Conception. Pregnancy can be isolating but trying to conceive and having difficulty is even more isolating. It’s an emotional roller coaster every 2 weeks of testing for ovulation and testing for pregnancy. There were times I thought, “so how does one actually conceive past 35? Is there anything I can do to make it happen?”
It’s not easy to be open. Sometimes you don’t want to talk about it, sometimes all you want to do is talk about it.
Even now as I write this, I’m extremely self conscious of oversharing or offending. Because this is VERY personal and a very individual experience. I’m conscious to not make anyone struggling to conceive feel like I’m better because I became pregnant. This blog has existed for more than 10 years to provide an outlet for myself and a resource for that small audience who is searching for content to relate to and will go out of their way to read this. I am the same, I read blogs that are having an open conversation about a topic I’m interested in.
I don’t know how long I will keep this post up, as I continue to battle with keeping my privacy or sharing a journey. I would still love to hear from you in the comments section of this instagram post. Violent reactions are also welcome =)
And though the intentions are good, sometimes friends give you the response, “relax, have sex everyday” or “don’t think about it.” They mean well but hearing that didn’t make me feel any better. Although true, we should relax, there must be something else to say that doesn’t sound dismissive or minimizing someone’s experience.
A gentler, less passive response might be, ”I know it’s hard but try to let go of expectations for a few months and destress to relax your nervous system. Meaning – eliminate other stressors in life like a highly stressful job, stressful people and adjusting your general stressful responses to everything. High cortisol levels and stress – mental, emotional and physical, is not healthy for anyone, especially if you’re trying to conceive.”
I literally wanted someone to tell me, “ok try this, here’s what might help.”
I didn’t get thorough advice from anyone, not even healthcare providers, apart from using a Clearblue ovulation test, so I had to dig online and come up with my own plan. What helped me cope is having this plan and taking steps – for me to know, “ok I’ve done this and that, I’ve tried the natural way, it didn’t work. Some people don’t like hearing what else they could be doing, some do.
It also helped to already be tracking my period and ovulation cycle using Clue and my Oura ring. Apart from being a sleep tracker, Oura has a Readiness feature on the app that tracks your heart rate, respiratory rate and body temperature. A rise in body temperature is an indicator of ovulation. Through the Oura ring app, I know that I ovulate sometime between the 23rd and 25th of the month.
Notice in the left photo below, my body temperature became higher on October 23, indicating the start of ovulation, then became lower again after one week, indicating my fertile week is over. Compare it to the right photo below, after May 25 my body temperature continued to be high for days and weeks after. This was an indication that I could be pregnant already.
On the left photo below on June 8, I took a pregnancy test on the first day of my missed period. It was positive! My body temperature continued to stay elevated from May 25 until June 8 and July 11 and so on, indicating from the time I ovulated in May, I conceived and became pregnant. My body temperature became lower again when I entered my second trimester in August, shown in the right photo below. How cool is that? My pregnancy stabilized and I was no longer feeling big hormonal changes.
I highly recommend getting an Oura ring if your fixing your sleep habits and overall wellness is a priority for you. Tracking these using the app since I started using the ring in March 2020 has improved my overall quality of life.
*AS AN AFFILIATE CONTRIBUTOR FOR OURA, I MAY RECEIVE INCENTIVES THROUGH PURCHASES MADE THROUGH THE OURA LINKS IN THIS POST.
Some of the things I did might be purely anecdotal but they gave me a sense of creating the best conditions for my body to hold life 👶🏻 putting my health and well-being above everything. Everyone assumes I’ve got it all together and but there’s always something I can do to improve my current mental, emotional, spiritual and physical state – especially when trying to conceive.
We consulted a fertility doctor prior to trying so we know where we stood. Many couples have different reproductive issues wherein no matter how hard they try and how diligent they are about lifestyle changes, they are not able to conceive with or without the help of science. This fear played over in my head many times and eventually I had to let go as it was causing me more stress. Some people are just fortunate to fall pregnant with minimal effort. For us, mostly everything was ok except for a few issues with my uterus. And our extreme stress levels with work which also caused an occasional lack of sleep. More about sleep and well-being below…
I watched videos and read articles to understand how conception happens and how to help it. Having sex everyday apparently is not necessary, rather, every other day during your fertile week is enough. Really, who actually has sex everyday in their mid 30s?!
