Archive for November, 2011

Some alternative things to try …

Before you decide to have IVF or even whilst you are waiting for it, you may be keen to be ‘doing whatever you can’. Every month becomes precious, and every week becomes a charted minefield of ‘did I do this?’ and ‘did I feel that?’ and ‘oh sugar, I shouldn’t have done the other!’ I was (and still am) consumed with guilt over every glass of wine I drink, in despair over ever day I don’t work out, ashamed with every herbal tablet I forget to take and embarrassed to admit to myself that I could have tried harder or done something different. These emotions have become part of who I am now….and no..I don’t like it one bit. But every day I DO actually try something, I HAVE done my research and I WILL get there eventually. I’m just human.

So, here are some things that I have tried, some things that I take and some things that I’ve heard of but weren’t appropriate for me (but may be for you). In no particular order.

Wheatgrass

This is, quite literally, grass. I take it as a powder, 1 teaspoon in some juice or a smoothie and it costs £7.99 from Holland & Barratt. It tastes fine, nothing awful although it does look like green pond slime. It’s best to take it fresh as a shot, but I’m struggling to source some in the UK, it’s massive in the States and is slowly getting a name for itself here. Legend (aka Google) has it that Wheatgrass is given to infertile cows and gets them fertile again within 3 months. Yes I know, I’m not a cow, although I have been called one from time to time, but the websites are full of the following statements;

  • it can lower your fsh levels
  • if going through IVF, it can produce more eggs per cycle
  • it helps to balance PH levels in the body making a more suitable environment for ova and sperm
  • it increases oxygen levels in the body to improve cell and organ structure and acts as an overall fertility enhancer

Forums are also full of us women enquiring about it, but do your own research too.

Agnas Castus (also known as Vitex or Chaste tree berry)

Now I don’t take this but that’s only because my menstrual cycles are tickety-boo so I don’t really need it. I’m very against shoving everything down my neck ‘just in case’ because that can be more damaging. I also discuss everything with my GP to get a professional opinion. Back to Agnus…. this is what it can do for you;

  • Regulates periods
  • Restarts periods which have stopped
  • Helps with heavy bleeding
  • Increases the ratio of progesterone to oestrogen by balancing excess oestrogen

It’s good if you need ‘normalising’ BUT make sure you read up on its use before taking it (as with anything really)

L-Arginine

I started taking this after finding out about its protein building effects. I liked the idea that it could ‘help’ my eggies to be created with a bit more oomph, seeing as how my egg quality is our particular issue. I take one tablet a day, again bought from Holland & Barrett, about £5 for 50 tablets. It also claims the following;

  • increases blood flow to the uterus, ovaries and genitals
  • it triggers the pituitary gland to produce more growth hormone to aid in fertility

I have discovered one side effect of this amino acid L-Arginine….I don’t get ill! It sounds nuts, but whilst I’m taking it I simply don’t get colds. I stopped for about a month earlier this year as I’d run out and kept forgetting to replenish, and low and behold that was the only time I caught a cold. Might be a pure coincidence, obviously, but thought I’d share just in case 🙂

Maca

Maca is like a turnip and is food for the endocrine system, aiding both the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands (all involved in hormonal balance.) Maca has the ability to affect key hormones in both women and men without containing hormones itself, which is a relief as most assisted conceptions will pump you full of hormones. It claims to;

  • Balance hormonal levels in women.
  • Increase libido in both men and women.
  • Increase egg health.
  • Increase seminal volume, sperm count per ejaculation, and sperm motility

My husband has just bought some for me so I’ve yet to try it (it’s amazing how excited I still get at the thought of trying something new) as a powder form for sprinkling on my porridge. I’ll let you know how it tastes.

 

Spirulina

This stuff is like sludge from the sea, but as we all know, the worse it looks, the better it probably is for you (remember being force-fed cod liver oil as a child? eeurgh). Again I’ve had this in powder form and tried it in smoothies BUT I am ashamed to say I couldn’t do it. I don’t want to put anyone off, but it wasn’t for me. I think I will try buying some tablets though as it has the following claims;

  • it is rich in many vitamins and minerals to improve your overall health
  • it nourishes the endocrine, nervous, and immune systems, regulates metabolism, and repairs tissue
  • the nutrient dense algae contains a wealth of minerals, antioxidants and protein which feeds your eggs with the nutrients they need and alkalinizes your body.

