The goal of fertility treatments is to begin – or add to – a connected, loving and vibrant family. The devastating irony for many women, is that the fertility treatment process leaves them feeling lonely, stressed-out or that they’re failing at what “everyone else” seems to do so effortlessly – conceive a healthy baby.
If that sounds familiar to you, it’s time to take a deep breath and begin practicing compassionate self-care. Manis-pedis and massages are certainly self-care bonuses, but we have non-traditional self-care recommendations for you as well.
Self-Care Softens the Effects of Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are the enemies of fertility health, and yet they’re an inevitable part of the fertility journey. This puts you right in the middle of the proverbial rock-and-a-hard-place. A self-care plan softens those hard edges and manage the negative emotions that arise as you proceed through your fertility treatment plan.
Here are some examples of things you can do to take care of yourself along the way.
Find a great fertility counselor
There are plenty of MFTs, LCSWs and PhDs who are both compassionate therapists and experts in the realm of fertility counseling. In fact, the large majority of fertility counselors have walked the same path as you, so you are talking to a professional, mental-emotional health expert who has knowledge and wisdom, along with genuine sympathy.
Fertility counseling provides emotional support and stress/anxiety management tools to forge a healthier path ahead and to weigh the pros and cons of more difficult fertility solutions - such as the use of donor egg/sperm or a gestational surrogate. The therapist will also help you and your partner keep romantic and intimate connections alive.
Click Here to find a licensed fertility counselor near you.
Acupuncture has been used in Eastern medicine to treat infertility for thousands of years, and it’s also known for reducing stress and anxiety. Now, western medicine is catching on and multiple studies have shown the benefits of acupuncture – specifically related to IVF success.
Ask your fertility specialist to refer you to an acupuncturist (some clinics even have existing partnerships with local acupuncturists specializing in fertility); in addition to helping you relax and de-stress as part of your self-care plan, acupuncture will also support your next fertility treatment.
Be kind…to yourself
How often do you criticize yourself or find yourself in a verbally-abusive inner-monologue focused on your infertility issues? Begin practicing kindness towards yourself. When you catch yourself berating the way you look or all the things you can’t do right, etc., take some deep breaths and restructure your narrative more positively. Need a little help along those lines?
Try practicing this Guided Loving Kindness Meditation, created by renowned American spiritual teacher, Sharon Saltzberg. Gratitude journals work wonders in this arena as well.
Free yourself – and your Calendar - of the non-essentials
Practicing self-care requires Time, something most busy adults lack. In an interview with Healthline, one woman shared that clearing her schedule of the non-essentials during IVF cycles, “…allowed me the space I needed to go to appointments without rushing or scheduling conflicts. It gave me room to do things that relaxed and uplifted me and allowed me to process and grieve when our second cycle failed.”
Take a break from fertility treatments
Multiple fertility treatment failures have a devastating impact – and each one deserves to be honored and processed. If you’ve had more than one fertility treatment failure, speak to your specialist about taking a break.
This much-needed “You Time” provides space and energy to rekindle relationships with yourself, your partner, family and friends and reclaim the life that is Yours – without the monotony of the fertility gauntlet. Afterward, you’ll feel more open, spacious and ready to face fertility treatments head-on again.