Along with Dr. Jeanie Schlafly’s pregnancy story at 48, she also answered quite a few questions from our listeners (like low AMH, not having a cycle, and more) at the end of this show which are NOT shown here. You can listen to the show or read the Q&A HERE.
On episode 65, Fertility Specialist Dr. Jeanie Schlafy from Denver, Colorado who was pregnant at 42, 44, and at 48. This is her pregnancy journey at 48 but she’ll be referencing her other pregnancies. Jeanie grew up in a very strict Catholic family. She met and married a Catholic man because that was expected of her. She quickly found out it wasn’t the right path and went through a divorce. Her parents told her a physician wasn’t a good occupation for a woman. It took her awhile to realize it was something she really wanted to pursue, so she went to medical school at 30 years old. She started her career as an anesthesiologist and now has a wholistic fertility practice.
We were old before, we’re really old now… I’m ready to have a baby.”
She always pictured herself as a mother. Growing up, she wanted five kids. At almost 40, she didn’t have children, nor was she married. One month before her 40th birthday, she met her future husband on match.com. She knew she wanted to go on another date and a year later, they planned to marry. He wanted children, but Jeanie’s mindset changed as she grew older. She never had a huge energy reserve, so she knew she needed to have the right partner that was willing to help out to be part of raising a child. Because of her age, she was concerned about being able to have a healthy baby. They decided together they wanted kids despite the risks. She wasn’t sure how fertile her and her husband were. The very next month she was pregnant and gave birth at 42. A year later, she discussed having another baby or adopting. As an only child, it was important to her that her son have a sibling. She and her husband decided she wanted to try for a second child. She saw a Chinese medicine doctor and had acupuncture and herbs, but nothing worked. She stopped and just let things go. She remembers being sick, like a cold, then finding out she was pregnant again. She was so overjoyed and excited. It was a year and a half long journey to get pregnant at 44. This pregnancy was smooth sailing, so nothing was on her radar. The genetic test results at 10-weeks showed no genetic problems. She miscarried at about 13 ½ weeks because of an incompetent cervix. That was the most difficult thing that she had ever gone through. She attended a pregnancy loss group which was really healing for her. It was really tough after the loss. Three months later, she was ready to try again.
She wanted to go the western route and see a reproductive endocrinologist. She tried multiple IUI’s, and she did IVF with her own eggs. They retrieved six eggs and created one embryo, but it didn’t make it far enough to transfer. She was giving up hope. They were told their best bet was to use donor eggs which her husband was on board for. Jeannie wasn’t ready. Suddenly, one day she was ready to try again with donor eggs. She wanted to be pregnant. The donor selection process was really interesting. She decided to use frozen embryos, and she didn’t want the extra stress of having a fresh donor. She and her husband only looked at the frozen egg donors. The egg bank had pictures and tons of information about each of the donors. Together, they had some stipulations. She did not want eggs from outside of Colorado. She did not want to have the eggs shipped because she read something in the contract that the egg bank was not responsible if something happens to the eggs during the shipment. It was an added stress she didn’t want. She was concerned about the number of eggs because she didn’t want to end up with too many embryos. After she narrowed it now, there were only two donors to choose from in the Denver area. The donor she chose ended up having light hair, green eyes, and had a Spanish background.
With the donor eggs, she ended up with three embryos that were all good quality. She had the highest quality embryo transferred, but she didn’t want to know the gender. Once they selected an embryo, she wanted to know the gender. She would be pregnant with a girl. During her two week wait, she didn’t do a home pregnancy test. When the nurse called, by her tone, Jeanie thought it was negative. Her heart dropped, and then the nurse told her she was pregnant. She went to a maternal fetal medicine specialist to discuss this pregnancy after her loss. They decided most likely she miscarried because of cervical insufficiency, even though, normally, that happens a few weeks later in gestation. This time, the doctor added a cerclage, which is basically a stitch through the cervix to hold the baby in. At 36 ½ weeks, they recommended cutting it.
Her first trimester was really tough. She was happy to have her friend for support she met at the support group her fertility clinic hosted. They met for coffee once a week. Jeannie ended up getting a Doppler to check the baby’s heart rate a little later in her pregnancy. She found that to be very helpful. When she was worried, she could find her heart rate and feel reassured. She also joined a support group for pregnancy after loss. It was a group where she shared her fears about losing another pregnancy. It made it easier to be surrounded by others that have gone through it. Her husband usually stayed home with their son, but that made it easy for Jeannie to connect with other pregnant women who have experienced loss.
