My husband and I had been married for a year, I was 33 and he was 34.  We had just gotten back from a beautiful vacation in Europe and had decided (as the planners we are), that next on our list would be having the kid that we had both always wanted.  In our inexperienced minds, that would be all it takes.  Give it a few months and I would be pregnant. 

Little did we know at that time, that we were 1 in 8.  I was one of the 12% of women who experiences infertility.  Mine was defined as “unexplained”.  After two years of trying to get pregnant, we spent another two years exhausting all tests and medical procedures that our insurance would (partially) cover.  Through this whole experience, people would question us constantly about when we were going to have kids.  I’ve heard every iteration “How many kids do you have?” “None?!” “What are you waiting for?”  “Don’t wait too long?”  Each question hit me like a dagger in my heart.  I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that there was nothing in the world I wanted more.  I found myself biting my tongue instead.  For some reason, I was carrying this guilt around.  Guilt that I would make people feel uncomfortable if I told them the truth.  All while they were giving little to no regard for my feelings. 

After four years with no success, we started the expensive and emotional road of IVF.  I started the process with what I can only describe as measured hope.  It’s a feeling of hoping for success while also not allowing your hopes to get too high because you’ve had nothing but disappointment up to this point.  The planner in me thrived under the schedule of our first egg retrieval.  In a situation where everything is so out of your control, this was the one piece I could take charge of and complete perfectly.   While the results are uncertain, I could ensure that my shots were taken at the exact right time, that I made it to every monitoring appointment and lab appointment.  It’s crazy how the mind works when thrown into a chaotic situation.  It grasps to the one thing, no matter how minuscule it may seem, that makes it think it’s in control.

When we found out we were pregnant from our first FET, it didn’t sink in.  My life had been about trying to get pregnant for so long, that the switch to being pregnant was very hard to make.  That feeling continued on throughout my pregnancy.  I always felt like I was a step behind.  This feeling was even more prevalent when I suffered a sub chorionic hematoma at 6 weeks.  We came very close to losing her and I spent the rest of my pregnancy fearing the worst.

Even when I started feeling her kick and seeing her move on the ultrasound, it just didn’t feel real.  The downside of infertility for me (aside from the hormones and money spent!) was that it robbed me of the ability to enjoy a pregnancy without always planning for the worst.  As much as I loved being pregnant, I could never relax and get comfortable with the thought of becoming a mom.  I couldn’t bring myself to speak her name before she was born.  I had to be forced into creating a registry.  Getting the nursery ready scared me to death and was a task I couldn’t bring myself to complete until well into my third trimester.  All of these normal pregnancy related activities made me feel like I was tempting fate.

As my due date approached, I was finally feeling ready to welcome our little girl.  And then my due date came and went…. and went….. and went.  My doctor agreed to schedule me for an induction 10 days after my due date.  We joked that it took medical intervention to get me pregnant, and again to get me unpregnant.  The upside is that our little girl was born during National Infertility Awareness Week.  It’s such a good reminder of what we went through to get here.  I no longer carry the guilt of infertility.  When people ask when we’re having another, I feel no guilt in telling them we probably won’t.  I proudly explain to them how hard we fought to get her here and how we’re not sure if we want to go through that again. 

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

Q and A with Mira

April 26, 2019

Education and information is so important, especially the world of infertility. The more we know about our bodies and how they work, the better chance we have of conceiving. Mira was created to help with just that.

  • What prompted you to create Mira? Was it experience with infertility or something else?

I believe women need to have more education and control over their own health. Right now, information is generally owned by the hospital, but life decisions are made by the consumer. There is a huge gap. If we could access our own health data in an easy to understand way, it could greatly help us guide our own lives and decisions related to our health and it could empower us to increase our life quality. This is especially true for women, who face the challenge balancing work and life, and whose decision directly affects the family plan. 

  • How does Mira work exactly?

Mira works through a palm sized hospital-grade analyzer and disposable test wands. Users simply dip one of the disposable Mira Wand into a urine sample then insert it into the Mira Analyzer. A quantitative analysis is conducted and data is automatically synced to the Mira app through Bluetooth. This makes at-home health testing and hormone analysis easy and convenient. The AI in the Mira App then learns personal health patterns, providing personalized health and fertility insights to each individual user.

