Infertility: it’s never JUST about the baby

If you ever doubt how just much meaning our culture loads onto pregnancy and childbirth, simply pay attention to what happens when things don’t go as they “should.”

 

We all impart so much unconscious expectation and belief onto this part of life and yet we may not even be aware we have those beliefs until they are challenged … by infertility.

 

There’s no doubt that infertility for many women has a medical basis. And yet when it comes to something so important as the creation of new life itself, well, it’s no wonder that this topic can dredge up all sorts of emotions, too!

 

With infertility, it’s never just about the baby. Body and mind, as with most things, are strongly connected. Though you may want to strangle the next person who suggests that falling pregnant is just about “staying positive”, the truth is that your mental, emotional and physical state is just as important as your physical state.

 

If you’re managing the challenge of infertility, you may already be experiencing just how profoundly it confronts your beliefs and attitudes. Luckily, many couples find that these challenges are a blessing in disguise: if you engage with the curveballs infertility throws your way, you may be surprised at what you learn about yourself.

 

If you don’t already, consider seeking the support of a mental health worker, a coach or therapist to help you process the changes you’re going through. Things to consider:

 

·      What beliefs do you currently hold about motherhood, yourself, your partner or life in general? Are these beliefs limiting you or helping you be the best you can?

·      Are there any traumas or childhood memories that infertility is triggering for you? How can you use your experiences now to process your past, and find healing?

·      Consider your support network. Family, friends and partner – do you have the acknowledgment and care you need? If not, what can you do right now to love and support yourself? Can you identify sources of strength to “feed” you along this journey?

·      Most of us have very primal, knee-jerk reactions to infertility. Think about your deeply held beliefs about masculinity, femininity, and what it means to be a family, or to be a successful adult. Is it time to update or expand these beliefs? Can you see any areas where you’re ready to grow or change?

·      Infertility has a way of bringing certain things more sharply into focus. It can give you a fresh perspective on your lifestyle and long-term goals. Now might be the time to consider your habits, your relationships and your self-concept. It might be time for a small change like getting more exercise …or a big one like reevaluating your long-term career plans.

·      Be honest and gentle with yourself. Recurrent miscarriages or failed IVF attempts can drain you emotionally and physically. But stop, take a deep breath and listen to that voice inside. In the end, you are in control. What do you need?

 

A psychologist or counselor can be present as you work out all the above and more. They can show you how to use hypnotherapy, visualization, inner child work or even couple’s therapy to get to the root of your unique experience. Infertility is a medical issue, yes, but it’s also a powerful opportunity to work on personal development!

 

As always, I welcome anyone to share his or her experience in the comments. 

Keeping calm while you manage the challenge of infertility

You’ve probably heard of the “serenity prayer” before: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.”

 

When it comes to managing the stress of trying to conceive, I couldn’t have put it better myself! Very early on, the challenges of infertility can be put into two categories: those things that are under your control, and those that simply aren’t.

 

Thankfully, there’s a lot more that’s under your control than you might at first believe. How you cope with the inevitable stress is one of those things that are entirely up to you. The couples who comes to see me are almost always relieved to learn just how many ways there are to get a handle on anxiety and worry.

·      Communicate! Even couples who usually talk well can find it a challenge to keep up lines of communication when it comes to having a baby. Try not to make assumptions about how your partner feels, and release expectations about how they should feel.

·      In keeping with the last post, try to limit anxious, late night Googling or getting carried away with self-diagnosis. Try to separate your fears and concerns from the facts of a situation. Endless online “research” may only end up overwhelming and stressing you.

·      Understand that there will be ups and downs. But if you know ahead of time that your period due date, for example, is usually preceded by a week of anxiety over whether you’ve conceived, prepare in advance and give yourself the support you need. Keep a journal to stay on top of your thoughts and feelings, and remind yourself that the negative emotions will pass. Ask for support from those you trust and communicate openly with your partner. If you keep yourself mentally and physically in tip-top condition, the “monthly rollercoaster” won’t be quite as extreme.

·      Commit to not comparing yourself with others. It can be hard to know how to deal with the children of your family or friends, and hard not to compare yourself to other moms who struggled but eventually conceived. But their journey isn’t your journey. Practice a few rehearsed responses to any nosy people who might ask personal questions, and try to avoid situations or discussions that make you feel bad for things that are not under your control.

·      On the topic of control: nothing will teach you to accept and yield to things beyond your power than managing infertility. This is the time to dig deep and draw on your inner strength. That might come from your faith, your family, or a deeper calm that comes from knowing that sometime things happen that we can’t comprehend.

 

What works for one couple will not necessarily work for another. But your doctor and your therapist/counselor, if you have one, can help you figure out how best to support you. My clients have found strength and peace in different ways: yoga and meditation, journaling, connecting more deeply with their partners, eating better or simply making sure they get enough sleep.

