TTC Arsenal

fertility meds

Guys, this is just a tiny slice of the mega supply of supplements I have right now, in my desperate attempt to overcome my infertility.  I thought it might be helpful to get an idea of what I am using and the effectiveness of the products I will share as I use them.  This is just what came in a recent Amazon delivery, to be added to my regular routine.

I think it will be easier if I break up my supply into several posts, because it’s a lot of stuff and a lot of info to take in.  I should mention that in addition to the supplements I am using, I am also following a healthy whole foods eating plan, and exercising 5+ days a week.  All of the supplements in the world won’t help you if you aren’t being proactive in all aspects of your life.  I should also mention, for those that don’t know, that I suffer from PCOS which is largely responsible for my secondary infertility.

Secondary infertility is described as the inability to achieve or maintain a healthy pregnancy following the birth of one or more biological children.  What I have come to learn, is that it is typical for PCOS to really take hold and cause infertility in your mid to late 20’s.  This is exactly what happened to me.  I had two children and then came the nightmare roller coaster of miscarriage and infertility.

I had a Clomid/rainbow baby, and then quickly became pregnant with my youngest soon after.  The combination of breastfeeding, weight loss and somewhat normalized hormones coupled with perfect timing helped me with that.  Since then, my PCOS has flared out of control.

So now, I have my battle gear on, and I am fighting to regain what should be rightfully mine.  I have grown tired of being betrayed by my own body and decided to take action.  Sometimes you just have to get mad to get serious, and this year, my friends, I got pissed off.

Pictured:

  • Premama Fertility Supplement:  This is a drink additive that includes 2000 mg of myo-inositol and 200 mcg of folic acid.  I know I have tried inositol supplementation before with zero results.  Call me crazy, but I decided to try this supplement anyway with a daily tea I will talk about soon.
  • NAC 600mg (n-acetyl-cysteine): This is touted as a miracle supplement by so many for PCOS and has been on my mind for years but I never tried it before.  Until now.  Some benefits reported include improving insulin sensitivity, lowering testosterone and free androgens, regulating cycles and improving regularity of ovulation, supporting egg quality, and higher progesterone levels.  This supplement is in the sulfur family, and let me tell you, the capsules smell awful.  But if it can help me, you know I’m willing to give it a try.
  • OPK Test Strips: Wishful thinking, but I would like to be able to use these puppies, and I know you go through a ton of them in a cycle so I stocked up with a 100 count box.  I will go into more detail on OPK’s for cysters, as they are a whole new game, but for now, I am just well stocked and hopeful.

Stay tuned for more arsenal info, and hopefully I will be able to update that the crazy cocktail of supplements offers me some benefits.  PCOS is tough to navigate and there are so many promised miracle cures out there, it’s hard to know what is even worth trying.  I do a lot of research on everything before I decide to try anything, and of course, none of this is meant as medical advice, it’s just me being open and sharing my journey.  As far as dosages, that can vary wildly, depending on what study or article you read.  I tend to follow the research studies for dosage amounts, rather than the label on the bottles.  It’s all trial and error, really.  I try to be tuned into my body and adjust accordingly.

Until next time, friends!

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PCOS Series: Inositol Supplements

supplements

There are countless supplements geared towards women suffering from PCOS.  One of the most regularly mentioned supplements is inositol, also known as myo-inositol.  It is a member of the B vitamin family, and there are several different studies done on the effects of its use on women with PCOS.

Studies have especially shown interesting improvements on women who also show signs of insulin resistance, one of the many possible symptoms of the disease.  Besides this benefit, there have also been studies suggesting that it may help women suffering from infertility by improving ovulation and egg quality.

While I do not suffer from insulin resistance, I am most definitely suffering from infertility as a result of the PCOS complications, so these studies caught my eye.

