Thursday, 27 January 2011

BPA a Hidden Cause of PCOS and Infertility?

If we can't see it, can't smell it, can't hear it and can't touch it, does it exist?

We can no longer hide our head in the sand and pretend that environmental chemicals have no effect on polycystic ovarian syndrome and our collective health.

The evidence is in. The chemical Genie is out of the bottle. We have a serious problem to solve.
Researchers in the UK and Greece have just published a report. The report says that women with polycystic ovary syndrome have a significantly higher body burden of bisphenol A (BPA) than other women. BPA, a chemical in our environment, is a known estrogenic "hormone disrupter".

The study compared 71 women with PCOS to 100 "normal" women. All women were subdivided into lean and overweight groups. All together, the PCOS women had 1.5 times the amount of BPA in their blood than the other women did.

The lean PCOS women had 1.6 times the amount compared to other lean women. The overweight PCOS women had 1.3 times as much as the other overweight women. The overweight women tended to have lower BPA levels in their blood than the lean ones. We can speculate that in the overweight women, they have more BPA stored in their fat cells and not as much in their blood. Fat cells are excellent storage sites for many environmental chemicals.

The study also established a close correlation between BPA levels and the level of male hormones such as testosterone. A close association was also shown between BPA and insulin resistance. In other words, the higher the BPA, the higher the male hormones and insulin resistance are.

Please note that high levels of male hormones and insulin resistance are believed to be the reason why you have PCOS.

The study concluded: "Higher BPA levels in PCOS women compared to controls and a statistically significant positive association between androgens and BPA point to a potential role of this endocrine disruptor in PCOS pathophysiology."

They are implying that BPA appears to be a partial cause of your PCOS.

But there's more.

What happens if you conceive? What happens to your developing baby?

In lab animals, BPA passes from the mother to the fetus. So BPA is still available to do its damage. Fetuses have a severely limited capability to detoxify chemicals such as BPA. Essentially, your future baby is at increased risk for problems that go far beyond PCOS or infertility.

For example, the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has reported that the 2-year old children of mothers with higher levels of BPA had more disturbed behavior. This was more pronounced in female children than males.

What happens if your new baby is exposed to BPA? If rodent studies are any clue, both your male and female babies will tend to be less fertile when they become adults.

For example, the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina recently completed a study of baby female rats exposed to BPA.

When the female rats became adults, they discovered that their BPA exposure was associated with increased testosterone and estrogen, and reduced progesterone. (This is an unbalanced hormone pattern commonly seen in women who have PCOS).

In addition, the exposed female rats had much reduced fertility. Also, their ovaries had large numbers of ovarian cysts.

We could go on and on about all the health problems created by BPA, to say nothing of the other 80,000 chemicals to which we are exposed.

Let's cut to the chase. Is there anything you can do about BPA?

There are two things you can do. Reduce your exposure to BPA, and try to get rid of the BPA you already have.

Reduce Exposure
You can reduce your exposure by trying to find out where it is. It is used in a multitude of hard plastic products such as water bottles, food containers, infant bottles and medical equipment and supplies. BPA may also be found in the lining of canned foods and in many other non-obvious products such as thermal-printed cash register receipts and some dental sealants.

Reduce the use of canned foods and eat more fresh food instead. Try to use glass containers instead of plastic for food, water and beverages. Don't use plastic bottles to feed your baby; use glass instead.

You can reduce your dietary burden of BPA by cleaning up your diet. The Natural Diet Solution for PCOS and Infertility e-book contains a diet is as free of chemicals as a diet can be.

Get Rid of BPA
It may be difficult to get rid of the BPA you already have, but it's worth trying anyway. Your liver can detoxify BPA and send it to the intestines for excretion. However, up to one-half of women with PCOS have livers that are infiltrated with fat, thus possibly slowing down the detoxification process.

We don't have space here to discuss repairing your liver. However, a healthier diet is a place to start.
Another problem is that, as the detoxified BPA passes down your intestines into the colon, much of the BPA is reabsorbed back into the bloodstream and goes straight back to the liver, where it just came from. This problem is made worse if you tend to be constipated.

However, if you consume a diet that is high in whole foods and fiber, like the one in the e-book, you improve your chances of flushing out the BPA before it can be reabsorbed into the body.

[Source: PCOS News]


Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Lost Wallet, HIV Scare And Not-Too-Bad News

Last Thursday began with a feeling of foreboding at the pit of my stomach. You know that feeling you get when a plate or cup slips out of your hand and you just know it’s going to shatter and there’s nothing you can do about it? It lasts for a split second but feels like eternity.

