My Story

Hi there, welcome to my blog. Yes I am a drama queen and yes I have been deemed “infertile” by a few of the medical experts in the great State of Colorado but that hasn’t made me give up my quest to have children quite yet. My husband and I have been on the emotional roller coaster of infertility since March of 2009 when I stopped taking birth control after being on it for ten straight years. I have been keeping a journal since the start of this process and thought I would share it with all of the other incredible women out there who may be going through the same thing or similar thing that I am. At age 28, I have been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure (POF). With no history of fertility problems on either side of my family and normal periods before going on the pill, I was left to accept that I have this condition and that there is no medical explanation for it. Since receiving this diagnosis from a fertility specialist in May 2009, I decided I simply wasn’t going to accept that I wasn’t going to have children with my own eggs. I jumped into the world of Eastern Medicine, worked with an Endocrinologist and even went on a fertility diet trying to get my ovaries to start functioning normally. The conclusion I have come to is this…..having Celiac Disease (Gluten/Flour intolerance) and continuing to eat flour throughout most of my childhood and part of adulthood caused my body to produce anti-bodies that have now started attacking the organs/glands in my body. After a visit to an endocrinologist in December 2009, it was determined that I have ovarian antibodies which are essentially antibodies produced by my body that only attack the endocrine system. No doctor has actually confirmed my self diagnosis that the Gluten Intolerance caused this but Celiac Disease is an auto immune disorder and any auto immune disorder can cause your body to attack itself. I am currently waiting to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist to see what the next steps for me will be. I have read that doctors can try and stimulate the Pituitary Gland to get your Endocrine System running again or that you can be given steroids to help restore ovary function. I am hoping to receive one of these treatments in the near future but only time will tell. In the past 10 months, I have watched many of my close friends become pregnant while I remain a sad statistic. This blog contains my thoughts as I struggle through the process of figuring out what in the world is going on with my body and how I continue to try to stay upbeat and positive about my fertility and enjoy my life. I hope that my blog can help others would love to hear from other women going through the same thing, inspiring stories or anyone who just needs encouragement. I know and understand how difficult every day can be once you have received the POF or infertile diagnosis and want you all to know that I am here for you. Please note that some of you may feel I am sharing to much information (TMI) and for that I am sorry. If you want to read my blog…you get all the details. You never know what will be helpful to someone else right? God bless everyone and I wish you luck on your fertility adventures:0) Remember mind over matter!

My intent is to raise awareness of the issues. Please do not rely on this or any other article when making decisions that will affect you and your health. These are things I have decided to try after much research.
I am sorry I have to even ask, but this research stuff is starting to get expensive. I am just asking for $1.00 donation for posts you feel have helped you. I will use all donations to help fund my research and doctors appointments and of course report back to you. Baby dust to all of you and dont worry we will all find a way to have children.

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Infertile – a horrible word used to make women who are already feeling bad about themselves want to jump into a pool of chocolate fudge and eat their sorrows away only to realize that not only can they not get pregnant but now they don’t fit in their clothes. A word so easily tossed around by doctors that they don’t even realize they are saying it and a word that you never under any circumstances should google unless you want your brain to explode.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Jan 30th

Going to start this posting off with some information I know most of you just dont want to being itimate with my husband has gone from a fun thing to something I have started to dread.  Ever since going off the pill I am very dry and it is no longer enjoyable.  It has become another thing I have to worry about because we both get frustrated when I am dry. Him becaues he thinks I am not enjoying it and me because I want to enjoy it and I dont want him to think I am not.  I have been using a pre-seed lubricant that works great but having to get up and insert that in can really kill the mood so I didnt. Saying the words "hold on oney while I put in my fake cervial mucus" really isnt sexy...Luckily things seemed to be working down there and we were able to have a nice night together...the things you take for granted.  Something I didnt think about before going off the pill and finding out my ovaries were not functioning right. I woke up this morning on the war path for some reason? I got up and made breakfast and then started cleaning and doing the laundry. My husband noticed I was starting one of my "emotional saturdays" and started helping me and for some reason I started picking a fight for him because he was helping me clean.  Why would any woman get angry with their husbands for helping with the chores around the house....who gets territorial over vaccuming?? Appareantly someone who is missing hormones.  I decided to go work out and pick up a few items I needed for a baby shower to get out of the house.  I managed to run over 2 miles without even realizing I was doing it. As I was stretching, I was looking out the window at a busy street.  I watched as a police lead funeral train came by and realized that I needed to snap out of this feeling sorry for myself thing I had woken up in. I had my family, my friends, my puppies, a great job and sort of my health? I really needed to stop being so angry and bitter. I left the gym feeling better but that was unfortunately wrecked as soon as I walked into BabiesRUs or should I call it "the carnival from hell"?  Lucky me, today they were having a special where you could bring in old car seats and strollers and trade them in to get half price on new ones. The whole store was packed, there were what felt like hundreds of parentless kids running around out of control and I was left to find the items on the registry by myself. For those of you who have been in that store it can be overwhelming on a day when there arent many people in there. On a day like today it is like being in a funhouse in one of those revolving tunnels.  I officially lost it in BabiesRUs and actually started crying, only then did one of the 17 year olds that work there offered to help me.  I am sure the kid who helped me thinks I have mental problems but at least I finally got some help!  The baby shower was much easier then I thought it would be.  I have such great friends and my friend who is due in a month and a half is doing great.  As I was sitting at the shower, I couldnt help but hope that someday I will have a baby shower of my own with my child sitting there in my belly.  I hope and pray that will happen some day...until then I will live vicariously through my friends and pray that they all deliver beautiful healthy children....and avoid BabiesRUs. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

January 29th...and still no news from the new doctor

Since my last post, I have taken a break from the world of improving my fertility. Two days before christmas I received news that my FSH was the worst it had been since going off the 89!  My husand and I stumbled through the holidays like it was a bad dream. I decided that eating and shopping my way through the holidays would be a good idea which lead my husband to put me on the dreaded 'b" word....a budget.  After the last blood test results, the obgyn who had believed my condition was temporary aligned with all of the other three doctors and stated she believe my body was really going into menopause. She explained that sometimes the body doesnt go directly into menopause, it has some cycles at the beginning and that is why I was able to have two periods after going off the pill. I am still not buying it, why would I have so much cervical mucus if I was going into menopause. I choose to believe my endocrinologist. She said that sometimes there is a lack of communication between the pituitary gland (part of the brain that controls the reproductive system) and the ovaries and that can be stimulated. She also had me tested for ovarian antibodies which I tested positive for. This means that my immune system has created anti-bodies that are now attacking my ovaries. I picture little pacman moving around my body...kind of scary to think about. I am currently waiting to see a reproductive endocrinologist who is one of the best in her field and known for helping people with POF. I feel like everyday I have to wait to see her, the more of my ovaries the pacman are going to eat!!!  I was watching Maury today after work and they had a bunch of women on there who didnt know who the father of their children were. It blew my mind that they could all get pregnant on accident and be putting their children in that bad situation of not knowing which out of the 9 guys they slept with were their father.  Made me wonder why God would bless those women with children and not me.  I felt bad for the beautiful babies that were sitting there watching their moms wave fingers in the fathers face. Maybe that could be a new reality show, watching kids grow up that were taken on talk shows for paternity tests. I am willing to bet that one or more of the kids on jersey shore were on them.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dec 7

Monday, December 7, 2009

The couple received their blood test results back and she has an FSH of 80. Her husband immediately wrote me and asked me what I thought. I told him to not loose hope. That the doctors told me my fsh would continue to go up and it went down by 20. I really feel for them and feel like I am helping someone else get through the hardest time of when you first get your diagnosis. My friend from high school I mentioned a few months ago emailed me last Thursday. She had heard from a mutual friend that I was having trouble getting pregnant and thought I might need someone to talk to. After going off the pill in June 2009, she has been diagnosed with an extreme case of PCOS and her husband also has fertility issues. Her doctors have suggested IUI or IVF. I have been writing her since last Thursday informing her of my diagnosis, books I think she should read and trying to convince her to try eastern medicine before paying for the IUI or IVF. She is really hurting right now. It seems to me that as I read more and more blogs or emails that so many young women are having fertility problems. Could it be our diets and lifestyle causing all of this? I have started incorporating some of the things that “making babies” suggested into my diet and lifestyle. I am eating ground flaxseed on my breakfast in the morning, taking a prenatal vitamin and doing meditation exercises. I am also going to start taking D-pinotol which is a supplement found to help people with PCOS to breakdown insulin. My acupuncturist is suggesting it and after some research I am going to try it.

