When Frank and I got married in 2014, we received lots and lots of advice. Some good. Some bad. Some really weird.
I found it interesting though, that while we had a few people saying “Enjoy these first years and wait to have kids…” we also had plenty of others telling us stories of friends who waited to have kids, thinking it would happen as soon as they tried, and it ended up taking way longer than expected, or never at all.
We knew pretty much from the start that we wanted to start growing our family soon after getting married, but I never thought for a second we would fall into the camp of it taking longer than expected.
Unfortunately, though, that’s where we ended up.
It took us a little over a year to conceive our first successful pregnancy, and during that time, I experienced one miscarriage after another after another. My miscarriages were all early, which some define as “chemical pregnancies”. I would get the positive test, feel all those first symptoms, then watch the test go back to negative over the course of 1-2 weeks.
That time period was one of the darkest of my life, and I remember scouring the internet for other people’s stories, hoping to hear of successes in the midst of my despair. Whenever I found them, I read them repeatedly because they really, really, REALLY helped me have hope. Which is why, in this post, I want to be the same beacon of hope. I now have a success story to share of my own.
We currently have 3 children, all of which we conceived naturally and brought into this world full-term. Of course, we are ecstatic, thinking of what we overcame to get here, but I still often think about that first year of marriage and what we learned throughout the entire process of fertility troubles. For one, how absolutely exhausting it is both physically and mentally, how I couldn’t even bare the sight of a pregnant woman, and how, for some reason, it became abundantly clear that I really despised the job I had at the time.
While I’m not going to be able to tell you the exact reason for my recurrent miscarriages (because no one knows for sure), I can tell you what led us to conceiving a successful, full-term pregnancy.
A Brief Summary of My Medical History
Before getting pregnant, I knew of a few issues – I had Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, ovarian cysts, and my periods were THE WORST. They were so heavy that I literally had to build a pad diaper, using two or three of the ultra-extreme-heavy pads, and spent the first days popping extra-strength ibuprofen which barely touched my painful cramps.
At this point, I hadn’t discovered functional medicine the way I know it now, and I was totally defeated at the “help” my doctors gave me regarding my periods and cysts. The only option I was given, even by my “holistic” doctors at the time was the birth control pill, which I’ve always been skeptical of, so I never tried it.
Bottom line, I lost all trust in doctors, and therefore went on trying to conceive without seeking any help. Honestly, I was hoping that getting pregnant would kind of reset things and it would all work itself out.
Deep down though, I knew my Hashimoto’s, ovarian cysts, and horrible periods were warning signs that things may not go as planned.
The First Miscarriage
We got pregnant on the first try. It didn’t last long.
When I hopped on Google, I read many women experience a miscarriage, so while I was upset, I was still very much in good spirits and hoped we’d conceive again within the next month or two.
But that didn’t happen, and we went about 6 or 7 months without a positive test. During those months, I grew concerned and started to do more research.
I need to re-iterate that I did NOT trust any doctors at this point, and therefore did not seek their help to investigate if there was indeed anything wrong. Besides, I assumed they would just tell me that it takes longer for some couples to conceive and to come back after a year of trying (I know people who have been told this). Or they would throw a bunch of drugs in my face to force my body into doing something it wasn’t prepared to do.
In addition, Frank and I knew we were not comfortable with the vast majority of fertility treatments, and felt that our options were limited anyways.
In hindsight, I would say this was a mistake and I should have sought help sooner, but I am really grateful for that time of personal investigation because I learned so much about supporting fertility using natural methods, which I share below.
Overcoming Recurrent Miscarriages: Helpful Natural Fertility Resources and Information
I think this is always the first step to trying to get pregnant. Obviously, it’s not easy to get pregnant if you aren’t trying at the right time during your cycle. So I learned about pinpointing when I ovulated and tracking it using various methods (I depended mostly on cervical mucus and basal body temperature). I also had severe mittelschmerz ovulation pain, which was a solid indication of pretty much the exact day I ovulated.
