Tag: unexplained infertility

The Big Fat Confession

I’ve been sitting on a secret. It’s kind of a big one. I’ve struggled with keeping it, but ultimately, I stand by my decision as it kept others from suffering, and allowed the husband and me time to process and deal with some things… So, without further ado, here’s my confession. ***** Back at the

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Acu-Believe It!

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013.  CD17, 1DPO.

Have you guys seen the movie Pitch Perfect?

Because if you haven’t, I don’t know if we can be friends anymore…

 

Anyway, this post is brought to you by my love for this movie.

And acupuncture, herbs, and all things TCM.

So really, a very strange combination of things…

Aaaaaaaaanyway…

Here’s the haps, gurlfrands.

Progress is being made in a big way over here, and I am about to get all OMG YOU GUYS HAVE TO TRY THIS on you for a minute.

So the first cycle I met with Dr. McStabby, I was about halfway-ish through the month, so his treatments couldn’t have had much of an effect on my cycle length at that time.  That was my August cycle, and I ovulated on cycle day 21 that month.  Auntie Dearest showed up ten days later.

September, the first full month of treatment, I ovulated on cycle day 19, and had an eleven day luteal phase.  Still not the greatest, but you know… progress.

And here we are in October, the second full month of my TCM treatment, and I just ovulated.

On cycle day 16, you guys.

SIXTEEN.

That’s amazing, right?!  I mean, in two months’ time, acupuncture and herbs, along with some dietary and lifestyle changes, have effectively moved my ovulation date up almost a WEEK!!!

Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked, both that this treatment path that I regularly refer to as “Chinese voodoo” is a legitimate, medically effective way to impact infertility, and that my body is responding – and responding well!

Now, I have to point out that many women need to follow the dietary and lifestyle guidelines, take their herbs consistently, and see their acupuncturist at least once a week for a good three or four months to see noticeable changes like this, so if you’re considering trying out the TCM lifestyle, plan on committing to at least six months of treatment.

Some women notice changes right away – there are several women in my FertilityFriend acupuncture group who became pregnant within a month or two of starting treatments!  That’s great, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not the norm by any means.  The average woman in that group who has gotten pregnant using only acupuncture and herbs, has done so in the third or fourth month of treatment, sometimes later, but noticed some differences, even small ones, sooner.

The fact that I’m in line with the rest of the class as far as noticing these differences makes me feel pretty spectacular.

Oh, and you know what else makes me feel spectacular?

NOT BEING LOADED UP ON HORMONES.

NOT EATING ALL. THE. THINGS.

NOT BEING HATEFUL AND RESENTFUL OF PREGNANT WOMEN.

FEELING SPECTACULAR MAKES ME FEEL SPECTACULAR!

Sorry for the OMGALLCAPS type-yelling.  I’m just excited.  You can’t be mad about that, right?

Right.

And if you are…

So really the reason for this post was to let you all know that if you’ve been banging your head against a wall with infertility treatments for a year, two years – God, four and a half years – maybe it’s time to give this a chance.

If you’re like me, and you have the horrifying plague known as Unexplained Infertility, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine are very real, very effective treatment options.

Infertility isn’t always the end of the world…

…And Western medical treatment options aren’t the be-all end-all, either.

Look around, call around, and see what else is out there, especially if you feel like you’re not making any progress with meds and ART.

This could be the “silly little thing”, the “Chinese voodoo” that works for you!  You could be the girl in that story about “The Girl Who Tried Everything, and Then She Turned To Black Magic…”  

YOU COULD BE THAT GIRL.

Yes, ma’am.

Give it a shot (pun. intended.)… You could be a TCM success story!

And as always, thanks for reading!

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Eastward Bound

Hello, my lovelies!

I wanted to give you all a quick update on how Plan G is coming along (because I know you’re all on the edge of your seats.  Ha.).

First, as far as diet goes, I’ve been doing very well.  I’ve never been terribly disciplined in general about things like this, and expected to struggle more with these changes; however, so far so good!