As a reminder, we have been trying to conceive (TTC) for about 4 years now, unsuccessfully.  I did extensive research on the benefits and dosages of inositol for fertility benefits, reading all of the studies, recommended dosages, etc.  Inositol is easily available online, in both pill and powder form.  I found the powder to be much less expensive, and decided to use that as my source.

Taking the supplement is easy.  Just add the dose to some water or a beverage and mix then drink up!  It has a slightly sweet taste to it, almost like a mild Pixie Stix candy, if tried alone.  I never had trouble taking it, it was easy to incorporate into a routine.

Just a few of the promised benefits of taking an inositol supplement:

*Increased Progesterone

*Lowered testosterone levels and lessened hirsutism

*Improved insulin sensitivity

*Decreased LH levels

*Weight Loss

*Ovulation

 

So did it work?

I took powdered inositol daily for almost 2 full years without a single benefit being observed.  I had no bad side effects either, I just had no observable difference at all whatsoever.

Boo.

As with many supplements, it is often said that it can take several months to see the benefits.  Well, I think 2 years counts as more than several months.  I wish I could say that it helped at least one symptom, but it was just a major dud for me.

Some of the super hyped, expensive treatments being hawked to women suffering from PCOS include inositol as the magic ingredient and can be very expensive!  I always make a habit of breaking down the ingredients in these snake oil companies, and then doing the research myself to decide if a certain supplement is worth a try.

Of course, you should also talk to your doctor before taking any supplement and for getting assistance on recommended dosages.

You have to remember, as women suffering from infertility, we are often preyed upon because the desire for a child can make us feel hopeless and desperate.  The scammers know this and are looking to profit from our grief and hopes.  Be smart and don’t expect miracles, it is wise to approach things in a scientific matter, learning everything you can, talking with your doctor, and coming up with a healthy plan where you are in control.  If a supplement sounds too good to be true, I can assure you that it is!

Also, just because inositol didn’t work for me, doesn’t necessarily mean that it wouldn’t work for you.  Everyone is different, and as always, results may vary.  My goal here is just to be transparent and share my story with you as we go along our TTC journey.  I know it helps me to read about other women in the same boat and to hear their stories and results.  It’s nice to know you are not alone!

Until next time, friends!

xoxo

 

My Big Fat Fabulous Lie

Have you all seen the TLC show, My Big Fat Fabulous Life?  When it first came out, and it was revealed that the main character had PCOS, I was instantly interested to hear more.  So many women suffer from the disorder, and yet so much is still unknown about it all.

While I went in, hoping to see more light shed on the subject, it turned out to be much more of the typical unreal “reality show” circus.  Heavily scripted and just ridiculous, with the star of the show blaming everything on PCOS, making people who are really suffering look foolish.

The last few episodes were so ridiculous and over the top, it was sad.

It is insanely rare to get a false positive pregnancy test period, PCOS or not.  Further more, to get a positive pregnancy test, the body has to be secreting HCG (human chrorionic gonadotropin).  This hormone is produced by a growing embryo, and later the placenta.  Nothing else can create or mimic this hormone except for extremely rare types of tumors.

False ovulation test positives?  Yes.  Very common in PCOS, but that is a completely different hormone.  Ovulation tests react to LH (luteinizing hormone), or more specifically a surge in LH.  Because ovulation is so erratic in women with PCOS, the tests can pick up false surges, when the body is trying to ovulate, but ultimately does not do so.

There are so many women suffering from infertility, specifically tied to PCOS, it really sucks to play out a fake story line on a fake reality tv show for ratings.  In fact, it’s insulting.

Fans of the show, I don’t judge you for watching, but please don’t assume anything is real.  Enjoy it for the writing and the acting, but don’t take notes on any “facts” they sprinkle in for drama.

To my fellow cysters, yes, my eyes hurt from rolling so hard as well.  Fight on and be strong!

