Enduring Infertility Treatments and Pregnancy while Managing Chronic Migraine

Our Story

When my husband and I got married in 2005, we decided to wait until we were 30 to start trying to have a family. That would give us 5 years to enjoy being a couple, explore and travel; before embarking on the family adventure. It never occurred to either one of us that we would encounter problems with infertility. I had always been a regular lady with my menstrual cycles and as far as we knew all systems were go on his end. So when we turned 30, I went off the birth control pill and we began to start our family.

After a year of trying, we began to get a little worried; was there something wrong. My OBGYN assured me that from what he could tell, all seemed good, and that sometimes it takes longer to get pregnant for some women. So we stepped up our game by taking ovulation tests and taking my basal temperature (you body temperature rises a few tenths of a degree when a woman ovulates).

At year two, and still no baby; we were like OK, something is up–BUT–we also had just decided to embark on an amazing adventure and move cross country to Oregon. So, for several months until we got settled into our new home, the family making was put on the back burner. By this time, I had established an OBGYN in Oregon , who said that they could put me on some medications that would increase our chances each month–we said sure that sounds great. Then in 2014, we had a MINOR car accident, and that is when the Chronic Pain Chronicles began.

After the car accident (again minor and no one was visible injured) the wheels on my health bus started to fall off. My first cervical surgery was in 2014. Six months later, all the symptoms came back and my second surgery was in 2015. At this point, we were trying different things to help with getting pregnant in between my surgeries, recover and working full time. I was a HOT mess. I was in constant chronic pain, but was determined to get pregnant. In 2016, it was discovered that I had yet another issue that would require surgery. This surgery was a success!

It wasn’t until I had my final surgery in 2016, and had begun the healing process from that; that my husband and I decided to try IVF to become pregnant. At this point we were both 36 years old, and figured if we gave this a try and it worked GREAT; if it didn’t work, we could say we had “given it the college try” and then we would hang up our “parent hat” and move on with our lives. To be honest, emotionally, physically and financially we were both at our breaking point.

All in all it took my husband and I, EIGHT LONG years to conceive our son. Of the eight years when we were trying to conceive our son, I was in chronic pain for four of those years. During these four years, I lived with a chronic migraine EVERY DAY—It was HELL on earth. Those four years, where the hardest and most painful years of my life; both physically and emotionally. But having a family, and getting pregnant was SO much a part of who I was that I did not care; chronic pain and all–I pushed thru each month with fertility treatments to get pregnant.

Diagnosis/ Treatment/Medications

Enduring the stress of infertility treatments without having a chronic migraine is stressful enough. Tack on EVERY DAY searing migraine pain, and it was down right brutal. We were diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”–which basically means there was nothing wrong with either one of us–just for some reason we were not getting pregnant. The most viable option for us was IVF. We of course, took a while to come to the decision to do IVF–for the cost, medications and how they would effect me, as well as the unrelenting stress–which was MORE than a chronic migraineur can handle.

Before going through with IVF–I endured 8 rounds of IUI with clomid or femara. The ONLY reason we did that many IUI’s is because our insurance covered it–and we were up to our NECK in medical bills from all my spinal surgeries and not ready to take on a $20,000 bill for IVF. After my 8th IUI which was unsuccessful, our fertility doctor said–you guys can keep doing this OR move on to IVF—its up to you. At this point as I mentioned above, I had just healed from my final neck surgery. And thought OK, maybe my body, the chronic migraine and ALL the stress my body had been under for 3 years will relax now and we can embark upon doing IVF. Decisions were made and we decided to move foward.

The medications associated with the IVF process ARE BRUTAL for migraine. I felt like I was on a merry-go-round of hormones and pain. I couldn’t be on any of my preventative meds or take any abortives while we went through the IVF process. It was SUCH A PAINFUL time- physically and emotionally. I relied heavily on ice packs and ginger gum to get me through the HARD pain days.

