Personal Update #4 (Amenorrhea, Fertility Shtuff)

Warning!  This material is personal and if you enjoy this blog for health info and recipes, pleaseskip this post!  This is update number three on my journey to get my cycle back so I can have a happy, healthy pregnancy.  In other words, it may be entirely TMI 😉 

It’s definitely been a while since I’ve posted about this topic, and yes, it was intentional.  It’s not the easiest thing to share with the world.  But since I started, I feel that I need to continue.  And not just for the sake of follow-through, but for the reason I decided to in the first place; for any of the women out there, near and far, who are confused, questioning, suffering, or stressing over this issue.  You’re not alone, and this is something that so, so many women go through whether you hear about it or not.

Since my last update, I had the last and final test, HSG, that I stated was the only one left until I was “cleared” or not.  I took that on July 2nd, and that came out fine as well.  It was time to have a private chat with my doctor about my options since nothing pathologically (aka nothing definitively) wrong with me.  She let me know I had two options: to start inserting daily injections (in my stomach)  that contain hormones to make me start ovulating (well, that’s what we’d hope for) in which case I could become pregnant or IVF.  Neither of us wanted to explore the IVF option at this point since seeing that all the other tests came back normal, if not great, than there really wasn’t a reason yet to go there.  She said I have plenty of eggs, which is a good thing…until you start injecting me with hormones which means there’s a much greater chance of twins or triplets.  Oh, that’s just what I wanted to hear (I need sarcasm font)!!!  She actually said if she’s not super careful I could be the next octo-mom.  She was half joking.  Half.

So, that’s where I’m at right now (still).  I said I’d get back to her and let her know what I wanted to do.  It made me take a step back.  It made me want to reflect on all of this, and take some time off of being reminded of it constantly.  That meant stopping acupuncture for a while too.  My acupuncturist was very supportive of that decision since she could see I was stressed out about it.  She let me know I could call her at any time.

Now, the objective in the first place was to attempt to get my cycle back naturally.  I wanted to get all the tests done to see if there was anything medically wrong that might prevent me from ovulating at some point on my own.  Speculation has been being on the pill too long, working out too much, or weighing too little.  Which leads me to today….

Today I had a personal training session (you know those complimentary ones you get when you sign up and never take?!).  Part of the initial consult included a body fat measurement to see what my BMI was (Body Mass Index).  She pinched 4 places: my thigh, the back of my tricep, the side of my belly, and the middle of my belly.  She added up those numbers and got to the final result.  It was sixteen.  And there that is.  That could very well be the entire reason I am not ovulating.  Now, that’s not horribly low, but ‘normal’ starts at about 18.5.  For pre-pregnancy, maybe a tiny bit more. Is that definitely 100% the reason?  I don’t know.  But I do know that if you do not have enough body fat, you do not produce enough estrogen, and therefore cannot have a cycle.  It’s become more clear that I should probably bring up my body fat before I start injecting myself with hormones since I want to carry a healthy baby anyway.

I realize this probably sounds easy, but it’s not.  I lead a certain lifestyle eating very healthfully and exercising all which make me feel good.  I don’t typically eat when I’m not hungry, so it may be a little difficult adding and eating more.  At the end of it though, I would love a baby, so it’s important to be mindful and prioritize what I want my accomplishments to be.  Being a mom is one of them.  I am hoping by gaining gradually and getting my BMI up eventually, I will not need to have those shots.  Again, I will keep you posted!

Have you had a struggle with any of this or know someone who has?  Please feel free to share.

Hypothalamic Amenorrhea, Update #3

Warning!  This material is personal and if you enjoy this blog for health info and recipes, please skip this post!  This is update number three on my journey to get my cycle back so I can have a happy, healthy pregnancy.  In other words, it may be entirely TMI 😉 

It has been 8 weeks now since I began acupuncture treatments to treat my diagnosis of hypothalamic amenorrhea.  Amenorrhea is simply means the absence of menstruation.  You can read more about post one and two here and here. In the 8 weeks I have been getting acupuncture twice a week, taking a custom made herb formula two to three times a day, and sticking to a more fertility-friendly diet, specifically inspired by TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).  Lots of black and dark colored foods (black rice, blackberries, blueberries, beets, kidney beans, black beans), meat (medium rare grassfed hamburgers, organic turkey, organic chicken), grass-fed eggs, and warm, cooked vegetables (since I run cold).  I also incorporated a Vitex supplement in the mix and taking more yoga. But guess what?  After 6 weeks I felt the need to do more.  I don’t know about you, but if something isn’t happening the way I want it to (in this case getting a period), I have to keep moving.  I by no means want to stop doing any of the above, but I decided I wanted to integrate other methods, and/or at least find out more about my current condition to not only educate myself on what is going on with my body, but potentially further this process along.  I never said I was patient.  😉

