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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 August 20, 2019

        How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

        How to Control Your Thoughts and Be the Master of Your Mind

        Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

        Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality. (And here’s Why Your Perception Is Your Reality.)

        I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

        You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

        Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

        When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

        I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

        Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

        Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

        Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

        1. The Inner Critic

        This is your constant abuser who is often a conglomeration of:

        • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
        • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
        • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
        • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

        The Inner Critic is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

        Why else would this person abuse you? And since this person is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

        2. The Worrier

        This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

        The Worrier is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it. Occasionally, this person is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

        3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

        This is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

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        This person can be set off by words or feelings, and can even be set off by sounds and smells.

        The Reactor has no real motivation and has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

        4. The Sleep Depriver

        This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

        The Sleep Depriver’s motivation can be:

        • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
        • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
        • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
        • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

        How can you control these squatters?

        How to Master Your Mind

        You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

        Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

        There are two ways to control your thoughts:

        • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
        • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

        This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

        The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

        Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier; and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

        For the Inner Critic

        When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

        You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

        For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

        You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

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        “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

        If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

        • They rile up the Worrier.
        • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
        • They are often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
        • They are a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
        • They are the destroyer of self-esteem. They convince you that you’re not worthy. They’re a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get them out!

        Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

        Replace them with your new best friends who support, encourage, and enhance your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

        For the Worrier

        Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

        Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

        You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

        • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
        • Muscles tense

        Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

        If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

        Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

        “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

        Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

        If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

        Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

        Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

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        For example:

        If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

        “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

        Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

        “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

        Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

        For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

        Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

        The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

        • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
        • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
        • Muscles tension

        I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

        Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

        Breathe in through your nose:

        • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
        • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
        • Focus on your belly rising.

        Breathe out through your nose:

        • Feel your lungs emptying.
        • Focus on your belly falling.
        • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

        Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

        Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

        One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

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        Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

        For the Sleep Depriver

        (They’re made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

        I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

        Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

        1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
        2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

        When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

        From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

        For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

        If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

        You can also use this technique any time you want to:

        • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
        • Shut down your thinking.
        • Calm your feelings.
        • Simply focus on the present moment. 

        The Bottom Line

        Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

        You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

        Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

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        Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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