Fertile Imagination

Infertility and Treating the Whole Mama

By Julie Stockman

From the age of 25 to 35, I consumed more medications than I hope to for the rest of my life. With complete, unwavering trust in the authority of Doctor, M.D., I washed down thousands of pills. I had prescriptions for high blood pressure, regulating periods, anxiety, more high blood pressure, obsessive-compulsive disorder, stronger ovulation, and – funny enough – chemical sensitivity.

Meanwhile, inside my body, my chances of conceiving and carrying babies to term were steadily declining as an effect of all this chemical exposure. Each of these pharmaceuticals was affecting my liver as it struggled to keep up with what it considered toxic overload. When it could no longer keep up, other organs that depended on my liver being in a healthy state began to suffer. Naturally, these new declining organs (pancreas, spleen, kidneys) had many other organs depending on them to stay healthy. A cascading effect of harm began to take place.

And I couldn’t conceive a baby.

As I now understand my body much better both intellectually and instinctually, I know that the human body is a system. You must treat it as a whole, and never as a sum of its parts. Especially important is to never treat one of its parts while ignoring the whole. It never works.

In retrospect, losing the babies was probably my body’s own defense mechanism at work to keep itself afloat. How could it sustain a new life when it was struggling to sustain its own?

The first things I did to heal my whole body were simple. I tossed out my synthetic vitamins and started taking one made only from whole food sources. I used Baby and Me prenatals from the Megafood company, but there are others at health food stores, in online vitamin stores, or at Whole Foods Market. Any vitamin that doesn’t state on its label that it is made from food sources is most likely a synthetic version. Synthetic versions of vitamins isolate a part of each vitamin that is easy and cheap to obtain. Unfortunately, the vitamins and minerals we need were – like us – designed to function as a whole, not as a single part.

I also changed my diet. For years, I’d been a vegetarian for ethical reasons. Many vegetarians do a great job at keeping a healthy, whole foods diet while avoiding meat. I was not one of those. I was what you might call a “junk food vegetarian” where french fries, ice cream, sugary baked goods and a heavy carbohydrate intake was all okay as long as no meat was involved. I switched to a diet that was lower in Omega 6 fatty acids and based my meals around more vegetables and healthy fats with a little poultry and fish each day. I gave up sugar.

Finally, I significantly reduced my caffeine intake. Although the jury is still out on whether or not caffeine affects your ability to get and stay pregnant, I am certain it did for me. My adrenals were very weakened from years of too much caffeine. Since adrenals produce most of the progesterone your body needs to stay pregnant during the first trimester, I wanted to give those little glands all the support I could.

But for me, these things alone were not enough. They helped me conceive, just as Clomid had before, but the pregnancies would not stick. I was having very early miscarriages almost every cycle.

So I used the help of an unbelievably gifted nutritionist to keep my babies in the womb, and I share her name far and wide to anyone in our local area. (Cincinnati, Ohio natives, that’s Stacey Lang of Hebron Chiropractic.) She helped me figure out which parts of my body were suffering and how they were affecting the whole. She offered gentle (rather inexpensive) support for those different parts so that the whole body could function as it should again. She saw me weekly to be sure that the supplements she gave me were having no adverse effect elsewhere, and that the whole body was responding positively.

I find it very hard to do this work on my own. When I first came to her, I was firmly entrenched in a system that told me that treating my symptoms was the way to go. At first that system seemed to work. I could get pregnant with Clomid, have lowered blood pressure with beta blockers, less chemical sensitivity with Haldol, so there was a sense that the pharmaceuticals were doing their job.  I ignored any clues that other parts of my body’s whole were suffering by labeling them “side effects.” I was never taught to recognize and pay attention to my body’s own messages and warnings.

To make matters worse, when I began to explore alternative treatment, my first experience with a naturopath left my pockets empty but my body not much improved. “It’s a slow process,” she said. “You must be patient.” When I found my wonderful Dr. Lang, however, I started noticing improvements after every single visit.

Sometimes alternative medicine can get a bad name when progress isn’t noticed right away. At times it really is a slow process, and you must be patient. It is certainly slower than popping a pill to treat the symptoms. But from my experiences, when you find the right person, you will steadily improve. Your body wants to heal itself, but only as a whole of all its parts.

Other posts by Julie Stockman that might be of interest:

Ideas for Finding A Good Naturopath or Nutritionist In Your Area

Infertility and the Power of Rational Problem Solving

Julie Stockman lives in Farmland, Indiana where she homeschools her children with her husband, Jeff. She spends her days baking, gardening, keeping chickens, exploring the nature around them, practicing gratitude and mindfulness, and writing about it all on her blog, Heirloom Homestead.

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This post originally ran on October 18, 2010.