But this didn’t prove to be enough, because even with perfect timing, I still wasn’t getting pregnant.
The Book That Gave Me Hope for Conceiving Again
I read a lot of books during this time, and most of them were very basic, and didn’t offer much more than teaching you how to track ovulation.
Until, I landed on the book: Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program for Maximum Fertility.
This book stood out to me because it called out things about my periods and menstrual cycles that I didn’t even know were potential warning signs. For example, I would bleed for 3 days, and then it would stop for about 1-2 days, and then start again for another 2-3 days. Did you know that’s not normal? I didn’t.
It’s been a really long time since reading that book, but I’ll never forget the impact it had on me. For the first time, I realized I had more issues with my periods and menstrual cycles than just heavy bleeding and cramps. But most importantly, I finally had a doctor (via a book) give solutions to address my unique issues using simple solutions that actually made sense.
After reading it, I started to consider things like optimizing blood flow to my uterus, building a good uterine lining, changing my diet, abdominal massage, acupuncture, herbs, etc. It was a major turning point for me, and the gears in my brain started turning… I realized fertility needed to be addressed from a holistic, full-body perspective.
A Goldmine of Natural Fertility Info
After reading that book, my eyes were opened to this whole new world of possibilities. In my search for natural ways to optimize fertility, I found the goldmine of natural fertility info, which is literally called www.natural-fertility-info.com.
I am impressed with how much this website has grown since I used it, but I am not surprised as I’m sure so many other women found it helpful just like I did.
Using the Making Babies book and this website, I started to incorporate a few things into my daily routine:
- Maca Root
- Fertility Tea
- Progesterone Cream
- Abdominal Massage
And you know what? I actually started to see some promising results regarding my cycles. They got a bit lighter, less painful, and… we got pregnant!
Miscarriages #2 and #3
We got pregnant 2 times actually. One cycle after another over the course of 4-5 months. This was when I really started to think something is wrong. Clearly, at this point, I didn’t have issues getting pregnant, but given that I miscarried every time AND they were always super early made me think that something was compromised near the implantation phase of pregnancy.
I thought it could be a blood flow issue. Maybe, the fertilized egg was attaching to my uterus, but struggled from that point onward to develop and grow, due to lack of blood flow. I wanted to get tested for various blood clotting disorders, and finally decided to seek help from a functional medicine doctor because my trust towards OBGYNs was still broken.
Unfortunately, I had to wait to see my new doctor, so I decided to look into other things for now. That led me down the path of learning about the MTHFR genetic mutation (and its relation to Hashimoto’s).
MTHFR Genetic Mutation
The reason the MTHFR mutation stood out to me was its relation to recurrent pregnancy loss. You can read more about that here.
Between the Hashimoto’s, my pregnancy loss, and my synthetic-folic acid-loaded pre-natal made me feel absolutely awful, I figured I had the MTHFR mutation at least in some capacity. I switched my multivitamin and started on a few other supplements/diet changes to help.
Click here to learn more about MTHFR and pregnancy. I also recommend the book Dirty Genes.
Can autoimmune disease cause fertility problems?
In addition to my curiosity about blood clotting / blood flow issues, I also wondered if perhaps… my autoimmune issues (Hashimoto’s at the time) were playing a role in my lost pregnancies. If my own body was already attacking my thyroid via Hashimoto’s, then it wouldn’t be crazy to think that it could also view an embryo as a foreign invader and attack that as well.
The theory made sense in my brain, but the information on this subject at the time was scarce. I really could not find much, but somewhere, in the depths of my search, I found a few doctors who made the connection and treated these types of issues using steroids and other drugs with great success.
Of course, that made me feel hopeful, but deep down, I really, REALLY hoped autoimmune issues were not the root cause of my problems. It seemed like a long road to find a doctor who was knowledgeable and willing to treat them.
