Folate v. Folic Acid While Trying to Conceive

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So you’re trying for your miracle baby and it’s been a few months…or years.

You’ve decided it’s time to boost up your supplements and folic acid is high on the list. Everyone knows that folic acid is the key to a healthy pregnancy… or is it?

Folate can be found naturally in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards as well as broccoli, lentils and other foods.

In honor of January’s National Folic Acid Awareness Week, this short article is all about the differences between folate and folic acid. More specifically, we will cover how these differences affect your ability to conceive and carry a healthy baby to term.

First of all, folate and folic acid are often used interchangeably, but they are not the same. Folate refers to the natural form of multiple water soluble B vitamins, as well as B9 itself. Folic acid, however, is a synthesized version created in the 1940’s which became a common ingredient in “fortified foods” in the late ‘90s.

Folate is indeed critical for pre-conception and prenatal care. Folate deficiencies can cause:

1. Anemia
2. Neural tube defects which affect the brain and spine in early pregnancy (the most common result is spina bifida)
3. Increased risks for cancers and other diseases

I’m just trying to take a prenatal that won’t make me constipated! Why is this so complicated?!

I’m just trying to take a prenatal that won’t make me constipated! Why is this so complicated?!

Okay, so folate is really important. But what’s the big deal about the synthetic version? Is it really that bad?

The problem with standard, unmethylated folic acid is that unlike it’s natural counterpart, it taxes the liver to be broken down. The liver cannot keep up with the amount of folic acid we consume, nor is it fully equipped to process it. Folate was traditionally broken down in the small intestines, so the liver does not have the same power to keep up with the high amounts we are consuming. As a result, we have excess folic acid.

Excess folic acid increases chances of cancer (especially colon and prostate) and it masks b12 deficiency. Most importantly for couples trying to conceive, it can increase chances of miscarriage for some couples.

People with the mutated MTHFR gene ( with some sources finding up to 40% of the population have the mutation) are at the greatest risk of folic acid usage. Folic acid usage with couples (either partner) with the gene increases chances of miscarriage and fertility problems, among other issues.

The saddest part about this problem is that folic acid is in everything. In an effort to prevent birth defects, synthesized folic acid is required in cereals and grain foods. It’s also routinely used in even high quality prenatals and preconception vitamins. So what can you do?

Research, research, research! Be sure that when choosing a fertility enhancing supplement or prenatal that the folate is sourced from whole foods and not synthesized. When looking for a vitamins, remember that “folate” is used interchangeably with folic acid on bottles. Be sure to check the label to see which form they have included.

Find a vitamin that uses folate (derived from foods like the ones listed below) or a methylated version.

Folate can be found naturally in dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards as well as broccoli, lentils and other foods. These should make up a huge part of your pre-conception care diet!

If you need more help figuring out the right supplementation or need a whole built-for-you fertility plan to take you from trying to conceive to pregnant, set up a consultation. Our fertility coach can help you find the right supplements and guide you through our 12 week process of getting pregnant faster. If you’re in the New Orleans/Kenner area: you’re in luck! We’re having another 12-week group workshop series starting April 1. You can get more information here.

Love, light and baby dust

The Pre-Baby Blues: Is Trying to Conceive Making you Depressed?

Trying to conceive without positive results is an emotional roller coaster. For some, it can even lead to mental health issues. In the following interview with therapist Janine Canaday, LPC, LCPC, of Living Wellness, LLC, we will investigate how trying to conceive affects mental health and what you can do if you need extra support.

Is it normal to feel depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, hopeless if getting pregnant takes longer than expected?

Yes, feelings of sadness, anxiety, and anger to name a few are natural to experience and express. These feelings are usually indicators that a situation or experience that we are having requires additional attention to process and work through. For many women, motherhood is a valued and important part of life that is often sought after. When what we value most in life is not present or is difficult to obtain, it is normal to a degree to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, fear and overwhelm.

The CDC reports that about 12% of women aged 15-44 experience challenges with fertility as well as 35% of couples where both men and women play a role in the challenges of conceiving. The messaging that we get from society, social images and the media can sometimes convey that conceiving a baby is easy and can happen quickly. In reality, it is a very intricate process that requires precise factors to be present. It is not as easy as it looks! Through many attempts, doctor visits, tests and procedures, the whole experience of trying to conceive can be emotionally, mentally and physically draining. It can be very devastating to experience and take an emotional toll on the relationship.

How can you tell if you are depressed or just going through a rough time?

Those who experience symptoms of depression will often show some of the following signs: fatigue, loss of interest, loss of appetite, isolation, extreme sadness, poor concentration, fearfulness, lack of energy, irritability, changes in weight, headaches, difficulty sleeping, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness. When these symptoms impact one’s daily routine in a significant way and have been preset for at least 2 weeks or longer, then it may be time to consider professional support.

If you find that managing day to day responsibilities around the house, at work or school and with your family are becoming too overwhelming and unbearable, then it may be more than just a rough period of time. Also, if you are frequently feeling unmotivated, it is becoming too difficult to get out of bed and engaging in daily grooming seems daunting, then please pay attention to these signs. It is important to communicate with trusted individuals whom you find to be supportive about what you are feeling. In addition, it is equally as important to do a regular self-check of your emotions by paying attention to your thoughts, bodily sensations and responses to triggering or stressful situations. This level of self-awareness is vital to knowing when it is time to seek support in order to treat your symptoms early with effective interventions.

How can you find purpose when the one thing you want so desperately, to be a mother, you can't seem to attain?

What is so amazing about life is that even on our hardest days and in our darkest hours there is hope, healing and purpose. Each woman who experiences the challenges of infertility has a unique story. A story of trials, pain, triumph and joy with many chapters and edited revisions that has led her down a journey she least expected. Power and purpose can be found in the journey. It can be very easy and even natural to focus on the pain, the heart break of infertility and the uncertainty of what life may bring next. Allow yourself to feel the full variety of emotions that come to you, but choose to not live in that space. Acknowledge that what you are experiencing is very difficult, yet know it does not have to be the end of your story or what defines you as a woman. You have the power and control to write and create more chapters of healing and victory. Refrain from self-comparison because it discredits your unique story that only you can tell. No one else has experienced what you have been through the way you did. Your desire and purpose for motherhood may show up for you in ways that you may not have possibly anticipated, dreamed of or imagined.  Stay encouraged!

