Edited: I will continue to add to this as I do more research. Want to see a quick summary of the results of each cycle? Go here.
While I wait for the next last mock cycle redux to begin, I decided to try to boost my medical protocol with the natural ones this cycle. My hope is to help boost the lining thickening powers that be to work in my favour.
First things first, understanding the ‘normal’ monthly cycle. So in order to build a lining the uterus needs estrogen. For the first half of the cycle, increasing levels of estrogen in the body promote the growth of uterine lining (the ovaries are also growing an egg to release, but for my purposes this is a non-issue. Thank you POI.) For an average 28 day cycle, around day 14-17 is when the lining should be it’s thickest as that is when the egg has been released and, if fertilized, would implant in the uterus.
Step 1: Increase estrogen levels to build a lining
First, boost estrogen production. In my case, the hormones do not occur naturally, so I need help in that department. That is where my RE comes in and we have been trying different protocols to see what cocktail of meds works best for me. So far the best lining I have achieved is around 5mm and it took much longer than 14 days. Next cycle we are trying to promote lining growth by giving my uterus direct hits of estrogen (taking it vaginally instead of orally) and will increase dosage depending on the results.
Other options to explore with Dr. Go during this cycle are switching up the form of estrogen (injectables? As suggested by a commenter), use of Sildenifil (Viagara suppositories up the vagina).
Step 2: Increase Blood Flow to Uterus
Second, I need to encourage blood flow to the uterus. In order to build a lining, the uterus needs adequate blood flow. This is where I am hoping that some additional natural methods may help boost my chances.
The Naturopathic Arsenal
The following are what I believe may help boost my own uterine lining growth based on my own research:
Starting CD1 to last day of lining check:
- Acupuncture – There is some evidence that the use of acupuncture can help prepare the body for an IVF cycle. Personally I did see a boost in my lining (although not enough) in my last few cycles, so I will continue this practice. The focus is on encouraging blood production and retention within the body. My acupuncturist recommends I go in twice a week starting CD1 until the day of transfer (sometime after that CD14+ mark). In my case we are not transferring anything, just checking the lining to see if it would be sufficient to allow implantation.
- Drink Raspberry Leaf Tea – Raspberry leaf tea seems to work by causing uterine contractions, which exercise the uterus thereby promoting blood flow. Almost every forum on thin uterine lining issues mentions this tea. From what I could find it will not interfere with the estrogen I am taking so I have decided to give this one a try. I will drink 1-2 cups a day from CD1 until lining check day.
- Drink Pure Pomegranate Juice – Again anecdotal, but so many people have mentioned this and it doesn’t seem to have any negative affect on the estrogen that I can see. Plus it is an antioxidant, so why not. For the next cycle, I will add pomegranate juice to my daily rotation. I hate drinking juice in general so this one will be harder for me to follow through on. Perhaps as a spritzer with some sparkling water?
- Eat blood boosting foods & stay well hydrated– This involves eating red meat 2x a week, and focus on warm spicy foods according to my naturopath. Good thing it is BBQ season! Also 8 glasses of water a day is the goal.
- Castor Oil Packs – again, no real hard evidence on this one, but I happen to have castor oil and a heatpack at home, so it can’t hurt. I just put about a teaspoon or so on a clean cotton rag and place it on my lower belly with a heat pack while I lie down and watch tv or read. I tried it a few times during the last cycle and will try to do it at least twice a week next cycle. The heat will help boost blood flow, and the castor oil is said to promote circulation and healing.
- Cut caffeine – caffeine affects blood flow. This is not that big a deal for me. I only drink tea once a day, if that. I can cut back to none as I will be replacing it with the red raspberry leaf tea and that should help satisfy my need to drink something warm.
- No Smoking & drinking – easy enough for me as these do not form part of my daily routine anyways.
- Exercise – It is not hard to believe that exercise encourages overall blood flow. Thankfully, this is not a problem for me. I like to work out, and have been working out at least 2-3 times a week for many years now. I recently started running and weight training and will continue that for this summer. (I will of course stop heavy weightlifting if we progress any further down the IVF road).
- Vitamin E Supplements – 400IU daily. Vitamin E (d-alpha-tocopherol) is an antioxidant and helps boost immune function. It also has been shown to reduce blood clotting and one study actually found Vitamin E can help thicken uterine lining. Starting tomorrow, I will be taking Vitamin E pills until the end of my mock cycle.
- Prenatal vitamins – some sites seem to indicate that taking prenatal vitamins regularly helps boost fertility. This is anecdotal at best, so I am not putting a lot of stock in this. But it is good to prepare my body in case we are successful with the mock cycle and move on to IVF. I started taking Platinum Naturals Easymulti Prenatals with DHA over a month ago, and will continue taking them until we give up on IVF completely.
- More DHA Supplements – 1250mg daily in liquid form. Omega-3’s are the one thing that everyone should be taking anyways. In this case, DHAs can help regulate hormones, and increase blood flow to the uterus. Recommended daily intake is between 1000 to 2000mg. I will be at 1750mg a day (from the prenatal vitamins and DHA supplement Nutrasea). Mostly because that large amount of DHA is hard to take in pill form, I have been told to drink it like a shot mixed with some sort of juice just so it goes down fast without any aftertaste. Not looking forward to that. I am starting that now and will continue until the end of the mock cycle.
Other things that may help but I have decided not to follow:
- Co-enzyme Q10 -generally taken to boost egg quality. Again, not a factor for me and I don’t see the point in spending money on this when I don’t see a direct link to building lining.
- Vitex 40mg/day – recommended by my naturopath to help build lining. However, when I researched the drug interactions there seemed to be some evidence that it can reduce the effectiveness of estrogen taken as a hormone replacement. Too risky for me since I don’t make nearly enough estrogen as it is.
- Fertility Yoga – While I am a yoga instructor, I don’t think ‘fertility’ yoga is something I need to practice specifically to see the benefits. What I do need, is to stay active and promote blood flow. That being said, I will try to use more blood flow encouraging postures, such as ‘legs up the wall’ or other inversions, in my regular practice.
- Orgasm every day – sounds fun. The theory here is that orgasams boost blood flow. Why did I rule this one out again?
- Femoral massage – same idea with boosting the blood flow. I think exercise in general achieves the same results so I won’t focus on femoral massage in particular.
- L-arginine supplements- found in our food, L-arginine is an amino acid that is causes blood vessels to open wider and increase flow. This one sounds good but I am gong to hold off on this until I speak with my RE about it. In the meantime increasing my red meat intake should help.
Stay tuned for the results.