Tips for Managing the Emotional Rollercoaster of IVF

Anyone who has struggled with infertility can attest to the physical and emotional strain that accompanies this path to parenthood. The rollercoaster of hormones, hope and disappointment, comments made by others, and grueling medical schedule makes anxiety nearly universal to the treatment process.

 As a result of this increase in anxiety I would encourage you to consider self-care as a fundamental tool to cope with the anxiety that is inherent to the process.  Self-care includes:

  • Pamper yourself. Between the daily hormone injections, the blood draws and ultrasound of an IVF cycle, your body takes a beating!  Be sure to give yourself a little extra TLC. Get a massage, make time for yoga or take a nap. Treat yourself to what you enjoy. You’ve earned it.

 

  • Find support. Though you may feel alone in this process at times, infertility is quite common. You may already know friends or family members who have struggled with infertility. Talk to them. If you don’t know anyone look for a local support group or a mental health provider who specializes in reproductive health.

 

  • Stay rooted in the present. It can be overwhelming to deal with the countless details of IVF: the medication regimen, the monitoring, the instructions, the potential outcomes. Sometimes it is too much to take in all at once. If you find yourself stressed about the process, bring yourself back to the present. What is happening in this moment? What do you need to do today, not tomorrow or next week? Focus only on the next step and then the next step, one step at a time.

 

  • Ease up on your schedule. Cut obligations where you can. Delegate work or chores if possible. Ask for help from friends, family, colleagues or neighbors.  Fertility treatment is a time-intensive process–letting go of any extra responsibilities will give you the time take care of what is really important while decreasing the stress of trying to juggle too much.

 

  • Remember your life outside of fertility treatment. It is easy to get swept up in the process so that conceiving becomes your sole focus. What did you like to do before you began treatment? Paint? Walk? Read? Do it again!  What in your life is going well? Do you have great friends? A good husband? A job you like? Focusing on those good areas in your life doesn’t mean that getting pregnant isn’t a priority, it simply helps to balance out your attention and lower anxiety while you undergo treatment.

 

  • Get help if you need it. If you find that your anxiety becomes unmanageable or if you’re struggling with depression, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Many women need a little extra help during this difficult time.

 

Ariadna Cymet Lanski, Psy.D

Clinical Psychologist, Wellbeing Chicago

Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski is a clinical psychologist who offers a wide range of psychological services to meet the unique needs of individuals and couples coping with fertility challenges. Her services include consultation and support during various stages of fertility treatment, consultation for individuals using egg/sperm donor or gestational carriers.  Additionally, Dr. Cymet Lanski conducts egg donor, gestational carrier, and Intended Parents assessments.

Dr. Ariadna Cymet Lanski’s clinical practice specializes in reproductive health issues -from preconception, pregnancy, and postpartum adjustment to parenthood.  Through the years, Dr. Cymet Lanski has provided support and assistance in understanding the psychological impact of fertility issues and other reproductive crises.  She has helped many patients to manage stress and feel empowered about their choices. To this end, Dr. Cymet Lanski frequently utilizes mindfulness concepts and is a strong believer in the relationship between emotional and physical wellbeing.

Since 2011, Dr. Cymet Lanski has been an active member of RESOLVE and the ASRM Mental Health Professional Group (MHPG), having served and then chaired the MHPG Membership committee.  She has presented in various national and international medical conferences including various presentations at the ASRM annual congress.

