Tag Archive | Creighton Model

Miscarriage, Honoring the Child We Lost-Part II

It has been more than a week from the day we were supposed to hear our baby’s heartbeat.  Unfortunately, that was not to be.  Instead of hearing the number of beats and guessing whether our baby would be a boy or a girl, we were told that our baby passed away.  This is the most devastating loss I’ve ever experienced in my entire life.  In this series of blog posts, I’ll be sharing some of the stories which I hoped to share with our child one day.  Thank you for walking this journey of healing with me…

weeping woman

My First Pregnancy Appointment…

After I learned I was pregnant, I had to vist Dr. C, my NaProTechnology doctor.  It was a Wednesday, which meant his office closed at noon.  Although he agreed to see me regardless of the time I arrived, I wanted to get there as soon as possible.  Oh, and I was on cloud 9– because after two and a half years of trying to conceive, surgery, months of vitamins, and charting every little detail day by day, I had become a mommy!

 

I packed my charts, pre-natal vitamins, fed the fur babies, and made it out the door as quickly as I could.  Needless to say, there were a few details that escaped me on the way up.  I thought I was being careful.  I used the Google Maps App to get to Dr. C’s office.  No matter how many times I go there, I can’t seem to remember which exit to take, so having Siri give me directions makes life easier.

mobile phone

Anyway, there I was 60 minutes into the 90 minute ride to Dr. C, driving from the primary highway on to the secondary highway, when bam! I got pulled over.  I was exceeding the speed limit and so was everyone else on the road.   I’m not so familiar with the area, so as far as I was concerned I was just keeping up with the flow of traffic.  The cop however did not see it that way.

I waited until he came to my passenger window and asked me if I knew how fast I was going.  Then I lost it, seriously lost it.  If you’ve ever had a five year old try to tell you something he or she is excited about, that’s pretty much what happened.  Instead of telling the officer how fast I thought I was going, I shrieked, “I’m sorry officer, I just found out I’m pregnant this morning I have to go to the doctor to get a progesterone shot so I don’t lose my baby!  See, here’s my chart, there’s my prenatal vitamins, I didn’t realize I was speeding!”  The poor cop had no clue what to do.  Apparently the response I gave is not one he gets very often.  He was silent for a moment, then asked who my doctor was and where he’s located.  Apparently he was satisfied with my answers, because he didn’t ask any more probing questions.  He did ask if it was an emergency.  I couldn’t lie, so I responded: “It’s not something that has to happen this minute, but I need the progesterone shot because I’m high risk for miscarriage, I don’t want to lose my baby!”   I was totally ready to show him the pic of my positive pregnancy test complete with time stamp, but it didn’t come to that.

progesterone shot

Thankfully, the cop let me go with a warning, and I got to Dr. C’s where I got the low down what was going on inside my body and the do’s and don’ts of pregnancy.  I learned that my immune system would fight the baby, as it recognized it as a foreign protein, but that the baby would be producing calming countdowns to counteract my immune system.  In addition to the typical no alcohol, no second hand smoke, and no caffeine, I was also told that I could not consume cold cuts or soft cheeses because of listeria, a bacteria which could be harmful to both my body and the baby.  I was told that fish was a must, but due to contaminants, fresh water fish were prohibited, as were shark, mackerel, and swordfish,  tuna was limited to only one can per week.

We talked a lot about the possibility of miscarriage, not because Dr. C thought it would happen but because being aware of possible causes would help to prevent it.  I was told that both caffeine and alcohol would not only harm the baby, but also increase the risk of miscarriage, as would not getting enough sleep.  It was also important that I continue my regular exercise routine of walking 3x per week for an hour at a 3.5 mile per hour pace. I could totally do all these things, because it was worth it, I would do anything on the planet if it meant I could be a mommy!

coffee

Bring on the restrictions and the decaffeinated coffee!  I was pregnant, my leave of absence had done its job, and I was going to be a mommy!   I was on cloud nine!  I knew it would be a while before we could officially announce that we were expecting to the world, but there were a few people who we just had to tell right away.

That night, I called Jordan and told her the good news.  It was because of her and the courage she had more than a year ago that pregnancy was even possible for us.  We both cried tears of joy as we talked about the coming nine months and how our children would forever be the best of friends.  We dreamed such amazing dreams as we talked,  and I told her how excited I was about being a mom.  “Catherine” she said, “You’re already a mom!”  That thought filled me with such love, joy,  and hope!  I was already a mom, loving my baby with every breath I took, nourishing it with every bite I took, and protecting it with every possible danger I avoided.  I was doing everything possible to take care of our baby; I was truly blessed!

