Let’s Get Physical: Exercising During a Round

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Infertile workout fiends

WARNIG: I am not a doctor and I don’t play one on tv (cue eye roll). The advice I am providing is from my own experience. You must listen to your body and do what is right for your treatment.  Of course consult your doctor before participating in any of the exercises, if they give you the go-ahead, indulge and enjoy!

TO EXERCISE OR NOT TO EXERCISE, THAT IS THE QUESTION

Prior to starting infertility treatments I worked out 5-7 days a week, walked all of the time, and during summer biked to most locations. In short, I like love need to move. Ive got ants in my pants and working out keeps me calm. Once I started treatment working out became a challenge. It became tough to keep up because:

  • The meds made me tired. Lots of hormones means changes in how you function. I began to love naps… (I am super productive and don’t have time for naps when not on drugs) this was alarming.
  • It can be unsafe for me to workout prior to a retrieval because I overstimulate. Because of this, I run the risk of Ovarian Torsion (a twisted ovary) which can be caused by twisting during exercise.
  • After transfers you are told to “take it easy.” This is incredibly vague and proved quite challenging for me because what easy is for some was not easy for me. In fact laying around stresses me out, moving makes me feel GOOD. But that little voice in my head said “If you workout then may mess with your transfer and ruin it,” and so I stayed away.

Figuring out a balance took time. Despite the surgeries, etc. I stayed consistent in my routine (within reason of course) and was able to jump back into high intensity training during my break. This time around I was less combative towards taking it “easier” with my workouts because I now know that the weight gain is temporary and ensuring that my body isn’t expending too much energy is important.

LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

My doctor, acupuncturist, husband and therapist (The Dream Team) have all reminded me that its okay to listen to my body. While in my drug induced haze of 2015, whenever I heard this I wanted to scream. I felt like listening to my body (which meant not working out) was another way I was failing or loosing control. Now that I have had some time to clear my head and have resolved to show myself more compassion, I realize there is a whole lot of truth in this.  The fact is, if you are tired don’t go to the gym. You are tired because your body is working over time. Leading up to a retrieval my body was working like crazy to produce follicles. Think about it, once a month your body gets funky just producing ONE follicle to ovulate. Now multiply that by 48 (ohhhh ya I got there once!) and you have a recipe for exhaustion.

\** In the coming weeks workout combinations using weights/yoga will be available!

LOW IMPACT OPTIONS

Swimming: I know I know, a bathing suit is the last thing you want to slip on when you feel huge but GIIIIRL, you dont look like a beached whale, I swear. You may feel like it but you look great! If anything, while swimming the bloat and heaviness floats away while you wade through the water. TIP: Buy two suits. Buy one for your “normal” size and one with extra room for those tough days. Swim Outlet has suits for great prices.

Bar Classes: Check out your gym’s ballet bar, Purre Bar, type classes. Self Magazine has a series of moves if you cant hit up a class. If you’ve never been to one of these classes don’t fret! You do not need dance experience. You will go through a series of low impact small movements. When repeated over and over and over again you feel the burn!

Walking (not running): You can walk all ya want! After a retrieval walking may be tough (especially if you are over stimulated). Stroll with your partner and enjoy the fresh air.

Yoga: Yoga can be okay in some circumstances. Prior to a retrieval its important to stay away from twists. I will post an entire series of safe poses soon, stay tuned!

Oh ya, forgot to mention I have a broken big toe and have been in a cast for 4 months. Super BUMMER but its made me have to accept the IVF exercises.

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Adjusting to the new normal takes a lot of acceptance.
REMEMBER

The most important thing is to listen to your body. If you feel up for exercising and your doctor say its cool, enjoy these low impact exercises and get your sweat on!

-Annie

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Ultrasounds: The Who, What, and Why

WHO  THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Any woman who ever needs a transvaginal ultrasound.
  • Women going through any sort of infertility treatment (IUI, IVF, you name it)

I am not a doctor. If I am going to bestow technical/medical information upon you, I want to ensure all information is accurate and thus I am going straight to the source. This post was a collaboration between myself and dear friend, Teresa. Teresa has been a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer for thirty years, she’s a pro.

On a personal side, Teresa is the gal who told me to come in for a check up. She started me on this journey and I am so incredibly grateful for all of the information she gave me each visit. Because of her care, I was empowered to read my ultrasounds at my new doctor and I feel confident I know what questions to ask each visit. She helped me learn the ropes and now she is here to help you! This post is a collaboration between us and it’s just the start. In the coming weeks we will have more about what questions to ask, what you see on the screen, and more.