 

Well Being Chicago

Ariadna Cymet Laski, PsyD

30 N. Michigan Ave

Suite 906

Chicago, IL 60602

312-320-4837

www.WellBeingChicago.com

3 Tips for Staying Together While Navigating Infertility

By Amanda Hofbauer MA, AMFT

Infertility can wreak havoc on a relationship. Trying to get pregnant may begin as an exciting journey to bring a new life into the world together, but it can quickly become a steep climb filled with painful procedures, blame, shame, difficult decisions, and financial burdens. At some point you may look over and no longer recognize your climbing partner.
Here are 3 tips for maintaining your relationship with your partner while you climb:
1. Acknowledge your losses: The path of infertility is fraught with loss and grief in many forms. Disenfranchised grief happens when we experience a loss that is not socially recognized. For instance, there are not funerals for miscarried babies or sympathy cards for unsuccessful IVF attempts. Not only are these losses not formally recognized, they are often not even spoken. Couples suffer silently, often without the support of their friends and family. Anticipatory grief happens when we begin to grieve the seemingly impending loss. We begin to think we will never have a biological baby, and we start to grieve in preparation for that loss.
Take time to acknowledge these losses as a couple. Share your grief with your
partner (even if your experiences of grief are different) and find ways to mourn
together. This may mean creating your own ritual to mark a loss.
2. Act as a team: Don’t let infertility become one person’s problem or responsibility.
Share the logistical burdens like scheduling appointments as much as possible. Go
to appointments together whenever you can, even if the appointment is only
medically “for” one of you. Try to be together when you receive results of tests or
procedures – even if it’s through a conference call – so that one person doesn’t have
to be the bearer of heavy news. Be curious about your partner’s experiences that
may differ from yours, such as how it felt to go through a certain medical procedure
or what kind of emotions they are experiencing each step of the way.
3. Create infertility-free spaces: Infertility can easily engulf an entire relationship.
Go on a date night where you’re not allowed to talk about anything infertility related. Rediscover activities you used to enjoy that have fallen by the wayside since you starting dealing with infertility. Reclaim your sex life by taking a short break from baby-making sex by only having sex at times when fertilization cannot occur. Infertility does not have to define your relationship.
The climb is exhausting, unpredictable, and may or may not end with a successful pregnancy. But by prioritizing your relationship amidst the chaos, you can ensure that you will still be together when the journey ends.
 
Couples therapy can also be a helpful resource while navigating infertility. Contact me to set up an appointment and start the process today. I can be reached at amanda@relationshipreality312.com or 312-857-6270. Amanda is a Couple and Family Therapist at a private practice in downtown Chicago. She specializes in helping couples who have experienced or are currently experiencing infertility. Find out more at amandahofbauermft.com.
 Resources: Diamond, R., Kezur, D., Meyers, M., Scharf, C., & Weinshel, M. (1999). Couple therapy for infertility. New York, NY:
The Guilford Press.; Humphrey, K. (2009). Counseling strategies for loss and grief. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Tips to Help Stop Stress Eating

By Margaret Eich, MS, RDN

Imagine this scene. You worked late to finish a project at work. You ordered in some takeout while you were working, and now it’s finally time to go home. You’re exhausted and stressed. When you get home, you start raiding the fridge and cabinets for things to eat. You really aren’t hungry at all since you ate dinner at work, but you’re looking for comfort in the cupboards.

I think most people can relate to this, and I would venture to guess that most of us have been in this or a similar situation before. In times of stress, we tend to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Food is readily available and processed high sugar, high fat foods tend to give us a quick, but very short-lived, boost that often leaves us feeling worse or just simply that we haven’t acted in a way that is consistent with our long-term goals. No matter how good our intentions are, stress from a variety of sources can tend to deplete our resolve and decision-making capability. In addition to the daily stresses of work, family, and finances, struggling to conceive adds significant stress. People have varying degrees of stress or emotional eating, and these habits can take significant effort and time to change. Here are some tips to help get you started:

1) Check-in with yourself to determine whether you’re feeling physical “stomach” hunger or “head” hunger. Sometimes our head is telling us to eat even though our stomach isn’t hungry. Physical hunger comes on gradually and is felt in the stomach, and can be satisfied by most foods. In contrast “head hunger,” tends to come on quickly with very specific cravings. In addition with “head hunger,” it may not be very long since you last ate, and your stomach isn’t giving you any hunger cues.

