To test or not to test, that is the question

You are finally at the end of your cycle and your period is nearing.  Should you take a pregnancy test before your missed period?  The commercials on tv say that some tests can detect a pregnancy several days before your missed period.  While that is true, it is more accurate to wait until you have gone past your longest luteal phase (probably about 14 days). I say to wait with my finger crossed behind my back.  Guess what?  The first month we tried to conceive I went out to the store and bought one of those early pregnancy tests.  I nervously took the test and waited the allotted amount of time.  It was negative.  That didn’t deter me though.  I tested several more times in the following days until my period arrived – right on time.  I had given in.  I would like to blame the ladies in an online trying to conceive forum for making me test, but really, it was my behavior.  I own up to the fact that I bought the tests and I took the tests.  Oh, and I didn’t tell my husband.  I was secretly hoping to surprise him with a positive result. So, you may be wondering if I learned my lesson that first month.  Nope!  In some things I am a very slow learner.  After a second month of testing early, I did start to learn my lesson and began waiting a bit longer to test.  Pregnancy tests are expensive!  Over the 5 years it took us to conceive, my husband joked that we should have bought stock in pregnancy tests, First Response in particular. I can’t tell you whether or not to test or even when to test.  The choice is ultimately yours.  If you can handle seeing a negative and you really want to test then go for it (you may want to get the Dollar Tree cheap pregnancy tests though).  If you think seeing a negative early on will be too hard or will take away your hope then please wait.  Finally, if you really want your period to show up so that you can move on to the next cycle – Test!  This is a surefire way to make your period show up the same day or the next in my experience 🙂 Are you curious how and when we ended up finding out we were pregnant with...
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Just Relax They Say

Just relax. It will happen once you stop trying. If you were meant to have children you will.  Just relax. Stop stressing. Just relax. Just relax. Just relax.   If you have been trying to get pregnant for more than about 3 months you have likely heard these statements.  If you have been trying to conceive for a year I would bet my salary that you have heard these statements.  If you have been trying to conceive for longer than a year, well you probably hear these comments in your sleep.  They made me so frustrated, angry, and hurt (the opposite of relaxed).  Don’t you think that if all we needed to do to be able to conceive was to “just relax” we would have conceived in fewer than 5 years? Of course stress plays a big role in how our bodies function, but stress may not be the only factor in fertility challenges.  Trust me, we know.  We lived the “just relax” mantra, the pin cushion trials, and the loss.  It is ironic to me that the day I decide to write about this whole “just relax” statement our fertility clinic, Fertility Center of the Carolinas, posts to Facebook that one of their Reproductive Endocrinologists has been featured in a local tv news report about acupuncture being helpful for conception.  The parents featured noted that acupuncture really helped relieve stress so that they could conceive.  Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Miller, stressed that although acupuncture may not be the only necessary intervention, it is amazingly effective in aiding conception. We were one of those couples who went the traditional route and ignored Eastern medicine (things like acupuncture).  Drs. Forstein, Miller, and Lessey worked tirelessly with us to achieve conception.  We went through testing, Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), a laparoscopy to remove endometriosis, and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).  Our first IVF was an abysmal failure.  Although our doctors had suggested that we try acupuncture in conjunction with traditional medicine, we declined.  We honestly didn’t think it would help.  Fast forward to our second IVF.  This time we paired it with acupuncture treatments with Kathyrn at Key Acupuncture.  Kathryn and our doctors work together to help patients achieve conception.  Although I truly felt like a pin cushion, the second IVF was MUCH more successful.  This time we had beautiful embryos to transfer and even some to freeze for future Frozen Embryo Transfers (FET). ...
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Infertility is Life Changing

Infertility is a disease Infertility affects 7.3 million US adults Infertility treatment is effective for about 65% of couples Infertility is only required to be covered by health insurance in 15 states Infertility is lonely Infertility is heartbreaking Infertility is a reminder of our weaknesses Infertility is a reminder of our strength Infertility is life changing   When friends of ours told us they were suffering with infertility, my husband responded sensitively and with years of experience.  He reminded his friend that we are here if they want to talk, but that we respect their need to remain private and secluded.  They asked us not to tell anyone and we wouldn’t – it is not our journey to share.  Nate also let them know that our infertility journey changed us, it has impacted who we are today, how we parent, and the choices we have made in our life since our son was conceived and even before his conception.  Our friends have been struggling in private, like so many couples do, in part because our society has yet to acknowledge the widespread nature of this disease. Infertility has a stigma attached to it and many people think that if a couple will simply “relax” then “it” will “happen”.  Just relaxing does not fix endometriosis, low sperm count, poor motility, hormone imbalances, low progesterone levels, autoimmune factors, or so many of the other factors related to fertility.  Unfortunately, it seems that everyone knows someone who has been able to “just relax” and get pregnant.  Or knows a couple who has adopted and then unexpectedly gotten pregnant.  Please understand that when we are talking about infertility, yes calming the mind and body is important, but it will not fix the underlying causes of this disease. We need to remove the stigma surrounding infertility and learn to support those going through the pain of the disease.  You can start today by doing a couple of simple things: When you encounter a couple without children do not ask when they are going to start their family or tell them that they have plenty of time.  Similarly, please don’t tell them that parenthood and pregnancy can be awful.  You have no idea if they have been suffering through infertility and would give just about anything to be a parent, to be awake every night rocking their sleepless baby. If you see a parent who...
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Charting your Cycle