I’ve been almost completely gluten, dairy, sugar, and soy-free for 16 days, give or take.  I say almost completely, because it’s hard to eliminate foods that may be contaminated with gluten, and since there’s no proof that I have Celiac Disease, I’m not going that far.  I eat gluten-free products as often as possible, and I avoid anything with wheat ingredients, so I’m probably like 98% gluten-free.

I’ve been really good at avoiding dairy, with the exception of butter in some dishes.  I tried a little shredded cheese on my baked potato yesterday at lunch, and felt like crap afterward, so I can see that avoiding dairy is a good thing for me.

Sugar is so hard to give up.  I crave it.  I want to rip open eighty-nine Pixie Stix and pour them down my throat.  I haven’t done that, though.  I’ve found ways around the sugar cravings.  I eat fruit, staying with the recommended options for the Spleen Qi diet and away from tropical, high-sugar content fruits like bananas and mangoes.  I also eat a lot of nuts, and throw a few raisins in for that salty/sweet combo I love so much.

I’ve managed to steer clear of white sugar altogether, as well as the dreaded high fructose corn syrup.  I do put a tiny bit of honey in my tea sometimes, but the cinnamon concoction I drink most of the time has a natural bit of sweetness, so I’m not derailing all of my progress when I have it.

Soy is also surprisingly hard to eliminate.  I’ve stayed away from soy for years due to its estrogenic properties, but looking closely at food labels is an eye-opening experience.  There’s soy in pretty much everything!  Preservatives, oils, fillers… All from soy.

I don’t whip myself if I ingest a food with a soy ingredient, but I also don’t consume it regularly.  I figure that’s probably good enough.

I’ve been concentrating on “warm” foods and beverages, following the Spleen Qi dietary recommendations.  It’s not all that difficult, as I prefer warm drinks and warm foods anyway, but I’m finding it hard to drink enough water without being able to add ice.  It’s taken almost two full weeks, but I think I may have trained myself to be able to drink room temperature water in larger amounts.  Blech.

I’ve also been taking PILES OF PILLS.

Supplements, mainly, and some herbs and vitamins.

I’ll post a detailed list soon, but the basics include my regular prenatal, Maca root and royal jelly twice daily, l-arginine, CoQ10, B-12, B-6, and fish oil all daily, and vitamin D3 three times a week.  I also just started taking Vitex, although I’m concerned that I might be taking too many things… I’ll find out soon enough.

After finishing Randine Lewis’ The Infertility Cure, I started putting much of what she endorses to work.  All of the dietary and supplemental changes I’ve made have been directly because of her book, and I’ve also adopted her recommendation of femoral massage.  Femoral massage is a technique recommended to certain body types to help increase blood flow to the pelvic organs by compressing the femoral artery for a short time, and then releasing it.  I do this twice daily from CD3 to ovulation.

Another recommendation I’ve decided to try is Maya Abdominal Massage.  It’s an interesting concept, and there are many who praise its benefits, though there are not a terribly large number of practitioners throughout the US.  Oddly enough, there’s someone right here in the Toledo suburbs that is experienced in Maya Abdominal Massage, and I have an appointment set up with her in early September, during a time which should fall toward the end of Aunt Flo’s visit.  This was the recommendation made by the masseuse, and I’m inclined to believe that she knows what she’s talkin’ ’bout, Willis.

Wow, that’s a lot of changes in a few weeks!

But wait!  There’s more!!

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, probably because of Dr. Lewis’ book and other books and articles I’ve read lately, that I should get a more thorough workup from an Eastern medicine practitioner.

You may remember that I tried acupuncture and Chinese herbs previously, but only lasted about a month before I stopped both altogether.  I believe it was a combination of not feeling like my acupuncturist had much experience with infertility (read: none), and feeling the pressure to move forward with medicated cycles.  It was also highly expensive, as I was having acu treatments once per week, regardless of progress.

Despite all that… maybe TCM and acupuncture deserve a second chance.

I have been doing research for a while now, and found Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine in the Detroit suburbs, a little over an hour from here.  He operates an integrative medical center with a naturopath and holistic doctor.  Even better news is that he’s open on Saturdays, so I have a consultation set up with him in just a few days!

