Updated: Jan 29
I have been meaning to share this for a while, even if it only helps one person to give them some hope that all is not lost.
My journey with secondary infertility and recurring pregnancy loss started in 2010 when my son was 1 and I was 34. I found out I was pregnant again but I didn’t feel ready at first. I remember going into the pharmacy to get a pregnancy test and not feeling very happy about it as it felt too soon after giving birth to my son in late 2008. 3 days after my positive pregnancy test, I started to bleed, and although I didn’t feel ready to have another baby I was completely devastated. This changed everything as the loss made me realise that I did want another baby after all. I was then on a mission to get pregnant as soon as I could.
I had started work at Health 2000 not long after my Son’s first birthday and worked weekends. There was a lot of downtime in between customers as there was no ordering at the weekends so I spent a lot of time researching infertility and recurring miscarriage in between customers. I was also studying Nutritional Science at the time so I was able to use my practitioner resources and have access to practitioner only research-based supplements to try.
Over the next two and a half years I was to sadly have another 7 early pregnancy losses between 4 & 5 weeks the type where you get an early (sometimes faint) pregnancy test but then go on to bleed about 2 - 4 days later. These are termed Chemical Pregnancies and the sad thing is that they are not considered established pregnancies until you have your HCG blood test confirmed at the doctors. I could have probably have done this if I had made an effort to. However, to be honest, after a while I started to get really anxious every time I suspected it was happening and tried to remain in denial until at least 1 week had passed after my period was due.
During my first year of trying to get pregnant, I identified (with help from my study and personal research) that I was postnatally depleted after breastfeeding my son for 14 months. My doctor organised a blood test for me and my iron was very low with a ferritin of 25 (the normal range is 20 – 200). When my son was born, I had endured a long and complicated labour which ended with a postpartum hemorrhage and a blood loss of 800mls. I ended up having to have a blood transfusion as my hemoglobin got dangerously low and I became weak with a very pale complexion that really shocked me when I looked in the mirror. After the blood transfusion, I took iron for about 3 months afterward until my bloods were reviewed again. I remember getting a call from my nurse at the time saying my iron was fine and that I could stop taking iron, so I did. It was only a year later when I got a copy of my medical history from the doctors that I discovered my ferritin was only 22 when they confirmed I could stop taking iron. This is borderline anaemia.
I wished at the time I knew to ask them to check my B12 as I know this would have been low as well and is one of the main nutrients that when deficient can cause infertility and recurring pregnancy loss. I was to discover this more later in my journey as well as the importance of adequate levels of the other methylation nutrients such as folate, B6, and choline.
After 12 months of trying and not being successful, I went to the doctors and was referred to a local fertility clinic. After our initial meeting with the specialist, we felt really positive that we would have another baby soon as all our tests all came back normal. We were put on the waiting list for IVF and were told it would be about 18 months away so to keep trying in the meantime.
In 2012 2.5 years after I started trying again, I became pregnant after a holiday in Fiji (see what happens when you have no stress in your life and plenty of sunshine!) I was so surprised and incredibly anxious when it got to 5 weeks and there was still no sign of bleeding even though I felt sick with panic every time I went to the bathroom. Passing the 5-week mark gave me hope that this pregnancy might progress and I might actually have the baby I wanted so badly. I went to the doctor and had my HCG blood tests done at 5 weeks and they confirmed the pregnancy and that the numbers were rising satisfactory.
The next stage was to have a dating scan at 6.5 weeks. I felt anxious but hopeful however the lady at the scan couldn’t find a heartbeat. She said it could be because it was too early and to come back again in a week to check again. Over the course of the week between my scans, I suddenly felt different and knew it was over. I felt like my hormones had been switched off and I didn’t feel pregnant any more. Sure enough, the scan at 7.5 weeks confirmed there was no heartbeat and that it was a blighted ovum. Although I knew it was over, I cried and cried for the next week. My body didn’t naturally miscarry so I was booked in for a D & C, which is a surgical procedure to remove the fetus from my uterus a week later. Knowing I was carrying around my dead baby inside me for a week was such a horrible feeling.
It took a while to recover from the D & C as I had excess bleeding due to the fact that I had a large uterine fibroid, which can be common in women over 35. Uterine fibroids can play a part in implantation issues so I did wonder whether it was causing me to have these early miscarriages. Uterine fibroids are often linked to estrogen dominance (an excess of estrogen over progesterone) and a lack of vitamin D which I discovered later on in my journey with recurring pregnancy loss.
For the next 4 years I continued to have chemical pregnancies, I lost count in the end but would have been an average of about 3 per year. So I believe over the course of 10 years I had about 17 very early pregnancy losses between 4 – 5 weeks after a positive home pregnancy test. Despite this, I technically only had 1 confirmed miscarriage with HCG blood tests on my medical records so I still needed 2 more confirmed miscarriages before any further investigations could be carried out (as you need 3).
