Natural Ways to Improve Fertility

I’m so thrilled to welcome guest blogger Phil Druce, founder of Ovulation Calculator to my blog!

OvulationCalculator.com provides education and the necessary tools to help families who are trying-to-conceive and struggling with fertility. It was a no-brainer when they asked me if I’d be interested in collaborating with them raising awareness of infertility.

Thank you Phil and Ovulation Calculator for doing what you do to raise awareness by providing women in pursuit of baby with resources they need.

– Jane

Natural Ways to Improve Fertility

It is surprising for some couples to learn that it isn’t so common to get pregnant on the first try. This misunderstanding can lead to a lot of disappointment and stress. But truthfully, it is very common for healthy, fertile couples to take six cycles to conceive.

And if you have an issue like low cervical mucus, it can take even longer.

No one likes to wait, so we are going to cover a few natural ways to improve cervical mucus and boost your chances of conceiving in any given cycle.

But first, let’s look at the reasons why your cervical mucus may be low in the first place.

Over or underweight – Experts recommend keeping a healthy BMI when trying to conceive. This equates to a range of 18.5 to 24.9. If your weight puts you at a higher or lower BMI, it is time to make some changes. If you are underweight, be careful about loading up on junk food at this time. If you are overweight, try to lose while still eating a balanced diet. Nutrition is also important at this time.

Hormonal imbalances – The body must maintain a delicate balance of hormones at all times. If they are off, it can spell trouble for your fertility. Talk to your doctor if you think you need your hormone levels tested.

Medications – Some medications, especially antihistamines, can interfere with fertility and cervical mucus production. Talk to your doctor about possible alternatives.

Nutritional deficiencies – The body needs a balance of the right nutrients in order to function at its best.

Infections – Some STDs don’t have symptoms, so if you’re having trouble with cervical mucus and cannot understand why, it wouldn’t hurt to get tested.

Douching – Most douches are terrible for fertility. Steer clear.

Natural Ways to Improve Cervical Mucus

Avoid Toxins – Unfortunately, toxins are virtually impossible to avoid completely. But when you are trying to conceive, make your best effort. These are healthy habits to maintain throughout pregnancy also. Pay special attention to the ones that touch your skin, like shampoos and soaps.

Stop Smoking – It’s a nasty habit, but it can also impact your fertility. Experts recommend quitting three months before trying to conceive. You want to get all of the nicotine out of your system, including nicotine from products such as patches.

Maintain a Healthy Weight – Being overweight or underweight can hurt your chances of conceiving. But don’t try to make major changes all at once. A difference of even just 10 pounds in the right direction can improve your chances of conceiving.

Skip the Lubricants – Most lubricants are terrible for fertility. Use one that is designed for conception (it should say so on the package), or use a natural alternative like coconut oil. Keep in mind that a lubricant isn’t safe just because it is natural. Even saliva can have a negative impact on fertility.

Mind Your Medicine – Many medicines can impact fertility and cervical mucus production. If you’re on any medication, talk to your doctor about whether it could impact your chances of conceiving. There may be safe alternatives.

Eat a Balanced Alkaline Diet – A diet high in vegetables, nuts and seeds seems to work well for promoting fertility. To keep your diet alkaline, avoid acidic foods like meats and most dairy products. There is mixed evidence on this natural remedy, but it certainly will not hurt to eat more vegetables.

Take Evening Primrose Oil – Many women who are trying to conceive will take evening primrose oil to improve the quantity and quality of their cervical mucus. If you’d like to give it a shot, begin taking evening primrose oil at the start of your cycle and stop just before you ovulate. You can begin again at the start of your next cycle, if conception did not take place.

Stay Hydrated – It is important to replenish lost water and to hydrate well enough to keep the body functioning. This means that you should drink the recommended eight 8-ounce glasses of water each day (or more). If you are dehydrated, you may not produce enough of that fertile, ‘raw egg white’ type cervical mucus you’ll need to conceive.

Take L-Arginine – L-Arginine is an essential amino acid that helps with many bodily functions. Many believe that it can improve the fluidity and production of cervical mucus.

