Grow Your Own Tribe!

chart.jpgIf growing your own tribe of small humans is on your to-do list, then this is the post for you. Maybe you are one of those super fertile people, who could just about procreate from the right type of glance your way. Or maybe you are one of those people, like I was, wandering around saying “I’m infertile” and googling your various hormonal complaints. First of all, nobody is “infertile” unless you are missing some key anatomy such as your ovaries, your fallopian tubes, your eggs and your uterus (if you’re female). If you have all these parts and you think you are “infertile”, chances are you are either dead wrong, or you are in a state of sub-fertility due to internal environmental factors such as blockages, an internal hostile environment, inadequate hormone production. May I just mention, I am not a doctor or specialist of any kind, I’m just a pregnant person who has spent a great deal of time contemplating this subject.

If you are one of those super fertile types, go forth and multiply! If you are one of those legitimately infertile people then perhaps your tribe will come to you in a different way, such as through adoption. Wherever your journey leads, I wish you all the blessings you long for. If you’re in the sub-fertile category and you are planning on Growing Your Own Tribe, this is my best advice for Mother’s-To-Be and some of it applies to Father’s To Be as well (take it or leave it):

  • Find a loving and committed partner. Pregnancy can be harder than you imagined, let alone raising tiny humans, and a loving and committed partner can make all the difference to you and your tribe.
  • Even if you haven’t found a suitable co-parent at this point, if you think you are sub-fertile, and you want to Grow Your Own tribe, you should start balancing your hormones now and GET OFF OF BIRTH CONTROL PILLS (and patches and needles etc). If you want to balance your hormones, you just can’t be pumping your body full of unnatural ones. Some women can get pregnant with ease after the birth control pill, but if you’re in the sub-fertile category you may struggle. Supplementation with bio-identical hormones can help treat sub-fertility and various endocrine problems associated with sub-fertility such as hypothyroidism (which I was diagnosed with during pregnancy), but these treatments do not include the birth control pill.
  • Now that you are off of the pill and alike, START CHARTING YOUR NATURAL CYCLE! If you already chart your periods, that’s a great start. Maybe you are rolling your eyes because you don’t even get periods (what they call amenorrhea, I’ve been there sister!) but you can still start charting. You can either use graph paper or if you’re a smartphone user, there’s an app for that (or dozens). I personally use the app called “Kindara”. Day 1 of your chart is the first day of your period. If you don’t get a period, day 1 of your cycle can be today! The last day of your cycle is the day before you start your next period. How long your cycle is will give you valuable information. Every day you bleed, whether it’s full-flow or spotting needs to be recorded. There are two other very important pieces of daily data you should record in this chart. Firstly, your basal body temperature in fahrenheit (to be taken upon waking in the morning, before you get out of bed) and your cervical mucus/vaginal discharge (specifically the texture, colour, and amount). Your basal body temperature and your cervical mucus will help you pinpoint on your chart the day of your cycle that you ovulate. The best time for intercourse when trying to conceive is the five days before ovulation, and the day of ovulation. Ideally after charting for a few months, a pattern will emerge from your charts. The first phase of your cycle is the follicular phase and your basal body temperature is normally lower during this phase and your cervical mucus becomes increasingly lubricative until it becomes clear and slippery like raw egg whites which marks ovulation and the end of the follicular phase. The second phase is the luteal phase where normally there is a body temperature increase. The temperature spike and the cervical mucus should help you identify the day you ovulated. You may also want to take an ovulation test where you pee on a stick and your urine is tested for the luteinizing hormone (which helps trigger ovulation). Some women experience other symptoms during ovulation such as breast changes and mood changes. All of these changes should be noted on your chart. The luteal phase ends when your period begins and the cycle has ended. Getting to know your body’s cycle is very important to understand your fertility. For an example of a chart, see the image above. The connected blue dots indicate my temperature. When I ovulated, and became pregnant, my temperature rose and stayed high.
  • Build your village. You will need your village when you are pregnant, and when the baby arrives, so find out who those people are now. Find people who will love and support you on your journey to fertility, offering you their great listening skills and a shoulder to cry on when things get tough.
  • Reduce inflammation in your body through adjustments to your diet such as cutting out gluten, dairy, and sugar. This might sound like some kind of voodoo magic, or trendy diet nonsense but hey, if it works, it works right? And yes, alcohol is full of sugar so I suggest cut out the rum and coke and opt for a modest amount of red wine or something fermented.
  • Speaking of fermented, it’s all the rage right now to heal your gut and increase your good bacteria and restore your healthy flora. Your emotional and hormonal health starts in the gut where you need to absorb the right building blocks to nurture your body and mind. This is a great new fad, jump on That bandwagon! This means, taking probiotics, drinking Kombucha, eating fermented foods such as sauerkraut, and packing your body full of whole foods avoiding all of the artificial stuff, pesticides and hormones (like in non-organic dairy, and some meats). Also don’t shy away from healthy fats such as avocado and coconut oil, fats are the building blocks of hormones! You may also want to increase alkaline foods to balance your body’s PH level, such as by drinking lemon water and eating lots of leafy greens. You want your vagina and internal environment to be conducive to living sperm.