What can couples who are feeling distant or fighting, arguing, ignoring, or blowing up about treatment plans and the stresses of getting pregnant do to enhance their relationship?

Going through the challenging journey of infertility can be very stressful for both people. It can be an emotional roller coaster that can cause strain in the relationship if left unchecked. What is most important for couples to do is to engage in effective communication and set/maintain healthy boundaries. Make a decision to speak to each other instead of at each other. Share your feelings, listen with the intent to understand each other and reflect back on what you heard your partner say to show empathy and support. It is important that each partner feels heard. Discuss one issue at a time, take turns talking and express your feelings using “I” statements to show responsibility for your emotions. Keep in mind that constant fighting, arguing and ignoring each other is ineffective, invalidating and minimizes your partners’ feelings.

You are a team. It is vital to work together as a united front. I will often have couples who are experiencing challenges within their relationship complete worksheets that help them remember why they fell in love in the first place and why they decided to do this journey called life together. Take a moment to engage in quality time asking each other “discovery” questions about your hopes, dreams, desires and goals for your family. Reminisce on past shared experiences that were happy and joyful. Look through photo albums, make a collage or a vision board together to bring the passion and laughter back within your relationship. Start dating each other all over again!  

How important is self-care for mental health while struggling with illness/reproductive challenges? When is it time to seek mental health help?

Frequent self-care is paramount in managing a healthy balance of what life has to offer. Stress that is improperly managed can have an impact on your health and body. Prolonged and chronic stress can negatively impact your cardiovascular system, endocrine system, nervous system and reproductive system to name a few. It is important to stay informed and gain information from your doctors and specialists about what specifically happens within your body during periods of chronic stress as it relates to fertility.

Self-care may include joining a support group of other women experiencing similar challenges, journaling or writing about your feelings and your journey, spending time with loved ones, doing enjoyable things and engaging in relaxation techniques. Practicing deep breathing, mindfulness skills (being present in the moment), yoga or exercise and healthy eating are excellent ways to bring your mind and body back to a state of homeostasis and calm. Positive self-affirmation statements are also very important in keeping your thoughts focused on what is helpful and productive. Some of my clients have reported that using aroma therapy and Himalayan salt lamps are effective at reducing stress. Set aside at least 15-30 minutes each day to engage in self-care. It is a necessary part of your overall quality of life and health.

If you are finding it too difficult to engage in self-care, are experiencing a lack in motivation and are feeling hopeless and helpless about your situation. Please seek support from a trusted professional.

Wrapping up

It’s normal to feel anxious when it comes to trying to conceive. Finding the right coping tools can make all the difference. If you don’t have a plan for getting pregnant, start by talking to a professional. Knowing what your best options to take back control of your fertility will help you feel less overwhelmed. If you or a loved one suspects you are depressed, contact a therapist like Janine. You don’t have to do this alone.

About Janine

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I am licensed in both Virginia and Maryland. My office is located at 2663 Osborne Rd. Suite 7, Chester, VA. 23831. Virtual counseling is available for those who prefer this option and for those who live in Maryland. For additional information about me and my practice, please visit my website at www.iamlivingwellness.com or my profile on the Psychology Today website. I can be reached at 443.272.1429.  For more encouragement and support please follow Living Wellness, LLC on Facebook and Instagram. I wish you well!



Still Tracking Your Ovulation with an App? This is Why it Might Not be Working for You

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Edit: If you need extra support while trying to conceive, I can help. That’s what I do. First step: schedule your complimentary call with me here.

In this digital world we're living in, technology plays a role in every aspect of our lives. It's no surprise that when you're trying to get pregnant you look for the latest app to help you hack your cycle. But I've got news for you. Using an app to track your ovulation is not your best method for getting pregnant. 

Here's why:

Your cycle is dynamic. It is not always the same.

Yes, it's true. Your ovulation date can change from one cycle to the next, without notice. But don't freak out just yet. You've got options.

Yes, it's true. Your ovulation date can change from one cycle to the next, without notice. But don't freak out just yet. You've got options.

We've all heard the myth of the 28 day cycle. (NOTE: when I use the term "cycle" I am referring to the entire cycle from day 1 of menstruation, through ovulation, to your next menstrual period) The average woman has an average cycle length of 28 days, and on average she ovulates on day 14. The problem is that we may believe that our cycles reflect this average and stay the same each month. In reality, each woman's cycle is as unique as her fingerprint. Not all women have 28 day cycles (although it is fairly common), and not all women ovulate on the 14th day of their cycle. 

A healthy cycle can vary from 21-35 days in length, and most women ovulate between days 11-21 of their cycle. First of all, if you're trying to conceive (TTC) that's a huge range in ovulation dates that can leave you dizzy with "baby dancing". But here's the real kicker: no matter what your average cycle is, the actual day you ovulate (and therefore menstruate) can change, without notice!

That's right- there's no guarantee from one month to the next that you will ovulate on the same day of your cycle. You can ovulate 4 months in a row on the 15th day of your cycle, and then suddenly ovulate on the 18th day of your 5th month without warning. 

Why? Because your cycle is a result of a precarious balance of hormones. These hormone set off bodily processes that ideally lead to ovulation, conception, implantation and viable pregnancy. Anything that throws these hormones off will through your cycle off, too.

You probably have heard many times that stress affects your cycle. It's true! Cortisol, the "stress" hormone, can alter your cycle. But did you know irregular sleep patterns, diet changes, overuse of plastics, gaining weight, losing weight, pesticides, chemicals in cleaning and hygiene products, travel, medications and more can all affect your cycle too? Believe that! If your cycle is erratic and doesn't seem to have a rhythm, you need to get it togther: here's some tips for regulating it without birth control

Okay, so our cycles are dynamic and may not be as easy to predict as our apps suggest, even with their built in calendars that study our cycle history. So what's a busy girl with work, gym, family, a social life, and oh yeah- a partner with his own hectic schedule- to do? Well ladies, you have a few options. They won't be as techy and convenient as an app and you won't get a reminder to do the deed on your Google calendar, but you will  notice small variations in your cycle and therefore gather a more accurate understanding of your fertile days, even when your cycle changes. 

