My Fertility Journey

I have hummed and hawed a lot about whether I want to write about my fertility journey on this blog, so publicly, open for anyone to see. But I know that when I was going through it, blog posts like this really helped me to feel less alone, so that is my impetus.

Guess what – we’re pregnant!

Wow, once it is happening it is so easy to just be in that moment. The months of struggle and sadness slowly fading away.

When we got pregnant with our daughter in January 2018, we were just about to start fertility treatment. So, deciding to try and conceive for the second time, we suspected it wasn’t going to be a quick journey. In fact, now we were that much older, and I was that much further away from having had my laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, so I suspected things would only be harder. Yet, there was a shred of hope that maybe, just maybe, my body would remember what to do and just pick it up easier this time. No such luck.

About six months into trying to conceive, I decided to start looking into at least getting on a fertility clinic wait list, knowing there was a pretty good chance we were going to end up needing these services. Luckily, I have an amazing friend / colleague / mentor who helped me to get in with Dr. Hannam at Hannam Fertility in Toronto. Him and his Nurse Carly were both wonderful to work with.

We had originally been told that we would likely get a call for IVF in the spring of 2021 (we were on the funded cycle list). In January (this is now 12 months into TTC), we got a call that they had some funding left from the previous year and did we want to start the process basically….right away. I know for some people doing IVF right at the 12 month mark is unusual. Especially since I never even tried IUI. But having some level of background knowledge in this fertility world, I knew my best chances for success were with IVF, and frankly, I just wanted to get this show on the road. We knew we only wanted two children, and the age gap between our first and second wasn’t getting any smaller.

February 1, 2021 was my first day driving into Toronto for an appointment. The first part of several small fortunes spent on medication, blood work and ultrasound done. Let the process begin! Being a Registered Nurse and Naturopathic Doctor, the medication process wasn’t too challenging for me. Sure, injecting yourself with a needle everyday (sorry make that two needles) is nerve wracking at first, but you get used to it pretty quickly. Some days the side effects sucked (like day after day of headaches), and some days were fine.

By March 11, 2021, we were ready for egg retrieval. Having a low AMH, I was told I probably wouldn’t get a lot of eggs. So, the whole team was pleasantly surprised when we got 16 eggs! However, as time went on, the numbers diminished. Only 9 of those eggs matured, only 5 of them fertilized, and only ONE embryo survived to day 5. I knew I wasn’t going to do this process over again, so it was very disheartening to know we only had one shot. Our embryo was graded 4AB, which is pretty good and our doctor was happy with this embryo. Meanwhile, after the egg retrieval, I got a mild case of OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome), which meant pain while moving, twisting, and not being able to fit into your clothing. During this time I was congratulated on my pregnancy, which really was the icing on the cake.

Between March and June I got to take a bit of a break and then started preparing my body for our transfer. On June 7, 2021 (which happens to be my Mom’s birthday) we went back to Toronto for our embryo transfer. Patrick wasn’t allowed to come into the space with me (thank you COVID!), but we FaceTimed with him so he got to observe the whole process. It was an exciting and happy day. After the transfer the painful part is the w a i t i n g. June 15 was the day I went for my blood test to find out if I was pregnant. People often say “when you relax you will get pregnant”. Well, let me tell you, I was not relaxed, not once, during that waiting period. I was an anxious, nervous wreck, who felt like time was going in reverse. I swear it was the longest 8 days of my entire life.

I guess you know where this story goes next….it worked! Our one little miracle embryo decided to stick around! And now we are just waiting for him to make his grand appearance in February 2022.

This story is leaving lots of things out – all the various emotions, the many other drives to Toronto, missing work, the financial stress, the physical toll, navigating questions from people around if you want to have a second child…..and so much more. Something I really found challenging was making career choices during this time. When you never know how long it will take you to conceive, it can be hard to decide what career moves you want to make. Knowing that MAYBE a big (mat leave) career break will be coming, or maybe it never will. Also, questioning if you really want two kids. Maybe you only want one? Maybe you are okay with being a family of three? Or maybe you are just telling yourself that so that you don’t feel sad? The emotions all get very confusing and muddled and sometimes the journey just feels never ending.