2) Find alternative coping mechanisms to manage stress and find comfort other than eating. It’s helpful to make a list of things you can do when you want to eat when you’re stressed, but not actually hungry. There are a wide variety of options including ways to simply distract yourself or ways to actually help you unwind and manage your stress. Examples include: go for a walk, take deep breaths, meditate, do a few yoga poses, take a bath, call a friend, read a book or magazine, go outside and get some fresh air, etc. It’s helpful to make your own list of 5 things that you can do when you find yourself turning to food for comfort.

3) Be kind to yourself. In those moments when you eat something that you wish you hadn’t or feel uncomfortable because you ate too much, practice being kind to yourself instead of berating or beating yourself up or feeling guilty. As much as we think our guilt about our eating habits helps us do better next time, it actually holds us back and keeps up trapped in the cycle of stress eating. Instead, practice being kind to yourself as you would to a dear friend or family member. Then move on, and return to your healthy eating instead of letting it spiral out of control or deciding to restrict at the next meal. Restricting at the next meal only causes the cycle to repeat, as becoming overly hungry combined with stress makes it much more likely that we have a harder time making healthy choices moving forward.

Reducing stress and emotional eating takes time, so be patient with yourself. Know that progress often comes in fits and starts, and we often take 2 steps forward and 1 step back along the way.

Need to take a break? Try a four week nutrition, yoga, and coaching dextox program! Learn more about “Spring Cleaning: Using Nutrition and Yoga to Cleanse” and all our community events here .

Supporting Milk Supply

Have you recently given birth and noticed that you are having issues with your supply of milk? Did you know acupuncture can help with insufficient lactation?

Image result for milk supply

Breast milk is the main food source for infants and breastfeeding has been shown to provide many benefits to both the mother and baby. Breastfeeding benefits the baby by increasing the baby’s immunity while decreasing the risk of respiratory tract infections and diarrhea, lowering the risk of asthma, food allergies, type 1 diabetes, and leukemia. Breastfeeding may also help with cognitive development and decrease the risk of obesity in adulthood. Breastfeeding also benefits the mother in a number of ways including better uterus shrinkage and less postpartum depression. Long term benefits that have been seen for mother’s that breastfeed are a decreased risk of breast cancer, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.

While breastfeeding has many benefits to both mother and baby, there are many women that suffer from a lack of sufficient milk supply. Insufficient lactation usually occurs 2-6 weeks after birth. A decreased amount of milk supply can be caused for a number of reasons. Some examples are a difficult birth, excessive bleeding after birth, history of miscarriage, IVF treatments, multiple children, high levels of stress and tension, and age. The great news is that acupuncture can help increase milk supply. Acupuncture restores the normal breast milk production by nourishing and regenerating the body’s blood supply and fluids that are lost during the birthing process. Research conducted at the Hanzhong Shanxi Hospital demonstrates that specific acupuncture points significantly boosts lactation quantities. This study showed that women who had acupuncture successfully increased breast milk secretion from an average of 49.63 ml to 115.21 ml. In addition to the increased milk quantity, the lactating mothers receiving acupuncture had improvement in levels of prolactin (the hormone that stimulates milk production).

If you have any questions regarding how acupuncture can help with your breast milk supply or to schedule an appointment feel free to contact the office at 312.321.0004 or you can contact me directly at christina@pullingdownthemoon.com .

Christina is available in Chicago Wednesday mornings, Buffalo Grove Wednesday afternoons and Saturdays, then starting on May 22nd, she will be available in Highland Park on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Christina Livas L.Ac.

* https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325417/

** http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1773-acupuncture-boosts-breast-milk-production

** https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254627208600382

Yes, You should eliminate the “shoulds” when trying to get pregnant.

Here’s how.

When we decide it is time to get pregnant, there’s no shortage of information of how to go about it. And if it takes longer than expected, or we run into a medical diagnosis that puts us into the infertility category, the list just grows.