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First, get in touch with your body. Depending on your comfort levels, you may find this part to be a challenge. But hey, now is a good time to get used to it. Pregnancy and birth will bring about a whole new world of bodily changes that will require you to get up close and personal with your feminine parts.

To start, pay attention to your cervical mucous. That's right: there are tell tale signs of ovulation waiting for you in your underwear, or your next swipe of toilet paper. To check most effectively, you should use your own fingers. Wash your hands carefully and then place two fingers comfortably into your vagina. After you have enough mucus to work with, pull your fingers out and open them to check the consistency. Cervical mucus during fertile days is typically slippery and wet, with an egg-white consistency and the ability to stretch a few inches without breaking. If your cervical mucous is thick, milky, lotiony, creamy, dry, non-existent or breaks apart easily, you are probably not fertile. Think about it this way: Your body produces the slippery, egg-white mucous so that the sperm can easily swim to the egg, like a slip-n-slide. 

While you're here, go ahead and check your cervical head position as well. You will find your cervix if you reach your middle finger into your vagina until you can't any further. If you've ever felt a partner go too deep, they were hitting your cervix. Your cervix only opens for ovulation, birth, and slightly for menstruation, so it can help you decide if you are close to ovulation or not.

If your cervix is soft, high, open and wet, you are likely fertile. If your cervix feels like your lips, you are closer to ovulating. After you ovulate, it becomes firm, low, closed and dry. If it feels like the tip of your nose, you are likely not fertile. You may not have a good grasp of what to feel for, so the best method is to try feeling your cervix at different points in your cycle. Start during your period and continue on, feeling for changes until you get a better idea of your personal changes.

Next, step: check for other signs of ovulation. Every woman is different, but here are some common signs of ovulation: increased sex drive, slight cramping or pain on side of pelvis, increased sensitivity of taste, smell or vision, bloating, and breast tenderness. These are signs we may not notice or attribute to our fertility because we are too busy in the daily grind of life. A fertility journal is a great way to track your moods, cravings, physical symptoms, mucus and cervical changes. When you start writing these things down you will find patterns and will be able to better differentiate between signs of fertility and other unrelated bodily changes. 

Another way to monitor ovulation is with Ovulation Predictor Kits. These tests measure the levels of Luteinizing Hormone (which surges just before ovulation) in your urine. These can be helpful, especially while monitoring other signs of fertility. However, it is possible to miss your ovulation because the hormone only stays in the urine for 8-12 hours, and ovulation kits can be up to 48 hours off. This method is best used in combination with other methods. 

A tried and tested form of monitoring ovulation is Basal Body Temperature tracking. Your BBT is your lowest body temperature in a 24 hour period. You need a special thermometer and you must check your temperature before you start your day: that is, before eating, sex, using the bathroom or even stepping out of your bed. Take your temperature at the same time each day and it will help you predict when you will ovulate. Your temperature will drop slightly 1- 2 days before ovulating and hike up after ovulation. It will stay elevated until your period comes. Tracking your BBT in addition to other methods is a great way to monitor your fertility. For example, let's say you notice your cervical mucus is slippery, and your cervix is feeling soft, you will know to be ovulation is near and can be prepared for BBT signs of ovulation. 

Now we know why using an app isn't the best way to determine your ovulation date and what alternatives you have. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. If you are using an app that records your BBT, luteinizing hormone levels, or even cervical fluid contents daily, it can be a very useful tool for tracking your fertility. This is because it's using biofeedback to measure your fertility the same way you would with a thermometer and pen and pencil, but with fancier tools. 

Just remember that it is just that- a tool- and should not be relied upon as your only method of monitoring your cycle, or getting pregnant for that matter. Ultimately, being aware and in tuned with your body, preparing your body for conception, and having a fertile partner are your biggest assets to healthy conception and pregnancy. After all, even if you are having sex during your fertile period, if your body is not prepared for conception, all the sex in the world won't help you conceive. 

If you've been tracking your cycle for some time and not sure why you're still not pregnant, we can take the guesswork out of TTC. There is more to getting pregnant than timing sex with ovulation. Your body and your partner's need to be primed for fertility and for some of us that requires extra time, resources and attention. Your first step towards improving your chances of success is to schedule a complimentary Strategy Session with me. Together we can identify your most acute needs and create a unique game plan for prepping your body for healthy conception and pregnancy.

Good luck and baby dust

 

9 Ways to Regulate Your Cycle (Without Birth Control)

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  Note: if you are currently trying to conceive with irregular cycles and need extra help click here for a strategy session

Whether you are suffering from PCOS, Endometriosis, or inexplicable irregular or painful periods, you may have considered birth control your only option for regulating your cycle. Did you know birth control is not good for your system? It's also not your only option! Below I will suggest non-hormonal methods of regulating your cycle. 
      First of all, why not use birth control? Hormonal birth control is prescribed for a host of women's health issues, and often from a young age. Most pills are a combination of estrogen and progesterone and they effectively take over your body's natural rhythm of these hormones to prevent ovulation, regulate the cycle, or manage other issues that are affected by our imbalanced hormones. 
     Besides the common side effects of weight gain, mood swings, nausea and headaches, there are other problems with birth control. Firstly, birth control is made of synthetic hormones which overpower your body's natural cycle. When these hormones are used long-term and continuously, they can cause long-term affects like infertility, decreased bone density, migraines, increased incidence of heart attacks, strokes, and cervical and breast cancers.
     For women trying to conceive, the use of birth control can add up to 9 months to the time it takes to get pregnant after you stop taking the pill. Note: you should also know that directly after you stop taking birth control for a short time period you are considered to be more fertile. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, birth control sucks the life force out of you, and is one of the most toxic ways you can treat your body. From a holistic perspective, taking these hormones, especially from a young age, prevents your body from naturally regulating itself, which is necessary for conception later in life.
     Lastly, when we treat issues like PCOS, Endometriosis, and irregular periods with birth control, we are not solving the problem but merely masking it. If you suffer from one of these issues and use birth control to manage them, know that the problem is still there, you just aren't experiencing the symptoms. You will have to find other methods to manage your cycle when you are ready to conceive. Lastly, when it comes to using birth control at a young age and/or consistently, you are preventing your body from regulating itself. 
     Okay, we get it. Birth control is not the best option for regulating our cycles. But what are the alternatives? Truthfully, it depends on your specific needs. Women with differing issues have different needs for treatment. The best option for developing a specific plan catered to your needs would be to speak with a Fertility Coach directly. For now, check out these suggestions:

  1. Watch what you eat
    We've all heard that "you are what you eat". When it comes to your cycle, what you eat matters. Your diet is the first place you should look to regulate your cycle. A simple guideline is to eat more whole foods (grown from the earth, in as close form as possible to the natural form), eat less processed foods, and drink more water. More specifically, you need to avoid white foods, limit sweets, red meats, and sugary drinks.