Dec 1

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving was good. I am either allergic or not allowed to eat 70% of the foods served in a traditional thanksgiving meal so for the first time ever…I didn’t over eat. I met my cousin who was in town from Illinois on black Friday to shop and spend some time together. She is pregnant and just found out she is having a boy. We spent a good part of the day in baby stores and to my surprise, I wasn’t sad at all. I had a blast finding little outfits for her. I think it’s because I know I will have my own children in my own time. I bought a few gifts and some stuff for me….ok more than a few things…I had a great time! I left feeling great and went home never once feeling sad. It seemed like I had some fertile CM so we took advantage of that, that night. My friend Marguerite who was the furthest along in her pregnancy had her baby on Sunday. She had lost her previous baby so I am just so excited for her. I am going to see her and baby Hudson this Saturday. I bought him a cute little reindeer outfit for his first Christmas. Yesterday while checking my fertility blog I noticed there was a new user. He had read everyone’s entries and explained that his wife had gone of birth control in June and not gotten a period. He wrote they were devastated and would appreciate any information they could get. He wrote back an hour later and asked if anyone was out there. My heart immediately sank. I felt for them and felt their devastation. I knew what it was like to get that diagnosis and was quite impressed that this man was trying to help his wife. I wrote him and explained I had gotten the same diagnosis in May. We have been trading emails back and forth ever since and he told me he believed I was a gift from God.

Nov 23

Monday, November 23, 2009

This Thursday is Thanksgiving. I so wish we were celebrating with our family knowing we had a child on the way. It was my goal to be pregnant by now and I just can’t believe not only that we aren’t pregnant but that some of my doctors believe I wont have kids. I am not sad about it and feel ok about seeing my cousin who is 3 months along on Friday. I just wish I had a crystal ball so I could know if all of this hard work is going to pay off.

Nov 19

Thursday, November 19th

I am feeling very anxious today. My ovaries still feel like they are screaming! I felt like this when I first started taking the progesterone in may and June. I logged onto one of my blog sites and there was a woman in her twenties who had been on the pill for 6 years. Stopped taking it in June, had two periods back to back and then nothing since. She too is trying to fix things with the natural approach. Her practitioner told her to take ground up flaxseed 15 days before the full moon and sesame seeds 15 days after the full moon. She said that the flaxseed helps restore progesterone which is what causes the post pill amenorrhea. I need to ask her if she has had a blood test done to check her FSH but she said she hasn’t gone to see an OBGYN yet I her post. I am going to try eating flaxseed but in her post she said you can’t cook it and you have to grind it yourself so it is fresh. I am not sure how you are supposed to take it then??? I am excited to check the mail after work today. I ordered a yoga for fertility dvd so I can practice at home and a book that my acupuncturist recommended “how to make babies”. Things at home are tough. My husband told me I haven’t been much fun to be around for awhile. I don’t know how to be the person I was before all of this started happening. I mean, considering the fact that four of the seven women that stood with me at my wedding are expecting….I think I am doing pretty damn good keeping it together. I have done nothing but try and heal my body for the past 7 months. I am emotionally and mentally exhausting and I don’t have much to give my husband right now. I really need to fix that. Before all of this I was carefree. I loved my job and my personal life. Now it seems like I struggle to stay awake through the day and I can’t be happy no matter what. I hate that feeling because I really want to be happy.
Weds., November 11th

I felt nauseous all morning and tried to ignore it but couldn’t help but wish it were happening because I am pregnant. I am pretty sure I didn’t ovulate when I was off the progesterone due to my numbers on my blood test and not getting a period…..but maybe I did ovulate late and am pregnant?? Here’s to wishful thinking huh? I will take a test tonight and even though I want it to be positive I know that it wont be. My body isn’t ready yet.
Tuesday, November 10, 2009

So….I have figured out how I can still have Starbucks. Since I have been a customer for three years at the location near my work they have agreed to make me my pumpkin spice latte with rice milk that I bring in. Now I can get the latte made with rice milk and decaf without whip cream. I know it doesn’t sound good but it still taste yummy. I also tried a fertility yoga class last Friday. The instructor was really great. She started off the class by telling us to let go of any negative feelings we had toward fertility and then went into an explanation on how Eastern Medicine doesn’t believe there is such a thing as infertility. That our bodies are made to have babies and we will have them when the time is right. I immediately knew that this class was going to be a good thing for me. I arrived first and the second to arrive was a woman named Emily. We started talking and sharing our stories. She was 40 and had just had a miscarriage. She was taking the class to get her body ready to try again. The other two attendees were late twenties early thirties trying to get their bodies ready to have a child. The instructor explained that allot of the poses that stimulate hormones required our legs to be open and that we needed to have an open mind and just flow with the class. She wasn’t kidding, I found myself in the most awkward poses…things I wasn’t sure I would even try with my husband. There I was with my legs open to the world…asking for the miracle of a child. Usually how that works anyway…requires your legs to be open. The instructor explained the breathing was such a huge part of the treatment and that we needed to choose a mantra to say to ourselves when we were breathing in and out. Breathing out was a way to get rid of the things/stress we didn’t want to hold onto anymore and breathing in was a way to give our body what we think it needs. I decided my breath in would be good fertility and my breathe out would be bad fertility/ovarian failure. At the end of the class, the instructor had us meditate and try and picture certain colors of light hitting us. Each color stood for something. The first was a white light that was for healing, the second was green for fertility and the third well I’m not sure what the third was because all I could see was blue. When the class was over I asked the instructor what blue was and she said that it was calming and that was fine if I was seeing that instead of what she was saying. I left that class feeling better and encouraged, I decided to go to the class once a week for the next two months and combine it with my acupuncture. I spent Saturday with my mother and best friend Christina. Christina is in the early stages of her pregnancy and was not feeling well the entire time. I couldn’t help but think how much I wished that I could be the one with morning sickness. I would have given anything to not be able to eat or smell things or feel like I was going to get sick every hour of every day. I know I am deranged huh? I kept repeating in my head the mantra my yoga instructor had told me to repeat while I was practicing my breathing… In good fertility and out ovarian failure/bad fertility. Every time I felt myself getting upset that day I just did my breathing mantra. I even did it this morning on my way to work because I woke up just feeling emotional and tired. The past two days I have some cramping in my lower abdomen on the left side close to where my ovaries are. I am wondering what is going on? I have had creamy CM since going back on progesterone but nothing clear. I pray that I ovulate this time and that my husband and I catch it at the right time. We are trying every other night for the next two months. I know I ovulated the last time while taking the progesterone….just hope I do it again.

I have been reading allot of medical website blogs about women who are in similar situations. Most are very encouraging but it still seems that we are diagnosed as infertile way to quickly. On one of the women had read my posts and responded to me. She was 35 and had been on the pill for 17 years. She hadn’t had a period for the first two months of being off the pill so she went in for a blood test and her FSH was around 113. She said she had normal periods before going on the pill and that she was really worried. I gave her a list of things she could immediately do to try and get her FSH down and suggested a few books for her to read. I do feel for her, I know how she feels.
Tuesday, November 3rd

Last week was a long one. We had an early blizzard in Colorado and we had a day and a half of snow days. I got to break out my long sweater, leggings and uggs. Snow bunnies of Denver watch out! On one of the snow days, I had lunch with a group of my friends one of which who is expecting her first child. As I sat there at lunch, I was surprised and relieved that I didn’t feel sad when I was talking to her about her pregnancy. It seems that the initial shock and pain of possibly not having children has passed…either that or I am in denial. It was so nice to sit there and not feel sorry for myself. I think that is mostly happening because I refuse to accept that I am not going to have kids. I still think that my body has to regulate itself after being on birth control for so long. Another reason last week seemed to drag on is that October 28th was supposed to be the day I started my period. After receiving word from my OBGYN that my progesterone levels were low, I wasn’t expecting a period but…. a girls gotta keep hoping. This would have been my first period without the progesterone so I am a bit disappointed but I am not giving up yet. My doctor called today to check in and make sure I am going to start taking the progesterone again. The plan is for me to start taking it again today and then go in on December 18th for another FSH test. Hopefully I will get an early Christmas present. I asked her about taking Clomid and she said at this point that is a very bad idea. She is very optimistic that my ovaries are coming back and doesn’t want to damage them with the Clomid. She also said that there is a chance I could get pregnant while taking progesterone so I am going to officially be on operation baby making. We will have to “try” every other day for the next two months and see if it works. No cheating on my dairy and wheat free diets and I will have to cut soy out again. Good bye starbucks hello crappy rice milk in grouse work coffee!!! I am also going to start taking healing yoga classes and go to acupuncture once a week again. I will get pregnant in the next three months!!! I am not giving up yet, I am so close I can feel it!!! My FSH wouldn’t have gone down if I weren’t getting better.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Checklist Friday, 8/28/09
Temperature of 98.3
Uncertain of what is going on with my body
Weight gain of 8-10 pounds
Husband and I are barely able to communicate
Selling everything I own to make myself feel better
Not sure if I should start looking at baby stuff to be positive or not get my hopes up
Does spotting mean something good?
Why does brown mean old? Why cant it mean new?
Starting progesterone again before day 14 this Sunday upon the doctors request
Doctor said clear mucus with spotting was a sign of estrogen..yeah???
Have decided to start working out again. If I cant have baby, at least I will be able to fit in my clothes which is not happening very easily right now.
Call from third obgyn I asked to analyze my labs. He said it didn’t look good but he wanted me to get new labs taken soon at same time received email from friend about her ultrasound. She saw the baby moving around. I started crying in the middle of walmart.
My doctor decided to have me re-start progesterone a week early since I didn’t get a heavy bleed when I stopped taking it.
Not sure what to think right now just trying to stay positive.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009
This is officially the 6th month since stopping birth control
One light spotting joke of a period, am I stupid to think things are improving?
Taking progesterone again
Drinking caffeine and soy again
Anxious to see what happens this week with mucus since this is supposed to be my fertile time
Temperature has stayed from 97.5-97.7 for past four days, improvement from earlier
Not cramping every morning with progesterone like I was before, not sure if this is a bad or good thing?
Cousin keeps telling me god has a plan for me…easy for her to say she was pregnant. I do believe he has a plan for me though.
Decided to throw my best friend a baby shower for her second pregnancy since I had been so into myself the past few months and hadn’t been there for her.