The day before, I got a call from the fertility department saying my appointment may have been booked with the wrong consultant in the wrong hospital. The receptionist said that it may have to be cancelled but that she’ll call me back in the morning to confirm. As soon as 9am struck, I didn’t wait for her call me, I called her. I played it cool, I was not about to get all weepy and beggy; I mean the appointment was booked in October 2010; more than three months ago; I’ve only spent 3 months of my life waiting for it!

I got there 10 minutes early only to be told I was in the wrong department. After getting directions to where I was supposed to be, I literally sprinted down there because it was in another corner of the hospital altogether.

I got there just in time, registered at reception, and a nurse came to weigh me then told me I was 3kilos fatter than I was when I weight myself that morning. Even after telling her that I was wearing jeans, 2 pair of socks and 3 tops (considering it’s winter) she still insisted that the ‘extra allowance’ added for clothing was 1kg and she was not going to go above that. Here’s a lesson for everyone out there, if you’re ever visiting the fertility clinic, 1)never wear jeans and 2)dress as lightly as you can, otherwise you’ll find you’ve gained a few extra kilos which could affect your BMI and your chances of qualifying for treatment.

When I was finally called in to see the consultant he started introducing himself and I said, ‘It’s okay, we’ve met twice’. What I didn’t say was, ‘and on both times you were looking up my vag.’ Ha Ha. Anyway, while he was collating my test results something hit me; a very weird feeling that I’d lost something. I started rummaging through my bag and realized my wallet was missing. I retraced my steps to the reception, hoping I’d find it where I’d been seating earlier. When I didn’t find it there I didn’t know where else to go looking so went back to his office and sank my bewildered self into the chair. 

I was still contemplating the loss, mentally ticking away the things I would need to re-apply for: ATM cards, drivers licence, the lone £10 would be sadly missed too... then my phone rang and I instinctively knew it was a Good Samaritan. He asked if I’d been to the other centre earlier because they found my wallet in front of the reception desk. I was so relieved; he asked where I was and even volunteered to bring it over to me. I went out to meet him and was so grateful I gave him a hug while trying to explain that it must have fallen out when I pulled my folder out to show the receptionist my appointment letter. He was a bit taken aback by the gesture. Honestly, if it wasn’t against my religion and I wasn’t married, and there was no possibility of being sued for sexual harassment, I’d have kissed him too, Ha Ha! That’s how relieved I was. See I was robbed last year, precisely around this time, so I had a very unpleasant deja vu.

While all this commotion was going on the consultant was still busy scribbling away in my file. I went back into his office and plonked myself in the seat next to him simultaneously exhilarated and drained of life. I genuinely believed whatever news he had for me couldn’t be any worse when he starts reviewing our test results, looks up and asks me, ‘Is your husband HIV positive?’ I’m like WTF DUDE!!!!!!!! You don’t go blurting out shit like that unless you were 100% positive. How many heart attacks can one woman have in two days?

Turns out the guy was either cross eyed or just too exhausted. I wanted to snatch the papers out of his hands, but leaned over instead to read the test results and it clearly stated that ‘HIV1 and HIV2 antibodies NOT detected’. The NOT was in caps and somehow he still managed to miss it. After realizing his mistake he then asks if my husband has Hepatitis C. I couldn’t take it any more. I rolled my eyes, sighed with irritation and whipped out my folder containing all the previous test results which clearly showed that me and my husband neither had HIV nor Hep C. Good God! Doctors should watch what they say. One of these days some poor soul might jump out the window and die over a non-bad-news.

When I thought we’d finally settle down to discussing my case all he nonchalantly tells me I may not qualify for fertility treatment because of my BMI. I tried to explain to him that my weight is 81kg not 83kg but he wouldn’t have any of it. Luckily their dodgy calculations still gave me a BMI of 30 which is just borderline. Any higher and I would have heard the dreaded words, ‘Go home and come back after you’ve lost X amount of weight’.