We went through our IVF cycle in March 2017–which would have been almost 7 months post surgery for me. I felt pretty good–still had daily migraine attacks but was in such a better place pain wise than I had been in years–so we rolled the dice and started the process. Our fertility doctor told me that most women who have migraines, will no longer have them while they are pregnant—so I hoped, prayed, and thought good thoughts that I would be “one of those women”. We had our embryo transfer on March 23rd–then waited the dreaded TWO WEEKS to find out if it had worked. On April 1st, I went in to take my beta blood test—it came back positive…I WAS PREGNANT. All the years, tests, drugs, and pain quickly became a blur, as the excitement of FINALLY being pregnant overtook my husband and I.

But, as the months went by—the chronic migraine NEVER WENT AWAY. I endured 9 LONG months with a migraine every day–varying in intensity. But still every DAY. I prayed and prayed that when I delivered the baby that my migraine would disappear. Unfortunately–it did not. And here I am two years later–6 years now of chronic migraine–and a Mom to a toddler.

Enduring infertility treatments and pregnancy with a migraine was HELL on earth. Like I mentioned earlier–you can not take anything for the pain. Yes, it was hard, but I like to think that during that time is when I developed some of my best pain management tools (accupuncture, massage, biofeedback training, emotional freedom tapping, deep breathing, journaling, yoga, meditation etc). Which have come in handy now that I have a toddler and still managing chronic migraine.

If you are going through infertility or considering getting pregnant and you have chronic migraine, I would say follow your gut–for me, my Son has given me purpose to keep going, keep pushing, keep advocating to find a cure for this disease. It is SO SO hard being a parent with a chronic disease with no cure. But I am SO much stronger for enduring all that I did. I am glad I took the path I did, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

If you have further questions regarding fertility treatments and pregnancy while managing chronic migraine please feel free to email me at: the.mindful.migraineur79@gmail.com , or feel free to DM me on Instagram. I am happy to help any way I can.

Favorite Stretches for Migraine Hangover

The dreaded migraine hangover—you’ve been laying in bed for days (if you are like me), and your muscles feel like you have been beaten with a sack of nickels. Stretching and utilizing a foam roller are SERIOUSLY two of the best tools for anyone with sore and tight muscles. I never realized how wonderful it was until years of PT introduced me after my cervical spine surgeries. On a previous post, I talked about some great ways to use your foam roller to “roll” out some of those pesky back muscles that get tight after a migraine attack. But I thought I would dive a little deeper with some additional GO TO stretches you can do with your foam roller for SERIOUSLY tight muscles after days of an attack!

  1. Chest– Did you know that if your back is tight that you should be stretching your back AND your front body??!! This is yet another thing I learned in PT, that you have to stretch your front body as much as you stretch your back body if you suffer from extremely tight muscles. When my back feels REALLY tight after laying in bed a few days I always make sure to get a good chest/shoulder/side body stretch in as well. This video here shows all the ways I use my foam roller to roll out those muscles. Using your foam roller is great but you can also use a tennis ball and just lay on the tight areas. I can always tell where I am extra tight by what HURTS the most to roll over! Here is a great video demonstrating proper technique for this—it HURTS but is SO amazing for tight chest muscles!
  2. Neck– After a bad attack, my neck can feel SO STIFF! Foam rolling my neck is one of my favorite parts of my day. You essentially get to lay and gently move your head around rolling the foam roller on the icky spots on your neck. Here is a great video that illustrates this. I also will use my other favorite product THE STICK for really stiff neck days.
  3. Lower Back- After laying in bed, a good roll on the foam roller always feels amazing on my lower back. This is a great video that shows how to properly roll out your lower back.

Foam rolling is great, but some gentle yoga and meditation is also a great way to make the migraine hangover days feel less horrible. I really love Yoga with Adriene on YouTube…she has some great yoga gentle flow sequences (this one is one of my favorites), and this lovely meditation .