Progesterone the Misunderstood Hormone…

Whether you have been diagnosed with infertility, you’re trying to conceive, or you just happen to be a woman; knowing what progesterone is and how it affects your body is an absolute must.  If you’re like me, you sat through years of health class looking at the diagram of the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, hearing the same thing year after year, and not learning much. female reproductive diagram

Let’s start with the basics, the stuff they should have told us when we first menstruated, oh so long ago.  During the first half of a woman’s cycle, the estradiol levels rise, the cervix produces cervical mucus which will allows the sperm to travel into the uterus and make their way to the ovaries, where they’ll fertilize the egg- if the ovulation is strong enough.

As estradiol levels rise, a follicle in one of the two ovaries matures.  Ovulation usually occurs within one or two days before or after estradiol levels reach their highest levels of the cycle. At the same time the estradiol levels are rising, the cervix is making mucus.  In the realm of NaProTechnology, the last day of the cycle in which a woman observes mucus is known as peak day.   Peak day typically occurs two days before or after ovulation.   Ideally, estradiol levels should be between 300 and 400 to have an “effective” cycle.

After peak day, your estradiol levels drop, not gradually, sharply.  Estradiol has had its turn, the post peak phase is where progesterone comes into play.  Once your estradiol levels drop and you ovulate, that egg will hang around anywhere between 12-24 hours if you’re lucky.  It could actually be much less.  It’s different for every woman and it’s often different for every cycle.

corpus luteum

That follicle that matured and produced your egg is now known as the corpus luteum, it is responsible for producing the progesterone your body needs.  Your progesterone levels generally reach their highest levels about seven days after your peak day.  If you are trying to conceive, your doctor may draw your “day 21” progesterone levels.  These can be misleading; if you’re not sure when your peak day is, the levels could be off by a few days.  NaProTechnology doctors rely on a peak plus 7 blood draw to assess a women’s progesterone levels, this is much more accurate for most women.

blood_tube

To conceive, your progesterone levels should be above 15, in a medicated cycle.  However, progesterone levels vary from cycle to cycle.  I’ve had cycles where my progesterone was 28 and others where it was 9!

If your body is not producing enough progesterone then pregnancy is virtually out of the question.  Not to mention that your body will continue to make estradiol in the absence of progesterone.  That means you’re at a higher risk for cancers.  During my laparoscopy / hysteroscopy / selective HSG, they actually found a large polyp which they attributed to estrogen levels going unchecked by progesterone.  The polyp was located right where a baby would have implanted.  Good thing we had it removed.  No wonder we were having trouble conceiving!

By the end of your cycle, if you haven’t conceived, your estradiol and progesterone levels will continue to drop and you’ll menstruate.

If your doctor determines that your progesterone levels are too low, you’re not out of luck.  Progesterone can be supplemented!

Once when talking with someone about supplementing hormones, I was asked “Isn’t that dangerous, isn’t that how other women have gotten cancer?”  The difference is in the details, in this case.  Like someone who has diabetes whose body cannot make enough insulin, a woman with low progesterone can supplement her progesterone levels to achieve optimum levels.  Because she is only restoring what nature intended to be there in the first place, there aren’t any risks of illness.  That’s the great thing about NaProTechnology, it only restores what should be there in the first place; it does not expose a woman to the risks that come when using Artificial Reproductive Technology.

NaPro pic

What is progesterone made of?

Progesterone is a hormone which is created by the corpus luteum, the remains of the follicle in which the egg matured.  Like many other hormones, your body makes progesterone from cholesterol.  Let me say that again, you need cholesterol in your diet to produce adequate amounts of progesterone. Yup, that stuff that you may have been avoiding is actually an essential nutrient for ovulation, and conception.

Cholesterol is found in dairy products made with whole milk, and other animal products containing fats such as butter, beef, salmon, etc.  This may explain why women who eat low fat dairy products have a higher incidence of infertility than those who consume dairy products made with whole milk.  Besides, it just tastes better!

cabot greek yogurt

I’ve correlated my diet with my peak plus seven blood draws and have noticed that when I consume Cabot Greek Yogurt with 10% fat, my progesterone levels are in the 20’s.  When I’m not on my Cabot Greek Yogurt kick, my levels aren’t so great.

If you are opposed to including the foods that contain cholesterol in your diet, you can also consume naturally occurring progesterone.  One food with the highest level of naturally occurring progesterone is the yam.  Yams are such a vital source of naturally occurring progesterone that many progesterone supplements are actually made from yams.

