Mommy in Heels nominated me for a Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award. Thank you so much for nominating me. Since I started blogging about my journey to conceive just a few months back, I’ve been overwhelmed by the love and support of the online fertility community. The knowledge, humour and kindness of my fellow bloggers has lifted my spirits in my darkest hour and inspired me with hope to keep going. So I’m happy to pay it forward and nominate some of those badass bloggers. First, here are the rules: 1. Link to the person who nominated you. 2. Add the award logo. 3. Answer the questions your nominator has asked. 4. Nominate 7 other blogs and let them know via comments. 5. Ask your nominees 10 questions. My Q&A: 1. What do you miss most about your childhood? Living in the same house as my brothers and sisters. 2. Tea or coffee? Tea. 3. Who is your favorite character in a novel or film and why do you like them so much? Regina George because she’s a fugly slut. 4. If you could visit any place in the world, where would it be and why? Taiwan to visit my baby bro. 5. If you could have one superpower, what would it be? To be omnilingual 6. What was the last thing that happened to make you laugh so hard you cried? My old school friend Facetimed me from Oz this morning and we cried laughing reminiscing about a house party from the late-90s that got so out of hand someone actually did a poo in the bath. 7. What was the last book that you read? Lena Dunham, Not That Kind Of Girl. My kind of girl. 8. Do you have any hidden talents? If so, what are they? I can close my nostrils without using my hands and keep them closed for an unnatural amount of time. 9. If you could have any fictional animal for a pet, who would it be? Miss Piggy. She is my everything. 10. What is your favorite season? Winter because I’m a Christmas junkie. My Nominees Mommy in Heels Unpregnant Chicken Waiting for Baby Bird Just Stop Trying and It Will Happen Waiting on Our Stork Becoming Nutrition Literate The Modern Belly Mrs Muffin Top The Nominees’ Questions: 1. What secret behaviour do you only do when you’re alone? 2. What is the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you? 3. Who would play you in a movie? 4. What’s your biggest regret? 5. When are you at your happiest? 6. What makes you laugh? 7. Who is your embarrassing celebrity crush? 8. When did you last cry and why? 9. What three things could you not live without? 10. If you could only listen to one song for the rest of your life, what song would you choose?
We’ve all heard the scare stories about aging and fertility, right? Before your biological clock threatens to explode in your ears, take a look at how old these celebs were when they had their first baby. Gives a little hope to the rest of us, eh?
Halle Berry – 41
After becoming pregnant for the first time at 41, Halle surprised everybody with the news she was expecting again at 46. “This has been the biggest surprise of my life, to tell you the truth,” she said of the pregnancy. “I thought I was kind of past the point where this could be a reality for me. So, it’s been a big surprise and the most wonderful.”
Eva Mendes – 40
Eva hit a double-whammy: not only did she get pregnant at 40, but her baby daddy just happens to be one of the hottest dudes on the planet, Ryan Gosling. Jealous? Us? You betcha. “I cannot believe that by the time my mother was 24 she had three kids under the age of four. She was in Cuba and totally alone. So when it’s the wee hours of the night and I’m feeling a bit insane, I think about her and realise that I have no right to complain about anything.”
Alyssa Milano – 38
Alysso had son Milo, 3, at 38, and at 41 she gave birth to her second child, Elizabella. “I made a very conscious decision to just enjoy pregnancy, and have faith that my body will do what it’s supposed to do,” she said.
Gwen Stefani – 36
Gwen Stefani, 44, and Gavin Rossdale, 47, welcomed their third son, Apollo Bowie Flynn Rossdale, in February 2014. They’re also parents to Kingston, 8, and Zuma, 6. Their third child was reportedly a surprise, with a friend spilling, “Gwen and Gavin were shocked. They weren’t trying — it just happened.”
Salma Hayek– 41
Salma, now 48, gave birth to her daughter, Valentina at 41. “It’s a little nerve-racking to wait that long, but it’s the best time…because you’ve done so many other things in your life.”
Nicole Kidman -40
Oscar award-winning actress Nicole Kidman, 47, gave birth for the first time to Sunday Rose at age 40. She described it as a “roller coaster ride with fertility”, and opted to have her second child via a surrogate.
Mariah Carey – 40
Mariah Carey, 44, became pregnant for the first time with twins, Monroe and Moroccan, at age 40. “My body went through so much,” she said. “Holding those twins in — you have to keep them in as long as possible. It’s a sacrifice you make for them. Literally I was like, 47-weeks pregnant. And anybody pregnant right now, there’s push gifts here. Tell your baby-father.”
Marcia Cross – 44
Desperate Housewives star, Marcia Cross, 52, gave birth for the first time to twins, Eden and Savannah, at age 44 via emergency C-section. “It’s a miracle I have these two daughters,” she said.