Avoid High-Doses of Vitamin C – Vitamin C may be your go-to nutrient for whenever you’re starting to feel under the weather, but some evidence shows that it may actually dry up cervical mucus. When it comes to vitamin C during conception, be conservative. What you get from your food and prenatal vitamin is probably sufficient.

Now you know how to improve your cervical mucus it’s also important to learn how to monitor your cervix. You can read about how to monitor your cervix here.

Philip Druce - Founder Of Ovulation Calculator

Author Bio: Phil Druce is the Founder of Ovulation Calculator a site that predicts when you are ovulating and provides up-to-date information on how to get pregnant. Ovulation Calculator has recorded over 10,000 pregnancies and counting.

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS $5k IN IVF MEDICINES

December 7, 2015 – January 3, 2016

December 10th is my pregnancy blood test for IUI attempt #3. In the meantime while we patiently wait for my 2 Week Wait (2WW) to end, our baby salesman wanted to discuss next steps towards IVF in the event my pregnancy test is negative. Yes, you read that right. The baby salesman was anticipating another failed procedure and anticipating taking more money from us early. Looking back, I should have taken this as a sign.

JM and I made an appointment to discuss next steps with the baby salesman 3 days before the pregnancy test. When we were called into his office, we assume our usual positions in the dreaded bulky leather chairs. I have such a hatred for those leather chairs because every time we sit in them it’s to discuss the negative. JM and I decided from the beginning that we’d try IUIs three times before moving on to IVF. My insurance only allows a maximum of six IUIs for the lifetime of the insurance, so we wanted to reserve the other three for another time.

The baby businessman discussed with us an IVF plan specific to our needs. Basically, I’d start birth control at the beginning of my next menses for 21 days. Then at the start of the following menses, I’d begin the hormone stimulating injections. JM and I decided there was no reason to wait, and we were as financially ready to do this as we’d ever be. I’m the type of person who refuses to take out loans, so we tried very hard throughout the entire year to just live off one salary so we could fill our savings account with baby making money just in case. Trust me, mentally I had a very hard time accepting the fact that we were about to drop over $10,000 just to ATTEMPT to get pregnant. There was no guarantee. There was no refund if it doesn’t work. We’re about to gamble all this money for something we don’t know will work. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a hard time processing this.

The whole IVF cycle takes between 6-8 weeks to complete. The baby salesman tried to sell me on doing a more extensive embryo quality test for another $2k, but I laughed at him and said “no thank you.” If I was over 35, I’d absolutely do it, but I’m young and believe my eggs are fine. After our hour-long consultation, I came home with a prescription in hand for birth control pills which will begin the process of suppressing my ovaries to get them ready for high stimulation. If my pregnancy test is negative in 3 days, the plan is for me to start the birth control immediately.

When our appointment was over, my mind was only on money. I just kept thinking about our savings account and what if this try doesn’t work. I’m a saver. Call me selfish. Call me greedy. But how is it fair that getting pregnant is supposed to be a “free” act, but yet we have to spend a college tuition to do it? On the car ride home I said to JM, “This is going to be a light Christmas this year. Lets set some boundaries and make sure not to spend no more than $200 on each other this year. We have a baby to buy.”

Fast forward to December 10th… the day of my 23rd negative pregnancy test. My attitude and emotions after this test were different compared to all the other times. I was over it. At this point, I just wanted to do what a girl has got to do to get knocked up. I was anxious. Anxious to just move on and get going on the IVF. I was convinced the IVF will absolutely work. The doctors will literally be putting a baby into my uterus. This is guaranteed to work, right?

I got my period a couple days later and began the birth control pills and continue to take them for the next 21 days. In the meantime, I begin some of the preparation tasks the baby salesman wants me to do. I did a mock embryo transfer. This is to document the shape and size of my uterus so when it comes time to transfer the actual embryos, the doctors know exactly where they are to place the catheter. JM and I took another injection class. Although we were already pros at injections because of the IUIs, there is one different injection that requires JM to literally put it in my ass muscle. Glorious!

