Wednesday, April 12, 2017

My PCOS Infertility Resume

Anytime infertility comes up in conversation, it can often turn to questions of "what have you done, what have you tried, and what has worked?" As someone who spent hours upon hours googling "how to get pregnant with PCOS," I scoured blogs, medical journals, and websites devoted to fertility in hopes to discover my cure. And while of course it isn't that straight forward, I do think that more examples out there, the better. So here is my resume of exact treatments and medications that we went through from the first cycle until our miracle cycle.

Started out by getting treated at my OBGN.

Round #1 - January 2016
50mg Clomid and timed (scheduled) intercourse
Result: Took a blood test which confirmed that I did not ovulate. No pregnancy.

Round #2 - March 2016
100mg Clomid and timed intercourse
Result: Took a blood test which confirmed that I did not ovulate. I did go to the ER during this cycle due to intense ovary pressure. The ultrasound confirmed I had a few follicles maturing. So my body did respond to the Clomid somewhat, but not enough to ovulate. No pregnancy.

We then transferred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (AKA a Fertility Clinic). Before beginning treatment

Round #3 - July 2016
Femara (forgot dosage, but it's an oral medication similar to Clomid) and Ovidrel (a trigger shot to induce ovulation). Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) and timed intercourse. Also needed estradiol to thicken my uterine lining. Took progesterone after the IUI until my pregnancy test.
Result: A follicle did develop to maturity, but no pregnancy.

Round #4 - August 2016
Femara (a doubled dose from last time), Follistim injections to assist in follicle maturation, and Ovidrel. Needed estradiol again, and also took progesterone per protocol. IUI and timed intercourse.
Result: At first, a bunch of follicles started to grow with no sign of one or two leading the pack, concerning my Dr that we would have to cancel the cycle. Had to start the Femara and Follistim regimen all over, which resulted in one mature follicle before we did Ovidrel. No pregnancy.

Round #5 - September-October 2016
Femara, Follistim injections, one Menopur injection (a fluke because I needed one more Follistim shot but both the clinic and I were out, and the only comparable injection they had was Menopur), and Ovidrel. IUI and timed intercourse. Followed progesterone protocol.
Result: Two mature follicles and a singleton pregnancy! This cycle was slow and steady, so it was a long cycle of slowly increasing my daily dose of Follistim. I was at the clinic for ultrasounds and blood draws every day to every other day for 3 weeks straight! But well worth it for our little miracle.

Please feel free to ask any questions! I am not a medical professional by any means but have done a decent amount of research on fertility and PCOS. Also please share your own success stories down below. My hope is that my experience can be one of many for women to reference when delving into the infertility world.

Love and Blessings,

Annmarie

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Pregnancy After Infertility

I never thought I'd write this post. Firstly, because I never thought that I'd become pregnant. And secondly, because I didn't realise how different a pregnancy after infertility is than a typical pregnancy.

While on our final round of fertility treatment, Brad and I had both resigned to the fact that we would not have biological children. Brad has later told me that he was already prepared to "do damage control" after this cycle failed (cue the water works). I had a big pile of paperwork that a caseworker had sent us to start the foster-to-adopt process. I had even started a foster care registry to prep for a foster baby, as I knew how fast that process could go once it started.

Little did I know that God had other plans and that this final round would work.

The morning that I decided to test, I was so sure that it would be negative. I didn't tell Brad that I was testing. I took the test, set it on the bathroom counter, and went back to bed instead of waiting for the results. That's how positive I was that it would be another negative.

When I woke up about an hour later, I glanced at the test. I couldn't believe what I saw. Rubbing my eyes, I look again and saw it: two lines! Since it was kind of early, the second line was very light. I posted a picture of the test to one of my online infertility groups, asking them if there really was a second line there. I also texted a photo to one of my best friends to get her opinion. After being advised to get another test, I drove to Wal-Mart. After taking two more tests, both having two lines, I fell to my knees and started bawling. I prayed and prayed, thanking God.

I told Brad that evening when he got home from work, and we both held each other and cried tears of joy. We were going to be parents!

