Saturday, February 20, 2016

Considering Caffeine Intake TTC

Our typical Saturday morning involves waking up at about 7, then heading to the local Starbucks around 9 to enjoy some coffee and either catch up on work or a good book. This originally became our weekend routine when I was working on finishing my dissertation last Spring (thankfully, that beast is no longer part of our Saturday routine -- that was stressful to finish!). 

A few friends have mentioned in the past that they don't know how we wake up so early on our day off. Although we do "sleep in" a bit in comparison to our typical weekday, rising at 7 rather than 5:45, we end up getting out of bed significantly earlier than we used to before we had a routine. This took a little time to adjust. But now we prefer this routine -- it mimics the suggestion that it is easier to get out of bed on weekdays when you keep your sleep schedule roughly the same on the weekends. After making this our routine for several months (and I was no longer burning the midnight oil to finish my dissertation) we found it was so much easier to wake up on weekdays. Although we love our sleep, it is much better to get up earlier and enjoy a few more hours of daylight on the weekends. 

It is such a nice thing to look forward to now on our weekends. We plan out what we would like to do --  I recently joined a womens book club, so this is an excellent opportunity to get caught up on the next book I need to read. My husband enjoys catching up on his newest comic book or a podcast. 

One thing I realized was the suggestion to cut down (or completely cut out) caffeine while trying to conceive -- does that mean I have to now opt for herbal tea on our Saturday mornings? Many of the other adjustments, like cutting out alcohol (I don't drink at all, so that was no problem!) or lunch meat (I consume very little lunch meat typically) was easy. Not wanting to completely cut out my morning cup of coffee until we have officially confirmed pregnancy, I explored what this meant for my morning caffeine intake.

How much caffeine while TTC?

Several different sources [The Bump] [American Pregnancy] suggested 200 milligrams of caffeine intake to be a safe upper limit of caffeine intake. Others [] just have very vague "be as conservative as possible" intake guidelines. Previous research suggests any daily intake above 200 milligrams significantly increases the risk of miscarriage.

Comparing Options at Popular Coffee Chains

We created the following charts for both coffee and non-coffee options at popular coffee chains to provide a guide of the safest and riskiest options at each chain. You will notice across all of the chains, even small sizes of regular brewed coffee are over the 200mg limit (with the exception of Tim Hortons). It is also important to remember that darker/robust roasts tend to have slightly lower caffeine content than lighter/blonde roasts.

Have you cut down your caffeine intake while trying to conceive? Are you surprised to see caffeine levels in similar drinks differ significantly between these chains?

Note: These are recommended levels based on previous research on caffeine level use in women trying to conceive. If you have struggled with miscarriage or pregnancy complications in the past, consult with your physician to determine what caffeine level (if any) is safe during the process of trying to conceive. 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Recent Reads

A selection of blog posts I read over the last week.
  • Organizing Our Home Office from Young House Love. I've followed Young House Love for some time now and I love how they blend great style with functionality. I am currently considering how to make my desk space more functional -- would love for it to be this gorgeous!
  • Co-Sleeping, You Are Not the One from The Random Adventures of Geek Dad. This is a newer parenting blog I recently discovered. Co-sleeping is definitely a hot parenting topic right now and something we haven't made a decision on, yet. Blogger Alex shows how they modified their bedroom setup to accommodate a crib next to the bed.
  • Love is a verb. from Coffee + Crumbs. Ashlee, a mom of two, talks about how the addition of a second baby really made co-parenting with her partner more difficult. We have started discussing how the addition of a third member of our family will be different, but know we will have no appreciation of how much that will change our relationship and marriage after a baby (+sleep deprivation, stress). 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Helpful Form to Prepare For Preconception Genetic Testing

Genetic testing prior to conception can easily identify known genetic risks prior to conception. This is important because many of the inherited diseases which can be fatal in childhood can now be easily avoided, if you know your risks and the options for conception without passing along fatal genes.

Some of these diseases include:

Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a life-threatening, genetic disease that causes persistent lung infections and progressively limits the ability to breathe. In people with CF, a defective gene causes a thick, buildup of mucus in the lungs, pancreas and other organs. In the lungs, the mucus clogs the airways and traps bacteria leading to infections, extensive lung damage and eventually, respiratory failure. In the pancreas, the mucus prevents the release of digestive enzymes that allow the body to break down food and absorb vital nutrients.

A baby with Tay-Sachs disease appears healthy at birth, and seems to be developing normally for a few months. Symptoms generally appear by six months of age. While symptoms vary from one child to the next, there is always a slowing down of development. Gradually, Tay-Sachs children lose motor skills and mental functions. Over time, the child becomes blind, deaf, mentally retarded, paralyzed and non responsive to the environment. Tay-Sachs children usually die by age five.

Children with Tay-Sachs disease lack a vital enzyme, hexosaminidase A (Hex-A). Hex-A is needed for the body to break down a fatty waste substance found in brain cells. Without Hex-A, this substance accumulates abnormally and causes progressive damage until the nervous system can no longer sustain life.