THE WHY

You will have a transvaginal ultra sound most visits (along with blood work). You will visit the doctor A TON leading up to procedures (3-5 times a week) so its incredibly important you make buddy buddy with your sonographer. She (maybe a he) is going to be the first person who can deliver information to you. Side note:Buy (or make) them cookies.

The ultrasound gives the doctor a look at what the heck is going on inside of your ovaries and uterus. Your ovaries are the star of the show leading up to a retrieval. Your uterine lining is important if you are doing a fresh transfer (transfer just following a retrieval). During your ultrasound the sonographer measures your follices and your uterine lining. Both are important to help the doctor identify when its time for a retrieval or if your uterus is prime real estate for an embryo. If you are prepping for a frozen transfer, your uterine lining will be the main focus.

THE WHAT

Unlike the movies (transducer probe) this ultrasound isn’t going across your belly. Instead, the probe goes inside your lady business and uses high frequency sound waves to create images of your pelvic anatomy. The images are projected onto a screen, you will see each follicle as well as the thickness of the lining. The sonographer is a pro at measuring each part of what they see, gives this data to the doctor, and the doctor decides how to proceed.

WHAT TO EXPECT

You will undress from the waste down, so wear something quick and easy to change in and out of. If you are wearing a tampon, take that out before (for obvious reasons :)). Also, go to the bathroom before hand, you will feel way more comfortable. You will lay back just like you are at the gyno and the sonographer will prep the device. They put a giant condom like thing on it with some gel. You can ask to insert it yourself (I recommend). Then you lay back and watch the screen!

WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING AT?

This post is covering the basics so let’s start at the Antral Follicle Count (somtimes referred to as the resting follicles). Your follicles are the magical sacks inside of your ovaries that grow and house your eggs.  This test does not measure the quality of the eggs (a whole other beast for another post), just the quantity of follicles. The doctor can presume that your follicles are growing eggs, however they don’t know for sure until they go in for the retrieval.  

A high antral follicle count is associated with a higher risk for overstimulation and ovarian hyper stimulation (the absolute pits).

Teresa’s pointed out and its  a great thing to  remember,  the antral follicle count is not a predictor of your ability to conceive.

I am sure you are THRILLED to head to the doctor after seeing that probe, hooray for IVF!

 

 

 

 

 

The Pineapple Won’t Get You Pregnant.

WHO THIS IS FOR:

  • Women going through IVF (specifically transfers)
  • Partners who want to help their partner remember, they don’t have control in the sweetest kindest way.

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When you begin infertility treatments any sort of “planning” flies out the window. You become beholden to what your body feels like doing from day-to-day. Perhaps one day it doesn’t react to meds and the next, BOOM! Its all a crap shoot and because its all so uncertain you end up in the doctor’s office almost every day (prior to a retrieval). Traveling is out of the window because you have to worry about missing an appointment, something going wrong, giving yourself shots, feeling like shit, etc.

For go-getters like me, this was a very difficult pill to swallow. I LOVE planning. It gives me a road map to my goals, it provides me peace amongst the chaos. Because I had to kick this to the curb my first “round” (2 retrievals and 4 transfers) I focused on what I did think I could control, my body… specifically the food I ate. I read blog after blog about what to eat after a transfer. I learned Brazilian nuts and pineapples were the bees knees and the key to your infertility hopes and dreams. I ate the core of the pineapple and had 3 nuts a day each day during the 2WW.

The truth: it’s all bullshit.

I, like so many of you, wanted to hold onto something, anything…. but the truth of the matter is that piece of pineapple isn’t going to do the trick. The pineapple could help (who really knows) but its not going to be the ultimate decider. I realized then and now this wasnt going to be the case but when you are grasping for anything, you hope every little move you make adds up so that you see the outcomes you want. Ultimately there are so many different factors that go into a successful transfer and there isn’t much you can do (don’t get me started on the people who tell you to just “relax.”)

I bestow onto you the mantras you can use anytime to remind yourself that while you don’t have control you are doing the RIGHT thing.

MANTRAS TO HELP YA COPE WITH CONTROL
  • People who eat blue Doritos have kids.
  • People who do crack get pregnant (makes ya think twice about doubting your lack of kale consumption for the day).
  • People smoke cigarettes while pregnant (right? In this day and age?)
  • People who are malnourished give birth (keeps shit in perspective).
  • If it will ease your mind, DO IT**

*I am not saying don’t eat the pineapple. I am saying, don’t think even for a second that your choices are what caused a failed transfer. My lovely therapist reminded me, “if eating _____ will ease your mind do it, but don’t put all of your eggs in that basket” (paraphrase).

