Guest blog post by Dr. Smita Parikh, Fertility Coach & Founder of The Fertility Advisor
When my husband and I made the decision to start our family, we were beyond excited. But with each negative pregnancy test I began to spiral. I had no idea that it would take 4 IUIs, a miscarriage, and 4 cycles of IVF to achieve the family of my dreams. The road was winding and bumpy, and the constant state of uncertainty that I lived in wreaked havoc on my relationship, friendships, and career. It was isolating and devastating in so many ways…but it didn’t have to be.
Reflecting on my journey, there is so much more I wish I had known. Below are a few of the biggest lessons I learned along the way. I hope this advice helps you avoid the mistakes I made and makes your journey a bit smoother.
1. Prepare your body for conception with an integrative approach to fertility
When we first started trying to get pregnant, I didn’t feel the need to do any preparation. From my medical training I knew all about timing intercourse with ovulation, taking prenatals, and that I should see my obgyn for a preconception visit. I figured that was enough.
I had no clue about the impact that supplements, diet, exercise, lifestyle factors, or your environment can have on conception rates and if I had, I certainly would have made an effort to focus on those things as well.
I recommend doing your research (or finding a trusted resource) to learn how to optimize you and your partner’s fertility. (Note – always make sure to check with your healthcare provider before making any major changes or taking new supplements).
If you can make these changes earlier on, even if you need assisted reproductive therapy down the road, it will improve your odds of success with those procedures as well.
2. Build yourself a strong support system and express your needs clearly
I chose to keep my struggle to get pregnant private for a long time but eventually felt like I needed outside support. I started off by joining online forums and then attending a peer led support group but unfortunately, that felt more depressing than uplifting. I tried working with a therapist but let’s just say we were not a good fit (she told me to solve my problem by adopting a child from India – yes, a trained mental healthcare professional told me that!)
So, I slowly began to open up and share with a few friends and family. They were kind, but many were uncomfortable and didn’t know what to say. At first, I felt a bit disappointed, but instead of faulting them for not understanding my needs, I simply explained to them that I wasn’t looking for advice – just a listening ear. It put people at ease and ultimately strengthened the bonds of my relationships with those friends.
Don’t be afraid to share your journey but make sure to express your exact needs and be specific about how you want to be supported.
3. Don’t underestimate the power of your mindset
After about a year of trying to get pregnant without success, I was consistently experiencing negative thoughts and emotions – “I will never get pregnant,” “my eggs are too old,” “what if I never become a mom?” The list goes on. I was in a dark place but I didn’t realize that it may have been impacting my chances of conceiving.
Many research studies have showed that patients undergoing medical treatments who had some type of emotional therapy were more likely to conceive and that the most useful interventions were those where women learned the skills and tools to help themselves feel better.
Looking back, I wish I had taken the time to identify and practice strategies to help myself feel better rather than letting my negative thoughts and emotions take over. There will always be challenges in life and using this as an opportunity to figure out how to tackle them will be in investment that will pay off in the future.
4. Educate and empower yourself if you decide to do medical treatments (IUI/IVF)
Many women, myself included, get to a point on their journey where it feels so overwhelming that you just want to pass the reigns on to someone else. It’s tempting to simply throw your hands in the air and decide to go with whatever the fertility doctor tells you. But, reproductive medicine is complicated and not all physicians, clinics, and labs are created equally. The worst thing you can do is go into this process blindly. You have to be proactive and engaged and understand your care and treatment plans. That means asking lots of detailed questions (no matter how annoying!) and understanding what happens if plan A doesn’t work, then what is next. Research shows that patients who are activated and engaged in their own healthcare are the ones that get the best outcomes so don’t lose steam here!
5. Hold on to yourself and your passions
Having a family of my own was something I had dreamed of for a long time so when it didn’t happen easily for me, I put my life on hold and as a result, I lost myself. The obsession, the sadness, the fear, the pain…it consumed me and there wasn’t room for anything else.
I pushed and pushed and after my first unsuccessful IVF cycle, I was forced to take a break. It was during this time when I spoke with a friend of mine who had been going through a divorce. She made a simple statement “that this experience didn’t have to define her” and it hit me hard, that all this time, I had been doing just that. Defining myself by my infertility. She was right and I began to refocus on the things that brought me joy. It wasn’t always easy to do, but being aware that I needed to make this change was the first step in finding myself again.
If this seems difficult, start by making a list of things that bring you joy and happiness and when you’re struggling, pick one thing from the list and just do it!
Dr. Smita Parikh is a fertility coach who helps educate, empower, and support couples who are trying to conceive. She is no stranger to infertility and struggled for several years exploring both natural and medical treatments to get pregnant. She understands firsthand how complicated this process is and shows her clients the exact strategies they need to achieve pregnancy faster and reduce the stress, energy and time is takes to start your family. To learn more, visit www.thefertilityadvisor.com, book a complimentary consultation here, or download The Sprout System – a quick read guide that summarizes effective, research based strategies on how to optimize your fertility here.