Here’s how I know this guy is good:  First of all, he has been doing this for 20 years.  Just infertility, for 20 whole years.  Before that, he was the staff acupuncturist at the oncology center for a large local hospital system.  Secondly, I emailed the office to have them contact me to schedule an appointment, and he called me himself, less than 30 minutes later.

We talked for maybe 10 minutes, and he said that he’d read in my email about my infertility journey so far.  Color me impressed that he actually retained five years worth of info crammed into one short email!  He asked me a few questions, and then he said something that I’ve been speculating about for years:

“Most of my patients with unexplained infertility turn out to have an issue in the follicular phase.  For you, it seems like it might be too long, causing egg quality problems and causing the endometrial lining to be out of sync, possibly even causing a Luteal Phase Defect.”

Then he said this:

“I am confident that I can get your follicular phase straightened out with very specific herbs and acupuncture once per month in the follicular phase only.  I know without even meeting you, I’m that confident.  When you come in on Saturday, I’ll fine-tune a program for you, but my track record with women that have the same symptoms as you has been excellent.”

And then:

“Rest assured that this process will improve your fertility.  Have faith, and be confident.  I do, and I am, and you should too.”

Well jeez.  How can I not think that this guys knows his stuff with confidence like that??

I’m excited about these next steps.  More excited than I’ve been in a long time.  I haven’t even really wanted to say this out loud, to be honest, but I have such an overwhelming feeling of confidence in this process that I probably should share it with all of you.

I think this could work.

I think that this natural approach could tweak my body back into alignment.

I think – no, I believe – that what I’m doing will make a difference.

I even believe that these changes, treatments, and steps in the Eastern direction may be my ticket to motherhood.

You guys…

I might not need to have IVF.

There’s a chance…

This might work.

This could be it.

Stick around…

2013 might be my year after all!

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Back To the Drawing Board…

Yesterday was my pre-op consultation for the diagnostic laparoscopy I have scheduled for late August.

Err… HAD scheduled for late August, I should say.

Yeah.  My doctor and her bulldog assistant effectively talked me out of having the lap.

Well, they talked me out of having the lap with them, for sure.  I haven’t made up my mind about the rest yet.

Before any of you get upset or start to demonize the good doctor, I can tell you that she’s coming from a place of honesty and realism.  She talked to me for a long, loooooong time yesterday, listening as I rattled off the finer points of multiple studies on laparoscopies in women with unexplained infertility, and gently explaining to me that no matter the outcome of the procedure, the next logical step in our journey is IVF.

It seems as though there are only two choices with this doctor performing the surgery:

One, she finds mild endometriosis, and removes anything that isn’t attached to important bits of my anatomy, such as the bowel, ovary, uterus, or fallopian tube.  Post surgery, the suggested treatment would be IVF if I didn’t manage to get pregnant on my own, which, let’s be honest, is not likely considering all of the other treatments I’ve tried that have failed, despite a good response.

Two, she finds moderate to severe endo, and leaves it alone.  Removal of endometrial adhesions that are more deeply attached to organs and tissues is more dangerous than it’s worth, and she won’t risk my organs to remove something that is, in the grand scheme of things, not causing me a terrible amount of discomfort.  Post surgery, the suggested treatment would also be IVF.

Hmmpph.

I feel cornered.

I really thought I was going into that consult yesterday to find out the gory details about the surgery, and to plan ahead for recovery.

I feel a little blindsided, and more than a little disappointed.

The thing I expected the least, though, was to feel relieved.

And I do feel that.  Relief.

I really don’t want to have surgery.  I don’t know if I want to have surgery more or less than I want answers, however…

Basically, Dr. F brought me gently to a realization that I’ve been avoiding for a very long time.

I may never know what’s causing my infertility, and I may have to move on to IVF without that knowledge.  I may have to take the gamble, when all I want is to calculate odds and create the most level playing field possible.

I may have to just take the plunge.

Those, however, are decisions for another day.