PCOS Series: Breakthrough Bleeding

calander

One of the most common symptoms of PCOS is a wonky period schedule.  I know for myself, I have never in my life had a predictable cycle.  Sometimes they were 28 days, sometimes 34 days, and more often than not, any random number of days, meaning I could go months and months with no sign of a period at all.

Awesome if you aren’t trying to conceive, because who wants a period anyway, right?  But there is science behind why that happens, and it’s important to understand how your body is working so you can try to combat irregular symptoms, of which there are many in PCOS!

Some women with PCOS think they are continuing to have “regular” cycles because they bleed every month, but in fact what is often happening is called estrogen breakthrough bleeding or anovulatory bleeding.  This happens when there is no ovulation, which means no progesterone is produced.  Without progesterone to balance out the estrogen, the endometrial wall is constantly thickening, unable to shed because it is lacking the necessary hormonal messages.

A period that occurs during an anovulatory cycle can be irregularly heavy, due to the increased thickening.  Sometimes, however, the bleeding can be lighter.  Or you may notice blood clots, some of which can be alarmingly large.  Trust me, friends, I speak from experience.  In general, the advice is to notify your doctor if the clots you are passing are larger than an egg.  Larger than an egg!   Fun times.

It is helpful to know what is normal for you, so you can judge each cycle and note the differences.  Because of all the huge hormonal fluctuations in women with PCOS, periods can be very different even cycle to cycle.  I myself have had a cycle last for over 3 weeks with insanely heavy bleeding, flooding, clots, etc that had me nearly housebound.  If you find yourself in this position, talk to your doctor!  There are medications your doctor can give you to help stop the bleeding, not to mention, there are several ways to help manage PCOS symptoms.

Know what is your normal, keep a journal, mark your calendars, keep yourself informed.  Knowledge is power, my friends, and the more you know about yourself and how your body works, the better equipped you are to treat it and take care of it.  It is also super helpful for sharing the information with your doctor, who can then help you to come up with a game plan for treatment.

Speaking of doctors, if your doctor is not helpful with helping you treat your PCOS symptoms, or infertility, or anything for that matter, if they are quick to simply blame your being overweight for your health problems, RUN AWAY!!  That is a lazy cop out, and you deserve a doctor who cares and who will treat you fairly and with respect.

Also, women with PCOS aren’t always overweight!  There are lots of thin cysters out there, having the same problems, minus the weight issues that are often common with the disorder.

There is no cure for PCOS, only treatment.  This is why I am so passionate about learning everything that I can about it and sharing it with you.  There is still so much to be learned about it all, but understanding what is happening is a huge step in the right direction.

Stay tuned for lots more in this series, and be well my friends!

 

 

Now you see me….maybe…

Seriously flirting with the idea of vlogging, adding another element to my blog here, and a new way to interact.  I’m implementing a lot of big changes in my world right now, and as I’ve mentioned before, re educating myself on all things PCOS.  I’m learning even more than I did before, 8 years ago, when I first dove into my research, and feel like it could be helpful to share what I find.

Speaking of 8 years ago……

So, it never fails to hit me this time of year, as the date approaches, and this year is no exception.  Next week, on April 13, marks what would have been my third baby’s birth date/estimated due date.  I was so stinkin’ excited to have a baby with diamonds as their birthstone!!  Not to mention, we don’t have any April birthdays in the family yet!  This year, I would be celebrating 8 blissful years, but the universe had another plan for me.

I lost my baby early on, and went spiraling down into my unexplained infertility battle, that I would eventually find out was caused by PCOS.

I am fighting PCOS to this very day, and have recently gotten so over it, I have decided to really do everything in my power to show this nasty condition who’s boss.  (Spoiler alert: I’m the boss!!  The power is in my hands, and yours too, if you are in my boat!)

I want a happy ending to my tear filled journey, and if I can give even a tiny glimmer of hope of help to someone who feels the same way, who is going through the same thing….well, then I feel like it’s my job to offer a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, or even just an ear to listen.

