Guest blog by Monika Friedman, a Fertility Coach.
If you are anything like me (Type A recovering control freak), perhaps until recently, it seemed like life more or less followed a linear formula: goal + hard work = result.
Apparently fertility didn’t get the memo. Fertility is different and works according to its own rules.
And, unfortunately, fertility doesn’t follow the rules that we know so well in our work life. Instead, the miracle of conceiving a baby is a combination of luck, timing, a sufficiently healthy set of parents, patience, and the universe doing its part too.
Trying to conceive can take so much longer than expected for many women out there, including myself. I spent 5 years trying, went through 4 rounds of IVF, 1 miscarriage, and a lot of heartbreak along the way before I finally had my baby.
And I did all that while climbing up the career ladder in a demanding sales position that had me flying around the world (those days feel like a lifetime ago now with Covid, right?).
I remember jetting off to an international sales meeting the day after my egg retrieval during IVF, which involved general anesthesia. I didn’t feel great and I missed the opening dinner because I was still nauseous from the treatment. But I was so grateful to be there to work and show up and surround myself with my uplifting colleagues and friends (who, by the way, had no idea what I was going through).
I also remember working away on my laptop until the minute I had to go into the operating room for my D&C for my miscarriage. Did I have to work? No, I could have taken a sick day. But I chose to work because I liked it, and again, it was a welcome distraction.
Towards the end of my fertility journey I did however scale back and worked more from home and traveled less. Did it help me get pregnant? I don’t know. But it’s what I needed at that point for my mental health.
Going through fertility treatments while working a full-time job can feel like having two full-time jobs. No. Excuse me, more like 2.5x full-time jobs because I bet you are already working what feels like 150% in your main job.
In my work as a Fertility Coach, the large majority of my clients are highly ambitious and successful women, who have so much to show for, have an incredibly interesting social and professional life…but the one missing ingredient to feeling complete is a baby.
One question that comes up from my clients all the time is: Should I stop working so I can increase my chances of conceiving?
This is such a personal question. Everyone’s tolerance for stress and handling emotions is different, so it’s key to honor yourself and listen to what you think is the best solution for your own situation.
In most cases, I don’t advise women to quit their jobs (unless it’s detrimental to their physical or mental health) because it can create a big hole in someone’s daily life that is hard to fill.
Going to the office every day (or logging on to Zoom) is so important for us humans as we are creatures of habit. Doing something out of habit or as a repetitive behavior is helpful to calm our nervous system and reduce anxiety.
So working through your work inbox, attending (virtual) meetings and checking off your to-do-list can be a fantastic distraction from what’s going on in your private life. I am not saying distraction is the cure; I’m just saying that sometimes it can be a lifeline, a welcome change of thoughts when all we do is ruminate about our fertility struggles.
And here is the crucial part: fertility struggles are inherently stressful. So is life. There is no way around that. But we should try do our very best to avoid getting overwhelmed and instead try to keep the stress hormone cortisol as low as possible wherever we can.
Self-care: An invaluable life tool
Stress has shown to have a significant impact on our reproductive hormones and whether we have a successful pregnancy. Our reptilian brain still thinks we are cavewomen, so every time danger lurks, we go into a fight-or-flight state and our cortisol spikes. Our subconscious treats internal threats the same as external ones; it doesn’t differentiate between a tiger chasing after us or an important work deadline that has us stressed out or feeling anxious about tomorrow’s appointment with the fertility doctor.
While there is no need to quit your job, it’s definitely worthwhile to ask yourself how you can lower stress on a daily basis in order to prioritize self-care. Because, at the end of the day, we need to take excellent care of our mental and physical selves if we expect our bodies to conceive and carry a beautiful baby. Let’s then treat our bodies with great respect and kindness.
Self-care isn’t selfish. Self-care should become a daily habit.
Self-care means more than taking a hot bath or having that piece (or bar) of chocolate. It means creating space for yourself, honoring what your mind and body need. That could be taking your lunch break and stepping away from your desk for a short walk instead of lunch al desko. That could mean saying no to meetings that are not the best use of your time. That could mean taking a sick day when you feel you need it because you want to recover from a procedure or an upsetting diagnosis. That could also just mean to call up a friend, get a workout in, make a delicious dinner, and catch up on your favorite show.
Or if you are into all things mind-body-connection, make time for your daily meditation, relaxation or mindfulness practice to find a home for your busy mind.
The Little-Known Technique That Could Increase Conception by 52%
Try mind-body connection techniques; as research has shown that they can increase IVF success rates by 52 percent.
In a recent study of an online mind-body program, women in the intervention group had 4.47 times higher odds of becoming pregnant and showed had a significant reduction in anxiety and depression.
These mind-body tools include daily relaxation, visualization, breathing, and yoga.
My favorite technique is a daily visualization of yourself in your safe and happy place, maybe your last vacation in an exotic place (oh so long ago), your childhood kitchen filled with the smell of cookies fresh out of the oven or an imaginary place that makes you feel relaxed in an instant.
Learning to take really good care of yourself is a lifelong skill that goes way beyond fertility. It’s a skill for life. And, in this regard, infertility can act as an incredible teacher (that we never asked for, by the way) to better listen to and treat ourselves with so much more kindness.
Since we are getting ready to become a mom, these self-care skills will be invaluable during pregnancy and motherhood. Because if you are anything like me, then I know you desire to be a strong, ambitious woman and working mom. You got this!
P.S. Download my Ultimate Mind-Body Fertility Guide here for more ideas on how to take care of your emotions, deal with anxiety and improve fertility.
Monika Friedman is a Fertility Coach helping professional women like you increase your chances to get pregnant with less anxiety and more joy along the way. Her Full-Circle MethodTM is a holistic blend of solution-oriented coaching, powerful mind-body-connection techniques and a practical step-by-step guide addressing mindset, lifestyle and tactics along your fertility journey.
She is a 4 time IVF warrior, a yoga teacher and a working mom with an MBA and 15 years of corporate experience under her belt. Her own challenging journey to motherhood has made her passionate about helping you with yours.
She is a German native, but a global citizen at heart. She has lived and worked all over the world (Germany, US, Dominican Republic, Switzerland, Singapore, UK), and now resides in the beautiful Rocky Mountains with her husband, daughter and red Labrador Retriever. She loves re-watching Friends, has a secret crush on Trevor Noah and never says No to chocolate.