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Preparing to conceive with the AVA bracelet – #AD

**Disclosure – I received an Ava bracelet in return for this review. Opinions are my own and this does not affect the integrity of this post**

Are you trying to conceive? Have you heard of the Ava bracelet?  Ava is focused on women’s health.

The Ava bracelet isn’t just for women trying to conceive. It can also be used to help track your cycle as well as being worn during pregnancy for regular monitoring of your body.

The Ava bracelet has got me so excited. You may have recently seen my social media update declaring I am full of positivity and optimism. Ava is one of the reasons why. Conceive

Ava cannot necessarily assist everyone. For example, for women with PCOS, irregular or non-existent cycles Ava cannot fix this. The Ava bracelet assists women with a regular cycle but highlighting their most fertile period. Whilst many products on the market pinpoint the approximate 48 hours within ovulation, Ava does more than this.

Other tests (which I have already tried unsuccessfully this time around) indicate the last 2 days of the fertile window. The Ava bracelet collects physiological data whilst you sleep. Ava then pinpoints a 5 day window, detecting the very beginning of your fertile window.

Ava claim to advise you of “more fertile days than any other method”.  Despite all those years growing up thinking I could fall pregnant easily at any time, it turns out there’s actually only a small window that this can happen.

Who are avawomen.com and what do they stand for?

Ava Women are ridiculously passionate about bringing the Ava brand to the world. The team are spread between a base in San Francisco and their Global headquarters in Switzerland.  They are a group of doctors and scientific researchers, committed to making scientific advancements to better understand the menstrual cycle. In a world where technology plays a huge role in almost every part of our lives, it’s surprising that there hasn’t been many advancements in women’s health tracking. Ava Women hope to change this.

“We don’t just make products, we conduct clinical studies and publish peer-reviewed papers.”  taken from avawomen.com

How does the Ava bracelet work?

While you’re sleeping, Ava’s sensors collect data on nine different physiological parameters. Ava’s algorithm then detects your fertile window, physiological stress level, sleep quality, and more. –  taken from avawomen.com

The data collected each night is synced to your phone and automatically entered into a chart. Gradually you will begin to build a picture of how many hours you sleep (this is useful ammo against hubs if you already have a child),It also monitors your resting pulse rate, skin temperature, breathing rate, and HRV which is short for heart rate variability (basically stress levels).

In order for an adequate amount of data to be collected, you have to wear the bracelet for at least 4 hours each night. The information that Ava measures doesn’t confirm if you are fertile but rather when. It uses the data collected to create an algorithm which recognises when your body is signalling that it is entering the fertile window, and hence at the prime time to conceive.

Set up and using the Ava bracelet.

The Ava bracelet is easy to use and stress free. On receiving the bracelet, it needed to be charged for a minimum of 2 hours. After downloading the Ava app on app store (or Google Play store) I set up my account. It helps if you already know a few details about your cycle such as dates of last period and average cycle length. This is something I already tracked on an app. I then synced the bracelet with my phone. The bracelet is found automatically once bluetooth is enabled.

Each evening before I go to sleep, I put the bracelet on my non dominant arm, just above the wrist bone. It’s a simple buckle strap, not too tight. I’m not aware of it during the night when I’m sleeping. In the morning I remove the bracelet, plug it into a power source and sync it to the app to download the data collected that night.

It’s so simple and easy. You can also join a closed Facebook group (so it’s not visible on your profile) to help you with support and analysing your charts.

Trying to conceive George.

conceive

I’ve always been pretty good at getting my own way. So it kind of pisses me off  utterly frustrates me that when I want a baby, I can’t just have one! I’m so grateful for George and whilst my eight month conception journey to have him is miniscule compared to the struggle of others, I did let it consume me.

I don’t feel the same this time around. I would love so much to have another baby. A baby that I can enjoy minus the post natal depression (or at least with treatment this time). Another chance to use and learn from the mistakes I made the first time around. Maybe the chance to be Mama to a daughter. But mostly because I am SO sure that George will make the most kind, helpful and amazing big brother.

Those who know me know I research the back-end out of everything I do. Queen of Googling. I thought I knew all the tricks. I tried my hardest to not actually “try” to conceive. Knowing that the more you stress over it the less likely it is to happen (or so they say). We both took all the conception vitamins. I stopped drinking alcohol to try to get my body in tip-top condition. I even stopped making social plans. Firstly because I didn’t think I could enjoy myself without a drink (isn’t that sad!), secondly because I was always thinking “I can’t agree to that sponsored walk because what if I’m pregnant by then”.