That’s why I have been seriously considering vlogging, since I feel like I can better emote to you and speak like your friend, rather than just type the words to try and convey what’s in my head and heart.

I’ll have to see what my tech guy says, because I am thinking of just hitting record, spilling my guts, then sharing the video.  I get annoyed at the idea of editing anything or doing anything technical because, blah, it’s boring to me!  I am not a patient girl, I just wanna talk.  🙂

 

An Update

sick

I ended 2015 feeling super run down, my body was working against me to say the very least.  I spent so much time  being stressed and worried about situations out of my control that it spiraled several of my regular conditions into pure chaos.  My rosacea flared angrily, and my hormones were so out of whack, my PCOS symptoms were hugely aggravated.  In a nutshell, I was stressed to the max and my body was sending me every warning signal possible that something was very wrong.

Here we are, more than half way through February, and I feel like I still can’t seem to catch a break health wise.

I had accepted that I could not change the situations and people that were causing me stress, and made it a priority to focus on myself this year.  I started by doing a mental and physical detox which may or may not have helped to start a missing menstrual cycle that showed up nearly 6 months later that expected.

Let me tell you, this belated period was ridiculous beyond belief.  Heavy, full of huge clots, and lasting over three weeks.  I felt like I was literally bleeding to death, it was intense.  A few days into this miserable cycle, I came down with what I thought was a simple cold from the kids.

You know how it is, middle of winter, stuck inside, germs just seek you out.  But this cold kicked my butt big time!  The second week in, I completely lost my voice.  This isn’t unusual, I almost always lose my voice with a particularly nasty cold.  But then, it got worse.  The cold moved to my chest and I came down with bronchitis.  I was wheezing and coughing up grody gunk for weeks.  In fact, I am still tapering off of the cough and finally stopped wheezing within the past week or so.

My ears became painfully clogged and I could not hear out of them, my stuffy nose turned into a nasty, brain pounding sinus infection, and I just felt absolutely miserable for weeks and weeks.  So many tissues, so much vapor rub, so much yuck.

And here I sit, the night before the very first dance competition of the season, and I have a fresh new case of pink eye.  Yes.  Super contagious, super grotesque, super ain’t nobody got time for this, pink eye.

pink eye

*le sigh*

It’s so ridiculous, I have to laugh or I’ll cry.

Yes, this will be the year of Angie!  Being sick and miserable with some ridiculous ailment for every single day of the year thus far!  Woo Hoo!!

Wah, wah, wah, whoa is me, I hear ya.

I absolutely refuse to let this define my year.  Perhaps this is just getting all the crap out of the way for all the good that is coming my way?  I won’t lie, in a meditative and raw kind of way, all of the bleeding and coughing up crap, etc was sort of like a physical, tangible proof of getting rid of all the toxic, bad energy from last year and a way of feeling the slate being wiped clean.  I mean, yeah, why not see the silver lining, right?

meditation

I am determined to fix myself, little by little this year.  Still working on fixing my annovulatory cycles to reclaim my fertility.  Not much can make you feel like less than a woman than losing your ability to conceive.  It sucks and it’s stupid and I am way over it.  I have just recently started drinking Yogi’s Women’s Moon Cycle tea, which contains several herbs that are often used and that I am familiar with for regulating cycles.  I am also taking Innositol, something that has promising results of PCOS issues, one of which happens to be ovulation.

In addition, I have been using sunflower oil for oil pulling, and taking a shot of raw apple cider vinegar with the mother every day for the health benefits.  By the way, if you research using raw apple cider vinegar with the mother and happen across any articles about vinegar eels, do not read about the critters.  They are harmless, but knowing they exist will induce major heebie jeebies.  Trust me on this, friends.

I will absolutely be updating with what, if anything helps with my PCOS symptoms.  Besides the supplements, I am also being more mindful, meditating, making fitness a priority, and taking a multi vitamin daily to fill in any gaps.  Right now, all I can tell you is that I have been sick or ailing with something every single day this year thus far and I am waaaaaay over it.