 

Comments? I’d love to hear any and all suggestions about how to manage stress when trying for a baby.

Coming to grips with infertility – knowledge is power

The Novel Anna Karenina starts with the famous line, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Pregnancy is a little like this – there really is only one way to be pregnant, and yet many, many different ways to not be pregnant!

The clinical definition of “infertility” is clear – it’s the failure to conceive after 1 year despite trying. But wherever your personal fertility story, chances are you already know that it’s not that simple.

Doubt may quietly creep up on you month after month, but it’s hard to pin down the experience precisely – is it your age? Your health? Could you be stressed? When should you start panicking, exactly?

By the time you start to consider the scary possibility that you may be infertile, you may already be overwhelmed and confused about why and what to do about it. With so much misinformation out there on a topic that’s already quite emotionally charged, it can be difficult to keep calm.

But if my experience with so many of my clients has taught me anything, it’s that it’s more than possible to empower yourself and take charge in the face of fertility difficulties. At the root of all this is something very important: information.

When you lack the understanding about why or how something is happening, you may feel disempowered and out of control. It may seem like the universe is horribly unfair or that your body is working in mysterious ways just to torment you.

But when you can shine a light on your experience, and understand it, you can begin to make conscious choices for your future, no matter how powerless you might feel at times.

The first step is to grasp all you can about your body and the causes of your infertility. Primary infertility is being unable to conceive or bear a child at all, whilst secondary infertility is the inability to do so after you’ve already conceived or carried to term at least once before. Because infertility can stem from many causes, clearly understanding your own body is the first step to planning the right way forward.

Make sure you arm yourself with the facts. Though it can be overwhelming, remember that infertility is in the end a medical condition. It can be difficult to navigate the research and understand what the statistics for different interventions even mean. This is why your first port of call will be your doctor.

Take your time choosing someone you’re comfortable with. Your fertility doctor will not only have to be technically skilled, but, perhaps more importantly, they need to understand your life, your goals, and your concerns. A good doctor can make all the difference when it comes to any fertility treatments you choose, so spend time finding someone you trust.

With a new doctor or IVF clinic, ask:

·      Is treatment tailored to individuals?

·      How do you choose between treatments?

·      What are my chances of success and how is that measured?

·      Can you explain my risks?

·      Where can I get more information?

·      What support is available to me?

·      Can you explain the costs?

Lastly, don’t be afraid to rely on blunt intuition when looking for treatment providers! Your doctors should be accommodating, respectful and experienced. If you ever get a nagging feeling about something, or simply don’t feel that a doctor “gets” you, it’s OK to keep looking.

Lastly, though you’ll want to do plenty of your own research, remember that not all information is created equal. Stick to quality resources. You’ll make better choices… and keep your stress levels down (but more on that in the next post).

The “Fitbit for Fertility” That Can Help You Fall Pregnant

For women wanting to take ownership of their fertility, tracking monthly cycles is certainly not a new concept. And for years, various methods and devices that help you locate your most fertile window (and most infertile!) have been available to those looking to maximize their chances of conception.

 

Now, perhaps inspired by the popularity of fitness tracking apps, the fertility industry has created a wearable Fitbit-style device called Ava. Worn on the wrist and only at night, the device takes out the guesswork and tells you exactly where your most fertile 4 - 5 days during the month will fall.

 

Like other classical ovulation tracking techniques, this device works by logging small increases in body temperature during ovulation. But instal the app on your smartphone and you’ll also have access to other health indicators (nine biological measures in total!) throughout the month. What effect does stress or lack of sleep have on your cycle, for instance? Do you have a longer or shorter cycle than the average woman? Information like this gives you detailed insight into your menstrual cycles and a look into your own fertile rhythms.

 

So far, users of Ava find the little gadget very handy indeed. Because you receive information in real time, you and your partner are still free to act spontaneously and enjoy your full fertile period without feeling pressured or rushed. This window is also twice the size of that provided by other methods - effectively doubling your chances of a “hit”. Because almost three quarters of all pregnancies happen within the same three days in any given cycle, zooming in on those days in your cycle can empower you to take more control of the conception process. And with an accuracy of almost 90%, the mysteries of conception can become a little less mysterious ...and less stressful.

 

Knowledge, as they say, is power. If you’re just starting out on your fertility journey, understanding the delicate process of conception arms you with information to learn what’s healthy and normal for your body, plan your family, or even prevent pregnancy. If you’ve gone off birth control and are actively beginning to try to fall pregnant, Ava can take luck out of the equation and put you in sync with your rhythms - and it can continue to do so even after you fall pregnant.

