Egg Boot Camp (noun): a self-described program I have decided to follow with the help of my RE and my acupuncturist to try to give me the best possible shot at a kickass cycle this spring, using my own eggs.
I am terrified, because I haven't used my own eggs since April 2012. Which, by the time we get going here, will be two years ago. A lot can happen in two years. I've been pretty good to myself and have continued with the organic foods/no plastics/minimal microwaving and if you do you do it in glass or ceramic/limited chemicals in my cleaning supplies etc/low mercury fish consumption, particularly tuna (Wild Planet is awesome but at like $4.00 or so a can it is PRICE, as is anything truly good for you and not full of chemicals). I am the Chemical Police when it comes to my body. While on our break I did drink my fair share of wine, but um, GRAPES so I'm not so worried. All that reservatol and antioxidant stuff had to do something good, right? Given that this is our Final Fertility Frontier, I would like to do everything possible to ensure that I have prepped those eggs within an inch of their lives. Our last cycle with my eggs (under our current, new-yet-classic RE) was pretty darn impressive with 26 retrieved and a fair number of them mature, and more embryos than the donor cycle (and a pregnancy, albeit short-lived), but that was again--TWO YEARS AGO. So, off to Egg Boot Camp I go. I was told that even though your eggs have been in your body since you were but a wee fetus yourself, the egg recruitment process starts 87 days before retrieval. Yup, 87, not 90, which seems random and arbitrary but I guess no more so than 90 (90's just such a nice even number). So, the goal is to start this all three months before give or take, and see where it lands us.
Egg Boot Camp consists of:
1) LIFESTYLE CHANGES, CONSUMPTION: A couple of things. Originally my plan was to start Egg Boot Camp immediately following New Year's and completely eliminate coffee and booze. That was, um, a little too stringent to be followed with fidelity. I significantly cut back on everything, and now that it's February I am 98% free on all those things. An occasional small glass of wine is not going to hurt anything. Plus, it was stupid to try to go "cold turkey" when Friday night margaritas and sharing a bottle of wine has been such a big part of our entertainment and experience as a couple, and I have grown fond of having coffee in the morning. Most doctors say "restrict" not "eliminate" (until stimming), so I feel pretty good about where I am. So, goodbye coffee and booze. And for those of you who are curious, the booze is for egg quality concerns, and the coffee is for uterine receptiveness (it restricts the bloodflow to the uterus and there is that mystery article someone read that I cannot find that said there is a compound in the coffee bean itself that can be less than beneficial for implantation. I don't care that I can't find it, I want the best chance possible so adios, cup o' joe.). This is frustrating given the people who drink coffee all the time and into their pregnancies without any ill effects, but they are not infertile and I am, so I guess the rules are different. Pffft. Oh, and on the dairy front. I struggle so much with the dairy and the sugar. I am willing to limit both but not totally eliminate. I am going to try almond milk in my GF granola in the morning and see if I can do it. I may try to eliminate most of it during stimming, but being a celiac person who is GF to begin with, going dairy free is just painful. And Western medicine favors full-fat organic dairy as a fertility enhancer, so it is hard to tell which way to go. Sugar is just everywhere. I have reduced my sugar intake, and will continue to do so, but complete elimination is just crazypants to me. Again, what about the sugar-swilling people out there who get and stay pregnant no problem? So unfair that the rules are different once your body betrays you. Grrrr.