Legs up the wall, optimal positions, you name it, we did it.  After 7 months, my sister lent me her ovulation monitor. You pee on a stick when it tells you to and when you get the smiley face you go hell for leather and ta da, a baby. And after the first month using this machine, I discovered that in fact I ovulate way after my period tracking app suggested I did.

At the same month we started using the monitor I found out I was 2 to 3 weeks pregnant. I’ve always attributed our success in conception to the ovulation monitor. However it is also the time I took advice from a friend and just stopped caring and started to say yes again. Yes to that holiday, yes to that night out. In the end I was so busy during my pregnancy it was unreal. George was born 9 months later and the rest is history. But this time is a WHOLE different story.

conceive

Trying for a second.

Last year we decided it would be a good time to start trying for a sibling. Since George’s birth, we haven’t used any contraception. so you could say we have always been trying to conceive. Although as most first time parents will know, having a child to care for is contraception in itself. You are way to tired and touched out for that shizzle come the end of the day.

For the first year I was breastfeeding and didn’t have ANY periods. Although it’s not supposed to be a trusted method of contraception, I believe breastfeeding stopped me getting pregnant in the first year. When my periods returned we sometimes used the pulling out method as I was never sure it was right for us to be having another yet. Again, kids this isn’t a safe way to avoid getting pregnant.

So last year I knew I wanted George to be a sibling. I didn’t want a baby too badly just yet, and I wanted to try to fall before I became over the top broody to eliminate the pressure and stress. It wasn’t happening. “Simple” I thought and out came my sister’s ovulation monitor.

3 months down and no smiley face. I went to see the doctor who booked me in for an internal ultrasound to check the health of my ovaries. After suspecting I may be starting early menopause (as the women do in my family), I was relieved to find out I wasn’t. Everything was the level it should be.

Hubs was going to get checked out but then my body started to really play up. I gained three stone taking medication for my migraines. I also have a problem with my hip which is affecting my quality of life.

Long story short, we had to make the sensible choice to halt trying for a baby. I’m under a consultant and physio for my hip and slowly losing weight. We suspect my health will have improved enough by the end of 2018, start of 2019 that we can start trying to conceive again.

Conceive

Now seems the perfect time to start using the Ava bracelet and build up my data within the app. I’m hopeful that when the time comes we will be better informed about the prime time to play the baby making game conceive.

My verdict

Obviously I would love to say that we have successfully conceived using the Ava bracelet…but I haven’t put the data to good use yet. What I will say is if you are looking for an aid to help you better plan your conception journey, then I feel Ava takes the stress out of it. At a RRP of £249 it’s not cheap.

But it’s worth bearing in mind that you can continue to wear it during pregnancy. The app also gives you a pregnancy tracker, giving you weekly insights on what to expect. I’m really excited about the potential this bracelet has for us (in case you hadn’t gathered). I can’t wait to share it with you all!

There may be some of you that thinks this all seems very involved. That you should just let nature take its course. But as someone who doesn’t appear to fall pregnant easily, it’s invaluable to me, as I’m sure it will be to many couples.

If you would like to purchase an Ava bracelet for yourself, you can get £20 off by using this link and the code;

GORGEOUSGSMAMA20

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Bluestone Wales – Winter Lights – January 2018

**Disclosure – I was invited to Bluestone Wales for a midweek break  in return for this honest review. All opinions are my own. This does not affect the integrity of this post.**


This post is about the magical, chilled, friendly, chilled, welcoming, adventurous, did I mention chilled? 5 days we spent at Bluestone National Park Resort .

BluestoneCheck-In

We arrived around 2:30pm on the Monday and checked in whilst still in our car. A traffic light style system calls you up to the check in window where the staff handed us a welcome pack with our entry key cards and premium wifi code that hubby had purchased, along with a copy of the Village Voice. We parked up and headed straight to the golf buggy hire as this was also the nearest loo’s and nature was a’calling. I’ll talk more about the golf buggies later.

Before I could finish in the loo, hubs had completed the gold buggy pickup so we thought we’d take it for a test spin on a mini tour of the site. We located our lodge which we would be able to access at 4:30pm (or 3pm for other lodge types). You are allowed to bring your car onsite to unload and load up on check in and checkout day but otherwise it must be stored in the car park.

George was loving the golf buggy but we felt after the long journey he needed to stretch his legs in the treehouse play area. The treehouses are fab for children of all ages to explore and overlook the newly refurbished adventure playground which was colourful, clean and great quality. It was lovely to see families congregate here whilst the little ones ran round dizzily deciding what to play on next.

