by Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
Nutrition and lifestyle habits can have an important impact on male fertility. Did you know that carrying extra weight is associated with lower sperm quality? Diabetes also may impair sperm quality. Making changes to your diet like limiting added sugar and refined carbs and maximizing fruit and vegetable intake can not only support achieving a healthy weight but also may help improve sperm quality.
In addition, there are specific nutrients that may be helpful for optimizing sperm quality.
1. Omega-3 fatty acids : the outer covering or membrane around sperm is rich in the omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, which help maintain the membrane fluidity allowing for fertilization of the egg. Foods rich in EPA and DHA, include fatty fish like wild salmon and sardines. Egg yolks may also contain some DHA. Our body can convert small amounts of the plant form of omega-3 fatty acids, ALA or alpha-linolenic acid (found in flaxseed, walnuts, and chia seeds), to EPA and DHA, but only small amounts. The main health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids seem to be attributable to EPA and DHA.
2. Folate: Folate is essential for DNA synthesis and repair and may play a role in ensuring the integrity of DNA within the sperm. Folate-rich foods include leafy greens, spinach, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, oranges, and avocado.
3. Antioxidants: Antioxidants include nutrients like vitamins A, C, and E and the pigments that make up fruits and vegetables. Carrots, winter squash, and sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin A, while strawberries, oranges, broccoli, and red peppers are rich in vitamin C. Vitamin E-rich foods including almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, peanuts and peanut butter, and avocado.
Pulling Down the Moon nutritionists are not only experts in fertility nutrition for women, but we also specialize in using nutrition to optimize male fertility. Appointments available in-center or via phone or video conference for your convenience.
Margaret Eich, MS, RDN
Pulling Down the Moon, Nutritionist
1. Have your vitamin D tested. Women with PCOS are often vitamin D deficient, and correcting the deficiency can help restore more frequent menstrual cycles and promote improved blood sugar regulation.
2. Eat low mercury fish like wild salmon, tilapia, and sardines. These fish contain omega-3 fatty acids that may help reduce the inflammation associated with PCOS.
3. Cut out all sugar-sweetened drinks like soda, sweetened teas, and sports drinks. These beverages can lead to insulin resistance, which only exacerbates the symptoms of PCOS. Instead, drink water with lemon or cucumber slices, or sparkling water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.
4. Avoid artificial sweeteners. They usually serve only to exacerbate sugar cravings and may contribute to issues with blood sugar regulation.
5. Make sure to eat a protein source at all your meals and snacks to help keep you full and satisfied and promote good blood sugar regulation. Moderate protein diets have been associated with better IVF success rates too! Protein sources include meat, fish, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds, or (limited) dairy.
6. Eat only full-fat dairy instead of low-fat or non-fat. In the Nurse’s Health Study, intake of full-fat as opposed to reduced or non-fat dairy was associated with lower risk of ovulatory infertility.
7. Eat cruciferous vegetables daily, as they are great for estrogen-dominant conditions like PCOS. Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cabbage, kale, collard greens, and arugula.
8. Avoid refined grains like white breads, pasta, cookies, cereals and crackers. They have no nutritional value. Instead eat whole grains like Ezekiel bread, brown or wild rice, quinoa, and millet.
9. Take a fish oil supplement. Since it’s important to limit fish due to its mercury content, taking a fish oil supplement that has been purified to remove mercury is a great way to make sure you’re getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids to help reduce the inflammation associated with PCOS.
10. Lose the sugar! High blood sugar can be damaging to egg quality and promote inflammation in the body, besides the fact that it’s empty calories. Cutting out sugar is also an essential strategy if you’re trying to lose weight.
11. Avoid corn, soybean, and cottonseed oils that are rich in inflammatory omega-6 rich fatty acids. These oils are often found in crackers, cookies, salad dressings, and pasta sauces.
12. Eat vitamin D-rich foods like low mercury fish (salmon, tilapia, haddock, sardines) and egg yolks and get some sunshine.