Are you surprised?  Stay tuned for more info about progesterone’s role in pregnancy…

Reflecting on a year of infertility part III

I tend to be long winded; I actually started blogging to have an outlet to express all that was going on throughout this journey through the muck of infertility.  I was pretty sure that my husband, Frank, and my close friends were getting tired of hearing all that I had to say about what was happening.

keyboard

Here’s a quick recap: My NaProTechnology Dr diagnosed me with endometriosis and an allergy to grains.  I had surgery to remove the endometriosis and was back to work in two weeks.  I am so glad that I chose to make the drive to New Jersey and have my Surgery at the Gianna Center at Saint Peter’s Hospital.  I was back to work within two weeks and was told to wait two cycles before trying to conceive again.

While I waited for my body to heal, I observed some amazing changes in my chart.  My cycles became more regular in length, there was less pain associated with menstruation, and when I say less, I really mean that I went from a 10 to a 1.  I had less bleeding at the end of my cycle and the bleeding that used to happen mid cycle completely disappeared.  I still had some unusual tail end brown bleeding, which my doctor suggested might clear up as my body healed.

Since we had been told not to try to conceive, there was no pressure to wait for a positive, there was no disappointment.  I just enjoyed observing the positive changes in my body.   The weight I grained before Dr. C figured out my grain allergy was slowly coming off, I was starting to recognize my body again.

weight loss

Menstruation happened with minimal pain.  The once crippling cramps and abdominal pain that began two to three weeks before menstruation were replaced by two days of abdominal discomfort.    This reduction in pain was due to taking an OTC medication called pycnogenol, a natural anti-inflammatory derived from French maritime pine bark.

Things were going great, my pain was down, I felt better overall, but my weight loss had stopped.  I cut out chocolate for a week thinking that I might be overdoing it with sweets.  Even then I didn’t lose an ounce.  Something was up, it was time to hunt for grains again.  I had been trick by grains hiding in kielbasa, bullion, flour blends, and even shredded cheese.  But I was almost certain I had eliminated them all.

Still I had to try and see if there were a few I missed.  I went through my cupboards and fridge but everything in there was grain free.  I checked the chocolates I was eating, thinking there might be corn starch or corn oil that I had missed; still nothing.  It wasn’t until Sunday night when I was loading up my medicine case for the coming week that I thought to check the medications I was taking.

rice flourMy vitamin D3 was grain free, as was my magnesium, my glucosamine, my kelp tablets, my B6 and my B complex, and my prenatal vitamin.  It was down to the pycnogenol.  And there it was, hidden inside a tiny 100mg capsule, rice flour!  The capsule was smaller than an average pain relief pill, there had to be less than ¼ teaspoon of rice flour in there!  However much there was, it was enough to nix the weight loss.

I got back on vitacost and ordered a brand of pycnogenol that did not contain rice flour.   Of course the brands that were grain free cost three times as much as the other brands.  I decided to see how I felt without pycnogenol.  Big mistake.  For a moment I forgot all of the pain that endometriosis was, but it only took one cycle without pycnogenol to remind me.  While it’s true that I was feeling great after surgery, a few weeks off the pycnogenol and that all changed.

It took my husband, Frank, to convince me that my body and my health were worth the extra money.  So, I ordered the new pyconogenol and within two weeks the pain was gone.  Let me tell you, the expense was worth it!  If you are living with endometriosis, please ask your doctor about pycnogenol, it allows me to live almost pain free.

Reflecting on a year of infertility Part I

Napro II

It’s been almost a year since I first heard the dreaded word.  A nurse who thought she was out of earshot told a doctor, “Your patient is a little upset about her infertility, but she hasn’t really been trying very long.”   That’s how I learned my diagnosis, by overhearing a conversation I should not have heard.

It was like someone had reached in and ripped out my uterus and rendered me broken.  That’s how I felt, just broken; like the Barbie after her head popped off, something that just couldn’t be of much use in its current condition.  I’ll spare you the story of how much I cried.

I held it together in the office and asked what my options were.  I was told that before IVF, IUI was successful, but first we needed to have some tests.  It was an SA for my husband, Frank; and an HSG for me.  We were both pronounced pretty normal.

We went full steam ahead with IUI.  It wasn’t something we were excited about, but it was something we were willing to deal with to get a baby.  We were told we had a “good chance”.  The unfortunate part was all the drugs they pumped me full of during the treatment.  I got 50mg of clomid on days 5-9 and had two follicles, but they were small.  I also got two hundred mood swings, and was pretty psyched that my head did not do an exorcist style spin.  After turning into a screaming banshee, the HCG shot made me feel as if I were getting the flu, I was sure I was pregnant.  HA!  AF came and went.  My doc told me that I had some unfortunate side effects and should try again.

I got 100mg of clomid on days 5-9, then the HCG, which made me even sicker than the first round.  My cycle started to get weird similar to the way it was when I was in my teens.  I asked the doc about it, could the abnormalities in my cycle have something to do with our failure to conceive.  I got a “maybe but we really can’t be sure, every woman is different.”  I’m surprised that I didn’t ask him which cereal box he pulled his degree out of!  But, I was desperate and the treatment he was giving me was all that I knew existed.