  • What is the purpose of tracking these fertility hormones? What can they tell us about fertility?

For those trying to conceive, there is a limited number of days per cycle where they can actually conceive. As you can imagine, tracking your fertility hormones and knowing exactly when ovulation and these fertile days occur is essential to getting pregnant in a timely manner.

Fertility hormone changes are an extremely accurate predictor of ovulation and your peak fertile window. During a menstrual cycle, a sudden surge of Luteinizing Hormone (LH) triggers the release of a mature egg. This is what is known as “ovulation”. LH hormone concentrations can be measured in urine and blood. This sharp surge of LH tells you that ovulation is about to occur within 24-48 hours. These are the two most fertile days for those trying to conceive! Every women has different hormone levels and even hormone levels can change from cycle to cycle for each person as well. Personalization is very important to achieve effective outcomes. Mira’s AI learns each individual’s home pattern so we have the best accuracy that specifically optimized for the individual.

  • What makes Mira different than an OPK?

Currently, all hormone-based fertility trackers on the market try to predict ovulation based on a hard hormone threshold for the LH surge?(based on the population average). This is due to the fact that they cannot measure the actual hormone level, they can only measure whether it is above or below a certain level. The problem is that not all women correspond to this threshold. On the other hand, it is nearly impossible for women to go to hospital for a quantitative hormone test every day. Mira is the tracker that gives women the opportunity to receive actual hospital-grade hormone readings in the comfort of their home.

  • Where do you see the Mira product(s) going a couple years from now?

We see Mira becoming a comprehensive at-home women’s health testing platform. From trying to avoid pregnancy, trying to conceive, fetal health, menopause, to disease tracking, Mira will empower users to take control of their health. All future test wands and tests will be compatible with the same Mira Analyzer but using different test wands. The Mira App AI interprets and analyzes what you could do with the test results. Health tips and recommendations will be provided to you in a personalized way. It’s essentially a clinical lab in the comfort of your home. We want Mira to be a trustworthy health partner and one stop solution, regardless what life stage you are at.

  • What is the biggest thing, in your opinion, that needs to change about the fertility and women’s health space?

We think medical diagnostic testing and treatments will move from the doctor’s office setting to the consumer setting through telemedicine. Consumer health products are becoming more and more clinically relevant. Continuous at-home health tracking will give doctors insights and access to data that they have never had access to before, and AI will help them crunch this data to help analyze and extract insights. Health tech is moving to the digital space and consumers will have much more control of their health. Mira is proud to be part of this empowerment and we strive to keep pushing the boundaries of at-home diagnostic health testing and quality of life for all our users!

If you’d like to learn more about Mira, you can find them on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or their Website!

***Also be sure to use the code WTF30 for $30 off your purchase!***

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

Cayson – Against All Odds

April 22, 2019

Written by Sunsarae Jackson, Guest Blogger

Cayson: Courageous and tough; Unrelenting.

Courageous – Not deterred by danger or pain

Tough – Strong enough to withstand adverse conditions or rough or careless handling.

Unrelenting – Not softening or giving in easily.

I believe GOD allows you to go through things so that you can share your story. You never know how sharing your story can bring healing to someone else. I was diagnosed with PCOS back in 2000. Over the past 14 years we’ve attempted to start our family. We were unsuccessful after many failed attempts of IUI using trials of Clomid, Letrozole and Gonal F.

Although no one would choose to have fertility issues, I thank GOD that the technology exists to help those of us who do. I believe GOD uses medicine to assist those who struggle with fertility to have hope. As a woman who has tried to get pregnant many times, attempting and failing was the hardest thing ever.

When starting treatment there is so much hope that maybe this time the meds will work and we will reach our goal of getting a healthy follicle to grow. To returning the day of ultrasound just to be told the meds didn’t work and there was no follicular growth at all. It’s just heartbreaking. Going through this caused so much pain in my marriage. Feelings of inadequacy on my part. Thoughts of not being worthy to be a mother. Did GOD put this promise in my heart to be disappointed over and over again, surely not.