Jeannie was nauseous and tired, but so happy she was pregnant. They had a lot going on: her husband was working at home, and she was starting Baby Hope Fertility. She felt good. She was able to function and do a lot of things. She wasn’t quite as nauseated this time as she was with her first. It cleared up after the first trimester for both of them. Luckily, she didn’t have any complications. Her OBGYN was amazing. He said that she could come in every week because he knew what she had been through. She was so happy to be reassured to see her baby so often on ultrasound or doppler. Just to have that reassurance that things are looking good. She was seeing the maternal fetal medicine doctor because of her age and the miscarriage. She would alternate one week at the maternal fetal medicine and one week at her OBGYN. At about seven months, while she was watching her son’s baseball game, she had some bleeding and got very, very scared. Throughout her pregnancy she had bleeding on and off. The doctor told her the cervix can be a little more friable, but it’s not very uncommon. Of course it happened on the weekend when her OBGYN wasn’t available. She had the doppler at the game to hear everything was ok.
Her first pregnancy at 42, she had a lot of time to exercise. She swam often which felt great because it was easy on her joints. Looking back, her diet wasn’t the best either even though she didn’t eat fast food. She’s learned so much since then. At 48, she intentionally ate better by eating clean meats, organic produce and cut out sugar and gluten. Avoiding gluten was a huge improvement. She believes her diet was a big piece of why she felt so much better. This time she didn’t have as much time to exercise with a toddler and her busy life. Most of her exercise was chasing her toddler.
At 36 weeks, the day before she was scheduled to have the cerclage clipped, Jeanie was standing at the sink doing dishes. Suddenly, she thought she might have leaked some amniotic fluid. She went in the bathroom to figure out if it was fluid or urine. She decided she was going to call the OBGYN and assumed he’d probably want her to be seen. She went to the doctor that day about 4:00 pm. She was already dilated, so they clipped the cerclage. He suggested the baby might come in the next 24 hours which his partner would be on call for. At two o’clock in the morning, there was a gush, her water broke. She called her friend that offered to watch her son while her husband drove her to the hospital. She was both nervous and excited. Her doula met her at the hospital. Things progressed quicker than her first pregnancy. Her birth plan for both times was not to put any pressure on herself. She wanted it to be a beautiful experience whether it meant an unmedicated or medicated labor. She wanted to be as present as possible. She wanted an epidural, but also wanted to feel as much as she could. The doula took off the pressure for her husband to be everything for her. Jeanie labored for about fourteen hours with only a half hour of pushing. Her baby at 48 was much smaller. She was a pound smaller because she was earlier. They laid her daughter on her belly instead of her chest. Jeanie explains the baby can smell the milk and crawls to her breast to find it. It’s supposed to help with breast feeding. She did this with her first baby and had no issues breastfeeding, so she wanted to do it again. Jeanie was able to hold her daughter for only a short time when her daughter started to make sounds. The NICU nurse explained that it was because she was born early, and she’s actually trying to get good breaths but can’t. Her daughter was taken to the NICU.
Jeannie’s recovery was so much easier than the first postpartum experience because things were already stretched out. Her daughter was a smaller baby and that helped, too. Jeanie didn’t have any tears and forceps weren’t used like the first time. The first time, she was given an ice pack that you put in your underwear to help soothe you, but she didn’t even need it this time. It was beautiful. She was pretty much on a high. She was sad that she was in the NICU and a little nervous about it but felt really good physically. She would walk from her room to the NICU and spend as much time as she could with her daughter. She slept in the room until she was discharged. She was breastfeeding, but they didn’t think her baby was getting enough. She supplemented with donor breast milk, which she was thankful for. She was worried about her milk coming in, but the nurse kept reassuring her it just hasn’t come in yet.
On day five in the NICU, her daughter was ready to go home. She didn’t have formula and never needed it with her first. She remembers stopping by a natural grocer to purchase the best formula they had on the way home in case she needed it. She ended up not needing it and passing it on to someone else. Jeannie didn’t experience postpartum depression either time. She believes the oxytocin from breastfeeding helped her feel just very elated and wonderful. She recalls having some short-term memory problems because she wasn’t getting good sleep for a while. With her first, her husband helped a lot at night. This time, she was off of work, but her husband wasn’t. She wanted to let him sleep, and she was going to have to get up to pump anyway. It was the interrupted sleep for so long that she really noticed the short-term memory loss. It was a little scary.
Today, Jeanie is a Fertility Specialist. While she was an anesthesiologist, she found herself missing her son’s events. She wasn’t ready to change paths yet, but she did take a course on functional medicine. She loved every minute of it. She referenced her new training as an anesthesiologist. She liked looking at why the patients had the symptoms in the first place. She started to notice her hands weren’t as strong which was important as an anesthesiologist. She was diagnosed with carpal tunnel which didn’t allow her to continue as an anesthesiologist. She became certified in functional medicine with a specialty in fertility. Her first class was on her birthday which she saw as a sign. She found a program that was perfected over fifteen years. She felt like it was a gift.
Dr. Jeanie Schlafly contact information can be found in the resources section below.