Today, I’m going to relax.  I have permission to stop taking Metformin, as long as my cycle doesn’t start getting wonky, which means that I can eat what I want, have a beer now and again, and gain some weight back that I lost during the Metformin Bowel-Voiding Frenzy that accompanied that first two months on the drug.

Today, I’m going to order some Maca Root and Royal Jelly, overhaul my diet and eat well, but healthfully, and give my body a break from drugs.  I’m going to schedule a few massages, and maybe get back to acupuncture.

Today, I’m going to set up a dedicated bank account for IVF funds, and make sure that money makes it’s way in there every week.

Today, I’m going to keep in mind that my doctor, and every single other doctor I’ve ever seen, has told me that the broad majority of women with true unexplained infertility tend to get pregnant at some point… It just never seems to happen as quickly as they would like, and it oftentimes happens when they are not in an active medicated cycle.

Thankfully she didn’t tell me outright to “just stop trying”

I may revisit the idea of the lap… I will probably send my medical file over to another doctor or surgeon to review for a second opinion – not because I don’t trust my doctor, because I do trust her – but because I think it’s always smart to have more than one set of eyes looking at your case.

I feel a little adrift today, but also a little relieved.  I know that I don’t have all the time in the world to conceive, and that my eggs are probably getting crappier by the day, but today…?

Today I’m taking back my sanity.

At least for a little while.

 

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Drifting Forward

Apologies, again, for yesterday’s heap of venting.  Sometimes you just need to put it all out there, read it over a few times, and become accountable for your own life.

And sometimes you just need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, put on your big girl panties, and deal with things.

Which I am now doing, thankyouverymuch.

My doctor is on vacation, which I know isn’t easy for her to do… I would hate leaving my patients in the hands of others; luckily, she works in a large practice with several other very competent physicians, and they are helping me work through all of the WTF?, NOW WHAT?!, WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?!! crap I’m currently spewing into the universe.

More accurately, the lovely nursing staff at the University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine is fielding my emails, running around and asking doctors to make decisions for me, and generally just patting my hand and giving me virtual hugs to make me feel better about being a crazy person with busted junk.

I love them.  I need to send them flowers or a fruit basket or something.

Anyway, they talked another of the doctors there into letting me continue on with a Femara-only cycle.  No monitoring, no trigger – just pills and OPKs and old-fashioned mattress-dancin’.

(And shhhhhhhh… don’t tell, but I have a teensy bit of Gonal F left in the fridge that will spoil if I don’t use it.  So I probably will.  It’s too small an amount to make much of a difference, but hey… why not, right?)

Based on past results, I have very little faith that this will be my miracle cycle.  About that much, I am realistic.  I’m not doing this because I think it will get me a baby…

I’m doing it because it feels like doing something, and I  need that right now.  It’s something to hold onto, and a way to feel like I’m less drifty and floaty in the miasma of space and time.  It gives me a bit of an anchor, and something to obsess over for the next month.

Next  month is going to be a whole different story…

July will be my laparoscopy month.  When my doc gets back from vacay, she will call to schedule my surgery for me.  I estimate that it will be scheduled for around July 12th, but I’ll know more in a couple of weeks.

I’m super nervous about having surgery.  I haven’t had to be put under for anything since I was like four, and that freaks me out.  I have faith in the doctors, though, and know that this is one step I have to make, regardless of where I’m headed next.

Worst case scenario – they find nothing, and the surgery was a waste.  At least I will have gotten it out of the way, as most  docs require it before moving forward with IVF.

Best case scenario – and I know this sounds twisted – they find some serious endometriosis in there.  I don’t want to have endo, believe me, but if they find it, they can remove it.  If they remove it, there’s a good chance that I will feel so much better physically.  Maybe my periods won’t leave me gasping and sobbing on the floor for the first three days of each cycle, and maybe – just maybe – removing the potential escaped endometrial cells will help my hormones shift back to normal and let me go on with the business of making babies.

Maybe.  It’s a gamble, but there’s no way to know until I try.

I suppose that’s why they call it an “exploratory surgery”.

So that’s where I am.  Not so much adrift as I was yesterday, because now at least I have a distant shore in sight.  I don’t know what I might find there, but it’s the only bearing I have, and I’m taking it.