13. Eat fermented foods, which can help promote healthy digestion and balanced gut bacteria.
14. Avoid foods with “soy protein isolate” and “texturized vegetable protein,” as they contain high levels of phytoestrogens that may be detrimental to fertility. You find these in meat replacement products, many protein bars, and in high protein cold cereals.
15. Eat organic whenever possible, especially meat and dairy.
16. Work towards a healthy weight. Whether you are overweight or underweight, a healthy weight is a really important way to help improve your chances of conception and a healthy pregnancy. If you need to lose weight, try our FirstLine Therapy for Fertility (FLTF) weight loss program!
17. Eat berries. Berries are rich in antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation and prevent free radical damage to eggs.
18. Eat healthy fats – dry roasted or raw nuts and seeds, avocados, low mercury fish, and olive oil.
19. Learn the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s website to learn more. The Dirty Dozen are the top 12 fruits and vegetables with the highest levels of pesticide residues. These are the items to buy organic. The Clean 15 have the lowest pesticide residues so buying conventional versions is a good money-saving option.
20. Avoid Bisphenol A (BPA) by using a BPA-free water bottle and limiting your intake of canned foods. Higher BPA levels in the body have been linked to PCOS.
21. Lose the sugar! High blood sugar can be damaging to egg quality and promote inflammation in the body, besides the fact that it’s empty calories. Cutting out sugar can also be a really helpful strategy if you’re trying to lose weight and manage your PCOS.
22. Try cutting out gluten, especially if you have any digestive issues like diarrhea, constipation, or frequent bloating. If you have poor digestion, you likely are not absorbing nutrients from your food well.
23. Support good digestion with probiotics, fiber from fruits and vegetables, and plenty of fluids. Limit refined grains and sugars.
24. Eat beans and lentils. These nutritional powerhouses are great for PCOS as they are loaded with protein, fiber, iron, folate, and calcium – all very beneficial nutrients when trying to conceive.
25. Avoid trans fats, which are a component of hydrogenated oils. Don’t buy any foods with “hydrogenated oil” in the ingredient list as these unhealthy fats may increase inflammation and are linked to decreased fertility.
26. Take a prenatal vitamin that contains all of your B-vitamins. B-vitamins are vital to the ovulation process and especially important for women with PCOS. If you aren’t eating a balanced diet, you may not be getting enough of these important vitamins like thiamin, riboflavin, folic acid, B6 and B12 among others.
27. Eat low glycemic carbohydrates. Low glycemic carbs keep your blood sugar steadier and provide more sustained energy throughout the day. Blood sugar balance can help keep insulin levels lower, which is important because higher insulin levels seem to be a driving force in PCOS.
28. Eat foods with folate. You should definitely be taking a folic acid supplement while trying to conceive, but eating foods with folate is also beneficial. Include leafy green vegetables, beans, lentils, green peas, strawberries, and avocados.
29. Eat slowly and mindfully. These practices can enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients and satisfaction with eating and prevent overeating and digestive issues like gas and bloating.
30. Get plenty of antioxidants in your diet, especially if you’re doing ART. One study suggests that IVF increases free radicals, but increasing your intake of antioxidant vitamins and minerals was able to neutralize the free radicals. Think lots of different colored fruits and vegetables!
Insights of Fifteen Years of Yoga Wisdom
by Beth Heller, M.S.
Fifteen years ago, Tami and I offered our first, six-week Yoga for Fertility class in Wilmette, a suburb of Chicago. Much to our surprise, we had a large and eager group of students show up for class. It was a surprise, because yoga was just hitting the general consciousness and, while were both experienced teachers, we really didn’t know whether anyone besides us would see the benefits of this practice for enhancing odds of conception. I had recently used yoga to jump start periods that had been absent for the previous four years, and Tami’s journey raising fertility twins led her to yoga. But it’s not always easy to translate personal success into an effective group experience.
That first class? TBH, it was meh.