Tuesday, September 7, 2009
Long weekend was nice just relaxed and spent time with family
Fertile mucus on Saturday then not much on Sunday and Monday. Sunday was supposed to be day 14
Havent gone number 2 in like 5 days
Really bad headaches and my hair seems to be falling out
Worried that I wont spot or do anything on or around the 23rd. If this happens I am asking to go on clomid.

Thursday, September 10, 2009
Finally went to the bathroom and was frightened it might be like giving birth
Have a had a headache nonstop for like three days
Thyroid medication has been discontinued
Cramping each morning
Urge to eat everything in sight and even things hidden in my desk drawer
Not sleeping again all of a sudden, maybe because I stopped getting acupuncture?
Decided to throw my friend a baby shower to keep my mind off of my problem, no its not always about me.
Have been very moody, husband hid from me last night after dinner
Everyone calling or texting me about infertile specials on dr. phil, operah or in a magazine. People let me be, everytime I stop thinking about it one of you reminds me.

Friday, September 11, 2009
Went to the bathroom when I got home from work and found an abundance of cervical mucus! WTH???
Celebrated for the rest of the day!!!

Sept. 27th - Sunday
Had mental breakdown yesterday after taking a second test and getting a negative result
Thought that I was done, kids were not in my future, husband had to sit me down and tell me to relax, keep doing what I was doing and give it some more time.
Went retail therapy shopping with my mom
Went to eat and was sat near baby triplets
Started taking 5 htp to relax me and do yoga poses before laying down in bed at night

Sept. 28th – Monday
Have a new perception on life..thanks mostly to my 5HTP which is a natural mood enhancer
Made an accupunucture appointment
Ate more food than one person should at lunch today
Came back from lunch and found that I was spotting. This would be 5 days late from the first day of my last spotting last month.
Went to acupuncture and had a 45 minute treatment. Scheduled to go back in two weeks right around ovulation time
Didn’t bleed much last night, was worried it was from my uterus getting punctured during sex
Fell asleep in my clothes watching tv at 8:00 PM…guess I don’t need the progesterone to go to sleep
Husband was a slave driver to get old furniture out since new furniture is coming tomorrow. “out with the old in with the new”

Sept. 29th – Tuesday
Woke up from a deep sleep by my alarm, rushed to get ready and get the puppy her medicine
Had to get gas on the way
Put a tampon on this morning just in case I was having a period and low and behold when I went to the bathroom about three hours later, there was blood on it and I had to put another one on. I am having a period!!! Not just brown spotting either, there is red!!!
Called my doctor to see what the next steps were before going out of town for three days for work
Would like to be put on clomid
So happy and grateful I am having a period
Told my husband and he said he was having one too as a joke. Never thought I would be able to talk about this stuff so openly with him

Since my last entry things have been interesting. I was excited to see that I started spotting on Sunday,August 23rd. It never became anything more than spotting but that is what my doctor called a breakthrough bleed. I have never in all my life been so excited to see a stain in my underwear…stain away I say! I called my doctor on Monday, August 24th to see what the next step was. I spoke with the nurse practitioner who told me she didn’t think I was in menopause and that I should stop taking my progesterone supplements for 7 days and then start back up. She also told me that she had been off the pill for almost a year and was just now started to get periods. She said she hadn’t done anything like acupuncture or taken any supplements she was just doing it naturally. That is why she thought I was fine, because she had waited almost a year. I was feeling really great about my situation, things seemed to be getting better. I spotted for about four days and then on that Friday, I received a call from the new fertility specialist I had asked to look at all of my lab results. All of the labs were from May when I was just going off the pill but I wanted a second opinion. The doctor, Dr. J, said that it didn’t look good. Along with the FSH test, the first fertility specialist had run a test that measures activity of the ovaries. This test combined with the FSH test can tell your overall fertility health. With a high FSH and a low ovary activity measurement, they will diagnose you with ovarian failure or early menopause. I was sitting in the Wal-Mart parking lot when he called me and I just sat there feeling all of the excitement I had been feeling this week after I had started spotting drain out of my body. Dr. J said he would like to get some current lab work done since it has been 6 months since my last labs had been run. I told him I wanted to wait awhile and see what happened and he said that was fine. I thanked him for taking the time to look at my labs and told him I would call back once I had been off the pill a year. Surprisingly, I didn’t get as upset about this phone call as I thought I would. I hung up the phone and sat in my car for a few minutes and then opened the door and walked in to Wal-Mart. As I was doing my shopping, I decided that I wouldn’t mention the phone call from Dr. J to my husband. Lately it seemed like he just went off the deep end every time I got semi-bad news and I didn’t want to deal with that. So for now, I was going to keep this to myself and talk about it with my mom. That lasted about 3 hours. When I got back to the house my husband was home from work and he could tell that I had been crying. He asked what was wrong and I just told him I was tired but it took exactly 20 minutes for him to get it out of me and then we both just laid in bed not saying much to each other. After a day of feeling sorry for myself, I got over myself and decided I was going to ignore what Dr. J had said and go with what my other doctor had told me. I was going to treat the spotting like a normal period, count 14 days out and see if I ovulated. Occording to the “generic” 28 day cycle I should have ovulated on September 5th. I didn’t have much CM on that day but we tried over the whole holiday weekend anyway. I had stopped taking my temperature in the morning because I get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom and that messes up your temperature. I continued to keep my spirits off, get acupuncture and try not to think about things. One week later on Friday, 9/11 I got home from the store and went to go to the bathroom and found EWCM and lots of it…I even took a picture. I know what you are thinking, who does that? But after so long of expecting not to ever see it, I wanted to capture the moment. That meant that I had ovulated 1-2 days ago and that this was my most fertile day and that I had ovulated about 5 days later than I should have. Just by chance, my husband and I had intercourse the night before which was good because we went out that night and he was in no shape to repeat the night before. The next morning we did it again so there was a chance that we had conceived. After finding the EWCM, I did some research on what causes it. EWCM is caused by a surge of estrogen, which is a hormone that Dr. J had just told me about one week earlier that I wasn’t producing enough of. The website I was looking at also suggested doing a water test with your CM. If the CM does not dissolve in the water then you have allot of estrogen. So one day at work….yes at work…I took a cup of water into the bathroom and low and behold it didn’t dissolve. Yes I take pictures of my CM and play with it in a problem with that? At this point I was desperate to hang on to anything that went against what both the fertility specialist had told me. That week, I was on top of the world. In my mind, there was a chance I could be pregnant. We had intercourse the day before and the day after peak day and even if we hadn’t timed it right, it appeared that I had ovulated. I noticed that on Weds., 9/16 I started to get a thick milky CM that lasted for about 7 days. On that Saturday, 9/19 I was walking around the mall with my mom and got a cramp on my bottom left side and that next day I started to feel a bit nauseous. Noticed a few other things on that Sunday. When my stomach growled, it felt different and my back sort of hurt. The next day, Monday 9/21 I figured out why I had been feeling funny…I had the stomach flu…or did I? As soon as I had to run to the bathroom, I googled stomach flu symptoms and pregnancy and it turns out that many women who are pregnant have diarrhea. Along with the big “d”, I was also feeling nauseous so I still kept my hopes up. I had three days before it had been a month since I had spotted and I was really not sure who long to wait before taking a test since it seemed like I had a delayed cycle this time. I had no choice but to wait and pray that this wasn’t just a case of the stomach flu. Turns out that it was just a case of the flu…I know what are the chances??? All of the information I found on diarrhea being one of the first symptoms of pregnancy was very interesting though. I must have ready at least 50 blogs from different women suffering from this symptom. Seems like it would be quite the opposite but from what I have read, you either can’t go or have to go to much.

...and the process begins

Let me start of my introducing myself. I am 28 years old with a perfect background of child bearing women on both sides of my family. My mother had two children without even thinking about it and I got my period when I was 12 and have had pretty normal periods throughout my least until recently. I have always considered myself as a good, honest and hardworking person who loves life and making people smile. There has not been much that I have wanted in my life that I have gotten…not to sound like a brat. I grew up in a fairly wealthy household in Texas and had a really privileged childhood. I have never met a stranger and love to socialize and experience new things. I have always wanted to be a mother and have always been considered “the mom” in all of my social groups. I know what you are thinking but don’t worry…I’m not boring I just watch out for others and try to take care of them when they need help. I allowed myself to enjoy my younger years by getting the “good time sally” out of my system before getting married so that I could honestly feel like I was ready to be a mother. Again, let me clarify I was having a good time with friends and traveling not staring in my own personal porn story. About 10 years ago, I decided that I wanted to go on birth control to help with cramps each month. I was 18 at the time and about to go to college so my mom also agreed it would be a good idea. She had been on birth control before having my younger brother and hadn’t had any problems so I started taking them in 1999 thinking I was doing a harmless and normal thing. Besides, everyone else I knew was already on birth control so I wasn’t doing anything they weren’t all doing.

