I still remember the first time I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). On one level I was relieved to have a ‘reason’ for my irregular periods. But then came the real shock.
‘It’s going to be really difficult for you to fall pregnant naturally’.
I was 31 and newly married. It wasn’t something I wanted to hear.
But life has a funny way of working out for the best. Even when things seem to be going seriously off the rails.
That marriage didn’t work out. For a while I got used to the idea of never having a family of my own. And I was cool with that.
And then I met a certain Irishman.
After a while things were getting serious so I felt I had to share my big fertility ‘problem’. I knew he really wanted to have a family so I was pretty much expecting that to be the end of that.
But (fortunately) he wasn’t put off. In fact he didn’t seem to think it would be a problem.
Now that we have one beautiful boy and another babe due very soon, I’m so grateful that this is where we ended up.
I’ve really wanted to share my story because I know how frustrating fertility problems can be. And I also know how unhelpful modern medicine can be.
If this can help just one other couple, it will be worth writing.
Of course, if you’re already sorted in the fertility department, just skip down to this week’s recipe. It’s delicious whether you have a family or not!
How I got pregnant naturally at age 40 and age 43
1. Stopped taking the pill.
You’ve probably heard of someone who stopped taking the pill and was pregnant the next month. It happens.
But if you’re likely to have fertility issues, the longer you’re on the pill the longer it’s going to take your body to get back to some sort of natural cycle. If I had my time again I would have switched to an alternative form of contraception much earlier in the process.
2. Changed my diet to mostly paleo / low carb.
I wasn’t sure of the mechanism but I knew there was a link between insulin and the fertility hormones. Going low carb made a HUGE difference. It enabled me to go from having one period in 6 months to having a relatively regular cycle. If you’re only going to follow one tip from this post this would be the one!
3. Took a pre-conception multivitamin.
Your doctor is going to recommend folate and iodine. I figured I may as well cover the rest of my bases as well even though I prefer to get my nutrients through whole food meals rather than supplements.
4. Experimented with fertility prediction sticks.
My gynecologist recommended these. Basically there’s an increase in certain hormones just before ovulation. Peeing on these sticks tests for the hormone and when it’s detected you should be ovulating within 24-48 hours. Of course if you have PCOS this hormone tends to be elevated for longer so the test isn’t as accurate as it is for women with regular cycles.
I found them more trouble than help and didn’t bother when we were trying the second time. If you do decide to use them buy in bulk online instead of paying a fortune at the chemist.
5. Measured my temperature every morning.
Another waste of time I didn’t bother with second time round.
6. Learned to really understand my fertile signs.
This was a game changer! Basically it’s about tracking the consistency of your vaginal ‘mucus’ through out your cycle. I took a course called Debunking PCOS (not an affiliate link) with Melbourne based doctor that really helped me get my head around this concept.
Along with going low carb this was huge! If you have an irregular cycle, understanding your body’s mucus sounds gross but is really the key.
I also used the Clue App (not an affiliate link) to track my cycle… Brilliant for spotting trends and just feeling on top of it.
7. Stopped running and started walking instead.
I used to run 50-60km a week. I stopped at the beginning of August on the advice of a fertility doctor and we fell pregnant in September with Fergal. Too much exercise can be just as problematic as not enough. A doctor friend suggested that running causes problems because it gets the body to over heat.
8. Took a holiday.
After trying to get pregnant for over 18 months with one miscarriage, things were getting a little stressful. Thankfully we had planned a trip to Europe for my 40th birthday. We decided not to think about fertility stuff while we were away and wouldn’t you know it… we came home pregnant with Fergal.
9. Focused on keeping stress levels to a minimum.
Second time around we had another European holiday booked as backup but I decided to focus on removing as much stress from my regular life as possible. Minimal work commitments. No goals. Turns out we conceived before the trip!
10. Took up meditation.
This was part of my stress reduction program for our second. I started daily meditation in April and we were pregnant in June. I have no idea whether it helped with the fertility but I definitely noticed meditation helped me be much more patient when dealing with a two year old!
11. Kept believing it would happen.
This can be the most challenging part. Especially as the months (and years) ticked on. But I kept reminding myself of all the people I knew who struggled to get (or stay) pregnant and who now have the families they were hoping for. If you want something bad enough you’ll eventually find a way to get there!
Lime & Tahini Kale Salad
Inspired by the lovely Ella Woodward from her first book ‘Deliciously Ella’ which is filled with plant based recipes. When I first made this I was completely obsessed I think I had it three times in one week. I adore how the lime and tahini come together to make a super flavoursome dressing.
takes: 10 minutes
enough for: 1-2
1 large bunch kale
4 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1. Remove tough stems from the kale and slice or tear into bite sized strips. Place kale in a large bowl.
2. Squeeze over lime juice and drizzle with tahini and soy sauce. Toss salad with your hands massaging the kale as you go.
no tahini – use almond or cashew butter instead. Or replace tahini with extra virgin olive oil for a less creamy salad. You could sprinkle in some toasted sesame seeds for flavour.
carb lovers / more substantial – toss in torn flat bread or tortillas OR some cooked quinoa or rice and an extra squeeze of lime to make sure the salad doesn’t dry out.
carnivore – toss in some sliced cooked steak or chicken – I love this steak version!
no lime – use lemon instead.
soy-free – replace soy sauce with coconut aminios or use salt to season instead.