 

Nettle Tea, Raspberry Tea, Herbal Teas in general

Certain herbal teas as you may already be aware can target certain conditions or ailments. Here are some ones for fertility;

Nettle Tea – it contains high amounts of vitamins A, C, D, E, and K plus riboflavin and thiamine, and is very high in the minerals calcium, magnesium, silicon, sulphur, copper, chromium, zinc, cobalt, potassium and phosphorus.  It is also high in iron and chlorophyll and an excellent source of folic acid.

Raspberry Tea – it tones the uterus, so can reduce the chance of miscarriage

Green Tea – two of the main ingredients in green tea, hypoxanthine and polyphenols, may lead to a higher percentage of viable embryos.

Always look into your herbal teas because I discovered that it’s not a great idea to drink too much of one in particular, and that having 3 or 4 different ones over a week is perfect. Oh, and you should by now, already by drinking decaffeinated teas and coffees, as caffeine is the enemy if you want to get pregnant.

 

Oh look at that! I’ve written a complete novel as per usual! There are loads more things to write about here, but I’m conscious that some of you may have fallen asleep by now. So I’ll say goodbye for now, and continue with this another day.

Good luck to everyone out there x

The NHS and Oxford Fertility Unit

One of the things that hubby and I had expected during our infertility journey was to meet fertility experts. These experts would analyse us, make recommendations and generally guide us in the right direction for our particular situation. Oh how wrong we were.

Oxford Fertitlity UnitWe were referred to the Oxford Fertility Unit and after attending their ‘Introduction Evening’ (which I do recommend you attend) we had an appointment with an ‘expert’. This was quite a moment for us as we felt we were finally seeing someone who could actually give us some solid advice and suggestions, someone who knew our situation and was familiar with all the options open to us. We took the afternoon off work and drove to Oxford (about a half hour drive).

When we arrived we went to the wrong department. I say wrong, it was labelled Fertility Unit so….that’s were we went. After waiting for about half an hour they finally worked out that we were supposed to be somewhere else, a kind of out-patient fertility area on the ground floor. So we waited there instead. After about another hour, we were finally taken through to see our ‘expert’ and as we held hands, followed her to the office and sat down with expectant and nervous smiles. This is basically how the conversation went;

‘Hello….Ms Elliott?’

‘Yes that’s me’.

She scanned through my paperwork…
‘Ok. Well I’ve seen your notes and we would recommend that you start IVF as soon as possible.’

‘What?’ Really?’

‘Yes. We recommend 3 cycles and you could start very soon. Would you like to make an appointment?’

‘Errrrr…well isn’t there anything else to discuss first, like… anything else we can try, or should be doing?’

‘IVF is what we would recommend for you.’

‘Er ok, well do we get this on the NHS?’

‘No, I see you have a daughter by your first marriage so that means you won’t get NHS funding.’

‘Right, well I don’t want to commit to another appointment right now, so I’ll guess I’ll be in touch. Goodbye.’

‘Goodbye Ms Elliott’

Suffice to say I complained about this. My hubby and I had had the wind truly knocked from our sails, we were quite heartbroken by the coldness, the emotionless, basic conversation that had just taken place. We were after someone to help us but we just got a statement of ‘IVF!’. I wanted to be told what I should be eating, what I should avoid eating, what products I should avoid using, what exercises are good for my ovaries, what positions we should try…. I NEEDED ADVICE AND GUIDANCE!!!!