 

Conception is all about getting the timing right. While an app like Ava can tell you when your conception chances are greatest, every women is different. For those with more long-standing infertility difficulties, this device may not be appropriate. Those with highly irregular cycles, or medical conditions like Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, will likely need to try another approach. Likewise, sufferers of endometriosis or those with a diagnosed fertility condition will need to first address any underlying medical condition preventing conception.

 

The bracelet is currently on the market for $200. But for healthy, hopeful couples, this could be a great tool that’s far less expensive than fertility treatments and significantly less effort!

When it Comes to Infertility, Hope is a Double Edged Sword

When you’ve dreamt all your life of having a child, the sudden realization that you can’t may be hard to swallow. If you’ve pinned your hopes and dreams on a future that includes a little one of your own, the natural next step may be to swear that you will go to any lengths, do anything to have that child, come hell or high water.

 

At first, this approach seems healthy. Other people may actually encourage this attitude of defiant hope - after all, they’re just as committed as we are to a story in which a woman will eventually fall pregnant, just as long as she never gives up and keeps the faith. There’s a longing for the Disney-style happy ending in all of us!

 

But falling pregnant is not always mind over matter. It’s not a question of merely believing in yourself enough or “earning” a child after a long enough wait or pushing through enough psychotherapy. The hard truth is that sometimes, even after everything, a woman may still remain childless.

 

Why hope can hurt

 

Coming to terms with infertility doesn’t happen all at once. It creeps in slowly, one cycle at a time. Realization of a new reality unfolding before you may happen in fits and starts. You may start the month full of renewed hope, looking everywhere for signs and omens of pregnancy, trusting that this time will be the magic moment when it all finally happens, torturing yourself with visions of how things could be...

 

But hope may have built you up so much that you feel disappointment all the more keenly. Now, thrown into the mix are guilt feelings that you feel sad at all, or the suspicion that maybe you just didn’t hope hard enough. Hope can seem like all you have in a difficult time, but when your situation fails to change, blind faith can also trap you in unhappiness.

 

Trust in God, but tether your camel

 

There is a Sufi proverb that says “trust in God, but tether your camel”. I think it’s one of the wisest ways to think about balancing optimism with realism as you embark on your journey with infertility.

 

While optimism and hope are obviously good to have, they need to be tempered with a healthy dose of realism, too. Whether this means proactively educating yourself about your chances of conception, knowing when to call it quits or simply having the strength to consider a life without children, “tethering your camel” is a vital skill to master.

 

Your healing may come - just maybe not in the way you think it will!

 

Finding a middle way takes courage and focus. Both full-on despair and unrealistic optimism have their drawbacks. So how do you keep trying, but without clinging too hard to “hope”?

 

  • Don’t postpone your happiness. The more you start to believe that having a child is all you want and all that will fulfil you, the more you close yourself off to other sources of joy in your life. Do all the things you would have done in your future “perfect life”, right now.
  • Don’t feel bad for “giving up”, letting go or even feeling downright pessimistic at times. You’re not doing anything wrong by acknowledging the darker emotions you may have. In fact, being honest about how you really feel can be the first step to overcoming those feelings.
  • It’s scary, but allow yourself to imagine what you might not have considered before: that you may fail to have a child, and yet still be deeply fulfilled and happy nevertheless. Just become curious about what different paths your life may take, instead of mourning too deeply the paths that seem like they’re closing themselves to you. Healing from the pain of infertility can be paradoxical: it’s when you let go of the desperate need to conceive that it can also let go of you.
  • Temper hopeful, wishful feelings with informed knowledge of where you really stand. Do your research. It’s easy to feel a little superstitious, but a dose of reality can be grounding, too.
  • Unlatch yourself from monthly, destructive hope/despair cycles. It may be the last thing you want to do, but distract yourself. Try remember all the other interesting, joyful and important things in your life. You are so much more than your ability to bear children!
  • Abandon all-or-nothing thinking. Can you still enjoy children in your life, even though they aren’t your own? Are there any other burning desires in you that would bring you fulfilment?

 

How to avoid regret

 

Regrets are like tiny bereavements. We mourn the loss of what could have been. If you’re at the start of your fertility journey, there’s something you might not have considered: should you never fall pregnant, you may well look back on these years themselves with a tinge of regret. You may feel sad for how you beat yourself up, or the damage you incurred in the name of conceiving at all costs.

 

Whether you’re at the start of your journey or the end, there is only one solid antidote to regret: engage fully with the moment right in front of you.

 

Some women feel like they wake up after several years of battling infertility, and they finally reach the stage where they are willing to mourn the children they won’t have. But they’re surprised to find they’ll have to mourn something else: the waste of those years when they focused on nothing else!

 

Live well, in the present. If you fall pregnant, fantastic. And if you don’t, you can look with pride on a life you’ve created that’s rich and meaningful all the same. Hope is an emotion for those who are filled with despair. But if you can let go of thinking of your life as a tragedy to be endured, you may find yourself relying less on hope, and making a friendly truce with what is.

