‘We found a baseball-sized cyst.’ It was 3 weeks before my wedding. I knew I still had more healing to do.’: Dietitian shares fertility journey, ‘There’s no shame in medication’

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“I never thought I could be a mom. It’s not that I thought my body was incapable of her pregnancy. It’s the fact I didn’t think I could ever find the right partner!

Don’t get me wrong, I love children and I’ve always wanted to be a wife and mother. I just didn’t see it possible for myself. This brought me great sadness and years of dating certainly didn’t help. Throughout my twenties, I dove into my education and becoming a registered dietitian. For those of you who have not gone down this road, it’s not an easy one! Especially not for somebody with a personality like mine. I think dietitians are supposed to be quiet scientists who love data. I’m not quiet, and I love people much more than I love sitting in a laboratory. It was tough!

Courtesy of Sophia Pavia

Throughout the decade, I started getting really involved in the world of sports performance in athletics. It was actually my nutrition specialty for several years! The world of sports performance tends to put women’s bodies in categories that are not conducive to health and vitality. Shocker, right? As if there’s any industry that promotes healthy women’s bodies but I digress.

This was a time of a lot of anxiety and depression on my part, not fitting the mold of a dietitian, and slowly creeping towards my thirties with no prospect of long-lasting love, marriage, or family. I started to drown my sorrow’s in the world of competitive weightlifting! I absolutely loved being the strongest girl in the gym, and I loved being able to outperform even some of the top competing males! Throughout my athletic career, I started developing subtle hormonal issues I would not identify for years to come: a non-itchy, non-painful rash around my neck, torso, and chest, and periods that we’re getting heavier and more frequent. Though I look like a fitness model, it was clear my reproductive system and overall hormonal health were suffering.

The point when I started recognizing these problems within myself was when my career as a fertility and hormonal health dietitian was beginning to takeoff. I absolutely loved diving into the lives of women were trying to conceive, working through their nutritional issues, and getting those sweet pictures of positive pregnancy test and healthy newborn babies. At the time, I just mentally was not ready to turn that same clinical eye to my own life, nutrition, and health.

Courtesy of Sophia Pavia

My situation change drastically when my husband and I were getting ready to get married. I knew he wanted children, I knew I wanted to children, and I could no longer hide behind this pre-conception I didn’t need to worry about my own health of fertility because no man would ever want to have a child with me anyway, right? That limiting belief had to go and it was finally time to look in the mirror and start to address my own hormonal problems.

I was exercising too much, eating too little, and really letting my blood sugar get out of control. I didn’t even realize I was doing it! My now husband was sweet enough to point out the rash starting to take over my skin and even though I didn’t see it as a problem, he said, ‘Of course it’s not a problem while you’re sitting here healthy as can be. But what if you were to get in a terrible accident, or get really sick? If you were to have a big medical event, I’m sure having a fungal infection rash over half your skin would not be a bonus.’

Courtesy of Sophia Pavia

Duh! I just hadn’t prioritized it. This sent me into another 2 years of finding my food triggers, adjusting my diet, seriously changing the way I lifted and trained, as well as addressing some of the emotional problems driving my unhealthy behaviors. Well, once that was all said and done, yes, my skin looked great but something else had happened. It was 3 weeks before my wedding and my doctor discovered a baseball-sized ovarian cyst on my left side. Not what you want going into your wedding night! I knew I still had more healing to do.

Once I was married, I had access to my husband’s medical insurance and decided it was the time to finally start digging into whatever was going on with me. Not only had I developed that cyst, but my cycles were getting shorter and shorter with longer and longer periods of bleeding every month. At the time I finally went and saw a doctor, I was bleeding or spotting for probably 14 days per cycle. Yikes!

This doctor looked me in the face and told me, ‘Actually, all women bleed 14 days after they ovulate!’ I could not believe it. Did she think I was in there to brag about my health? No! I was in there because my body was not working in a healthy way! Her dismissive comment was all I needed to hear and I graciously left her office to find a new doctor.

Courtesy of Sophia Pavia

I found somebody who was willing to listen to my concerns and run some tests. A few different ultrasounds confirmed I had a polyp in my uterus that was causing all kinds of irregular bleeding. Combined with that, I did my own dried urine hormone testing. This is a service I’ve offered through my private practice for quite some time but had never done one on myself. Obviously, I was just in a bad place and didn’t really care what was going on with my own health for way too long.

The hormone testing results proved beyond a shadow of a doubt, yes, I was ovulating regularly but after each ovulation, I would have a huge surge and progesterone (healthy!). A few days after ovulation, all that robust progesterone would begin to fall away and cause me to start spotting early (not healthy.) Of course, this is something traditional blood tests would not have caught, unless I was doing blood tests twice a day for my entire luteal phase, painful and not cost-effective obviously.

Courtesy of Sophia Pavia

Because of the polyp, my doctor recommended we do surgery to remove it. I had never had surgery on anything ever in my life and I was pretty scared! My husband was away on a business trip and there was no potential for him to be home during that time, so I had some wonderful girlfriends help me through the procedure. My doctor discovered multiple polyps as well as an endometriosis infection! Can you believe it? I am a fertility dietitian trained in naturopathic health and even I had an unchecked infection for who knows how long! I hope whoever is reading this is starting to feel better about themselves and the fact there may have been some bonehead moments in their fertility journeys or some embarrassing test results. It happens!

Once the polyps were gone, my doctor offered me a course of action to treat the infection. We ended up settling on medication. In addition to this, I shared my test result findings with her and she was able to see my progesterone was following this a typical pattern and I needed extra support.

Courtesy of Sophia Pavia

Yes, the diet changes I had made drastic things for my health, and a lot of issues I was experiencing were greatly improved, if not resolved, by changing my overall lifestyle and nutrition. Yes, I also needed surgery and medication! Readers, it’s possible to need more than one thing at a time! Not everybody can solve everything with nutrition and lifestyle, including myself who does this for a living!

It is fully possible to greatly improve your luteal phase and progesterone output with diet and lifestyle alone. Honestly, those methods did most of the heavy lifting for me, but at the end of the day, I needed some help from medication! There’s no shame in that!

I worked alongside my doctor, took my medication, and to my shock and amazement I got pregnant off of my very next ovulation! The next egg my body released was healthy, strong, and was able to grow into the baby but I am getting ready to birth any day now! I was honestly pretty shocked when I saw my BFP, and even more shocked when I went back to the doctor and saw that little heartbeat for the very first time.

Courtesy of Sophia Pavia

Readers, if there’s anything you take away from reading this it’s even the strongest sometimes need help. Even the people who are experts in certain fields relating to fertility need to lean on other experts in order to find full healing. Sometimes, you might need to assemble a team of many great minds to see those two pink lines for yourself. And that’s okay! I’ll find no greater professional joy than helping other women find fertility using the very same methods I used. My greatest thrill as a dietitian is to hold the hands of women who are on the noble journey to motherhood, however long and twisting that journey may be.

Ask for help. Find your team. Trust your gut. Do the work. And get to the bottom of it! It’s my honor and privilege to share my journey with you, and it’s my honor and greatest professional joy when women like you include me as a part of our journey to motherhood as well.”

Courtesy of Sophia Pavia

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Sophia Pavia. Follow her journey on Instagram Submit your own story hereand be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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