Even though I didn’t have this resource back then, I recently discovered a book that explains the connection between autoimmunity and fertility issues, and I want to pass it along so everyone knows about it: Is Your Body Baby Friendly? How “Unexplained” Infertility, Miscarriage and IVF Failure Can Be Explained and Treated with Immunotherapy.
(I go into more detail about this book and how helpful it was in helping me prepare for my third pregnancy in this post: Pregnancy & Autoimmune Disease: How I Prepared for a Healthy Flare-Free Pregnancy.)
So, by this point, I was ready for a doctor’s help. I had my appointment with my new functional medicine doctor and briefed him on what was going on. He immediately ran a miscarriage blood panel which tested for all sorts of blood clotting disorders and hormonal imbalances.
Everything came back normal.
He tested me for MTHFR and I tested as compound heterozygous, which isn’t the greatest scenario but also not the worst… meaning I probably didn’t need prescription strength blood thinners to get pregnant.
Of course, I was happy, but also confused because no real issues popped up.
And the same month of all this testing, I got pregnant. This time, the line was dark and strong… and I was so, so hopeful and excited that I FINALLY set up an appointment with my OBGYN.
But, by the time I got into her office, my test was back to negative.
I sat in tears, telling her my woes from the past months, and the first thing she asked me was… “Why didn’t you come to me sooner?”
Good question. Lesson learned. If I had gone to her sooner, I would’ve probably saved myself the heartache of so many losses because I don’t think my issues had anything to do with autoimmunity, blood clotting, or even hormone imbalances. My issues were likely something no drug or supplement could fix.
Given that all my blood tests came back normal, she immediately jumped to considering physical abnormalities. She quickly booked me for a saline sonogram and HSG test to check for uterine abnormalities (polyps, fibroids, etc.) and any type of blockages.
And boom. There they were. Clear as day. Uterine polyps.
She didn’t spend any time speculating if these were the cause. Instead, she scheduled me for a hysteroscopy and D&C and I was rolled into the operating room within a few weeks. She removed multiple polyps and gave my uterus a “clean slate”, commenting on how the polyps were conveniently located near areas the fertilized eggs would probably implant in my uterus.
We waited one full menstrual cycle and eagerly awaited the next so we could try to get pregnant again.
What We Did to Get Pregnant and Carry Full-Term
Since we didn’t know for sure if the polyps were actually the cause, my OBGYN also gave me progesterone suppositories to start the day after I ovulated (I find that many doctors recommend different starting points for using progesterone, so I wanted to make note of this) and instructed me to take a daily baby aspirin (I used this kind from Walgreens because it is dye-free).
My protocol going into that next month looked like this:
- MTFHR-friendly prenatal: I used the Seeking Health prenatal powder (this made me feel sick during the first trimester but I gulped it down anyways) and a few other supplements like fish oil, probiotics, Vitamin D/K, and magnesium.
- Thyroid medication for my Hashimoto’s: My functional medicine doctor switched me from Armour to Westhroid Pure. A great decision.
- Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) – a medication I was already on for a couple years prior to conceiving to help modulate my immune system. LDN’s potential as treatment for a variety of chronic diseases, including autoimmune issues and infertility, is growing. You can learn more about it on this website, the LDN Research Trust website or by reading The LDN Book. Dr. Phil Boyle has treated infertility and other women’s health issues using LDN for years. You can learn more about his experience here.
- Daily dye-free baby aspirin
- Progesterone suppositories from a local pharmacy starting the day after ovulation
- Gluten-free and dairy-free diet (no cheating)
- Acupuncture every week (the Making Babies book convinced me to try this). I was also able to find an acupuncturist who specializes in infertility.
- Chiropractic adjustments every week
- 2-3 cups of this preconception/fertility tea daily
- No caffeine, no alcohol
- Lots of rest, relaxation, and an optimized sleep schedule to ensure I was getting at least 8 hours a day.