All You Wanted to Know About the “Baby Blues” and What You Can Do About it

A woman’s body can do some truly miraculous things. Giving birth could be one of the most remarkable experiences of your life, yet your body continues working hard long after that. A woman’s hormones return to pre-pregnancy levels in the space of only a day or so after birth, often leaving the new mother feeling a little emotional. It’s believed that this hormonal shift can also affect brain chemicals and, in as many as 13% of women, lead to depression. [1]

 

Bringing a new life into the world is no mean feat, and of course exhaustion, mixed emotions and stress are all part of life for a brand new mother. Luckily, the “baby blues” usually lasts only two weeks or so before the mother is able to embrace her new role.

 

Weathering the Baby Blues

 

Even for the most laid-back among us, pregnancy and birth can be a challenging time. Prevention and a healthy does of self-care will get you through this period, so that you can start enjoying those precious moments getting to know your baby.

 

·       Consider a confinement nanny to take care of the details and let you focus on what’s important

·       Before birth, arrange for groceries to be delivered directly to your house

·       Join a few online forums for new mothers and connect with those with similar experiences

·       Likewise, a real life support group can really help you through those darker days

·       If possible, arrange for outside help with domestic chores

·       Treat yourself to an aromatherapy massage or beauty treatment to thank your body for everything it’s accomplished

·       If you feel like you would benefit, book a session or two with a counselor to air your thoughts and concerns

·       Similarly, a romantic dinner with your partner and a heart-to-heart about the exciting new change can be very grounding – and good for your relationship

·       Make sure your diet is working for you and that you’re getting plenty of nourishment from fresh, wholesome foods

·       Try meditate or keep a journal. The first few weeks of motherhood can be a time of deep reflection – take a moment to slow down and really relish the moment

 

If you’ve had difficulties with your mood in the past or have a history with pre-menstrual stress, you may need to be a little more alert around the time after birth to ensure you are getting all the support you need. Fortunately, a little forward thinking will ensure that your transition to motherhood is gentle and the weeks following birth are a time of learning all about the little person who’s just joined your family.

 

When it’s More Than Just Baby Blues

 

For some women, the hormonal chaos around the time of birth can set off a more serious problem with depression.[2] If you are feeling depressed for longer than two weeks after the birth, chat to your doctor. Post Partum Depression can even begin months or years after the birth of your baby, or appear for the first time with second or third pregnancies.

 

As mothers, we can often get so carried away with nurturing our children that we forget about nurturing ourselves. But the happier and healthier you are, the more fully you can be there by your child’s side, sharing those magical first few weeks.

 

[1] Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/depression-pregnancy.html

[2] The Boston Women's Health Book Collective: Our Bodies Ourselves, pages 489–491, New York: Touchstone Book, 2005

 

Men, Here’s How to Support Your Partner Through IVF

When it comes to family planning, it’s a sad fact that the male role is sometimes downplayed. This is even more true when the journey takes a turn for the difficult and a couple embark on IVF treatments. You may turn up to the appointments, hold her hand and read all the pamphlets she gives you. But then what? The gruelling ultrasounds and injections all go on inside her body, and not yours. Surely there’s not much more you can do to help?

 

Not so! In fact, a woman undergoing fertility treatment requires immense support and understanding - and you are in the best possible position to give her that while she manages the physical and emotional strains of trying to conceive. Here’s a look at what your partner may experience as well as concrete ways you can step in and lighten her burden.

 

She feels stressed out

 

How much free time do you have in your schedule today? What state of mind would you be in if you had to make room for an extra hour or two of doctor’s appointments, painful medical procedures and the hassle of travelling to and from the hospital or clinic? Scheduling IVF treatments can take its toll, and by its nature the process is prolonged since it occurs over many cycles.

 

Things you can do:

 

  • As much as possible, try to reduce her stress in other areas of life. Pick up niggling chores or errands she may not have time or energy for. Would she be happier with someone to take her to the clinic? On egg retrieval days or particularly stressful points in her cycle, can you take charge of dinner or other household tasks?
  • Be a calming force in your partner’s life. While her world is topsy turvy (inside and out!) you can be her anchor. Think of the relaxing activities she’d enjoy. Can you surprise her with a small gift, a movie night at home or even an impromptu foot rub?
  • Make sure that you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Encourage a regular sleep schedule, eat well and carve out time each day for a walk in nature, meditation, or quality time together.

 

She feels vulnerable

 

Undergoing IVF is no picnic. Your partner’s been poked, prodded and injected. She’s likely felt very exposed during examinations. Over and above the mental stress of opting for this kind of treatment, she may be dealing with real, physical pain, too. All of this spells a moment in your partner’s life where she feels exceptionally vulnerable and sensitive.