  2. Regulate eating patterns
    When it comes to eating for your cycle, how you eat is almost as important as what you eat. Make sure you eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking. Next, be sure to eat every 2-3 hours, following the guidelines above. Lastly, stop eating after 7 pm. Your digestive system needs a break and your body will use the energy to recharge and heal. Never go long enough without a meal to feel jittery or desperate. Keep healthy snacks on hand to keep yourself satisfied while you're on the go.

  3. Consistent Acupuncture
    Acupuncture is the ancient Traditional Chinese Medicine with proven health benefits for a range of issues. In simple terms, it works by stimulating energy points throughout the body which signal bodily systems to respond. Acupuncture has a great track record of managing women's reproductive issues, especially irregular cycles and the underlying reasons behind them. The key to using acupuncture is consistently. Your practitioner will give you recommendations for treatments, but know that typically it takes 3 months to see improvements in women's cycle issues. If cost is an issue, some acupuncturists offer community sessions for a reduced rate, or packages for long-term treatment.

  4. Regulate Sleeping Patterns
    You may have heard of your circadian rhythm, but have you considered how it relates to your cycle? Sleep affects basically every physiological function our body performs, your cycle included. Disruptions in sleep patterns, or irregular sleep patterns altogether, can keep your cycle irregular too. Try waking and sleeping at regular hours, and avoid bright lights (phones, computers, TVs) within an hour of sleeping.

  5. Consider Supplementation
    At the very least, you should be taking a whole-food based vitamin, probiotics, and a green powder daily. I personally use and recommend Detox International's brand of vitamins and supplements because they are whole-food based rather than synthetic. I also know the owner personally and he is extremely healthy and well known yoga teacher/activist in the community. He practices what he preaches and the results are impressive. There are many other supplements you should consider depending on your specific issue. Schedule a strategy session if you need help deciding which are best for you.

  6. Spend Time Outdoors
    Spending time outdoors will increase your exposure to natural light, which is beneficial for regulating your circadian rhythm. It also helps reduce stress, inflammation, enhance mood and boosts the immune system, which indirectly affect your cycle. For added benefits, spend time under moon light!

  7. Develop Stress Coping Skills
    Stress is a fact of life. If you're trying to conceive, you've surely heard every stranger, co-worker and family member tell you to "just relax and it'll happen". Yeah, yeah, if only it was that easy! The fact is stress: is normal but it really isn't good for you and can easily throw your cycle off balance. Long term stress of racism, and/or money problems can also wreak havoc on your cycle. While you can't run away from stressors, you can manage stress by using coping methods. Exercise is great for stress reduction, as is spending time outdoors. Deep breathing exercises, like Kemetic Yoga promotes, can instantly relieve stress symptoms like shallow breathing, a racing heart, and cortisol. You can also reduce stress by examining the source of your feelings. What is it triggering your stress? Check-in with yourself when you are feeling stressed out. What do you need in that moment? You can also brainstorm the main stressors in your day and figure out how you can best prepare for them. Change what you can, and accept what you can't. Lastly, spend time with your support network to get those endorphins flowing. Laugh, sing, cry, dance, move, and vent.

  8. Consistent Exercise
    Consistent exercise is a great tool for managing your cycle. You want to shoot for 30 minutes of high intensity three days a week, or 1 hour of moderate intensity cardio three days a week. You also want 2 days of muscle building activities. If you can't add it in all at once, start by adding one day of exercise to your schedule a week and build from there. If it seems like a chore, find activities you love like walking at the park, exercise classes, dance classes, yoga, video or online workouts, etc. Find a workout buddy if you can't do it alone!

     9. Stop Using Toxic Hygiene Products
         Most of tampons, liners, and pads on the market are toxic. Most use cotton that is laden               with pesticides, and then bleached, to make their products. They are then layered with                 dyes, plastics, fragrances and other additives that are bad for your reproductive organs. If             you are adamant about using tampons, choose an organic brand. I recommend not using               tampons at all because the blood is supposed to be released from your system, not plugged           up inside of you. I personally use and recommend Cherish Pads because they are highly               absorbent, prevent odors, and are not toxic like most other products. The ingredients                   include organic cotton, charcoal, and negative ions, with no toxic additives. If you are not             a fan of disposable pads you can try Thinx underwear, reusable pads, or menstrual cups (I             don't recommend as highly because I believe the blood needs to flow). 

 So there you have it, 9 ways to regulate your cycle without hormonal birth control. I hope they come in handy as you work on regulating your cycle. For more tips and advice for reproductive issues, follow Queen Bee on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest. If you need more help coming up with a personalized plan to manage irregular cycles, schedule a complimentary strategy session with me here.
Kaci
Queen Bee Fertility

 

Your Fertility is More Than Just Your Ovaries + Uterus

     Too many times when we talk about our fertility we reduce ourselves to pieces and parts. What's more, we blame our body parts for not working right. For some it's not enough eggs, a uterus that isn't cooperating, or a cycle that's unregulated. When you are frustrated it can feel as though your body is working against you, sabotaging your dream of becoming a mother.

     I understand how easy it is to get caught up in this mindset of both blaming your body and simplifying your fertility issues. After all, not everyone is lucky enough to have a diagnosis for their fertility struggles. You may have been wondering for some time or gone through a barage of tests to finally get some answers. After everything you've been through, it's nice to have something specific to blame for your difficulties conceiving.

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     As convenient as it may be to blame pieces and parts of your body for your fertility struggles, I invite you to shift your focus to a wider view. Your reproductive outcomes are influenced by more than just your reproductive organs. A balanced fertility is a result of multiple bodily processes, which are influenced by innumerable outside influences. Optimal fertility is a result of optimal health. When you limit your scope to just your reproductive system or just your reproductive organs, you are eaving out big picture issues that have a big impact on your fertility.