Over the years we prayed and prayed to become parents. About 4 years ago I reached out to The Doctors TV for help. See the outcome of that reach below:

Journey to Pregnancy

http://www.thedoctorstv.com/articles/2731-journey-to-pregnancy

Weight and Infertility

http://www.thedoctorstv.com/articles/2861-weight-and-infertility

Here we were about to embark on the journey to become parents once again, this time it was different. We felt a sense of hope. The doctor we were working with set realistic expectations with us. During our initial consult he explained that with my history he was pretty confident we could get pregnant but that it may not happen the first time around. He wanted us to be prepared to face several trials as we tried different meds. We agreed and we began our journey on an IUI Cycle March 11, 2018.

I remember March 26, 2018 like it was yesterday.  It was the last time I’d be checked to see if any follicles had matured. The ultrasound was done and the doctor found one follicle had matured. In that moment I broke down crying the happiest of tears, in that moment I knew I was going to be a mother. I knew after all the years of praying, treatments and trying that this time was going to be successful. I recall the doctor saying “Don’t cry yet, it’s the first step” in case I didn’t get pregnant he didn’t want me to be discouraged. In my heart I knew this was it! Before I left his office I was given further instructions and told to take a home pregnancy test on April 9, 2018. The time between March 16 and April 9 seemed to take forever. Everyday that went by I would look for signs that I was pregnant. Signs based on things that I’d read or heard that one would feel as I’d never experienced pregnancy for myself.

The first sign arrived on April 2, I was exhausted. I’d never been so excited to feel this way. I know it may sound weird, but it’s what happens when you’ve wanted something for so long. Over the next few days I’d began to experience more symptoms as well. I was so sure I was pregnant I wanted to test early. I’d spoken to my husband and he thought I should wait so that if the test was negative I wouldn’t be disappointed. We later decided I would take the test early with the expectation that my body may not have yet produced enough of the pregnancy hormone. I tested on April 7, it was negative. The next 2 days were the hardest to get through. I was so anxious.

It was 3:09am on April 9, 2018 test day! I awoke and took the test. This had to be the longest 3 minutes of my life. Then it happened, words I’d longed to read for what seems like a lifetime appeared on the screen “Pregnant”. We’d prayed for this day to come for as long as I can remember. Sometimes losing faith that our dream would come true. As a woman it’s hard when you’re asked, “When are you going to have kids?” My response has always been the same, “When GOD says so” Believing, but never knowing when he would.

I gave the clinic a call to inform them of the home test results, they setup bloodwork in order to confirm the pregnancy. On April 11, 2018 our babies pending arrival was confirmed. April 27, 2018 was the best day in the world, we heard babies heartbeat for the first time; it’s still the best sound in the world. The dr. advised that babies heart was strong and that it looked as it should for a baby at 4 weeks old.  Our last appointment at the clinic was May 11, 2018. We heard babies heartbeat for the 2nd time and we were released to obtain prenatal care. On May 30, 2018, we found out we were having a BOY!!!. We were so thrilled, all was going fairly well. Then on June 11, 2018 at 13 weeks our lives changed.We were at our visit with the perinatologist. The ultrasound tech had come in and completed the initial ultrasound. When the doctor came in he explained to us that he found a small abdominal wall abnormality on our son called an Omphalocele.  This is a rare abdominal wall defect in which the intestines, liver and occasionally other organs remain outside of the abdomen in a sac because of failure of the normal return of intestines and other contents back to the abdominal cavity during around the ninth week of intrauterine development. Our world was rocked. He explained that this diagnosis would be confirmed at our 20 week ultrasound.

The time between June 11 and July 30, 2018 was very rough on us. At times I would break down crying and praying, praying and crying. July 30, during our 20 week ultrasound it was confirmed that our son had 1 of 2 possible abdominal birth defects, Gastroschesis or Omphalocele. It was explained to us that babies with this defect often have additional abnormalities or genetic conditions. After explaining the differences of the conditions to us we were given some options to think about regarding whether or not to continue with the pregnancy.

The first option was to have an amniocentesis to see if the baby had any additional genetic abnormalities. This is where a needle is inserted into the woman’s stomach and fluid is drawn and then sent to be tested. This test came with a small chance of miscarriage. The second option was Termination. This would mean ending the pregnancy. The Third was to proceed with the pregnancy knowing and understanding the risks. We had already had genetic tests done that came back normal and decided against having the Amnio done. Termination was NEVER an option for us, we knew that GOD had chosen us to become parents after being married almost 14 years and after many failed attempts at fertility treatment. We would continue the pregnancy knowing the risks while continuing to pray for the best outcome possible.