On one hand, this can be helpful. There are lots of avenues and resources to get you to baby.

On the other hand, the list can be overwhelming, conflicting, and stressful.

Maybe you’ve been there. I know I was, and when most of my clients first come to me they have feelings of exhaustion, disappointment, and failure.

Have you found yourself saying or thinking any of these?:

  • “I am doing everything “right,” but nothing seems to be working.”
  • “It didn’t work because I ate or drank <insert “bad for fertility” food or drink here>. I feel so guilty.”
  • “I spent hours last night researching and now I’m more confused than ever.”

When we lose track of the big vision of parenthood and who we are in our pursuit to pregnancy, we begin to micromanage ourselves and our process. We start to live in a place of constant questioning and unknown. We keep doing and going and checking boxes in the hope that one of them might be the ONE thing that will unlock a successful pregnancy.

Take heart, sister. There is a better way.

You can find the combination of tactics, support, resources, and treatments that work for you. You will know when you’ve found it because it will feel empowering, not stressful. You will feel energized, not depleted. Your plan will give you hope and purpose, not leave you feeling empty.

Sound good? Here’s an exercise I do with my clients to identify which aspects of their fertility plans truly help them – and which ones they are doing simply because they feel they “should.”

You will need a pen, at least 3 sheets of paper, and a highlighter, marker, or pen with a different ink color than your main writing tool. (If you’d like a template, download it here .)

(1) Write it all down:

On your first sheet of paper, make a list of everything you are doing, have tried, or are considering trying to do to conceive. Be very honest with yourself about the true purpose or intent behind all of your actions. If there’s a little bit of you that thinks/hopes/prays that a particular action will help you become pregnant – write it down. It counts.

Score each of the items on your list (scale of 1 – 10) on how empowered, energized, and hopeful it makes you feel.

(2) Identify your mama values:

Imagine yourself as a mother. What lessons do you most want to teach your child? What values do you hope to share? What do you need in order to become her? Not just the physical parts, but the emotional and spiritual needs, too. In a separate list, write down a few words that describe the mother you want to be.

(3) Categorize:

Create a chart with three columns: Mind, Body, Heart. Categorize all of your activities from your first list according to which element they fill up for you. You can have activities that fit into more than one column.

Next, review the list of words or values describing the mother you wish to be. Circle the activities that most help you fulfill this wish.

(4) Evaluate:

Look at each column. Which seem off balance? What might you be able to put down or pick up in order to bring more eveness to the three elements: Mind, Body, Heart (or Spirit)?

Then, review where your highest scoring tasks fall. If you add up the scores in each column, are they roughly the same? Do you have a column that is low? High? Do you have several low scoring tasks or a few really high ones? What do you make of this?

How many activities are circled, indicating they align with your values for motherhood? How can those be enhanced or prioritized?

(5) Make a plan:

Based on your evaluation, which new way of looking at your plan makes the most sense for you – aiming for balance between mind/body/heart; by “score” of which make you feel most empowered and hopeful; or alignment with your motherhood values? Perhaps they all line up similarly to paint a clear picture. If not, that’s ok. Choose the organization method that seems most appealing and comfortable for right now.

Identify 1 – 2 adjustments you can make right now that will help shift your plan into the new alignment. Commit to them for a short period of time (1 – 2 weeks is great). Resist the urge to change more than a couple of things right away.

6) Revisit and adjust as needed:

Keep your lists and check in with yourself at the end of your trial period to see how you’re feeling. Go through your new list and give yourself a score between 1 – 10 of how empowered, energized, and hopeful you feel because of each activity in your plan. Compare your new score to the scores you gave yourself at the beginning of the exercise. How have things changed?

If you aren’t yet feeling more energized, hopeful, or in control, review your chart again and see what else can be tweaked. If you chose one organization method – balance, values, or score, consider looking at your chart from a different one. Ask yourself if you are holding on to some “shoulds”. How can you let them go?