But the joy was short-lived. For me, when everything regarding your reproductive system has not gone to plan, you start to believe that there is no way that this could work out. Miscarriage statistics run through your mind. Instead of being excited and relieved for being pregnant, I was terrified. I had already accepted that I would not have biological children and was excited for growing our family another way. And of course I was excited that I was pregnant, but I was also riddled with fear that it was too good to be true. Plus my diagnosis of PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) raised my miscarriage risk more than the average women, which did not help ease my mind.

I took pregnancy tests every day to make sure that the second line was getting darker (a sign that the pregnancy hormones are rising). When my first blood test confirmed pregnancy, I was overjoyed for a moment. Then I realised that the second test would show if the levels were rising and immediately got immense anxiety.

The second test confirmed that the levels were rising appropriately. I was relieved, but also nervous because my clinic does three blood tests and I knew I had another one to "pass." I spent hours googling the odds of miscarriage by day of pregnancy, what normal blood test levels were, and ways to reduce the chance of miscarriage.

The third blood test also showed that my levels were rising as they should. Our first ultrasound was scheduled for 6 weeks pregnant. In the infertility world, I had heard many stories of women becoming pregnant and the first ultrasound revealing a not viable pregnancy. As excited as I was, I was still convinced that this was too good to be true.

As I had done many times before, I lay on the table at the fertility clinic awaiting the Dr. Brad and I were excited and nervous to get our first glimpse of the baby (who we started referring to as "Squishy.") When the Dr. and nurse came in and began the ultrasound, my heart raced. Until I saw the flickering dot on the screen. The nurse told us that that was our baby and that it already had a heartbeat. I was so happy, excited, and relieved. We heard the heartbeat and I started crying.

Squishy's first photo! Our 6 week ultrasound, which our Dr explained as "the most expansive ring we would buy."

I was so happy for that day. Then I realised I had another week until the clinic did another ultrasound. Another week not knowing if Squishy was ok or not. Another week for something to go wrong.

I was so sure that once I become pregnant, all the difficult emotions that came with fertility struggles would disappear. And I thought that after seeing the baby on the ultrasound, it would be happiness from there on out. But I realised that pregnancy after infertility was so much more complex than that.

7 week ultrasound
8 week ultrasound from the day we graduated from the fertility clinic

We saw Squishy again at the 7 week ultrasound looking great. And again at the 8 week ultrasound. We then officially "graduated" from the fertility clinic. I was offically taken off of the medication progesterone (a medication that is said to prevent miscarriage in the beginning of pregnancy, and a common practice at fertility clinics). While it would seem that I would finally feel relief, I didn't. I knew the monitoring from there on our would be less frequent. which made me nervous. I was still in the first trimester, which most people know as the most vulnerable time for a baby in utero.

A few weeks later I started bleeding. It was very light, but I was terrified and feared for the worst. I had not met with my OBGYN yet but was discharged from the fertility clinic, so I was unsure who to contact. I called both offices, who both told me that this was very normal and not to worry unless the bleeding got heavy or I started cramping. The OBGYN scheduled me for an ultrasound the following week. That was the longest week. While I didn't bleed after the initial incident, I was terrified that our baby wasn't alive anymore.

Thankfully, the ultrasound showed that the baby was healthy and at a perfect size. I had a sigh of relief. And while I was still very nervous, morning sickness had set in, which was a welcome sign that I was still pregnant.

The ultrasound after the bleeding scare...baby still thriving!

Once I hit the second trimester, I felt a momentary lift from the worry. I knew that the risks of miscarriage were much lower now. But again, as someone who needed so many different medications and interventions to even become pregnant, I was not sure of my body's ability to carry a pregnancy to term. The two things that gave me some relief was prayer, and the idea that at least I was pregnant for that day. If I focused on that, my mind was eased some.

I am now 23 weeks pregnant. And every day that I feel the baby, I feel so immensely blessed. I don't write this to complain because I know that I am so extremely lucky to be pregnant. Being in the infertility world for so long, I still have many friends hoping and praying to see two lines on their tests. I never want to seem ungrateful or like a complainer, because I am not. This pregnancy was so wanted, so worked for, and is so loved. Shoot, I cried tears of joy the first few times I threw up from morning sickness!