I hope this is yet another set of tools to add to your migraine hangover toolbox!

Decide What to Be and Go Be It….

The days tick by like a lonely clock on a waiting room wall. Every day is the same routine; care for my son, care for myself. But the big ELEPHANT that has appeared in the room over the past two years is..who am I? No longer am I the girl that had big dreams and took challenges on head first. Who would jump into a car for an adventure at a moments notice. No, that girl is long gone. That girl was taken from me by this illness. An illness that is invisible to the naked eye, but completely and utterly has rattled me to my core. It has smashed dreams and desires. It has cancelled trips and plans. It has left me in a hugh undone mess.

I turn 40 in just a few short months, and the thoughts that continue to play over and over again in my head are….”THIS is not where I was SUPPOSED to be at this point in my life”. You see, I had big plans… College, Grad School, Marriage, More Grad School, Family and Career. NONE of these plans included a life changing illness that has left me nothing more than a shell of the person I once was. Every now and I again, I get a glimpse of her, but I have to admit, I am PETRIFIED that she is forever gone.

But how do I move forward from this? How do I find the “NEW” version of me. Where do I even begin? I’ve spent HOURS rolling these words around in my head—trying to define who I am now. I am NOT my illness, but what do I like, what will my career look like; or even worse, will I ever be able to go back to work?!

This illness has caused me to take a momentary pause in my life–to stop, reflect and change course. I will find this “new” version of myself. It may take some time, but my firery spirit will not keep me from searching for my new passion. The thing that makes me excited to get up each day. I will rise from these ashes…it may take longer than my TYPE A personality would like..but I WILL rise above all of this.

I have found myself feeling more and more drawn to advocacy for chronic illness and for parents and families whom are struggling with chronic illness themselves. These two things are very near to my heart, as I myself am a mom who struggles on a daily basis to care for my child and myself. So perhaps THAT is my new passion.

That’s the thing about passions, desires and dreams–they have the ability to be changed. You do not have to stick to what you wrote down in your diary when you were thirteen years old. So I am setting a new goal for myself..over the next 6-9 months, I will pursue this passion of advocacy–in whatever form or fashion that may manifest–and see if THIS is what I was made for. I have always said, there is a purpose for all this pain–for suffering through 8 years of infertility, for managing chronic migraine for the last 6 years and through it all fighting like hell for my marriage. You see, the “in sickness and in health” part of your wedding vows; were taken VERY seriously by both my spouse and myself–we just never in a MILLION years dreamed it would happen so early on in our marriage. I am forever grateful that I have a man in my life that didn’t just give up and walk away when things got hard—that he has fought tooth and nail to take care of me and my son.

I am not sure what tomorrow will bring, but we are told to not worry about tomorrow, for it has troubles of its own. So for today I will, inhale deeply; focus on the special time I am being able to spend with my son and trusting (and hoping) that the next season of my life will include me rising from the ashes of my former life.

Managing Chronic Migraine while being a Parent—5 tips to get you through your toughest days!

Being a parent is tough— add a chronic pain condition to the mix and it can feel down right impossible. I am here to tell you that some days it does feel impossible, and I have to call in for backup–but over the past two years, I have developed some strategies for coping and surviving my toughest days while still being a present mom to my son.

1). Develop an outdoor/exercise routine— I am a routine girl–always have been. Even on the days I do NOT feel like going outside; I will still take my son for a walk around our neighborhood. Exercise has been proven to help with chronic pain, so I figure I should at least give myself a few minutes a day outside with a gentle walk If its a bad day, I will give myself 10 minutes of walking–and if I do not feel any better, we turn around and come home. On other days, after 10 mins, the pain may have subsided a bit and will allow me to finish our walk. The exercise and routine is good for ME but also WONDERFUL for my son.

A Morning Walk–ALL BOY!