This may be an ongoing exercise, but if you stick with it and stay true to what is really serving you, it will help make your path easier. If you feel stuck, ask a partner, friend, coach, or practitioner for their input.

Yes, infertility is stressful. Yes, you can do many, many, things to improve your fertility and reduce stress. I encourage you to consciously evaluate all you are doing. Give yourself the gift of a plan that empowers, energizes, and fills you with hope.

Erin McDaniel is a six-time IVF “survivor” and now mom to two boys. As a fertility coach, she helps women improve their fertility process by identifying and reducing stress points, creating balanced fertility plans, and implementing positive mindset strategies. To learn more, visit MyFertilityCoach.com .

Get proven strategies to improve your fertility journey with the Fresh Start Program from My Fertility Coach. An 8-week course, the Fresh Start Program focuses on key aspects of your fertility experience with group discussion and support to transform your family building experience. The group dynamic will connect you with women in a similar situation and give you the opportunity to build relationships, camaraderie, and support. Pulling Down the Moon readers get $30 off enrollment; use offer code PDTM30. Learn more and apply to join here. https://myfertilitycoach.co m/fresh-start

Spring Cleaning Your Mind

by Cassie Harrison, RYT

A therapist once told me to write down all my thoughts with my left hang (I’m right handed) and not worry about what I wrote. I was to write whatever entered my mind onto paper. This request sent me into a tailspin of excuses. I can’t, my journal is full. To write with my left hand would be sinister. The pen store is out of pens. I went on and on.

When I finally committed to this drudgery, my eyes were opened or better yet my mind. What I learned from this exercise is that when I wrote with my dominant hand my tendency was to get caught up in self-judgment and criticism of my grammar, handwriting, and words. However, when I wrote with my left hand all that went away. My mind felt clear and quiet and this was before I started the exercise! Only my thoughts remained. What happened next was profound; the worry left with the ink. My hand couldn’t keep up, but that wasn’t important, as it wasn’t legible anyway! I let it all go. I could hear my breath, the space around me and found myself unconsciously being present. The “sound” from my citta (incessant monkey brain thoughts), was deafening, it drowned out the world around me and kept me from hearing my true self. I leave you with this, the fertility journey is tough enough and it might leave you felling depleted and out of control. I challenge you to take five minuets today (not tomorrow), set excuses aside, and chicken scratch onto paper (or that napkin below your coffee) whatever’s on your mind, whatever is troubling you.

There is no right or wrong here. Just imagine who you would you be without your citta.

Let us help you calm your mind and reduce your anxiety by 20% or more in just six weeks with our Yoga for Fertility series ! Available in Chicago on Tuesdays at 5:30pm and Saturdays at 8:30am along with Highland Park on Mondays at 5:45pm. Pair it with Acupuncture, Nutrition, or Fertility Enhancing Massage this month and save with You Pick Two for $199 . We also have special FREE events this month to take care during National Infertility Awareness . Call us to learn more at: 312-321-0004.

Benefits of Mindfulness for Fertility

Our bodies are hard-wired to react to stress. Back in the day, face to face with a sabre-tooth tiger, our stress response provided a huge survival edge. We were able to fight, or flee, or even freeze until the danger passed. Once safe (or eaten) the stress response could subside and our we could get on with things.

The nature of our stressors, however, has evolved. Now instead of cave bears, we’re carrying smartphones. We have social media to remind us constantly where we’re measuring up, and where we’re falling behind. Our fertility journey creates a series of painful unknowns, worst- and best-case scenarios to our minds that shake us to our core. And to make matters worse, we know that stress isn’t healthy – it’s harder to sleep, have sex, eat healthy and exercise when we’re living in fight/flight/freeze mode.

