Baby Ian is now 6 months old and I am JUST starting to get my life back in order again in terms of meeting my long term health goals.  I promised myself when I first started this experiment that I would not abandon my health and wellness goals once I was no longer seeking pregnancy.  I’ve been enjoying reading back through this blog to remind myself all of the wonderful meals I created and lifestyle choices I made to get the fertility results I was after.  As it turns out, I don’t think they are all that different from what my new, “post baby” health plan should be.  After all, I still have PCOS and Celiac Disease, and will for the rest of my life.  It’s time to start thinking about my health for the long term and how to stay trim, healthy, happy, and vital as I age.  I recently saw an interview with Deborah Szekely, one of the founders of the health and wellness movement, who just turned 90 years old this week.   Not only did she look great, but she was as eloquent and vivacious as someone half her age.  What a testament to practicing what you preach, but really, what an inspiration!  I’m 35 now, and so I will set my health goals at living to 100+ years old.  That leaves 65 years, or 780 months.  I hear-by rename this blog, My 780 month PCOS Experiment.  To christen the name, I’m going to round-up and share all of the new health/wellness information I’ve come across recently as this passion of mine has slowly emerged in importance again in my post pregnancy life.

1) A more nutritious and PCOS friendly gluten free bread

I’ve often been dismayed at how refined and lacking in nutrition most commercially available gluten free breads are.  And when you look at the carbohydrate content, it’s not something a woman with PCOS should be eating either.  After some searching around, I came across a woman’s website, http://www.elanaspantry.com/, who has developed many gluten free baking recipes using primarily almond flour.  She also uses coconut flour and several types of alternative sweeteners that I’ve grown to like.  I’ve taken her “Paleo” bread recipe and adapted it for myself and I’m really happy with the results.  It is packed with protein and has almost no carbohydrates.  It’s easy to make, nutritious, and filling.

2) Grain Free Diet

The woman I mentioned above, Elana, is a celiac, but she also has Multiple Sclerosis, and has developed her own grain-free, healing diet that keeps her symptom free.  I was not aware before reading her website that many people with Celiac Disease and other kinds of auto-immune disease do better with no grains in their diet, in addition to avoiding the gluten producing ones.   I also found out on her site that both Celiac Disease and Diabetes have the same gene in common and so it makes a lot of sense that I have insulin problems/PCOS AND Celiac Disease.   The diet that I followed at the beginning of this experiment was primarily grain free, as well as low carb and low sugar and obviously I did very well with this way of eating, so I am going back to it, but with renewed vigor as I now better understand the hows and whys.  I do want to mention that it is not a “Paleo” diet though.  I eat dairy and beans and probably all sorts of other things that are not allowed on the Paleo diet.  It’s simply a diet that I have tailored to my own, particular health needs.

3) Xylitol

Xylitol is a natural sweetener that is primarily derived from birch trees (and the fiber of other fruit and vegetables).  It’s low in calories and carbs unlike sugar and it also does not affect blood sugar the same way sugar does.  I’ve been a big fan of agave nectar in the past as my alternative sweetener of choice, but with the recent studies showing a correlation between fructose and high triglycerides, I have decided to limit my use of it, as it is a “high fructose” product.  I am REALLY picky about my sweeteners, as I cannot stand that weird artificial aftertaste that many, even natural, sweeteners have.  I don’t use stevia for that very reason.  Xylitol tastes very much like cane sugar to me.  Xylitol has many other health benefits though that I am also very interested in.  When ingested, it creates an environment in your mouth that is not welcoming to the bacteria that cause plaque and so it can do wonders for one’s oral health if used in sufficient quantities over time.  In fact, it can help remineralize your teeth, virtually healing them from within.  It’s been shown to do the same things for bones too.  There is also research that shows that it prevents ear and respiratory infections.  It’s amazing to me that there is such a product out there that I am only recently hearing much about.  My whole family is using it now with great results.

4) Unsweetened, unflavored protein powder

I’ve been looking for a protein powder that I can add to baked goods and smoothies to boost protein without adding a flavor (vanilla for example) or any sweetness (such a stevia).  Both hemp and pea protein powders were recommended by Dr Frank Lipman.  I found hemp powder at my store, and I can say that so far I am really happy with it.  It has a very mild and pleasing natural flavor and I like the green color too – it just “looks” healthy!  I use it in my new bread recipe as well as smoothies to replace the yogurt that baby Ian can’t tolerate right now while breastfeeding.  I can see lots of ways to use it in the future as the package says that it can be used replace up to 25% of the flour in a recipe.