I thought that by writing this, I could share that pregnancy after infertility is an awkward spot. I feel like I still have one foot in the infertility world and another foot in the fertile world. My friendships with many of my friends who face infertility and are not pregnant yet are somewhat strained (which I totally understand, it's hard to have close relationships with pregnant people when you are having a hard time getting and staying pregnant). Yet I still don't feel like I fully relate to those who got pregnant "the old fashioned way." And if infertility alone is rarely talked about, pregnancy after infertility is addressed even less.

So my fellow "pregnant after infertility warriors", your feelings are valid. It is okay to not feel 100% excited or happy all of the time. Appreciate your blessing, but allow yourself to feel how you feel. Surround yourself with a great support system. And fall into God's arms throughout it all.

Love and Blessings,

Annmarie

Friday, July 15, 2016

I am 1 in 10-Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)


Today, I am going to do an overview of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. I want to share my experience with it, as well as educate people on this seemingly invisible disorder.

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) is one of the most common hormonal disorders in women of child bearing age. 1 in 10 women have PCOS, yet more than 50% are not diagnosed. This is due to there not being a single "test" to diagnose it, but rather a list of criteria that must be met.

If a women has at least two out of the three following criteria, she is diagnosed with PCOS:

1. 12 or more follicles (cysts) are visible on at least one ovary.
2. There are high levels of androgens (male hormones), and/or symptoms suggesting excess androgens (excess body hair growth, acne, weight gain, etc).
3. Menstrual dysfunction, including lack of periods, irregular periods, and/or lack of ovulation.

Some common symptoms that people with PCOS may have are obesity, anxiety, depression, insomnia, male pattern baldness, insulin resistance, dandruff, acne, fatigue, infertility, unwanted facial/body hair, miscarriage, excess sweating, irregular periods, memory loss and aggressive mood swings. As you can see, there are many layers to this syndrome, all of which are difficult for any woman to face.

As for me, I was only talked to about PCOS when I went to my OBYN at age 22 (despite having multiple symptoms for years and discussing them with prior doctors.) Even this OBGYN was very misinformed about it. After being off of birth control pills for months, I had only had my period once. After that period, it had been over 100 days when I finally went to see my OBGYN. She talked about PCOS being a possibility and ordered an ultrasound. She didn't see too many follicles/cysts and wrote off PCOS for me.

My OBGYN prescribed me Clomid, an oral medical to assist in ovulation. I also had to use medication to induce a period as I was not getting them naturally. After a few rounds of Clomid being unsuccessful with making me ovulate or conceive, I went to a fertility specialist. He diagnosed me with PCOS. During an ultrasound, he saw over 100 small follicles on each of my ovaries. He also noted that I exhibited a lot of the symptoms of excess androgens (acne, facial hair, weight gain, ugh). Add in my irregular cycles and I am basically textbook PCOS.

There are definitely some myths related to PCOS that I would like to address:

Myth: You must have ovarian cysts/excess follicles to be diagnosed with PCOS. 
Fact: Actually, you don't have to have any cysts to be diagnosed with PCOS. The ultrasound that I had done with my OBGYN showed no abnormal amount cysts at that time (probably due to the years on birth control quieting my ovaries a bit). Yet I still exhibited 2 out of the 3 criteria required to be diagnosed.

Myth: You cannot get pregnant with PCOS. 
Fact: It is possible to get pregnant with PCOS. And some women can conceive naturally without any medical intervention. Yet others will need medical intervention. For the average women with PCOS, my fertility specialist said it isn't so much if they can get pregnant, but how.

Myth: PCOS can be cured with hormonal birth control. 
Fact: Hormonal birth control can help mask the symptoms, but it does not cure the syndrome. I was on birth control for years, thinking that my cycle had regulated and my acne had improved. Yet once I got off of it, my symptoms returned. It can be a great tool to help manage symptoms until you try to conceive though.

My goal is to try and get some information out there about a disorder that is so rarely talked about, yet is so prevalent among women of child bearing age. As I said earlier, 1 in 10 women in that age range have PCOS, yet it's thought that over 50% are undiagnosed. If you feel like you may have PCOS, please consult with a medical professional. I wish I had known earlier and could have better prepared for what I would face when trying to conceive, as well as understand why my body was doing the things that it was.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out through comments or email.