My son is 21 months and LOVES being outside. We live in an area of the country that is fairly hot, so we have to do all our “outside time” early in the morning to avoid the scorching heat and humidity that can easily aggravate a migraine. When we return from our walk I will allow my son to play outside for a few minutes. Usually with sidewalk chalk or bouncing the ball around. I AVOID NOISY LOUD TOYS on days when I am having very high pain–it can exerastibate an attack very quickly! If it is an extremely hot day and my pain is rising quickly–we play in the garage for no more than 20 mins then come inside to cool down.

Chalk time!

2). Easy meals/snacks– Meals…ugh..I feel like meals are one of the hardest parts of my day when I am having a bad attack. My son actually LOVES smoothies, so I will sometimes make he and I a smoothie on the days when I am feeling very nauseous. He thinks he is getting a treat, but actually I’m hiding lots of yummy veggies in his smoothie! đŸ™‚

There are a few store bought items that I keep on hand if I am having a particularly bad day and JUST cant even put a sandwich together here are a few of my favorites:


TIP: Muffin Tin Snack Tray–If you search on pinterest you can find LOTS of ideas for healthy snacks. Here is one page that I particularly love! My son is still a little young to be left unattended with a snack tray–BUT I do put them together for him to have and bring them out during the day so he can choose what he would like to snack on. It helps me by not having to THINK too much during an attack (hello brain fog), and allows his toddler self to make choices (WHICH he loves!)Mothers Morning Out/Preschool

3) Mothers Morning Out/Preschool– I am currently a SAHM–with my health and little job prospects in our area–staying at home is my best option right now for our family AND my health. If you can afford it I would HIGHLY recommend a Mother’s Morning Out program. Often these are run through churches or community organizations and are VERY affordable. Being that my child is an only child, he doesn’t have any brothers or sisters to play with. And I am often feeling too crummy to get him to any sort of play group. So this option works well for my family. He goes two days a week for 3 hours. This has helped me TREMENDOUSLY! On days I feel ok, I can run errands—on days I feel horrible I can drop him off and come home and climb back in bed for a few hours. If you can make it work with your budget I would look into this. Just to give you an idea of cost, our church charges $115 a month for the two days a week–thats WAY cheaper than hiring a babysitter! All in all this has worked out well for our family because it gives me time to rest and provide some self care AND lets our son get some socialization with other children his age!

4) Quite indoor activities– Its a rainy or HOT day and we are stuck in doors ALL day—and my head is POUNDING—what do we do all day! Here is a list of things that I have found are perfect for this situation:

Coloring/drawing/painting

Stickers

Reading

Crafts/Sensory Bins

Going to the library and letting him pick out a few new books

Watching an educational show on TV (a few of our favs- Peppa Pig, Hey Duggie, Daniel Tiger, Bluey, The Twirly Woos, Booba (netflix); Little Baby Bum nursery rhymes (netflix/hulu)

Playing quietly on the floor with my son- cars, trucks, airplanes

Painting with water—we LOVE these Melissa and Doug Books–

You can find them CHEAP at TJMAXX!

TIP: AVOID and HIDE ALL TOYS WITH SOUNDS AND FLASHING LIGHTS!!!!!!! I have learned this the hard way! I will often tell my son that we will play with those toys OUTSIDE on another day, or when his dad gets home from work!

5) Nap when they nap–This phrase was repeated over and over again when my son was a newborn–but I have found it is equally effective now! Whenever my son goes down for a nap–I take a nap or rest. The dishes/laundry/housework can wait–your child needs you to be at the best you possibly can be–so allow yourself some grace and REST whenever possible!

TIP: Children are essentially little adults–so talking with your child about your chronic illness can be very beneficial. Since my son is so young, its a bit harder to explain to him the ins and outs of why Momma doesn’t feel well–but he knows it–Kids are so instinctive and can pick up on the subtle things you do (or don’t do ) when you are having an attack. This article , put together by the American Migraine Foundation gives some great talking points for talking to your children about your chronic condition.