To cut the long story short, and after scaring me to death trice within 30minutes, he said all our blood work was normal, Dh’s sperm was normal (Thank God!), the blood results showed that I was ovulating but according to him that might just be sporadic because I still have PCOS and hence, may not be ovulating regularly. He said my right tube was open but my left tube was partially blocked. He wouldn’t recommend unblocking it because it is a major surgery that requires anaesthesia, etc. Instead he recommended me for IUI (intra uterine insemination). He said I’d be put on 50mg of Clomid monthly. During which I will be monitored via ultrasound and once it’s clear that I am ovulating, I will be inseminated with Dh’s ‘washed’ sperm. He said if that doesn’t work for 3-6 months, I’ll be referred for IVF treatment. He warns me that there’s a risk of multiple pregnancy. Honestly at this point I’ll take ‘any’ kind of pregnancy as long as it’s viable.

That said I was sent on my merry way with instructions on when to book an appointment for an information session to prepare us for what lies ahead.


I've been doing a lot of thinking since last Thursday and now that I feel I'm ovulating and Dh's spermies are normal I want us to try for 3 months before starting the treatment. The good news is all my hormones are within normal range; including testosterone and leuthal progesterone. The only symptom of PCOS I have remaining is the cysts on my ovaries; and even those have improved. I have a strong feeling if I give it some more time, and maybe start on the fertility self massage dvd, I could get pregnant naturally. 

I really am not looking forward to the barrage of hormones and invasion of what little dignity I have left. I would like fertility treatment to be the last resort. If we can have 3 months of uninterrupted 'trying' maybe something will happen for us. Anyway, I'll discuss with Dh when he gets back. 

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

The Hollow Heart

by Martina Devlin

This book jumped at me while I was researching infertility in my local library. It’s about a woman deep yearning for children resulted in 3 failed IVF attempts which finally led to the breakdown of her marriage and eventual divorce. That’s the short of it; for the long of it, you’ll have to read the book yourself. I recommend it to any couple that plan on undergoing IVF and indeed for all women that have just been diagnosed with infertility; whether it be due to PCOS or other causes. If you’re fertile but have a friend that has it, it’s worth reading too or recommending to her.

It is a honest, remarkable, hand-on-heart account of one woman’s personal experience. For that reason alone, and not because every page of the book resonates, I have absolutely no criticism whatsoever. And rather than review the book, I’ll just ‘talk around it’ because it’s so personal I’d feel I was intruding on another persons unique life experience.

I must admit I felt rather smug at some point during the book – as you normally would when looking at another persons life through retrospective lenses – because I kept thinking, ‘That could never happen to me’. I thought if I were in their shoes there’s no way I would not have seen it coming. At the same time I could easily see how, if our circumstances were different, me and my hubby could have easily slid down that slope.

We have been very lucky to be spared the strain of baby making. The way it is he travels a lot, and every time he gets back it’s like honeymoon all over again for the first few weeks or so, couple of months later, he’s gone again. So we’ve never suffered from the monotony of having sex for the sole purpose of procreation. We’ll have been married for 4 years next month and I still love the fact that he gets sulky when I don’t make an effort for him.

Yes, his frequent travelling has hindered our baby making process, at the same time we’ve found out now that with my blocked tubes, even if he was around all the time I still couldn’t have gotten pregnant. Martina and I both suffer from banjaxed fallopian tubes, you see, to borrow her words.

“I remember reflecting how overwhelming is news of infertility. It’s akin to discovering that while you were sleeping an arm has been amputated, so you can no longer manage the simplest combinations – carrying something and opening a door at the same time, for example. Something you take for granted is snatched away from you. There’s a sense of injustice, of course, for infertility is unjust. As well as that, there’s a sense of recognition”. (Martina Devlin – The Hollow Heart)

Indeed, a recognition that perhaps you need to re-tune your priorities. That’s really the greatest lesson from the book, to be thankful for your blessings. Imagine if I had gotten in a huff, beat myself up and made both of us miserable for the past 3 years only to find out this info. I would have felt like a fool. A lot of us believe when we get X our lives would finally be complete. Or that we can’t be truly content until we possess Y. It’s much the same with babies or indeed with many other things like having a man in our life, or getting that job, or owning a property in a certain area.

There are other lessons to take away from this book, mainly that marriage is not easy business. Couples need to be on the same page regarding the degree of how badly they want a baby. If one wants it more than the other, it’s bound to cause strain in the relationship. Equally so if both want it so badly to the exclusion everything else, even their love for each other. Lastly, as a woman, don’t make your sole purpose on earth being a mother. There; I said it! As crude as it sounds the sooner you come to terms that you might never be able to have biological children the better it is for your health on the long run. Nobody likes to think of the possibility but it is, sadly, the reality of life; we don’t all get all we want in life. I know it; I’ve accepted it: now I sleep better at night. I want to be a mother, I will try my best to be a mother, I will do everything I can within my physical, emotional and financial means, but I will not beat myself up over it in the process.

