Monday, February 17, 2014

"What do you think changed?"

Since announcing my pregnancy back in December I've had a lot of people ask me, "What do you think it was that changed?" and every variation of that question you can imagine. Some people are just curious for the sake of curiosity. Others want to know because they have a friend struggling with infertility and when you or someone you love is in the midst of that struggle you will grasp at anything that offers even the slightest glimmer of hope. Some want to tuck the information away in their own minds in case they someday face this heartbreaking trial. Some already are in the middle of that pain. After 3+ miscarriages, followed by years of not conceiving, totally in 5 1/2 years of days and nights of praying fervently that God would someday bless us with a child we could actually hold in our arms, the question really feels so... big.

Ultimately, we know that it was God. All God. Nothing but God and His infinite wisdom and knowledge and perfect timing. Could He have given us a child sooner? Sure. Did He? No. Why? No clue! But that's okay, because God knows. And God is the author and creator of all things, and I would rather be in His will, pain and all, than outside of it. I won't pretend it didn't hurt. I won't say that all those days and nights, I didn't sometimes question His will. His timing. Or even His love for me. I did. There were times when I would cry so hard I couldn't even ask the question, but He knew. There were times when all I could do is cry, and ask, "Why, Lord? WHY?!" Because it just hurt so bad. There are days when I sit here, thinking about my tiny baby growing now inside my womb after so many prayers and tears and high hopes followed by broken dreams, and I can't help but turn my thoughts towards my dear friends and even women I don't know at all who are still in that struggle. I know I can't make it okay. I can't take away the pain, or give you the child you so desperately long for. But I can give you my prayers. And I can tell you that if it is part of God's plan for you to have that precious little one in your future, while the in between time is hard, it is worth the wait. And suddenly, when it does happen, you realize that right now was the right time. Not before. God always has the best plans, and sometimes His plans hurt a little, sometimes a lot. But He always loves us. Always does everything for a reason, whether we see it right away or not.

I know even that isn't always as encouraging as we'd like it to be though, when you're at your lowest. You can tell yourself in your head it's all true, and good, but when you're in those darkest moments, it still hurts more than you can say.

Doing something about it isn't always the answer, and I can't say I have a magic bullet that will work for everyone. But I'd like to tell you a little bit about some of the things we were doing in the months leading up to this precious little one, and hopefully someone somewhere will benefit from this information.

1.) Have you considered the possibility of having a methylation defect? A significant portion of the population (somewhere between 40-60%) does have some form of this genetic defect (my husband and I both have it), which causes the body to not be able to convert folic acid into methylfolate. Without that conversion, your body will be severely lacking in the very important methyfolate and all the supplementing in the world won't help, because almost all prenatal vitamins and other supplements are the synthetic folic acid instead of folate. Over time this can wreck havoc with your fertility, causing miscarriage, and eventually often progressing to no longer being able to conceive at all. It causes other problems, too, including decreased detox capabilities, which can also cause a host of problems, so whether you're trying to get pregnant or not, or are even female or not, doing something to correct this defect is ideal.

So what can you do to correct it? Fortunately, correcting this particular gene defect is pretty easy! You just have to take pre-methylated folate! But be careful; you don't want to just take folate without adequate levels of B-12 beforehand or you can make things worse. Ideally, consult a healthcare provider familiar with methylation defect in order to best go about correcting this condition.

In my case, it was January of 2013 when we began to seriously consider the fact that I likely had at least some degree of methylation defect. I had some of the signs that indicate methylation defect (midline defects such as lip and tongue tie, for example were my primary signs aside from infertility. Other signs include things like sacral dimples, and certain heart conditions) and some of those signs also ran in my family. David had started looking into the issue before I did but once I started digging into it myself I remember calling him one day when he was out somewhere, very excited, doing that whole familiar, "I think this might be it!" thing. Before the month was out, he had me start on a supplementation protocol. After already dealing with infertility for years at this point I was rather impatient. I took my supplements daily for the first 3-4 months and then slacked off a little. I continued to take them at least a few times every week though, "just in case" -- though emotionally I had given up on the idea that that would help after the first few months. See what I mean about impatient? It is a problem that took years to develop; I shouldn't have expected it to fix things overnight!

2.) We seriously addressed my adrenal fatigue, and not a moment too soon, as testing revealed that I was on the cusp of falling into stage 3 adrenal fatigue! We took a few months off from trying to get pregnant so I could take some supplements that are great for adrenal fatigue, but are contraindicated if pregnant or trying to conceive. Adrenal fatigue can play a significant role in fertility problems as the adrenals are key in hormone production. If you're chronically stressed (and remember, stress comes in MANY forms; just because you love your job does not mean you are not stressed in some way), you'll eventually begin to burn out your adrenals. Your body will then start to express this in the form of a hormone disruption called "pregnenalone steal". For one thing, this means your body will start converting your progesterone into cortisol to try to make you feel better, instead of letting the progesterone do it's job of creating a good environment for implantation to occur, and support a pregnancy if fertilization is successful.

 So how do I fix this? Do some research, look up "adrenal fatigue + infertility" or "pregnanalone steal + infertility" or something along those lines and you'll find a lot of information about this problem. Of course, I cannot vouch for the information you find or the suggested methods of treatment -- like so many things when it comes to our health, a lot of people have an overly simplistic view of things and as a result may not treat adrenal fatigue properly; for your best bet, look for a healthcare provider with a good track record with adrenal fatigue, and ideally, someone who is familiar with the Kalish Method!

Here is a quick little image to show you how what this hormone cascade looks like:

For me, we went with a simple version of what my naturopathic doctor (husband!) has learned from Dr. Kalish. We didn't do it for very long, but I felt a positive change in my overall well-being, and I'm sure a few more months on the protocol would have been ideal! However, God had other plans for me and I got pregnant while on the protocol, so we had to halt it entirely for now. Most likely I'll go back on some other variation of an adrenal support protocol after the baby, though it will be pretty limited since a lot of the good herbs for adrenal support are contraindicated during breastfeeding.

So while this is by no means an exhaustive list of everything we tried (ha ha ha!), it is the two things that we believe were the most likely to have been God's tools in bringing about our precious little baby! Also consider looking into myo-inositol (and be specific, don't just look into "inositol" -- they are different) which is great for ovarian health, and if you have any reason at all to believe you may have PCOS (being overweight is not required, even though that's often the picture presented of women with PCOS), look into some simple things like spearmint tea to help lower your androgens. Also consider looking into Protandim, if you're infertility is unexplained, or suspected to be due to age related factors. There are no guarantees, but things like high oxidative stress can play a role in all kinds of disease and conditions, and for $50/mo, it's worth a try. It wasn't "the thing" for me, but I have heard testimonials from couples where it was.