Of course I know we had it WAY way easier than lots of folks going through infertility. We only went through the IVF process once. But hey, it still wasn’t a walk in the park. I feel blessed beyond all measure that we have this baby on the way. I also feel relief knowing I never have to try to conceive again. I feel relief knowing my body will be all mine again. I feel fortunate that I have friends, family and colleagues who were all so supportive during this time. Every fertility story is unique, but if you are going through the process, I hope you found at least one thing here helpful.

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New Location, New Name, Same Gal

Photo taken by moi on Lake Huron

When I first registered my business in 2017 I used the name Metta Health Services. I have written about this previously, that Metta was a term I learned during a ten-day silent meditation retreat, and it means “loving kindness”. When I decided to work for myself, I wanted my core beliefs to align with my money-making life work. Loving kindness is at the centre of my practice and life, it’s something I am always striving for and turning towards.

As such, my social media will slowly be changing it’s name from Madeleine Elton to Metta Health Services, and potentially in time my website as well!

Okay, so we have covered the new name, but what’s the deal with the new location? Well, I am thrilled to say that starting in September, I will be accepting patients in Hamilton, Ontario! My new office (which I am in the process of getting all cozy and spacious and ready for you) is at 327 Ottawa Street North, Unit 212, in the lovely Crown Point neighbourhood. My schedule is up and appointments can be booked already! If you have feedback on what you feel would be helpful hours for me to keep, please let me know! I am experimenting with my schedule right now, but am totally open to feedback.

I will also continue to practice at Elevated Health Associates Inc in Toronto on Wednesdays from 3-8pm.

Okay, so new location, new name….all that is left is “same gal”. Yep – that’s me! Still loving to talk to all my patients about their hormones and their fertility and their mental health. Still chugging along on this wild ride called life.

I hope your summer is filled with warm breezes, toes dipped in lakes and cool treats.

In health,

Dr. Madeleine Elton, ND

 

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Five Ways to Harness Gut Health to Improve Your Mood

Photo by Thomas Le

Butterflies in your stomach? Nervous stomach? I’m sure you’ve noticed times in your life when your mood impacted your gut. Well, guess what? There is some science going on there! In fact, there is a growing body of research between gut health and mood. Several theories exist as to how the gut and brain influence one another. As evidence grows, it seems that inflammation, our immune system, the gut biodiversity and the vagus nerve (a nerve that connects the brain to the gut, among other organs) are all involved in this complex dance. Evidence has shown us that there are simple and effective ways to influence our mental health by impacting our gut health.

  1. Focus on incorporating high-fiber plant-based foods and avoid highly processed/low fiber foods to increase gut microbiota biodiversity. Highly processed foods have been shown to not only decrease the diversity in the gut but they are also linked to higher risk for mental disorders. Visit your local Farmer’s Market to pick up some delicious, seasonal vegetables.
  2. Consider adding in a good quality probiotic. There is evidence that probiotics have beneficial effects on mood and certain strains can reduce physiological responses to stress. For people with IBS and depression, probiotics have been shown to increase quality of life by reducing limbic reactivity.
  3. When you eat, try to eat mindfully, without distraction. Everyone has heard of the “flight or fight” response. This is the sympathetic nervous system at play. The opposite of this is our parasympathetic nervous system, or the “rest and digest” system. You want to engage the parasympathetic nervous system when you eat, so that your body can properly break down and absorb the nutrients you are ingesting. Try to avoid screens or work while eating, if weather permits go outside and just observe nature while you eat.
  4. Eliminate food sensitivities. We know that there is a link between inflammation, intestinal dysbiosis and mental health. When we eat foods that our body is sensitive to, we can increase intestinal inflammation, which may increase intestinal permeability. When this is increased, there may be more circulating endotoxins which is linked to brain inflammation and neurobehavioral dysfunction.
  5. Eat fish! Many people are lacking fish from their diet, however, the fat in fish is great for brain health and fish has been shown to decrease the risk of depression. Be sure to check out the EWG Seafood guide to find out which fish are richest in omega-3 fatty acids, lowest in mercury contamination and are sustainably produced. My favourite way to eat fish these days is making fish tacos!