After making our decision we were referred to a neonatologist, pediatric cardiologist and surgeon as their teams would be present at babies birth; along with Sutter Special Start, a program that would help with coordinating these appointments, support groups and a tour of the NICU. The next several weeks would be daunting, we would meet with all the specialists and take a tour of the NICU where the baby would go immediately after birth to be assessed and cared for.

August 2, 2018, we went to the pediatric cardiologist. We had a Fetal Echocardiogram done and …. Praise Report!!!! Our sons heart was fine, all 4 Chambers were there and it was the size it should’ve been. The cardiologist was looking to see if there was a hole in the lower chamber of the heart. This will be checked again when the baby is born.

August 10, 2018, we had the consultation with the surgeon. After speaking with her she gave us 3 possibilities.

  • Immediate surgery at birth for a cord Omphalocele.
  • Pray and wait for a small Omphalocele and then surgery at 1 year old.
  • Major and may need to wait months before baby comes home.

Sept 13, 2018 we met with one of the neonatologists that may be treating the our son the day of birth. We also took a tour of the WCC, Floors were L&D, Postpartum and NICU.

October 23, 2018 our twice weekly non-stress tests began, these tests are to check amniotic fluid levels, babies heart rate and activity. We would have these tests done up until the Friday prior to delivery.

We had our last visit with the perinatologists that had been following us on November 19, 2018. Ever since the diagnosis our son showed he was a fighter. Due to his size and the condition it was confirmed that I would have him via c-section. Although this wasn’t my choice, it was the best option for baby and I.

December 10, 2018 was the happiest day of our lives. At  2:08pm Cayson was delivered weighing 11lbs, 10oz and 21 inches long. He was born with a small omphalacele containing a portion of his intestines. After a few quick photos he was taken to the NICU for assessment and care. Through it all the lesson I learned is that no matter what is said or expected GOD can change the outcome! I expected that Cayson would spend months in the NICU but I prayed that he wouldn’t. GOD answered my prayers again, Cayson spent 6 days in the NICU and was released one day before our 14 year anniversary, he is the best gift we could’ve asked for.

Our son is our miracle!

I was reminded by a mom of the scripture in Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you,”declares the LORD,” plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.

If you’d like to connect with Sunsarae, you can find her on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!

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

Infertility Uncovered

April 20, 2019

Written by Jessica Di Bella, Guest Blogger

Photo credit: Cami Jane Photography

We started dating when we were only teenagers back in 2005— dreaming together what our wedding day would be like, how we would build a life together and of course, what our future babies would be like. The value of family and wanting to create one of our own one day, has always been a common value we treasured about one another. By being intentional in our prayers over parenthood, we believed that our desire was a calling the Lord had placed on our hearts not merely as a “lifestyle”,  but a ministry to further bring glory. 

Photo Credit: Lauren Scotti Photography

Our fertility journey began unknowingly in 2012 after we said, “I Do”. We decided to not use birth control, as we would have joyfully welcomed the gift of a child in the sanctity of our marriage, if the Lord saw fit, while we intended to use the first couple years to enjoy being husband & wife. Assuming we were just “really good” at avoiding getting pregnant without contraceptives, we decided that we were ready to start growing our family in January 2015. After 6 months, we knew deep down something wasn’t right. We decided to seek help through my OBGYN, who after running blood tests & ultrasounds, encouraged us to “keep trying” for another 6 months and was optimistic that would do the trick.

Fast forward 6 months… nothing.

A few more blood tests, a few more ultrasounds, a very painful HSG procedure… nothing. Convinced that it could possibly be my husband’s contribution, he tested and was found to be above average in all areas. Back to the drawing board. Our OBGYN was beside herself and was honest, that she didn’t know what else she could do to help. I left the doctor’s office in tears, as it sunk in— something was wrong. We felt disappointed and lost, but we continued to pray for the Lord’s direction & to answer our prayers to conceive.

Photo Credit: Cami Jane Photography

Coming to terms with the fact that we were struggling with infertility was overwhelming, frustrating and devastating. We continued to do our best to keep a smile on our faces and even though we are happy for them, it was tough to watch our closest friends and those around us get pregnant with ease. Each month we clung to hope & prayed with white knuckles that THIS would be the month. Walking past baby aisles and periodically making small purchases for the moment I could tell my husband and our family that, “We’re pregnant!”