Skip to March 2009 about 10 years later. I am now 27 years old and have been married for about a year. My husband and I decide that it is time to stop acting like 21 year olds and start trying to have a baby so I stop taking my birth control a week before Denver’s St. Patrick’s day celebration and anxiously wait to see what happens. On that Friday, I got a withdrawal bleed from stopping my birth control but I notice around the time of the bleed that I am starting to get hot randomly throughout the day. What was that about? I had been diagnosed with Celiacs Disease for about 4 years. When I eat anything that contains flour, hot flashes are one of the lovely symptoms I get so I just figured that I had eaten something I wasn’t supposed to. After all, sometimes a girl just needs some chocolate cake right??? And who could really live without any pizza or cake in their diets? I certainly wasn’t planning on it.

Checklist – Feb. 2009
Husband and I agree its time to start trying
Withdrawl bleed from birth control
Start work out routine to loose last couple of pounds as to try and not gain 100 pounds during pregnancy
Start working on baby nursery ideas
Start picking up baby items at garage sales

Skip to a month later, it is my birthday and we are heading off to Las Vegas for a 4 day trip. I pack tampons in my suitcase expecting to get a period since I still haven’t had one since going off the pill and am surprised when I don’t get one while we are gone. I don’t see anything wrong with that because I have a few friends going off the pill at the same time and they all had a few months without a period after. I had noticed that I was still having hot flashes randomly throughout the day and wondered if this was a symptom of going off the pill or if I could be pregnant. I also notice that I am starting to have trouble sleeping at night. I just seem to lay awake no matter what time I go to bed. I have always been the type of person who is out as soon as I hit the pillow so I knew something wasn’t right. I ask around to some of my friends and none of them are having these symptoms. The flashes seem to get worse during my trip but the sleeping problems were better. I am pretty sure it was because we drank the whole time we were there and I more passed out than fell asleep. I seemed to have a larger than normal appetite while we were gone so when we get back from Vegas my husband and I are convinced that I am pregnant. We stop and get a test at the store on the way home from the airport excited at the possibility we are going to be parents. I think most women will agree with this next statement…when you are younger the idea of having to take a pregnancy test and wait for the result is terrifying because the idea of being pregnant and not married in our society is a huge “no no”. Even though I was married, I still felt like I was doing something wrong as I purchased the test and walked out of the store. We waited for the results and….I wasn’t pregnant. What was going on then? Why the hot flashes, the sleeping problems and the sudden weight gain which seemed to only be happening on my backside? Confused, I made an appointment to get a check up with my obgyn on May 1st. Mostly to make sure everything was ok before I got pregnant and to get a prescription for prenatal vitamins which I had been told my friends that those were good to take before and during prengancy. During the examination the nurse practitioner looked over my chart, said everything seemed fine and suggested I take prometrium which is a drug used to jump start a woman’s cycle after stopping birth control. I mentioned that had been having hot flashes and had recently gained about five pounds and she suggested getting a blood test to check a few things and make sure nothing was wrong. That is where I wish I would have said “thanks but no thanks”. They took blood and then I was sent on my way to get my prometrium and prenatal vitamins thinking it was only a matter of time before I had a period.

Checklist:April 2009
Clean bill of health from the obgyn
Prescription to jump start my cycle
Prenatal vitamins
Hot flashes
5 pound weight gain right before summer?? Great!!
No spotting or period

That was on Friday….the next Monday my perfect world was shattered with one phone call from the nurse at my obgyn’s office. I was in a meeting and she left me a message saying I needed to come in immediately to discuss my blood test results. A million worse case scenarios started playing in my head. Do I have aids or cancer or some other rare disease. Am I dying? How could she leave a message like that on my voice mail? I frantically call back and of course get a recording. I leave a hysterical message asking her to please call me back as soon as possible and ask if it is something life threatening. About an hour later and three self diagnoses later I got a call back from the nurse. She giggled and said that I wasn’t dying, she wouldn’t have left a message like that if she thought I were dying. She then proceeded to explain that I had a high FSH reading in my blood work which was usually seen only in women who were menopausal. She apologized she had to tell me this over the phone and then said that my chances of having children with my own eggs were slim to none and were probably dwindling away every second. All from one blood test?? After those words everything else that was said to me during our 20 minute phone call sounded like what the adults in Charlie Brown sound like when they talk “Wha Wha”. I didn’t hear another word; I immediately went into panic mode. I agreed to go and speak with the nurse and the actual doctor that afternoon and was left to somehow get through the rest of my work day which still had 7 hours left in it. This is where my journey into the world of infertility started. This day marked the first day in the most difficult journey I have ever been through. I am choosing to share my experience with everyone because I know how difficult it is to go through something like this while be surrounded with people that just don’t understand or have any answers for you. You feel very alone and feel like no one knows how it feels. At this point, it has only been a five month journey and I have already been through a whole range of emotions and tried just about everything to try and get a period and be “normal” again. I figure if I can help at least one person get through this, then I haven’t gone through this for nothing. So if you still choose to read on, get your chocolate ready and your pen and paper in hand its going be a bumpy ride!

Let me start out by saying that you should not feel like you are dried up and that something is severely wrong with you if you cant get pregnant or get your cycle to start back up. I have learned that there are so many women in the same boat, 1 in 1,000 actually. Let me also say that I know that doesn’t make you feel better to know you aren’t the only one. Oh goody, a group you can belong to so you can all sit in a circle and talk about how miserable you all are that you cant get pregnant or worse will have to start taking hormonal supplements in your 20’s or 30’s!!! I am only mentioning it because I immediately felt like I was some sort of dried up hag who was old before my time. Actually finding out that there were many other women with the same problem didn’t make me feel better I was going through it, but made me feel better that it wasn’t only me. Next, I want you to stop blaming yourself. This is not happening to you because of anything you have done in your past…I promise. Taking birth control might have caused this to happen temporarily but if you are in pre-menopause it is genetic not because you took the morning after pill a few years ago. Last but not least, I want you to press the delete button and not google anything!!! This is the biggest mistake you can make. If you want to completely terrify yourself about any medical subject you can google it. Google will bring up the most popular searches which most of the time are “worst case scenarios”. You will take an already shocking diagnosis and turn it into something that will haunt your dreams. Unless you want your doctor to stop returning your phone calls to answer your 10 questions a day, yes it happened to me, step away from the keyboard and do some research on your own.

Since my journey began almost 6 months ago I have done allot of research, seen and talked to just about every doctor in the city of Denver and tried just about everything that has been suggested by a doctor or through the internet to get a period. Yes I said internet, learn from my mistakes people!! I know you might be thinking, it has only been 6 months but to me and anyone else that has gone through something similar to this….these few months have felt like an eternity. I have always thought of myself as a strong, independent woman who doesn’t normally show much emotion unless I am at a funeral or am watching opera. Don’t get me wrong I wasn’t a shrew, I displayed emotion when needed but thanks to the hormones I am taking and everything I have recently been through …. I have now become this person who cries at everything even when listening to certain songs on the radio or watching a new mother with her baby at the mall. I used to make fun of people like me but I have now accepted it as me learning to be more down to earth and my body releasing all my new stressors.

Now I know that no one cares about what color my cervical mucus is, how many times I am being intimate with husband (now afraid of me because I am hormonal), how my digestion is or how I get through the day without crying about everything but these are all things that I feel I have had no one to ask questions about so I am going to share…and if you don’t like it you can skip through the parts you don’t like.

As we all grew up from little girls to the beautiful women we are today, most of us pictured what it would be like to have our own families. Sure we all go through the stage in life where getting pregnant is a major don’t (high-school, college, dating circuit) and we would rather walk in front of our whole student body naked then be pregnant but as soon as we hit a certain age, just about every one of us considers the thought of having a child. It is the next stepping stone in life after finding a mate and in our minds, it should be a natural gift that we don’t even have to think about…. it should just happen just like it does in the movies…right?? Well I am here to ruin that la la land that everyone lives in. Just because women are supposed to be able to produce children naturally doesn’t mean all of us will be able to. Don’t hyperventilate or slam this book closed just yet, everyone’s body is different thus my reason for writing about my experience, to give others the knowledge that I had to search for on my own while going through the horrible experience of being diagnosed as infertile at such a young age and at a time I thought I would spend enjoying my first pregnancy.