I had also had the lack of NHS funding confirmed and that was one hell of a frustrating pill to swallow! My research had brought to light the Postcode Lottery for NHS funding, in that it depends on your location and thereby your Local Primary Care Trust and how they chose to handle their costs. I remember reading that if a family lived in certain boroughs of London, they could have 4 children and still get 3 attempts at NHS fertility treatment….fully paid. And yet I couldn’t get one attempt! This is an ongoing issue which I know is being addressed but unfortunately not in time for me. Plus after you’ve paid for one private IVF treatment, you can NEVER have assistance from the NHS in the future, regardless of any changes to your financial situation. To find out more on NHS funding click here

Oxford did have us back and we did see a proper doctor/expert who was lovely. He explained why we had been recommended to have IVF (as we had been diagnosed with ‘unexplained infertilty’) and he did indeed take time with us. Our choice to go to another clinic was mainly based on distance and cost, Oxford was still a consideration despite the first upsetting appointment.

I feel I must say that I am not in any way angry with Oxford or think that they are not a good place to go. What I am trying to illustrate is that nothing is ever as you expect it to be, and sometimes you don’t even have any expectations. Clinics are a business at the end of the day. I could have tests for the next 5 years, eat different healthy diets and try different vitamins but IVF is a solid step forward to an end result, and that is why it was recommended to us. So we could get a result. A baby.

On the other hand….holistic approaches are successful in gaining successes too and I will cover that in my next post. Including the wonderful Zita West…

Watch this space…

Love to all xxxx

Infertility ‘speech’. What does it all mean for crying out loud?!

Here are some of more commonly used words and abbreviations found in the wonderful world of infertility. It took me ages to get used to these terms, so I hope it helps. I have only included ones that I am familiar with but there are plenty more if you Google them. They come up a lot in forums and again, I must mention that in the USA they have different tests so therefore you will come across different acronyms occasionally.

Some light humour 😉

 

TTC – Trying to Conceive
DH – Dear Husband, DB – Dear Boyfriend
FS – Fertility Specialist
AI – Artificial Insemination
IUI – Intra Uterine Insemination
BD – Baby Dance (Timed Intercourse/Sex)
2WW – Two Week Wait (Time from Ovulation/Egg Transfer to Pregnancy Test)
AF – Auntie Flo, your period
AH – Assisted Hatching
ART – Assisted Reproductive Technology
BBT – Basal Body Temperature
BCP – Birth Control Pills
Beta – HCG pregnancy test
BFN – Big Fat Negative
BFP – Big Fat Positive
CM – Cervical Mucus
D&C – Dilation & Curettage
DE – Donor Eggs
DPO – Days Post-Ovulation
DPR – Days Post-Retrieval
DPT – Days Post-Transfer
DW – Dear Wife
Dx – Diagnosis
ENDO – Endometriosis
ER – Egg Retrieval
ET – Embryo Transfer
FET – Frozen Embryo Transfer
FSH – Follicle-Stimulating Hormone
GIFT – Gamete Intrafallopian Transfer
HPT – Home Pregnancy Test
HSG – Hysterosalpingogram
ICSI – Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection
IF– Infertility

I've heard it all now!

IM – Intramuscular injections
LAP – Laparoscopy
LH – Luteinizing Hormone
MC, m/c – Miscarriage
O – Ovulation
OHSS – Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
OPK – Ovulation Predictor Kit
PCOS – Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
PG – Pregnant
PID – Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
PMS – Pre-menstrual Syndrome
POAS – Pee On A Stick (Making reference to home pregnancy tests or ovulation tests)
SA – Semen Analysis
S/S – Signs/Symptoms
STD – Sexually Transmitted Disease
US, u/s – Ultrasound
ZIFT – Zygote Intra-fallopian Transfer

Why I don’t care..

Today I am wearing brown boots with black trousers. I am aware that this is a fashion no-no, but I don’t care.
I don’t care because I can’t make a baby. End of.
Today is one of those days were I truly couldn’t give a sh*&
Sad but true.

My first week of blogging..

Well it’s been a whole week of blogging and I thought I’d share what has happened to me because of feelingfertile.

