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Five Things To Know Before Starting Fertility Treatment

Five Things To Know Before Starting Fertility Treatment

If you want to start a family, but are struggling to get pregnant you may feel that your world is over. However, you need to know that you are not alone. Statistics show that one in six couples will suffer from infertility and require treatment.  Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after one year of unprotected sex (this is reduced to 6 months for women over 35 years old). [1]

It is important to realise a diagnosis of infertility does not mean that all hope is lost, there are many options available for couples who are struggling to conceive naturally.

Couple hugging

    The following are some of the most important things to remember when you are considering and undergoing infertility treatment.

    1. Understand the fertility treatment options and which is best for you.

    It is impossible to know what option is likely to best for you as a couple without getting professional advice, however, your clinician or specialist does not need to be the only source of information. There are excellent sources of information both online and from various organisations including fertility clinics and charities.

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    Often when people think of fertility treatment they immediately think of IVF, however, this is just one option amongst a wide selection including surgery, drug treatment and surrogacy.[2]

    If you are not suitable for one type of treatment there will be others which can work for you, taking the time to understand what is possible will reduce the stress of the whole experience.

    2. Ensure you are fit and healthy for fertility treatment

    As with any pregnancy, it is good practice to ensure you are as fit and healthy as you can be. Improving your diet will ensure you have healthy eggs and sperm. A healthy diet for conception should include:

    fruit and veg
      • Plenty of fruit and vegetables – try adding fruit with your breakfast and green vegetables or salad with your main meals
      • Complex carbohydrates – these include whole grains such as brown rice, oats and wholemeal bread. Simple changes like using brown rice instead of white and enjoying wholemeal bread instead of processed white will help.
      • Try to include oily fish, nuts, seeds and natural oils
      • Increase the amount of fibre you eat
      • Reduce the amount of red meat you eat
      • Try to avoid additives, preservatives and chemicals including artificial sweeteners
      • Reduce or avoid sugar – be aware of the amount of sugar in manufactured food.
      • Reduce or eliminate caffeine, e.g. coffee, tea, chocolate, colas and alcohol
      • Try to drink at least 1½ litres of fresh water per day, this will help your hormone balance and blood flow.

      You should look to reduce your alcohol intake and of course quit smoking. Following these simple steps will increase the chance of your treatment being successful.

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      3. Consider your age

      When considering treatments such as IVF, age is important. Doctors can support your biology and will do their best to help you become pregnant however they cannot change your body.

      A survey in 2006 showed the average age of a mother at the birth of her first child was 25 (up from 21.4 in 1970).[3] Statistics are now showing that many couples are planning to wait until they are at least 30 before starting a family stating that focusing on their career or being able to afford to start a family being the major reasons stated for the delay in starting a family.

      Whereas the reasons for the delay are understandable, couples should be aware that the later you leave having a family the more difficult it may become.

      Fertility Treatment - IVF Success rates by age

        As you can see from the chart, once you reach 35 years old your chances of having a successful pregnancy via IVF reduces rapidly. It is a similar case for natural pregnancy with the risk of miscarriage or Down syndrome increasing above the age of 35, and you are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy.

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        This does not mean that you cannot have a family if you are above the age of 35, however, you should ensure you are aware of the risks and speak to specialists to ensure you are provided with the most suitable infertility treatment. If you are told that treatment is not advisable you should not give up hope, there are options like surrogacy, fostering or adoption.

        4. Understand this is going to be a stressful journey…

        Going through any form of infertility treatment is going to be a long and often stressful journey for both of you, statistics show 61% of couples feel infertility is more stressful than divorce [4] You need to be a strong team and be prepared to support each other. The outcome is highly likely to be positive, however, the light at the end of the tunnel may seem a long way away.

        Your partner needs to understand that, with your hormones unbalanced due to infertility drugs or pregnancy, you may have moments when anything they do will be wrong or that you will be over emotional and stressed. Certain fertility drugs can cause mood swings and you both need to be aware of this and be ready to support each other.

        Infertility treatment will be series of highs and lows. It may be that the first attempt of any treatment fails to achieve the successful pregnancy you crave, the pressure and stress of waiting for a positive result only to find it has not occurred can be crushing. In IVF, for example, you will be told to give the process three full cycles which, for a woman under 40 years old, will generally yield a greater than 70% success rate. After this, if you are part of the small percentage for which this treatment fails, there are still other options available to you.