At any age, being diagnosed infertile can be horrifying. It is actually something women were killed for a long time ago. If they couldn’t produce an heir then what good were they?? Off with their head, if I lived back then, I would have had to flee and would currently be living in a cave somewhere. Even though I wake up and feel like hiding in a cave instead of facing everyone, I am glad times have changed and thanks to a bunch of really awesome women, we have proved that we are worth much more than just producing the young. There are plenty of women who don’t even want children and are perfectly happy spending their lives with their mates traveling and spending their time and money on themselves. Not that there is anything wrong with this, I am just not one of those women. Growing up, we are taught that you cant even as much as touch a boy without the chance of getting pregnant. Everyone made it seem like it was so easy for it to happen and I believe that is the main reason so many young girls go on birth control. The reality is that so many things have to be perfectly aligned for a pregnancy to occur that as long you know “the signs” natural birth control can be very easily done. If nurses and parents would spend half as much time explaining what a woman’s cycle truly is as they do giving teenagers the birds and the bees talks then many teen pregnancies could be avoided. I , like many young women started taking the pill to help with time of the month cramping and to avoid pregnancy. I didn’t know much about the pill just that it would keep me from staying in bed the whole first day of my cycle and that it would keep me from having a baby before I was ready. What was never explained to me until recently is that when you are on birth control, the monthly bleed you get isn’t produced by your body it is produced from your body withdrawal from the hormones in the pills. I know this is kind of boring but I have a point, I promise! With a natural monthly period, your brain “talks” to your ovaries and basically tells them to start maturing follicles. This releases the follicle stimulating hormone or FSH that allows follicles in your ovaries to mature kind of racing to see which one can mature first. The “winner” is released down the fallopian tubes and into the uterus where it can either be met with sperm to create an embryo or exit the body as menses. So in a nut shell when you are on birth control, your brain doesn’t have to talk to your ovaries. Your body is basically given a “sub teacher” so it doesn’t have to do its monthly job. This is why so many women have problems having regular cycles after stopping birth control. If you think about it, it really doesn’t seem like a good thing for your body to not be operating in its natural form. Maybe I am naïve but I honestly thought the period I was getting every month was from something my body was doing and not just a withdrawal from the prescription. I was very surprised to find this out. I felt awful for doing this to my body for almost 10 years.
Another thing you are not told when you start birth control is that it can also mask symptoms of other health issues while you take it. This is what has happened in my case. My doctors believed that I started going through early menopause and didn’t get any symptoms such as hot flashes or sleeping problems until I stopped taking my pills.
Another frightening fact I have come across ..mostly in part to the internet….is that there are little to no actual facts about what happens to your body when you stop taking birth control. Everyone is different, has different symptoms or experiences and that my friends is why I urge you not to search for anything on the internet unless you want a new addiction. Don’t get me wrong, I myself google everything. Any question I have, I turn to the web for an almost immediate answer. If you want to find an address, find a dog breeder, read a political blog or see if the guy your friend is dating is wanted for murder please have at it but I am warning you using an internet search engine for anything medical is not a good idea. I find myself searching for answers everyday it is an addiction but at the same time I feel like the internet is my only source to try and make myself feel better.

As I have gone through my journey, I have come across doctors who still have hope for me and say “we really don’t know what the body goes through when you cease taking birth control”. I have also come across doctors who have told me my case is pretty cut and dry and that there is no hope I will have children with my own eggs. What I want to tell you now is please don’t let one doctor determine you future. When I first got my diagnosis, I thought that was it. I would never have children that had my eyes or my smile or god forbid my stubbornness. Enough ranting for now…

After going to my obgyn to discuss my blood test, they suggested I go and see a fertility specialist immediately. After crying with me (never a good sign when the doctor cries, I honestly felt like I was staring in one of those lifetime movies), my doctor called the fertility specialist that was actually on-site and one of the best in the state. The specialist, Dr. S, suggested I stop taking the prometrium because it was quote “a waste of my time”. After hanging up with Dr. S, my obgyn sat with me and answered my questions while both of us cried and then I was given a phone number to call to schedule my appointment with the fertility specialist. My obgyn also asked me to come see her again that Friday to make sure it wasn’t just a bad blood test. Sometimes you can get a faulty reading on a blood test so you should never make important life choices based on one test. My mother once went for a yearly checkup and was told she had a sexually transmitted disease. Having only been with my dad who she had then been married to for several years, she immediately accused my dad of cheating. A few days later, her doctor called to tell her that her test had been swapped with someone elses. Comforting I know, but one test is not the end all be all so if you have one bad one, you have the right to ask to be re-tested. If the results are the same, it is more likely the results are true.

As I tried to drive home from the obgyn through the hysterical crying, I prayed that it had just been a bad test. I bet it would have if I were living one of those lifetime movies that always have happy endings. When I got home I pulled out the card to the fertility specialist to make appointment. Now comes my next bit of advice….wait for it. You shouldn’t expect for the fertility clinics or doctors to be as “warm” and caring as you would expect them be. They see many clients all whom of which are very emotional and/or hormonal so unfortunately most are numb to any feelings at all. Picture the meanest teacher you had in grade school and times that by 5. You would think that an office that easily pulls in millions of dollars a year from women trying to bring on the biggest miracle of life would make them so happy they would be walking on clouds but it does exactly the opposite. So be prepared, don’t make the mistake that talking to them will make you feel better, that the doctor will be sympathetic and that the financial lady wont come at you on your first appointment like a cheetah on an innocent prey. When I called to make my appointment, it was May 4th and I was told they couldn’t get me in until August. To someone who has just been told they have a limited amount of time to find out if they can have kids, one week is equivalent to a year so three months was just not going to cut it for me. Again, I started crying hysterically and hung up on the receptionist mid-sentence. I immediately called my obgyn office sobbing, asking why she had promised me the chance to get in to see the specialist immediately if they were going to make me wait until August. Magically, I received a call back from the specialist 5 minutes later and they could see me the next Weds. In the case of fertility doctors who make lots of money off of our “short comings” they should be willing to accommodate you as best they can not give you the what they have time for treatment. In between my visit with my obgyn and the appointment with the fertility specialist, my mother and I started doing some research. She called her chiropractor and he suggested I start getting acupuncture and begin taking an herbal supplement called vitex or vitex angus cactus. My mother called me at work to give me this bit of information and that is when I started my affair with internet search engines. I searched for “acupuncture to heal infertility” and “vitex angus cactus” and came up with some really interesting and encouraging things. Vitex, Angus Cactus has been used for over 2500 years to improve women’s fertility. It was associated with the Greek Goddess of agriculture, fertility and marriage. After reading about acupuncture and Vitex healing the female reproductive system, I decided that I would ask about these two items at my appointment with the specialist that next week. I printed up some of the information I found so that I could prepare for my appointment. After all it was a “meeting” and I had always been taught to never go into meeting unprepared.

Vitex and Fertility
How Vitex Promotes Fertility

Vitex agnus castus (chasteberry, vitex) is a traditional herb that has been used historically for hormonal imbalances in women. More recently, numerous clinical research studies have provided evidence for vitex as a important herbal treatment for infertility, female hormonal imbalance, ovulatory irregularity, anovulation, amenorrhea, and other disorders related to hormone function in women.

In research studies, Vitex has displayed facility in relieving symptoms or addressing deficiencies caused by hormonal imbalances and vitex may be helpful for women who do not have regular or normal menstrual cycles. It may be very supportive as well for women with PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome). In clinical trials, chasteberry (vitex standardized extract) has been demonstrated to enhance fertility, "and women with fertility disorders benefited from vitex agnus castus, with more pregnancies then in placebo groups".

Because vitex impacts key hormones that regulate and balance the menstrual cycle, vitex can help balance the levels and ratios of hormones required for normal menstrual function, ovulation, and fertility. As Vitex is safe, it may be used by women seeking to become pregnant to increase chances of conception. More specifically, it can be used by women with irregular ovulatory function and by women with shorter luteal phases. Vitex may also be used after discontinuing use of birth control pills to restore normal ovulation.

As vitex has the effect of stimulating and normalizing pituitary gland functions, especially its progesterone function, vitex may be particularly useful in cases of low levels of progesterone during the luteal phase (the period between ovulation and the end of the menstrual cycle). As the studies below indicate, vitex may be very effective in promoting normal hormal function, regular and fequent ovulation, and support fertility and conception.

Amman W. Favorable effect of Agnus castus (Agnolyt) on amenorrhea. ZFA (Stuttgart). 1982 Feb 10;58(4):228-31.

Gerhard I I, Patek A, Monga B, Blank A, Gorkow C. Women with fertility disorders benefited from V. agnus-castus obtaining more pregnancies then the placebo group. Forsch Komplementarmed. 1998;5(6):272-278.

Propping D, Katzorke T. Treatment of corpus luteum insufficiency. Zeitschr Allgemeinmedizin 1987;63:932–3.
by Steven Foster © 2009
For over 2500 years chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has been used for gynecological conditions since the days of Hippocrates. With a rich traditional of use, modern research supports historical wisdom, and has made chaste tree fruit preparations a phytomedicine of choice by European gynecologists for treatment of various menstrual disorders, PMS, and other conditions.

Chaste tree was associated with ancient Greek festivals. In the Thesmophoria, a festival held in honor of Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture, fertility and marriage, women (who remained "chaste" during the festival), used chaste tree blossoms for adornment, while bows of twigs and leaves, were strewn around Demeter's temple during the festival. In Rome, vestal virgins carried twigs of chaste tree as a symbol of chastity. According to Greek mythology, Hera, sister and wife of Zeus, regarded as protectress of marriage, was born under a chaste tree. Ancient traditions associating the shrub with chastity were adopted in Christian ritual. Novitiates entering a monastery walked on a path strewn with the blossoms of the tree, a ritual that continues to the present day in some regions of Italy.