At the end of the day remember, you are one proactive bad ass who is doing EVERYTHING right. You can eat or leave the pineapple, either way you are doing the best you can and that’s all that really matters.

-Annie

Picking a Support Group

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Couples going through IVF or infertility treatment.
  • Friends of folks going through infertility (pass along the resources)
IVF SUPPORT GROUPS: A HOW-TO

I had NO IDEA a world of support existed until I started talking to new IVF friends. Quickly I learned there were a number of groups and therapists specifically dedicated to infertility. Why I found this surprising, not quite sure. It’s probably because I never thought of infertility until it happened to me. Because I was thrown in so quickly, support is and was exactly what I needed. I was referred to a group this past summer and LOVED it. I can not emphasize enough how much I would recommend finding a group.

REASONS INFERTILITY GROUPS RULE
  • You learn you aren’t crazy. Women and men sit in a room saying the exact same feelings and thoughts that you’ve felt for months. It feels awesome to feel so validated.
  • You learn about questions to ask your doctor. Someone might bring something up that you haven’t thought of and can bring back with you to your next doctors visit.
  • It puts your situation into perspective. After leaving our first meeting my husband and I felt incredibly lucky to have insurance. While we do pay for procedures (and genetic testing is never covered… another story for another time), we never realized how privileged we were. We cant imagine going through this entire process and having to shell out close to $100,000 at this point in our journey.
  • Husbands have men who understand them. When my husband shares our experience with his close circle, he is usually met with silence. I would say the majority of people just don’t know what to say. Women struggle to talk to one another about the subject and in this hyper-masculine world, talking about infertility for men is completely alien. Watching other men talk about their experience was super helpful and comforting to us.
  • You make friends that you don’t have to apologize to for being nuts, upset, or a drag around. While I do not think I have to apologize to friends, I know I can be a bit of a bummer when I am on my meds. Good friends are friends through thick and thin, but I can’t help but believe it must be draining on them. Meeting friends who understand exactly why another post on Facebook “OOPS Im pregnant and now we are getting married!!!” makes you want to rip your hair out or why you hate that skinny pregnant lady on the street is quite comforting. It lets you relax and just be.
  • No one will tell you to “just be positive and it will work.”
  • You learn about alternatives. You may not have considered an egg donor, donor sperm or surrogate but hearing from people who have gone through it or are going through it is enlightening and helpful.
HOW TO FIND A GROUP
  • Resolve is one of the best resources around. Within their Support section on their website you can find online communities, local meet ups, resources, etc. The world of message boards can be insanely overwhelming, finding a legitimate group through Resolve is the way to go.
  • Talk to friends! Once again, being open about your experience may steer you towards someone that may have knowledge of local groups. Our group is listed on Resolve but I was actually referred through a friend.
  • Ask your doctor! They may have groups their past patients have worked with that they can recommend. Doctors are all for you getting emotional support and I am sure would be happy to help.

-Annie

TREAT YO’ SELF: SURVIVING IVF WEIGHT GAIN

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Women going through IVF rounds.
  • Really caring, lovely partners who want to keep their lady’s spirits up.

UPCOMING POSTS:

  • Winter Fashion ideas PT 1

Meet Annie circa summer 2014.

I was in shape, estrogen free, and on top of the world! I wore vintage dresses, tight tops, and hated pants.

winter 2014
I’m on the right (Oh heyyy best friend- pictured left)

Fast forward to IVF times. I have had to make a MAJOR mental shift around my body and the clothes I wear. For years I have been pretty meticulous about documenting what I eat and what I do to work out. I can say with certainty that throughout 2015 I walked an average of 10 miles a day, worked out 5 times a week, ate 1250 or less 6 days a week AND STILL gained about 25 pounds. My doctor was shocked at how much I gained but the more women I talk to, the more I learn this is the norm. I have a friend who gained 40 pounds over the course of her IVF cycles (1.5 years). Insane amounts of hormones are incredibly powerful. Although my husband reminded me everyday its the drugs, it is super hard to remember this when you are emotionally delicate and your body feels like garbage.

NOW CUE THE FOLKS WHO HAVE NEVR BEEN THROUGH IVF:  They will say, “Be kind.” “Be positive.” I was once one of you and here is what I have to tell ya. It is almost impossible to immediately embrace this mindset and its a hell of a lot easier said then done. When you feel like a slug who is stuck in a tub of mud mixed with melted marshmallows and are sucking down spinach smoothies every day hoping you stay the same size, the last thing you want to be told is to get over it. While your comments may come from a good place, they make you feel like the struggle isn’t real and sisters, it is very real.

