My journey to get pregnant and how I overcame hypothalamic amenorrhea

It’s been two weeks since I released my first ebook, “Fit and Fertile,” and I thought it was a good time to give you all here on the blog a little overview of what the last two years of my life have been like behind the scenes — all of which is in the ebook in way more detail. You see, it took all of this time to figure out what was going on with my seemingly healthy body and ultimately get pregnant after being diagnosed with and recovering from hypothalamic amenorrhea. And yes, it actually took more than two years, and they have been the hardest of my life, with some major ups and downs.

Now let me start this by saying that this blog post is merely an overview — my full and entire story, including personal details, super-helpful tips based off of my experience and all of the nitty gritty will remain in the ebook only. It’s a complete journey, from beginning to end, and I won’t be putting it all out there on the blog. You see, it’s A LOT, and while I love to share my life (and nearly all of the good and the bad) with you here, I have to leave some of it behind a barrier. And that’s what “Fit and Fertile” has been for me. A place where I can give absolutely everything and spill my heart and brain out, and it takes just one extra step and bit of commitment from you to unlock.

And I must say that writing my ebook has been the most therapeutic thing ever. I honestly feel like I can close the door on all of the struggles, hardship, confusion and sadness that I had been dealing with. My life has turned around entirely, and I’ve never been better. Woohoo!

Ashley on foot

My journey to get pregnant 

But for now, here’s the gist … 

For many years, I’ve always been a healthy and fit gal, who loved to work out, eat clean and stay as active as possible. And after I moved to San Francisco from Orlando (which was just about five years ago — OMG, shut the front door, etc.), that’s when I got way more involved in the fitness world and became a personal trainer and started teaching and participating in multiple group fitness classes a week (in addition to walking the steep hills of SF every day).

Fitness soon became more than just my hobby, but it also became my job and my entire identity. And also became one of the main topics on my personal blog here … which is now my business. And I’m guessing that many of you reading this ultimately found A Lady Goes West because of some of the fitness-related things I’ve written.

Well, everything was dandy, until about two years ago, when Dave and I decided we were ready to start a family. It was at that time that I figured out that my love for and involvement in all things fitness had actually unintentionally made me “too fit” to get pregnant naturally, because my sensitive body was completely overwhelmed by the amount of physical activity I did on a daily basis (it was a lot and every body is different!).

And those of you long-time blog readers may remember, I used to teach back-to-back one-hour Les Mills high-intensity classes and also take a Barry’s Bootcamp class in the same day, just for fun — all the while walking more than five or six miles with a backpack around the City. It was way too much, and the increase happened gradually, so I didn’t realize it had gotten to be too much. I was working in fitness and loving it, so how could it be bad for me?

Getting diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea

After multiple doctor visits and blood tests and a few other assessments, I was finally diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea, (the loss of a menstrual cycle — where your brain basically tells your body to stop the reproductive process because the scene in the body is too dangerous) brought about by way too much exercise. And hypothalamic amenorrhea can also be brought about by too much stress or not enough food — often seen in people with eating disorders as well. Having this condition also meant that my hormones were totally shot, but I had no idea I’d been doing anything wrong — thinking I was active and healthy.

When I first got the diagnosis, the first thing I did was run to the Internet (as any smart gal would do), and I was incredibly disappointed to find article after article saying that the only way to heal the body was to stop exercising entirely and gain a bunch of weight through eating everything in sight. I read countless bloggers’ accounts of stopping all movement except for walking and swapping their whole-foods diets for fast food and high-fat convenience food just to gain weight. But, being a healthy lifestyle blogger and a level-headed person, I knew that wasn’t the route I wanted to take, so I sought help from an acupuncturist and began forging my own path to recovery instead. And I also knew that I wanted to continue working in the fitness industry, so stoping all exercise was not an option. There was no manual out there to help me … it was up to me to do it.