 

Things you can do:

 

  • Tread very carefully around the issue of sex. The hormonal effects of the treatment may include bloating, fatigue, soreness, nausea and increased emotional sensitivity, so your partner likely won’t feel in the mood. Allow her to initiate if she likes, but hold off on adding any pressure during this time. It will pass.
  • Keep an eye on her physical comfort. Be understanding if she feels tired or grumpy, and remind her that she’s beautiful on those days she feels unattractive.
  • Let your partner know that you love and appreciate her no matter what. Her stress may stem from feeling rushed or inadequate. How can you show her that you love her perfectly, just as she is, right now?

 

She feels volatile

 

Hormones are powerful things. For example, instead of a single egg in production per cycle as usual, she may suddenly have up to twenty eggs at once ...and all the estrogen that comes with it! Flooding the body with such heavy doses of hormones can be overwhelming to say the least. Your partner may burst into tears for no reason, get angry and then wonder why she did, or wake up one morning weighing 10 lbs. more than the night before.

 

Things you can do:

 

  • The very worst you can do for a woman who is struggling with disrupted hormones is to negate her experience. While she’s battling mood swings, you need to be calm and consistent. It may be challenging, but try not to lose your cool, guilt her for her emotions or get angry yourself. Imagine that you’re temporarily taking on some of the extra emotional load she’s been given. Offer her stability and understanding and any mood swings will pass more quickly.
  • Avoid making any other important life decisions at this time.
  • Make sure there’s time in every day to stop, and listen to how she’s feeling. She might not need you to problem solve, but only to listen to what she’s going through.

 

Your partner may physically have to undergo the treatments, but ultimately you are a team and working towards the same end. Because she may be a little overwhelmed, it may fall to you to be extra empathetic. Understand her perspective. Stay alert, help out when you can, or better yet, try to anticipate her needs and step in to take charge of what she may not be able to manage right now.

 

Nobody said it would be easy, but remembering to work together certainly makes it easier! Ultimately, you are her partner. Not a helper, a sidekick or a spectator on the journey she’s on, but a fellow traveller. Work together and even the trials of fertility treatments can ultimately strengthen your relationship.

How to Stay Focused When Considering Your Infertility Treatment Options

Fertility treatments can be financially draining, emotionally gruelling and perhaps worst of all, they take time. And for those undergoing fertility treatments, time is of the essence. Sadly, too many couples realize, months and thousands of dollars later, that they were actually working with the wrong doctor, trying a procedure that they misunderstood or investing in a path that ultimately wasn’t right for them.

 

With something as emotional as infertility, it’s normal to feel rushed or that you should grasp whatever solution you encounter first. However, it’s always better to take the time to do your research, plan properly and move forward with a course of action that has the best possible outcome for you and your family. Here are some ways to stay focused as you embark on comparing treatments, doctors and clinics.

 

Start with what you want

 

If you’ve never sought out this kind of medical intervention before, you may not be aware of your own personal deal breakers - whether they be financial, practical or cultural. The trouble is, you may only realize just how crucial those unique needs are after you’ve already paid thousands of dollars and feel stuck with a treatment that isn’t a good match for you.

 

From the beginning, don’t be afraid to voice your limits, your goals and what you expect from treatment. It’s far better to express your needs as early as possible, since any confusion, doubt or frustration will only get worse with time.

 

Questions to keep you on track:

 

  • How much time are you willing to devote to medical interventions? Reminding yourself of this will help you focus only on those options that are likely to work for you.
  • How much money are you able to invest in the procedures? Without a clear and realistic budget in place, expenses can easily get out of control.
  • Carefully consider what a positive fertility treatment experience would look like for you. Take the time to iron out exactly what your current lifestyle can handle, your cultural and emotional needs, and how your relationships factor into the treatment. This will make it much easier for you to opt out of treatments that are not serving these needs.

 

Follow your gut

 

Your doctors may certainly be experts in their field. And the treatments that you receive may certainly seem complex and even intimidating. But don’t let stress or emotional tension drown out any gut feelings that you may have about a situation. Pay attention to how you’re treated, to how organized the clinic seems, and to whether you feel you’re getting personalized and compassionate treatment.

 

Niggles about small interactions may not seem like much, but they could indicate a lack of care or professionalism that may spell the difference between conceiving a child and merely wasting time. Be patient. Get to know your doctors and forgo practices or procedures that make you feel rushed, nervous or unimportant.

 

Questions to keep you on track:

 

  • Attend seminars or meet-and-greets designed for patients to get to know the doctors and the work they do. Don’t be ashamed to voice concerns or ask questions. How are your questions received and are you given the answers you need?
  • Pay attention to feelings of guilt, shame or confusion. Sadly, many women opt for treatments that are beyond their means because they were too ashamed to be upfront about their financial situations. Keep asking yourself, is this for me?