There were so many times I would visit friends in the hospital just after they had a baby. Filled with joy while holding their precious miracle in the hospital room, I would sit in my car for an hour afterwards sobbing and praying for God to take away my desire to be a mother, if it wasn’t His will for my life.

We never thought we would struggle to grow our family, and nevertheless sought help from a Fertility Specialist after the encouragement of friends through church who had struggled with the same trial. We did our research and made an appointment with one of the top Fertility Specialists on the west coast, with one of the highest success rates for couples struggling with infertility in the nation.

With my husband’s side of things being excellent, our doctor ran me through a few more routine tests and procedures. We were put on a level 1 for our treatment plan— medications + vitamins + multiple monthly ultrasounds + multiple monthly blood work + restrictive diet + trigger shots + timed intercourse. We were excited that this could finally be it!

Three months into treatment and we had no success, so we switched medications, hoping my body would respond better to a different drug. Each month, being harder and harder, as well as becoming more devastated emotionally, physically and financially with no results. We were now classified as “Unexplained Infertility” after 2.5 years of trying to get pregnant intentionally, and almost 5 years unintentionally with no contraceptives. Realizing that there could be a chance we would never become parents naturally, we made sure to continue to keep our marriage as the focal point- going on trips away to spend quality time together, making date night a priority and even going to marriage counseling when we saw that our fertility journey was putting a strain on our relationship.

After a traumatic car accident, ovarian cysts from medication and what felt like countless setbacks, we completed our last round of treatment for level 1 and it was unsuccessful. We were told that we had exhausted the level of treatment we had been trying at (with a 39% chance to get pregnant overall), and with our testing results and lack of fertility insurance coverage, Level 2 (IUI) wouldn’t provide us with any greater odds than that of which we had been trying already. Since I was currently under 30 years old, as well as all of our other tests show in our favor, our doctor was very optimistic and said that IVF would provide us with a 80-90% chance to become parents on one try.

In Vitro Fertilization is intensive and extremely expensive. Unfortunately, our medical insurance didn’t cover a dime. It became more and more difficult to come up with the funds to proceed with fertility treatment, after spending thousands upon thousands of dollars. With over 2.5 years worth of blood work, testing, procedures and medications all paid for out of pocket, we had exhausted our personal finances. This is when we came to terms with the fact we needed to vulnerable and ask for help, so we started at GoFundMe. It was both difficult & humbling to even ask for help for such a personal journey, but we pray that through our transparency & vulnerability, God will be glorified and other couples will be comforted. We knew ultimately the Lord would provide as He saw fit and most importantly, we wanted to give glory to God through this entire journey & process. We knew medically, the longer we waited, our chances for success would decrease, statistically speaking.

In August 2017, we started our IVF journey after raising over $8,000.00 in funds, family donations and pulling from savings we put away over 6 months for this moment. I remember walking into the fertility clinic with $12k+ in cash, because we just wanted to put the money down as soon as we got it and out of our bank accounts. September 2017, I started my pre-egg retrieval stomach injections and boy did they suck. As a wedding photographer, I would have to plan in advance when I would be able to sneak away (in a short window of time) to give myself multiple injections out of sight from guests and my clients. It was physically and emotionally taxing to say the least. As we were a few days out from our egg retrieval and countless injections later, I got the call 15 minutes before a photoshoot that my estrogen levels had plummeted and my egg retrieval would need to be rescheduled for a later date and I would need a whole NEW protocol for medications. I felt like the wind was knocked out of me and tears streamed down my face, as I knew my doctor wouldn’t make that kind of call unless it was in my best interest. Regardless, I was devastated that I would now have to wait even longer to get closer to holding my baby I had been dreaming of.

November finally came. My egg retrieval was a success in medical terms and 30 eggs had been retrieved (Holy Crap!)… my husband and I decided to not do genetic testing for personal and faith based reasons, so we had no idea the “medical” chances we had for a success transfer once reaching day 5 with our embryos. Day 5 came, we got the call that 6 embryos had made it to the end. Kind of crazy when you think about it- your start with 30 eggs, about half of those fertilize and each day a few drop off until you’re left with your find number.