You can speak to your Naturopathic Doctor to find out which probiotic strain and dosage might be right for you, and about your potential food sensitivities. If you’re interested to read more about this topic, I suggest the book A Mind of Your Own by Kelly Brogan.

Happy Eating!

 

References:

Bruce-Keller, A, Salbaum, M, Berthound, H-R. Harnessing gut microbes for mental health: Getting from here to there. Biological Psychiatry, 2018-02-01, Volume 83, Issue 3, Pages 214-223.

Li, F, Liu, X, Zhang, D. Fish consumption and risk of depression: A meta-analysis. J Epidemiol Community Health, 2016 Mar;70(3):299-304.

Pinto-Sanchez, MI, et al. Probiotic bifidobacterium longum NCC3001 reduces depression scores and alters brain activity: A pilot study in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Gastroenterology, 2017 Aug;153(2):448-459.

Rienks, J, Dobson, AJ, Mishra, GD. Mediterranean dietary pattern and prevalance and incidence of depressive symptoms in mid-aged women: results from a large community based prospective study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jan;67(1):75-82.

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Tinctures

To make a tincture, a plant is covered in alcohol and allowed to infuse for a certain length of time. During this period, the plant’s constituents will become extracted from the plant. The plant and the liquid are then separated by a filter and the tincture is the remaining liquid product.

At the clinic, I currently carry 10 tinctures, some single herb tinctures and some are combinations. I purchased them all from Perfect Herbs, a Toronto based company made up of a group of Registered Herbalists and Naturopathic Doctors. The company was started by one of my former teachers, Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, who also happened to be my interviewee in one of my first blog entries! Perfect Herb’s mission is to keep herbs accessible, affordable, and sustainable and they aim to provide the safest, purest, and highest quality herbal products.

My tinctures are available in the following sizes and prices (tax included):

100mL – $21

250mL – $41

500mL – $66

Here is a list of the 10 tinctures currently available*:

  1. Kava Kava (Piper Methysticum– Kava is a nervine, anxiolytic and mild euphoric. It is an excellent choice for anxiety and insomnia.
  2. Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha) – An excellent herb to help with anxiety and stress. Used often among people with fatigue, nervous exhaustion and chronic inflammatory diseases. Also considered a mild libido tonic.
  3. Vitex Agnus Castus (Chasteberry) – Vitex is widely used to treat irregular menses and PMS. Interestingly, it also helps to increase nighttime melatonin production by up to 60%, so can help support sleep as well. Often used among patients with fertility issues as well, since Vitex is indirectly progesterogenic.
  4. Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice Root) – Licorice is a popular adaptogen among NDs, as it is great at helping the body in times of stress. It can be good for people with low blood pressure. It is also an anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and a demulcent, so is good for bronchitis, upper respiratory tract infections and post-viral cough.
  5. Angelica Sinesis (Don Quai)This is generally considered a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) herb. From a TCM perspective, it builds blood and regulates menses of deficiency. It can support the endocrine system and is also considered an adaptogen (an herb that helps with stress).
  6. Hypericum Perforatum (Saint John’s Wort) – This herb is most commonly used to help treat depression. However, it is also both an anti-viral and anti-inflammatory herb, and can be used topically for herpes lesions. In terms of mood, it can help treat seasonal affective disorder, irritability and anxiety from menopausal changes, depression or general melancholy.
  7. Schisandra Chinesis (Schisandra Berry) – In TCM theory, this is one of the only herbs that enters into all 12 meridians. It is good for people with a weakened vitality, loose stool and diarrhea and skin conditions. Based on it’s constiuents it is hepatoprotective, meaning it helps to protect the liver.
  8. Herbal Antibiotic – An herbal combination that can quickly clear the body of acute or ongoing infections, such as colds, flus and seasonal infections.
  9. Bitter’s Carminative Digestive – A tasty herbal combination that can be taken before or after a meal to help support overall digestion.
  10. Profound Immune – A blend of both herbs and mushrooms that support the immune system at the deepest level. This combination can help the body to prevent infections and rebuild the immune system.