To happier, healthier days ahead, my friends!  Be well!

 

PCOS Awareness Month

pcosawarnessmonthbyjennka

What perfect timing to delve into the beast known as PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome!  So to start things off, perhaps we should start at the beginning and explain just what exactly this condition is.

PCOS is one of the most common hormonal endocrine disorders in women, but is still a tricky thing to actually get diagnosed because of the many varying symptoms that can be confused for other issues.  Short story: Women with PCOS have multiple cysts on their ovaries, and those little suckers start a whole avalanche of hormonal imbalance.  Some of the havoc this imbalance can bring includes: infertility, acne, weight gain, trouble losing weight, thinning scalp hair, loads of extra face hair, oily skin, irregular periods, potential insulin related problems including diabetes and increased risk for heart problems, and unbelievably, with all of these fun ailments, anxiety and depression are also very high on the list.  Go figure!

I self diagnosed myself with PCOS back in 2008, after having a miscarriage the year before and being unable to get pregnant again afterwards.  My doctor later confirmed my diagnosis through ultrasounds and blood work.  I was given a prescription for Clomid, and 6 months later, I was expecting our little Noey Bean.

Now, I had heard that sometimes following a pregnancy, the hormones can sort of self regulate and was hopeful that we would be able to get pregnant again some day.  Because of our struggle with secondary fertility, we started trying to conceive again just before Noah turned one, expecting it to take possibly years before being successful.  When the pregnancy test came back positive three weeks before Noah’s first birthday, I was dumbfounded!  That pregnancy brought us Saraphina.  ❤

It has been our desire from the start to have a large family, and our “plan” does include more children.  So last year, we decided to hop back on the heartbreak train of TTC (trying to conceive).  Ironically, looking back, it would appear that the last time I ovulated, was the month before we decided to TTC.  Laugh or cry or scream, but I’m pretty sure that is indeed the case.

I have always had irregular periods, another sign of PCOS, but like most girls, I loathe that time of the month, so going months sometimes without is all fine and dandy with me, until you actually expect your body to work like it is supposed to.  Crazy, right?

I can tell when I actually ovulate in a cycle, because the resulting period is a nightmare. (heavy bleeding is another PCOS symptom)  Like, I’m talking, don’t leave the house, don’t move, don’t sneeze, just chill for 5 days or risk looking like an extra from the latest gorefest slasher flick.

On months when I don’t ovulate, I still get a period, but not really.  See, bleeding without ovulation is also known as estrogen breakthrough bleeding, or annovulatory bleeding, and while blood is involved, for me, it is a very miniscule amount compared to my usual “fertile” cycles.  I imagine it is what a “normal” cycle would be like, but without ovulation, it is a big fat bloody (or not so bloody in this case) waste of time in my humble opinion, and a reminder that I am broken.  Ugh.

I have more fertility books than I can count, including Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler.  This book is amazing for learning about your body, how things work, charting your cycles, using a BBT thermometer, etc.  The problem is, having PCOS, a lot of it’s usefulness is wasted on me.  I have tried charting, but my charts are crazy, thanks to PCOS.  I can use ovulation predictor kits (opk’s), and while I will get a positive result, a spike in lutenizing hormone or LH, it definitely does not mean that I will ovulate.  My body has been gearing up and trying to ovulate for what feels like forever, but the hormone imbalance kicks everything around and instead, I get a positive OPK, no ovulation, and then a frustrating annovulatory cycle.

One of the biggest treatments for PCOS is weight loss.  *Insert big fat sigh of annoyance right HERE!*  The hormone imbalance is greatly against you with this battle, and I have been feeling that especially hard for the last several years.  It doesn’t mean I’m not trying though.  We have adopted a whole foods diet in this house, meaning I am making alost every single meal we eat from scratch, with the most basic whole foods we can find.  Loads of fruits and veggies and beans, all good healthy foods, no added sugars, or chemicals.  I wish I could say I dropped loads of weight and feel revitalized, but in truth, I don’t.  I know we are eating better, and getting better nutrition, something I have no desire to change, but I hoped it would help me more with my PCOS symptoms.