Enter mindfulness. We know that taking a deep breath or stretching tense muscles can provide relief when we’re stressed and anxious. Mindfulness is a practice: a series of techniques designed to short-circuit our instinctual response to stress. We learn – through body awareness, breathing and simple meditation techniques – to pay attention to what is happening in the moment and respond skillfully rather than reactively. When we short-circuit, our stress response good things happen. On a hormonal level, our body can enjoy the benefits of stress’s alter-ego, the relaxation response – better sleep, improved blood flow to our internal organs, improved digestion, less anxiety symptoms. Emotionally, mindfulness creates space for insight, or choice, as we respond differently to stressful situations.

And, mindfulness is more than meditation. At the Moon, we work with a model that teaches simple practices to connect with five “access points” for mindfulness: body, breath, thoughts, awareness and flow. Using these points of practice, mindfulness can infuse daily life.

If you’re interested in learning more, come join us for our Online Mindfulness program . Available as a drop-in or series, this class will lead you through this five-point system and help you develop a personal mindfulness practice that will help heal your body and mind, and create a resilience in the face of stress.

8 Keys to Communicating & Staying Connected During Infertility

Image result for couples communication

Infertility is a trauma that impacts 1 in 10 people. Since it’s so prevalent, then it must be easy for friends and family to understand your feelings, right? Well, as you may have experienced, it’s not.

Often the people you love most, say just the wrong thing. Those who have experienced the pain of infertility often hear things like, “Just relax. Then it’ll happen;” “You should enjoy your time without kids. I’ve got kids and I can’t tell you the last time I got to sleep in or go out to dinner.”

Not only are these types of responses angering, they can be painful. These comments often lead to not sharing feelings in the future. Thus, feeling more and more isolated. Going through infertility is traumatic and just the kind of situation where one needs the most support and care possible. Learning to communicate your feelings with those you trust is an essential skill for surviving infertility.

Here are 8 Keys to Communication During Infertility:

  1. Build awareness of your feelings . This is the very first step to open, productive communication. Understanding oneself and one’s feelings allows for communicating those feelings and needs.

  2. Practice breathing skills. It may sound simple, yet it’s crucial. When communication breaks down it’s often due to at least one person being flooded with emotion. We’ve all been there! Something a person says strikes a nerve and we fire back with a harsh or passive aggressive statement. When we can bring our focus to our breath even for a few seconds, we have a better chance of responding vs. reacting. This leads to a more productive conversation. Try meditation, practice mindfulness , or try Yoga for Fertility to get started.

  3. Talk with someone you trust about your feelings. Perhaps it’s a friend who has always been there for you and is sensitive to your feelings. It can be a parent or a therapist. Just make sure it’s a person that you feel safe talking to. Find your community.

  4. It’s ok to acknowledge hurtful comments. Using simple language like, “When I hear ‘just relax and it’ll happen,’” I feel hurt and frustrated. It makes me feel like I’m doing something wrong.”

  5. Use “I” statements & avoid critical labels. Instead of “You can be so insensitive” try something like, “This is a very painful time for me and I want nothing more than to have a child. So, hearing that I should just enjoy the time feels like a minimization of how important having a family is to me.”

  6. Tell people what you need. A good friend wants to be there for you. She just may not know how. The friend might think that bringing up the topic will make you sad. And maybe you desperately want to talk about it, but expect the friend to ask if she cares. Whether you need her to ask how you’re feeling or to not bring up the topic of kids, let her know.

  7. Vent your feelings to a confidant. Or if you prefer to write your feelings, get a journal and let loose! As you know, it’s important to express your feelings because feelings seep out either directly or indirectly. When we understand our feelings we can respond in a direct way vs. letting our feelings control us.

  8. Know that you can always revisit a conversation. If a conversation didn’t go how you wanted, go back to it. None of us are perfect! There are bound to be miscommunications, hurt feelings, and things left unsaid. Know that you can always try again with a fresh perspective.

If you’d like to work on these skills more or have a particularly challenging dynamic with a friend or family member, feel free to contact me. You are going through one of the most painful experiences in life and are growing stronger through it.