        You need to build a strong team around you, with your partner and supportive members of your family (you have the right to be selective and pick those who will help you on your journey!) There are also online groups and Facebook groups where you can meet like minded couples and get shared advice and support. Of course, you have your medical professionals you can turn to when you need to. Remember, whatever happens, you are not who are not alone and there are people who can help you.

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        Ensure that you make time for yourself, even if it is just five minutes per day to relax and reduce your stress levels.[5]

        5. All’s not lost…

        After struggling to conceive naturally it can feel that you will never hold your own child, you may feel like a failure or that you have let your partner down. None of this is true.  You are not a failure and you are not alone, many thousands of couples are going through the same feelings right now and many more thousands now have their own families thanks to successful infertility treatment or surrogacy.

        Infertility treatment is changing all the time, for example in 2016 scientists were able to sustain the life of an embryo beyond the seven days previously thought possible. This innovation will allow doctors to better monitor the embryo and improve the chances of successful implantation. [6]

        It is true infertility treatment will seem stressful at times, however, the potential outcome will make it all worthwhile!

        Reference

        [1] CDC:  https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/
        [2] Fertility Treatment Options: https://www.growinggenerations.com/about-us/fertility-treatment-options/
        [3] Mathews TJ, Hamilton BE. Delayed childbearing: More women are having their first child later in life. NCHS data brief, no 21. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2009.
        [4] RMANJ: Infertility In America 2015: http://www.rmanj.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/RMANJ_Infertility-In-America-SurveyReport-_04152015.pdf
        [5] 5 Minutes a Day to Find Happiness: http://www.lifehack.org/454873/5-minutes-a-day-to-find-happiness
        [6] IVF Research: https://www.growinggenerations.com/news/new-study-promotes-ivf-success-rates/

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        Last Updated on November 9, 2020

        10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

        10 Real Reasons Why Breaking Bad Habits Is So Difficult

        Bad habits expose us to suffering that is entirely avoidable. Unfortunately, breaking bad habits is difficult because they are 100% dependent on our mental and emotional state.

        Anything we do that can prove harmful to us is a bad habit – drinking, drugs, smoking, procrastination, poor communication are all examples of bad habits. These habits have negative effects on our physical, mental, and emotional health.

        Humans are hardwired to respond to stimuli and to expect a consequence of any action. This is how habits are acquired: the brain expects to be rewarded a certain way under certain circumstances. How you initially responded to certain stimuli is how your brain will always remind you to behave when the same stimuli are experienced.

        If you visited the bar close to your office with colleagues every Friday, your brain will learn to send you a signal to stop there even when you are alone and eventually not just on Fridays. It will expect the reward of a drink after work every day, which can potentially lead to a drinking problem.

        Kicking negative behavior patterns and steering clear of them requires a lot of willpower, and there are many reasons why breaking bad habits is so difficult.

        1. Lack of Awareness or Acceptance

        Breaking a bad habit is not possible if the person who has it is not aware that it is a bad one.

        Many people will not realize that their communication skills are poor or that their procrastination is affecting them negatively, or even that the drink they had as a nightcap has now increased to three.

        Awareness brings acceptance. Unless a person realizes on their own that a habit is bad, or someone manages to convince them of the same, there is very little chance of the habit being kicked.

        2. No Motivation

        Going through a divorce, not being able to cope with academic pressure, and falling into debt are instances that can bring a profound sense of failure with them. A person going through these times can fall into a cycle of negative thinking where the world is against them and nothing they can do will ever help, so they stop trying altogether.

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        This give-up attitude is a bad habit that just keeps coming around. Being in debt could make you feel like you are failing at maintaining your home, family, and life in general.

        If you are looking to get out of a rut and feel motivated, take a look at this article: Why Is Internal Motivation So Powerful (And How to Find It)

        3. Underlying Psychological Conditions

        Psychological conditions such as depression and ADD can make it difficult to start breaking bad habits.

        A depressed person may find it difficult to summon the energy to cook a healthy meal, resulting in food being ordered in or consumption of packaged foods. This could lead to a habit that adversely affects health and is difficult to overcome.

        A person with ADD may start to clean their house but get distracted soon after, leaving the task incomplete, eventually leading to a state where it is acceptable to live in a house that is untidy and dirty.