I can’t say for sure if this is what worked for me but this is the list of things I either did or had on my mind. The same goes for our partners, lifestyle changes for them are valuable, too.
1. Clue is the best period/ovulation tracker I’ve used.
2. The Clearblue ovulation test was recommended to us.
3. Avoid fasting too long. Fasting affects hormones. This article explains it further.
4. Minimise toxins. I barely drank alcohol, maybe a glass every 2-3 months. Others may want to consider quitting smoking and drugs. Here are some articles that go a little deeper into toxins. I’m not suggesting to be obsessive about them but it’s good general info to know.
- Explained: the toxic threat in everyday products, from toys to plastic
- Trying To Eat Clean? Avoid These 11 Food Additives
- How to avoid chemicals that can reduce fertility
- Optimizing fertility Part 2: Environmental toxins
- The household chemicals affecting your fertility
5. Minimise food with chemical preservatives, deli meats, fast food and junk food. Eat from nature. It’s ok to cheat but the idea is to eat clean and promote cell renewal. Nurture your body with nutritious food. I ate a lot of vegetables and fruits with folate and antioxidants, and took folic acid months before conceiving. Also cook with better oils like avocado oil and virgin coconut oil. Oils like corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, sunflower oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil promote inflammation which is related to chronic diseases.
6. Minimise simple sugars from baked goods, ice cream, candy, etc. A low-carb, but complex carb diet is my preferred way of eating.
7. Get vitamin D from the sun and exercise. Move your body daily, even if it’s just tidying the house. Go for a walk in the forest, park or anywhere in nature.
8. Rest in bed for 9 hours with the lights off. You may get anywhere from 7-8 hours of sleep. Track your sleep with an Oura ring so you know what changes you need to make to achieve optimal sleep to repair your body.
9. We planned to go on a holiday during the fertile week with no screen time but didn’t get around to doing it. A change of scenery and a relaxing environment would have been nice!
10. Eliminate stressors – if you can. People, habits, ways of thinking, media you consume, activities you do, anything that gives you anxiety! And learn how to meditate.
11. Taper off work to relax your nervous system. Or quit all together – IF you can. Maybe now is the time to change careers or fully settle down if conceiving if starting a family is the number one priority in your life.
Number 10 and 11 were the last 2 things I did shortly before conceiving. At some point, I could feel the anxiety in my body when dealing with certain people or things. The strong physical manifestation of stress made me think – could this be why I’m not getting pregnant? My quality of life was suffering because of this stress. So I chose myself and my family. A change in priorities gave me the bandwidth to focus on my well-being beyond diet and sleep hygiene.
Yet I was still tired of trying and mentally gave up. So we booked in for IVF. I must note that our doctor requested a HyCoSy scan (also similar to HSG in some countries) and he did mention it sometimes does or does not result in a pregnancy. I did not think much of it. I did not keep my hopes up. I just let go of all expectations because IVF was around the corner… Less than a month after, a natural miracle happened.
Is it the “letting go” and HyCoSy that finally helped me conceive? Apart from not being stressed anymore about trying, it could also be the months of being mindful of what I was putting into my body and how I was treating myself, culminating in a big life shift to deal with the core of my anxiety.
This journey is unique to me and I am not suggesting that it will work or it’s even possible for anyone. But it’s certainly worth a try if having a family is a priority. All our journeys are special and we should not compare, as comparison sometimes compromises our happiness. If you find out something’s going on in your reproductive system, don’t lose hope. Believe and have faith 🙏🏻 you don’t have to feel alone ❤️ Follow your heart, if you want IVF, do it. If you have time to wait, give nature a chance but be proactive about your overall wellness by taking the steps to improve your physical and mental health. Only you can say what is right for you.