5) Dr. Frank Lipman

I mention Dr. Frank above, and for good reason.  He’s an MD who practices “Functional Medicine” in NYC, and a wonderful source of health and wellness information.  He gives truly sane, well researched, and highly usable advice to stay on the cutting edge of health.  After reading his website, I can wholeheartedly recommend him as a valuable guide to health.  I love his site and his Facebook presence.  The best thing I can say about him though is that I trust him.

6) Misclaneous – Here’s a list of some of the other things that I’m still doing regularly (or have resumed doing recently) to help treat my PCOS:

-cooking with and making salad dressing with organic apple cider vinegar

– having green tea every morning

– having sufficient protein with each meal and snack

– taking a multi-vitamin, B-multi, vitamin C and D, calcium, magnesium, omega 3s/fish oils, and probiotic.  I’m keeping my supplement list quite simple right now since I’m breastfeeding.

– deep, mediative breathing any time I can

– avoiding toxins and chemicals in my cleaning and personal care

– eating whole, mainly organic foods

– avoiding sugar, most grains, and things with a high carbohydrate and glycemic load

– eating lots of healthy fats (unrefined olive and coconut oil, pastured butter, avocado, nuts/seeds, fish/sardines)

It’s been a while!  I do have a good excuse, as being a Mommy to two kiddos now is quite a feat.  I am now 4 months postpartum, and doing quite well.  I have about 5 more pounds to baby weight to lose, but I am trying not to rush things.  I have lost about 35 pounds total since having Ian and have achieved it without any dieting or exercise – just breastfeeding.  Between the endless teething with my older son and the night feeding with the baby, my nights are just not solid enough to try to start an exercise routine quite yet.  I can’t believe I’m about to say it, but I really miss exercising regularly.  It gave me such a sense of accomplishment and self discipline that kept me feeling balanced.  I’m looking forward to getting back to it ASAP.  My plan is to start the same “Couch to 5K” running program that my husband did over three years ago.  Never running before, it taught him how to slowly build endurance, and he still runs 5K almost every weekday all these years later.  I’d love to be able to join him on his runs in the future – even if it involves us both pushing a jogging stroller.

Even if I am not at the wonderful fitness level that I once was before getting pregnant again, I will say that my body has sprung back better than expected.  I definitely think there is something to the whole “muscle memory” theory because even with just a little exercise in my daily life – carrying a rather large baby everywhere, chasing my toddler in the backyard – my muscles are beginning to tone up without too much effort, as if they just know what to do.  I’m hoping that getting back into shape is easier the second time around.  On a side-note, I will mention that I did suffer a fair amount of tummy trauma from carrying an oversize baby that has left my abdomen very saggy and sad looking.  After doing a little research I can see that my only hope of fixing it will be surgery, and I am not into that.  I will just have to be happy with as much improvement as diet and exercise can bring

I’ve continued having trouble keeping my blood sugar stable and I’ve suffered with a new onslaught of food allergies and sensitivities (potatoes are a no-no now), which I can only imagine are hormonal and immune system based since they all started after delivering and starting breastfeeding.  What can I say?  PCOS is complicated and so is pregnancy.  Put them together and you can expect some upheaval.  It’s not that I’m having the major sugar cravings anymore, it’s just that I’m finding it hard to keep on an even keel, blood sugar wise.  If I am just a few minutes late with my breakfast, my head starts spinning and I feel very weak and shaky with hypoglycemia.  I was able to overcome this as my PCOS Experiment went on, but in some ways I feel like I’m back to square one with this facet of my PCOS healing, especially with not being able to take the supplements that helped me make my initial progress.  I’m already dreaming up a new supplement regimin that will be beneficial for my long term health in dealing with PCOS, rather than to just enhance fertility.  In the meantime, while breastfeeding, I am looking into some easy “kitchen cures” to help regulate blood sugar that would not be contraindicated – such as cinnamon and vinegar.   I’ll be interested to see how well these “cures” work and will be reporting back.