Alison Moran, MA, LCPC

Founder & Psychotherapist

Evolve Counseling & Wellness, Inc.

53 W. Jackson Blvd., Suite 1119, Chicago, IL 60604

825 W. State St., Suite 214, Geneva, IL 60134

p: 312.340.9511

alison@evolvecounseling.com

www.evolvecounseling.com

5 Tips for Strengthening your Relationship During Infertility

The infertility journey can strain even the healthiest of relationships, which is why it’s important to protect your partnership while navigating this process. The end goal of any fertility treatment is a baby, but if you’re going through it with a partner it is essential to prioritize connection and communication. This process can be grueling at times – medications, injections, sperm samples, genetic testing – but maintaining a team approach will help your relationship thrive during (and far beyond!) this process.

  1. Avoid the blame game – PCOS, low sperm count, unexplained infertility – these terms may tempt you to assign blame to your partner. Signing up for partnership means erasing the blame and taking a team approach to whatever comes your way. Make a commitment from day one to resist the urge to place blame.

  1. Seek out fun and connection – Spend a night away, plan a date – connect! Lately I’ve been loving the app “Gottman Card Decks”. It offers helpful questions and conversation starters to deepen intimacy and connection. Regardless of what you do, spend an hour or so intentionally connecting and try not to forget the reasons you chose this person to do life with.

  1. Understand and validate your partner’s perspective – Infertility can bring up feelings of shame, guilt, and loss and it’s important to remember that you might have a different range of emotions from that of your partner. These feelings may be deeply rooted in our hopes and expectations of parenthood. Connect to your partner through this shared experience and encourage him or her whenever you can. If your partner is having an especially difficult day, offer your time and listening ear for support.

  1. Find support – We all have different needs. Perhaps an online community would feel safest for you. Maybe an in-person support group or individual therapy would help your partner process this experience. For some, coffee with a friend who “gets it” meets this need. Even within the infertility world, situations and experiences can vary from person to person. Make sure that both you and your partner are surrounded by a supportive community of people who can hear and empathize with what you’re going through. Infertility is a unique journey that stirs up lots of emotions, don’t go at it alone!

  1. Maintain hope – There’s no doubt that this process can be difficult and at times even discouraging. Try to hold onto hope, knowing that you’re doing everything you can. You may have to put some things on hold while going through the infertility process, but move forward where you can. You’re not alone and there are many people out there who have walked this path before. At the end of the day, remember there is a lot to be hopeful for.

Amanda Atkins is a licensed marriage and family therapist. She practices in Lincoln Square and specializes in perinatal mood disorders and couples & infertility. She can be reached at amanda@amandaatkinschicago.com . Check out more at amandaatkinschicago.com .

Can Holiday Cheer Hinder Your Fertility?

By Diana Zic

As I write this, it’s the start of the holiday season. Some would say it’s the most wonderful time of the year and I would agree, except for the encouragement to do everything in excess. It starts with early commercials from car dealerships and jewelry stores, leading people to believe it’s necessary to buy extravagant gifts, in order to have a joyous holiday (I’m still waiting for my Lexus with a red bow). Then come the food and liquor companies’ ads, promoting their views on how holiday cheer should look and feel. Generally, that picture looks like a cocktail in hand, and a huge table of food nearby, to accompany it. Before I go any further, I want to state that I’m not trying to be the Grinch who stole Christmas, but I find that now, more than at other times of the year, drinking becomes much more prevalent, and acceptable. For example, I received a text from my neighbor: “Feel free to swing by for a glass of wine! We’re drinking all day!” If you’re curious, I didn’t go, as that certainly didn’t sound like a “glass of wine” type of invitation.

In the “pre-pregnant” stage of life, it’s hard to say no when you’re not yet pregnant. Or, you may be in the two-week wait, and don’t want to disclose to your grandmother that you may be pregnant soon. If you are new to pre-pregnant terminology, as referred to in the book, “ It Starts with the Egg ,” this means “protecting your eggs the way you would protect a growing baby if you were pregnant.” So, what’s a hopeful mom to do?