I am all about positive self image (Hooray for feminism!) but SHEESH it is nearly impossible to feel good about yourself when you feel like you are insanely bloated, your stomach is sticking out like your are 6 months pregnant, and your body aches. My experience with IVF has forced me to change my style (for now) and show a shit ton of compassion towards myself. Below is my sage advice on how to survive the major body shifts you will most likely face (and if you don’t, count your blessings and say HALLELUJAH!).

  1. Own and accept that this is your reality: As my wonderful therapist said, “Annie you are going to feel like crap until this is all over.” Its’ true and thus, make the best of the situation by indulging in the little things that may make you feel better (even if they are superficial… although putting on pants that fit is pretty darn real!).
  2. REALLY own this is your reality: I was super resistant to buying new clothes at first. I was dead set on waiting until I was pregnant. This was really just a way to divert my energy into admitting what was really wrong. I didn’t want to shop and see a new number on the size tag. While I realize this goes against my values, the number itself doesn’t truly represent the core issue. Going from a 0 to a 4 (which is a perfectly healthy and beautiful size) was the thing I could point to and get angry at rather than admitting what was really wrong. My body was supposed to be the one thing I could control amongst the chaos. My anger wasn’t at my size, it was at the situation. I was angry that I had to go through this experience and my weight was a visual reminder of the unfair circumstances I was/am in.
  3. You may be on a tight budget BUT its important to buy some new clothes. Here is where my lovely therapist comes in again, “Annie go buy pants at Old Navy. Never spend more than $25.00” Do not, I repeat, DO NOT buy expensive items of clothing. Eventually you will go back to normal and when you do, thats when you can buy yourself that gorgeous dress from Anthropologie or that beautiful pair of jeans from Madewell.
  4. This isn’t forever: don’t buy a bunch of new clothes. Try to buy staples. A black pair of pants will take you far. Buy a piece or two that will keep you from being reminded that you can’t fit into your ________. Update your pieces as you gain weight.
  5. Stretchy things are your friends! Buttons, who needs them?! If you are going to buy something with a zipper, get the skirt or dress thats just a little too big. You will thank yourself later.
  6. Flowy is in: It’s cool to look like you stole you boyfriend’s shirt, roll with it. While my aesthetic is all about structure and a solid classic fit, now is not the time. Buy big sweaters and flowy shirts, once again you will thank yourself later.

MINI INDULGENCES:

  • Manicures! You may feel like a balloon but hey, your nails look on point!
  • Lipstick! When the economy tanks, lipstick sales rise. This is not a coincidence, a little color can brighten your day.
  • Massage! You owe it to yourself! You are putting your body through a war, treat yo’ self.

** Yes this is all superficial and don’t really “fix” the bigger problem but damn they fool good in the moment.

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BIG INDULGENCES:

If you have a week off of meds, get the heck out of town. Go to Mexico, find a beach, a bar and LAY.

REMEMBER:

I am in a way better place this round because I know the weight gain is temporary. When I went on my break I immediately lost about 10 pounds. I of course worked hard, but it wasn’t as hard as I would have thought. You really do hold onto a ton of water with the meds and it will go away (Truth: I gained 5 pounds of water just this week, hoorah! and it will go away within the next two). TRUST.

-Annie

Picking A Fertility Doctor

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:
  • Couples who want to seek treatment for infertility.
  • Couples who know they will struggle to get pregnant due to illness
  • LGBTQ couples who are beginning to family plan.
  • Women who interested in becoming pregnant.

Picking a gyno can be an overwhelming process, finding a fertility doctor can be downright exhausting. If you have only done IUIs or haven’t even started the process yet, my best piece of advice is go into this search with a defined set of qualities you want. Their success rates are important but its equally important to feel comfortable with the entire staff, their process, and your doctor.

THIS IS NOT A GYNO VISIT. During each cycle you are going to be at your doctor’s office between 3-5 times a week (depends on their protocol). I read on another blog, infertility is a full time job, and thats  a fairly accurate description. Because this will take up a large part of your life,  it is incredibly important you are comfortable asking your doctor questions and feel like you have a strong support system.

UTILIZE RELIABLE RESOURCES

Center for Disease Control

Since infertility is not super uncommon (despite all the hush hush) there are awesome resources out there that can be incredibly helpful. The Center for Disease Control did a big ol’ study entitled Assisted Reproductive Technology Report. Surprisingly, this report is fairly easy to navigate. You can select the state in which you are seeking treatment, find your potential infertility clinic and read all about their success and failures. Dig into your search by click here.