Because my ovaries were SO swollen from the medications and the procedure (the doctor said they were “kissing” over my uterus), we were denied a fresh transfer and put our little babies in the freezer (so to speak) and waited for clearance to do a frozen transfer.

Once again, being a wedding photographer, my timeline had to be very strategic for when we would not only do the transfer and I would be on bedrest, but when our potential baby (or babies) would be born. So while we were cleared for January 2018, we chose March 13, 2018 as our transfer date. Now came the intramuscular injections… I was terrified. For someone who is covered in tattoos, intramuscular injections were something I was dreading the entire journey. I remember that first injection in the doctors office. The nurse showed my husband, so he could help me on a daily basis to do several injections into my upper butt cheek- (enter sarcastic “yay” here). I kept asking question after question to avoid the inevitable needle going into my tooshy. Although, I will say that they got better or more tolerable with time, it was still a task I don’t look back on fondly. Like with my stomach injections before egg retrieval, I had a routine for the process before and during my injections. I would take deep breaths to relax myself—because getting injections while tense isn’t fun for anyone— and I would put on worship music to focus on, while getting stabbed with a needle. I would envision myself pregnant and ultimately holding my baby at the end of all of this.

Transfer Day came after what felt like forever building up to it. We transferred two non-genetically tested embryos into my womb and waited 10 days for the blood test that would tell us if we had indeed became parents. I still remember that day like yesterday— it felt like waiting for Christmas morning as a little girl… would I get the present I had wanted all year long? We went and got the blood work done as soon as they opened, so I would hopefully be one of the first people to get a call later that afternoon with the results. Then we waited what felt like an eternity to get the call. It was around 3:00pm when I saw the call come in and I anxiously answered it. My nurse coordinator had become a good friend to me over the years of treatment and heartache. She messed with me- asking me how I felt, if I had any symptoms since the transfer and then asked me if I wanted to know the results. “You’re Pregnant!” I heard on the other end of the phone and tears streamed down my face, still in disbelief. I had never heard those words, had never seen 2 lines on a test… how could it be?! Immediately after hanging up the phone, I went to pee on an old test I had in my drawer and quickly 2 pink lines showed up. I held the test and sobbed tears of joy… IT WORKED! All those years of heartache, pain, frustration and tears brought us to this day. Quickly, I realized I had about 45 minutes before my husband would be home from work, so I rushed to the store and got a digital test and balloons that said “BABY” to surprise him as soon as he walked through the door. As soon as I got home, I hit the record button on my phone and waited for his reaction. Right after my wedding day, it was the most joyous day of my life.

Photo Credit: Cami Jane Photography

Fast forward December 3, 2018. The day our little girl was born. One of our embryos made it and we got to hold our little girl in our arms for the first time. It was ALL worth it. Every tear, every heartbreak, every year, every dollar, every injection and all the prayers for our precious baby. There were several moments I had felt like giving up along our road to becoming parents. Several times I broke down crying at the idea of becoming 30 and not having a baby in my arms and no one to every call me “Mom”… but with faith, fight and an amazing team of gifted medical professionals, our dream is now reality. If I could give advice to anyone in the trenches of infertility, it would be to not give up. Your miracle could be on the other side of the storm you’re currently in. Find yourself a good community of others going through the same journey, whether online or in person. People who have never gone through it, unfortunately will never understand no matter how hard they try. Try to not let well-intentioned people with bad advice or unsolicited suggestions get in your head and take away your focus from your goal of having a baby. Keep your eye on the prize and don’t lose faith.

Photo Credit: Cami Jane Photography

If you’d like to connect with Jessica, you can find her on Instagram, Facebook, or her website!

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

Infertility and Insurance

April 18, 2019

Written by Elena Ridley, Guest Blogger

Ah infertility, it was a word I was not super familiar with until my husband and I started trying for babies several years ago.  Never ever in my life had I considered I would be affected by infertility.  No one in my family struggled with it, I had normal cycles and had never had any issues in the past, but once we began trying and month after month passed with negative test after negative test, I began to familiarize myself with the word.  There were many tears shed about it before it was even properly diagnosed.  There was a feeling of isolation because so many others were conceiving right before my very eyes, yet here we were two years into it and NOTHING.

