Julia Childless: Four days ago I stopped taking a week-long course of progesterone pills, in the hopes that I would get my period back, and finally begin all the preliminary fertility testing to find out why I haven't been getting pregnant in over a year.
I'm on Day 49 of my cycle. Still no period. I took a pregnancy test and shot an e-mail to my reproductive endocrinologist: "WHAT'S NEXT?!"
As I waited for her response, I thought about just how messed up my cycles have gotten in the last half of 2009 -- this is my second case of amenorrhea (loss of menstruation), and the sixth time I haven't ovulated (as evidenced by charting my temperatures and taking Ovulation Prediction Kits). The first part of last year, I had evidence of some potential issues (a short luteal phase), but at least I had been producing an egg. Which is, I've heard, pretty essential to making a baby.
What changed in my life? What was I doing differently? Same life patterns. Same exercise. Same diet ... except ... well, the only thing I could come up with was that I had quit artificial sweeteners last June, replacing them with Stevia, at the recommendation of a holistic nutritionist. Stevia is derived from an herb in South America, where they've been using it as a sweetener for centuries. Could this little plant really be the problem?! It sounded crazy. I Googled a few combos: Stevia + Fertility, Stevia + Infertility, Stevia + Reproduction ...
I found a lot of stuff, none of it really concrete. Lots of studies involving tests with hamsters that were inconclusive, theories about it affecting male organs, gynecologists insisting that there was no proof that Stevia affected female fertility. Plus, these were mostly cases where large amounts of the sweetener were used, not the 1/8 of a teaspoon I was putting on my morning oatmeal or occasional cup of decaf Chai. I spoke to my nutritionist, who was baffled. She had never heard anything about this either.
Having taught sex education for three years, I did one more search. Stevia + Birth Control. And there it was: 29,000 results mentioning how tribes in Paraguay were rumored to have used the herb as a form of natural birth control.
Um ... EXCUSE ME?!?!
It could all be a coincidence. I know plenty of women who use Stevia who ovulate just fine. But are there any Stevia-heads out there who have actually conceived?
I just got an e-mail back from my reproductive endocrinologist. She told me to give my period a full week to come back after being on the progesterone, then to see my gynecologist for amenorrhea treatment (since it's covered by my insurance). So that means another 3 days of waiting around. In the meantime, I'm tossing my bottle of Stevia. I realize it's a long shot (if it really can be used as birth control, why isn't this national breaking news?!), but I'm curious to see if anything changes, if I'll magically start ovulating once again. Man, bland oatmeal would totally be worth that.
|Julia Childless is a working actress living in Los Angeles without fertility insurance who has been trying to produce a bun in the oven for over a year.|