2) LIFESTYLE CHANGES, OPERATION HEALTHY BODY: It is no mystery that infertility and weight gain go hand in hand. Which is infuriating, given the many, many voices out there saying that a healthy weight helps you to conceive and leads to healthier pregnancies. On average I gain about 8 pounds per cycle. More when I am stimming, but really it is the dreaded PIO that packs on the pounds. That and the restrictions on movement that come with cycles. I used to be able to lose most of that 8 pounds before my next go-round, but between the compounding effects of so much infertility treatment and the food-therapy that I may have indulged in and the outright depression that so much loss and frustration can cause, that has not been the case for a while now. I started this journey at around 155 pounds, veritable twigginess for me (I swear I carry 20 pounds in my bra, and at my THINNEST as an adult I weighed 146 and looked incredibly silly and topheavy). My sweet spot is between 160-165. I haven't seen 160-something in years, and in December I hit an all-time high of 180-something. Although I am a size 12 and 5'6", which is definitely NOT obese, the stupid BMI chart labeled me at the low end of obese. I was squeezing into my 12s and refusing to buy 14s. I realized the food and booze holiday was over. I wasn't really exercising, either. And I was feeling unhappy with my body, bigtime. Therefore, part of Egg Boot Camp is to get my body in a better place so that when I DO start stimming, I am not at another all-time high. I never want to see 180-something again unless there is baby inside of me. I am not dieting, because to me a diet means deprivation and stupid chemically fake food, and changes that are not sustainable. Instead, I am trying to just limit my portion sizes and eat more veggies and fruits. More fiber, less crap (organic potato chips are still potato chips...). I believe in treats, but if you have treats all the time, they're not treats so much anymore, are they? Also, I am doing yoga/pilates/fusion DVDs. I used to belong to the gym but because I kept having to stop going because of cycles I quit. Too expensive to not go. In addition to restrictions, it is just too hard to fit the gym and school and all the fertility-related appointments (medical! counseling! acupuncture! massage!) into my schedule. DVDs I can do on my own time and I have ones that range from 15 minutes to an hour. I feel better about myself, I can work on those "birthing legs" and my core strength (I have rock hard abs under my PCOS-and-GF cupcake flubbity flub), and I can increase my muscle mass gently with minimal impact on my knees. It is relaxing. It helps me burn fat all the time. Many of my tapes I could do even when stimming, at the beginning at least. I feel better. And I've lost 7 pounds since December. Go me. 7 more would be lovely, or even 10, but I know I'm running out of time. Realistic goals, people. Realistic goals. I just want my pants to fit and to not feel like the Michelin Man under my sweaters.
3) EGG-BOOSTING SUPPLEMENTS: I am currently taking two different thingamajigs to help my egg quality. There are two more to add in before I start stimming.
Supplement #1: Prenatal + CoQ10. I have a fancy new prenatal, Ova-vite. It comes in a 3-month supply box to my house in the mail. It seemed pricey at first at $115, but divided by 3 that's about $35, which considering it's a prenatal PLUS 250mg of CoQ10, is cheaper than what I was paying before for my other prenatal and Wegmans CoQ10 per month. Plus I cannot forget to buy it because IT COMES TO MY HOUSE. The website is here if you are interested in more information. I try not to cringe at the tagline that it is a prenatal designed for women over 35 trying to conceive, because I keep calling them my "old lady prenatals," but really it's awesome that they have created a prenatal that provides egg-quality-boosting stuff. Here is what it looks like:
|Front view, this is a week's worth. The white is the prenatal, the orange is the CoQ10.|
|The oh-so-convenient back--DATES ON MY PRENATALS! I have yet to forget a day.|
Supplement #2: Pregnitude. My doctor recommended Myo-Inositol as an alternative to metformin. I do not have insulin resistance, so no doctor that I have seen has recommended metformin. I have heard interesting things about negative side effects of metformin, so I have not minded. BUT, not gonna lie, after so many years of no success, I wonder. So, Dr. Fabulous recommended Myo-Inistol, which apparently does similar things to the body for PCOS people as metformin but without nastiness on the side. Plus it's not pharmaceutical, which makes me feel better. Here is information on Pregnitude (the easiest way I found to get myo-inositol for this purpose) from the PCOS Diva: PCOS Diva Pregnitude Post. Supposedly it can help regulate your cycle and reduce things like the annoying extra hair I have on my face and other areas that keep both my waxer and my razors in business. I've been on it for a couple of weeks and haven't yet noticed a huge difference, except (and apologies for some major TMI but other PCOSers will get this) that my annoying nippy hair, those scary black jobbies that I have to tweeze all the time, IS GONE. I tweezed a few weeks ago, maybe a day or two into the Pregnitude, and THEY NEVER CAME BACK. I could not be happier. This makes me think maybe something good is happening on the inside of my body. The dissolving of the Pregnitude is disturbing, but it truly does not taste like anything. It's just like drinking water. Here are some pictures for your visual pleasure:
|Put it in and stir. You can see some powder|
at the bottom, but if you stir a second time
it goes away. And really, truly, it does not
taste like ANYTHING.
|The little packet. Gotta love the infertile kitchen counter.|
All of this stuff adds to my morning routine, but it's all good. Get those golden eggies ready.