     Of course I don't mean to throw away diagnoses or test results that pinpoint your specific issues. Rather, you should use these diagnoses as signs pointing you in the right direction towards healing your whole self. Your bodily systems are all connected. If your reproductive system is not functioning well, your body is telling you that something is off balance, something is not right. When you address the underlying issues affecting your fertility you improve your quality of life. Balancing your overall health will benefit you long beyond your reproductive years. 

     Your overall health, genetic makeup, reproductive history, family history, and lifestyle greatly influence your fertility. While you can't control your history, you can make lifestyle choices that have a positive effect on your future. For example, PCOS is one of the most common fertilty issues that affect women. The underlying issue of PCOS is not the cysts themselves, but the hormone imbalance that causes them to proliferate. While there is a genetic component involved, managing your diet can greatly improve the symptoms of PCOS. Managing insulin levels by eating less simple sugars, balancing carbohydrates and proteins, and eating regularly improve symptoms of PCOS like irregular hair growth, headaches and sleep patterns. Managing your insulin will also have a positive effect on your metabolism, moods, energy levels, and more. This is an example of how your fertility is linked to your overall health. 

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     You may already know the connections between nutrition and fertility, but were you aware of other factors? Other lifestyle factors such as your emotional state, sleep patterns, exposure to toxins, menstrual hygiene products, and coping mechanisms have a big impact on your fertility as well. 

Have you considered any of these topics when examining your fertility issues?

  • history of sexual trauma

  • history of generational/collective trauma

  • history of mental/emotional/physical trauma

  • history of birth control use

  • history of eating disorders

  • depression, anxiety, PTSD or other mental health issues

  • the longterm effects of racism / sexism / homophobia / etc.

  • irregular sleep patterns

  • irregular eating patterns

  • consumption of sugar/transfats/processed foods

  • overall diet - what it's missing and what it has in excess

  • dairy consumption

  • quality of vitamins and supplements

  • the toxicity of your menstrual hygiene products

  • the toxicity of your makeup/bodycare/cleaning products

  • the effects of your prescription/ OTC medications

  • quality and quantity of water you drink

  • gut health / antibiotic use

  • history of vaccinations, especially gardasil

  • exercise- too much, too little, what type

  • stress levels at work

  • overuse of technology

  • family pressures and expectations to become a mother

  • frustration within relationships

  • unresolved anger/frustration

  • self-love and self-care practices

  • exposure to environmental toxins

  • perfectionism

  • fear of failure

  • overwhelm / lack of down time

  • relationship with partner

  • family's reproductive history

  • self-doubt

      This list is only a small sample of all the ways your lifestyle and history can affect your fertility. I hope you will take the time to reconsider the way you perceive your fertility. Understand firstly that your body is not the enemy. Next, look into the ways your fertility is connected to other aspects of your life, and see where you can make adjustments to find balance.  

If you are looking to balance your fertility hollistically, but need help developing a plan that will work for you and sticking to it, schedule a call with me. I would love to help you get pregnant.

Kaci
Queen Bee Fertility



 

 

 

10 Tips for When Your New Year's Resolution is to Have a Baby (Again)

     The New Year is the season of hope and renewal; it's a time to reflect on old habits, relationships and choices, a chance to re-envision your life, let go of negative patterns, and finally accomplish what you've been wanting for too long. If your biggest resolution this year is to finally have a baby, here are ten tips for making your dreams a reality.  You may have been trying a while; you may have been trying for longer than you'd like to admit. Whatever the case, these 10 tips will help you find the balance, strength and resources this year to help you along your way. 

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1. Believe in yourself
     It's easy to lose hope in your ability to conceive when you've already experienced so many cycles of ecstatic hope and bitter disappointment. It's easy to lose hope in your body when it feels like it's working against you. While these feelings are normal, building up your self-confidence again is essential to your overall health. New Year is the perfect time to address your self-doubt head on. Reframing your mind in terms of possibilities instead of disappointments will have lasting affects on your life while trying to conceive and beyond.  To reframe your mind, focus on the things you have accomplished in your journey to conceive. Make a list of everything you've done that makes you proud. Be sure to include things like juggling work responsibilities and doctors appointments, drinking more water, managing the disappointment of another big fat negative, fitting in working outs, getting a scary test done, having difficult conversations with loved ones, etc. Nothing is too insignificant or small. Every time you manage another challenging situation regarding your fertility, take the time to congratulate yourself and write it down. When you are feeling low, take the list out and remind yourself how far you've come. You can do this. You already are! You can also make the list of something outside of your fertility- like work accomplishments, health/fitness, relationships, etc. Anything and everything that you have to be proud of is worth writing down!

2. Renew your spirit
     The cyclical ups and downs of trying to conceive can wear out even the most steadfast woman. When conception isn't as easy as 1, 2, 3 and you face yet another disappointment, tune into your spiritual side to get you through the rough times. If you are a believer in a religion, dig deeper into your spirit by reading prayers and quotes for inspiration. Attend services or listen to podcasts and radio shows if you want to stay away from child-oriented spaces. Pray, chant, or recite religious verses. If you don't subscribe to any religions, take time to meditate, spend time alone, or outdoors. Talk to your ancestors and/or Spirit and ask for guidance, peace, and fortitude. In order to bring forth life, we need to be full of it. Without our spirit, we are merely shells of ourselves. When the physical world is too much to bear, take solace in the spiritual. 

3. Prioritize self-love and self-care

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     Getting caught up in tests, doctors appointments, tracking ovulation and obsessing over how every little thing can affect your fertility distracts you from what is truly important- your own health, well being, and sanity. Now is the perfect time to focus on self-love and self-care. Take some time to reflect on what truly recharges your batteries; what makes you feel loved, cared for, and safe? Make these activities your priority. Schedule some extra "me time" every day and don't let it slip away. It might be bubble baths and spa treatments, peace and quiet each morning, spending time with your favorite girlfriend, a night out on the town with your partner, or eating your favorite comfort foods. What does self-love and self-care mean to you? Remember that self-care also means living in your truth. If you can't muster the energy to attend that baby shower, don't. If you find yourself spending too much time mulling over Facebook updates from a pregnant friend, unfollow them. If tracking your ovulation is making you feel obsessive and frantic, take a break for a couple months. Choose to put your health and wellbeing first. 