Ahoy, bitches!

I know how you feel, Tom. One day at a time.

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SON OF A NUTCRACKER!!

Well, I just got off the phone with the (nice) nurse at Dr. K’s office, and she had my delayed lab results from CD3.

Guess what??!

There’s nothing freaking wrong with me.

Nothing.

All results were normal within lab ranges.

I do not seem to have skewed levels pointing toward Nonclassical Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, and my hormone levels, body type, and ultrasounds are not consistent with PCOS.

I asked lots of questions, including whether the doc would consider DNA karyotyping or immune testing, but I’m feeling rather deflated.

It’s not that I want something to be wrong with me, but I do want there to be a reason for my infertility.

I’m so sick of going ’round and ’round… I just want to have a clear direction in which to move.

.

Le sigh.

.

Back to the drawing board, I guess…

.

Oh… test results are all posted here, if you’re interested in stalking/diagnosing, or if you know a real-life Dr. House.  😉

 

 

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Survey Says…

I was nervous and excited to get today’s blood work results.

As you may recall, I had my Vitamin D, thyroid panel, and DHEA (whatever that is) tested yesterday.  When the nurse called with the results today, I was fully expecting that since I live in a not-so-sunshiney climate that my Vitamin D was going to be super-low, and that increasing it would be the magical answer to all of my infertility woes.

Wrong.

My D3 is just a smidge below normal at 29.5.  The low end of the normal range is 30.  An over the counter vitamin D supplement in addition to my prenatal should do the trick.

Ugh.

My thyroid results were also normal.  Anticlimactic.

Then the nurse (the nice one!) told me that my DHEA levels seemed high.  I scored a 399 where the high end of normal is 266.

Uhh… what?

I don’t even know what DHEA is!  I just asked for it because it was on a list of tests to have when you’re unexplained!

What does high DHEA mean??

Apparently, high DHEA means that my doctor doesn’t really deal with adrenal issues, in his words.  He would be happy to refer me to another doctor if I want to follow this particular rabbit hole, but his recommendations to pursue another injectables cycle still stands.

Well, I consulted my go-to doctor, Dr. Google.

And now I’ve opened Pandora’s box of link chasing.

I know that having a test result come back abnormal isn’t a joke, and honestly after being unexplained for all this time, it’s kind of refreshing, but I did learn one funny thing in my Googlizing:  DHEA is considered to be the stress hormone.  Too much of it means you’re too stressed out.

Wouldn’t that just be a swift kick to the lady-balls if all those people who told me I need to relax were right??

Hahahahahahahahaha…

Okay, so it’s not really funny ha-ha, more like funny waaaaaaaaah.

So anyway, I really am just starting at the tip of the iceberg in my research of high DHEA.  Apparently it can be common with PCOS, which three doctors have assured me that I do not have.

It can also be linked to Addison’s disease, which affects adrenal function.

I’ve also read that high DHEA is found many times with high testosterone.  I don’t think my T is high, but I do recall one test at my first RE appointment coming back a teensy bit high, and the doc was going to keep an eye on it.  She never mentioned it again, though, so I assumed it was a non-issue.  No other doc since then has mentioned high T to me, but who knows if I kept track…

Which brings me to another point.  I have not been great at keeping track of all of these test results I’ve received over the years.  Sometimes the information I get in a phone call gets filed into my brain and lost forever.  So that this does not keep happening, and so I can keep my stats straight for dealing with doctors, I created a separate page here at the old blog to record my info.

Feel free to check it out if you’re into diagnosing strangers on the internet.  🙂

Anyway, I’m planning to call Dr. K tomorrow and ask what I should do.  If he wants me to see an endocrinology specialist, I will.  If he wants me to have an MRI to rule out an adrenal tumor, I will freak out a little.  I guess only time will tell.

Is this the something that might lead me down the path to a diagnosis and subsequent miraculous cure for my infertile tendencies?

Maybe.  Maybe not.

Either way, though… it’s something.

And I’m tenacious about chasing down a lead.  😉

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