I researched doctors and fertility clinics in my area, and called one I thought seemed like a good fit.  I made sure it wasn’t a hard-core fertility clinic, by that I mean get right down to baby business.  My first priority is finding out what’s going on with ME.  I don’t want to just jump into something and put my baby at risk since my body is clearly not functioning optimally (in this way) on its own.

Last week I went to the clinic and met with the doctor.  She’s awesome.  I felt very comfortable sitting in her very well decorated office not only because she was pleasant and sincere, but went through this herself.  She now has an adorable two year old of her own.  It’s nice to know that the person I’ll be working so closely with GETS IT and can relate to what I’m going through.  I had an ultrasound after we chatted to check my ovary’s, uterus, and my antral follicle count (to see my egg supply).  Everything looked good there!  After that was done I had my blood drawn to test for prolactin levels, TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone), FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), Estrodial, and LH (Luteinizing Hormone).  My doctor called me the other day and all those tests so far look great.  I’m REALLY happy about that.

Today I went for a cranial MRI.  That was NOT fun. Lots of loud noises for an hour, and an IV so they can get a ‘contrast’ read to detect any possible disruptions involving my pituitary gland which is responsible for the regulation of many different hormones throughout the body.  The contrast part comes from a dye that enters the bloodstream through the IV.  I really didn’t want that in my body, regardless the fact I was told it’s completely safe. So I’m drinking a ton of water and green juice to flush it through my kidneys faster!  I’ll also ask my acupuncturist tomorrow to place some needles in points for digestion and detoxification.  I should find out the results for the MRI in a couple days.

I only have one more test to do called Hysterosalpingogram, or HSG.  It’s an outpatient procedure and takes less than a half hour total.  It involves placing an iodine-based dye through the cervix and taking x-rays to help evaluate the shape of the uterus to find out whether or not the fallopian tubes are blocked.

I definitely feel like I’m getting somewhere with all these tests!  Even if all of them check out well (which I’m hoping for), then it will be a matter of setting a timeline for myself with the help and encouragement from both my doctor of acupuncture and my reproductive endocrinologist doctor.  While I’d rather nothing be wrong with me at all, I feel that between the two of them, my husband, my family, and all of your support, I couldn’t be in a better place.  I look forward to seeing what the (near?!) future holds!

Acupuncture for Fertility (Amenorrhea)

It’s been about a month now since I began my twice a week acupuncture treatments and I feel like there has been some progress.  About 2 weeks in my doc put me on some herbs as well that work very well with the treatments themselves.  The herbs come in a powdered form that taste, well, like poop.  I got this capsule maker which has made taking the herbs A LOT better!  Now I don’t have to taste them and it’s not too much effort to fill the veggie caps and bottle them up.  I can tell a difference in my digestion which has improved even more, and my very favorite of all….I’M NOT FREEZING ALL THE TIME ANYMORE!!!!  This is a big deal.  Girls, you know what I’m talking about.  It’s a drag.  Don’t get me wrong, I get cold, but I do not get cold so easily when others around me are not, and my hands and feet too have warmed up.  Even when the rest of me felt warm they typically stayed colder.  I am also getting cramps.  I’ve never been excited about cramps until now.  Nothing to show for yet, but at least I am feeling something.  Considering these things can take a long time, I consider that a victory after just a month (even though it feels a lot longer!).

