So it’s been an age. So much has happened. Not only the madness of lockdown but so many other things.
Last time I wrote, I think we were stuck in limbo and just being told to wait. Our alternatives to that being to rush into Clomid and then IVF. Two very expensive and frankly extreme approaches in our mind.
We were deflated. Having spent close to £2,000 on tests – which I am grateful for getting – and 20 minute appointments where we were told that nothing was wrong, that it would happen. Just wait. It‘s probably your weight – despite tests proving the opposite to be true. We couldn’t shake a feeling that we were missing something.
So I asked for advice on a UK fertility forum and was recommended some more alternative methods alongside a medical approach. Now for those that know me they will know I’m all for a more alternative approach. Life experience has proven time and again that there is more than just a black and white view.
So off to Google I went to find out what options we had nearby. I soon found myself on a lovely site for a clinic just a stones throw away from our existing one, great because it is only 15 minutes away. So I typed a huge essay detailing our entire story, from our fast conception of Jack, my struggles with hg, my clotting disorder misdiagnosis, poor care when in labour, Jacks premature birth, his loss, our lives since, the endless tests and dead ends.
To my surprise and delight I received a response the very next day, already a huge improvement. The email was a both reassuring and proactive. We soon arranged an appointment to have a Zoom chat.
Just a week later Mark and I sat nervously waiting to “meet” our new Fertility Specialist. Having gathered all our test results and information we felt prepared but worried, what if this was another path to nowhere?
Almost 2 hours later we ended the call. We felt cleansed, lighter and above all, we felt heard. Going through our story in minute detail, discussing our tests and airing all the concerns and secret thoughts we both had clung to, we were exhausted. But we had a plan.
The wonderful Lucy had enlightened us to a few things that my tests had shown and when combined with my struggles to lose weight, short cycle (average 24 days) and typically early ovulation (days 8-11 roughly) it was clear we had a few things to address.
We had been left with the promise of a plan in just a few days, Lucy wanted to go away and really consider everything we discussed and our medical results.
A few days later a huge essay dropped into my inbox and blew my mind. I was right, something was wrong. It wasn’t just my weight (that is more of a symptom) there was something more. Not “unexplained infertility” but very much explainable. Mild PCOS (it’s a spectrum condition and you don’t actually have to have issues with your tubes or ovaries to have it), short cycles combined with too early ovulation and a possible short luetal phase or both causing implantation and/or egg maturing to be very difficult.
The long and short of it being that these things are solvable with time and some effort. PCOS reacts well to low gi diets and regular exercise. Some supplements are scientifically proven to lengthen cycles and therefore move ovulation. Allowing time for eggs to ripen, fertilise and fully implant before a new cycle begins.
I eat gluten free or low sugar carbs and steer clear of white carbs as much as possible, with lots of lean protein and healthy fats. I track my food and weight daily on MyFitnessPal to keep myself accountable and it works for me. (Macros C 20, 40 P and 40 F).
I still have dairy (it’s a myth you have to give it up on low gi – see diabetes uk) I just go for skimmed milk and lactose free as much as I can, but not always. I balance my daily calories out. I do calorie count but only as a goal, I don’t freak out if I’m 50-100 over. Tomorrow is a new day and I’m exercising anyway.
I also take some supplements that are proven to work well for PCOS and all recommend by my fertility clinic (please don’t self prescribe as some supplements can have the opposite effect on fertility).
It’s already making a huge difference to my body. I’m dropping weight daily and I feel great! I’m also no longer having some of the symptoms I was (chin hairs being one of the more glamorous ones). My cycle has started lengthening and I have managed to move my ovulation day by 3 days this month. Using diet, mindfulness, exercise and supplements alone.
We still have a few months to really let things start working but that’s ok. The more weight I lose the better, less strain on my hips and back ready for next time. Plus being a lower weight reduces my chances of having a premature birth, HG and other complications (although it’s likely that HG is unavoidable).
It’s ok to ask for a second opinion! You know your body and you know when something isn’t right. I have struggled all my life with my weight, I have done every diet and fitness regime. I would be in a calorie deficit and still not losing. It’s been a huge problem and something I have beat myself up with everyday. Having resorted to extreme measures to achieve “skinny” in the past. It’s dominated my life. Why can’t I be normal? Now I know why, I’m not “naturally heavy” I have PCOS. I’m insulin sensitive and don’t deal with carbs well.
The medical advice we got at our last clinic was unhelpful for us. That’s not necessarily their fault, western medicine has a clear route to treatment and it’s a well tread path. Tests > weightloss > time > clomid > iui or ivf. That’s all they have (more or less). For me that wasn’t the way.
Clomid makes you ovulate, I already ovulate. IVF helps low sperm counts or issues with your tubes and ovarian and or egg quality, Mark and I have none of those issues. We would have been like using a sledgehammer to push in a thumbtack. Firing out more eggs each month pointlessly. Wasting them.
We often found our concerns brushed away. I remember at our last appointment that I started crying, so fed up of waiting and nothing happening, I was immediately told to get therapy… ignoring the fact I’m a bereaved mother who has been through a lot and this is supposed to be a safe place. It was the last straw.
I am glad we got the tests we did done at our last clinic as it’s good to know nothing is wrong. But just looking at normal approaches to fertility is not the only way. We now have both a medical plan alongside a more emotional route and it just feels right.
We have time on our side and we intend to use it to be as healthy both physically and mentally as we can. It’s a long game, but it will be worth it in the end.
For the first time in a long time I can see an end to this limbo off in the distance. We will get there, we will be ok.