4. Dig into your relationships
     Relationships often take a beating while trying to conceive, but tapping into your loved ones can give you the extra fortitude and inspiration you need during this rough patch. Starting with self-love and self-care, build on your relationship with yourself. Next, reach out to your partner. Chances are your relationship has been under financial or emotional strain with the demands of trying to conceive. You may have trouble communicating or one of you may feel neglected due to the responsibilities and pressures of daily life. Remember that this relationship can actually grow with fertility struggles. If you work together through your challenges and share your vulnerabilities with each other, you will find your faith in the relationship stronger. Try spending 5 minutes a day just reconnecting through touch or sight. Look into each other's eyes or hold hands or a hug. Remember why you chose to be together and remember that even though you are experiencing it differently, you're in this together.
     Just like it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to get through life's hardships. Your relationship with your partner can be an invaluable source of fortitude, but it shouldn't be the only one. Reconnecting with girlfriends, sisters, cousins, mothers, aunts and grandmas can do wonders for building you up. Ask yourself if there's anyone you haven't seen in a while who can really make you laugh. We all need someone to make us laugh, give us a hug, or listen to our fears every once in a while. Some of your relationships may be strained due to your fertility challenges but there are surely a few trusted people in your life who know how to brighten your day. Call them and set up a girl's night. Tell them you need a good laugh and share as much as you would like about where you are in your journey. Let them know from the beginning how you would like them to treat the topic of your fertility, if at all. Reconnecting will help you feel more supported and remind you that you are not alone in this journey. 

5. Take it day by day, choice by choice
    Sometimes life can feel like it's all or nothing. While struggling with fertility, the pressure to succeed can be paralyzing. You might feel like time is running out and each new decision can change your fate forever. Now is a good time to remember to take it day by day. Do your best with what you are doing now, and let the rest come after. Know that if something doesn't work for you the first time, you can try again in a different way. When the road ahead seems uncertain, focus on the one choice ahead of you and know that you will cross all other bridges when you get there. You will learn more as you go along and will be connected with the resources you need. All that you need will surely come. Just get through today. 

6. Get extra help

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     Trying to conceive without success is overwhelming. Even if you are meeting with a doctor and aware of your particular issues you might find yourself sitting on innumerable questions: What foods should I avoid with PCOS? How does sleep affect my cycle? Can yoga really help me conceive? Is there something we can take to enhance egg and sperm quality? How can acupuncture affect my chances of success with IVF? Embryologists and Reproductive Endocrinologists are amazing professionals, but sometimes you need to know more than the results of the latest blood test.  If you need extra support to walk you through the entire process of conception, consider working with a fertility coach. Fertility coaches are the bridge between doctors and couples trying to conceive. We work with you to create a specific diet plan, listen to you weigh out the pros and cons of your next big decision, recommend supplements, vitamins, and exercises for your unique situation, inform you of alternative medicines that can benefit your fertility, help you sort through your emotions as you navigate relationships and social media shares, teach you better communication skills for you and your partner, give you the tools and resources you need to feel the best possible support while trying to conceive, and more. At Queen Bee we offer one time consultations, packages, and couples coaching for families trying to conceive
    What Fertility Coaches can't do is treat you for anxiety, depression, OCD and other mental health issues. If you are feeling overwhelmed to the point that every day life is hard to manage, or your fertility struggles are triggering issues you've already had, reach out for help. Infertility is considered a type of trauma, and it's okay to reach out for professional help. You are not alone.

7. Find community
     When sympathy from loved ones isn't enough, find solace in other women also trying to conceive. There's something comforting about talking to someone who is dealing with the same issues we are. The common ground you are standing on makes it easy to connect and feel at ease with one another and you will find these are some of your biggest allies in your journey to conceive. You can build up your community of others trying to conceive by looking for churches and even clinics that offer infertility groups. You can also connect online through Facebook groups, forums and boards. Our partner RESOLVE, the country's largest organization dedicated to Infertility, has a database of meetups around the country as well as their own online forums. In these groups you will find practical advice from people who have been there and a safe space to vent with people who get it.

8. Make this a lifestyle change
     There are numerous ways you can enhance your chances for a successful conception, pregnancy and postpartum period. Part of this process includes adding in healthy habits to replace unhealthy practices. When you are making these changes for your reproductive health, don't treat it like a fad diet. Your balanced fertility is a result of your overall health and wellness, so make changes to your lifestyle with the intention of sustaining them for a lifetime. This means taking smaller steps and making adjustments gradually that enhance your overall way of life. It's more than just cutting out coffee or alcohol. Eating for your particular health needs, finding exercise that makes you happy, using the right vitamins and supplements, keeping a clear mind, sleeping regularly, finding community, keeping a positive outlook and more will benefit you long beyond your reproductive years. Approach your fertility this way and you will have an improved quality of life because optimal fertility is just a result of overall health, wellbeing and balance. 

9. Cultivate gratitude
Studies show that people who are more grateful experience tangible benefits. Cultivating gratitude will lift your spirit and give you a more positive outlook on life. In the process, you will attract more positivity and growth. With a more positive outlook you will be more resilient with challenging situations. On an energetic level, the more we appreciate what we have, the more what we need comes to us. This is the basis of the law of attraction. Cultivating gratitude does not mean you aren't allowed to feel upset, sad, or angry. All feelings are valid and should be expressed and released. Rather, cultivating gratitude encourages us to focus our attention on what we have, therefore attracting more of it into our lives. To practice, try a couple of exercises. First, upon waking, make a mental list of everything you are grateful for that day. Your partner, your favorite meal, your family, a close girlfriend, your job, purpose, new opportunities, etc. are good examples. As you go about your day, add to your mental list. With time and practice, you will build a habit of finding things to be grateful for, and you will find yourself being more positive in the face of disappointment and frustration.
     Another great practice is to write a list of everything you are grateful for in your life. Include everything you can think of, and then push yourself to add 10 more. Once you have exhausted this list, find 10 more things to write. When you come up with new final list, add 10 more. Challenge yourself each day to add something to your gratitude list. The more you cultivate gratitude, the more your mind will shift to finding the positive in every situation. This will impact your fertility because our mood, outlook on life, and spirit are all interconnected with our health and wellness.

