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National Infertility Awareness Week: A Message of Hope

In Family, Giving Back=Paying It Forward, Health, Lifestyle, motherhood, News, Relationships, wellness on April 25, 2019 at 11:05

By Laura Sgroi

When I was 32, my already short cycle became even shorter out of nowhere. I had always experienced 21-day cycles with heavy bleeding at the beginning. I got my period at age nine, when a visit to the endocrinologist confirmed that my body was about three years ahead of my actual age. The solution back then? Medroxyprogesterone to help balance out the estrogen. But now I was bleeding just two weeks after my last period. I’d never experience a cycle this short. What was going on?

Dr. E, my gynecologist, did an ultrasound to determine if I had PCOS[1]. After finding nothing, she sent me home with a million-times-photocopied chart to track my cycle. That didn’t help. A few months later, I went to my trustworthy and dedicated endocrinologist, Dr. B, and after telling her the story, she couldn’t believe my gyn had not ordered lab tests to check my hormone levels. I couldn’t believe that either. Dr. B ordered new lab work, which showed that the abnormal bleeding was caused by low progesterone and high estrogen, a condition called estrogen dominance. She told me it was “easy to fix” with synthetic hormone pills, the same pills prescribed decades earlier by my doctor in Santo Domingo.

Thanks. But no, thanks.

It kept happening every other month–I thought maybe one ovary was having the problem. It had been a year of suffering with this hormonal balance.

I spent a year with those first two doctors and my own research, before finally deciding to take a more natural approach. A Naturopathic way to be clear, with an integrative gynecologist who prescribed bio-identical hormones and advertised in “Natural Awakenings,” the free magazine at the entrance to Whole Foods, which I’m not proud to say I pretty much blindly trust. I knew this approach would take longer, and I didn’t know if it would work, but somewhere inside me I felt that it was the right choice and that I had time. I was not necessarily trying to get pregnant anytime soon.

I went to pick up my medical records at Dr. E’s office, my old gyn. The girl behind the front desk window knew I was about to change doctors.

“Where are you going?” she whispered.

“I’m going to Dr. M.,” I told her, “because they use bio-identical hormones and I want to fix my hormones so I can start trying to have a baby.”

“She won’t be able to help you, even if they treat you with bio-identical hormones. Go to this place,” she said, handing me a business card from a center for fertility and genetics.

I thanked her, hugged her, and walked to my car in tears. As soon as I had the breath to speak, I called and booked the soonest appointment available. Their lead doctor didn’t have any openings for weeks, but they offered me their female doctor, Dr. K.

The Coral Gables office was upscale and modern–white, silver, accented with orchids. Dr.K was beautiful and extremely sweet. She asked me about my background, my marriage, my career, my blog, my health history, and did an ultrasound before ordering dozens of tests. “Everything looks good,” she said in her thick Turkish accent, rubbing the ultrasound wand over my pelvis with the help of cold gel. “Except that for your age, I don’t see enough eggs.”

That didn’t worry me much at the moment. I went for all the tests and came back to see her again. My Anti-Mullerian hormone (AMH) was 0.03 (a normal reading for a woman ten years older than me) and my Follicle-Stimulating hormone (FSH) was 31 (Panic high is 21). Dr. K’s suspicions were right: I had diminished ovarian reserve. Ultra low progesterone and high estrogen were another issue, just as the first labs results showed. My adrenals were not functioning well either. My husband Claudio had also been tested and his results showed low sperm morphology as a large percentage of men in their thirties. Luckily for them, men renew their sperm every ninety days, therefore with some lifestyle adjustments (multi-vitamin, smoking/drinking less, they can  improve their fertility.

I broke into tears. All the reasons why I had delayed pregnancy started rushing through my head: uncertainty and lack of stability in my marriage, the cost of health insurance, working like crazy to save up enough money, stepping on a tack the night before leaving Nicaragua, Zika (trying to conceive in the times of Zika sounds like the title of a Gabriel García Márquez novel). Sobbing, I wondered if I would ever be able to get pregnant.

Dr. K handed me a box of Kleenex. “I will hold your hand until you get pregnant,” she said. It was as if she’d heard the question in my mind. She wrote on her small yellow pad, explaining the different options available: First, two months of timed intercourse. If that didn’t work, we should try IUI, and our last option would be egg donors. IVF wouldn’t be a successful option for me.

She asked the nurse to lead me to a private room where I could cry alone until I felt better. She ordered some tests for my husband, Claudio, and then said, “You should be writing about this.”

