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How is COVID-19 impacting your fertility plans?
Amidst the pandemic, so many of us women have experienced additional strain.
Perhaps your treatments have been stopped, delayed, or reduced to basic procedures, leaving you feeling desperate as the process is drawn out even longer.
Or maybe you feel this new normal of wearing masks, limited social interaction, and the uncertainty of the future is affecting your mental health. If you’re among the one in four women experiencing anxiety (did you know we are five times more likely to develop anxiety than men?), the current state of the world can certainly intensify underlying worries.
This is an unprecedented situation for all of us and can understandably throw us off our well-planned fertility journey in upsetting ways.
As a fertility coach, I have spoken to many women during the last few months who share similar concerns to yours.
Please know you are not alone in this.
Clinics that have chosen to stop, delay, or reduce treatments are doing what they can to protect you and your partner, their staff, and to also comply with state and national regulations.
While we may be upset about further delaying the journey of starting a family, we should all be saying thank you to the medical workers for all the work they do and the responsible approach they are taking.
We can still turn lemons into lemonade. We can use COVID as a chance to get our bodies and minds as baby-friendly as possible.
One of my clients reported that she conceived during the lockdown after not having conceived after years of trying. She attributes it to lower stress, more nourishing food (yes, including chocolate and that occasional glass of wine), and more quality time with her partner.
Might as well give it a try, no?
Many women report feeling their time is running out as a result of delayed fertility treatments. While age is a key factor impacting fertility as the ovarian reserve and quality of eggs decreases over time, these few months will not move the needle in a fundamental way. If we were talking about years it would be a different story, but your fertility will not decline rapidly within a few months, keeping all things equal.
More importantly, age is by far not the only factor impacting fertility. Genetic disposition, weight, lifestyle, and stress are important factors too.
Here are some key things that are in your control and that you can do right now so your body and mind are prepared in the best possible way when you can resume full treatments.
1. Try to limit stress.
Stress and fertility are not helpful friends.
You probably experienced the inherent stress that infertility brings with it, so I encourage you to limit your overall stress as much as possible as it can significantly impact fertility.
It is never too late to calm your nervous system and let it know that you are safe, relaxed, and ready to conceive. The release of cortisol, common in stress, sends a message to your brain that you are in physical danger—that you might get eaten by a lion (because deep in our brains, we are still cavewomen).
Prolonged stress releases so much cortisol that it may suppress and create an imbalance of your reproductive hormones such as luteinizing hormone (LH), which affects ovulation; follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which affects egg growth; and progesterone, which affects implantation.
So how can you lower your stress levels on a daily basis?
COVID might actually be helping you here. By working from home, your commute probably turned into a short walk from the bedroom to the living room or kitchen. Appreciate less stress from driving or taking public transport.
COVID also most probably means an empty social calendar. While we need social connections as human beings, how did it feel to slow down and not be busy running from one social event to the next?
Many of us may have turned into half couch potatoes, bread-baking geniuses, or gardening lovers. All these homebound activities signal to our brain that we are in a safe and comfortable place, more ready to conceive, and able to sustain a healthy pregnancy.
Review some of your new habits, hobbies, and ways of going through your day during COVID.
Which ones felt good and can be integrated into your life going forward?
Try mind-body connection techniques, as research has shown that they can increase IVF success rates by 52 percent. These mind-body tools include daily relaxation, visualization, breathing, and yoga.
My favorite technique is a daily visualization.
2. Improve your diet.
A balanced diet has been found to balance our reproductive hormones, improve egg quality, improve the uterine lining, and lower inflammation.
Think of how you can improve your diet going forward and introduce as many fresh, organic, and wholesome foods as possible while limiting processed, sugary foods, and saturated fats.
Consider using this time to speak to a health practitioner or nutritionist about taking supplements to boost your fertility.
Some common ones to look into:
>> Folic acid/folate
>> Vitamin D
>> Vitamin E
>> Vitamin B complex
>> A good probiotic
>> Fish oil
>> Oh, and some women swear by Maca powder (though it’s not everyone’s taste).
3. Be kind to yourself
This is closely related to reducing your stress and its beneficial effects on reproductive hormones.
My number one tool to release mental stress is to express gratitude.
Ask yourself: what am I grateful for today? Write it down in the morning or at night. Do it for at least 21 days and watch the results. You will feel calmer and more grounded.
Our inner critic often has the loudest voice, so I invite you to soften that voice, take the pressure off, and be incredibly kind to yourself.
Tell yourself (even if you don’t always believe it—your subconscious will take it in):
>> I am doing enough.
>> I have enough time.
>> I am healthy.
>> I am exactly where I am supposed to be on my journey.
>> I am beautiful, inside and outside.
>> I am on my way to becoming a mother.
>> Progress, not perfection.
What are your small and big victories or concerns around fertility in times of COVID?
I’d be curious to hear from you and share your stories with all these other women out there who might really benefit from knowing they are not alone.