Anna Victoria Gets Emotional About Her Struggle with Infertility
The influencer, who has been trying to get pregnant for over a year, finally opened up about the heartbreaking process.
Anna Victoria became a fitness influencer almost by accident. When she began documenting her fitness journey seven years ago, she never imagined that it would lead to where she is today. With over 1 million followers on Instagram, the fitness influencer has struck a chord with women all around the world with her über-successful Fit Body Guide program. One thing she did always envision in her future though, was becoming a mom.
In a recent YouTube video, the trainer opened up about how she's been struggling to get pregnant for over a year, which has taken a huge toll on her emotionally. "I never thought in a million years that I would be here," she said. "I am one of seven children. My mom had all of us naturally-and was obviously 'Fertile Myrtle.' I've always dreamt of having kids, and for when that day came, I thought, 'oh my mom popped us out no problem,' and that it should be about the same for me." (Related: Is the Extreme Cost of IVF for Women In America Really Necessary?)
But for Victoria, it wasn't so easy. Here, the she shares her journey up until this point-and what comes next.
The Start of Her Infertility Struggle
For Victoria, trying to conceive was full of letdowns from the very beginning. The first month she went off of birth control in January 2018, her cycle lasted 35 days, leading her to believe she was pregnant. "There were definitely multiple times I thought I was pregnant," she said in the video. "At times I was so convinced that I'd bought little things off of Etsy. I even have something I bought last month."
Several months into trying, Victoria began feeling disheartened and started coming to terms with the fact that she might need help. At this point, she and her husband had already had their fertility checked and everything looked great, so they weren't sure what the problem could be.
In December 2017, almost a year into trying, Victoria went in for a consultation where she had more bloodwork and an ultrasound done. At that point, she decided she wanted to try intrauterine insemination (IUI), a fertility treatment that involves placing sperm inside a woman's uterus to facilitate fertilization. When the tests came back, she learned that her AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) levels were low. "My AMH was at a 0.7 and they wanted it to be at a 1.4," Victoria shared in her video. (AMH is used to measure the ovarian reserve-the number of eggs you have in your body, so having a low AMH can be a sign of infertility.)
"There's a pretty clear and defined reproductive life span that women have," James A. Grifo, M.D., an ob-gyn and infertility specialist at NYU Langone and chief medical officer for Prelude Fertility tells Shape. "When you start to get to be older than about 42 years old, your AMH levels decrease to the point where the likelihood of you having a baby naturally is extremely low," he continued.
According to Dr. Grifo, it's unusual for someone as young as Victoria to have a low AMH, but that doesn't mean she won't be able to conceive. "There are plenty of studies out there that follow women with low AMH levels, who were able to get pregnant down the road," he says. "So while these tests are a great way to gain some insight into your fertility problems and are helpful for physicians, you can't determine someone's fertility through a simple blood test." (See: Study Says the Number of Eggs In Your Ovaries Has Nothing to Do with Your Chances of Getting Pregnant)
While there isn't much you can do to increase your AMH, Victoria's doctors recommended some lifestyle changes to boost her fertility and in turn, her chances of getting pregnant naturally, she explains in the video.
How She Changed Her Workout and Diet Routine for Fertility
Victoria's doctors suggested she start doing more low-intensity exercises. "For patients that exercise a lot and have a BMI below a certain level, getting pregnant on your own can start to become difficult," says Dr. Grifo. "You see this type of thing a lot in ballerinas and marathoners or people who practice extreme sports." (Learn more about how being underweight can lead to infertility.)
Of course, this doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise at all. "There is a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to exercise and trying to get pregnant," he says. "I don't ever tell my patients to stop exercising, but to moderate their exercise and do light weights, yoga, Pilates, or swimming instead of running for long periods of time-that just isn't going to help your cause." (Related: 4 Ways You Need to Change Your Workout When You Get Pregnant)
Victoria seems to be taking her doctors' advice to heart. In a recent Instagram post, she shared that she's been "scaling back" her workouts and increasing her calorie intake, not necessarily because she believes it's directly linked to her fertility struggles, but because she believes in the value of giving herself a break during this trying time in her life, even if it means her body will change as a result. "The few extra pounds on my body would be worth it, and then some!" Victoria wrote. "Or maybe it's not the extra pounds itself, but it's the act of going easy on myself, giving myself a break."
Still, she admits that giving herself a break can be a lot more difficult than it sounds. "I'm not going to lie and say it's been easy to 'just gain a few pounds' when I know how many people are watching," Victoria shared. "Even though I know you girls are THE most supportive and understanding community of women out there, there are still a lot of people who are not. This hasn't affected what choices I make, but it's definitely resulted in a good amount of anxiety thinking about it."
Victoria has also been advised to go on a Mediterranean diet, which has been known to boost fertility. "The most fertile diet is one where there's a good amount of protein," says Dr. Grifo. "Studies show that 60 to 80 grams of protein a day can help increase the quality of eggs. Fats are equally important-healthy, unsaturated fats in particular. Overall, you want a third of your calories from fat, a third from protein, and a third from carbohydrates-and the Mediterranean diet can help you achieve that balance." (Want to give it a try? Check out the seven-day Mediterranean diet meal plan experts think everyone should follow.)
Finally, Victoria was told to reduce stress, which has been the most challenging thing for her. "Learning to manage my stress is still a work in progress, but there definitely are a few things that have helped," she tells Shape. "First is learning to say no to projects. This has been tough for me because I'm a people pleaser, but I've had to learn to be okay with not doing every little thing asked of me." She adds that she's also limited her social media and phone time, specifically before bed and first thing in the morning.
"Lastly, since I am a personal trainer, of course, I work out regularly, but with such a packed schedule and a business to run, I've had to learn how to scale back on my workouts, without giving them up completely," she explains. "Working out is a stress reliever for me, but when my schedule is jam-packed, it also can be a source of stress as well. So, I've been working on finding that sweet spot and focusing on working out because it feels good, as opposed to working out for physical results."
Letting Go of the Pressure to Reach Aesthetic Goals
Making these lifestyle changes as a whole has helped Victoria gain some peace of mind as she continues on her journey to conceive. "I feel great," she says. "I'm shocked at how little weight I've gained after reducing my cardio and increasing my calories. I don't weigh myself, so I can't give a numerical comparison, but from looking in the mirror and judging by how my clothes fit, there's a very minor difference. And what are a few extra pounds if it's what's going to help me conceive?"
She's also had to ease up on the pressure she's put on herself to flaunt a six-pack. "I've always worked out to feel good, but I can't deny the pressure to also look good, especially considering being on social media," she says. "I've had to let go of my physical goals for now and honestly, it feels great. I know my community will support me and at the end of the day, being healthy is what matters the most."
Victoria hopes that at the end of the day, sharing her intimate journey with her followers will help others struggling with fertility feel supported. "I hope other women can take away that they're not alone, and they don't have to silently struggle," she says.
She explains that despite going through the experience of infertility for over a year, she kept it from friends and family until the last few months. "I was ashamed and embarrassed, but I was met with nothing but love and support, which felt like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders," she says. "I want women to know there is a community of women out there who will give her that love and support, even if she doesn't feel she has it [elsewhere]."
Watch Victoria share her entire experience in the video below: