Ways to Cope and Connect As Fertility Treatments Hit Pause
On March 17, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued guidelines (similar to those issued in Europe and Canada) to put most fertility treatments and IVF cycles on hold — a huge blow to couples eager to get pregnant. In fact, a petition led by Texas-based MD Beverly G. Reed has demanded the pause be lifted. There are some exceptions to the case, including patients with cancer who want to preserve their fertility before undergoing chemo, but for most of the 15 percent of couples who experience infertility the guidelines add another WTF to an already stressful situation.
Here are ways to ease the added stress that might come from all this uncertainty.
Connect with other women. Going through the process of fertility treatments can feel isolating but going through it while also socially isolating? So much harder on the psyche. Seek out women who are going through a similar experience to feel less alone and perhaps more hopeful. Peanut, the social networking app for moms launched a Trying To Conceive section on the app and it's become a popular community for women experiencing fertility challenges. During COVID-19 alone, there's been a 110 percent increase in comments in the section as women seek support, advice and connections during this trying time. Find your community, a friend, a therapist to help you manage all the emotions of undergoing fertility treatment.
Remind yourself that it's temporary. There is no "right" way to react to the news. Your feelings are your feelings and valid for what you are experiencing. But there is some hope in knowing that this is temporary. In fact, many clinics are planning to open up this month (it varies state by state). "It's going to be a gradual process, and it's not open, from our perspective, for everyone," says Dr. Mark Surrey, associate director at the Southern California Reproductive Center. "And some of the treatments are limited, still, such as performing embryo transfers." However, according to Dr. Surrey, when it comes to embryo transfers "it doesn't matter whether it's a month or a year. I know there's a social rush for many people to conceive from an embryo transfer as soon as possible, but there really isn't a medical necessity for that, correspondingly."
Meditate to manage the stress. There are plenty of self care ways to lift your spirits and regain focus that you can choose to do solo or with your partner. "Meditation, breath work, and guided imagery can be powerful tools," says Dr. Tieraona Low Dog, chief medical advisor at MegaFood. "Find those rituals that hold meaning for you and integrate them into your life. Especially in this time of uncertainty, mindful practices can help put you at ease and empower your body to function at its best." (A resource to check out, suggests Dr. Low Dog, is CCRM TV for wellness tips and guidance as you navigate your fertility journey.)
Keep an eye on your health and fitness. Diet and lifestyle changes can make a difference too. "Light, low-impact exercise during this time will help to release endorphins, which make you feel good," she says. Go for walks, find open spaces and nature, try an online workout that helps keep your mood balanced. Getting adequate sleep helps too, adds Dr. Surrey.
Partner up on taking your vitamins. "Support from antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C, D, B, and anti-inflammatory agents such as curcumin have been suggested to encourage or preserve fertility," says Dr. Surrey. "Pregnancy is a time of rapid growth and development and you want to ensure that you have key nutrients on board before conception," adds Dr. Low Dog. "Look for a prenatal that contains folate, B6, iron and iodine." (She recommends MegaFood Baby & Me 2, which she helped formulate.) Of course, consult your doctor when deciding on a prenatal nutrition plan.
Research shows a man's health and nutrition can play a role in his fertility too. In fact, male infertility accounts for one-third of all infertility cases, usually due to low sperm count, so men should follow prenatal health and fitness guidelines too. Dr. Low Dog recommends that men remain as active as possible, reduce alcohol intake, stop smoking, eat a healthy diet and take a male prenatal — "they contain nutrients and antioxidants that support men's sperm, like selenium, zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E," she adds.Learn more ways to de-stress when you're struggling with infertility on Brit.co.
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Theresa Gonzalez is a content creator based in San Francisco and the author of Sunday Sews. She's a lover of all things design and spends most of her days momming her little one Matilda.