I knew that with IVF it involved a lot of medicines, but I guess I didn’t quite mentally prepare myself for just how much we were going to need or going to spend. Unfortunately, my insurance does not cover infertility medicines, so everything must be paid for out of pocket. The pharmacy tells me the grand total and it’s $4800. HOLY CRAP. I wasn’t expecting that number!

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When the medicines arrived the next day, you would have thought we received packages filled with Christmas gifts. Just check out the photo above. The boxes were so big. Yes, plural. We received 4 boxes filled with medicines. All of these drugs and hormones were about to go into my body over the next couple of weeks. I’m not sure how this is the new norm, but if this is what I have to do to get knocked up, then so be it.

I forced myself to try to be as relaxed and unstressed as I possibly could. I made sure to enjoy my last few adult beverages on Christmas and New Years because on 3 January, everything will begin. Rather than making a New Years resolution this year, JM and I both said a prayer that the IVF will work. We were convinced that 2016 WILL. BE. OUR. YEAR.

INFERTILITY FORCES YOU TO BE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT

November 14-26, 2015

It’s two days after my 2nd failed IUI pregnancy text results, and we are about to have a house full of 60 of our closest friends and some family for our 11th annual Friendsgiving. Sure, this was a nice distraction, but I can honestly say my enthusiasm and excitement for this year’s party was the lowest of all years. I was quickly reminded of my infertility when our friends with their adorable kids showed up. The good thing about this Friendsgiving is that I also got my period. Bet you never thought you’d hear Friendsgiving and period as a positive thing in the same sentence!? What this means is that on Monday I can start the process for IUI #3.

On Monday, I go to visit the baby businessman for the usual day 3 blood work and ultrasound to baseline my hormones and get clearance to proceed with IUI #3. All is good to go and we’re ready to try this one last time before moving forward with trying IVF. My doctor explains to me that this round will be a bit more aggressive and invasive with the hormone meds. Surprisingly, my baby businessman saved us some money for this round. He sent me home with a multiple-dose injection pen called Gonal-F. It was donated by a patient who no longer needed it, but set to expire next month. Little did I know this was a huge money saver (which I later learn) and saved me from spending nearly $450 out of pocket.

JM continued to serve his role as injection administrator throughout IUI #3. I don’t know what it is, but I simply cannot look at needles going into the skin. If it weren’t for JM, I’d probably have to hire someone to give me these injections daily, but thank goodness it didn’t come down to this.

Being on Gonal-F requires a little more monitoring appointments. After my day 3 baseline appointment, I had 5 more blood work and ultrasound monitoring appointments (to include on a Saturday morning) over the next 7 days. JM and I kept joking that it would be really funny if turns out the actual IUI procedure ends up being on Thanksgiving. Sure enough, on Tuesday, 24 November the baby businessman informs me that it looks like I’ll be ovulating on Thanksgiving. Our joking was now a reality.

Immediately when I got home after work, I told JM that our joking is no longer a joke. We some how have to make it work to do an IUI on Turkey Day. I think I’ve said it before in a past post, but I’ll say it again. INFERTILITY FORCES YOU TO LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT. Plans? What plans? There is no such thing as planning ahead in my life anymore. I’ve always been a planner and always needed to know what I’m going to be doing ahead of time. Infertility has taught me that I don’t always need to plan and I can allow my life to be flexible.

It’s Thursday, 26 November. Thanksgiving! Did I mention that we’re having my family, JM’s family, and our old neighbors Tom and Melissa over for Thanksgiving dinner? No big deal.  It’s only 15 people over our house. My mother offered to cook Thanksgiving dinner at our house since JM and I already had plans to host Christmas dinner this year. Call it a coincidence or perhaps God’s plan. We’ve never had someone else host a holiday at our house. JM and I do our own hosting. Looking back, I’m convinced this was God’s plan. He knew all along we’d have our IUI on Thanksgiving and therefore he had my mom offer to do all the Thanksgiving cooking at my house. Just the thought of this all working out gives me the goosebumps.