I think I’m actually feeling better, stronger, because I’m externalising my experiences and emotions, and because I’m sharing with others what would normally have remained a dark personal secret. I feel exposed too, which is actually quite scary as I never know what people are going to say when they’ve read my blog/posts. I have had wonderful feedback though, and discovered yet more people affected by infertility, people who I have known for years but both of us unaware of our shared situation. I think (and hope) that I can reassure them as much as they reassure me. I do hope they know that, as everything shared is shared both ways.

This week of remembering the past, the not so pleasant past, has been quite draining at times. I think we forget for a reason, so we can move on, but I have had to dig deep and regurgitate some difficult emotions. Anger has been the strongest one. This is a truly angry journey, and no-one can stop the anger that builds because it is absolutely justified. Mother Nature has let us down, has abandoned us when we were ready, when we had a solid, stable relationship to grow into a family. To go into the IVF world means that we all have to be financially secure as it’s far from cheap, and that means that great, practical thought goes into the decision. You can’t put a price on a child of course, but you want to be able to provide a nice home when they get here too. Our relationships get tested, as the pressure of what’s happening affects both partners, and more than likely they react differently. So here we are, this perfect couple who have such strong love to pull through this emotional, financial and physical battle with nature…how much more can we do to prove that we will make great parents? Yet it still doesn’t happen. It’s times like these that I want to curl up at the bottom of a vodka bottle.

More positively (and we absolutely must be positive) we are better people because of this journey. I have a deeper appreciation of many things in the world now, I have more empathy to others, I want to help people more and I am very aware of the awesome love that my husband and I must clearly share (soppy alert! apologies). I have a kind of positive guilt too, because I have a daughter by my first marriage (she’s nearly 16) so I am fully aware that my emotions are not, and will never be as intense as those of a woman who has not had her own child yet. I say it’s positive guilt because there’s nothing I can do to change the fact that I have had a daughter (and my love for her is overwhelming) but I am aware of the difference and respect it. I am aware of the temptation to feel guilty as I cannot 100% understand my husbands feelings as he has not had his own biological child yet, but that would be wrong. I have been able to give my husband a step-daughter for the last 5 years and he has had such an impact on her that I simply must take warmth from that. Even though he wants his own, he is already an amazing Dad in our eyes. Having secondary infertility brings with it its own issues and strangeness.

My husband commented earlier that I have been quiet, which if you knew me is not like me at all! I’m a loud, gobby nightmare most of the time 😛 but I think I may have found a quietness. Who knows though, tomorrow I could be bouncing off the walls again!

Right, I’m off to watch Carnivale on Sky so take care all x x x

Investigating IVF

It was beginning to dawn on us that we would have to address the IVF possibility as none of the tests I’d had presented any issues. Frustratingly, I appeared to be perfect in regards to the medical check list; my periods were regular, I was ovulating with good strong results and my tubes were clear. At this point I just want to mention that other women will be having a different story here, blocked tubes are quite common for example. It’s a very difficult story to relate to, as I know that some people will be thinking ‘oh she was lucky not to have had my troubles’. But I always try to maintain the bigger picture and be empathic as much as I can to all the other scenarios. This doesn’t mean that I will ever truly understand what it feels like to have treatment for blocked tubes, but I don’t want to be one of those women who is simply wrapped up in her own infertility world. The research I did covered all possibilities, I wasn’t scared to find out what can go wrong inside me, the more I found out the better equipped I was to tackle it. At least that’s how I deal with things. I have read books that tell one woman’s journey and to be honest, sometimes I felt a bit resentful, I couldn’t always relate to that particular scenario. So to everyone who’s reading this, please be aware that it’s not my intention to dramatise my journey, or that mine is in some way more interesting than anyone else’s. (sorry but I had to put all that, it had been bugging me x)

Googling IVF is crazy, there is so much to find out on the Net and lots of personal experiences to learn from. You can’t go wrong with the Government as a good place to start http://www.hfea.gov.uk/IVF.html and if you search on YouTube for infertility, you will get lots of people like me, who’ve got a story to tell.