Love and Blessings,

Annmarie Faye




Sunday, July 10, 2016

Love, Marriage, Infertility?



Hi, my name is Annmarie. I'm 23 years old, married to an amazing man, and we are having problems with infertility.

Without suffering with infertility, one can never grasp how painful and scary it is to just type the sentence above. As someone who is very open and honest about their life, I was not prepared for the shame, fear, and isolation that comes from finding out that you can't just "go and get pregnant."

When I started dating Brad and things were getting serious, I pictured my life with him. We planned on getting married, waiting a few years for me to graduate college and get some work experience, and then we would have children. This plan seemed reasonable, and while I definitely started to get "baby fever" earlier than I had hoped, we still followed our original game plan. We were doing things the right way. First comes love, then marriage, then the baby carriage, right? And although I was prepared for it to take us a few months, I was not prepared for what was actually in store for us.

Instead of everything going in accordance to my precise planning, I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). This is an endocrine disorder that causes my estrogen and progesterone to be out of balance. It's a very complicated disorder, leading to a plethora of symptoms. One of these symptoms is not being able to ovulate regularly, if at all. This makes it almost impossible to get pregnant naturally.

My heart broke when I learned that my dream of being a mother is not going to happen the way that I had always planned. Instead of designing our nursery and shopping for cribs, I started the journey of researching what might increase our odds of conceiving. I tried prayers, holistic approaches, acupuncture, oral medication, mindfulness, and stress reduction. I watched many loved ones announce their own pregnancies. Baby pictures and baby commercials seemed to be everywhere while I tried to implement another intervention to increase our odds.

Studies show that women with infertility have the same levels of anxiety and depression as do women with cancer, heart disease, and a HIV+ status, and I can see why. When you yearn for something so badly, but have very little control on if and when it happens, it can drive you into a dark place. The pain, tears, worry, and anger can easily envelop you. The multitude of Dr's appointments and medications, including their side effects, can make your head spin.

The few things that have given me inklings of hope were my prayers to God, and discovering other couples who are going through this as well. It is estimated that at least 1 in 10 couples face infertility, yet it seems that very few of them ever "come out of the infertility closet." And for awhile, I didn't want to either. I talked to a few close friends, as well as coworkers to explain my increasing absences for appointments, but have otherwise buried it with shame. Yet almost every time I did open up to someone about our fertility struggles, that person would share that they or someone they knew dealt with infertility.

So after many prayers, I am coming forward with our fertility journey for a few reasons.

1) I want to increase the amount of prayer warriors lifting their hearts for us and our journey to grow our family. I'm asking for prayers that we conceive, prayers of wisdom and discernment as to what steps to take medically, and prayers for guidance as to when to change course in our journey to grow our family.

2) I need to free myself from the shame and lies. So many times I've felt that I had to make up why I am going to the Dr. so much, why I have hot flashes and nausea from medications, and why Brad and I don't have any children yet. I am physically and emotionally exhausted and ready to tell people the authentic truth.

3) I want escape the isolation of this journey and hopefully connect with others going through this as well.

I am not sure how much of our journey I will share, or in how much detail. But I do know that I am sick and tired of hiding one of the hardest journeys that Brad and I have ever faced. Yes, we are currently using fertility medication and other interventions in hopes to expand our family. No, this is not at all how I pictured my life would be. But one way or another, Brad and I will be parents. We just will need some help to do so. And there is no reason to feel shame or guilt because of that.

I send all of my love to anyone wrestling with the grief of infertility. You are not alone. And never hesitate to reach out to me.

Love and Blessings,

Annmarie Faye

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Natural Living and Jesus: My 2015 Resolutions

This is a post I have yearned and dreaded to write at the same time. 

I LOVE the idea of New Years resolutions. Or resolutions of any kind. Making a decision to actively work towards a personal goal is such a proactive way to become the best YOU that you want to be. So in theory, resolutions inspire me greatly. 

At the same time, I've made many New Years resolutions that were forgotten by the beginning of February. Usually they were broad, such as "Be Healthiest Me I've EVER Been." Or they were unrealistic, such as "Read the entire bible 37 times this year." These have set me up for disappointment and failure. 