Ashley in Old Navy Active by A Lady Goes West

Making changes to my lifestyle

First, I made some changes to my diet by increasing my healthy fat intake (helllllllo avocados) and doing a few other food adjustments. Then, I reduced my workout load by about half, adding an additional rest day each week as well. And perhaps most significantly, I started going to acupuncture once a week and took a bunch of special herbal supplements regularly, all of which supported the healing and balancing of my hormones. (And no, I never outright said here on the blog why I had cut back on my workouts or why my diet had changed, and I also never mentioned the acupuncture or supplements. I was confused. I wasn’t sure if my plan would work. And I just wasn’t ready to put it out there yet.)

Bone broth, butternut squash fries, eggs and avo lunch by A Lady Goes West

While it didn’t happen overnight, maintaining this routine and keeping the faith (which wasn’t easy) eventually led me to get my first natural period in who knows how long — ending my battle with hypothalamic amenorrhea. But my adventure wasn’t over there … I still had a lot of work to do on totally correcting my damaged hormones before I was able to get pregnant, and it was more than a year after my first natural cycle that I saw my first ever positive pregnancy test. (An amazing sight that I still can’t believe! YAY!)

And today, I can proudly say that I did get pregnant naturally, after originally being told by a medical doctor that I couldn’t, and I am healthier than I’ve ever been before. Going through hypothalamic amenorrhea while working in the fitness industry was not an easy thing either. As I began to gain weight and work out less, I definitely experienced some ill effects on my mentality and my outlook — but I surely know now that it was all worth it. And I also know now that it’s a lot more common than people would like to admit in the industry. That’s why I decided to speak out!

Sharing my success story with others

All of this is why I’ve written my ebook. This ebook details nearly every event from when I first decided I wanted to get pregnant, to how I was diagnosed with hypothalamic amenorrhea, to everything that I ate and exactly what and how many workouts I did, to how I went against the grain to heal my body while taking my own advice and not the advice you find online.

As I was struggling for the past two years, I knew the silver lining would eventually be sharing my journey. And so I’ve written it all down, spilling more secrets than my dear friends even know, and I’ve also put together three pages of tips for anyone who wants to heal their hormones, at any stage of life (whether you are ready for a baby or not) and learn how to be as healthy as you possibly can — while being proactive about and protective of your fertility. 

The thing about hypothalamic amenorrhea and fertility struggles is that they affect way more people than we’d like to think. But it’s not an often-talked about topic. And I want everyone to know that you need to monitor your body and your hormones, because if your hormones are off, you are in for some trouble.

I took the long route to get pregnant, and I can say that I would 100 percent do it again if I had to. There is NOTHING better in the world than knowing you have become your healthiest version, have educated yourself and are forever changed for the right reasons.

Ashley's pregnancy announcement photo by A Lady Goes West

And my friends, if you haven’t yet, I would love for you to read the whole story, full of tips for you where you are right now in your life. Here’s your gift: If you’d like to buy “Fit and Fertile,” enter the code blogfriend for a little discount off your purchase, and you can do that here. I appreciate each and every one of you! Thank you for being here!

Good things take work! Here's how @apstyle recovered from #hypothalamicamenorrhea to get #pregnant naturally ... Click To Tweet

Questions of the day

What’s something that has been therapeutic for you in your life?

If you wrote a book, what would it be about?

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74 Comments

  1. So happy for you that you were able to reverse the HA and get pregnant. Looking back on my hormonal and infertility journey, if I could keep myself from going to that specialist who overmedicated me all those years ago and fostered the situation that I am in now (basically permanent HA), goodness I would do so in a heartbeat. IVF and fertility meds were always in my future unfortunately (family history + Crohns + pre-existing conditions), but maybe there would be more hope! Thank you for sharing your story, I hope it helps all of those out there who are in a similar situation as you!

    1. Thanks, Susie! I’m wishing you the best of luck in your situation — because I know it isn’t easy. And I think we all learn more about what we should and shouldn’t do for our health as we research and experiment more! Knowledge is power! And you definitely have a lot of health issues to contend with, and you handle them in style! 🙂

        1. My daughter has HA and is doing nothing so we are looking for help. She works outside of SF. I have been looking for a Holistic doctor for her. I have found a few, but was wondering who you used and would recommend. Her gyn doesn’t know what is wrong with her.!!! So I’m thinking acupuncturist.

