Guest blog by Monika Friedman, a Fertility Coach.
Is your fertility journey messing with your mindset, your self-care, and stress levels? If yes, you are not alone.
Research even shows that psychological symptoms associated with infertility are similar to those associated with other serious medical conditions, such as cancer.
When I heard about this study, I finally felt validated in my feelings. Because infertility threw me into a pretty dark hole.
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.
Self-Care Techniques for Fertility: An Invaluable Life Tool
When I hit my low point about 2 years into my journey, I realized I had to change course…otherwise I would run the risk of losing my sanity, jeopardizing my precious relationships, and even sabotaging my fertility.
So I decided to prioritize my mental health and fully and completely prioritize self-care, such as setting healthy boundaries and decreasing my business travels as well as focusing on mind-body practices like daily meditation, breathing and yoga.
I realized self-care wasn’t just a buzz word. It was an invaluable tool for life…for whatever life will throw at us. And it will be, even after fertility.
My personal mantra became: In order to find a home for my baby, I want to find a home for my mind first.
Why is that important?
The prolonged spike in cortisol can lead the hypothalamus part of the brain to not send critically important reproductive hormone messages to the pituitary, which in turn may lead to ineffective or missing communication to the ovaries. Studies have shown that high stress can suppress LH secretion and can disturb ovulation.
Our reptilian brain still thinks we are cave-women, 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.
So, knowing this and how our bodies and minds are overridden by cortisol for simple survival purposes, we need to learn how to respond to stress. Let’s face it…a lot of the stress in our lives is unavoidable…because life and infertility are inherently stressful. But, we can learn ways to let our nervous system know on a daily basis that we are okay, safe, and not in danger.
That’s where self-care becomes key.
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.
Let’s zero in on mind-body techniques and how they cannot only help you stay calm during your journey but also improve your chances of getting pregnant.
The Little-Known Technique That Could Increase Conception by 52%
The mind-body connection is a research-backed and evidence-based theory that our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs can positively or negatively impact our biological functioning. Have you ever had a belly ache, a headache, or irregular cycles because of high mental or physical stress? Then you’ve experienced the mind-body connection already.
Research has shown that mind-body connection techniques 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 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. If you’re ready for it, you can even visualize holding your future baby or rubbing your pregnant belly.
When we access the neo-cortex, the visual part of our brains, we send more blood carrying nutrients and oxygens to those body parts, but also we act with less anxiety and increased focus.
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!
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.