So this year, I have two resolutions:

1) Read the bible every day. 
For me, this might mean that some nights I read a chapter or two, and some nights I might only read a verse or two. But to get into the bible every day helps me mentally and spiritually. 

2) Living a more natural lifestyle. 
I had a hard time wording this resolution without sounding too "hippie-go-free-free," Sorry guys.
This resolution came about after looking back at my previous year and seeing improvements monetarily and health-wise due to some more natural choices I've made. I'm hoping that if I continue dabbling in this I can continue to see improvements in my life that are cheaper and less invasive than traditional products.

DISCLAIMER: I do not have anything against "non-natural" things as a whole. I still rock my drugstore makeup, enjoy eating fast food occasionally, and still sometimes take Motrin to quell a headache. But if I can reach for more natural products as a first resort, why not?

So hears to 2015 being my year of spiritual, mental, and physical growth! Anyone else have any resolutions for the new year?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Drugstore Makeup Look - Tutorial

My Drugstore Makeup Look
I finally filmed a makeup tutorial! I apologize for the not so high quality video; I just used my iPad. But not too bad for a first time.

This makeup look is very wearable with fairly neutral colors. It is also has nice skin coverage for acne and scaring.

Enjoy and tell me what you think!


Products Used (in order of appearance)

Rimmel London Stay Matte Primer
Monistat Soothing Care Chafing Relief Powder Gel (I know it seems odd, but it is a great dupe for the Smashbox Photo Finish Primer but a lot cheaper!)
Revlon Colorstay Foundation for Combination/Oily Skin in Buff
Hard Candy Glamoflauge Heavy Duty Concealer in Light 
Maybelline Age Instant Age Rewind Eraser in Brightener   
Revlon Stay Matte Long Lasting Pressed Powder in Transparent 
Elf Eye Primer and Line Sealer (I used the eye primer side)
Milani Bella Eyes Gel Powder Eyeshadows in Bella Champagne, Bella Bronze, and Bella Ivory
Sephora Collection Smart Liner (This is the most non-drugstore product I used. A good drugstore dupe is Milani Eye Tech Perfection Liquid Eye Liner)
Makeup Geek Gel Liner in Immortal
Milani Brow Fix Brow Kit in Light
Milani Brow Shaping Clear Gel 
Rimmel London Natural Bronzer in Sun Bronze 
Milani Baked Blush in Luminoso 
Wet N Wild Fergie Center Stage Collection To Reflect Shimmer Palette in Rose Champagne Glow
Elf Makeup Mist and Set Spray 
Revlon Grow Luscious Mascara in Blackest Black
L’Oreal Paris Voluminous False Fiber Lashes Mascara in Blackest Black
NYX Megashine Lip Gloss in Salsa

Love and Blessings,

Annmarie Jordan

Friday, August 29, 2014

CHEAP Homemade Laundry Detergent

I kind of consider myself a wanna be hippie/crunchy chick. I love the idea of using essential oils for health, eating fresh and locally grown vegetables, drinking raw milk, and using yoga and meditation to clear my mind and heal my body. Now I also love eating a sleeve of ultra-processed Oreos while watching YouTube on my iPad...but I digress.

My point being that for something natural to become a part of my everyday living, it must also be fairly easy and affordable.And I have found a new natural AND cheap homemade product to add into our lives

Introducing Homemade Laundry Detergent.

This recipe is what I followed. I found all of the ingredients at my local grocery store. All together, the products probably cost around $18. But this makes 5 gallons of laundry detergent AND besides the bar of soap, the other products cold probably be reused for countless more batches of detergent.

Here are the key players, plus water and a few drops of Lavender essential oil


This is what it looks like after you dump everything into the bucket

This is what it looks like after sitting overnight...it becomes very gelatinous. 


Yes, we store it in a big Walmart bucket in our closet...keeping it real showing the messy closet. 

We keep a small bucket in the laundry area with a measuring cup to pour the detergent into the washing machine.

This works just as well as store bought detergent, and for a much lower cost. You only use a small amount of the Borax and Washing Soda, so those boxes will take a long time to be completely used up. I don't think I will ever go back to buying laundry detergent when this is so easy and cheap!

Let me know if you try this out! Or if you have anymore homemade replacements for this wanna-be hippie to try :)

Love and Blessings,

Annmarie Jordan