Sickle Cell Disease
Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that contain mostly hemoglobin* S, an abnormal type of hemoglobin. Sometimes these red blood cells become sickle-shaped (crescent shaped) and have difficulty passing through small blood vessels.

When sickle-shaped cells block small blood vessels, less blood can each that part of the body. Tissue that does not receive a normal blood flow eventually becomes damaged. This is what causes the complications of sickle cell disease. There is currently no universal cure for sickle cell disease.

These diseases are inherited if both parents carry the recessive gene associated with that specific disease. As a review from freshman year biology class, here is a refresher on Punnett Squares:
If both parents are carriers, they will show no symptoms of the disease. Each time they naturally conceive a child that baby will have the following risks:
  • 25% chance of being "RR," meaning they inherited both dominant copies of the gene from their parents. They will have 0% chance of passing along that trait to their future offspring. 
  • 50% chance of being "Rr," meaning they inherited one copy of the recessive trait. While these children will not develop the disease, they will have a 50% chance of passing this trait along to their offspring. 
  • 25% chance of being "rr," meaning they inherited the disease. What this means is different for each illness. Some illnesses (e.g., Tay-Sachs, Canavan Disease) are almost always fatal in infancy/toddlerhood. Others (e.g., Cystic Fibrosis) may lead to an overall shortened lifespan, but with proper treatment and management the individual often survives to early adulthood. 
The most important step you can take prior to conception is knowing your risks and possibly requesting testing prior to conception. 

Here is a form I created to help you determine which disease(s) you may be at risk for -- this form should not take the place of medical advice, but should be used as a beginning step in discussing your risk factors with your gynecologist prior to trying to conceive.

Click here to access the form

Best of luck on your journey to conceiving a healthy baby!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Feeling Surreal

A quick update on my health and progress, since I realized I had not updated since our meeting with the reproductive endocrinologist over a month ago. We actually received the bill for that visit today and figured that was the best reminder to update the blog!

Starting the Cabergoline

I have finally started the cabergoline, the medication to lower my serum prolactin level which should in turn shorten my cycles and ensure I am consistently ovulating each cycle. The prescription was a little delayed because the interpreted results of my MRI were not forwarded to the reproductive endocrinologist prior to the appointment. The MRI office had provided me with a DVD of my scans, but without the interpretation attached he could not give me a definitive diagnosis. We received confirmation of the microprolactinoma a few days later, then it took another few days for my doctor's office to get the prescription forwarded to the pharmacy. I went to Target that night to pick up the prescription, but the pharmacist informed me that they do not regularly stock cabergoline and it would have to be specially ordered in. Also, I only needed 4 pills (I take 1/2 pill each dose, with 2 doses/week) for a month's prescription. The bottles come with a minimum of 8 pills, so I had to purchase a 2-month supply. This was a little disappointing just because it means I will always have to purchase a 2-month supply when requesting a refill, unless my dose increases. Currently, I am taking 0.25mg every Monday and Thursday. Any guess how much this cost me? Luckily, I found a coupon through the website, but even with that coupon I ended up paying over $100 for the two-month supply. For 8 pills! I strongly recommend using that website to search for coupons and compare prices. The website informed me that the cost varied widely by pharmacy, and that the same dose would have cost $367 (!!!!) at Walgreens without the coupon. The good news is that I have not had any negative side effects from the cabergoline.

Feeling Surreal -- Sharing the TTC Journey

Recently, two close friends asked us about when we thought we would try to conceive. Since we have been married 6 1/2 years now, the question comes up fairly regularly. Although we are not sharing information with most people, we decided to disclose the TTC status to two close friends. They both have children and will be an excellent resource for telling before we reveal a pregnancy to the world. I was actually shocked to see how excited they were to find out that we were trying to conceive. It felt exciting and also somewhat relieving to share that we are officially "Trying." We have only had two cycles so far (technically, we're now on cycle 3), but it still feels nice to have support.

The one thing that may be challenging is those two couples had a relatively easy time conceiving. Hopefully, that will also be the case for us now that I have started the cabergoline! But there is still definitely the possibility of having other underlying issues causing infertility. I have been reading two TTC blogs of two women we coincidentally went to high school with and I can't help but feel frustrated, angry, and sad for them each time they share about another failed cycle. One of them is currently prepping for IVF. I had no appreciation of the time, expense, and the toll of the drugs necessary for IVF actually are until I started reading about infertility issues. If we ever needed to go that route, it would take us awhile to save the $10,000-$15,000 necessary for just one cycle! Sending positive vibes that the upcoming IVF cycle will be successful for that couple.

Also, I'm listening to Pandora and the song "Dream" came on. Fits this post well!

I was a little girl alone in my little world who dreamed of a little home for me.
I played pretend between the trees, and fed my house guests bark and leaves, and laughed in my pretty bed of green.
I had a dream
I could fly from the highest swing.
I had a dream.
Long walks in the dark through woods grown behind the park, 
I asked God who I'm supposed to be.
The stars smiled down on me, God answered in silent reverie.
I said a prayer and fell asleep.