Love the life you have, not the life you think you should have – The Hollow Heart.

Tomorrow is my follow up appointment at the fertility clinic. I was a bag of nerves but after reading this book I've been overcome by a sense of calm. I was heartbroken to be going alone (hubby is still away) but if I can go through that blasted HSG alone, I can surely hear the results alone.
Well, wish me luck. I'll let ya'll know how it goes. Whatever happens, I'm prepared to accept it and move forward.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Positively 2011

As I enter a new year, I can't help but look back at how quickly 2010 went by. Everything that happened still feels fresh in my minds eye. I confess that if I could go back in time there are plenty things I would have done differently. For instance, I would have made sure me and my husband made financial decisions jointly. I have had to learn the hard way the results of letting one person take decisions on behalf of two people. If I had put my foot down, we wouldn't be in the mess we're in right now. Cliché as it sounds, at the end of the day, two heads ARE better than one. 

Secondly, I wouldn't have taken my fertility 'too personally'. Meaning I shouldn't have believed I had 100% control over my body and if I did X it would always result in Y. If I had known that no matter how much you do, at the end of the day some things are just beyond your control, I wouldn't have been so heart broken when I found my tubes were blocked.

I also wish I hadn't been so baby focused. One of my goals last year was to have a baby 'by the end of the year', as if it's a vending machine where you slot in a coin and whatever you want comes out the other end. This year, if I do, I will be over the moon, but if I don't, I won't beat myself up over it. I can't believe I crossed the line into 'bitter zone'. I promised myself I would never let my emotions get the better of me, yet I did. Sure at that time it seemed justified. To an extent it just shows how unappreciative I was about my life. 

To put things in perspective, I've had 24 years of a relatively trouble free life, and barely 4 years of infertility and I'm already breaking my neck as if the world had done me wrong. It's not even as if I was ill of health to the point where I couldn't move. This is just a little bump in my life, a phase I'm passing through. Sure there will be disappointments but I shouldn't let it get the better of me. I should never have forgotten the many, MANY, MANY years of generally 'getting whatever I asked for'. 

There are so many people out there who can't have children and who are happy with their lot. As a Muslim I should know better. These things are in Gods hands. He decrees what He Wills, and we may never understand why, but, we must always be grateful for what we're blessed with and strive to better our lives and those around us. There are women who have been told they could never have children on their own, and they did. There have been women who didn't even have fallopian tubes, or whose tubes were tied, smashed and what not, and they still conceived. Whatever has been written for a person, shall surely come to pass, regardless.  

Sometimes when I dwell on my childlessness, at the back of my mind, I think, 'There has to be a reason, though I don't understand. Maybe I'm not just ready and God knows'. I also remember a supplication I made years ago; I made it fervently with tears in my eyes. I told God that if I was ever going to have a child that would cause me grief and heartache and misery in this world and in the Hereafter, then I'd rather not have that child. I keep thinking maybe my prayer was answered, maybe, just maybe, I would have had that child at some point during my childless years and God is preventing a greater hurt by making me go through this 'smaller hurt'. 

Sheesh! I am religious, but clearly not as religious as I ought to be. So this year 'I SURRENDER MY FERTILITY TO MY CREATOR'. My destiny is in His hands. I promise myself not to moan about this and that and about how other people are dropping kids as easily as I fart after a hearty breakfast of Muesli. 

No concrete resolutions this year. Instead I'll give my mindset a good tweaking with the following promises:

I promise not to get worked up about my have-nots and instead be grateful for everything else that I'm blessed with. 
I promise to always remember that no matter how bad I think my situation is there are many others worse off than I am, even praying they had my burden to bear instead of the one they're carrying. 
Remember that even when there seemingly is no way out, When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.
I promise to live my life to the fullest: grow my business and be the best that I can be.
I promise to always do my best and leave the rest to God and be happy with whatever He decrees. He knows me better than I know myself.

One of my friends had a baby boy on Christmas day. Another three are due within the next 2-3 months. I can't be happier for them! Right now, I'm content with being an Aunt. 
And with that, I conclude this retrospective, highly self-indulgent blog entry with HAPPY NEW YEAR! 
May your prayers be answered and may we all be blessed in our lives, one way or another. (Amen).