          1. Hi Connie. Sorry to hear your daughter is struggling with HA. I did not get ANY help from any doctors at all, but my acupuncturist guided me along to recovery — which is why I shared all my tips in my ebook, I hadn’t found any other resources at the time. Here’s my acupuncturist in Walnut Creek — http://www.guesthouseacupuncture.com/ Good luck to her!

  2. I’m so glad you’re sharing your story as I fear when my husband and I decide to start trying to have a family we might go through some struggles. And I’m sure there are so many other women who can learn from or relate to your store. It’s amazing that you were able to overcome HA naturally. I would so not be ok with completely stopping exercise and eating fast food either!

    1. Hi Patricia! You just don’t know how your fertility journey will go, until you get there, to it’s best to prepare as best as you can by being super healthy hormonally and overall. I hope it goes easy for you, lady! 🙂

  3. Your story has made my day & offered me so much hope! I am in the same exact boat as you two years ago and have found myself at a bit of a standstill trying to figure out what to do next (i.g. do I really need to gain all this extra unnatural weight?). Thank you, thank you, thank you! All my love, energy, blessings & good vibes to you & baby! xx

    1. Thanks, Elle! I wish you the best of luck! It’s empowering to be in charge of your own health! Hope you read the book and it helps you out! 🙂

  4. Thank you for sharing this, Ashley! I will definitely pick up your ebook as well. I’m so so happy for you and your hubby. You will be (and already are!) such a great mama! Praying for a smooth and happy pregnancy!

    1. Thank you, Heather! Right back at ya! Getting pregnant is a beautiful thing, and doesn’t always come easy. I’m happy to be able to share my story, and I do hope that you read it! 🙂

  5. Hi Ashley!

    I want you to know how much I related to your new shook, as I read it. I literally read it in one night! I am working through a similar struggle, and you have inspired me to even start a blog documenting my journey. Thank you, thank you!!

    1. OH my gosh, Laura! That is AMAZING! I want to read your blog — make sure you give me the address. I love to hear that my book helped you and let you know that you aren’t alone in a very tough situation. Thank you for telling me!! 🙂 Be well, lady!

      1. Thank you, Ashley! I truly am like a “groupie” of yours… I wish we lived in the same city to meet! I will continue to read your blog.:) I have begun meeting with a dietitian as well in this journey. My blog is gainingbygivingblog.wordpress.com… VERY new and basic, but also, therapeutic!

  6. It is so brave of you and SO amazing of you to share your story. I know there are a lot of women out there going through this exact thing and it’s definitely something I want to watch out for when I want to get pregnant (still many years down the road!) It’s great you were able to get through it and get pregnant!!!! You should be so proud of yourself!

    1. Thanks, Carrie! No matter what you’re ready to have kids, having strong fertility and hormonal health is super important. But people tend to only think about it right when they want a family. I definitely encourage you to make sure yours is good! heheh! 🙂

  7. So happy for you and so proud of you for sharing your story!! Not everyone’s journey to parenthood is as perfect as it seems on social media, so it is comforting to hear others stories . It took us almost two hours to get pregnant so I understand how hard it is month after month! Excited to follow your pregnancy!!

    1. Hi Marielle! I know — it’s not easy for everyone. And I’m so happy that you eventually did get pregnant. Happy to share my story, and I do hope you’ll read the book. 🙂

  8. This. is. wonderful. I’m so thankful to God that our bodies heal, and I’m thankful that other women are willing to share their stories. It is so therapeutic to share your story, and I’m thankful for the blogging platform where women are so encouraging and incredibly supportive of being vulnerable about struggles like this.

    I’ve been meaning to email you about the discount code; I would love to review your book on my blog!

  9. I am so glad writing the e-book was helpful in your journey. Proud of you for being honest and real. I cannot imagine teaching BodyPump AND working out at Barry’s. Wow! I’m so happy you were able to get the baby you hoped for.

    1. Hi India! Well hindsight is 20/20, and now I know that is too much. But I know PLENTY of fitness-working friends who do that many workouts every single day … I fear for them. 🙂 And THANK YOU for your kind words, my friend!