 

Always consider the context

 

It’s natural to go into “sponge mode” and try to soak up as much information as you can about infertility. Unfortunately, not all the information you encounter will be relevant for your situation. The odds of fertility treatment success are not the same for all women.

 

For instance, you may be drawn to a clinic that advertises a success rate with a certain procedure, but fail to notice that these statistics apply to women with medical histories very different from your own. Factors like age, medical complications like PCOS or endometriosis, and previous pregnancies may make the statistics far less reliable than they first seem.

 

Blogs and forums are a godsend when you need to reach out for emotional support, but always consider the context of the anecdotes you read. You may soon discover that it’s useless to compare situations with other women unless their experiences closely relate to your own.

 

Don’t believe everything you read. Realize that certain practices and clinics may only present best-case scenarios. And while personal anecdotes may have emotional appeal, they can distract you from finding realistic solutions that will actually improve your chances of conception.

 

Questions to keep you on track:

 

  • Visit a site like FertilityIQ.com or Archimedicx.com to access detailed data about the different treatment options available to you.
  • Avoid comparing success rates across clinics, as the figures for each may have been gathered very differently and don’t give a true indication of the experience you’re likely to have with them. Speak directly to a board certified endocrinologist. Ask what your personal likelihood of falling pregnant is with a particular treatment, and go from there.

 

Unfortunately, seeking fertility treatment is not the same as shopping around for a car mechanic! Infertility is a complex subject. You’re not only dealing with the idiosyncrasies of your body, but also your expectations, hopes, fears and limitations. This means the stakes for seeking the right treatment can seem extremely high. It can be difficult to properly process all the information available to you, and sadly some clinics will prey on the desperation or confusion of those who are struggling to conceive.

 

But if you can take a moment to truly understand what you need and want, and carefully evaluate all the options open to you, you can go a long way to taking charge of your situation ...and everything that makes that situation unique to you.

Don’t Suffer in Silence: How to Seek Help With Infertility

A recent study in the journal Human Reproduction showed that of men and women struggling with infertility, less than half actively sought medical or professional help for it. Every day, modern science is finding new ways to give couples the children that may have eluded them otherwise. But what this study shows us is that the journey out of infertility can still be so daunting that many couples are too afraid to even begin with the first step!

 

If this sounds familiar, now may be the time to try and understand exactly why you’re not comfortable seeking help for your fertility issues. With a little investigation, you may discover that your concerns are not as unusual - or hopeless! - as you once thought.

 

“I can’t afford it”

 

In America, a single round of fertility treatments can cost upwards of $13 000 - certainly not cheap. But in my experience, fear about the cost of fertility treatment is often just the tip of the iceberg.

 

Dig a little deeper and you may find other painful emotions hidden underneath an attitude of resignation or dismissal. Some women may actually be able to afford the cost but have difficulty believing that their desires are worth the expense, and this is what they really mean when they say “it’s too expensive.”

 

“IVF is too difficult, and I’m afraid”

 

Horror stories about the rigors of fertility treatment are not too hard to find. And if you’ve always thought of conception as something natural, effortless, and simply something a good woman knows how to do, you may have trouble wrapping your head around the challenges and risks of fertility treatment. You may be intimidated about the procedures, finding them too invasive, too dangerous, too stressful.

 

These are valid concerns to weigh up before embarking on something this important. But at the same time, it’s a decision that needs to be made from a full understanding of the facts and options available. Some couples may delay seeking help because doing so would feel like admitting a problem they’re not ready to face yet. Likewise, the fear may not be of the difficulties involved, but of not being successful even after those difficulties are endured.

 

“I’m too embarrassed”

 

Whether we know it or not, many of us have quite complex sets of beliefs and assumptions about fertility. But not seeking help means that those painful and confusing emotions remain unexplored. Behind embarrassment may lurk deeper feelings of shame, self-blame and other negative thinking patterns.

 

The decision to not seek help could also stem from the belief that the issue is not really serious enough and doesn’t warrant any fuss. Lastly, complicated personal beliefs and religious concerns may prevent you from seeking help, not to mention pressure from family or a partner who doesn’t share your values when it comes to having children.

 

The way forward: be proactive

 

Everyone approaches their fertility in a slightly different way. You may take some time to arrive at the point where you feel comfortable reaching out and asking for help. Or you may want to dive right in immediately and not waste any time finding solutions that work for you. But whatever your experience of infertility, I’ve found that a certain mindset can help you navigate your emotions with a lot more clarity and compassion.

 

1.     Educate yourself

 

Knowledge is power. Researching certain facts about your unique situation can be scary - but in almost every case knowing exactly what you’re dealing with is better than letting your fears grow unchecked or unchallenged.