Yes, meh. The class format, which included a brief period of group chat followed by a fertility-friendly posture practice, kept students’ attention and approached what we were seeking to create. But while everyone walked away happy and relaxed, from Tami and my perspective it was missing something.
So, we got back to work.
We both had a clear vision of the practice we wanted to teach. More than a “doing practice,” our program would be a (to use a really geeky term) capacity-building practice , meaning a process of learning and developing skills, instincts and abilities from yoga and building the confidence to apply them outside of yoga class to the infertility journey and beyond.
The program we developed over the next 15 years is just that – a “deep dive” into yoga philosophy and practice in a condensed period of time. Through the use of our five-body model, discussion, and specific physical and mental practices, we do way more than open tight hips and improve blood flow over the course of six weeks. We reignite hope and open windows where doors have slammed. Each week we go a bit deeper, and we have fun doing so. The physical practice is challenging at times because we don’t rush, we breathe deep and we rein in our collective desire to keep running on the treadmill of infertility stress.
Fifteen years later our class, which we teach both in-person and online, has lived up to our goal. In two separate research studies, we have seen how this class impacts the toxic anxiety of the infertility journey in two distinct ways. The first is what we would have predicted – that this six week yoga program lowered the immediate feelings of anxiety in women experiencing infertility. The second is what we were hoping for – a significant decrease in what is called Trait Anxiety, or how anxious a person believes themselves to be at their core.
Some gals shy away from Yoga for Fertility because they are uncomfortable with the discussion element, others feel their weekly hot or power yoga classes are getting them to the same place. We hope that some of you will reconsider these beliefs and give our class a try. Research shows it can lower anxiety by 20% over six weeks, and make measurable changes on a deeper level of self-awareness.
Still not sure it would work for you? There’s only one way to find out. Join us to learn how our yoga practice can shift the flow of your life towards creating the life you want to live.
Where has summer gone? Before winter is upon us, make sure to take time for yourself, with your partner, and with your family. Here are some great ideas to get started on your “bucket list”:
Did you know that there is still a drive-in in Illinois? Get a double-feature for the price of one with grills, a play area, and concession stand at: cascadedrivein.com . Meet up with others and tailgate until the movie starts! Bonus tip: pack your own cooler of goodies and dress the kiddos in pj’s!
When was the last time you went to the museum? Did you know your local library has FREE passes that you can checkout for a whole week?! Find a museum that is new to you or pick up your pass today at: https://www.chipublib.org/faqs/what-museums-can-i-get-passes-for . Whether you want to reach for the stars, check out the new Jurassic Park exhibit, build a masterpiece with Legos, create your own artistic masterpiece, or watch the fish swim—there is something for everyone!
Do you want to enjoy a little bit of everything without the hassle of planning? Then Pearachute for Kids ( www.pearachutekids.com ) is perfect for you! If you have never heard of them, go to their site and browse! There are FREE activities in and around the city listed. In addition to a variety of classes for all ages, at times throughout the day, and in locations all over–there are even classes for Mom while the kiddo is taken care of!! They have flexible plans that make for weeks full of adventures with swimming, art, outdoor adventures, and more! You can schedule up to two weeks ahead or just drop-in when the mood strikes.
When was the last time you went to Ravinia? They have a variety of shows and concerts for all tastes including shows just for the kiddos! You can drive to Highland Park or venture on the train. Make it your own date night, get-together with friends, or family night. Keep it as simple or get as Pinterest-y as you want! Bonus tip: bring a wagon for all the necessities (works with or without kids) and when you bring the kids along then grab a pop-up kid’s tent to keep the bugs away while giving them a place to crash while you relax. Go to: https://www.ravinia.org to plan your trip and make sure to check out everything Highland Park has to offer!
Want to check-out interactive activities with the little ones? Head to downtown Evanston to enjoy Gather ( http://www.meetatgather.com/ ). This unique children’s play place is warm and inviting. It is kept clean and has a variety of spaces/activities available. For the adults, there FREE coffee/tea and WiFi are available. There are allergy-conscious snacks for purchase as well. Kids can take classes then stay all day. They also allow for you to go out for lunch or nap time then return without an extra charge!