 

*Please note that tinctures are only available to new or existing patients. When I sell a tincture I need to make sure that it is both safe and indicated for the person who is buying it (ie doesn’t interact with any current medications or supplements they are on, relevant to their medical condition, proper teaching about safe dosages, etc).

 

 

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Dr. Madeleine’s top 5 low-or-no-cost summer activities!

With the first day of summer being right around the corner, and the weather having recently turned warm here in Toronto, I thought I would do a post about my favourite summer activities! Narrowing down the list is difficult, because Toronto in the summer is just bursting at the seams with fun things! However, I have nailed down what, for me, are the ones I come back to year after year….

So here you go folks – Dr. Madeleine’s top 5 low-or-no-cost summer activities:

  1. Go to the beach! We are so lucky to live in a city that is on the water. There are many beaches to choose from, however, my favourites are Woodbine beach and Ward’s island beach. And yes, you can swim in the water. Just check this site before you head out, to confirm! It is updated daily, but note: it’s best to avoid swimming 2 days after a storm (the website is 24 hours behind because it takes a day to grow the cultures for the quality tests). If you have never been to the island: GO. GO NOW!! It’s a magical, mystical, beautiful place. The ferry ride is so fun, and really inexpensive. Pack food and water and you will barely have to spend any money at all (although, I do love going to the Island Cafe). For all beaches, if you can somehow go on a weekday instead of a weekend, it’s nice to beat the crowds.
  2. Farmer’s Markets! There are Farmer’s Markets all across Toronto, on many different days of the week. They often have musicians playing, activities for kids, and of course lots of locally sourced, organic food. Nothing can beat an Ontario strawberry this time of year, I know me and my partner have been devouring them of late. I love picking up a bag full of fresh food, coming home and making a delicious, spontaneous, nourishing meal.
  3. Outdoor Movies! You guys! What is more romantic than an outdoor movie? Bring a date, bring yourself, bring your dog, bring some snacks, bring a big comfy blanket, maybe some all natural bug spray and watch a movie under the trees. They are speckled all over the city, so you’re sure to find one not too far from you!
  4. Shakespeare in the Park!! [I am seriously getting more excited with each item on this list]. I am a big fan of live theatre. I don’t go enough, but it holds a very special place in my heart, having been a Musical Theatre major in high school and coming from a family that loves and supports the arts. Shakespeare in the Park consistently casts incredible actors. This year they are doing Romeo and Juliet + A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a pay-what-you-can event, and yes, you can bring snacks (is it obvious yet that I love snacks?). I have noticed that this event has gotten super popular in the last few years, so if you want a good seat, I would get there at least an hour early. Make sure you bring a comfy cushion or blanket to sit on too!
  5. Go see an ND! Okay, okay – shameless plug. But I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it. Why wait until the hecticness of fall to plan out your health goals? Plus, taking the time to just focus on yourself, and sit in a room with someone who provides you the wide open space to just be you feels GOOD. And although seeing an ND may not be free, many people have it covered under extended health plans. I also offer a sliding scale for anyone who needs it. Come on in and let’s make this summer all about you being your most powerful, radiant self, deal?

See you at the beach!

Dr. Madeleine Elton, ND

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