JM left the house at 8am to drop off his swimmers to the doctor’s office nearly an hour away from our house and back. My mom didn’t ask where he went, but when it was time for me to leave the house at 930am, she started to ask questions. See? The surprise factor is lost with infertility. I had no choice but to tell her I had to leave to go to the doctor’s for IUI #3.

My procedure was at 1030am. Once again the baby businessman shows me the specimen in the little tube is my husbands, directed to “undress from the waist down,” “scoot forward,” “scoot some more”, “feet up”, and “okay, now lay there for 5 minutes.” I said a little prayer while I laid there this time. Thanksgiving is mine and JM’s holiday. We love this day. I started to convince myself that this is a sign and this IUI is definitely going to work because God knows this is our favorite day of the year.

I got home just 30 minutes before our company was to show up. My mother begins asking me 10 million questions about the procedure and it’s annoying as hell and stressing me out. I simply didn’t want to talk about it and just wanted to enjoy the rest of the day. When our friends Tom and Melissa showed up, I immediately told Melissa I had my last IUI this morning. The look of shock on her face was priceless. She couldn’t believe I had to have it this morning. Then Melissa offered me the most selfless thing anyone can ever offer a friend.

Melissa offered to be our surrogate if it comes down to it. I can’t remember my exact response to her, but I’m pretty sure I shed a couple tears and simply said “thank you” while in a state of shock. I mean, how does anyone respond to that? Suddenly I felt like stress melted off my shoulders. If the issue is truly that I just can’t carry our own child, we have someone very special in our lives willing to do the most selfless act for us just so we can start our family. Of course in return we’d compensate her… and probably make her the godmother. I’m getting ahead of myself now.

I probably should have sat on my ass and watched football the rest of the day, but instead I was on my feet quite a lot to help my mom with the cooking and cleaning up after dinner. Looking back, I probably over did it and if I could do it all over again, I would have relaxed. For the time being, the infamous countdown begins again. We have to go through another two-week wait and count down the days until December 10th.

THIS IS WHAT INFERTILITY IS LIKE

October 29 – November 12, 2015

To make another potentially long post about another failed infertility procedure short, let me give you the cliff-notes version. IUI number two resulted in a negative pregnancy. On 12 November – just 2 days before our 11th annual Friendsgiving, we were filled with more heartache than I care to describe. Rather than reminding myself of the timing of that negative pregnancy test, I thought I’d focus this post a little differently. Earlier, I wrote a post about Infertility Etiquette. This time I thought I’d sum up in one post what infertility is like.

Infertility. It’s month after month of hoping and waiting. It’s having friends who start trying a year after you do and birthed that baby while you’re still trying. It’s having friends who weren’t trying. It’s when all your cousins have kids except you. It’s attending baby showers. It’s attending christenings. It’s buying gifts for everyone else’s kids.

This is what infertility is like.

It’s seeing pregnancy announcements on Facebook. It’s getting pregnancy announcements in the mail. It’s getting Christmas cards of your friends’ and cousins’ kids. It’s having friends who are scared to tell you they are pregnant. It’s having friends who don’t have anything to say to you. It’s when you don’t have anything to say to your friends. It’s when you can care less about their kids “first” moments.

This is what infertility is like.

It’s attending get-togethers and being the only non-parents there. It’s trying to hold a conversation by talking about your goddaughter just so you can contribute and relate. It’s babysitting your friends’ babies. It’s babysitting your goddaughter and nephew. It’s shopping in the baby sections of the department story to buy presents for all your friends’ and and cousins’ kids.

This is what infertility is like.

It’s when you have friends who complain it took them 3 months to get pregnant, but it is taking you 3 years. It’s when you have friends and family members who complain how “fat” they look pregnant, but you wish you looked that “fat.” It’s when people complain about the cost of diapers and formula, but that’s only a fraction of what infertility medications cost. It’s when people don’t even “try” to get pregnant, but you’re trying everything.

This is what infertility is like.