I’ve been able to start cooking fairly regularly again and I’m going back to some of our favorites from the experiment.  Tonight we had fresh roasted salmon croquettes and pan roasted asparagus.  I’m not really able to restrict my eating much because I need plenty of fuel to make milk for the baby, but it feels good to try to make each meal and snack as PCOS friendly as possible again.  It’s not perfect, but I’m a lot further along than I had thought possible in my first handful of postpartum months.  Beyond a shadow of a doubt, all the work and successes I had in doing my Six Month PCOS Expriment have continued to improve my life throughout my pregnancy and now afterward too.  It’s been the best gift to myself, and one that keeps on giving.

I’ll leave you with a self portrait I took this week of baby Ian and myself using the timer on my camera.  In an effort to capture all of the wonderful moments with my two boys, photography is quickly becoming another of my many passions.

Hooray!  I made it past my long and difficult pregnancy with a healthy, beautiful, sweet, and HUGE baby boy to show for it!

As the last four weeks of my pregnancy progressed I got quite alarmingly large in size.  My doctor claims that I was not measuring any larger than I should, but everyone around me was astonished.  There was another mother in my son’s preschool class who was pregnant at the same time, but with twins, and all of the other mothers thought it must be me.  I began having trouble walking.  My lungs were incredibly compressed and that made me gasp for air at times. In a word, I was miserable.  Despite being dilated and effaced by my due date, it came and went with no action.  We decided on an induction for about a week past my due date.  I really did not want to be induced this time around, but I was becoming worried that I might not be able to push out a larger, post-date baby without complications.

The induction was almost not necessary because after only 4-5 minutes after they hooked me up to the Pitocin, I started having very strong and painful contractions.  Another 5 minutes later I was gripping the bed rail and moaning.  The baby’s heart rate became a bit elevated, so they decided to stop the Pitocin altogether.  I continued to labor very strongly on my own, so all I needed was just a 10 minute jump start.  The rest on my labor went as planned and a little after lunchtime I began to push.  The baby came down fast, but I still had to push for quite a while to make progress.  I could tell by then that this baby was larger than my first son, who was 6 lbs 7 ozs at birth.  I’d push for a while and then take some 15 minute breaks to rest.  Finally, after about 90 minutes of pushing, baby Ian was born!  My doctor immediately said, “Wow, look at this huge baby boy”!  They put him up on my chest and he did not appear so big to me, but later, when he was weighed, he was 9 lbs 3 ozs!  I immediately felt vindicated after complaining non stop about how uncomfortable I had been.  I am only 5 feet, 0 inches tall and normally somewhere around 110-115 lbs, so not only was this a large baby, but this was a HUGE baby for me to have had vaginally, and with no complications.  I felt triumphant!

Baby Ian has been a delight!  He nurses well, sleeps well.  I finally got to have the breastfeeding experience that I so badly wanted, and it continues to go well.  I am not able to take many herbs/supplements because there is not much research about taken them while breastfeeding, but hormonally speaking, my hormones are sort of down-regulated while lactating and so is my PCOS for the most part.  I have noticed that I am getting sugar cravings quite often and I have been trying to keep my indulgences at bay, but it is hard.  I cannot wait to be able to take my beloved Gymnema 4g again so I can avoid this.

Postpartum recovery this time seems to have taken longer.  I felt like I had been in a car accident for about a full week after delivery.  My abdomen was, and still is, quite stretched out.  I developed pretty significant stretch marks in my last month of pregnancy and now with a deflated tummy, they look terrible.   Now at 6 weeks postpartum, I still have about 15 lbs. to lose.  Only time will tell how this will end up, but as I start exercising again, I will report back on my progress.   I am determined to get my body, my diet, and my life back in shape.  Stay tuned!

Here is the final pic of my pregnancy, the day before delivery, and one of me and Ian right after.

I suppose no news is good news in the pregnant world.  I am 36 weeks today and so I hypothetically have somewhere around 4 more weeks to go, give or take a few.  The third trimester has been long and hard with lots of daily ouchies, back aches, and that classic “bowling ball hanging between your legs” feeling.  Whomever said that subsequent pregnancies were tougher on the old bod was right!  Everything seems much more stretched out and my frame less stable and able to support it all.

