… besides the obvious.
My husband and I tried for almost 3 years to get pregnant, and I’ve been off of hormonal birth control for 5 years. After trying for a year or so, I saw an infertility specialist who diagnosed me with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This helped to explain some of my strange symptoms:
- Infrequent and random periods
- Ovarian pain
- Small ovarian cysts that showed up on kidney scans over the years
- High cholesterol despite an almost cholesterol-free vegan diet
- Imbalanced and constantly fluctuating hormone levels
I started going in for regular blood work which showed that my hormone levels — specifically estrogen and testosterone — were fluctuating randomly from somewhat-abnormal to extremely-abnormal levels. My doctor recommended lots of medications and was very skeptical about natural treatment. He told me that natural conception was very unlikely (<1%) and instead gave me prescriptions for metformin, clomid, etc.
I decided to try other things first, and after lots of dietary experiments and patience I was able to get pregnant without the assistance of drugs. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have a lot of help, however. I’ve outlined what I consider to be some of the most beneficial treatments below.
I’ve always been a bad vegan. I eat only plant-based foods, but I didn’t pay attention to what I was eating and I never took a vitamin. When I got serious about fertility, I started taking a prenatal, vitex (an herb that helps regulate hormones), cinnamon capsules (to help regulate blood sugar — something PCOS affects) and a B-complex (read a great blog about infertility and B-12 here). I also ate lots of maca powder (helps with ovulation) in my smoothies.
I don’t know if these supplements helped or not. But it was a daily way for me to feel proactive about my infertility. My bloodwork showed positive changes to the supplements, with great B-12 levels and lowered testosterone!
Juice Fasting/Raw Vegan Diet
In November of 2012 I started my first 30-day juice fast. The next spring I did another. After both of these, I transitioned to a raw vegan diet. While this diet may seem restrictive, I actually found it exciting as it tested my creativity in the kitchen. I also felt AMAZING. The first few days of the juice fast were tough, but after that I actually found myself dreading the end. I liked the simplicity of juicing and I loved the way it made my body feel. I had so much energy and my hair and skin looked great.
Obviously juicing isn’t sustainable forever, so after each fast I transitioned to a raw vegan diet. Doug Graham’s book, “The 80/10/10 Diet” explains the idea quite well and I recommend it to vegan and non-vegans alike. I was eating large amount of fruit and vegetables, with healthy fats and proteins (avocados and nuts). Again, this made me feel energized and healthy — although keeping this much produce around can be a lot of work.
Even now, I still eat “raw” until about 4pm, aiming for mostly raw fruits, veggies, and nuts throughout the day and one healthy cooked meal at night. This has been a very realistic way to continue to reap the benefits of juicing/raw diet while also allowing me to enjoy eating out with my family or having some of the cooked foods my acupuncturist recommended.
In the summer of 2013 I began seeing an acupuncturist and naturopath. She was supportive of my raw vegan diet but also recommended, after her evaluations, that I incorporate some cooked foods into my diet. I was hesitant but agreed to try it.
I think her recommendations helped. I started very small and still ate 80-90% raw food. And everything was still vegan of course. I added in baked sweet potatoes (sprinkled with pepitas and nutritional yeast), roasted butternut squash (with cracked black pepper), and steamed kale. Between these additions and her acupuncture treatments something must’ve been working. I found out I was pregnant immediately before my last session with her!
I wrote about this back in June. I stopped taking my prescription for adderall — despite the fact that my infertility and general practitioner both told me I could stay on adderall during pregnancy and breastfeeding because I was on such a low dosage. Um… no. While there technically haven’t been any studies to show that stimulants are harmful in humans, animal studies haven’t had good results. That isn’t a risk I’m willing to take and I’m a little disappointed in myself that I listened to my doctor for so long. Not to mention a little disappointed with my doctors for suggesting such a silly thing.
I’m due on May 6th and I’ve had a pleasant, easy pregnancy. (Early on there was some placenta previa, but that cleared up). I’m continuing to eat raw for most of the day and limiting the amount of grains that I eat around dinner time. We are so excited to welcome our little bundle of joy soon!