What are your favorite ideas to end summer? What are your favorite activities to start fall? We would love to hear them and share with others!
Help for Secondary Infertility with Acupuncture
by Christine Davis, L.Ac., MSOM
You have your perfect baby or toddler or big kid! You are so happy! It was pretty easy getting pregnant the first time. You took great care of yourself during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated birth. The first year was pretty difficult (sleep is soooo over-rated!), but you made it through ok. You decide it’s time to try for another baby! You start your prenatals, pull out the pregnancy clothes and get busy. One month goes by … and your period comes. Oh well, you must have missed the window. You were traveling, he was traveling, you had that event and were too tired the day you probably were supposed to try…. Three months go by… still nothing. Oh well, you were just unlucky. This time you’ll get an ovulation predictor kit and make sure you hit the window. Another couple of months with negative pregnancy tests….
Or maybe while trying for your second (or third, or fourth…), you become pregnant, only to suffer loss early on. You know your body is capable of this! You’ve done it once, so easily, and so perfectly before….
You decide it’s time to see the gynecologist. She runs all the basic tests – well, your AMH is a little off, but not worrisome. Your FSH is a little high, but that’s normal for your age. According to your Gyne, that shouldn’t be a problem. Or maybe everything is “perfect!” What gives?? Why is this happening and what can you do about it? Your Gyne just says “keep trying” and “come back if nothing happens in 6 months.”
What can you do to just get pregnant?!?
Secondary Infertility, the inability to become pregnant or maintain pregnancy in women who have previously carried to full term one or more pregnancies without using IVF or other assisted therapies, is much more common than is often thought. While there may be measurable issues (thyroid problems, endometriosis / painful periods, etc) that could contribute, many women find themselves in the “unexplained” category. But guess what? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM, including acupuncture, herbs and associated modalities), there is no such thing as unexplained!
In TCM, there are many ways to evaluate and explain what is going on to cause difficulty conceiving. We go through your whole history – your pregnancy/pregnancies, periods before/after pregnancy, all other physical, mental or emotional symptoms you may be experiencing. We also look at your tongue and feel your pulse as primary diagnostic tools. All of this information together determines your TCM diagnosis. We categorize imbalances in terms of excess (inflammation, pain, swelling, etc) or deficiency (slow/low function, anemia, fatigue, etc). Treatment with acupuncture can help to balance the body and create health by strengthening areas that may be weak or clearing areas that may be stuck.
Acupuncture is also has a kind of “adaptogenic” effect, meaning that it can help to reduce the effects of stress on the body. Regular treatment can help you to cope with anxiety, worry, and most other emotional challenges, especially while struggling to become pregnant.
Things in your body can change (A LOT!) during and after pregnancy. Sometimes so much that it could be affecting your ability to conceive. You may have shorter or longer periods and cycles, you may have gained weight or struggle with a sluggish metabolism, and many other changes. Acupuncture therapy can help to get you back on track and find your healthiest self to not just become pregnant, but to sustain a healthy pregnancy and you!
And don’t forget about your partner/husband! Of those couples who struggle with fertility, there is almost a 50/50 split between male and female areas of concern. If he is resistant to trying acupuncture, remind him that it’s also great for that knee pain / back pain / allergies / heartburn / headaches / etc he has! We will do a full assessment and treatment for him, too.
Try Acupuncture with us at www.pullingdownthemoon.com
Man in the Moon?
by Meredith Nathan, LMT
A man and a woman walk into a fertility center (I know, this sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but please bear with me). Both get tested. Both check out normal. The man is told that he is ‘fine’. The woman is told she has ‘unexplained infertility’.
