As women, we spend a lot of our lives resenting our fertility. We dread our monthly cycles, take pills to avoid pregnancy, and either skip or complain about our yearly well visits to the gynecologist. I was out of college before I abandoned this mentality -- that fertility is akin to an illness, in a sense -- and began to celebrate it for the beautiful symphony it is, cramps and all. Here is the story of my journey from infertility to conception, and three ways that you, too, can become an advocate for your fertility.
Avoid hormonal birth control methods.
At the age of 18, I thought I was old enough to have a sexual relationship with my boyfriend, but I certainly wasn't old enough to have a baby, so I started taking oral contraceptives. When I eventually stopped taking the Pill at age 23, I had, for the first time in five years, the opportunity to see how my natural menstrual cycle functioned -- or didn't function, as it were.
Hormonal contraceptives have been touted as a way for women to regulate their menstrual cycles and take control of their fertility. On the contrary, what these contraceptives actually do is to eliminate menstrual cycles and essentially render women temporarily infertile. By suppressing ovulation, contraceptives may mask underlying hormonal issues. When she decides she wants to become pregnant, she might realize that she has issues that need to be addressed before she can conceive -- issues that hadn't been obvious because she hadn't been menstruating.
Chart your menstrual cycles.
I began charting my menstrual cycles in preparation for using Natural Family Planning with my soon-to-be husband. Healthy women generally see a week or so of fertile cervical mucus leading to a temperature shift that indicates ovulation around day 14. I, on the other hand, had patches of fertile cervical mucus lasting for weeks at a time and leading to ovulation anywhere from day 17 to day 50 of my cycle. It was as if my body kept preparing itself for ovulation but had trouble actually achieving it.
Women have natural signs that indicate when ovulation is about to occur and confirm when it actually has. Charting these signs gives women crucial insights into their fertility. Charts can indicate anything from thyroid dysfunction to low progesterone to the altogether absence of ovulation. They can allow couples to time intercourse to achieve or avoid pregnancy, and they give women the power to know to the day (even, for some, to the hour) when they will start menstruating in a given cycle. For more information on charting, read this tutorial.
Don't rely on your doctor.
When I first visited my doctor about my irregular cycles, she indicated that she had no solutions to offer me other than using contraceptives to "regulate" my period and the fertility drug Clomid to "regulate" my ovulation when my husband and I were ready to conceive. I was not interested in an artificial fix, but rather a diagnosis of the underlying problem. By ruling out other possibilities through blood tests with my doctor, tuning into my symptoms, and doing my own research, I was able to conclude that my fertility issues were caused by estrogen dominance.
Of course it is extremely important to make regular visits to a gynecologist, and these doctors do generally have our best interests at heart. Unfortunately, doctors are often quick to prescribe synthetic medications that will eliminate patients' presenting symptoms, but they do not necessarily have the time to actually dig deeper and find solutions that will take care of the root problems. Rather than relying on their doctors to do the digging, sometimes women need to use the resources available to them to investigate themselves.
As for me, my research showed that a possible solution to my hormonal imbalance was to increase the progesterone in my system, thereby balancing out the extra estrogen. Preferring not to get this extra progesterone synthetically, I began using a natural progesterone oil called Progessence Plus, made from wild yams. On day 18 of my next cycle, I had a healthy ovulation, and ten days later, my husband and I were ecstatic to discover we had conceived our first baby!
Now, as I anticipate the arrival of our little girl, I am so grateful that I got to the root of the problem, rather than putting a Band-Aid over the symptoms. I have become my own fertility advocate and pray that other women will choose to do the same.
More on Estrogen Dominance: DrLam.com
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