ADVICE: BE AWARE OF THE SITE YOU’RE ON. What country is the website from? For example in America they do things differently, they use different terminologies and have differently named tests. This basically can make you a bit panicky because you’ll end up thinking ‘crumbs, what’s that test? I haven’t had that one. Should I? Can I?’ So just realise that unless you’re thinking of going to the States for treatment, expect different advice and wording from an american (or other country’s) website. I also found that America is much more positive towards IVF, their sites are filled with happy faces, babies and promises of success, whereas us Brits are more reserved because we think everything will go wrong. When you’ve been researching for a while you may start to pick up on different ‘vibes’ but be wary, because ‘vibes’ are there to get you to use their clinic. It’s basically good advertising and this is hard to detach yourself from, especially when you want someone to smile at you and say everything will be ok. The harsh reality is that IVF is surgery for a medical problem, it’s not glamorous and the success rates are still quite low. Whilst that might sound depressing, I only mean to better arm you against clinics and websites that use sweet talk instead of facts and figures to get you through their door.

TIP: VISIT CLINICS AND GET INFORMATION SENT TO YOU. Obvious? Yes. But it can be quite hard to visit a clinic for the first time…and then another one….and then another one…. It runs you down emotionally. Some clinics will post leaflets and information to you, some hold IVF Introduction Evenings and some will see you by appointment. Do go to an evening if you can find one. We went to Oxford (http://www.oxfordfertilityunit.com/) when they held an IVF Evening and the best thing to happen was being amongst so many people who were in the same boat as us. It was quite surreal, as we hadn’t told many people about what we were going through (which makes you feel quite isolated and detached from society) and suddenly we were in a huge room with about 30 couples all going through a similar experience. Everyone was hesitant and scared, expectant of advice and eager to be shown the next step. I had a huge urge to bond with them all and ..oh I don’t know.. have a group hug or something (I’m sure I’m a bit of a hippy deep down). In my case, I was also reassured by the fact that I clearly wasn’t the oldest person there. This might sound harsh but until you start talking about what you’re going through, you have nothing to compare yourself with and this can lead to very negative thinking. I was 35, not 45…but I realised at that meeting that it would be ok even if I was 45 because IVF could still help.

The best investigation (but the most stressful one) you can do is to go to the Fertility Show. It’s held once a year in November at Olympia in London, and it’s well worth a visit. It covers EVERYTHING from how to eat for a healthy pregnancy to IVF with egg donation, and has all the experts under one roof.

We attended as many seminars as we could, even the ones covering subjects that didn’t directly affect us, just so we could build our fertility knowledge. We’ve been twice but neither of us could bring ourselves to go this year as we’d just had a miscarriage and couldn’t face it. The reason I mentioned that going to the Fertility Show is the most stressful thing to do, is because of the intense emotions that accompany such a visit. There’s nowhere to hide at this show, it’s not like going to the pregnancy section of a library where you are still amongst normal life ticking happily alongside you. Wherever you turn it’s IVF, Miscarriage, Pregnancy, Clinics!! And this can be quite overwhelming. I have seen women openly crying when it is clearly too much for them.

So if you decide to go, and I thoroughly recommend that you do, you need to bring out your stiff upper lip, your gumption, your tough side and try to leave the emotions at home for the day. Go there to gather information and knowledge, to learn from other people’s experiences, and to return with bags overflowing with documentation and brochures. And go with someone, do not go alone, have a nice lunch, treat yourselves 🙂

Next post I will go over a tick list of what to address when visiting clinics and how to find YOUR clinic.

Much love people x

In the beginning…Part 2

I have been trying to remember how I felt in the first year of trying, and I think to be honest I didn’t realise how serious this was going to get. We simply had a problem, that would be sorted as soon as the issue was diagnosed…right? So my life didn’t really change that much, I was still drinking, still overweight, still eating what I fancied and just assuming that a Doctor would declare one day ‘AHA!! You need to wear red socks in bed and you will become pregnant!’ Looking back that was extremely naive, but nobody tells you what to expect because nobody knows, and the journey will be individual to the couple. I was approaching it all very matter of fact, very ‘lets get to the bottom of this so we can do something about it’  but at this stage I didn’t think I could make any difference, so I changed nothing. The only thing I did do was to start taking Pregnacare, vitamins  containing folic acid and other recommended goodness. Tesco do their own version and always seem to have it on 3 for 2 offer too!