Does it seem a little sexist? Perhaps, especially when you consider that roughly half of fertility issues are male factor. And yet the burden of treatment, especially when dealing with ART, tends to fall on the woman. Furthermore, there is a misconception running rampant that men with fertility issues only have one course of action: IVF. And there again 95% of the work of IVF will fall on his partner’s shoulders, even if she had no fertility issues at all. It does seem a little lopsided…
But it takes two to tango – creating a healthy baby requires two ingredients: a healthy egg AND a healthy sperm. So whether optimal health and a proactive pre-conception strategy is the focus, or whether his swimmers need a fertility fix, healthy lifestyle choices and holistic treatments can go a long way towards increasing your odds of conception. And remember, the lifespan of a sperm is 60-70 days, so any positive changes made can increase your chances for conception for the following two or more months! Here are some top tips to keep those sperm in tip top shape:
- Make healthy lifestyle choices; habits like smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and sleep deprivation can all negatively impact sperm quality.
- Turn down the heat! Saunas, hot tubs, and steam baths can warm the scrotum and negatively impact fertility. In addition, laptops on laps and cell phones in pockets are not only warming but also may emit unwanted radiation.
- Get a nutritional boost; vitamin deficiencies can negatively impact sperm production, and sporadic, inconsistent meal times can create blood sugar spikes and crashes, throwing the hormones off balance.
- Keep stress in check! Stress also creates hormonal imbalance and interferes with sperm production. So bring on all relaxation activities, whether going on walks, prayer, meditation, fishing, golf, or getting massaged.
- Moderate exercise is healthy and good, but overly intense workouts can draw blood away from the core and deprive the reproductive organs. On the flip side, blood building acupuncture & massage techniques can help to rebuild reproductive circulation and provide a fertility boost!
I’m often asked if I see a lot of men at our center. I know the power of having both partners come to table as healthy as can be. On a personal note, my husband and I struggled to conceive for 18 months until I decided to include him in my wellness plans. And so whenever people ask me how many men I see at Pulling Down the Moon, my response is always the same, “I wish I saw more.”
Shawna Schwalb, MS, LDN, Fertility Nutrition Specialist
I remember when I was in my 20s, hanging out with my friends, and one of my friends was excited about freezing her eggs. This was kind of revolutionary for the time as this was around the year 2003 and most of us were just a couple years post college, thinking about what to do with our lives. Now, as a fertility nutritionist at Pulling Down the Moon, I often have clients looking to freeze their eggs and searching for an optimal diet, lifestyle and supplement regimen to support this. The world has sure changed in 14 years! Improving your overall health may improve your egg health. Here are some foods to eat to obtain the best quality eggs if you are thinking about freezing them. If possible, it is best to start this regimen three to six months prior to freezing your eggs.
Eat local and seasonal and organic when possible. Organic meat and dairy products contain significantly more omega-3 fatty acids than their conventionally raised counterparts, which may provide a benefit for egg quality. This article discusses some of the differences between organic and conventionally raised meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables: http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/02/18/467136329/is-organic-more-nutritious-new-study-adds-to-the-evidence
Emphasize a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, which provide antioxidants that may help protect eggs from free radical damage. Choose local when possible. Fruits and vegetables that have traveled far on a truck may have lost some nutrients along the way. Locally grown foods may be grown according to organic standards, but smaller farms sometimes can’t afford the certification. It’s important to ask local farmers about their pesticide use and growing practices. Your pesticide, hormone, and antibiotic exposure is likely higher when eating conventionally raised meat and dairy, so it makes sense to prioritize organic meat and dairy over fruits and vegetables when deciding where to spend the extra money. The Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen lists the foods with the highest pesticide residues, thus these would be the foods to prioritize buying organic. Here is a link to a current list: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php
Eat healthy fats. Now is the time to make sure you’re including quality fats in your diet like low mercury fish, avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, wild salmon, nuts, and seeds.
Finally, don’t forget to eat all the vegetables and fruits your heart desires. Leafy greens are the highest in folate, the form of b9 that your body can best absorb. Citrus fruits are great sources of folate and berries are one of the lowest glycemic fruits out there, full of antioxidants as well. Try to get a serving of something green at most meals.