Jane Krakowski – 42
30 Rock’s Jane Krakowski, 46, gave birth to her first child, Bennett Robert Godley at 42. She described becoming a mum as “awesome.”
Susan Sarandon – 42
Susan Sarandon, 68, was told she’d never have kids due to her endometriosis. But she give birth to Jack Henry at age 42, and had her second child at 45.
Geena Davis – 46
The Thelma & Louise star, 58, had her first child at age 46. And she went on to have twins two years later.
Brooke Shields – 37
Brooke Shields underweight six round of IVF before having her first child Rowan at 37.
Happy New Year guys! January for me usually means some crazy detox that I don’t stick to (thanks, Gwyneth Paltrow!) but this year I’m determined to start a health kick I can stick to. I want a lifestyle change not a fad. I don’t want to be starving myself of vital nutrients – especially when I’m trying to get pregnant – but at the same time I do have a bit of holiday weight to lose (okay, more than a bit, and it’s probably more ‘2014’ weight than just Christmas weight, but I digress…). This January, I’m all about healthy home-cooked nourishing food. I just bought a great book Eat. Nourish. Glow by nutritionist Amelia Freer (she’s the lady responsible for slimming stars like James Corden down, apparently). There is some great advice in there about mindful eating, healthy cooking, plus some great recipes I’m keen to try.
This morning I made her delish parsnip fritters (Amelia’s healthy version of the hash brown) with a boiled egg for breakfast. They were absolutely gorgeous, and perfect if you are missing fried potatoes on your New Year health kick (who isn’t?). Parsnips are a rich source of folic acid, that magic pregnancy nutrient, so they are a fertility-friendly alternative to toast, if, like me, you crave something to dip in your breakfast boiled egg. The recipe below is for six fritters (recipe adapted from Eat. Nourish. Glow by Amelia Freer, available on Amazon now). Enjoy!
1 parsnip, peeled and grated (I used quite a big one)
2 tbsp coconut flour
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp ground cumin
A pinch of salt and pepper
1 tbsp coconut oil
Mix the first five ingredients together in a bowl then divide into six patties with your hands and fry in the oil for a few minutes on each side.
Top tip: I didn’t have coconut flour, so switched in gluten-free flour and it worked well. Also, I am always reluctant to crank up the heat on healthy cooking fats like walnut oil, olive oil etc, as I’ve read this can strip them off their benefits and transform them into unhealthy trans-fats, so I started on a medium heat. However, I found I eventually had to crank the heat right up to really crisp up the fritters and give them that lovely crunch and avoid making them soggy. (This was my first time cooking with coconut oil and was worried the flavour would be overpowering – it totally wasn’t, so I am going to be using this lighter alternative to cooking oil more often).
Though some of the fertility specialists I’ve spoken to maintain that you should be able to get all the nutrients and vitamins that are vital to fertility through your diet, others advise taking supplements for the biggies. And since I’m not a big fish-lover, and I keep reading how food is not as nutrient-rich as it once was, I decided to boost my balanced diet with a few supplements. It can’t hurt, right? Besides, even when I chart the nutrients I’m getting from my diet, I often fall short on some of the most important ones.
There are so many pills out there that offer fertility-boosting powers that it can be difficult to know where to start. Aside from a daily dose of Folic Acid (recommended for prevention of spina bifida and needs to be taken at least three months before conceiving), I’ve listed the pills I’ve decided to start popping below and why.
When I first took all these with my breakfast yesterday, I felt like I should rattle, but hopefully I’ll start to see the benefits soon! (NB: These were recommended to me by a trained herbalist, so make sure you consult a trained practitioner before taking any supplements).
Omega 3 – If like me you’re not a fan of oily fish, a daily dose of essential fats from an Omega-3 supplement can control inflammation in your reproductive system, which can interfere with pregnancy. Research has shown that women who regularly consume Omega-3 may have higher conception rates and lower miscarriage rates.
Co Q10 – How often do you hear the warning that your egg health starts to dwindle after 35? A daily dose of Co Q10 can help preserve your egg health and combat a host of other fertility-related issues such as endometriosis, unexplained infertility and PCOS by reducing oxidative stress. It’s worth noting that some store-bought Q10 supplements offer only a 100mg dose, which is only a sixth of what you need. A study published in Fertility and Sterility showed that 600 mg of CoQ10 daily improved both egg quality and fertilisation rates among older women.
Magnesium – It’s estimated that a whopping 68% of us are magnesium deficient, yet it’s the mineral that is responsible for a host of vital functions. Low magnesium levels can nix implantation, while a daily dose can increase fertility naturally and help the body absorb other nutrients that can aid your baby-making ability too.