Other than the treatments and herbs, I’ve been really good about my diet too.  Now, I have been good about my diet for a long time–but it wasn’t the kind of diet my body wanted.  Not everyone should be vegan.  Not everyone should go Paleo. Not everyone should eat raw broccoli (I’m talking about thyroid issues for that one).  We are told that many foods and diet methods are universally healthy.  That’s true in the sense that yes, they contain lots of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients, or make someone who needs to lose some weight take it off, but that doesn’t mean our body will like it.  So how do we know?  Listen.  It’s easy to dish out advice and it’s equally easy to be convinced what we need when ‘majority rules’ or a reputable source is telling us so (um, hello food pyramid–NO!).  Nobody on the other hand can tell you how you feel.  That’s unique.  And it’s good.  So listen.  When you get bloated after eating something, it didn’t work for you.  It also could have been the quantity, no the food itself.  Be honest, did you eat too much?  These are methods I have used myself, and learned even more how it can work when we’re not stubborn about it.  I will be honest, I knew ice cold smoothies in the morning wasn’t right for my body.  I knew that eating heaps of raw salads was not serving me.  They’re so yummy and healthy, but were aggravating my already cold body and very thin frame.  I didn’t eat enough fat.  Yes, I’d have almonds, avocado, and other healthy nuts and seeds, but at the end of the day I wasn’t totaling enough for the estrogen levels I needed to be at.  Why did I ignore it?  Because I liked the way I looked at thought that if I altered the way I ate I’d pack on the pounds.  I have now gained about 6 pounds, starting at the weight of 95.  I am 5’3″ with a small frame, and while some people can be around that weight to get their cycles, I cannot.  Which circles right back to eating right for your body–some people can have ice cold smoothies every day forever and they thrive never feeling better!  That’s great!  Just like with foods, not everyone can be at one particular size or weight to get their cycles and conceive a baby.

If you are wondering what Amenorrhea is stated in the title of this post, it’s the absence of a woman’s cycles.  There are two types: Primary and Secondary.  Primary is the absence of a cycle in the first place (in adolescence) and Secondary is what comes later in life; you’ve already have your cycle for years and it goes away, either irregularly or entirely.  This can be from stress, low BMI (not enough body fat, or too much exercise.  Mine was caused mostly from a low BMI (around 17% body fat).

Today I am a little frustrated,  but most days I’m completely fine and excited if nothing else.  I’m still very confident that this will happen with consistency and indulging in life’s greatest pleasures: family, friends, and (healthy for me) food. 🙂

Day #1 of Fertility Treatments

What I’m about to talk about is different to the questions, answers (suggestions), and recipes that you will normally find on Ask Leah Renee.  Since I have this blog, I thought it would be a good way to broaden the criteria in a way that may then broaden my audience, connecting with others who may be going through the very same thing I am. I love to help and love to be helped, which is why I’ve decided to share this experience.  Today was the first day of what will be a twice a week visit to a Doctor of Acupuncture in order to help me get my body become fertile and functioning the way it should.  The mission is to get my cycles back, and then regular, in order to get pregnant.

Unfortunately, since the time I first began menstruating, I have had a fairly unpredictable cycle.  I have been on and off the pill since age 14 for cysts on my ovaries which is what western medicine prescribes to help that issue.  Most recently I have been on the pill again for the past 2.5 years, going off of it in January in hopes of becoming pregnant in 2014.  As I suspected, and like the previous 5 years up to starting the pill again, I have not had a cycle yet.  My gynecologist gave me the option and suggested shots of hCG and going on Clomid which he said has been very successful.  I do not doubt that to be true, but I thought there’s got to be an underlying factor.  I almost went that route, but opted to go the natural way since I wanted to get the core of why my body is not functioning the way it should anyway.  Not to mention, while I think it’s great to integrate both Eastern and Western practices, Eastern practices take time to find the reason the body is doing what it’s doing–not only prescribe and treat.

Today was my first visit with the Acupuncturist who is also certified as a Nurse Practitioner and has over 20 years of medical experience.  She is very passionate about what she does.  It shows and I’m so happy to have found her.  Reading all the testimonials I am confident that together we will make this happen!  I have been to other Acupuncturists before, and already I can see that this one is different.  She diagnosed me by looking at my tongue to see where the abnormalities were, as well as asking me a series of questions, ones it seemed she already knew the answers to as the questions themselves were so specific.  The term that’s most familiar (in western medicine) for my condition is called amenorrhea.   In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), I have Spleen Qi deficiency, Liver Qi stagnation, and Kidney essence deficiency.  That all means that I have stagnation, of the blood, which needs to be freed up in order for everything to start functioning normally again.

There are some diet guidelines to follow to help with the deficiencies.  She also gave me a recipe for “Blood Soup” to make to raise hemoglobin.  I will post that recipe and other dietary guidelines soon!

I am excited the process has begun, and hope to soon join many of my friends who have had the gift and pleasure of giving life.  I will continue to post on this topic as I go through the sessions!

If you have gone through something similar or know someone who has, I would love to hear from you!