Resolve

Resolve- National Infertility Association is also a fabulous resource. They can help you sort through what’s important to know and help you find support groups (a future post). They have a professional services resource page that can be quite helpful. 

ASK YOUR FRIENDS/COMMUNITY

Remember, you are not alone. You may not know who in your circle has gone to a fertility doctor but its a great conversation to start having. Ask your circle of trust if they know of anyone who has gone through fertility treatments and have them connect you to their friends. Find out who they went to, what their experience was (the good, the bad, the in-between), and use this information to help you steer your search towards a decision.

QUESTIONS TO ASK THE DOCTOR TO DETERMINE IF THEY ARE THE RIGHT FIT:
  • How does staff communicate your results each day? You want an easy system that is reliable. You are going to get a lot of information each day. The less you have to manage the better, you want this to be as seamless as possible.
  • How do you contact staff after hours? You will want this information in the case you have a question about your meds, you are having bad side effects, you have a question about your upcoming procedure, etc..
  • What is their philosophy to infertility?  What I mean by  this is, find out what what drives the doctor to make decisions. My current doctor is AMAZING. In one of our long conversations he said, “My job isn’t to get you pregnant, my job is to get you a healthy baby.” His underlying philosophy  helps guide the medications he uses, number of embryos he transplants, and opportunities he presents us.

My first doctor was super caring and asked a lot of personal questions. I felt acknowledged by her. While her bedside manner felt good, bedside manner  wont get you pregnant. I felt like she would cushion information to protect my feelings. She would tell me what I wanted to hear from time-to-time rather than what I needed to hear.

My current doctor is caring and straight forward. He may not ask personal questions and know everything about my personal life, but he does give me information without beating around the bush. He uses stats to help us guide decisions and is always thinking two steps ahead. Personally I find this comforting because I know that if things don’t work out, we will have a strategic plan in place that suits us.

  • How do you contact your doctor if you have a question? A doctor who is available is the best kind of doctor. You may have questions that creep up in the middle of the night and having access to your doctor is so important.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SWITCH DOCTORS ALONG THE WAY

I speak from experience when I say, switching  doctors is scary. It’s terrifying for a number of reasons.

  • When you are drugged up and in the midst of things, having to find a new doctor is incredibly overwhelming.
  • Starting over is hard. You develop a rhythm going to your doctor each day and the thought of having to reestablish your groove can seem daunting.
  • Lastly, I felt like I was betraying my doctor. I was scared to hurt her feelings.

Despite all of these reasons it’s important to remember your end goal: get pregnant. As a friend told me, a second opinion never hurts. Knowledge is power, remember this when you are doubting your decision.

YOU HAVE YOUR DOCTOR, GO FORTH!

Once you select a doctor the questions you have to ask are going to be personal to your situation. The most important thing is, ask whatever you want. Don’t hold back, no question is a stupid question. Also, if something doesn’t feel right or sound right, don’t be afraid to push back. You know your body and you are the best advocate you have.

-Annie

 

 

TOP 10 things NOT to say to someone going through IVF

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:
  • Friends and family of Infertile couples
  • Infertile couples who totally get this post
  • TOP 10 Things not to Say to Infertile Women (or Men):

10. “Me not getting _______________ (insert dog, clothes, anything really) is like me not being able to have a baby!”

9. “You have to just let your body do its thing.”

8. “When your baby is crying in the middle of the night you will think, why did I want this?”

7. “Are you eating well? Maybe it’s that!”

6. “Get used to feeling this terrible, thats what having kids is like.”

5. “You gained weight? Well get used to that!” — NOTE: VERY DIFFERENT BECAUSE YOU HAVE A CHILD, PRETTY WORTH THE EXTRA LBS.

4. “It’s just not the right time. It will happen when its the right time.”

3. “I really think people’s thoughts control their bodies.”

2. “I dont know what’s wrong, I mean someone could sneeze on me and I would get pregnant.”

1. “Just be positive.”

tung out

A fantastic article (Not Everything Happens for a Reason: The Magic Words to Say When Everything is Going Wrong) about empathy  hits on many of the reasons why these are the WRONG things to say. You  can read it HERE. Be a good friend and read the the article.

While the “be positive” advice is coming from a good place, it is still hurtful. The underlying issues with these are: they are privileged, they suggest it’s your fault, they are just plain insensitive. DON’T DO IT.

As the article says, “Instead, the most powerful thing you can do is acknowledge. To literally say the words: I acknowledge your pain. I’m here with you. Note that I said with you, not for you. For implies that you’re going to do something. That’s not for you to enact. But to stand with your loved one, to suffer with them, to do everything but something is incredibly powerful.”

-Annie