Infertility. It’s having to constantly answer, “when are you having babies?” It’s being told, “don’t wait too long because it gets harder when you get older.” It’s being told to “just adopt.” It’s being told to “just relax.” It’s being told to “stop thinking about it.” It’s being told “go on vacation and you’ll get pregnant.” It’s having to listen to your mother nag that she wants to be a grandma. It’s having those closest to you forget you had a 7-hour surgery. It’s having loved ones not ask “how are you doing?” It’s having loved ones not acknowledge you raising awareness for others by blogging.

This is what infertility is like.

It’s finding out you have a disease you can’t even pronounce. It’s questioning “why me?” and “why us?” It’s having good days and bad. It’s moments of depression and moments of feeling alone. It’s feeling like you are a “Negative Nancy” around everyone. It’s a ton of unknowns. It’s a period in your life where you begin to question your faith. It’s a path that most will never understand. It’s not knowing when the struggle will end. It’s doing everything you can to get answers.

This is what infertility is like.

It’s going to the gym more often. It’s changing your diet. It’s going gluten free. It’s taking more vitamins than you can count. It’s seeking help from more doctors than you can count on your fingers and toes. It’s putting your feet on dozens of different stirrups. It’s struggling financially. It’s when you’re spending a college tuition to just attempt to get pregnant. It’s injecting hormones. It’s taking more drugs than you care to admit. It’s unwanted acne you hadn’t seen since you were 13. It’s nothing but pills, shots, suppositories, injections, blood work, ultrasounds, surgeries, procedures, and using up your comp leave for doctor appointments. It’s tens of thousands of dollars.

This is what infertility is like.

It’s accommodating so much for a hypothetical baby. It’s having your dreams put on hold. It’s more downs than ups. It’s a constant state of worry. It’s pain. It’s something you don’t wish upon anyone. It’s when you question whether you were supposed to be a mother. It’s questioning if you and your spouse are meant to have children. It’s offering your spouse a free pass to go leave the marriage to find someone else who can have children. It’s discussing alternative plans if children weren’t in the cards. It’s living day by day and not being able to plan ahead.

This is what infertility is like.

Infertility. It’s becoming closer to your spouse than you ever were. It’s a ton of hugs and kisses. It’s being able to still have freedom to go anywhere you want around the world. It’s being able to still drink wine. It’s taking your health into your own hands for the better. It’s losing weight and feeling great. It’s being able to focus on remodeling your home. It’s being able to spend more time together as husband and wife.

This is what infertility is like.

It’s seeing a negative pregnancy test over and over, but it’s a reason to hug and cuddle a little closer with your spouse. It’s learning more than you care to know about your body, but for the better. It’s having friends donate your leftover IVF medicines to you. It’s having friends who offer to be your surrogate. It’s getting letters and flowers from family and friends letting you know they are thinking of you. It’s having loved ones bring you a meal on your recovery days. It’s being able to support others who are going through the same struggle. It’s a time when you’ve never prayed harder.

This is my infertility and my reality. This is what I wish no one else ever has to go through.

Bitter Infertile Bitch

October 16 – October 28, 2015

I’m pretty sure yesterday made it #21. Twenty-one negative pregnancy tests. You’d think after 20 negatives I’d begin to get used to it and not let it get to me anymore. Nope. Not true. The 21st time hurt just as much as the 1st – maybe even more. For my readers who are fortunate enough to never experience infertility or have no idea what it’s like, let me tell you something. Infertility often causes women to feel inadequate, especially about their own bodies. As I’m about to begin IUI #2 I feel angry and disappointed with my body because my body is not capable of doing the most basic thing women are created to do.

After I told JM the first IUI didn’t work, I slowly began to tell only a few of my girl friends. I don’t know why I told them. Probably because I just needed to vent. Probably because I needed emotional support. I texted a couple of my girl friends the news. Big mistake. I got the exact opposite of emotional support. If you remember from my Infertility Etiquette post, #10 said don’t voluntarily share your friend’s fertility success stories unless the infertile person asks. What happened today is the reason behind why I posted #10. I know my friend meant well, but after I told her my first attempt at an IUI didn’t work, she texted back telling me one of her friends had success with her first IUI and she got pregnant naturally with her second. I waited an hour before texting back letting her know what she said was inappropriate. At this point, I was more down on myself than before.