One issue I have not talked about yet is a low lying placenta that was discovered at my 20 weeks anatomy scan.  The perinatologist doing my scan assured me that these things typically stretch up and out of the way as the uterus gets bigger and bigger, but I would need to come back in 2 months for another ultrasound to see the status.  Two months later there was no improvement and I got pretty nervous at that point.  There is nothing inherently dangerous about a merely low lying placenta, as opposed to a partial or full placenta previa, but if it did not clear the edges of my cervix by my third trimester, I would be facing a c-section with no questions asked.  I went back one month later, and thanks to the heavens, the placenta was way out of the way.  Crisis averted!

Because I avoided Gestation Diabetes this time, I will not be induced as a result.  I would love to have the opportunity to go into labor on my own this time, just so I get to have that experience too.  However, that means that I don’t have a date that I am preparing for like last time.  The control freak in me wants to have my hair and nails freshly done and everything I could possibly need and want packed and done as I leave for the hospital, but I don’t see how this is possible.  This will be a lesson in loosening my grip on control like everything else, I guess.

Next week I start going back to my acupuncturist so she can help my body start gearing up for labor and delivery.  I did this at the end of my pregnancy with Jude because I was not effacing or dilating or ripening at all as I approached my induction date, and that usually spells cesarean section with a capital C.  Even at my last OB visit, everything was still clamped down, but when I got to the hospital (and two emergency acupuncture visits later), things were much more favorable.  I was able to have a completely successful and uneventful induction, labor, and vaginal delivery.  In addition to the acupuncture, I will start taking 3 caps of Evening Primrose oil and drinking a few cups of red raspberry leaf tea daily to naturally prepare my body for what’s ahead.

I will leave you guys with a pic I took this morning.  Yes, things are getting quite horizontal in the belly department by this point.  When you are only 5 feet tall, there is nowhere to go but out!   I’m hoping my next post will be all about my healthy and happy delivery and new baby boy.  Wish me luck!!

At my last OB appointment a few weeks back the nurse handed me the forms for my glucose test with the instructions to have it done sometime between then and 28 weeks.  I discussed timing strategies with my doctor and although he urged me not to try to stump the test, he agreed that it would probably be better to take the test earlier rather than later, as the severity of Gestational Diabetes tends to progress along with pregnancy.  I took the test last Tuesday, at 25.5 weeks and I can tell you that I have been on pins and needles, pun intended, about the results.  I had Gestational Diabetes during my pregnancy with Jude, and in a nutshell, it was a total pain in the ass (and fingers).  Aside from the relentless diet that often left me hungry and unsatisfied, finger pricks four times a day, medication, and later the weekly Non-stress tests and Bio-physical profiles were exhausting and incredibly time consuming.  It all left me feeling like my otherwise uncomplicated pregnancy was in peril and high risk.  It also created a scenario where I had to be induced, rather than having the chance to go into labor naturally.  Anyway, the news was good today.  I passed my test and don’t have to be subjected to the truly torturous 3 hour glucose tolerance test that would have come next had I not.  With an active toddler to care for,  I am so thankful and relieved that I do not have to repeat the GD experience.  I truly believe that this is yet another benefit that has come from my PCOS experiment.  Not only did I not have to take Metformin to get pregnant, and with a healthy baby, but I did not develop GD with this pregnancy either, even though I had a much greater chance to this go around, in addition to my inherently high chances just from having PCOS.  This is also the further push I need to remind me to maintain my healthy lifestyle well after my pregnancy.  Two side notes that I also want to mention about the glucose test are that I took it fasting, even though my nurse said I did not necessarily need to, and I also walked around the office park a little in between drinking the sugar drink and the blood draw.

Not too much else to report with the pregnancy.  I am 26.5 weeks today and am quite round.  I feel the baby move all day now and that is always nice and reassuring.  Here is a semi-current pic from around two weeks ago.