Supplement #3: Fish Oil. I haven't started this yet. Mostly because it's expensive, and I was waiting to see my acupuncturist. SO, apparently there is more research on fish oil lately and how to pick the best ones that offer more benefits than neurotoxins. (!) I had been taking Nordic Naturals, but I may switch to something else after reading this article from my acupuncturist: The Definitive Fish Oil Buyer's Guide. I thought it was VERY INTERESTING. Fish oil was recommended for two reasons: 1) increase in blood flow (I don't really have anything to substantiate this) and 2) anti-inflammatory properties. So, fish oil is recommended for building a good healthy lining and possibly encouraging implantation receptivity. I have to say that I have done lining checks on fish oil and not on fish oil and I do see a thicker lining with the fish oil. Totally anecdotal, but it also has heart benefits and I can't sneeze at that, either. The krill oil thing is interesting, too--never heard of that but it sounds intriguing.
Supplement #4: Wheatgrass Shots. My most successful cycle in terms of egg quality and output involved wheatgrass shots daily during stimming. I have no scientific data to support this handy, but I felt it worked and it is so healthy for you anyway. I plan to do the same this time around.
4) ACUPUNCTURE: There is more and more research out there on the benefits of combining acupuncture with IVF cycles. Fertility-specialized acupuncture. I had dropped it from my personal protocols because I was frustrated I had spent so much money and had little to show for it, and it was stressing me out, which is the opposite of what acupuncture should do. However, for this Final Frontier, I am throwing ALL I GOT at this pair of cycles (hopefully only one wildly successful cycle). I also was encouraged that CCRM has on-site acupuncturists and recommends acupuncture before and after transfer. I have gone once already since I am trying to get my lining up with the estrogen and everything for my beta-3 integrin test, and I just love my acupuncturist. I did feel relaxed. If that is all it does for me, then great. If it happens to do anything for my egg quality and lining thickness, then bonus. But I can't ignore the research.
5) RELAXATION STATION: Included in most of the previous is a heavy interest in relaxation. While stress doesn't cause infertility, infertility causes stress, and a stressed body is just not at 100% for any function. So, I am committed to trying to reduce it. Through exercise, through blogging, through my fabulous therapist, through the power of NO, through acupuncture, through massage (NOT fertility related, because that proved to NOT be relaxing at all for me, but at a spa-like setting separate from fertility so that I can truly escape), through scheduling me-time. I am not exactly doing this at an ideal time for school stress--the spring is IEP time and so my workload goes insane. However, I give myself permission to do what I can and not worry too much about the rest. I give myself permission to bow out of things during this time if I need to. I give myself permission to let go of my infamous need for The Plan and just let things happen. That's the hardest one. I need dates and schedules (I'm not a special ed teacher for nothing), but trying to plan the unplannable leads to nothing but stress. Control what you can, let go of what you can't. (If I say this enough maybe I will actually believe it!)
There it is. Egg Boot Camp, courtesy of Jess (and Dr. Fabulous and Awesome Acupuncturist and Terrific Therapist). I think it's a good plan. I think it's flexible enough that it won't drive me off the deep end. I think I can stick to it and do the best I can to have the best cycle possible, recognizing that so much of this is truly a mystery and beyond my control. If nothing else, this plan will leave me believing that I DID EVERYTHING I COULD to influence my outcomes. And if we are unsuccessful after all this, then it truly wasn't going to happen. I am at peace with that. Sad at the possibility, don't get me wrong, but peace and happiness are two separate things. The happiness will come later, when we make this parenting thing work for us, just maybe not how we hoped or envisioned originally. Plans change, and maybe our baby is just waiting for us in a place and time we didn't expect. In the meantime, Egg Boot Camp. Because this is the end, in search of a beginning.
PS- If you have research-y things to add about any of these options, please feel free to share in the comments!