*Please note: I am not a doctor and have absolutely no medical training whatsoever. What I DO have is my own personal experience and opinions. So I'll share that.
So a little background, because I think it does matter where you start. I was on birth control pills for about 10 years – from age 17 to 27. There was zero point zero zero reason for me to believe that I would have a problem getting pregnant. My periods were like clockwork until I got off the pill. My husband and I decided to start trying to conceive in May 2011 and I didn't get a period for 3 months. What I did get was an exorbitant amount of hot flashes and night sweats. Kinda concerning. Long story short, I was diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure about six months later. Cue devastation and the worst few months of my life.
Here were my numbers upon diagnosis:
When I went in to meet my fertility specialist for the first time - and this is key - I had a follicle. That was not THE follicle, but the fact that the doc could see ONE meant that I wasn't totally out of the game. I ovulated that month (for the first time in six months). I'm guessing my eggs were pretty much shit at that point - I always picture a tumbleweed "egg" drifting across the desert of my ovaries.
So, in a bout of desperation, I did what many other infertile women do - I went completely overboard and bought every infertility-related book and tried every recommended herb / supplement / vitamin / diet. By virtue of what, in my humble opinion, made a difference and what made zero difference, here's what I did:
Things I did that probably did NOT affect me getting pregnant:
- Gluten-Free Diet: This was terrible. I tried it from January 2012 - April 2012 and was so miserable I think this actually made things worse, from the stress of never being able to eat what I wanted. On the plus side, I lost about 10 pounds and looked awesome.
- Acupuncture: I loved acupuncture but only did it 5 times, from November 2011 - January 2012, due to an insurance issue. Because I stopped going 9 months before getting knocked up, I'm pretty sure this wasn't the ticket.
- Wheatgrass: Ugh. Think of the worst taste you've ever had in you mouth and multiply it by 100. That is wheatgrass. For the first couple of months, I used the powder stuff, which I would mix into a cup of juice and chug. Worst part of my day, every day. Then I discovered a local natural foods store that sold tablets, so I hopped on that train immediately. I took five wheatgrass pills every morning for about 4 months - so with the powder and tablets, I was on wheatgrass for about seven months from December 2011 through June/July 2012. Finally I gave up because it was too gross. Wheatgrass is known to help lower FSH - and it did, for me, or at least I think it might have. It did help control my hot flashes before getting on hormones in the spring, but alas, I don't think it did anything for my body's actual functioning properly.
- Chinese Herbs: As recommended by Randine Lewis' book The Infertility Cure, I ordered the "four substance concoction" (for fifty bones!) and took it every morning and night. After 6 weeks or so, I started having diarrhea, like... all the time. A brief scientific experiment leads me to believe that these herbs were the culprit. I stopped taking it in February 2012.
- Charting: This didn't help one lick. The month I got pregnant, my chart looked like this. And I DIDN'T OVULATE on Day 13 like you might guess. I think. Because I have consistently measured a week ahead of a Day 13 ovulation. And there's no way we would have seen the heartbeat when the baby was 4 weeks 5 days, which I would have been if I had actually ovulated on Day 13. So I was especially shocked when I got pregnant because I didn't think I ovulated that cycle because my chart was cray-cray.
- Menopur/Letrozole/Ovadrill: Nope. I was a non-responder. Didn't help.
What I did that MIGHT have affected me getting pregnant:
- Other supplements: I was pretty religious about taking the following supplements / herbs:
- Kelp ("maybe this whole thing is related to my thyroid?")
- Pre-natal vitamin
- Fish Oil
- Evening Primrose Oil (prior to ovulation each cycle, twice per day)
- Calcium Vitamin (for my bones more than my fertility)
- DHEA: I have no evidence of this, but out of all the supplements, I would recommend DHEA the highest for POF ladies. There IS actual evidence out there in the scientific community that DHEA improves egg quality and chances of getting pregnant. I took 25 mg, twice per day. And who knows, maybe this was the thing that did the trick.
What I did that PROBABLY affected me getting pregnant:
- Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT): Ladies, I was extremely anti-hormones when my doctor first recommended HRT. While the doc assured me I could still get pregnant while on it, I had my doubts about this little estrogen and progesterone routine that seemed so similar to birth control! I put it off for four months, trying to control my FSH and estrogen levels naturally. But my numbers continued to suck and I continued to have hot flashes and night sweats and brain fog. So finally I gave in, in March 2012. Best. Decision. Ever. Hot flashes were completely gone within a week. Brain fog cleared. I felt a million times better. And I KNOW this helped regulate my ovaries so they knew what the hell to do. In fact, I tended to ovulate every other month - immediately following the progesterone-induced period. I can't say it'll work for everyone, but HRT worked for me. It absolutely worked. And I shouldn't have fought it so hard, because I feel 99.9% sure I wouldn't be pregnant right now had I never gotten on those little pills! *UPDATE: For those curious, I was on 1 mg of estrogen every day and 10 mg of progesterone on the first 12 days of every other month. I took regular, cheap pills. I think they were like $6 for the estrogen and $9 for the progesterone (after insurance).*
- Therapy: The other thing I feel pretty confident helped me get pregnant is therapy. This is another thing I fought for a long time before finally "giving in" and going. I was depressed. I was in a serious funk. I felt out of control and miserable and just wanted my life back. After making a drunken ass of myself at 4th of July, I decided it was too much to handle on my own and found a therapist. I was amazed at how quickly I started to turn around. Especially because I am a very educated person who has taken many classes in counseling and communication and even teach about fallacies of thinking in the Interpersonal Communication class at my college. But who knew, there actually is something to that whole therapy thing and it started working. I let go of the idea of getting pregnant naturally and starting to think that maybe I could find some meaning in my life aside from trying to conceive. In fact, we decided to give ourselves another two years (three years post-diagnosis) to grieve our natural child before moving on to the donor egg route. Because I was NOT ready to go that route yet and didn't want to feel pressured to do it right away. And in the meantime? Let's live it up! And live it up I did! I went to California, tried marijuana for the first time, went to Mexico with my girlfriends, and went skydiving with my husband. I started thinking like "let's get all this stuff done before we have kids (via a donor)" instead of "I can't have kids right now and I'm miserable about it." I stopped beating myself up about it constantly, and I truly think this made a difference in getting pregnant. Easier said than done, right?
- Pure Dumb Luck: Looking back at my chart, it still doesn't quite make sense how this happened. And I don't know if it was a new speedy egg that came after a (real? progesterone-induced?) period in September or if it was the egg that started in August and took it's sweet time getting plump and juicy and ready to go, hanging out in the ovaries through the failed IUI in September until it was ready to go three weeks later. I just don't know. I'll probably never know. We had sex at the right time (either "send off to Mexico" sex or "welcome home from Mexico!" sex) and it worked.
Maybe some of this helped me get pregnant, maybe none of it did. Maybe we just got really really really lucky. But somehow, it happened. And I hope my story helps some of you as well - the protocol I followed or the notion that it's not hopeless, even with Premature Ovarian Failure! I'm thinking about you all every day.