 

Do some research on the costs involved and how you might be able to afford them. Keep an open mind. Approach knowledgeable professionals for help understanding the exact biology of conception, the options open to you, and the statistics and risk involved. Seek help on online forums and share your experience.

 

Lastly, try not to get carried away with fears that may not be as bad as you think. For example, instead of worrying yourself about the prospect of unwanted multiple births, do some research. How common are multiple births really? Are your fears and reservations really founded? Getting a thorough grasp of the mechanics of infertility can be surprisingly empowering.

 

2. Take control

 

Infertility can feel like it’s entirely out of your control. Conception can start to seem like it’s simply up to fate or luck, and so it’s tempting to slip into resignation, quietly losing hope and assuming nothing can be done.

 

But you are more in control than you think! Many couples find it very helpful to set themselves generous timelines and limits. For example, they may put a cap on what they’re willing to spend on treatments and a date after which they will mindfully put an end to medical interventions. Rather than “giving up”, this approach can go a long way to putting control back in your hands and giving you something concrete to work with.

 

If you’re part of the more than 50% of people who are reluctant to seek out help for infertility, take heart. Understanding what’s behind your reluctance may help you move forward with more understanding and control.

Can Acupuncture Boost Your Chances of Success With IVF?

Couples struggling with infertility or undergoing IVF may find the results of a recent study very exciting indeed. In the experiment, one group who received no acupuncture treatment later had an IVF success rate of 21.7%. But the other group were given four sessions of acupuncture before and during their IVF treatment, and a whopping 46.2% of them conceived.

 

While the authors of this study are themselves cautious about interpreting these results, these impressive figures may have you wondering whether you need to book an acupuncture appointment as soon as possible! If you’re considering IVF and want to use complementary treatments to boost your chances of success, here’s what you need to know.

 

A question of mind over matter?

 

It’s important to keep in mind that scientific knowledge is gathered slowly, and that single studies like this one very rarely resolve a complex issues once and for all. Since similar acupuncture studies have shown inconclusive results, it’s important not to jump to conclusions and instead treat this study as a single data point.

 

Some researchers have suggested that the boost in success rates in this particular study are not directly from the acupuncture itself. Perhaps the extra care and concern given during an acupuncture session makes women feel heard, nurtured and in control of their health - and it’s this that enhances the chance of IVF working.

 

Or perhaps the power of acupuncture lies solely in the patient’s belief in it. It’s this belief that makes some people experience noticeable benefits from taking a simple sugar pill. Though the pill actually does nothing, their belief in it is powerful enough that they experience benefits all the same.

 

Researchers call this a placebo effect, and it shows us just how powerful the mind can really be. The acupuncture study unfortunately did not have a group that received a placebo acupuncture treatment (for example, a “fake” session that seemed real to the patient but wasn’t) and so it’s hard to say whether the results are due to the patient’s strong belief in acupuncture or the effectiveness of acupuncture itself.

 

Being a smart consumer

 

Acupuncture is perfectly safe when done with a qualified practitioner. If you’d like to explore alternative or complementary treatments, take your time to find a practitioner who is scrupulous with hygiene and offers you treatment that makes you feel safe and comfortable.

 

Unhygienic acupuncture techniques can pose as much risk as tattooing or piercing with dirty needles can, and if you conceive, this may pose an infection risk to your baby. The side effects of acupuncture treatment can also include bruising, dizziness, bleeding, drowsiness and pain, so tread carefully.

 

The benefits of thinking holistically

 

Many fertility experts are seeing an increased demand for holistic and alternative treatments, acupuncture being one of them. Whether acupuncture is as successful as the study shows or not doesn’t change the fact that a holistic approach on your fertility journey will undoubtedly prove more successful.

 

The mere fact of approaching the problem from different perspectives will leave you with a deeper sense of balance and wellbeing. If acupuncture appeals to you, consider recreating the benefits of this kind of treatment through other techniques or approaches.

 

  • Do you feel like the emotional side of your fertility treatment is a little neglected? You may benefit from speaking to a fertility therapist or a counsellor familiar with the challenges you’re experiencing. Share your experience with others. Make sure you’re giving yourself time to explore and process your emotions.
  • Do you feel that the intense focus on medical procedures is leaving other important parts of your lifestyle unexamined? Then you may benefit from taking some initiative with healthy eating, meditating, mindfulness, stress management techniques or even a relationship workshop for you and your partner.
  • Lastly, don’t ignore the yearning to address your fertility concerns from a spiritual perspective as well. Pray, consult with healers or religious figures you trust, and practice tuning into your own intuition on a daily basis. You may be surprised at how much this will enhance your experience of IVF, on all levels.