  10. CONGRATULATIONS! I’m thrilled for you guys. I’m so impressed that you followed your intuition and found a plan that worked for YOU. That’s no easy feat when the internet and your doctors tell you taking an extreme approach is the only way. I’ll definitely be recommending your e-book. I’ve always loved your meal pics but now the salmon, avocado and sweet potatoes ( hello amazing fertility foods!) make even more sense. Truly, I’m very impressed with your resilience and your ability to share your struggle and success with HA to help others get well. Well done!

    1. Hi Anna! How are you, lady??? Long time!! Thank you SO much for saying hello — and YES, it’s been a tough journey, but I think it happened to me so that I could speak out and share what I learned from my own experience. I hope you are doing well! YAY for fertility foods!

  11. Thank you so much for sharing your story on your blog and in your ebook! This is a subject that just doesn’t get talked about enough despite so many women being impacted. I struggled with what I always believed to be HA but was diagnosed with lean PCOS. I’m truly amazed at how little medical professionals seem to know about HA; when I was trying to get pregnant I was always told that my weight was fine and exercise wasn’t the issue. I was able to get pregnant through IUI with injections thankfully and have a beautiful 2 year old daughter but have more recently been considering going off birth control and healing myself naturally. I so appreciate you telling your story and feel so encouraged that I may be able to maintain a moderate level of physical activity provided I include all the carbs and fats. Thank you again for all of the information!!

    1. Hi Erin! First of all, THANK YOU for your sweet words and for reading. So — I made a mistake with the promo code initially and you got the book for free hhahah — lucky gal! I have since fixed it hahaha! Anyways, I would highly encourage you to stop the birth control (see the tips section at the end of the book where I recommend a few options). And congrats to you on your beautiful little daughter! So happy to hear she is here, in spite of the struggles to conceive!

      1. I was quite shocked that when I went to purchase the book it rang up at $0, I thought it was a super special promotion! I would have gladly paid full price though? Thanks again!

        1. I know! It’s totally my fault. But I guess the few of you that scooped up the book for free got an extra special surprise! Be sure to spread the word about it, lady! I appreciate you!! 🙂

  12. Love this! I went through a very similar road to getting pregnant with our second then an even longer road to caring a successful pregnancy again. All due to damage I caused to my body through over exercising. Definitely learned my lesson and continue to make sure I’m taking enough rest days as well as eating enough calories including healthy fats. It’s crazy how many women our age have similar stories and I’m so glad to see other women sharing about their journeys 🙂 xoxo

    1. Thanks, Giselle! I know you have had your fair share of struggles, and I’m so happy you have your two littles now! 🙂 Hope you are doing well, lady!!!

  13. So inspiring!!! Can I ask you how long it took you to get your period back after going “all in” and attempting to reduce exercise, increase food and start your supplements and acupuncture?

    1. Hi Kayla! I didn’t go “all in” at first. It was a gradual thing, so not really a clear-cut answer on this one! You should probably just read the book. heheh! I would say it was a matter of several months though — more time before that figuring out what I had and a few other things. 🙂

  14. My Dear!!!

    Since weeks i start to think that maybe my “too much and to heavy workouts” could have a bad impact on my body and fertility, your article opens my eyes and conforts me!
    I have to read the full book!

    Merciiiiii !!

    Bisous.

  15. This is an amazing story you are sharing! I have never been diagnosed with HA but suffered from the same issues. It all started for me when we moved to Europe. I believe it was the stress. There I really started to workout more and eat clean. Which is find but looking back I believe it really decreased my calories more than I realized. I lost my period and did not ever get it back. I decrease exercise and increase my calories. Even tracking my calories. Then two years later we moved to Asia. The doctors told me clomid was the only way but my labs were pretty normal. I truly did not have peace about it and started taking vitex instead. I did this along with relaxing and lots of nut butter =). I did gain a couple pounds but that was amount it. After not having a period for years I conceived our first child. He is now 13 months and we are totally blessed =) The journey is hard! I understand!

    1. Hi Bethany! I am SO happy to hear that you have a little boy now! It’s SOO worth the struggles to get healthy and then conceive. And yes — vitex is a great choice! I really wanted to avoid Clomid and other medication and glad I was able to do that with the other lifestyle changes I made. Congrats to you! THANK YOU so much for reading and sharing your story!