- Said this 9-day novena to St. Therese of Lisieux. I make sure I always include prayer in my protocols because PRAYER WORKS! And some day, I will share my story of St. Therese’s “shower of roses” I received the week of my first positive test, indicating that she did indeed intercede for us and God had answered our prayers.
Then came the dreaded two-week wait. We waited and waited, and decided to cut it short by testing on 9 days past ovulation and saw the faintest of faint lines… you ever did see. So faint, that I took the test with me to work, so I could look at it all day to convince myself there was a line.
Got home, took another test, and it got darker.
Then the next day – even darker! I was pregnant!
And, we went on to have a healthy full-term, totally uneventful pregnancy. Well, for the most part. I did have some spotting at around 9 weeks, but an ultrasound confirmed everything was okay.
I continued the progesterone suppositories all the way until week 12, and continued everything else for the duration of the pregnancy. We had our daughter on her due date after a 36-hour labor (SO LONG, but not as long as my 42 hour labor for our third baby).
Conceiving Baby #2
One year later… without even trying, we caught the first egg/ovulation and got pregnant before I even had a period (I was nursing) and went on to have another uneventful full-term pregnancy. This time, I did not use baby aspirin and progesterone because I was pretty confident my issues at the beginning were related to the polyps. I also weaned myself off my Low Dose Naltrexone prior to getting pregnant because I was confident my diet and lifestyle were enough to modulate my immune system.
My post-partum experience with my second, though, was vastly different from the first, resulting in multiple autoimmune issues and symptoms. I talk more about that in this post.
When it came time to conceiving our third, I was concerned these autoimmune issues may cause problems, so I did a few things to prepare for the pregnancy to make sure those issues didn’t cause another round of pregnancy losses. You can read more about that in this post.
The Other Struggle
I would say the only thing missing from this post is the intense struggle Frank and I both experienced with our faith in God. It is a post for another time, but I want to mention the one prayer that made it a little easier…
When we started trying, I was continuously asking God to give us a baby. When it didn’t happen, I found myself angry with God and also very confused. I was doing what the Bible told me to do in Matthew 7:7 when it says “Ask, and it will be given to you…”, right?
Over time, though, I began to question if children were in our future at all, and instead of blaming God, I decided to surrender it to Him. The heartache of many pregnancies lost was so much to bear, and I just couldn’t see ourselves putting ourselves through this pain on a continuous basis without knowing if it was what God wanted us to do.
That’s when I changed my prayer from “Dear God, please give us a baby.” to…
“Dear God, please help our wants and desires to align with YOUR will for us.”
I had to come to grips with the reality that perhaps, God had other plans for us. Perhaps we weren’t being called to become parents to our own biological children. I even remember saying “God, if this isn’t your will for us, please let us know (quickly) so we can shift our focus to finding whatever it is you want us to do!”
All I can say is that once I started saying that prayer, an unexplainable peace washed over me. I surrendered it to Him, knowing that if children were indeed His will for us, then we would conceive (or adopt down the road), and if they weren’t, then He would let us know because we were open to whatever other plans He had for us.
As I continued to say this prayer, there were NO signs indicating for us to stop trying. Quite the opposite… it seemed that once I started saying this prayer, more “coincidental” things start to pop up, only encouraging us to continue our search for answers.
So, through His encouragement, we never quit, and are eternally grateful not just for the gifts of our 3 children (so far), but also what we learned along the way.
LIKE THIS POST? SHARE IT AND SAVE IT TO YOUR FAVORITE PINTEREST BOARD!
Hi! I’m Anna, co-founder of Healthy Habits Reset. After managing my own autoimmune diseases using lifestyle, habit, and mindset changes, I now work to teach others how to navigate the treacherous and confusing journey of chronic illness living. I firmly believe YOU hold the power to question, think critically, and become your own rock-solid advocate in a world full of unhealthy habits, so you can find the healing you deserve.