Health + Fertility Update: Part 1
I know what you’re thinking, and no, I’m not pregnant…yet ;)
But Ryan and I did make the decision that we are ready to start a family. It’s crazy, exciting, and scary all at the same time.
Instead of waiting until I’m three months pregnant to share this news, I wanted to keep you in the loop from the very beginning just in case you’re going through a similar journey (or thinking about it), or have some advice to give me along the way!
I felt called to write about this, especially because infertility has become such a dirty word. And it’s so unfortunate, because it’s also more common than you think.
It’s estimated that 1 out of every 7 couples are having trouble conceiving (on either the male or female end), and the number may climb to 1 out of every 3 over the next decade.
Which is why, despite me being a little scared, I decided to be completely transparent about our decision and what I’m doing to get my body in its best health while we begin trying to conceive. That's what Healthy Wifestyle is ALL about: vulnerability.
I feel like more women should start talking about this phase—the special moment when you make the decision as a couple that you’re ready, but then what? Do you just wing it? (I mean, really, winging it is totally fun in the beginning, right?)
As a nutritionist, I truly believe a healthy body is fertile.
So as much as I want to wing it, I also know my personality and don’t want to drive myself crazy come month 7 or 8 when nothing is happening.
Instead, I decided to cover all my bases the minute Ryan and I even started the discussion. This way, after I had all of my test results back and I knew I was healthy, we really could “wing it” for at least six months to a year.
Let me first start out by saying I was never one of those woman who wanted to be a Mommy from a young age. Honestly, the whole thing terrifies me. I know I’m going to be a great (and super fun) Mom, but the gravity of bringing a child into this world is something I whole-heartedly considered before making the decision.
When Ryan and I broached the topic, I knew I had to find a doctor that was functional medicine-based. I had my labs ran by my current general practitioner, and as much as I love her, she didn’t pick up quite a few things I noticed that were off-base just because they weren’t in the “normal” range.
Functional medicine doctors are trained slightly different, and understand that the regular labs don’t necessarily tell the full story.
I’ve been experiencing pretty severe fatigue 1-2 days per month, and after tracking them for a few months, I realized they had nothing to do with my menstrual cycle (and were more random).
This fatigue hits me like a bus in the late afternoon, and it gets so bad that the only thing I can do sometimes is lay on the couch. (I’m well aware that I’m fortunate enough to work from home where this is a possibility).
Two months ago, we thought I was pregnant because the fatigue lasted several days.
Alas, there was no baby on board.
Once I got the test results back from my initial doctor, it all made sense. I was deficient in nearly every single vitamin and hormone that’s responsible for energy production, including Vitamin D (which is actually a hormone), T3 (a crucial thyroid hormone), ferritin (a form of storage iron), and B12.
Ryan and I knew there was more work to be done outside of self-analyzing my test results. So I went to Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, NY for some additional testing.
I took a bunch of different tests (and can we talk about how I had to poop in a container, mix it up, and package it…three days in a row! TMI, I know...) and luckily, there was no larger issue at hand. I was slightly out of balance in my gut bacteria and was in fact deficient in the vitamins I listed, which can be handled by taking care of myself (more yoga, less crazy workouts) and additional supplementation (see below!).
Otherwise, there’s some other sh*t going on. When it comes to infertility, I started thinking…
What’s holding the “woman of today” back from being able to conceive?
Looking into my life and the lives of many of my girlfriends, only one word came to mind: STRESS.
Stress kills everything. It can mess with your thyroid, screw up your metabolism, and slow down your digestive system. And guess what? Stress alone can inhibit you from getting pregnant.
Every time you feel your heart race before or after a stressful event, whether self-imposed (like freaking out because of a deadline) or situational (like hitting the brakes on your car really hard so you don’t hit the person in front of you), your body produces hormones in order to handle the situation.
This is the reaction your body is supposed to have, but because we live in a go-go-go culture that is always stressed, our bodies are constantly secreting stress hormones like cortisol—and in turn, throwing off the other hormones in our bodies that are necessary in order to make a baby.
I wish it weren’t true, but I’m one of those people who creates a lot of stress in my own life. Yes, I do yoga and have one of the best attitudes around, but I also deal with anxiety, and handling stress is an every day practice for me.
So, to hopefully help both of us out, here’s what I’ve been doing to manage my stress lately. These tips are relevant regardless of whether or not you are trying to get pregnant!
1. Taming my workouts and taking less “hard-core” classes.
I’ll be writing a post in the near future about the current flaw we’re dealing with in the fitness world. Remember that hormone I mentioned above, cortisol? Well, I believe the workouts I’ve been choosing are only adding fuel to the stress fire, because although exercise is amazing for our bodies, not all exercise is created equal—and it’s very possible that high-intensity exercise can impact our hormones in a negative way. Whether you’re trying to get pregnant or not, I wouldn’t recommend doing HIIT, kickboxing, or bootcamp workouts any more than 1-2 times per week, especially if you’re a typically stressed / Type A person. I’ll be trading one of my bootcamps with yoga or a walk outdoors moving forward!
2. Incorporating routines that calm my mind.
I’ve been working with a new doctor, business coach (who also happens to be an astrologer), and psychic, and every single one of them has told me that if I don’t chill the f*ck out more often, I’ll never be able to get pregnant. (Literally they said that verbatim).
I truly believe we create our own realities. It’s such an amazing concept, knowing that our thoughts can shape our entire worlds. Even though I’m someone who knows this, I’m very Type A and a perfectionist by nature, and the past two years have been two of the most stressed years of my life. Between my difficulty in moving to Connecticut and making girlfriends, starting an online business, planning a wedding (which should be fun but can definitely be stressful!), and working my ass off, in 2015 and into 2016, stress was the name of the game.