I found out a week ago at my Level II ultrasound that my baby both appears healthy and is a BOY!  Several weeks before this, at our first trimester testing/nuchal test, I was pretty sure that I saw what looked to be a very penile looking nub, but one can never be sure about these things in the first trimester.  I have since only considered boy names and nursery decorating schemes, so I guess I had a feeling, despite this pregnancy being very different than my previous one with Jude.  I also want to say that my final Sequential Screen test results came back about a month ago with a very low risk for abnormalities.  I have been feeling quite well lately with much more energy which has fueled a very healthy nesting phase.  I have been cleaning out closets and getting out all of my stored away baby things.  This is my favorite part of pregnancy, and I feel like I can finally truly enjoy it now that I know things are going as planned.  21 weeks down, 19 to go!  Here’s a new pic from this weekend.  My belly is finally getting pretty out there!

I continued with the all day and night nausea until around week 12 and then it slowly dissipated.  The nausea lifted, but the fatigue remained.  Little by little, that is slowly getting better too.  I am now at week 15 and am finally feeling more normal, well – relatively.   I’ve even started feeling like I could do some prenatal yoga and that has made be feel so great.  My body missed exercise during my 3 month sentence on the couch.   I’ve also had my first trimester screening done and everything looks ok from that.  I have a feeling that getting good news about that helped me feel better in general.  I tend to get depressed when I am facing such potentially life changing news.  I certainly felt this way a lot of the time when I was pregnant with Jude – always waiting for the other shoe to fall.  Now that I have a pronounced baby belly, I will include a pic that I took last week when I was about 14.5 weeks.

I have been SICK with this pregnancy!  I’ve had almost all day nausea with no remission for weeks.  I’ve been through 1 1/2 pregnancies before this one and have never had much of a problem with morning sickness.  It’s come as a big surprise to me just how bad one pregnant lady can feel – like totally debilitated and useless, an invalid.  A few days ago I got a craving for fruit juice and so I went with it.  I have been about 80% recovered since that day.  In addition, I’ve incorporated more starchy and carb. rich foods – things you might gravitate to when you are recovering from a stomach illness such as crackers, pasta, toast.  Prior to this, I had been trying to avoid eating much sugar and refined carbs in an attempt at avoiding Gestational Diabetes again.  As a result I figure that since I’ve been pregnant I’ve been almost constantly suffering from low blood sugar in the form of extreme fatigue and unrelenting nausea.  It’s like my body is quite literally starving for more readily available forms of glucose.  I still have my blood glucose meter from my pregnancy with Jude and I have been periodically checking my sugars two hours after meals and for the time being, everything is normal.  My fasting blood sugar in the morning is a shade high (like right at the threshold or one point above), but I am working on that by eating a protein snack before bed.  So now I feel like I am caught between a rock and a hard place.  I’m hoping I can slowly transition to a more insulin friendly diet as I move into the second trimester, but I am not about to rock the boat at this point, just when I finally feel better.

I had my first ultrasound today and everything looks perfect.  I have been having a lot of nausea and just general icky flu like symptoms ever since I found out I was pregnant.  This is weird because I have never had much morning sickness with either of my pregnancies before.  I also had two nice follicles this Femara cycle and my blood Hcg numbers were quite high this time.  All signs were nodding toward twins, but it turns out there is only one baby in there.  Yay!

One of my blogger friends asked what I was doing at the end of my experiment that might have contributed to achieving pregnancy success.  I was exercising 3-4 times per week (mix of cardio and strength training with weights).  I was eating a lower glycemic/lower carb diet with an emphasis on whole, unrefined food and protein with every meal and snack.  I was going to acupuncture once a week.  I was taking many supplements including D-Chiro-Inositol, Myoinositol, NAC, Fish Oil, Calcium/Magnesium, multi with folic acid, antioxidant powder, B-multi, Vit D and C, etc.

Life can surprise you sometimes.  The day after I wrote and posted the previous conclusion I got a positive home pregnancy test!  I had my blood test today and everything looks good.  Can I owe any of this wonderful news to this experiment?  There is no way to know for sure, but I would like to think so.  If you remember my story, I did two Femara cycles last summer after a few months of Metformin and I did not conceive on either one.  Flash forward 5-6 months and I am pregnant with only one round of Femara and no Metformin.  Perhaps I just needed a few more months for my body to recover from breast feeding.  There’s no telling.

So, the real conclusion to this experiment is ambiguous, but who the hell cares?  I am pregnant with minimal intervention and I did not have to take horrid Metformin to get this way.  I can’t see it any other way but a total and complete success!

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