Bluestone

Accomodation

We were staying in a Caldey Lodge in Bartholomew rise not far from the lake. Our two bedroom lodge came complete with an open plan kitchen, diner, lounge with tall ceilings to add to the feel of space. There were french doors which opened onto a patio area with picnic table and bike rack. Off of this lounge area was the twin and master double side by side with the bathroom with shower and large heated towel rail.

The lodge was comfy, cosy and the heating worked a treat.  What struck me most was the high quality of everything. Heavy, solid wood furniture in the bedroom and dining area. Strong and decent cooking and kitchen utensils which were all well kept and sparkling clean. It felt like a home from home. (It was actually better than my home!)

Bluestone

Having had spinal surgery when I was a teen, I’m pretty fussy about the beds I sleep in. Don’t get me wrong, I can sleep anytime anywhere,but if I don’t sleep in the right bed then my body can suffer for days. At home we have a half sprung/half memory foam mattress with a feather down topper. It’s my ideal bed and sadly I always miss it when we are on holiday. Bluestone’s mattresses however were absolute bliss. Due to having a toddler that likes me to be near, I spent time in both the twin bed and the double and both were equally comfortable. I literally could have stayed in their beds all day ( if I wasn’t being dragged out at 6am by George every morning)

Getting around

A unique perk of Bluestone is the ability to be able to hire a golf buggy for either a day or the duration of your stay.The golf buggy is a great novelty and it helps a lot with a toddler in tow. Our trusty steed for the week was number 77 Lili-Mai and we had great fun taking it in turns to whizz round on her.

A warmer time of year we might be tempted to walk more or hire bicycles and trailers but we are so glad that we had the golf buggy as a semi refuge from the rain. It meant we could get from A to B quicker without turning up drenched. Little tip: take extra towels/tea towels for wiping the seat dry which (thanks to Welsh weather) you may find yourself doing half a dozen times a day.

You can also take your own bikes and there’s also guest transport to help you get around the resort with designated bus stops. If I am honest though, the site was not as vast as I’d  expected. It’s easily walkable and only marginally hilly in some places. The paths are continually being maintained, with staff filling in puddles and holes with gravel on a regular basis.

Top tip – if you aren’t from Wales, make your peace with the weather before you visit. We went expecting nothing but rain so that anything else would be a bonus. Plus, Rainbows!

Bluestone

Food and Drink

This is mine and hubs favourite part of holidays. We love eating out and trying different eating establishments so we wanted to ensure we tried as many of the onsite restaurants and cafes as possible.

In the end the only places we did NOT try were:-

  • The Knight’s Tavern which I popped in to use the toilets and the atmosphere was pleasant and very similar to that of a pub that serves food. It’s the lower end of the budget of the restaurants onsite.
  • The Oaktree restaurant which is a pizza / pasta restaurant but on the first night George wanted to be in the lodge so we got takeaway chip shop food from…..
  • The Chippy which was nice but I have had better and the staff there lacked a welcoming persona. The fried halloumi is worth a try.
  • Farmhouse grill – The second time we planned on visiting the Oaktree we actually changed our minds as we couldn’t resist returning to the Farmhouse Grill for the second night in a row. I’d recommend booking a table here to ensure you get seated. You can tell it’s freshly made using top notch ingredients. To quote their menu;

Using quality local ingredients to instil a sense a place

Staff are so attentive. Hubs was massively impressed on our second night when someone accidentally smashed a glass at their table and before you barely heard the smash there were already two members of staff dashing to the table with a mop and broom.

Checkout piccies of what we had below.

BluestoneBluestone

The children’s menu is fab and is a world away from the typical chicken nuggets and chips but still appealing to children. The ‘kids platter’ was such a perfect dinner for him with so many of his favourites.

Bluestone

  • We also ate twice in the Ty Coffi cafe. Once for a breakfast, (they do a mean beans on toast which went down a storm with George) and their panini’s are great too. There was so much more we could have tried. It was often very busy in there so they definitely could do with a few more staff as the ones there seemed rushed off their feet which meant they didn’t really have time for ‘service with a smile’. t didn’t prevent us from returning though. Their hot chocolates and sausage sandwich are the best way to warm up after a hike through the vast forest.
  • Bluestone also have a cafe, Caffi Môr, within the spa which I sadly didn’t try, along with a camp style rustic woodland diner which wasn’t open for the season of our stay.