Don’t forget, these changes will help you sustain a healthy egg and may even lead to healthy life for you and your future family.
A Daily Dose of Gratitude
by Melissa Hinshaw, LMT
November is traditionally the time of the year when we gather with friends and family to share and show our gratitude for what we have and who we share our lives with. Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday and its sentiment is powerful. But what if gratitude became apart of out daily lives…I mean on a very conscious and intentional level? Could it change our attitudes? Better yet, could it alter our physiologies? Let me tell you what I discovered when I decided to write about gratitude and what it does for me.
Let’s start with the definition of gratitude. It comes from the latin for, gratia, which means grace or thankfulness. Everyday we are thanking people for this and that, one because we mean it, and two, because it’s the polite thing to do. The gratitude I want to discuss is the gratefulness we have for all we have with the awareness that we have not earned, nor do we deserve all that we’ve been given. I don’t mean this in a negative way at all. We work hard, we do what is expected so we get what we deserve, right? This is true, but letting the Universe know we are honored everyday for all things, big and little, can have a huge impact. I think of it like how a child approaches every morsel of the day…each moment is special and magical and noticed.
Let me tell you a secret about myself. Everyday when I arrive at Pulling Down the Moon I take the stairs up to the 8th floor. On my journey up I do what I call is my, “grateful chant.” I say, OUTLOUD, all the things in that moment that I am thankful for. Please don’t laugh, but here goes…”I am grateful for finding a parking space. I am grateful that my kids had a nice morning. I am grateful that my son is feeling good today. I am grateful that I have a safe home. I am grateful that my car works. I am grateful that I have Pulling Down the Moon. I am grateful that I can pay my bills. I am grateful to be loved. I am grateful to have the chance to love deeply, etc…” The chant stops when I reach the top and it is different every day. This has become a ritual for me that I look forward to and I cannot start my day without it. Whoopie!! Melissa is grateful. So what? Well, after doing some research on gratitude I discovered just how powerful being grateful can be.
In a study done at Harvard Medical School they found that, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.” An article in, Tech & Science, outlines the five scientifically proven benefits of gratitude. Some of these include improved sleep quality, increased helpfulness and empathy, and increased self-esteem. The final two effects of being grateful really stood out to me, especially for my sisters going down fertility lane: grateful people are more hopeful and healthy and they also have increased resilience. These are qualities that can make or break getting through a difficult journey…like trying to make a baby when the deck isn’t stacked just right.
I will end this by saying that my way is not THE way to experience gratitude but it does work for me. I encourage you to find a way to express and/or show gratitude every single day. Actually, it has more to do with the feeling of gratitude and how that affects our souls and our bodies. So, I guess it is about finding ways to feel grateful for anything and everything…the bumps that life puts in front of us as well as the gifts. Let’s not take for granted that which we receive on a regular basis. Let’s cherish it and honor it and thank it with grace. “I am grateful for the opportunity to write this article and to share with my sisters what has changed my life!”
Acupuncture for Fertility, The Method Behind the Madness
By Meghan Gibson, MSOM, L.Ac.
Close your eyes. Picture this, you’re lying on a soft table, there’s a warm feeling of heat above your feet, the sounds of ocean waves and Tibetan drums playing in the background and – there’s needles all over your body!? Wait, what? Yup, that’s what an acupuncture session is like! Once you get over the initial strangeness that is having needles in your body one can find an overwhelming sense of relaxation during and after treatments. But, have you ever thought while laying down for your treatment, is there a method to this madness or am I just a pin cushion? There IS a method to the madness and it all started thousands of years ago.
The first text books referencing acupuncture are 2,000 years old. Think about this, Western Medicine is changing and evolving every day. Text books are constantly being updated and changed with medical advancements and the use of better or new technology. Acupuncture books are the same, the points are the same, they have not changed. This medicine works and hasn’t needed updating because the points and their functions have been tried and proven for thousands of years.