Although I had spoken to my midwife after 12 months of TTC with no pregnancies, it would be another full year before we would be referred to a reproductive endocrinologist.  In those first two years we tried a lot of silly things but we were desperate.  Then we began doing things like having blood tests, semen analysis, and hysterosalpingograms.  When terms like this started to become part of our reality, I knew there was something wrong.  When I couldn’t hardly pronounce the word of the test I was having done, it was an indication that maybe there was a reason for our inability to get pregnant, it was then that I became very intimate with infertility.

Infertility is one of those things that most people don’t ever believe will happen to them, I was one of those people.  There are some women and men who know ahead of time that they could struggle to have children, however the vast majority really have no idea that it will become their reality.  Like many other diseases, infertility does not discriminate; it doesn’t matter what your race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or social class is—infertility may choose you.  It can affect anyone from the poorest of the poor to the richest of the rich.  The only difference is access to infertility treatment.  The average cost of a cycle of IVF is around $20,000 and the average cost of an IUI is around $5,000 and the real kicker is there is absolutely NO GUARANTEE that it will work. 

One of the most frustrating parts of all of it is that most people are not provided with insurance coverage for infertility treatment and although some states are “mandated” to provide coverage, if your employer is self-insured as many are, they do not have to follow the mandate law in their state.  It makes access to infertility treatment extremely frustrating, expensive, and limited.  Most people do not have an extra 20k laying around to spend on something of this nature.  So many people will max out credit cards, take second mortgages on their homes, or forego treatment at all because of the cost being so high. 

I was lucky that when I was pursuing infertility treatments my insurance plan covered infertility.  There were no limits to what it covered and I was able to have 2 IUIs, 3 fresh cycles, and 3 frozen cycles covered by my insurance and paid very little for my treatment.  My coverage included medications as well along with all the monitoring appointments and bloodwork.  I was so fortunate for this because at the time we had just began building our home as well and without that coverage we never would’ve been able to afford multiple rounds of treatment.  When we ventured down the path of donor eggs, the game changed as insurance would not cover the treatment of another person and we learned for the first time what it was like to spend thousands of dollars on our gamble with donor eggs.  We were also very fortunate that we finally did get pregnant with donor eggs after so many failed rounds with my own eggs.

In 2017 our union contract was expiring.  I work for a utility company in Illinois and under our previous contracts we had our own insurance plan that differed from that of management employees.  Our union insurance plan covered infertility, our management plan did not.  When our contract came up in July 2017 our company pushed very hard for all employees to be on the same plan, the management plan.  I was so crushed because I never considered that I would lose the coverage, yet here it was, presented right in front of us and something the company was not budging on.  Originally we voted down the contract but the company came back and said that another “no” vote would result in a strike and upon our second vote, the union voted in the new contract with the new management insurance being part of our agreement.  Since that contract was put into place, we have attempted two frozen embryo transfers for baby number 2.  Now that we do not have coverage, we have had to pay in upwards of $10,000 for these two cycles.  The outcome of both of those cycles ended in pregnancy loss and no take home baby.  That’s TEN THOUSAND dollars with NOTHING to show for it, and a large percentage of which would’ve been covered by insurance if our company would consider infertility treatment as part of their plan.

Now that this coverage has been taken away from us, it’s put a huge financial strain on being able to continue treatment.  Before, what was actually very accessible for me has become a huge burden.  I feel like we’ve actually taken a step back on something that we should be taking a step forward on. As the topic of infertility becomes less and less taboo, I see so much progress forward yet here we are progressing backwards. To say it’s frustrating is an understatement.  Although I have no idea where the outcome will go, and there is a possibility it will go nowhere, I am going to be taking on the task of asking my employer to consider providing infertility treatment coverage to its employees.  

With the help of Resolve – who already has steps in place to help people have the conversation with their employer about providing coverage – I plan to ask our benefits department about a rider to include infertility treatment.  Although there is a big chance the answer will be no, I feel as though it is my duty to ask.  I wonder how many of my fellow employees are struggling to get pregnant, are struggling to fund their treatment because we offer none, who wish there was coverage but don’t know the first thing about how to go about asking for it—I hope that maybe I can convince our company to help us progress forward with infertility treatment and help make it more accessible for people who desperately need it.