For some, conception is simple: Decide to conceive. Stop using any birth control/prevention methods. Have intercourse for a month or two or three. Announce with joy (and perhaps some trepidation) that you are pregnant at the end of the first trimester. Or: Conceive an unplanned blessing. Announce with joy (and perhaps some trepidation) that you are pregnant at the end of the first trimester. For 1 in 8 couples in the United States, conception is not simple, it is not easy, and it is not quick (resolve.org).  Regardless of whether you are in the former or latter group, charting is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about your body, identify problems faster should they arise, maximize chances for conception, and even to prevent conception. Charting quite simply put is tracking your basal body temperature, mood, cervical fluid, and other physical and mental symptoms. Charting has been used as the primary method in the Roman Catholic Church to prevent and/or encourage conception.    The use of natural family planning (NFP) or fertility awareness is good for any individual or couple, regardless of faith background.  It is all natural, there are no hormones to take, no condoms to buy, no IUD to have inserted.  It is all about understanding the female ovulatory cycle to plan intercourse with the goal of either achieving or avoiding pregnancy.  When used correctly and diligently it can be very helpful. There are several key components to successful charting. Basal Body Temperature: In the follicular phase of the cycle, the basal body temperature is much lower than in the luteal phase.  More specifically, after ovulation occurs, a woman’s body temperature shoots up.  This is a great indicator that ovulation has occurred.  To take your basal body temperature you need to get, ideally, a thermometer that reads out to the tenths or hundreds (e.g., 98.9 or 98.99).  It is even better if the thermometer stores your temperature so that you don’t have to record it right away.  This is important because you will need to take your temperature at the same time every morning, before you get out of bed or move around.  What that means is that if your alarm goes off on a work day at 6am, you need to take your temperature at 6am every day of the week.  After a week or two, you get used to this.  I found it easy to take my...
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Ovulation to Conception: Timing is Key

You have probably heard the saying, “Timing is everything”.  In the case of conception it is not EVERYTHING, but it is certainly one of the biggest factors in achieving pregnancy.  Unfortunately, until we try to become pregnant too many Americans (male and female) have little knowledge of the female ovulatory cycle.  We all know that the typical time between periods is about 28 days and many women know that the magical “28-day cycle” is just an average. We are woefully uneducated, however, of most facts past this basic knowledge.  The lack of education leads to unplanned pregnancies and missed opportunities for conception. This post is going to cover some of the basics about the female cycle, timing conception, and resources you can use to further educate yourself.  Let’s start first with the basics of the female fertility cycle.  The American Pregnancy Association offers a great breakdown of the ovulatory cycle.  Basically, there are two phases to a woman’s cycle – the follicular phase and the luteal phase.  The follicular phase is the time prior to ovulation when the follicles are growing with the goal of releasing a mature egg during ovulation.  As this maturation process occurs, several hormones are at work in the body.  As the hormone levels rise, they trigger a release of LH (Luteinizing hormone), which tells the biggest follicle to release a single mature egg in a process called ovulation1.  Once ovulation has occurred, usually around day 14 of a woman’s cycle, the luteal phase begins.  The luteal phase lasts approximately 14 days, during which time the endometrium builds up to support a possible baby.  At the end of the luteal phase, if conception has occurred, mama likely receives a positive on a pregnancy test2.  If conception has not been achieved, a woman’s period arrives as the built up endometrium sheds and a new cycle begins. Now that you have a basic understanding of the cycle, let’s talk about timing conception for just a moment.  In order to achieve pregnancy, intercourse is necessary in the days leading up to and including the day of ovulation (more on this in just a moment).  Remember that the Mayo Clinic notes that around 14 days into a typical 28-day cycle ovulation is likely to occur (day 21 of a 35 day cycle, day 16 of a 30 day cycle, etc).  There are many signs that ovulation is approaching that...
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Meditation and Calming the Mind

I have to admit, I never thought to write about this part of our fertility journey until today.  A friend I went through my Hypnobabies class with asked me what I visualized during the pressure waves.  It wasn’t something I talked about in my birth story and she was curious.  So, while this is a post about how I dealt with some of the stress and disappointment during our fertility journey, it is also a post that belongs in the birth category because I used these same techniques during our joyous birthing time. Many people who spend any amount of time in the infertility hamster wheel eventually can benefit from talking with someone about the stress they are feeling, the disappointment they are experiencing, and even the anxiety that can accompany trying to conceive.  I have always been a strong believer that there is a HUGE mind-body connection.  If the mind isn’t ok, there is no way the body will be ok and vice versa.  We were lucky that the Fertility Center of the Carolinas believes in the mind-body connection as well.  In fact, they offer a class to their fertility patients called the Mind/Body Program.  It is led by Cynthia Whitaker and Dr. Paul Miller.  When Dr. Forstein mentioned the program I was a little wary.  I just wasn’t sure about the group setting this program provided, but I needed someone to talk to who wasn’t my husband, wasn’t a friend, wasn’t family.  Someone who could be neutral and just be in my corner.  Someone who could offer me some advice.  That is how I came to know Cindy.  She was more than happy to meet with me one-on-one instead of in the group Mind-Body Program.  Going to talk to her was the best decision I could have made. She offered me a lot of suggestions for handling the stress, sadness, and pressures surrounding our fertility journey.  Two techniques in particular I still use today – the PEACE walk and meditation.  If you haven’t guessed from any of my other posts, I am the poster child for Type A – I am a perfectionist, I am driven, I am a fast-paced, no-nonsense kind of girl.  I don’t go anywhere leisurely.  At work, my colleagues always know when I am coming because I move quickly and with determination, which can be a little noisy when wearing heels 🙂  I...
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