4 Simple Strategies for Enhancing Your Fertility
When I was going through our fertility journey, I was drawn to anything I could "do" to get pregnant fast. I did all kinds of things from the silly to the ill-informed in an effort to find something that would "solve" the problem.
None of those things worked. There are no quick fixes, unfortunately, for infertility. Even if you are doing "all of the things", in the right way, there's no guarantee of success. You can't study or train or "just work harder" to become pregnant.
And that sucks.
But, the good news is, you can adjust your lifestyle, mindset, and perspective to increase the likelihood. And along the way, you may find your perspective changing in a way that makes the process easier, makes you more open to possibilities for building hope and acceptance.
And that, my friends, is where things get good.
I didn't always have this attitude of acceptance and gentleness. Early on in my journey, I tried very, very, hard to "muscle through". I've been a runner since middle school and a Type A person since birth, so the idea of training harder, scheduling and planning better, finding the answer somewhere "out there" was very natural. I told myself to "try harder" and that I wasn't "good enough" in some way.
Nothing during that time seemed to go right.
So I went another direction. Into one of caring for my whole being - mind, body, and spirit. Going through an IVF cycle became more than a transaction of medicine and procedures followed by waiting and disappointment. Instead, it became something I prepared my body and my mind for...something that became ritualistic and welcome. I ate food with intention to ensure it was digested efficiently and could nourish all of my body. I moved with purpose to draw blood to my abdomen. I rested so that my systems could replenish and my blood could bathe my organs with oxygen and nutrients so they could perform at their optimum levels. And I pictured all of this happening on a regular basis. I spent time breathing, intentionally letting go of my plan and my timing, focusing on life as I had it and being grateful for that. I signed up for classes that I'd always been curious about - because I could and, if things went the way I wanted to - I might not have that opportunity for awhile. I sought out a doctor I trusted, an acupuncturist who helped me see the organic side of the process, and a few close friends who had been through IVF before.
And it worked. That was preparation for our third round of IVF which resulted in a healthy, full-term, baby boy.
I meet with women regularly who have tried many, many, things to get pregnant and they are exhausted and spent. They don't know where to turn. We talk and evaluate the list. Often, the long, overwhelming, and stressful list can be trimmed to just a few simple things. And the resulting positivity, calmness, and self-compassion can make all the difference.
If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, and frustrated with your fertility-enhancing plan, I invite you to consider one of these simple strategies. You could be amazed at the results.
- Focus on nourishing foods
I truly believe what we eat impacts our fertility. I don't believe, though, that a fertility diet needs to be restrictive or a form of stress. If it becomes that, I don't believe it all that helpful.
Fertility diets have a few common elements: lots of vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, low sugar, low-pesticide or organic, and whole, fresh, foods rather than packaged or processed. In a word: nourishing.
Your body is a machine and, when you're trying to get pregnant, you're asking it to work overtime to create life. No small feat when you think about it. While it may be natural, it doesn't mean it is simple or easy. So think of nourishment, of nurturing or feeding your future baby, of cleaning or oiling the machine, or another metaphor that helps you see food as fuel, the diet as welcome, and helps you feel abundance rather than denial. Give yourself the freedom to follow the plan 80% of the time if that helps. Keep things in perspective...one or couple of slip ups is not going to be the reason you didn't get pregnant.
- Prioritize sleep
We all know we need sleep. Our bodies need it to recuperate from the work of the day, to restore balance in our hormones, reduce stress, and curb inflammation - among other benefits. And, if you're trying to have a baby, lower stress, balanced hormones, and reduced inflammation can be game changers when it comes to your ability to conceive.
Setting up healthy sleep habits can start with a few simple steps: turn off electronics (TV, phone, tablet, etc.) at least 2 hours before bedtime, create a nighttime routine, and aim for a schedule that allows you at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
- Gather your circle of support
You aren't alone on this journey. In fact, you probably are surrounded by people who are influencing your experience.
Take a minute to write down everyone who is part of your team. What role, or position, do they play? Are they helpful or hurtful in this role? Do you trust them to perform in this role? If the answer to this is that they are hurtful or you don't trust them, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate their place on the team.
Then ask yourself what is missing. What role do you need to fill on the team? Most often, when I talk with women the piece that is missing is emotional support. Their partner or spouse is great, their doctor or clinic is trusted, their acupuncturist is skilled, if friends are aware they are helpful. But none of these fully fills the need for validation, encouragement, and the comfort that comes from hearing "I know what you're going through."
If you need to add emotional support players on your team, but aren't sure where to start, consider these options: get matched with a mentor, find a local support group, or talk with someone who's been there.
And, don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Speak up with your doctor when you have a question. Set intentional time to talk with your partner about how you're feeling - and find out what he's thinking, too. Tell a friend what you're going through.
- Create quiet moments
When we get lost in the busy, we lose sight of why we're doing all of this anyway. We can get discouraged, frustrated, orlose hope.
One way to add peace, and lower stress, to our fertility plan is to find time to be still. There are lots of ways to do this - and none that needs to take a lot of time, cost money, or be done masterfully to help. Try a breathing exercise, writing down your thoughts in a journal, visualizing your body working toward pregnancy, praying, meditating, reading or writing positive affirmations, or any other number of ways you can think of that help you connect with your heart, your motivation, and your courage.
I hope these suggestions are helpful. I hope you allow yourself grace and flexibility in your fertility plan. And, I wish you all the very best as you pursue your family.