        The fear of missing out (FOMO) is very real to some people. Obsessively checking their social media and news sources, they may believe that not knowing of something as soon as it is published can be catastrophic to their social standing.

        4. Bad Habits Make Us Feel Good

        One of the reasons it is difficult to break habits is that a lot of them make us feel good.[1]

        We’ve all been there – the craving for a tub of ice cream after a breakup or a casual drag on a joint, never to be repeated until we miss how good it made us feel. We succumb to the craving for the pleasure felt while indulging in it, cementing it as a habit even while we are aware it isn’t good for us.

        Overeating is a very common bad habit. Just another pack of chips, a couple of candies, a large soda… none of these are necessary for survival. We want them because they give us comfort. They’re familiar, they taste good, and we don’t even notice when we progress from just one extra slice of pizza to four.

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        You can read this article to learn more: We Do What We Know Is Bad for Us, Why?

        5. Upward Comparisons

        Comparisons are a bad habit that many of us have been exposed to since we were children. Parents might have compared us to siblings, teachers may have compared us to classmates, and bosses could compare us to past and present employees.

        The people who have developed the bad habit of comparing themselves to others have been given incorrect yardsticks for measurement from the start.

        These people will always find it difficult to break out of this bad habit because there will always be someone who has it better than they do: a better house, better car, better job, higher income and so on.

        Research shows that in the age of social media, social comparisons are much easier and can ultimately harm self-esteem if scrolling becomes a bad habit[2].

        6. No Alternative

        This is a real and valid reason why breaking bad habits is difficult. These habits could fulfill a need that may not be met any other way.

        Someone who has physical or psychological limitations, such as a disability or social anxiety, may find it hard to quit obsessive content consumption for better habits.

        Alternately, a perfectly healthy person may be unable to quit smoking because alternates are just not working out.

        Similarly, a person who bites their nails when anxious may be unable to relieve stress in any other socially accepted manner.

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        7. Stress

        As mentioned above, anything that stresses us out can lead to adopting and cementing an unhealthy habit.

        When a person is stressed about something, it is easy for bad habits to form because the mental resources required to fight them are not available[3].

        We often see a person who had previously managed to kick a bad habit fall back into the old ways because they felt their stress couldn’t be managed any other way.

        If you need some help reducing stress, check out the following video for some healthy ways to get started:

        8. Sense of Failure

        People looking to kick bad habits may feel a strong sense of failure because it’s just that difficult.

        Dropping a bad habit usually means changes in lifestyle that people may be unwilling to make, or these changes might not be easy to make in spite of the will to make them.

        Overeaters need to empty their house of unhealthy food, resist the urge to order in, and not pick up their standard grocery items from the store. Those who drink too much need to avoid the bars or even people who drink often.

        If such people slip even once with a glass of wine, or a smoke, or a bag of chips, they tend to be excessively harsh on themselves and feel like failures.

        9. The Need to Be All-New

        People who are looking to break bad habits feel they need to re-create themselves in order to break themselves of their bad habits, while the truth is the complete opposite.

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        These people actually need to go back to who they were before they developed the bad habit and try to create good habits from there.

        10. Force of Habit

        Humans are creatures of habit, and having familiar, comforting outcomes for daily triggers helps us maintain a sense of balance in our lives.

        Consider people who are used to lighting up a cigarette every time they talk on the phone or eating junk food when watching TV. They will always associate a phone call with a puff on the cigarette and screen time with eating.

        These habits, though bad, are a source of comfort to them, as is meeting with those people they indulge in these bad habits with.

        Final Thoughts

        These are the main reasons why breaking bad habits is difficult, but the good news is that the task is not impossible. Breaking habits takes time, and you’ll need to put long-term goals in place to replace a bad habit with a good one.

        There are many compassionate, positive and self-loving techniques to kick bad habits. The internet is rich in information regarding bad habits, their effects and how to overcome them, while professional help is always available for those who feel they need it.

        More on Breaking Bad Habits

        Featured photo credit: NORTHFOLK via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] After Skool: Why Do Bad Habits Feel SO GOOD?
        [2] Psychology of Popular Media Culture: Social comparison, social media, and self-esteem.
        [3] Stanford Medicine: Examining how stress affects good and bad habits

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