As one of seven children, Instagram fitness expert Anna Victoria always believed that she’d be able to get pregnant easily. But in an emotional video shared on YouTube, Victoria reveals that she and her husband have been unable to conceive for more than a year.
“I never thought in a million years I would be here,” she said in the video between tears. “I never thought that I would be struggling with conceiving. It’s been a really hard 2018.”
In January 2018, Victoria, 30, and her husband Luca Ferretti, 31, started trying to get pregnant. The first month her period was late and she thought for sure she was pregnant.
“I was so convinced that I was pregnant I bought little things off Etsy,” she shared.
But a few days later she started menstruating. Every month, her expectations followed a similar pattern: Her body would feel different — her breasts would feel tender or she would have spotting, for example — and she believed that meant she was pregnant. But then her period would start.
“I was symptom spotting. You are paying attention to every little tiny thing after you ovulate,” she explained. “I drove myself nuts.”
Victoria’s experience is all too common experts say. Often premenstrual syndrome symptoms resemble first trimester pregnancy symptoms.
“All of those things can be overlapping,” Dr. Marie Menke, director of the division of reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Magee-Womens Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, told TODAY. “There is breast tenderness and spotting that is common in early pregnancy ... there is nausea and bloating, and cramping is not uncommon as the uterus starts to grow.”
Victoria said she has unexplained infertility. In about 20 to 30 percent of infertility diagnosis, doctors do not find anything wrong with either partner to explain why the woman isn't getting pregnant, Menke said.
“It is frustrating on all accounts,” Menke said. “It is especially difficult with young healthy patients, because you're saying nothing is wrong.”
The certified personal trainer and creator of the 12-week Fit Body Guides and Fit Body app also believed that being in good health and having a healthy diet would help her get pregnant. While doctors want their patients to be healthy, it's a myth that exercising and healthy eating increase fertility. Doctors just know that smoking and obesity decrease fertility.
“You are born with all the eggs you're ever going to have,” Menke said.
Victoria's currently undergoing intrauterine insemination (IUI), a treatment that involves doctors directly inserting sperm into the uterus. Most women, including Victoria, take medications to increase egg production so there's a better chance of fertilization.
Though she's feeling “optimistic,” the experience isn't without difficulty.
“It has been a stressful process, learning about all the different medication I need to take,” she told TODAY via email. “I'm also someone who prefers to minimize medication as much as possible, but I also respect and marvel at the scientific advances.”
If two to three IUI treatments do not work, Victoria will have to undergo more tests and treatment.
“How do you just ‘reduce stress’ at the snap of your fingers? You can't. And when this is the number one thing you'll hear from friends, family and strangers, it can feel stressful to even think about how to reduce stress,” she said.
But she thinks women trying to get pregnant should take care of themselves.
“The best thing you can do for yourself is take it easy,” she said. “Work out to keep your body moving, but don't overdo it to where your workouts become a source of stress.”
She shared her story because she hoped she could help others.
“(I wanted) to help other women know they're not alone in their fertility struggles and to help them know it's not their fault," she said. “I wanted to open this discussion for other women to share their own story in hopes it would lift a weight off their shoulders, just as it did for me.”