Did you know there are 365 acupuncture points along 12 meridians all over the body? Each point has a different function and is connected to a different organ. Each practitioner uses varying sets of points depending in their “style” or preference but, for example, there are heat clearing points on the arms and on the legs so depending on the practitioner you could get a seemingly different treatment but the goal was the same in both. That’s one of the things that makes this medicine so amazing, is there are so many point combinations you can use but the purpose is the same.
The ancient Chinese gave some great names to some of the key points used for fertility. Did you know there were acupuncture points called, “Door of Infants” and one called ”Beautiful Baby”? There are so many amazing acupuncture points that aid in not only fertility but pregnancy, postpartum and beyond. Has your husband been complaining about his frozen shoulder? Yup – we’ve got points for that too. Now is a great time to check out our services and get back to feeling your best.
Don’t worry, you’re not just a pin cushion. There’s a method to the madness and just because one treatment didn’t “feel” like the other the goal of the session was same. Any questions visit www.pullingdownthemoon.com for more information.
My Journey, A Personal Story
I have been married to my 8 th grade sweetheart for 12 yrs. We talked about getting married and starting a family “one day”. He wanted 12 kids. I remember laughing out loud and said “maybe 4” to include adoption. Fast forward through dating off and on for several years, conversations about a smaller family, and not even 4 months post marriage; I shared news that would rock our world. I have a condition called Premature Ovarian Insufficiency (formally Failure). The most difficult symptom is serious fertility complications that lead to less than 1% of us birthing children with our own eggs.
The initial news shook me to my core. I checked out of relationships, rarely left my bed, and cried so much I couldn’t cry any more. Hubs let me be, but one day said–enough. I got up and have been trying to deal ever since. Sometimes it has been like I am riding around on a unicorn sprinkling glitter around the world just as happy as can be. Other times have been similar to people finding out a loved one is an alcoholic where they are completely shocked because the family member seemed to be functioning, while being a mess behind closed doors. In all of those feelings I have tried to find balance, hold onto hope, and look for guidance on next steps but–it is hard. I have held onto the idea that if I just do ‘xyz’ then I won’t need to use donor eggs, though almost 12yrs post diagnosis–here I am at the same crossroads.
It has made me feel less than a woman and wife. My husband’s nickname is the ‘baby whisperer’ because he has a gift with kids yet doesn’t even have one to call his own because his wife’s body won’t cooperate. That’s a heavy burden to carry around on top of my own personal issues with this plus the other non-fertility symptoms associated with my condition. When looking at donors over the years, I have been shocked and hurt by the lack of Black donors. I perform a search and see a few hundred donors but when I filter for a local Black donor, I have 7 to choose from which is no exaggeration for most databases I have looked at. It has stopped me from moving forward on several occasions. Why can’t I find anyone that looks like me and has the same background as me? Why do I care so much, shouldn’t I look for the best and healthiest donor? I won’t even get into the financial burden this places on us. Donor cycles can cost over $30k and you need about $10k to just reserve the donor.
I believe that our trials are meant to be shared to help others. Fertility for Colored Girls (FFCG) is an organization that has helped me and lead me to Pulling Down the Moon (PDtM) by way of conversations about local holistic health options with various members. I had tried acupuncture before, but hadn’t been to a space with comprehensive service options until walking into to PDtM. It has given me the opportunity to learn about nutrition, yoga, supplements, acupuncture, and massage as it relates to fertility. I am in a space where some women on both sides of the desk are either on a fertility journey or have completed a journey. I appreciate the peace I leave with after completing a service, I appreciate the supplement options as it is hard to find quality products, and I appreciate the nurturing knowledgeable touch of the staff. Both women and men come in for services and it makes me smile when they have good news to share. This is a sisterhood I never wanted or imagined I would join. Having holistic options for support and treatment has been a lifesaver and greatly appreciated as I move forward with a plan of attack towards a healthy pregnancy. This sisterhood rocks!
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