10. See the big picture

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      It's easy to get caught up in the details when you are trying to conceive; which vitamin to take, how often to have sex, which test to take next- it can be overwhelming. While it is important to take your decisions one at a time, it's even more important to see this part of your life as part of a bigger picture. As your reproductive story unfolds, remember: this too shall pass. This struggle is temporary and finite. You will move beyond this point. You will have a resolution to your struggles. Just as you survived middle school, high school, heartaches, disasters, deaths of loved ones, etc, you will get through this. In ten, twenty, thirsty years you will look back at this time and marvel at your strength and resilience. You do not have to define yourself by your struggle to conceive. Your current state is temporary and will end. Whether you conceive, become a parent by some other means, or choose to live child-free, there is an ending to this story. 

     I sincerely hope you have found something useful and worthwhile amongst these 10 tips. Have you tried any of them? Comment below about what worked for you! If you are looking for more specific advice to your situation, or need more one on one support, contact me directly

Kaci
Queen Bee Fertility

 

 

 

Queen Bee Fertility at Roux Carré's Makers Fair

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Queen Bee Fertility had a great time this weekend at Roux Carré's Makers Fair. In honor of Small Buisiness Saturday, local businesses were invited to set up market at Roux Carré while Strate Notes, LLC played local favorites and the usual eats plus extra goodies were served.

It was a beautiful, brisk day and there was a great turn out with vendors and visitors alike. Queen Bee staff loved meeting new people and connecting through story telling, food and music.

Enjoying the market and sharing fertility resources. Photo Credit: Peter G. Forest Photography

Enjoying the market and sharing fertility resources. Photo Credit: Peter G. Forest Photography

We set up some of our favorite books at the event and several people who stopped by to visit saw resonated with familiar titles. Great minds think alike! A couple of our favorites were Sacred Woman by Queen Afua and Managing the Stress of Infertility by Carol Fulwiler Jones. 

Our favorite market fare included brewed and bottled hibiscus tea by Sangoma House, LLC, fresh papusas by The Papusa Lady, burro bananas and bath salts by Mama Isis Farm and Market, and handmade skin and hair care products infused with essential oils by BLU Herbs. 

There were plenty of home made health products at the Fair like Mr. Kevin's fresh hibiscus juice, jams, soups, fruits, soaps and more. Photo credit: Roux Carré

There were plenty of home made health products at the Fair like Mr. Kevin's fresh hibiscus juice, jams, soups, fruits, soaps and more. Photo credit: Roux Carré

Photo Credit: Peter G. Forest Photography

Photo Credit: Peter G. Forest Photography

It was a great time as always with Queen Bee and it was nice meeting people all over the fertility spectrum. We met people just trying to balance out their system, others looking to get pregnant, and several far beyond their fertile years who chuckled at the idea of having a baby. As visitors meandered by with all of their unique backgrounds and lifestages, I thought about how Queen Bee serves not only those who are trying to conceive, but people at all stages of life. 

While we are called Queen Bee Fertility, we are passionate about more than just reproduction. Queen Bee Fertility is dedicated to the whole health of  girls and women and therefore their families, circles and communities. We aspire to set healthy standards and practices for healthcare and wellbeing of girls as they embark upon puberty, build up young women who are coming into their bodies and balancing their cycles with the demands of adulthood, bring to fruition to the creative goals of women as they embark upon their reproductive journey, help complete all types of families with new life, offer practical support and care for pregnant women and their babies so they have the best chances at health and happiness, and bring simiple, satisfying relief to women who are transitioning through menopause. In short, we hope to serve the full spectrum of our client's fertility needs, whatever stage of life they may be in. 

Many thanks to everyone who visited us this weekend, we'll see you at the next event!

 

Interview with an Expert: Acupuncture with Katya Chizayeva

Katya Chizayeva

Katya Chizayeva

Update September 25/2018 : Katya is in town but the schedule has changed. Inquire via Facebook or phone for new schedule. And click here if you need help getting pregnant.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of acupuncture while trying to conceive, this article is for you. If you're in Greater New Orleans, there is affordable and accessible acupuncture treatment available now; the details are listed below.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine with well documented benefits for families trying to conceive. In clinical studies, acupuncture has been shown to increase sperm count in men, regulate uterine and ovarian blood flow, normalize ovarian functioning in PCOS, ameliorate insulin resistance,  enhance implantation success, increase endorphin levels and hypothalamus function, regulate the menstrual cycle, bring on ovulation in women diagnosed with anovulation, and increase clinical pregnancy rates and live birth rates of IVF. 

Furthermore, acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress among IVF patients as well.  

Queen Bee interviewed herbalist and acupuncturist Katya Chizayeva to learn more about her experience using acupuncture and herbs to enhance women's health and fertility specifically. 

She first explained how acupuncture works in laywomen's terms. She explained that the body is covered with fascia, which conducts electricity and electrical charge. When thin, lightweight needles are used to stimulate certain points, this electrical charge carries over tissues into different systems, turning into chemical messages. These chemical messages stimulate the different systems, are interpreted by the body and result in physiological changes.

Katya then described the way that acupuncture "has potential to build and regulate fluids such as intra and intercelular fluids, and blood. Hormones are also part of the fluid systems. [Acupuncture] can nourish and move blood stagnation that can be caused by trauma and birth control usage, which causes the blood to become malnourished and stagnant."

She also echoed what the aforementioned studies found, that acupuncture is very helpful for regulating your cycle, dealing with estrogen dominance, PMS, pelvic inflammatory disease, severe cramps, and readjusting after years of birth control use. She has found that acupuncture helps to regulate sleep which can in turn help the rest of your body to regulate as well. Lastly, she noted that acupuncture is great for people who can't relax and for type A, high strung individuals. She has found that acupuncture is great for calming the nervous system and resets the bodies of over-thinkers or those with anxiety about the future. 

For all it's benefits, Katya warned that "acupuncture is not a cure all, it's a tool, and it depends on the person. When you are inconsistent, results are inconsistent." As with any other treatment or healing process, acupuncture is not a quick fix. Practitioners recommend at least 3 months of consistent treatment to see lasting improvements in women's health issues. 