Let’s start with what moderate, and excessive drinking looks like. According to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] , moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day, for men. Excessive, or heavy drinking, is defined as eight drinks or more per week for women, and 15 drinks or more per week, for men. The CDC also recommends that women who are, or may be pregnant, not drink alcohol at all. Oddly, there is no mention that men should not drink while trying to father a child, even though studies indicate that alcohol consumption decreases sperm count, sperm motility, and fertilization rates. Not to mention the oxidative stress alcohol causes throughout the body.

And of course there’s the issue of size, in our oversized culture. If you’re like the pre-research me, you may not have a clear understanding of what one drink actually looked like , because the glass typically given at a restaurant or bar is huge, so let me describe. A standard drink is defined as12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol content); 8 ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content); 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol content); or 1.5 ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey). Now that we understand what moderate and excessive drinking looks like, and what a drink size actually looks like, I was curious if it was okay to have drinks in moderation on my pre-pregnant journey. What I found was quite clear to me. See what you think about these five different studies:

  • First up, during an 18-year period, 252 women underwent infertility examinations and what it revealed was high alcohol consumption increased risk of infertility and fewer first and second trimester pregnancies in those women compared to moderate or low consumers of alcohol.
  • Next up was a bit different, it’s a study done with 430 Danish couples trying to conceive for the first time. They found that women consuming five or fewer drinks per week led to decreased fecundability. That would mean moderate drinking would not be recommended, although they do say further corroboration is needed.
  • Another study done in Denmark, was conducted to determine if alcohol use is a predictor for infertility. It’s finding was interesting as researchers found more problems among women in the later reproductive age group above 30 years of age who were drinking seven or more drinks per week.
  • This study researched whether alcohol consumption affects female fecundability. It indicated that “consumption of 14 or more servings of alcohol a week was slightly associated with reduced fecundability, but consumption of lower amounts seemed to have no discernible effect on fertility. Nonetheless, because the fetus may be particularly vulnerable to alcohol during the first few weeks after conception, it would seem prudent for women who are actively trying to become pregnant to abstain from alcohol during their fertile window until a pregnancy has been ruled out.”
  • Last but not least, there’s data indicating that alcohol has a negative effect on IVF success rates . This study determined that as few as four alcoholic drinks per week are associated with a decrease in IVF live birth rate.

In my personal research on hormonal health, and its connection with the gut, I’ve found that alcohol is an inflammation-causing agent . This means that alcohol can inflame the intestinal track, and hinder nutrients from being absorbed properly. So, if you’re trying to conceive it may be best not to interrupt this process whenever possibly, as being deficient in nutrients can negatively impact upon pregnancy, and pregnancy potential.

After researching the issue, it’s become quite clear to me that steering clear of excessive drinking is important while trying to conceive, whether it’s with assisted reproductive treatment or not, and of course, giving it up while pregnant. Unfortunately, because of the social pressures of the holiday season, avoiding it may be more difficult.

So here’s my trick. It works every time! Have sparkling water in a glass with a lemon or lime wedge. Most people will think you’re drinking a cocktail.

I wish you the best of luck on your journey, and happy holidays!

Diana Zic is a Health and Wellness Coach specializing in fertility health, Yoga Instructor (RYT) and Prenatal Yoga Instructor (RPYT) in Chicago, Illinois. Struggling to start her own family, she has devoted herself to learning how our lifestyles can affect our fertility health. She has made it her mission to help individuals with fertility challenges get balanced in their bodies so they can be in the most healthful place while trying to conceive.

Get to know Diana at the Pulling Down the Moon by joining her Yoga for Fertility Class!

Don’t know what Yoga for Fertility is all about? Check out the research here . Save your spot in a FREE class here .

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