I went home devastated. Once again, I had to take charge of my health, my healing and ultimately, my fertility. I knew every month was an opportunity and I only needed one egg. I started Googling everything I could do to fight those results. I found invaluable tips and resources specific to my situation: probiotics, acupuncture, yoga, massage therapy, supplements, all kinds of foods and seeding for fertility. A dear friend recommended health coach Beth Hill. I contacted her and we agreed to trade coaching practice hours as we were both finishing our coaching programs. Beth took the time to go over my case, and gave me helpful advice ranging from nutrition tips to relaxation techniques. She inspired me to try new foods and helped me become more mindful about grocery shopping, meal planning, and time management. Her flexibility and understanding made our sessions possible, despite the challenges of my ever-changing schedule. Our work continued during a five-country tour with a rock band in South America when I was sleep deprived, out of my routine, and attempting to adapt my fertility diet to what I could find at Latin American markets and restaurants. I always carried a suitcase full of supplements.

The most amazing thing happened. Four months after we started our program, with the aid of timed-intercourse, faith and divine mercy, I was able to conceive naturally. As my prenatal yoga teacher would say: “My baby and I are happy, healthy and whole.” I even got the bonus of an extremely “fast and easy” childbirth. Thank God.

Photo by: Isis Santana Photography

With the thorough diagnosis of Dr. K, the help and guidance of my health and wellness coach Beth, and a positive mindset, I embarked on a mindful journey to health–and received the gift of a lifetime. As a message of hope, no matter where you are in your health or fertility journey, please know that anything is possible. My baby and I are living proof.


[1] Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

Note: This post is an adapted excerpt from our upcoming book, ‘Now That I Am in My Thirties’. I would appreciate your constructive feedback. Stay tuned for the launch!

Is there a baby in your future? What women need to know

In Family, Great Articles Found Doing Research, Health, Lifestyle, News, Relationships on June 6, 2015 at 10:03

Many women don’t think about getting pregnant until their 30s. Photograph by: Milan Markovic , milanmarkovic78 - Fotolia

Many women don’t think about getting pregnant until their 30s. Photograph by: Milan Markovic, milanmarkovic78 – Fotolia

Last week marked Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, a time to acknowledge the one in six couples affected by infertility.

Most women begin their reproductive life learning how to prevent pregnancy, but equally important is knowing how to increase their chances of pregnancy should becoming pregnant be something they hope for in their future.

It seems unfair, yet it remains a biological fact that female fertility declines dramatically after age 35. Statistics Canada shows us that in the 1970s the average age for a woman to have her first child was 24. From a biological perspective, this was ideal for maximizing fertility in women. Today, many women are not even thinking about getting pregnant until their 30s.

So what has changed? Today’s women find themselves placed in a social pressure cooker. There’s pressure to pursue and be successful in a career, which can require years of education and financial costs. This then pushes the opportunity to find a life partner and to have children further into the future for many women. Reproductively speaking, education and career goals are not often reached at a biologically optimum time in a woman’s life.

The obstacle of human biology

Women are well educated on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and how to reduce the effects of aging. However, the effects of age on fertility cannot be controlled. Trying to have a baby later in life remains a challenge regardless of how good a woman looks or feels.

Human physiology has not caught up to our present way of life. Fertility decreases drastically once a woman enters her mid-thirties. We are born with between 1-2 million eggs, and by puberty that number has decreased to 300-400 thousand. By 37, most women have around 35,000 left. These remaining eggs are also aging. This leads to an increase in chromosomally abnormal eggs and an increase in the number of miscarriages in this age group.

While age is a common factor, there are other medical conditions that impact a woman’s fertility. These include obstruction of the Fallopian tubes, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis and a male partner with low or abnormal sperm.

How science can help

Education about the impact of age on fertility can help women with their family planning. If having a biological child of your own is in your life plan, it is important to start trying when you feel ready. However, if the opportunity isn’t there to pursue that dream until your mid to late thirties, there are options.

Technology such as egg freezing has revolutionized female fertility preservation and is providing women with greater choice. However, it is not a guarantee. The quality of eggs frozen affects the outcome, which is why it’s better to freeze eggs when you’re younger.

It is important to understand the process used to freeze eggs, the success rates and experience of the fertility clinic. Egg freezing is much more delicate than other in vitro fertilization (IVF)-related procedures, and choosing the right medical partner is important. At Genesis Fertility Centre we are proud to have a post-thaw egg survival rate and fertilization rate of 95%.

Seek help early

While medical intervention increases the odds, there is no method or technology that guarantees a pregnancy. Many underlying fertility issues remain undiagnosed until you begin to try for a child. The earlier you seek help, the more options there are if you run into challenges. Consult with a physician if you suspect underlying fertility issues. You should also consult a physician if you’ve been trying to conceive for a year without success if you are under 35 or six months if you are over 35.

For more information visit genesis-fertility.com

This story was provided by Genesis Fertility Centre for commercial purposes. Postmedia/Laura Sgroi had no involvement in the creation of this content.

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