From Katya's experience, clients dealing with fertility or women's health issues who have had the most success demonstrate the following qualities:

  • Receive acupuncture 1-2 x per week for at least 3 months

  • The partner also receives acupuncture

  • The client and their partner doing the outside work required for their specific issues (ie, lifestyle changes, diet changes, exercise, losing weight, etc.)

  • The client(s) used prescribed herbs

  • The clients are already committed to shifting their lifestyle change and see acupuncture as an extra push in the right direction, not a magic solution

She described ideal clients as people who are already running forward. Acupuncture is like an extra boost that pushes them further ahead, but will not substitute for lack of effort.

Women who are overweight or dealing with other issues that require medication need to work through these challenges simultaneously to receive the full benefit of acupuncture. Furthermore, the partners need to be involved. Katya described a married couple in which the wife was following a strict regime and dedicated to healing but the husband was taking several medications, not exercising, and not making adequate lifestyle changes to improve his overall health and wellness. She found these types of cases to be the most challenging because sperm health is equally as important as egg and uterine health. All the acupuncture in the world for the wife would do nothing for conception if the husband was not also willing to put in work. It takes two (if you are using your partner's sperm). 

In conclusion, from what Katya has explained, acupuncture is a tool for healing backed by science but requires real life work on the client's part to achieve success. For the best results: be consistent, follow through with lifestyle changes, and incorporate your partner (if their genes will be a part of conception). 

If you are in the New Orleans area and are looking for affordable acupuncture, Katya has space available. She offers private sessions for $50, and packages for preconception, prenatal, and postnatal care. She will also host Community Acupuncture on June 3rd from 2-5 pm at the Sanctuary Arts Center, 2525 Burgundy Street, $25-$40 sliding scale.  Depending on attendance she may continue the Community Acupuncture more permanently at that space. For more information, call her at (415) 5680-0004.

Have you tried acupuncture? What did you think?

P.S. If you need extra support while trying to conceive, schedule a complementary call with Fertility Coach Kaci here.

Here's Why I Don't Use the Word Infertile and Why You Shouldn't Either

The words we use to describe ourselves have power over us. Choose them wisely.

The words we use to describe ourselves have power over us. Choose them wisely.

When a couple has been trying to conceive for sometime there can be nothing as debilitating and limiting as being described as "infertile". In the remainder of this post I will explain why I choose not to use that term, what I choose to use instead, and why I think it's important.

Our words have power over us. Language philosophers refer to certain language as both descriptive and performative. The descriptive part of language is obvious. When we process an experience, we use words to describe and articulate what we have experienced, what our ideas are, or how we understand something around us. The performative nature of language, however, is sometimes taken for granted. Performative language is statements that not only describe but change the reality that is being described. For example, in a difficult situation, by declaring you are confident (with the right body language) others will consider you to be more confident. When others respond to your confidence with trust and admiration, you will feel a boost in your own confidence, and therefore be more confident in what you are doing. Does that make sense?

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In layman's terms, what we say affects how we feel (and vice versa), which affects how we act, and how we act affects our reality . If we label ourselves or accept the label of infertile, we are on some level going to feel defeated by the term. The word infertile itself is such an absolute, it carries serious negative connotations and weight to it, and sounds permanent. 

In reality, most cases of fertility are based on certain circumstances and there are ways to improve chances of conception. Just because a couple might be struggling to conceive now does not mean that they will never conceive. Once the issues at hand have been discovered and addressed conception is a possibility. So why use a permanent term to describe a temporary situation? In the case of couples trying to conceive, I believe it is doubly important to use caution in word choice because the situation is so emotionally disruptive. We know that stress does not help conception, and the idea that you are unable to conceive when it's your biggest goal, focus, or priority will certainly stress you more than the idea that you are in a temporary situation that will change.

To highlight the fact that in most cases struggling with fertility is a phase in life, and not a life sentence, I like to use that term exactly, "fertility struggles". By keeping the term fertile and acknowledging that this is just a temporary challenge it allows the space for healing and growth. It allows for the opportunity for improvement. There is nothing constant or permanent about a challenge or a struggle. It is something to be confronted, dealt with, learned from, and overcome.

Challenges are meant to be overcome. The only thing constant is change.

Challenges are meant to be overcome. The only thing constant is change.

For example, let's say you just stood someone up for a date as teenager and you feel guilty about it. In reflection, you could look at the situation in at least two ways. You could look at the experience as a one-time mistake or you could decide it's a reflection of your bad character. Look at the difference between saying,  "I'm a bad person" and "I made a bad decision". In the first statement, you are defining yourself by your actions, making this decision an aspect of your identity. How you identify yourself will influence your decisions in the future. The next time you have to choose between right and wrong, you might choose negatively again, because after all, you consider yourself a bad person. When you attach a negative label to your identity your self esteem suffers and you get stuck in a pattern of negative self-worth.  In the second statement, you are not defining yourself by your actions, but acknowledging that it was a temporary experience. When you frame it this way, you can see yourself as capable of choosing to make a better decision. The next time around you can reflect that you would like to make a better decision, without assuming that because you are bad in nature, you can't choose better.

Similarly, when you refer to yourself as infertile, you may be attaching the label to your own sense of identity (or others may very well do it to you). When you look at your situation as struggling with fertility, or dealing with fertility challenges, you can see the temporary nature of the experience; you can see a situation that can be changed, a situation that is not permanent or reflective of your self-worth. This might be a less depressing and overwhelming term.

You are not defined by your ability to conceive at the current time. You define yourself. 

You are not defined by your ability to conceive at the current time. You define yourself. 

This is not to undermine the experiences and word choices of people who suffer with permanent infertility, such as those with genetic issues, compromised reproductive organs and other factors.

Furthermore, I believe everyone should describe themselves on their own terms. My purpose here is not to define your experience but to suggest that you consider which terms you are using. How do the words you use to describe yourself affect your mood, perspective, and self-image as you navigate through your fertility journey? I think it's something to consider. 

Do you use the term 'infertile'? If so, how does it accurately describe your experience? If you don't use 'infertile', what do you use instead? I would love to hear your thoughts and expand my own vocabulary. Thanks for sharing.