  16. Thank you for sharing your story! It’s so hard to find out that things you’ve been doing to keep yourself actually make you sick ..I’m so happy you’re joining the mama club, and your little one is so so lucky to have a great example in a mama like you xo

    1. Hi Fiona!! Thank YOU for reading and being such a great and supportive blog friend! 🙂 And I would say I can’t wait to be a momma — but I feel like I am already Rudy the pup’s Mom heheheh!!! It’s the same, right?? hahahha I will soon find out!

    1. Hi Whitney! Thank you! And this issue is totally more popular than we think in the fitness and health space — so I’m glad to be speaking out about it!!! 🙂

  17. Thank you so much for sharing the difficulties you had to endure. You’re right, this is not something that is often discussed but it is an important issue. Congratulations on your pregnancy! When are you due?

    1. Hi Alexis! Thank you SO much for your kind words. I’m having a boy and due in October! Can’t wait! And yess — fertility and hormonal health is important for EVERYONE!

  18. So happy for you and thank you for sharing!

    What’s been most therapeutic for me has definitely been my love for sweat and fitness. Growing up I wasn’t the most physically active and never saw the need for it – now I can’t live without it! It’s all about what it does for my mind and soul!

    1. Hi Rachel! Thank you for your kind words. Yes, I agree that working out can be therapeutic — which is why I knew I didn’t want the ability to exercise to leave my life!! 🙂 Thanks, gal!

  19. Such a beautiful story and so brave of you to share and help others who may be in your same situation!

    I’ve recently started to meditate (or try to anyways!) and I find it so calming and therapeutic and I also look forward to my hour of yoga almost every day!

    1. Hi Britney! Thank you SO much for saying hi! I would LOVE to start a meditation practice, but just can’t seem to do it yet heheh. And I am not enjoying yoga while pregnant, but I would love to get back to hot yoga when I can. Have a great day! 🙂

  20. I’m so happy for you!! So awesome you were able to reverse HA and get pregnant with small changes to lifestyle that were sustainable and healthy <3

    1. Hi Annette! Thank you! That’s the beauty of what I learned — all the things are lasting and will remain with me. I really appreciate your kind words! Can’t wait to join the Fit Momma club with you! 🙂

  21. The long journey is hard isn’t it! But so so rewarding!
    I had HA as the result of an eating disorder but I wanted to heal my body and my mind the natural way – incorporating movement and whole foods as the basis of my diet. The medical world wanted me to go on meds and eat every processed food in sight but I knew that wouldn’t lead to a position of health and so I took the long road.
    I started CrossFit and with the support of an amazing coach built the strength up in my body which also did wonders for my mind. I also ate amazing whole nutritious foods and although it took me longer, 3 years later I have a healthy mind, body and spirit (along with a clockwork menstrual cycle!).
    My husband and I don’t see children in our future right now but a) it’s nice to know I could and b) it’s just amazing to feel proud of this healthy body I have built and thrive from everyday!
    I am glad you are putting your story out there Ashley – those of us who have taken the responsibility of healing ourselves and have succeeded should be vocal and hope for so many out there who are struggling.

    1. Wow, Jen! I’m SO thrilled to hear that you healed your body the smart way! Good girl! It’s an amazing thing, right? Thank you SO much for saying hello and sharing! It’s up to us to let others out there that they aren’t alone!

  22. Thank you for sharing your story. I can totally relate with it. I suffered from anorexia for 2 years and now try to recover from adrenal fatigue which means my hormones are all over the place right now. I know this is a long process but I’m glad to see there is still hope. Thank you.

    1. Hi Laurianne, thank you so much for saying hi! And yes — there are many ways to get yourself into hormonal trouble, and getting out of it is not easy. I wish you the best of luck in your recovery, lady! There is always hope! 🙂

  23. Hi Ashley!

    I found your blog a while ago while scouring the internet for information on HA. I love following you because, delightfully, you are someone who didn’t take the conventional “all or nothing approach” that is advocated for for people with HA. I am not trying to get pregnant, but I am trying to restore natural period. I am having trouble finding posts about the actual steps you took while recovering from HA. What advice do you have for a workout plan that didn’t hinder your efforts, but still left you feeling accomplished at the end of your week? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance!