All in all, having a chronic pain condition, makes parenting complicated; BUT NOT IMPOSSIBLE! You just have to be more strategic about your energy and how many spoons you want to use up for the day. Some days, I admit, the most I can do is lay on the couch–AND THAT IS OK! Other days when I feel good, I will take my son to the park or to a local play group. The thing with chronic migraine is no matter what you do RIGHT, you sometimes JUST get an attack–and you have to be prepared for how to manage that and care for your children. Ill also admit that there are days that I know something is SO special and important to him that I will push aside my pain, slap on my sunnies and just do it—because that is what being a parent is ALL about–sacrifice.

Sometimes you just have to put aside the pain to make a memory with your child!

Pranamat- A Honest Review

As a chronic migraineur for 6 + years, I am always willing to try ANYTHING that may help with the management of my migraines. When I lived in Oregon, I absolutely fell in LOVE with acupuncture. But since moving to NC, I haven’t been able to find a practitioner that I like and it is no longer covered by my insurance, and I can not afford the $200 per visit!

I had explored the idea of the Pranamat for some time, but it wasn’t until my sister bought one, that I actually was able to take it for a test drive to make the decision to purchase my own.

They are a bit on the expensive side, but from the reviews I have read the Pranamat is far superior to some of the other brands. Amazon does carry a few competitor brands, which I am sure work just as well. The thing that is nice about the Pranamat is there is a 30 day trial period. If you don’t love it then you can send it back! That’s a win win for me!

The mat is also very eco-friendly, made from natural and recycled materials.

My First Time

I have to admit, the first time I laid on it, I was a bit intimidated. If you look at the pictures above, you will see that there are tiny little plastic spikes! Yikes!

The idea of the Pranamat is that it combines acupressure and reflexology points to give you a gentle massage. It is recommended that to begin you only lay on the mat for 5-10 mins, or as long as you can stand. It is also recommended that you lay on it bare skinned, which also was a bit scary!

I have a great deal of upper back and neck tension, which will trigger a migraine if not dealt with on a daily basis. So, I chose to lay on this. You can also stand or sit, or lay on your stomach. The website gives lots of options for ways you can utilize the mat.

Upon laying down on the mat, it felt a little uncomfortable but not at all as spikey as I had imagined. After a minute or so, I begin to feel incredibly relaxed and, very much the same feeling I have when I receive acupuncture. I laid on the mat for 10 mins my first time, and I could feel a difference in my overall upper back tension and neck pain. The relaxed feeling lasted for the remainder of the day (surprising). Again, much how I felt after receiving an acupuncture treatment.

Verdict on Pranamat

Since taking my sisters’ mat for a spin, I have purchased my own mat. I am on day 5 of using the mat, and I am SO in love. I have been using the mat in the morning and evening; adding in my meditation time during the evening use. I have noticed that I have been sleeping more soundly at night ( on the nights that I am NOT having a migraine attack); And my upper back and neck tension has lessened. Overall, I would recommend this product if you have upper back and neck tension triggered migraine attacks. In my opinion, this product gives a nice massage, and mimics the effects of acupuncture, which historically has been incredibly effective for my migraine attack management.

I have not used the mat for any other part of my body yet, but I do believe that this type product is an excellent tool to have in your migraine management tool belt!

*Note-this was my honest review- I am not being paid or compensated by Pranamat.

Ear Seeds: A Tool for Migraine Pain Management

I am a BIG fan of acupuncture to help manage my migraine attacks. Unfortunately, where I am living currently, I am unable to receive the acupuncture treatments that I would like to have. My insurance will not cover treatments, so I would have to pay $200 out of pocket for treatments, which is just not feasible for our current budget. When we lived on the West Coast, I would receive 2 treatments a week, for migraine management and our health insurance covered them all! Differences in locations and health insurance always provide a challenge in migraine management!

