Back in February of this year I decided it was time to stop feeling ashamed about my struggle to get pregnant. I wrote a pretty raw post about my eight year battle for all the world to read. I also posted it to the Huffington Post where it received more attention than I thought it would ever get, so much so that CNN reached out to me for an interview. I have truly been blown away by the reaction to my story and connecting with so many women around the world experiencing a similar struggle.
In March, my dad was watching CNN and came across an interview with Kyra Phillips, an award-winning correspondent for the CNN investigative and documentary units. She was sharing her experience with infertility and how she went through IVF, which finally helped her get pregnant and give birth to fraternal twins at age 42. My dad emailed the link to me. One of the things Kyra decided to do with the help of her reproductive endocrinologist Dr. Jamie Grifo, and based on her struggle, was write a book called The Whole Life Fertility Plan.
Over my eight year struggle you can imagine I have read many books on the subject of infertility, so I thought what’s one more. I must have read that book in a week. Let me share with you what I learned from The Whole Life Fertility Plan to shed some light on the truth about women’s fertility.
LEEP Procedures and Cone Biopsies
If you read my post you know that I had a LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure) to remove some precancerous cells on my cervix. You also know the complications I had, because my cervix was cauterized closed and I bleed into my uterus the next time I had my period. That led to me developing endometriosis. My case is extreme, however in the book it’s mentioned to be very cautious about doing these procedures, because essentially you will be compromising the cervix, which can then cause infertility or miscarriage. If you must do this procedure, make sure you get a second opinion and your doctor is top-notch. To learn more about LEEPs and Cone Biopsies, see link below.
Fallopian Tube Obstruction
If you are having trouble getting pregnant after a year or so, you want to have everything checked out, particularly your fallopian tubes. The procedure you will have is called an HSG or hysterosalpingogram, which is an X-ray test that looks at the inside of the uterus, fallopian tubes and the area around them. In the book Dr. Grifo explains how one woman came to see him who had trouble getting pregnant and was diagnosed with PID (Pelvic inflammatory disease). One of her tubes was quite damaged so he suggested they remove it. She proceeded to do IVF for a third time upon the removal of the tube and she got pregnant.
This is just an example of a possible solution, which seems extreme, but there’s no point in struggling when you can have the problem removed and then do IVF. And I realize that IVF is expensive and a very emotionally draining process, but it’s still a wonderful option to get pregnant in which you do not need your fallopian tubes. It’s definitely something to take into consideration depending upon your individual situation. To learn more about infertility and fallopian tube issues, see link below.
STDs and Infertility
Now here’s something I didn’t know, not properly checking for, diagnosing or taking care of STDs could lead to issues with infertility. I realize from a health standpoint and as it relates to HPV, that issues with infertility could possibly be a problem. However, I would not think that some of the other STDs, such as Chlamydia, would also cause a problem. Get your annual PAP test to get yourself checked ASAP and do what’s necessary to deal with whatever the diagnosis is. To learn more about STDs and infertility, see link below.
I happened to smoke for about thirteen years, thankfully quitting sixteen years ago, way before I started trying to conceive. We all have known for years that smoking is beyond horrible for you, but did you know it can affect fertility? Probably not. Of course, why wouldn’t it, but I don’t think any young girl out there that currently smokes thinks about the implications of it on her fertility. We think about cancer, bronchitis and heart disease, but not fertility. If you’re a young woman in your twenties, smoking, and hoping to get pregnant some day, quit now. Learn more about smoking and fertility, by clicking on the link below.
Cosmetics and Household Products
What do you think about when you put on your favorite lipstick? I think about how it brightens up my face, how it makes me feel good and to be honest how it makes me feel sexy. I do not in any way think about how it’s linked to infertility, but it is. Did you know that women ingest three or four pounds of lipstick in their lifetime? Some say it’s more, but the most recent studies suggest about four pounds. Now, four pounds in your lifetime doesn’t seem like a lot, but this brings me to the issues associated with the everyday products we use, both cosmetics and household products, and the effects on our health and fertility.
Whether it’s cosmetics or even household products, we are surrounded by chemicals – a lot of chemicals that for the most part are unregulated. If you want to get a clear picture of this, check out the documentary The Human Experiment. Anyone that knows me really well, knows that I’m obsessed with cosmetics that are free of parabens, phthalates, silicone, etc., as well as household cleaning products that are clean and non-toxic. I know I could do better with the makeup products I use. Currently I’ve been making the switch to Tarte, Josie Maran, Bite and Obsessive Compulsive, but I still use a lot of Nars, Laura Mercier and a few others.
If you truly care about your health and especially your fertility, you will take all of this into consideration. Learn more here.
I know what you’re thinking when you see the word gluten, there’s a lot of hype around eating gluten-free. The best way for you to understand the impact of gluten on our health is by sharing my story.
Even though I was never properly diagnosed with endometriosis until 2011, I knew there was something wrong with me back in January 2008 when my first cyst was discovered. Between 2008 and 2011, I must have tried every diet on this planet. I was a pescatarian, then a vegetarian, then a vegan, and nothing seemed to help. I even tried acupuncture for six months with no success. The first cyst that was discovered went away at the end of 2008, but two cysts were later discovered in February 2009. This led me to having a cyst aspiration in April 2010, which led to two more cysts returning, measuring 2.5cm each.
When I finally found out I had endometriosis in 2011, I read as much as possible about it as it related to infertility and diet. At the end of 2011, I decided to change my diet again and I significantly reduce gluten, wheat, carbs and sugar from my diet. Between 2011 and 2013, my husband and I decided to take a break from trying, but I continued eating this way the whole time. In August 2013, I decided it was time to start trying again and needed to take all the necessary tests. When I checked on those cysts during an ultrasound, those two cysts were reduced to one measuring 1cm. That’s when I knew I was on to something with my new diet.
Everyone is different and what works for one person, will not necessarily work for another. However, if you are having trouble getting pregnant, I would seriously consider eating gluten-free. And when I mean gluten-free, I don’t mean replacing gluten products with gluten-free products. I mean cutting out anything associated with bread and pasta, and mainly consume fruit, vegetables, clean protein, raw nuts, etc. To learn more about the effects of gluten on infertility, read this.
The one thing I disagree with in the book is the link between the pill and infertility. In the book, Kyra talks about the pill like all doctors do, no matter how long you may have been on the pill, you wait three months and then start trying, and not much more is said about the pill. However, more and more studies are coming out about the effects of the pill on fertility and many other issues, read this. I’m not a doctor, but I will say this, I would think twice about EVER using the pill. When you think about it, we only ever have a 12-24 hours, maybe a 48-hour chance of getting pregnant in any given month. We are taking something that radically changes how our body functions every single day just to avoid this short period of time. I know, I know, I need to be careful here, but I do feel very strongly that we need to do much more in-depth studies of the pill and find a healthier way to protect young women for their reproductive health.
I hope this has been helpful and of course I encourage you, if you want to feel more empowered about your fertility, to read this book. Bottom line is, don’t wait until your thirties to start thinking about your fertility, start earlier so that maybe, somehow, we can reduce the number of women and couples struggling with infertility today.