    1. Hi Lauren! Thanks so much for reading and reaching out! I haven’t written a ton about HA on my blog actually, but I do detail my exact steps for recovery and my workouts during recovery in my ebook — which has a bunch of information not yet on the blog. I’d recommend you get the ebook for the full story — (you can find it here: https://aladygoeswest.com/fitandfertile/) a lot of women (whether they want to get pregnant or not) have found the book super helpful for healing their own natural cycle! Good luck to you! And I will say that, yes, you can keep exercising, but yes, you do have to make some lasting changes to how you do things to keep your hormones in check.

    2. Check out the book No Period. Now What? It’s a how-to guide that also recognizes the mental struggle to change habit and the fear of gaining weight but not regaining fertility.

      1. Thanks, Laura! I’ve heard about this book. Of course it wasn’t around when I needed it. I haven’t read, so can’t vouch for the contents — but always good to check out as many sources as you can.

  24. This is definitely affecting me right now. 31 years old and after a lifetime of eating/exercise disorders (healthy today!!) this is the thing that is still an issue. Despite gaining weight, eating more carbs and visiting my OBGYN to make sure I am healthy, I still haven´t had my natural period (this after about 9 years on the Nuvaring). I get different advice from different doctors too — I am in Europe and my German female OBGYN gave me homeopathic supplements and suggested upping card intake, while my English male doctor just told me to get back on birth control! I would of course rather do things the healthy way — no more drugs for me!

    1. Hi Kathryn, well, I’m not a doctor, but I would NOT get back on birth control if I were you. I’m SO sorry you are going through this. It can be VERY frustrating, and nobody has the exact answers. But it hopefully helps to see other people come out the other side, because you can too. I wish you the best of luck, and would recommend you purchase by ebook, because it has ALL the details about my story and some tips I learned that may help you! Good luck, lady!!! 🙂 Thank you for saying hi! Let me know if you have any questions!

  25. Hi!

    I just wanted to thank you for your post.
    I am in a similar situation – I have lost a significant amount of weight this year and have found myself now with HA, just in time for my husband to *finally* be ready to try for babies. It’s been extremely hard for me, as I am terrified to gain the weight back, but i want a baby more than anything. Like you did in the beginning, I have been exploring all of the internet articles on HA. Each one STRESSES. ME. OUT. because it says i need to StOP running and eat ALL of the food — which is just impossible for me, as eating healthy brings me a lot of joy! Hearing that you were able to maintain a healthy diet is encouraging to me. I am JUST beginning my journey of trying to battle HA, and regain my cycle, so i greatly appreciate your openness and honesty.
    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Kelly, I’m SO sorry to hear you are going through this. I hope you have a good support system in your husband, and hopefully he tells you how beautiful you are, even if you gain some weight. It’s not easy to accept the change in your body, but if you think of it as HEALING your body from the inside out, it makes it easier to take. I promise it will be worth it, once you finally conceive! Good luck, lady!

      1. Thank you so much, Ashley! I’m about to download your ebook! I REALLY appreciate you sharing your story and experiences! Keep inspiring 🙂

  26. Love your story! It took my husband and I 16 months to get pregnant naturally. It was rough and had to do with a ton of stress that I didn’t even realize I had which in turn screwed up my hormones. Even though I was having monthly periods my progesterone level was not high enough, so every month I’d ovulate & it wouldn’t stick. I never before realized that stress could mess up hormones. Isn’t it crazy how they are all related?! I never knew until I wanted to have a baby. I also worked with an acupuncturist, ND, and MD. It was a ton of work but I learned so much in doing so. I always highly recommend the podcast, Fertility Friday. She has a great episode on hypothalamic amenorrhea, too!

    1. Hi Kelli! Wow! 16 months is a long time, but the fact that you figured out how to fix your hormones means you ended up being healthier than when you started. I’m so glad you sought help from acupuncture too, which I think is AMAZING and something that everyone should do. As far the Fertility podcast, I will definitely have to check it out. Thank you for sharing briefly your experience with me! 🙂

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