Bluestone

Things to do

There’s such a vast timetable of activities to do at Bluestone, from shadow  puppet shows to baby yoga and massage, 4×4 safari driver experience round a track or a host of tree top activities at the steep ravine. 

Explore the forest

We chose to check out the Winter lights enchanted walk in daylight and continue on into the forest where we squelched through mud and then washed our boots in the stream. The forest towards the steep ravine is full of really tall, narrow trees, which when the wind blows creates a creaking noise as the trees all knock together. We enjoyed standing still for a while and listening to this noise, before pretending the trees were going to come crashing down and racing up the hill. George loved this game and natures own sound effects added to the feel.

Bluestone

 

Adventure playground

We also spent a fair amount of time playing at the playground which we nicknamed the Teletubbies playground due to the green hill feature.

Bluestone

Family shows

We tried the shadow puppet show which was great and the village hall decor is magical. It involved participation and dancing from the kiddies rather than a sit and watch puppet show.

If booking via the website you can find a brief description for each activity but I didn’t use this, preferring to book at the booking office after we got a feel for our surroundings. The show was great and top marks for the effort put in by the staff. Bluestone

Swimming

When we had enough of being outside we visited the Blue Lagoon swimming pool. They have  something for everyone. Slides, wave machine, pirate ship spray area, lazy river taking you outside and an enclosed baby and toddler splash zone where balls float on the water, they can explore walking round an artificial rock pool, squirting gadgets and basketball. This area has a lockable gate to prevent little ones wandering off towards danger.

The Blue lagoon is also open to the public but it wasn’t overly busy when we went mid morning (residents only) and there was room for everyone. There are also designated photo points where you can use your camera without capturing unknowing suspects in your shot.

Adventure centre

The adventure has something for all ages and brings the fun inside. The under 5’s circus zone is completely in another area of the building and features a bright, clean and colourful soft play area. It has a fab mini ride on car on a track. As well as giant building blocks, and baby gym and balance equipment.

The large main area of the adventure centre downstairs contains masses of wooden climbing frames in a tree house style. Some reaching up the ceiling easily 20 feet in the air. There are free ride on trikes available and a bouncy castle. You can help yourself to a game of mini golf or play some games at the amusement arcade. There’s also a mechanical digger to dig a large pit of sandy stones. For the bigger kids inner child in us all there’s bookable indoor wall climbing. A mezzanine platform allows you to grab a coffee from the Wildwood cafe whilst the madness ensues downstairs.

Bluestone

Seasonal dinner show

On our final night there we’d booked ourselves into Merlin’s Magical Dinner show. This was in the Wildwood Cafe situated in the adventure centre. Here we had a set menu of roast dinner and desert. This was brought up on a big serving plate to our table where we helped ourselves. Meanwhile the staff were extremely attentive, asking if we needed any more potatoes, gravy etc.

Bluestone

Before and after dinner the staff entertained us by putting on a show in the areas around our tables. There was magic, music, comedy and some audience participation from the children too. This really was an unforgettable dinner experience.

Winter lights parade

The dinner experience over, we all wrapped up warm ready to march in the parade through the site. The parade was led by a 12 foot Merlin wizard. A member of staff accompanied Merlin whilst banging a drum. He encouraged us through the cold, night with chanting and singing. The children ran and flashed torches and various items they had made at bookable groups that week.

We gathered in the courtyard at the Knights tavern where the staff and Merlin took to the balcony. They guided us as we watched the light show featured in my video below. They then sang into the evening whilst  the crowd sang and danced along. It felt like such a wonderful community vibe and no one was in a hurry to be anywhere.

Check Out my youtube video to see more of the light show

My verdict

People tried to warn me I would be cold in Wales but I didn’t anticipate HOW cold. I lived in 3 layers all week. I’d defo buy thermal undies if visiting in Winter again.

Having said that, our stay has totally changed my outlook on going out in bad weather. As a football supporter and follower, bad weather has never really bothered me. But Bluestone has really cemented the ideal that whatever the weather, fun can be had.

Hubs and I have already said we would love to return in the summer, maybe with friends or family. Travelling from Essex is a long way for a mid week break. In future I’d opt for a 7 day break. I’d love to checkout the local sites and beaches too as we didn’t leave the resort this stay.

This is a place where you can return again and again and never tire as every activity differs. I’d also love to try one of the upside living lodges, offering fab views of the Welsh countryside.

If you like the sound of a stay at Bluestone, checkout prices and availability on their website http://www.bluestonewales.com/

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday
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