TIP: START TAKING FOLIC ACID AND BASIC VITAMINS AS SOON AS YOU DECIDE TO GET PREGNANT – THIS IS REGARDLESS OF WHETHER YOU HAVE PROBLEMS OR NOT, IT’S JUST THE RIGHT THING TO DO 🙂

If I could talk to myself back then, I would definitely say the following;
“Take care of yourself now” “Sort out your stress” “Lose some weight slowly but consistently” and most importantly “Push for every appointment to be as soon as possible, don’t be fobbed off waiting months”

Anyway, back at the Batcave..I mean Doctors…I was being told I was to have the next level of tests. All wonderful tests designed to make a woman feel relaxed, feminine and to uphold her dignity….

YEAH RIGHT!!!! 🙂

These are not my tubes (although they look fantastic!)

Welcome to the HSG test or Hysterosalpingogram to give it its full name, a test that checks your tubes are in full working order. Basically all I was told was to turn up and have a dye put ‘up’ into my tubes whilst being scanned, so the nurse could track where the dye went. Well I was straight onto Google and got some horror stories! The advice was to take paracetamol before you go in case you get these ‘awful cramps and pains’ some women were experiencing. I was utterly petrified. I am prone to panic attacks and my poor hubby had a job to keep me still as I was jigging around and saying “I can’t do this! I can’t do this!” When the nurse (apologies if she isn’t referred to as a nurse) came to collect me I had my best ‘I’m fine!’ face on..you know the one where your smile is so broad your teeth almost touch your ears.

I lay on the bed, feet touching, brought my knees up and then let them flop apart (so far, standard smear test procedure) and she prodded a bit and messed about with the monitor which was to the right hand side of me out of my vision. I just kept breathing. In for 4….out for 4…. Then she asked me to slightly shift to the left side, so I shifted. In for 4….out for 4…..

“Okay that all looks fine. You can get dressed now.” The nurse had already moved away from the bed and I was left with a genuine gawping mouth. “You’re kidding me?! You’ve done it?!! I thought you were getting me into a certain position and hadn’t even started!” She smiled and then told me how my tubes are not blocked at all, everything looked as it should. The best bit was the fact that sometimes having an HSG makes you more fertile as your tubes have had a clear out, so for the next few months I may be more fertile than normal. This is obviously music to my ears and I absolutely take this positive information to heart and return to my hubby a much happier individual.

Of course in my case I didn’t become more fertile, still nothing happening.

And I think about now is when I started to take this all very, very seriously. Which meant that I utterly blamed myself and found it hard to be positive. It was my fault because;

  1. I was clearly being punished for something I did years ago
  2. It was because I drank and smoked my way through my twenties
  3. I’m so fat, and rubbish at losing the weight
  4. I worry too much and all the stress has frazzled my insides
  5. I already have a daughter and Mother Nature doesn’t think I’m good enough to have anymore
  6. I’m just generally a rubbish person…oh woe is me….I’m crappity crap-crap…

It’s important to remember that us women and our hormones are designed for this downward spiral into paranoia and I spent the next 3 years going over the 6 points above and plenty more. But I try to remind myself that this is normal, and not to give myself such a hard time. Whilst we all have moments where we think badly about ourselves, there’s very rarely a situation that you can focus this negativity onto…until you can’t make a baby.

I feel I should end on a more uplifting vibe soooooo….

ADVICE: WHEN YOU FEEL LOW AND RUBBISH, STARE INTO A MIRROR AND TELL YOURSELF NICE THINGS OVER AND OVER AGAIN. IT MIGHT FEEL SILLY BUT IT’S LIKE A KIND OF SELF-HYPNOSIS, AND BY REPEATING THIS YOU’RE TELLING THE ‘YOU’ INSIDE SOMETHING LOVELY. IT GOES IN. GIVE IT A GO, YOU’VE NOTHING TO LOSE.

  • Love and hugs people x