Nutrition and fertility (and pms)

This post was originally going to be about pms and nutrition, but as I started writing it, it became more about the nutritional changes I am trying to make to help with my infertility. Is infertility a taboo subject? I don’t even like telling people we are trying to conceive let alone that we aren’t successful; but I felt the need to share my experience (and maybe vent a little as well).

I’m freakishly interested in nutritional science. I really should have gone to school to be a nutritionist. As of right now I would have to take 60 units UNDERGRAD work to even qualify for a Masters; because, you know, a bachelors of arts is useless.  I really should just go back to school to change my career path. My husband might have a heart attack at the thought of more school loans, but I would be working and making more money in the long run (that’s my argument, anyways). Especially since I’m not working right now and we aren’t getting pregnant.

I became interested in nutrition a little bit when I started practicing Natural Family Planning and even more so when I had a couple friends who decided to use NFP and had some cycle issues. If you take a class to learn NFP then you become a member of Couple to Couple League for a year, and can maintain membership for $35 a year. With this membership you get a subscription to their magazine and the counsel of their staff. If you have any cycle or fertility issues, you can contact them and they can try to help. The NFP instructors can help with issues as well, and if they need more help they call in CCL.

My very first cycle (over 3 years ago) I recorded showed a luteal phase of 5 days. An optimal luteal phase would be 14-16 days (some say it can be as low as 12 days, but there are some that say 12 days is too short). I just so happened to have an appointment with my doctor shortly after and brought it up to her. What did she have to say about my cycle defect?

“Well, since you aren’t trying to have get pregnant we won’t worry about it, and when you want to get pregnant we will just put you on Clomid.”

If only I knew then what I know now; I probably would have said something to her.

First off, and correct me if I’m wrong, but Clomid is used for ovulation problems, not luteal phase defects. I do not know of anyone who has had their luteal phase defect fixed from Clomid.

Second, a luteal phase defect can cause PMS, fertility issues, and miscarriage, so it probably is best to correct it before you try and conceive.

Luckily that first cycle was a fluke – I probably started my period too early because I had just started an intense boot camp class and sometimes a change in physical activity can start your period prematurely. But often times a luteal phase defect can be corrected with nutrition. A B complex, for example, may help.

There were possible nutritional solutions to many cycle issues that come up; long cycles, short cycles, less than stellar cervical mucus, etc. When my friend went off of birth control to try NFP, she found out she had PCOS. Her doctor was the office “expert” on PCOS and her only solution was going back on birth control… which really isn’t a solution. Instead, CCL gave her nutritional advice and the number to a nutritionist who had restored fertility to all of her clients. A nutritionist! And here her doctor just wants to put her back on birth control. (Sidenote – the friend wanted to wait to see the nutritionist and changed her doctor to a homeopath. As luck would have it, they conceived on the first try.)

When we first starting trying to conceive we thought it would be easy! After all, we were young, I had never been on any hormonal birth control, we were fairly healthy, and we knew exactly when I ovulated! Unfortunately it hasn’t been that easy. And 16 months later we still haven’t conceived.

After over a year of trying I went to a fertility specialist. He did read my charts. He said that he couldn’t be positive if I ovulated in half of them, because there wasn’t a .5 degree average difference between my pre-ovulation and post-ovulation temps (even though I still have the temperature shift and other signs of ovulation) and suggested Clomid. We decided to take a break from trying and would think about it. But I really didn’t think my problem was ovulation, so a few months ago, when we decided to start trying again, I contacted CCL and asked for their help.

After reviewing my charts and a week’s worth of a food diary they made some suggestions: cutting out processed grains (like the cereal I was eating every morning) and improving my overall diet (adding cod liver oil was one suggestion). She also suggested getting my thyroid checked because my waking temperatures are usually quite low.

The last few month’s our diets have improved dramatically. We actually do not eat anything from a box anymore. I don’t eat any gluten, and hardly any grains, with the exception of sprouted bread when I am craving toast and sprouted corn tortillas when I want tacos. Until recently, I still ate “normally” at other people’s homes and when we ate out.

I bought the recommended cod liver oil and took it for about 2 weeks. And when we moved I couldn’t bring myself to take it anymore, despite the small fortune I spent on it. To take the oil, you stick the included syringe into the bottle and pull the desired amount out.  The bottle said to refrigerate after opening, but if you do, it solidifies and you couldn’t use it. I would then put into a small glass (actually a shot glass) with a little water (because the oil stuck to the sides of the glass). I got the cinnamon flavor and I think that was the worst idea. But some people put it in their apple sauce, so maybe that might work better. I think I should just buy the capsules.

So that is where we are at; trying to beef up our nutrition in hopes of conceiving. With our relocation because of my husband’s new job everything has kind of been put on hold – including finding a new doctor (mostly because I have negative feelings towards Kaiser, our new health care).

  • I’ve started taking Optivite to help with PMS symptoms and a possible luteal phase defect (I rarely have a luteal phase at least 14 days long, and I consistently spot before my period).
  • I need to take cod liver oil again
  • I’ve started taking Evening Primrose Oil to help with pms and cervical mucus.
  • I need to see my new doctor and possibly get my thyroid check and go forward with infertility testing and treatments.

If we can’t conceive without assistance, the least I can do is limit or eliminate my pms symptoms and get healthy! It can be very frustrating to not conceive, but we are still trying to be hopeful.

An interesting and informative read is Fertility, Cycles and NutritionHere is an interesting article about the book and nutrition. There are quite a few research articles sited in the book that are super interesting – even articles about male infertility and nutrition.


4 thoughts on “Nutrition and fertility (and pms)

  1. It sounds like we have similar issues. Regarding CLO, I keep it in the fridge and just scoop it out with a spoon. I try to drop it into the back of my throat (don’t get any on your lips!) and then wash it down with a drink. I can’t imagine trying to take it as a liquid. I accidentally let it melt a bit on the spoon once, and the oil seemed like it coated my mouth. I could taste it for far too long.

  2. Pingback: Surprise! The reason for my absence « thelifeoflulubelle

  3. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I literally felt like I was one of the only people in the world with this experience. I know it has been a year since you posted this, but it helps a lot. I was just considering changing my diet, because after lots of research, I realized that PCOS (which I found out I have) can be “calmed” with the right diet sometimes. Also, I am very familiar with NFP. My parents teach classes on it. I am currently on the pill because my doctor told me that in order to lessen the chance of cervical and ovarian cancer later on, I needed to be on it. I do not agree though. Other than regulating me, it does nothing. In fact I could be causing more harm than good I am aware. So I was wondering if you found that changing your diet helped a lot? I know you don’t have PCOS, but I’m just curious. I would really like to do NFP instead of the pill and my husband is supportive of this too. Thanks so much!

    • Thanks for stopping by! I strongly believe diet and nutrition had a huge affect on my fertility. My friend has PCOS and contacted Couple to Couple League (those who put on all the NFP stuff) and they gave her lots of advice and even put her in touch with a nutritionist who had restored fertility to all of her couples. CCL is a huge resource! It’s just $30 or so a year and you get unlimited advice or help and their magazine.

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