Round 3 wasn’t much better.  I was more ill than in rounds one and two.  As the day for the HCG shot approached, I just knew I couldn’t do that to my body again.   I never made it to the HCG shot.  I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t put my body through such agony again.  I called the nurse and asked what my options were.  I was crushed when I was told that IVF would be the next logical step.  That seemed so illogical.  IVF would mean pumping me full of even more of the drugs that seemed to be slowly killing me.  There was no way that I would consent to that.  My heart told me that no good could come from feeling that way.

My friend, Jordan, mentioned that she was a NaProTecnology patient.  She had endometrosis and was scheduled for surgery.  She explained the differences between NaPro and the way my doctor had been treating me.  As a result of her treatment she felt better and was healthier, while I had never felt more ill in my life during my treatment.  What did I have to lose?

I started charting my biomarkers using the Creighton model fertility monitoring system.  My charting consultant agreed that I needed to see a NaPro doc asap as my chart showed some serious abnormalities.  I know I’ve written similar posts where I elaborate on how awesome Dr. C was during our first phone conversation–I’ll try to keep it brief.  I immediately started taking vitamin D3, magnesium, and a B complex vitamin.    I was feeling better before my first visit. Click here  to read Part II

Some Information About Charting:

IMG_0393[1]NaPro Technology asks that a woman monitor her own health by charting her bio-markers.  If you’re considering NaPro Technology, then charting is something that you’ll be doing daily.  It’s not a lot of work.  It involves monitoring your health by interpreting the messages your body is sending you through your bio-markers.

Before I go any further, let me say that this post is for those who are truly interested in learning to chart using the Creighton Model Fertility Care System.  It’s going to contain some references to anatomy, fluids, and what to do with them.  If you’d rather not read on, I completely understand and encourage you to continue reading the next post in the series on NaProTechnology which will only reference bio-markers and not explain how to document them.

Thanks for continuing.  So charting… When you chart using  the Creighton Model, fertility is defined by the presence of cervical mucus.  The closer to ovulation you are, the more mucus there should be.  The better the quality of your mucus, the better your chances of getting pregnant that month.

The basics of charting:

  • Any day of bleeding (red, brown, pink, or black) is a red stamp
  • Dry days- days without lubricative mucus- get green stamps
  • Lubricative mucus days get white baby stamps
  • The last day of lubricative mucus is considered peak day.  Mark it with a P
  • The three days after your peak day get green baby stamps.
  • All days with white baby stamps plus the three days after peak are considered fertile.

IMG_0392[1]

 

Determining the quality of your mucus:

Throughout the day, each time before you use the bathroom or shower, you’ll do a quick observation of your cervical mucus.  Observing mucus takes less than a minute, after a while it becomes something you do as a habit, though it does take some getting used to.  Before you go, you wipe from front to back across the perennial body (the space between your front and back door).  The perennial body is the only skin on your body that can tell the difference between the sensations smooth and lubricative.  I’ll talk more about that in a few lines.

Each time you wipe you’ll make decisions about the sensations you feel.  Is it dry? Is it smooth?  Both of these will get green stamps.  Is it lubricative? If so, it’s a white baby stamp.  Any bleeding gets a red stamp.

All mucus is not equal…

Before using the bathroom and showering, you’ll be checking for mucus.  After you decide the sensation, that is whether your mucus is dry, smooth, or lubricative, you’ll make an observation.  After you observe the mucus for color and shine.  You’ll try and grab some off the tissue using your fingers.  If you can get some off with your fingers, next you’ll see if it stretches.  The greater the amount of stretch there is, the better the quality of your mucus.

Recording on your chart:

Throughout each day, you’ll make observations about the quality of your mucus.  At the end of the day, you record your most fertile sign.  For example if you record smooth sensations 3 times, but lubricative 1 once, you mark the 1 lubricative sensation on your chart and use a white baby sticker.

Some Closing Remarks on Charting:

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t!  This was just a brief introduction to charting.  I’m not a NaPro teacher,  and for the record, they are way better at explaining charting than I am.  When you decide to go with NaPro you’ll meet with your teacher one on one and she’ll teach you to chart over several sessions.  She’ll check your chart and help you learn what to look for.  If you see abnormalities in your chart, she’ll help you get an appointment with a NaPro doctor and get on track towards better health and hopefully pregnancy.

If there is anything that I can help you with please do not hesitate to ask!  You can either reach me by commenting on this post or by messaging me privately through facebook.  I’ll do the best that I can to help you get started!

Best wishes to you on your Journey! Love, Catherine