Fortunately, my fantastic acupuncturists and friend from when I lived in Oregon, showed me several points on my ear that I can apply pressure to whenever I am having an attack which can ease the pain and nausea. In addition to applying pressure with just your fingers, you can purchase ear seeds to place on the points, and press on the seeds to provide an even more effective way of reaching the acupuncture points.

Ear seeds are a tool that can be used to place pressure on an acupuncture point without the needle. And you can purchase ear seeds off Amazon! If you are new to this alternative treatment, you may want to meet with an acupuncturists to find these points on your ears prior to purchasing. Or there are kits on Amazon that provide detailed instructions for placement of the seeds.

Ear seeds are SUPER easy to use, and a low cost alternative to acupuncture treatments. If you feel a bit intimidated by this, DO NOT! I have purchased ear seeds off Amazon, and placed them myself. The points are typically easy to find during an attack–they are typically VERY sensitive and sore! For more information about this, I found a great article, that goes into detail about ear seeds.

Here is a diagram of where the typical points are for migraine relief, I typically find that one seed on the Shen Men point and Point Zero will work for me. Once the seeds are in place, you can apply pressure to them throughout an attack, and can even leave them on for days at a time!

Again, I get that this can be rather intimidating! And may not work for everyone, but, I have always found good results with utilizing these points and I have added this to my migraine toolbelt anytime I have an attack.

If you are interested in acupuncture, there are several resources online to help you locate one near you. I have always found the NCCAOM (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine) website as a great place to start.

If you have questions, please reach out to me! I am happy to help provide more tools for your toolbelt!

MY Top 5 Stretches for the EVIL Neck MUSCLES!

Hello friends! As many of you know if you read my story, I have a history of cervical spine surgery, which is great when it solves the problem at hand; BUT, long term can leave you with overly tight neck and upper back muscles IF you don’t get on a daily stretching routine.

These EVIL neck muscles can give me a migraine in a hot minute if I do NOT keep them under control. So I have compiled my TOP 5 stretches that I do to try to keep these muscles under control. I spent MANY years in physical therapy, so some of the stretches come from that, others are from Yoga (my other FAVORITE way to stretch).

  1. Foam Roller- If you have back/neck issues, foam rollers are a great way to work out the knots and kinks that can happen on a daily basis. My favorite foam roller is this one, it’s the one I purchased while I was doing Physical Therapy after my first cervical spine surgery several years ago (it is also linked in my favorite products list on my IG profile). It was purchased on the recommendation of my PT. I really like this because it allows me to work different areas of my body not just my upper back, neck area. To actually perform the stretches on the foam roller, I found this great video, that shows several different ways you can stretch your upper back if you get the pesky cervogenic migraine like I do.
  2. Cat/Cow yoga pose- After three cervical spine surgeries, yoga has become my best friend! This simple pose is something I can do while my son plays or any time during the day that I begin feeling super tight and achy in my upper back and neck. I discovered Yoga with Adriene when I had to completely change my exercise routine after all my surgeries. She’s AMAZING. Here is Adriene showing this pose. She has LOTS of other great stuff on her Youtube channel, you should definitely check her out!
  3. Neck stretches- my PT showed me similar stretches and I can do theses ANYWHERE I start to feel the pain climbing. Here is a great video.
  4. Countertop stretch for upper back- This stretch is WONDERFUL for when the pain train has left the station and you are REALLY feeling those muscles starting to clamp down and induce a migraine. I do this EVERYDAY. The image I found the woman is using a chair, but I was taught using a countertop, basically any surface you can use to do this stretch, as long as it is sturdy!
  5. Yoga for Neck and Shoulders- Again, my girl Yoga with Adriene has a great flow series that feels amazing when you start to feel really tight.

When my neck is REALLY bad, I also have found using a topical cream such as salonpas or a Hemp derived CBD lotion like Lord Jones.

If you have any questions please send them my way! I hope this helps!