In 2016 at the age of 41, I had IVF after being on the waiting list for 18 months. Prior to having the procedure I had to have my AMH tested to check on my egg reserve. The results unfortunately weren’t very hopeful as my numbers were in the red. This meant I was running out of time so this IVF was probably my last hope. The procedure was reasonably successful though with 5 eggs collected (which doesn’t seem many but good for my age) and 3 of them fertilised which is great odds. By the 5 day transfer, I had 1 remaining embryo as the other two didn’t survive which meant I had no embryos to freeze.
Knowing this was likely to be my last chance, the 10 days wait from embryo transfer until the day I took the pregnancy test was unbearable stressful. I also had to use those uncomfortable progesterone pessaries twice a day which was not pleasant. I kept myself distracted with work and meditated twice a day to stay calm and tried to visualise my growing baby in my uterus in the hope that this would make a positive difference.
When I received the call from my fertility doctor, I was so shocked to hear that I was pregnant and that my HCG bloods were looking good. I really felt that this was my time and I would finally be having another baby. Sadly this was not the case as I started bleeding heavily while I was at work serving customers in a health shop at around 6. 5 weeks, the same day I received my congratulations on your pregnancy pack from my fertility doctor.
At my post miscarriage review meeting with my fertility doctor, I was told that my eggs were too old and the only way forward from here was to use donor eggs. We decided we didn’t want to do this and parted ways with my fertility specialist. At age 41 this felt like the end of the road.
Even though I should have just given up at this point, I had this gut feeling that I still needed to keep myself as healthy as I could be just in case. I told those around me that I had stopped trying but in reality, I was still hopeful. Those of you who have been on a fertility journey know that it is hard to completely give up hope after such a long time. There is always a `what if’ in the back of your mind. It is only when something out of your control happens like menopause, that you can finally admit it is over. I knew I would probably carry on hoping until I hit menopause.
Over the next 2 years, I sadly had another 3 chemical pregnancies, one when I was in Thailand and I avoided drinking alcohol for most of the holiday just in case only to start bleeding on the plane home.
In 2018 at the age of 43, I decided to quit working 30 hours a week in a health shop to focus purely on building up my business. As well as working 30 hours, I also ran my nutrition clinic part-time and was busy with my son’s after school activities so life was pretty frantic.
During those first few weeks off work, I spent time recharging and brainstormed how I was going to develop my business. It was about 3 weeks later that I noticed my period was late and anticipating the usual fate, I waited until 5.5 weeks before I took a test. I was so surprised to have such a strong positive that I immediately booked an appointment with my GP for HCG bloods. The doctor confirmed my pregnancy and my HCG levels were doubling nicely. I should have been pleased but after so much disappointment I honestly felt numb, which is my body's usual defense mechanism to protect me from the inevitable outcome. At 8 weeks I was booked in for a dating scan. As I arrived in the car park it suddenly felt real and I was overwhelmed with anxiety that they wouldn’t find a heartbeat like last time. However, I was so excited to hear a very strong heartbeat and the fetal growth was bang on 8 weeks so this was really happening.
Despite my continued anxiety my 12- and 20-week scans were perfect as well, with a low risk of congenital abnormalities which I was told was excellent considering my age. I was even brave enough to fly to England just after my 20-week scan. This was the point I started to believe my little baby would finally arrive.
My miracle daughter Jenah arrived in February 2019 by emergency cesarean at 39 weeks, weighing 9 pound 1. I was 44 years old when she was born and she is absolutely perfect in every way. I am still amazed that my aging body was able to produce such a miracle naturally and I didn’t need any medications or artificial hormones, just a selected few nutritional supplements. I am also amazed that my now 46-year-old body is continuing to nourish her through breastfeeding despite the odds being stacked against you because of your age.
I hope my story provides some hope and encouragement to others who have tried unsuccessfully to have a baby for a long time without success. To go from no hope at age 41 to delivering a healthy baby girl at age 44 with no medical intervention is such a blessing. I would have felt hopeful after reading a similar story when I was in the thick of my infertility journey, which is why I want to share this.
I often wonder what I did differently to hold on to this pregnancy when my body rejected so many in the past. Reducing my stress levels and my workload was definitely the main one as this would have helped my hormones to be more balanced. I often wonder whether 8 years of handling receipts in a retail environment may also have been connected. The PCB’s on receipts are detrimental for fertility. I continued to eat an optimal fertility diet through my infertility journey and had worked to heal most of my skin issues and asthma (by healing my gut) so that nothing would stand in my way. So maybe my immune system was more balanced at the time, who knows. Maybe my little girl was just waiting for the right time to show up, and at this point in my life, everything was finally in alignment. I actually do believe this.
I have learned so much about fertility over the last 10 years that I feel the drive to help people in this area, especially as I understand how emotionally draining it can be to struggle with infertility. My area of focus is pre-conception nutrition and wellness for both females and males. This will include dietary, lifestyle, environmental, stress management, gut health, addressing hormone imbalances, and reducing toxicity. Please contact me if I can help you in any way.
So if you have read this to the end, I do hope it has given you some hope if you are currently having fertility challenges and feel you are running out of time. Or if you know someone who could benefit from reading this right now please do share it with them.
I am going to finish off with this quote that always kept me going. I had this written on the first page of my diary each year.
“The moment you are ready to quit is usually the moment right before the miracle happens, please don’t give up”