I have tried more herbs than I can name at the moment, but I will delve more into that in another post.  For now, I just wanted to give a brief history of my personal struggle, along with a tiny, short version of what PCOS actually is.  I will be continuing this discussion all month long, and of course, will be documenting our journey hopefully through a successful pregnancy in the near future.

Until then, be well!  ❤

Happy Birthday Noah!

My little Noah Bean is officially 3 years old today!  He was our Clomid baby, after our miscarriage.  It took nearly two years to get pregnant with him, and once we were officially pregnant, it was the scariest nine months of my life.

We suffered through secondary infertility after losing our third pregnancy.  It came out of nowhere and left me feeling broken.  Yes, I had two perfectly healthy, gorgeous, wonderful children.  I was lucky, and I knew that.  But after losing the pregnancy, well, it just leaves a hole that doesn’t ever seem to get filled.

I made myself and Abe crazy with charting and herbs and anything I could find to try and help us to conceive.  After countless hours spent researching through books and Google, I self diagnosed myself with PCOS and made a doctor appointment that confirmed my suspicions.

My doctor offered me hope.  She prescribed the Clomid after extensive testing and ultrasounds, and told me that if at any time I wanted to see a specialist, she would be happy to refer me.  She felt confident that she could help me, and her hope was enough to keep me going.

It was the fifth round of Clomid that was magic.  That, and I changed the days I took it.  My doctor prescribed days 5-9.  Through research, I read several studies that suggested days 3-7 might work better for women with PCOS.  Who knows, maybe it was just a coincidence.  That was the month I got that BFP.  That is also when the fear set it.

Every tiny little cramp or twinge had me rushing to the bathroom, expecting to see blood, expecting to lose my baby.  I prayed and begged God all day, every day to just please, please let me keep our little bean safe.  I bargained, I pleaded, I was a hot mess.

I started spotting.

Words can not describe the fear I felt.

My doctor ordered an ultrasound to ease my mind, and while the tiny baby, flipping around on the screen made me breathe a little easier in the moment, I did not enjoy my pregnancy in the least.  I was just too scared.  I’d like to say the fear went away when I was pregnant with Sara, but it didn’t.  Pregnancy is a terrifying time for a woman who has miscarried.

Noah was due on Halloween.  My doctor originally planned on inducing a week early, but she was on vacation that week.  Go figure.  We ended up going in a week later, where my giant, healthy baby was born.  (He was over 9lbs, ouch!)

The labor was long, and I had a nurse who told me my uterus was too weak to push out a baby, that I needed to prepare myself for a c section.  Well, my uterus happens to have that Latina attitude, thank goodness, and we proved her wrong shortly after she said that.  Neener, neener.

And now, the pictures.

How itty bitty do Matt and Bella look here!?  This is when Grandma brought them to the hospital to meet their baby brother for the first time.

On his way to his very first doctor appointment!  We brought him a cute 0-3 month outfit to wear home from the hospital, assuming it would be large on him.  Well, at nearly 24 inches long, he barely fit into it!  He was a big, healthy boy!

He was the happiest little baby, always smiling and giggling.  That was before he turned two.  He redefined the terrible two’s.

He looks so innocent here.  Looks can be deceiving.

My Noey.  He was supposed to be a Halloween baby, and I think he knows it!  He is obsessed with all things spooky, it is definitely his favorite holiday!

Happy Birthday, Noah!  We survived the terrible two’s, you are getting less and less evil with your baby sister, and you are awesome!  We love you to pieces, you brought happiness where so much sadness once was.

xoxoxoxoxoxo