 

If you’ve been struggling with infertility for a while, it may be tempting to turn to a promised panacea like acupuncture or other miracle treatment. However, as heartening as the results may seem, there’s always a chance that acupuncture may not actually work for you. Keep an open mind, but do your research. Ultimately, what studies like this can tell us is how important it is to approach infertility holistically and with self-compassion.

3 Ways to Deal With Secondary Infertility

Have you ever heard someone describe a very black-and-white situation by saying, “it’s like being pregnant - you either are or you aren’t”? Pregnancy is just one of those things: there’s no way to be only a little bit pregnant. If you’re like most people, you think of infertility in much the same way: you either are or you aren’t. Surely there’s no way to be only a little bit infertile, right? Wrong.

 

“Secondary infertility” can be a surprise to many women for this very reason. Medically speaking, secondary infertility refers to the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term even after a woman has one or more children already. If you’ve already experienced one or more successful pregnancies but are struggling to conceive again, here are some things to bear in mind as you tackle this less well-known side of infertility.

 

It’s normal to feel frustrated. VERY frustrated

 

In some ways, secondary infertility can be more difficult to deal with than not being able to conceive from the outset. The National Center for Health Statistics estimates that almost 4 million American women have one biological child but can’t manage to fall pregnant again. That’s more than the number of women experiencing primary infertility! To make matters worse, doctors are often left scratching their heads as to why this happens.

 

TIP: it’s only natural to become curious about the reasons you can’t conceive. But be kind to yourself, and remain mindful of the language you use to talk about your situation. Gently stop yourself from asking, “what’s wrong with me?” and instead focus on trying to understand your situation a little better, without placing blame.

 

Your fertility is unique - and so are your emotions

 

Trying to learn more about your situation, however, can leave you with a keen sense that you don’t quite belong in any one category. You might find it difficult to identify with childless couples but also with other parents. Straddling two worlds, it may feel like your problems lack legitimacy. The feelings this realization can bring up are often powerful and confusing. For example:

 

  • People around you may subtly or not so subtly suggest that you stop complaining because you already have a child, leaving you with the impression that you’re not really allowed to want another, or that your pain isn’t “as bad” as that of a family with no children at all.
  • Your relationship may take a knock and you may find friends and family unsupportive or dismissive. After all, can’t you “just adopt”?
  • You might wonder if it’s God’s plan. In the absence of a medical explanation, you may be tempted to think that you’re fated somehow to not have another child, and even start to wonder if you’ve done something wrong to deserve what you’re going through.
  • You may feel resentful or bitter, even disbelieving at times.
  • If new health concerns are involved, for example a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, you may have to deal with compromised fertility on top of your feelings about that illness.
  • You used to think of yourself as a parent, and perhaps never doubted your ability to conceive again. Having to completely alter the life path you imagined for yourself can feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under you. You may all at once feel rudderless, confused about the future or even a little cheated.
  • You may feel sad and wistful, recalling how it felt to be pregnant in the past.
  • Lastly, because secondary infertility often comes down to age, many women experience guilt and a feeling of regret around their choices. Infertility may be an unwelcome reminder of time passing, and jealousy of other families may set in.Maybe you even start to play the dangerous game of, what if…?

 

TIP: in the face of all these challenging emotions, it can be hard to sort through the incongruence of the situation and find a way forward. But one thing is clear: your situation is yours and yours alone. No two families are alike. In fact, your vision of your own family might itself be changing!

 

So go easy on yourself. As much as possible, avoid beating yourself up with “shoulds”. Try to look at the situation with acceptance and compassion, and forgo comparison with others around you or with your own idealized picture of how your life should be. Now’s the time to let go of old hopes ...but also to fashion new ones. It may be painful, but slowly start to allow thoughts of an alternative future to develop in your mind.

 

Anchor yourself in the present

 

Something you may be surprised to discover is how differently you look at your life after a secondary infertility diagnosis. What seemed just fine yesterday suddenly feels all wrong today. And when it comes to the children you already have, this can leave you with a double whammy of guilt. Does wanting more children mean you don’t love the ones you have?

 

Of course not! Parenting while struggling for another child is a question of finding balance. Though your heart may be torn in two different directions, many parents actually find that their existing children can actually make the situation easier to bear.

 

TIP: separate out your feelings of disappointment from your feelings towards the family you already have. Allow yourself some “worry time” every day to think about your concerns, but use the children already in your life as an anchor back into reality. You’d be surprised how good children are at reminding you to stay aware in the present!

 

For many families, secondary infertility can feel like life has thrown a cold bucket of water over them. But your situation, no matter what it is, is far from hopeless. How you choose to move forward, how you edit the story of your family life and what you expected, how you deal with loss and disappointment ...these will be your own unique challenges.

 

It may be a long time before you either conceive or come to terms with not having another child. But take solace in the fact that every new morning, you can find fresh resolution. The future will unfold as it will, but we can always commit to being compassionate and mindful, today.

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