  • De-stress. Let’s all roll our eyes at that one for a minute. Life is full of stressors! But here’s the thing. Your body does everything to support you. When you are under a lot of stress, it reserves non-essential resources. One of these resources which is non-essential to your life is your reproductive system. If you have ever missed a period due to stress, you can prove this point. How you want to de-stress is up to you. Move to the woods. Quit your job. Go surfing more often. Paint. Meditate. Write songs. This will be an activity unique to you so find one that works.
  • Have medical investigations done. Medical investigations can confirm that you are not “infertile” and can give you valuable information about your hormones and your anatomy. You may want to have an ultrasound to examine your ovaries and uterus, checking for abnormalities and cysts. A hysterosalpingogram can test your fallopian tubes for blockages and abnormalities. You may want to have blood and saliva tests done to test your various hormone levels. Reproductive hormone levels should be different on different days of your cycle. Find a knowledgeable practitioner who is willing to test you on the right days according to your cycle.
  • Get help understanding your medical investigation results and your chart. Some general practitioners will have an interest in your chart and some unfortunately will not. You need to find someone who is knowledgable in fertility and charting. Someone who can understand your test results and read your chart can help you identify hormonal abnormalities. This data will help you uncover the root cause of your sub-fertility. Finding the right person to help you can be a challenge. You might want to seek a “NaPro Technology” teacher to help. You can search for a fertility specialist online or ask around your community. You may find support on your phone app as well, as many apps allow you to get feedback on your charts from the community. You can also buy books about charting and fertility or research online in order to become your own fertility guru.
  • Address the results of the medical investigation and next actions with the doctor who ordered it. Find out if you can have blocked tubes unblocked etc.
  • If you are facing unexplained miscarriages, find out what data medical investigation and charting can give you as to the underlying cause. Know that you are not alone.
  • Trying to understand your chart can be daunting at first but before long you will have a trained eye. If your cycle looks like a mountain range then you may have what I have had many times: an anovulatory cycle in which you did not ovulate. Fear not! You only need to ovulate once to make a baby, and an anovulatory cycle just means your body is saving your precious eggs for a more opportune time.
  • Try a variety of hormone balancing and fertility promoting techniques. Some people swear by acupuncture,  homeopathy, naturopathic treatment, herbal remedies etc. Some herbs are known as “adaptogens”, which give you the nutrients your body needs to adapt and bring your hormones into balance.
  • Regular exercise can promote fertility, but too much adrenaline-high activity can disrupt your fertility hormones. In addition, under 18 precent body fat may result in loss of fertility. If you want a healthy exercise regime, instead of body-building and sprinting and adrenaline-high sports, you may want to opt for swimming, yoga, light biking, surfing, pilates, stand-up paddle boarding and non-intensive rock-climbing.
  • Change your mindset. Wandering around saying “I’m infertile” is NOT HELPING YOUR CASE. Develop a mantra or positive affirmation that promotes your health and fertility. This can be something like “I am fertile, I am a mother to be, I was designed to create life”. You are what you think.
  • Let it go. If you spend every minute of your day worrying and fretting over your fertility and obsessing over your chart, you will promote stress and high cortisol levels which will decrease your fertility. Find activities and passions that take your mind off of your fertility woes. Maybe it’s making music or going to a “paint night” with friends, photographing wildlife, exploring a new beach or parks. Find enjoyable activities that take your mind off of all this fertility stuff.
  • Open up to your partner about how you are feeling through this journey. Be supportive of each other and understanding of the others perspective, fears, hopes etc. Let your partner support you during your journey out of sub-fertility into fertility. This might take the form of them reminding you to take your temperature in the morning, helping you chart, attending your appointments, participating in the fertility-promoting activities that you have chosen. You may even want to develop fertility mantras and positive affirmations together. It is up to you how intimately involved your partner is on your quest for balance and fertility.
  • Journal. Keep a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and discoveries. Getting things down on paper may help you sleep better at night.
  • Herbal remedies and suppliments that may or may not promote fertility are endless, but I can only speak from my experience when I say that when I conceived I was on raspberry leaf capsules, maca root capsules, saw palmetto capsules, vitamin D (4000 IU/day), vitamin B complex, folic acid/folate, vitamin C.
  • To increase chances of embryo implantation, keep a healthy vagina with a balanced PH level, avoid weird artificial lubricants with flavours and colours and opt for natutal lubricants such as coconut oil, and eat whole pineapple (bromelain contained in pineapple core promotes implantation).

The journey of Growing Your Own Tribe can be difficult and emotionally exhausting. Take care of your self. Love and appreciate your body and have faith it will not let you down. If you aren’t even ovulating right now, take it as a sign your body is reserving your precious eggs until a less stressful time in your life that would be more optimal for bringing a child into the world. Remember, Mother Nature Gives! Your body was designed to Grow Your Own Tribe.