If you live in a state that mandates infertility coverage like I do but your employer is self-insured so they are “off the hook” from following these rules, I would highly suggest reaching out to your HR or benefits department and demanding change.  It is heartbreaking and appalling that so little has been done in terms of coverage to help family building.  I hope that one day we get to see all states mandate infertility coverage and self-insured companies begin considering how important and vital this coverage is to so many people as 1 in 8 couples in the United States struggle with infertility. 

Infertility will never go away.  It’s something that will continue to affect couples and the statistics may continue to grow as more and more people continue to share their struggle openly.  We must continue to make infertility a topic that can be openly discussed, we need to make the public aware of the disease and help those who do not suffer with infertility better understand the complexity of the disease and the financial burden that comes along with it.  There are so many wonderful ways to build our families besides the “traditional” ways, surrogacy, donor sperm, eggs, or embryos, adoption and more allow for couples to create their family dynamic in ways that were not always possible years ago, however we still lack the accessibility to these options being feasible because the costs are astronomical which is something we need to continue to advocate to change!

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

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

Don’t Let it Steal Your Joy

March 8, 2019

Written by Amber Reynolds, Guest Blogger

It was a Sunday just like any Sunday. I showed up early to serve at church, grabbed a cup of coffee, and headed to the sound booth. Then someone made a joke. A seemingly off-hand, nonchalant, in-passing joke.

“You think you need coffee now, just wait until you have a baby up all night, I didn’t sleep a wink!”  

It didn’t take much to knock the wind out of me those days, so that little joke, well, it put me right over the edge. I chuckled and continued on my way, but inside I was dying a little.

“I WOULD DO ANYTHING TO BE UP ALL NIGHT WITH A BABY! I WOULD GIVE UP COFFEE FOR A YEAR…FOR A LIFETIME! IF YOU’RE SO CRANKY ABOUT HAVING A BABY WHY DON’T YOU JUST GIVE ME YOURS! WHY IS EVERYONE ALWAYS HAVING BABIES AND THEN COMPLAINING ABOUT THEM! THIS ISN’T FAIR. I MATTER TOO.”

The voice in my head is quite loud and dramatic. But my feelings are valid. It may have taken me three years to realize it, but how I feel mentally is just as valid as how I feel physically. Society puts a ton of weight on parenthood. You become an adult, and then a spouse, but you really level up when you become a parent. Those of us who haven’t leveled up yet don’t deserve coffee because a tiny human is yet to demand every second of our time. Again, loud and dramatic.

But we were doing everything right. The dieting: eat this but not too much and don’t eat that except on Tuesdays. The exercise: run but not too long and lift but not too heavy. The reading: everyone has something to say and why doesn’t anyone agree on the said dieting and exercise? We tried acupuncture, natural supplements, chiropractor visits, essential oils, charting, testing, and we were tired.

Unexplained infertility.

The gross beast of a diagnosis. Nothing to do, yet everything to try. Every different suggestion brings on new (but cautious) hope. Everyone you meet has a story to share about someone they know that tried a thing and the next day they were pregnant. We have tried many of the things. I have yet to become pregnant.

My husband and I are now five years into this painful infertility journey. We have moved multiple times, changed occupations, buried my father, bought a couple of homes, and even became foster parents. All of those things have molded us into who we are, they have altered our identity, and changed our perspective.

I no longer want to throat-punch anyone who makes a joke about babies. I’ve cared for babies who have kept me up all night. I no longer cringe when I see a pregnancy announcement, my joy overflows for my friends. I no longer cry every time I get my period (although sometimes I do because WTF). I no longer kill myself with my diet and exercise, allowing myself a beer with my salad has been lovely grace. But just because our perspective has been altered, does not mean that we have given up. Being called mommy by my precious foster babies is a joy I never knew if I would have. However, it does not take away the longing to carry a child in my womb.

This fertility journey sucks. It sucks the joy out of life, the fun out of sex, the laughter out of jokes. Five years in, I’ve learned it is okay to hate this part of our story, but it isn’t okay to dwell on that hatred. So we find joy. We dwell on the things that don’t suck. We make sex, and eating, and exercise, and massages, and reading less of a chore and more of an adventure. Do you allow the “this-use-to-be-fun-and-now-it-sucks” part of infertility steal your joy?! Don’t let it! Fight the drift! And for goodness sakes, drink coffee whenever you feel like it!

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

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!

What The Fertility

Subscribe to our exclusive content, blog updates and be the first one to know about our awesome giveaways !!!