B-Complex – Vitamin B6 is one of the most important vitamins for female fertility but all the other Bs are pretty important too, especially during pre-conception. Research has shown that giving B6 to women who have trouble conceiving increases fertility and it’s also helps to regulate hormones and blood sugar levels. Being deficient in B6 can cause poor egg development.
Where to buy? I ordered online at www.puritanspride.com, which was more cost-effective than buying in a high street pharmacist, even when you factor in shipping costs.
1. You don’t know what love is until you’ve had a child.
- Having a child changed my life completely.
3. You wouldn’t understand. You’re not a mother.
6. You’re not getting any younger.
If, like me, you’ve been trying to conceive for a while, you’ve probably read something about acupuncture. Almost every internet search on aiding fertility will throw up results on this ancient Chinese practice. But can paying someone to stick needles in you really bring you closer to your baby dream? If you’ve never tried it, you’re probably sceptical, right? Especially as the service doesn’t exactly come cheap…But the figures speak for themselves. When used in conjunction with Western fertility treatments, it can boost conception rates by 26%, according to a recent study from Tel Aviv University. Medical research suggests it helps by increasing blood flow to the ovaries and uterus (creating a more hospitable environment for an egg to be nourished) and by helping to balance your hormones.
I’m six months away from fertility intervention, but I decided to see a Zita West-trained acupuncture practitioner to boost my chances of conceiving naturally in the meantime. I’ve been doing weekly acupuncture sessions for several months now and I’ve gotta say, I really look forward to that hour every week. Each session starts with a brief chat about what’s been going on in my body that week, what stage of my cycle I’m at, any pains, unusual symptoms etc. Then I move to the acupuncture table (like a massage table but with more big cushions and blankets). Depending on the time of the month, my practitioner then puts disposable sterile needles in several points around my body (stomach, head, ankles, lower calves, hands). You may feel a slight pinch as some of the needles go in, but once they are in, you can hardly feel them. The lights are lowered, the meditation music is on, and she then reads to me one of a series of relaxation/visualisation exercises while I zone out and relax. It might sound simple enough but there are so many layers to what I get out of it. Here, are the top six reasons why I keep coming back:
- It’s empowering me with knowledge
My practitioner is extremely knowledgeable about all aspects of fertility, both from an eastern and western perspective, so I am learning something new every week. She listens and offers advice on everything from the fertility investigations I’m having (even helping me decode mind-boggling blood results and my husband’s sperm results) to lifestyle factors that can help at different stages of my cycle (for example getting enough sleep after ovulation etc). She also explains exactly what points she is placing the needles and why, so I can really visualise what is going on. For example, pre-ovulation she will hook the needles on my stomach up to a machine and send a small pulse through them to get the blood pumping around my reproductive organs. In the few months I’ve been going I already feel I know so much more about fertility and reproduction. And knowledge is power, right?
- I’m learning to recognise changes in my body
With thermometers and ovulation kits filling the shelves, it easy to get into the habit of relying on science rather than nature to tell you what is going on in your own body. Acupuncture has helped me reconnect with my own body and tune in to what is going on. I must admit, at first I did find it a bit icky talking about period blood and mucus with a relative stranger but when you know what to look for and get into the habit of spotting changes, it becomes second nature. I now know what colour my blood should be (bright red), what consistency my mucus should be around ovulation (egg white), and I am on red alert (excuse the pun) for any unusual changes. She has encouraged me to visualise my womb as a ripe, juicy raspberry (?!), and imagine the blood flowing towards it, which might sound a bit odd, but once you can imagine your reproductive system, not as something alien and science-y, but as something lovely and natural, you come a step closer to connecting with it.
- It helps me de-stress
One of the main ways acupuncture helps fertility is that it reduces stress, which is often a key factor in fertility. Everything about the hour I spend at acupuncture each week is conducive to relaxation. From the low-lighting to the candles and sounds of waves crashing against the shore, not to mention the cushion and blankets that I’m cocooned in for the 40 minutes of so the needles are in, it’s enough to make you nod off into a peaceful slumber – and a lot of the time, I do just that. Like most people, I’m run ragged all week at work but it’s become so important to me to take the hour out of my week to chill out and de-stress. One of my favourite relaxation exercises features the words, ‘Nobody wants anything; nobody needs anything. This is your time…’ and it’s a powerful reminder to get off the wheel and take the time just to breathe.
- It gives me hope
At every session, my practitioner reminds me that I will get pregnant, it’s just a question of when. By helping me combat negative thought patterns, she has helped me overcome some serious mental stumbling blocks. One example she gave me was of a client who was convinced she’d have trouble conceiving. When my practitioner asked her why, she said it was because her mother had trouble and had always told her that she too would find it difficult. Once the practitioner was able to help the client overcome those negative thought patterns, she conceived naturally within a few months. The mind is a very powerful force and acupuncture had taught me the importance of staying positive and remaining hopeful.