The shrub's ancient association with chastity led to later use of the fruits as an "anaphrodisiac," quieting the desires of the flesh, especially of celibate clergy. "These seeds have been celebrated as antiaphrodisiacs, and were formerly much used by monks for allaying the venereal appetite; but experience does not warrant their having any such virtues," wrote Andrew Duncan in the 1789 edition of the Edinburgh Dispensatory. Robert John Thorton in his 1814 Family Herbal put it more eloquently, "As there are provocatives to procreations, as shell-fish, eggs, and roots of orchises made into salep for the male, and spare dict and use of steel for the female, so it is possible the chaste tree may have a contrary effect; and hence the seeds have been called Piper monachorum (Monk's pepper), who flew to them when they found the spirit to be willing, but the flesh weak."

Many of the common names of the shrub refer to this use of the plant, including, Abraham's Balm, Chaste Lamb-Tree, Safe Tree, and Monk's Pepper-Tree. It has also been called Indian-Spice, and Wild-Pepper, referring to the use of the fruits as a pepper substitute. The small round fruits (seeds) have a pungent scent and flavor reminiscent of black pepper.

Vitex agnus-castus L., commonly known as chaste tree, is native to West Asia and southwestern Europe. The shrub was introduced throughout Europe at an early date. It was known in English gardens as early a 1570, and now occurs throughout the European continent. Introduced to American gardens by European immigrants in the early nineteenth century, the shrub has become naturalized in much of the Southeastern United States, occurring in Florida, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas, southeast Oklahoma, north to Maryland. Chaste tree is a shrub growing from nine to seventeen feet tall, though specimens can reach twenty-five feet high in the deep South.

Chaste tree has been used for the treatment of menstrual difficulties for at least 2,500 years. The Greek physician Hippocrates (460-377 B.C.) wrote, "If blood flows from the womb, let the woman drink dark wine in which the leaves of the chaste tree have been steeped."Use for gynecological conditions is also noted in the works of Pliny and Dioscorides (1st century A. D.), as well as Theophrastus (3rd century A.D.). "The trees furnish medicines that promote urine and menstruation," wrote Pliny, "They encourage abundant rich milk. . ."

These recommendations survive to the time of sixteenth century English herbalist John Gerarde, "The decoction of the herbe and seed is good against pain and inflammations about the matrix, if women be caused to sit and bathe their privy parts therein; the seed being drunke with Pennyroiall bringeth downe the menses, as it doth also both in a fume and in a pessary. . ." (Gerarde 1633).

The Twentieth Century
In 1938, a German researcher, Gerhard Madaus, was the first to initiate use of chaste tree in the twentieth century. Recognizing the long value of the plant in gynecological disorders, he designed a series of animal experiment to determine which part of the plant had the greatest biological activity. Madaus found that extracts of the leaves, fruits, and bark retarded estrus (heat) in female rats, without evidence of adverse effects on reproductive performance. The fruits had the greatest activity.

During the Second World War, medical practitioners in Germany recognized a stress-induced lactation repression in women, prompting a search for effective milk stimulating substances. Clinical confirmation of the effectiveness of chaste tree fruit preparations in stimulating milk production in German women under stress from Allied bombing were published in three separate papers in 1941, 1942, ands 1943. Later in the 1950s, animal studies further confirmed an experimental lactation-stimulating action. In 1954, a clinical study on 1000 maternity patients, compared vitamin B1 and a chaste tree fruit preparation in stimulating milk production to a placebo. Chaste tree preparations came out on top. Increased lactation has been attributed to an increase in prolactin secretion, increased progesterone synthesis, reducing estrogen secretions (which tend to inhibit milk production). Results of these early studies led investigators to postulate that either the plant contained a component that replaced hormones produced by the body, or plant extracts, acting through the pituitary, might regulate hormone production. It was found that chaste tree fruit preparations act on the pituitary gland to regulate the production of, and induce normalization of the ovarian hormones. The timing of the release of pituitary hormones, regulates menstruation, fertility, and other processes. Hence, an agent that will produce a balance of hormones can help to regulate these processes. The biological activity of chaste tree cannot be attributed to a single chemical component. The fruits contain flavonoids including the major flavonoid casticin, as well as orientin and isovitexin. Many chaste tree products are standardized to flavonoid content.

Modern Use in PMS
Given the positive results of experimental studies in the 1940s and 50s coupled with clinical experience, has lead to the use of chaste tree extracts in European phytotherapy in several major areas including: management of menstrual disorders, PMS, treatment of infertility produced by mild corpus luteum insufficiency, and hot flashes at the initial stages of menopause, among other conditions. An imbalance of estrogen and progesterone has also been associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Symptoms appear seven to ten days before the beginning of menstruation, and cease once the cycle begins. Physical symptoms include painful breasts, abdominal discomfort and fullness, flatulence, edema (especially of the lower extremities, as well as the hands and the face), and headache. Mental symptoms may include mood swings, nervous irritability, depression, restlessness, and aggressiveness. It is estimated that between 5 and 30% of women may be affected by PMS. Therapeutic choices by health care professionals are based on severity of symptoms. In severe cases, the treatment is likely to be steroidal hormones. In Europe, however, gynecologists have another choice, preparations made from the fruits of the chaste tree.

A 1986 German clinical trial over a three month period with 36 PMS patients reported positive results in physical and psychological symptoms. A dose of 40 drops a day, taken over a three month period, produced a reduction in headaches, breast tenderness and pressure, bloating, and fatigue. Improvement in anxiety, mood swings, and other psychological symptoms were also reported.

In a 1990 German clinical drug monitoring study of the efficacy and safety of long-term treatment with a chaste tree fruit tincture, 1571 women with menstrual disorders including corpus-luteum insufficiency and PMS were followed for a period of 7 days to six years (average 147.6 days). The dose was 40 drops once a day taken on an empty stomach in the morning with water. In 90 percent of patients, the treatment eliminated or alleviated symptoms of PMS. Results for 465 patients were rated very good, 714 good, 220 satisfactory, 110 unsatisfactory, and in 62 cases no data was available. Adverse reactions were reported for 30 patients (1.9 percent), including 12 cases of nausea, , gastric symptoms and diarrhea, and a single allergic reaction.

A clinical survey of German gynecologists published in 1992 evaluated the effect of a chaste-tree preparation (Agnolyt®) on 1542 women diagnosed with PMS. Treatment of 40 drops (tincture) daily lasted an average of 166 days. Both physicians and patient assessed efficacy, with 90 percent reporting relief of symptoms, after an average treatment duration of 25.3 days. Two percent reported side effects, mostly gastrointestinal in nature.

The vast majority of chemical, pharmacological and clinical studies have involved a proprietary extract, Agnolyt®, (capsules and liquid) manufactured by Madaus AG, Cologne, Germany. Until the 1990s most studies involved the liquid preparation, a tincture of the fruits (1:5 tincture, with a 58% alcohol content). This liquid product has recently been reformulated into a solid extract available in capsules.

In order to test the effectiveness and tolerability of the new formulation, a research group in Germany conducted a controlled, double-blind study on the use of the product compared with vitamin B-6. The study was conducted in sixteen centers involving 175 female patients, 85 of whom received the chaste tree preparation, while 90 received pyridoxine. Efficacy was assessed by both the patient and physician at the end of the trial. Treatment was continued for three menstrual cycles. Those who received the chaste tree fruit dried extract (3.5-4.2 mg) took one capsule and one placebo capsule per day. Those in the pyridoxine group, received one capsule of placebo twice daily on days 1 to 15 and one capsule of pyroxidine-HCL (100 mg) twice daily from the 16th through the 35th days of the cycle.

Using a standard clinical global impression scale to record results, the researchers found that those who received the chaste tree extract had a marked reduction of PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness, edema, tension, headache, constipation and depression. It was found useful in 80 percent of the women, and results were rated by practitioners as excellent in over 24 percent of cases. Twelve patients in the chaste tree berry extract treatment group reported gastrointestinal complaints, transitory headaches, or mild skin reactions. These adverse effects were transient in nature. The researchers concluded that the dried berry extract of chaste tree was safe and effective in the treatment of PMS.

Modern Applications
In Germany, the use of phytomedicines in the treatment of menstrual disturbances is often preferred over conventional treatment, if no contraceptives are indicated. Steroidal hormones are often considered unnecessary, and individual treatment initiated once differentiation has been made between cyclic and acyclic bleeding difficulties. A benefit of chaste tree treatment is the relative lack of side effects compared with treatment with steroidal hormones. Another benefit is that the price of chaste tree preparation therapy is far below that of conventional treatment methods. The German Commission E monograph on chaste tree fruits allows use of preparations for menstrual disorders due to rhythmic disorders of menstruation, mastodynia (pressure and swelling in the breasts), and premenstrual syndrome. Preparations include alcoholic extracts of the pulverized fruits (tincture) formulated to an average daily dose equivalent to 30-40 mg of the fruits. No contraindications are listed. While no interactions with other drugs are reported, animal experiments indicate the possibility of interference with dopamine-receptor antagonists. Side effects noted include too early menstruation following delivery (resulting from activation of the pituitary), as well as rare instances of itching and rashes. Chaste tree preparations are contraindicated during pregnancy.