I knew the baby-business man said IUIs probably won’t work for me, but he did say there is still a chance. It was my and JM’s decision to do the IUIs rather than jump right into IVF primarily for financial reasons. We’d rather take that small chance of success from an IUI for only a couple hundred dollars rather than take the risk of IVF and wasting $15,000 if an IUI could work. In the meantime, we’re on a spending hiatus and saving as much money as possible to prepare for IVF expenses just in case. Remodeling our home has slowed down, and we’re trying desperately hard to live off one salary and save the other.

On a positive note, my Dad finally moved out of our house a couple days later and into his own apartment. It didn’t take long for Aunt Sally to arrive. She showed up exactly 3 days after my negative pregnancy test. Needless to say, for the start of the second IUI cycle, I wasn’t as excited. I mean, I was ready to move on and get the second cycle started already, but I guess what I really mean is my optimism wasn’t as obvious as the first cycle. I went in to see my baby-business man for the usual morning ultrasound and bloodwork monitoring on Tuesday, 20 October. My baseline levels were all normal and we were ready to move forward with try #2.

Since Clomid did jack crap for me, the doctor put me on a different oral medication called Femara (aka. Letrozole). Again, the meds really didn’t effect my mood at all and I was super grateful for that (as was JM, too). Since my body is like clockwork and I ovulate on day 11 practically every time, my doctor said he didn’t want to see me again until day 9. Woo. I get to enjoy a normal work schedule the rest of the week.

In the meantime, while I waited for day 9 to arrive, I carried on with my normal life. I continued going to the chiropractor 2x that week, and went to my yoga and HIIT gym classes. (Something to note, when you do these fertility treatments, the Doctors don’t want you to do any high-activity during the 2 week wait. For gym-goers… this is super hard to do and rough both physically and mentally.)

On Saturday, JM and I had two weddings to go to… yes two. These two friends are the type of friends we’d never miss their weddings for anything in the world. We were determined to make it to both somehow and are quite proud to say we did it. We drove an hour and a half south to make it to the ceremony and cocktail hour of the first wedding. Since there was the possibility that this weekend was going to be my last weekend being infertile and I couldn’t drink at the other two weddings we went to earlier this month, JM was the designated driver while I enjoyed some wine. Then we drove back north an hour and a half and made it to the reception of the second wedding. What a night.

When we got home that night, JM shared some news he received tonight regarding someone we know. Someone we know intensionally had an abortion.

Jane + wine + hormone drugs + 21 months of infertility = a disaster.

I lost it. Tears just kept pouring down my cheeks. We just had a wonderful night at two different weddings and JM thought it was okay to tell me about someone’s abortion. This news had no place in my life and the person who told JM the news should have known better to not share that information with us. Angry is an understatement and upset doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt that moment. Here I am, as infertile as can be because of my endometriosis. Spending hundreds of dollars, putting my body through all kinds of different tests and drugs and getting prepared to spend thousands to just ATTEMPT to get pregnant. Meanwhile someone we know intensionally had an abortion.

This is the moment where my faith was at its all time lowest.

Four days after the double-header weddings, it was IUI day. I was taking a training course at work and had to head out early for the 2:45pm procedure. First thing when I arrived, the baby-business man confirms with me the specimen that was in the tube was indeed my husband’s swimmers. Once again I hear the usual words, “undress from the waist down,” “scoot forward,” “scoot some more”, “feet up”, and “okay, now lay there for 5 minutes.” *sigh* Just going through the typical IUI motions.

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Once my 5 minutes were up, I get dressed and the nurse informs me that the dreaded 2-week pregnancy test will be on November 12th – two days before my 11th annual “Friendsgiving.” This is kinda a big deal for me. The timing here is critical. For those of you who know us personally know just how much Friendsgiving means to us. This Friendsgiving is either going to be the best one since my engagement or the absolute worst. Here we go again with the dreaded 2-week wait.