This year, I made a conscious effort to remember that I create nearly every aspect of my mental and sometimes physical stress, and I can control my reactions to every situation. Simply reminding myself of this fact has been life-changing. Here’s how I’ve done it:
- Meditation: I used to think meditation was for hippies and yogis, but then I remembered that meditation can take on many different forms. I try to meditate while in yoga, releasing any thoughts from my mind. I meditate while walking, and focus on my breath. And a few times per week, I sit on my yoga mat in our living room and just allow myself to be without judging the thoughts that run through my mind. There are great apps that help me as well, such as Buddify and Insight Timer.
- Journaling: Again, I used to despise this concept and never believed people who said they journaled every day actually journaled. So I made the concept of journaling my own, and here’s what I do: in the morning, I write down three things I’m grateful for BEFORE I touch my phone or anything electronic. At bedtime, I make a list of anything that could potentially be on my “to-do” list so that I don’t think about it while sleeping, and list out two things I accomplished that day. Especially as a business owner, it’s so easy to let the days fly by without celebrating the “little things.” This doesn’t have to be work-related, and can be as simple as remembering to drink your lemon water in the morning.
3. Easing up on my alcohol consumption.
Confession: I love to have a good time. And with that good time on the weekends comes a few drinks, preferably dirty martinis, red wine, or pumpkin beer. That being said, alcohol can impact our vitamin levels, disrupt our gut bacteria balance, and mess with our sleep (this is especially true for me with red wine), so I decided to majorly cut down unless there’s a special occasion. As of now, I’m working on having two or three drinks per week max. I’m not gonna lie: this isn’t easy for me :)
4. Eliminating potential toxins from my diet.
Admittedly, Ryan and I have been having a lot of fun lately. Late nights out, dining at delicious restaurants, and traveling in and out of New York City. (Maybe it’s because we know these types of nights are few and far between once we start a family!) This is not an optimal environment for either of our bodies or for the future Baby Morgan. So, in an effort to get BOTH of us at our best health (it’s not just about the woman’s body!), we’re making an effort to cook more at home and make more conscious decisions about our diets. Even though we eat relatively healthy already, here’s what I’ll be watching out for moving forward:
- Alcohol—we already went over this one!
- Sugar—we both have quite the sweet tooth, and I’ve been diving into treats more frequently than normal. I love anything pumpkin, so Fall tends to be my sweets season. I started taking out any processed sugar from my diet, and if I want something sweet, I plan on making it myself with sweeteners like coconut sugar, maple syrup, or stevia. My Eat Your Way Thin Meal Plan has tons of awesome recipes that don’t use any conventional sugar.
- Soy & Gluten—two additional food groups that I’ll be watching out for moving forward. We rarely eat soy, but gluten is another issue. My husband LOVES pasta, bread, you name it—so our transition to a more gluten-free lifestyle won’t be easy. We never keep gluten at home (except for imported pasta from Italy and Amy’s Organics frozen pizzas), but when we’re out, we love a good piece of bread with butter or pasta dish. Gluten elsewhere in the world isn’t like gluten in the states, and if you want to learn more, I talk about this topic a ton in my Food or Fiction Program.
- Caffeine—I don’t drink coffee regularly, but sometimes I slip it into my smoothies or have it while I’m out. I had my last smoothie with coffee this morning, and said sayonara to all caffeine starting today! I actually never react all that well to a full cup of coffee, so this is a great thing for my body regardless. Same thing goes for any of you Type A people—that hormone I keep mentioning, cortisol, is raised when we drink coffee—so think twice about consuming it if you’re stressed or a Type A person.
- Regular deodorant, and anything else that could be toxic to my hormones or body—I know, I know. You don’t want me to tell you how toxic your beauty products are, but they matter. As do whatever you’re using to clean your home. Check out this blog post as to answer why I’d rather be a bit smelly and not use make-up at all over using conventional beauty products!
5. Taking supplements outside of simply a prenatal.
I’ve written about supplements a few times, but they matter even more so if you’re trying to conceive. Quality is crucial! Here’s what I’m currently taking:
- Rotating Thorne’s Vitamin D3 5,000 IUs with Thorne’s Vitamin D3/K2 Liquid: I rotate these every other day. Vitamin K helps with D absorption. (1 capsule per day, or 3 drops per day)
- Thorne’s Basic Prenatal (2-3 capsules per day)
- Thorne’s B Complex #12 (2 capsules per day)
- Vital Choice Wild Salmon Oil (2 softgels per day, but talk to your doc regarding fish oils)
- Thorne’s Floramend Probiotic (On an as needed basis)
- Femmenessence MacaHarmony (1-2 capsules per day)
- Dr. Ron's Liver Pills: I actually love paté and eat it frequently when I'm in Paris, but here in the states, the quality of our meat is so poor I won't touch organ meats--unless they come straight from the farm, which if you live by me, you can purchase yours from Blue Hill at Stone Barns!). So I take these for additional folate and B vitamins.
I had so much fun sharing this with you, and I can’t wait to give you my next update. This process is a journey for us as a couple, and I’m going in with no expectations. Our bodies are all unique, and it’s so important that we don’t add any stress into a situation that should be fun, enjoyable, and incredibly special. I say that now, but I’ll give you the real deal on how I’m feeling about it all in a few months!
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below: If you’re in this stage or have little ones at home, what do you find to be the most important way you’ve learned to manage your stress? If you’re not on the baby train yet, does being able to have a baby cross your mind a lot (like it did mine well before we were ready, for age reasons)? Do you agree that more women should be talking about the “preconception” phase more frequently so we can help each other out?
Hope this was helpful to you, regardless of whether or not baby-making is on your brain. Sending you love!