In a recent review on the relationship between phytotherapy and orthodox medicine, a leading German researcher, H. Schilcher, noted that an important reason for the acceptance of phytotherapy by many German physicians is the existence of the scientifically supported Commission E monographs (recently published in English, cited below). Dr. Schilcher also notes that acceptance of phytotherapy rests with the fact that in Germany, their use is consider a component of orthodox medicine and not an alternative approach. In Germany chaste tree fruit preparations are considered a safe, effective, and low-priced tool available to, accepted by, and widely used by gynecologists.


Blumenthal, M., et al., Eds. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Austin, Texas: The American Botanical Council, 1998.
Böhnert, K.-J. and G. Hahn. Phytotherapy in Gynecology and Obstetrics - Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste Tree). Acta Medica Emperica. 1990, 9:494-502.
Brown, D. Vitex agnus-castus Clinical Monograph. Quarterly Review of Natural Medicine 1994 (Summer):111-121.
Coeugniet, E., E. Elek and R. Kühnast. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and its Treatment. Ärztezeitschr. für Naturheilverf. 1986, 27(9):619-622.
Duncan, A. The Edinburgh New Dispensatory. 2nd ed. Edinburgh: C. Elliot and T. Kay, 1789.
Feldmann, H. U., et al. The Treatment of Corpus Luteum Insufficiency and Premenstrual Syndrome: Experience in a Multicentre Study under Practice Conditions. Hgyne 1990, 11(12):421.
Foster, S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, Colorado: Interweave Press, 1996.
Gerarde, J.. The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes. 1633 (revised and enlarged by Thomas Johnson) Reprint. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1975.
Jones, W. H. S. Pliny Natural History with an English Translation in Ten Volumes. Vol. VII. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1966.
C. H. Lauritzen, et al. Treatment of Premenstrual Tension Syndrome with Vitex agnus-castus - Controlled, double-blind Study Versus Pyridoxine. Phytomedicine, 1997 4(3):183-189.
Schilcher, H.. Phytotherapy and Classical Medicine. Journal of Herbs, Spices, and Medicinal Plants 1994, 2(3):71-80.
Thorton, R. J.. A Family Herbal. London: B.&B. Crosby and Co., 1814.
Tyler, V. E. Herbs of Choice - The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals, Binghamton, New York: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994.

Treating Infertility using Acupuncture

PrintAcupuncture is the insertion of ultra-thin, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points on the body which reside on channels or meridians; these are pathways in both the exterior and interior of the body. These points, when needled, can regulate the way in which the body functions. Acupuncture helps by addressing problems that affect fertility such as under-functioning (hypothyroidism) or over-functioning (hyperthyroidism).

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Can acupuncture be used to treat infertility?
Acupuncture, frequently combined with herbal medicine, has been used for centuries to treat some causes of infertility. For example, acupuncture and herbs will not work to address tubal adhesions which can occur as a result of pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis. However, in this situation, an individual could still benefit from acupuncture and herbs because of the potential effect of improved ovarian and follicular function. Additionally, it is shown that acupuncture can increase blood flow to the endometrium, helping to facilitate a thick, rich lining.

As the week passed by, I tried to focus on something productive but all I could think of was that my dream of having children might be gone. I had done everything I was supposed to in life and with the exception of a few bad decisions hadn’t taken many chances. I was surprised on Thursday that I felt like I had cramps. Then the next morning, I got up and went to the bathroom to find that I was bleeding. At that moment I forgot that it was 4:30 AM and busted into my bedroom to scream at my husband that I was bleeding. Half asleep he lifted his head and that good? I responded with of course it is. That specialist said taking the prometrium was a waste of my time and it turns out maybe it wasn’t. Of course being the drama queen I am, I immediately called my mother and told her the good news waking her up as well. I was convinced that my FSH must have gone done because of the bleed. I assumed a bunch of things without even knowing what causes a withdrawal bleed from prometrium. My mother went to the obgyn with me on that day to get more blood drawn. She picked me up and with her had a book with inspirational poems and a box of chocolate for me. Isnt it funny how your mother can make you feel better. Her very presence can make you feel at ease and at other times can make you crazy. This is the way my relationship with my mother has always been. She is my best friend, someone I share almost everything with but whom I can also not stand at times when she is right and I am wrong. When we arrived at the obgyn, the doctor saw me right away and asked how I was feeling. I told her that a withdrawal bleed had started that morning and she was really excited but explained we should still do another blood test. She drew the blood, we talked about my appointment with the specialist the next week and then off my mom and were to wait for my test results which would be given to me at 3:00 PM that day. How would we keep my mind off of these results for all those hours…..we decided on a girls day…lunch followed by shopping. I have found that most of my problems can be temporarily solved with shopping for bargains….a little something my mother taught me. The thrill of the kill, finding the best bargain and then bragging about it to your friends or selling the item on ebay for its actual worth. The little things in life. We were at the mall when my doctor called. She said that she was sorry to report that my fsh had actually gone up since my last test. Not a huge deal because FSH fluctuates hourly but not good that it didn’t fluctuate down. She explained that the withdrawal bleed meant that I had estrogen in my system but that it was very important for me to go to the specialist and what my ovaries and uterus looked like and get more test run. I couldn’t believe it. Hours before I was convinced I had squeezed by dealing with this whole infertility issue now here I was standing in the middle of a crowded shoe department facing it head on again. Upon hanging up the phone with my doctor, I slammed the merchandise down that I was about to “emotional buy” and headed out the door without even signaling to my mother. My mom figuring what the doctor had said just gave me a hug and told me to relax and that everything would be alright. Like most times that I received news I didn’t like throughout this process, I automatically got very angry. I would automatically start judging people who were walking around with their small children or pregnant bellies and just assume they didn’t understand how lucky they were. That God was punishing me for something or that he didn’t want me to be a mom. My mom dropped me off at home and I went inside, took a hot shower and made dinner. My husband and I didn’t talk much that night. We had been hoping for some better news that day and nothing either of us could say would make things better so we just ate dinner and went to bed. Getting through that weekend was tough. My mom called me that Saturday and said she had been doing some reading and that she wanted to drop some stuff off for me to read. She too, had been diagnosed with Celiacs Disease and had done some research on the disease and if it was linked to infertility in any way.

I wish I could tell you my experience with the specialist improved upon my arrival that next Weds but it didn’t. The doctor made my husband and I wait for 30 minutes in a conference room. When he finally decided to grace us with his presence, we reviewed my chart the obgyn had sent over and discussed tests that needed to be run. Seems pretty simple right? As soon as he was done discussing tests he disappeared and when he reappeared in came the cheetah with her clip board full of insurance forms. This is when I found out that most insurance companies will cover anything up to the point that you been deemed “infertile”. Some of them won’t even cover any or even half the tests to determine if you are infertile. So you are paying each month for a service that only benefits those who are able to have children with no “bumps” in the road…pun intended. After only going through this for one week, my husband and I were already facing medical bills that were not going to be covered of up to $500.00. I was forced to weed through the suggestions the specialist had given me and only do the testing that was covered from under my insurance. I recommend you do the same especially at the start of your journey. Things only get more expensive as you move along. After we had decided what tests we were going to run that day, I was taken into an examination room where they took vitals, weighed me and asked me a few questions including if I had any allergies. I nodded and said that I was allergic to flour. The nurse acted as if that meant nothing and we were on our way to the ultrasound room to look at my ovaries and my uterus. As I slid off my pants and put on the gown, I was shaking so much that I could hardly keep myself up. This was the moment I had been dreading since getting the phone call from my obgyn office that past Monday. In my mind I was about to see if my dreams of having my own children were ever going to come true. In walked the nurse who would be doing my ultrasound, without even explaining what she was going to do she lubed up an instrument and stuck it inside me. A little warning might have been nice but I guess when you are paying over $200 a visit that is to much to ask. As she searched through my uterus and my ovaries she wasn’t saying anything so I decided I would start to ask questions. She said my uterus looked good but that my ovaries looked small and there were little to no circles (follicles). I asked if that was bad and she said yes and then I just lost it. As I laid there crying hysterically for what must have been the 20th time in the past two weeks, she looked at me and said “you shouldn’t feel so bad. I saw a 20 year old woman going through this last week, you aren’t the only one”. I wanted to sit up and scream at her “yes I feel so much better that there is another person even younger than me whose dreams have also been shot down”. I am not a violent person but at that time all I really wanted to take my foot and kick her right in my face. At the end of the ultrasound, I demanded to see Dr. S again and not to proceed with the blood tests unless he thought it was necessary. After all, if this nurse believed I didn’t have any eggs left then why would be do genetic testing? The nurse rolled her eyes and left my husband and I in the ultrasound for about 20 minutes. When she re-appeared she asked us to follow her and she stuck us in a little waiting room and explained that the doctor would be by when he could fit us in. We waited there for about 30 minutes. I sat there sobbing and my husband sat there with his eyes covered. Occasionally, one of us would get a text from a family member but besides that it was completely silent in the waiting area. Here we were, a newly married couple that a month ago were expecting to start the journey of parenthood together and now we were sitting in a waiting room to be told that we would not be able to have our children naturally. The doctor opened the door and was holding the pictures from the ultrasound. He explained that according to the photograph, I didn’t have any follicles which meant I had very little eggs in my ovaries. I asked him what the changes were that I would be able to have children with my own eggs and he said they were very slim. He suggested I still proceed with the blood work so that if I decided to do IVF it would already be done. I agreed to do it and was lead to an area where I waited for another 20 minutes to get my blood taken. I sat there with my puffy eyes and just looked at the ground. How could this be happening to me? The nurse that took my blood must have been the ultrasound nurse’s twin because they had the same personality only this one asked me to pay $20 for one of the tests after I had been told my insurance would cover it. This is where I learned another lesson worth sharing….allot of fertility clinics process their own labs. They have companies work in their offices so they have an on-site lab. The tests that are processed “in house” will not initially be covered by your insurance and some you will not even get a reimbursement for. It is only the tests that are sent out that will be covered. Be sure to ask if the tests are covered by your insurance companies. You can get a code for every kind of blood test and then call your insurance company, give them the code and they will be able to tell you if you are covered. I called when I was sitting in the room with the “cheetah” also known as the financial lady at the fertility specialist. When my husband and I left the fertility specialist’s office, we were devastated. I knew by the silent treatment I was getting from my husband that he had nothing positive to say. I asked him to stop by the natural grocery store so I could pick a few things up that my mother and I talked about. I was going to try and get my body back, I wasn’t going to accept this diagnosis quite yet. I was a woman on a mission!