- I’ve become more clued up on diet
Since I’ve been seeing my acupuncturist, I gleaned so much diet and lifestyle advice that has helped me make positive changes. I’ve learned to adapt my diet to the changing seasons, eating plenty of warming soups and stews now the weather is cooler, and enjoying salads and juices in the summer months. She’s also given me advice on what supplements to take (Omega 3, CoQ10, B-Complex and Magnesium), and provided me with a comprehensive list of the essentials nutrients for fertility, and the foods that contain them. For the first time in my life, I’m counting nutrients, not calories and I feel so much better for it.
- I’m focussed on the bigger picture
Whereas western medicine treats one targeted problem, eastern medicine takes a more holistic approach. Fertility clinics will focus on one end goal: getting you pregnant, which is great if it’s a success but it doesn’t take into account all the factors that will have contributed to you having difficulty trying to conceive in the first place. If you don’t address the root of the problem, chances are you’ll have trouble again if and when you try for your second. Acupuncture treats the body as a whole and looks at all the different factors that might have a bearing on your fertility: stress, hormones, under-lying auto-immune disorders etc. The work that you do with your practitioner in balancing your hormones and addressing stress will not only help you achieve your goal of becoming pregnant, but it will stand you in good stead for subsequent pregnancies and even into menopause. I’ve come to realise that the journey doesn’t end when you get pregnant, it’s a life-long journey and the more you do to achieve a balance in your body now, the more prepared you’ll be for what’s to come in the future.
Today, I bring you a guest post from my brilliant sister who was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome. Though the initial diagnosis was a little scary (you’ll find out why below), she wants to inspire hope in others who are struggling with a PCOS diagnosis and what it all means.
Here are her words:
“After nearly a year of no periods when I came off the pill, I was referred to the gynaecologist at the hospital (since nicknamed Dr Bitchface). She looked at my blood results, did a quick internal scan and announced, “Yes, it’s as I suspected, you have Polycystic Ovaries” without a hint of bedside manner or any explanation of what it was or what that meant. I wasn’t trying to conceive at the time but had an idea it was linked to fertility and knew I wanted children in the future so I started to cry. She looked at me in shock and said something to the effect of “I don’t know why you are getting so worked up, it just means irregular periods. Plenty of people have worse things wrong with them and it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to have children.”
I felt mortified by her harsh reaction and still none the wiser regarding my prognosis so when I got home I asked Dr Google who informed me that PCOS was going to make me overweight, hairy, spotty and infertile. Nice.
I am now three years on from that original diagnosis and am seven months pregnant. Through speaking to nicer doctors, plenty of background reading and my own experience, I also have a much greater understanding of what Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is and how the condition can be managed. Essentially in terms of fertility, it is a hormone imbalance that can prevent you from ovulating (which in turn means you can’t get pregnant that month). It doesn’t mean that your body can never be pregnant or maintain a healthy pregnancy; just that you might need some help with ovulating. It doesn’t mean you need to be overweight or zit-ridden, in fact by keeping an eye on your diet, you can reduce the effect of all the symptoms.
What I didn’t appreciate initially is that Dr Bitchface did me a favour – knowledge is power. My body raised an alarm to me by not having monthly periods and I got checked out prior to trying to conceive. Armed with a diagnosis before I started my fertility journey meant I was able to buy myself time, cut out some of the heartache that comes with monthly negative pregnancy tests and head for medical intervention sooner.”
The mango tree symbolises love and fertility, and if that is not a good enough reason to chow down on this juicy tropical fruit, then how about the fact that it’s also rich in vitamins, minerals (namely fertility-boosting zinc!) and antioxidants? A half a cup of mango provides half your daily recommended potassium intake – the stuff responsible for healthy cell function – and it’ll give you a shot of selenium and magnesium too, both vital nutrients for fertility. It tastes great blended with coconut water, which is high in potassium, vitamin C, magnesium and electrolytes. It’s also a great drink to gulp if you are pregnant, as it’s traditionally used in tropical climes to alleviate morning sickness, plus its a diuretic so it aids that common pregnancy scourge, constipation. I’ve already waxed lyrical about the benefits of bananas here: http://brollyinababyshower.com/2014/11/17/go-bananas/ which I also love to bung in this yummy smoothie. (Side note: one thing I have discovered from my banana-buying obsession is they are GREAT for freezing, you can then chop them and add them to the smoothie maker straight from frozen). Try this delicious, tropical fertility smoothie.
1 x banana, chopped (fresh or frozen)
1 x mango, ripe, chopped
250ml coconut water
Combine the ingredients in a smoothie maker with ice and blend until smooth, adding more coconut water if necessary.
Top tip: For an extra fertility boost, add maca powder and a spoonful of coconut oil to up your health fat intake.