Last week I had my first, and only, ultrasound since starting the medications for the mock frozen embryo transfer (FET). At this stage the goal is to grow a warm cushy lining so that when they put in my little embaby, she’ll be able to nuzzle in comfortably for a long 9 months. My RE said they like to see the lining at least at a 8mm for implantation success. Mine was 12mm and I was thrilled. Funny how excited one can get over endometrial tissue. So how does one grow a plush uterine lining? If you ask an RE you will get a much more technical answer, but from what I can tell it’s heavily influenced by how well your body responds to the hormones and how much blood flow you’ve got going to the uterus. When it comes to the fist part of that, well I think I’m just lucky. At least growing a lining isn’t one of the problems I have. And that feels good since my body apparently has so many other issues when it comes to conception. But there are things that I do to support my body by giving my uterus some of the nutrients it needs and increasing blood flow so it can do it’s job.
First, I attend acupuncture for fertility. My RE actually recommends it and there are some studies showing that acupuncture right before and immediately after embryo transfer increase the rates of IVF success. Many acupuncturists and doctors of Eastern medicine recommend much lengthier protocols than that to regulate hormones, improve egg quality, and increase both fertility and IVF success. There is less and some conflicting research on the totality of the effects of acupuncture on fertility, which I have to say is likely in part due to the fact that the Western approach to research is not often applied to Eastern medicine. Given that, you have to interpret some of the research findings, or lack there of, cautiously. But, you know, something must be said for hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years of experience. And it can’t hurt, plus it can help with some of the medication side effects and ease stress and anxiety.
I began doing acupuncture this time just about a week or two before beginning my stimulation medications for egg retrieval. I often hear that women do acupuncture for months, 3 months seems to be frequently cited, before beginning IVF, but to my surprise my acupuncturist didn’t seem to be in any rush for me to begin. Honestly I think it might have helped more with my egg quality had I started earlier, but by the time we got to the mock FET cycle that I’m currently in, I’ve had several sessions that are likely helping with the blood flow to my uterus. So I’ll count that as a win.
The other thing that I have been doing to help build a healthy lining is drinking red raspberry leaf (RRL) tea daily. RRL tea has an long history of use by women and midwives for supporting healthy fertility, pregnancy, and labor. It’s a great uterine tonic and delivers several nutrients that support uterine health, such as carotenoids, citric acid, tannins, vitamin A, B complex, C, E, iron, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and silica. You can read more about the benefits and uses of RRL tea here and here. A variation on tea that packs a much stronger punch is an infusion. Infusions are steeped longer than teas, which allows for significantly more of the plant’s constituents to be extracted. So basically you get more bang out of the herbs.
Here’s how I make a RRL infusion:
First you will need a lot of RRL. I buy mine in the bulk herbs section from either Mountain Rose Herbs or Starwest Botanicals. These are both trusted sources for great quality organic products. No I’m not getting anything for saying that, I just like their stuff. I purchase a pound, which is a lot of herb, but it takes a lot to make daily infusions, and it’s actually reasonably priced at as low as $11 per pound.
Second, measure out 1 ounce of RRL, I use a kitchen scale, and put this into a quart size mason jar.
Third, fill the jar with boiling water. You’ll want to use a spoon to push down the herbs and saturate them. This will make room for more water so you can top it off. Then cap it with a lid and let it set for about 6 or more hours. I usually make mine in the evening and let it sit overnight.
Easy peasy. You can drink 1-3 cups of this daily. Sometimes I drink the whole jar’s worth in a day and sometimes I split it between two days. I strain out the herbs using a fine mesh metal colander and heat up the infusion on the stove. I avoid using the microwave because some say it can kill off some of the good things in food, and well, I’m not taking any chances when it comes to my fertility. Be prepared though, this makes a dark, strong infusion. RRL tastes noting like raspberry. Nothing. You can find recipes online for mixing additional herbs in to make it more flavorful (just make sure the herbs are safe for fertility and IVF), or you can add some honey. I just drink it straight because I know it’s good for me and it’s not that bad. Of course, I’d do just about anything to get pregnant so enduring the somewhat bitter taste of RRL infusion is the least of my challenges.
Happy drinking. And now I’m off to my second and final biopsy for ERA testing, which, by the way, doesn’t hurt nearly as much as I anticipated.