What they didn’t tell me at this visit was that someone who hasn’t ovulated without the help of the birth control pill for as long as I had would have small ovaries and little to no follicles because my body hadn’t been operating naturally. My ultrasound in May looked exactly as it should for someone just going off the pill. After the ultrasound they took some blood for genetic testing and then I was out the door. I had taken that day off of work so I was glad that I could just go home and lay in the sun, try to forget what the specialist had said. They had run another FSH test and a thyroid test and the results would be back in two weeks. I had already decided that I wasn’t going to go back to that specialist. If I was going to end up doing IVF treatments, I wanted it to be with an office that felt friendly and warm and that wasn’t my experience at this first specialist. As my husband and I walked out of the specialist office, I grabbed a pamphlet on acupuncture for fertility I had been eyeing while we were waiting earlier that day and walked out without looking back. On our way home I had my husband stop by the nearby natural grocery store. The only productive thing that I had gotten out of my visit to the fertility specialist was that he confirmed taking vitex could helpful and wouldn’t harm me in anyway and that acupuncture would also be a good thing. I was going to get some vitex and read about what else I could eat or drink to improve my fertility. I wasn’t going down without a fight and as far as I was concerned, this battle had just started. I walked into the store and walked over to the nutrition books. The store clerk helped me search for things you can eat or drink to improve fertility. One of them was drinking raspberry tea. She walked me over to the herbal teas and handed me the raspberry one. Next we walked over to the supplements where she showed me the fertiliaid and the vitex. I decided I would purchase both. At this point, the more fertility help the better. I had visions of me chugging the whole bottle of fertili-aid when I got home. I bought the stuff and we headed home. This day, May 12th, was the day I took charge of my situation and decided I wasn’t going to let the doctors stand in my way of having a baby. I had never let anyone tell me I couldn’t do something before so why should I start now? At this point, I still didn’t believe that the blood test readings and other symptoms wouldn’t be caused by stopping hormones I had been taking for 10 years on top of my body having to start working after a ten year nap. This was also the moment that I decided to take my diet more seriously. I would not longer be eating glutten (flour) or dairy products. I had been allergic to dairy since I was a baby but never did give it up because of my love of cheese. Flour is such a hard thing to give up…especially when you are married to an Italian plus I never dreamed I could be harming my fertility or anything else by eating it. It had always been kind of a joke, I would eat it and get a little gassy or get a hive but I always thought is worth it to have pizza or a piece of buttered bread. I decided that would stop here! When I got home, I pulled out the new supplements took my first dose and then started reading the acupuncture for fertility pamphlet I had taken from the specialist’s office. There were pictures of the doctors with a brief description of their careers and how they are associated with the fertility clinic. I found one that looked friendly and had an interesting background and called. I left a message describing my situation and stated that I was interested in starting treatments as soon as possible. When she called back, we talked about what I had been through, had been told and what I was hoping for. She explained that she usually did treatments for women who were starting the IVF process for were already pregnant but that she believed she could help me. She scheduled me to come in that Thursday and asked that I come in early to fill out some paperwork. When I hung up the phone I couldn’t believe that I had just made an appointment to have needles shoved into me and that I was excited about it. I didn’t sleep well that night and was still pretty upset about the appointment so I took the next day off. My mom was also off work so she hung out with me that day while my husband was at work. We shopping and I bought a cute fountain for my back patio and then we went to grab some lunch. While we were eating, my mom suggested that I go and see her obgyn for a second opinion. This obgyn Dr. L, also had a nutritionist on sight who had originally diagnosed me with celiacs disease. I had decided not to go there for my yearly checkups because I hadn’t like the doctor they put me with the first time I went. This doctors office worked with both eastern and western medicine, not just western medicine which from what I had read so far was a good thing. My mom called the office while we were sitting at lunch and left a message for the nutritionist to call her back as soon as possible. When she called back a few minutes later, my mom went through everything the doctors had told me, the bloodtests, the hot flashes, sleep apnea etc and asked if my diet could have anything to do with all of this. The nutritionist, Dr. T, said that it most definitely could and suggested I make an appointment to meet with her and one of the obgyns. They couldn’t get me in until June 8th but I took the appointment and was feeling much better that things could change with my new diet.

The next day, Thursday, I went to work feeling better about things. I still couldn’t focus on what I was supposed to be doing but I made the best of it. When 3:00 PM hit, I turned my computer off and headed to my first acupuncture appointment. The office was in the historic area near downtown Denver and was in an old re-modeled home. The entire second floor was operated by my acupuncturist, Dr. C. When I arrived, the receptionist handed me a clipboard and a pen and asked me to fill out the paperwork. The packet was pretty thick and asked allot of unusual and personal questions. At this point, I had no secrets so I filled out each question honstely. Before, when I would fill out questionairres, especially at the doctors office, I would sometimes change my answers a bit worried about what people might think…like not check the “gas” symptom or the “frequent urination” symptom. I was completely truthful. I finished the questionnaire and handed it back to the receptionist. About five minutes later, Dr. C appeared grabbed the paperwork I had just filled out and escorted me to one of the treatment rooms. She then started walking me through the paperwork I had filled out. Symptoms I was currently having, allergies, family history, living patterns, diet, work down to what my stool looked like. We talked about what happens when you go off the pill and she confirmed what I had read online, that no one really knows what happens to womens bodies when we stop taking the hormones in birth control mainly because everyone responds differently. I asked her a series of questions about whether she thought I was actually in early menopause or Ovarian Failure and she said there was no way to know at this time but that fact that my mother had children with no problem and that my periods had been normal before starting the pill were two very good signs that I wasn’t in early menopause. She said that only time would tell and that this was going to be a waiting game. Dr. C also explained that I was going to have to learn to be patient and relax or my body would never heal. Next Dr. C explained how our diets affect our overall health and that she wanted me to stop running and reduce the amount of exercise I was doing each week. Up until this point, I ran 2 miles a day during the week…a girls gotta keep up her figure you know!!! Dr. C also said she was going to give me some supplements to take with me when I left that day. Then it was time for the treatment. First she asked me to stick out my tongue and then she had me lay down and took my pulse on both wrists. Next she walked me through everything she did and what each point was for. The first point was in my stomach. She pressed down right in-between my rib cage and asked if it hurt. It was very tender there and then she pressed down on both sides of lower stomach which were also a bit tender. She put in a few needles and then pressed a few points on my ankle and feet which were also tender so she put in a few more needles. Before I knew it, I had over 15 needles stuck in places on my body and I couldn’t even feel it. Dr. C explained that she was going to leave me for 20 minutes to relax and take in the treatment and explained that I might sleep for a bit. I kind of giggled and said that I could never relax enough to fall asleep. Well I guess as soon as she closed the door I dosed off because the next thing I knew, she was opening the door and I woke up. I had slept for the first time in what felt like a week. It was incredible! Next she took out the pins and pressed down on the points that had been tender before. They were no longer tender, I was surprised that they didn’t hurt even a little bit. Next she took my pulse again and commented that it was much better. She had me sit up and she started to explain the diet she wanted me to go on. Mostly eat warm foods, not cold foods and eat allot of protein. Then she went through the list of supplements she was going to start me on, what each one did and how often I would take each of them. As she walked me back to the receptionist she handed me a book she thought I would want to read and then a piece of paper listing a few others books she thought would be helpful. I thanked her and told her I would return the book the next week when I came in for my second appointment. When I left that first appointment I felt like I had hope for the first time since this whole thing had started. Dr. C had been the first doctor that had been positive and made me feel like there was a chance that I wasn’t aging before my time. Not to mention I had been able to relax and get some rest while in her care which I hadn’t been able to do for almost two weeks. I was officially addicted to acupuncture which started my weekly treatments.

Reading Materials/Other Items That Have Helped Me

  • Inconceivable
  • Making Babies by Sami S. David, MD & Jill Blakeway, LAc
  • pre-seed Fertility-friendly Intimate Moisturizer
  • restoring fertility - yoga for optimal fertility dvd - you can feel it working!
  • Taking Charge for Your Fertility by Toni Weschler, MPH
  • The Infertility Cure by Randin Lewis, Ph. D.