Posts Tagged ‘east bay infertility’

Frequently I get phone calls about whether a group or individual counseling would be appropriate.  And when is it time to get the support for infertility issues?

The sooner the better…as soon as you realize infertility might be an issue call around and get some support.  Unfortunately many of the clinics around do not mention how emotional and isolating infertility can be for a couple.  Usually they have resources if you ask for them, but most couples in the beginning don’t realize they need support.  What I typically see is the couple or individual who come to me after months and even years of battling infertility by themselves.  I realize treatments are expensive, but counseling should be considered as part of the package and journey.  Most of my clients wished they had gotten support sooner and feel not alone once they do get the support. Ironically, or not, most usually get pregnant within a few months of joining a group or getting individual counseling.

Group or individual?  I think this depends on you and the couple.  I think it is important for the couple to be seen either in a group or individually right away.  It is a couple’s issue not just the woman’s problem…unless you are of course doing this alone, which many women are these days.  Some people are uncomfortable in a group setting and need time to warm up to the idea of just sharing their story with a stranger. Or maybe they just have experienced a traumatic miscarriage and need individual time to process those feelings before entering a group setting. Those people should start with a therapist first.  The group experience is very powerful and healing. It offers something individual work cannot.  Try both is what I suggest, when appropriate.  Most groups are only a 4-6 session commitment and individual work is done on a per session basis.  Whatever you do definitely get support because infertility can be a lonely journey and it doesn’t have to be.

My group is Fridays in Oakland at 6:30 biweekly.  Half of the group just got pregnant on the same cycle!  So now we have some newcomers and I look forward to their good news in the next few months as well. That is how it works.  80% of the group gets pregnant eventually!


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Is your infertility causing you stress? If so, read this article to find out what you can do to help reduce your stress.

We all know that infertility is stressful. Research suggests stress makes you less likely to conceive. Additionally, research has determined that the major reason for dropping out of fertility treatment is not finances, diagnosis, or prognosis, but stress.

Conversely, studies report stress reduction groups not only decrease depression and anxiety, but also result in significantly higher pregnancy rates. For example, in a study by Alice Domar, Ph.D. (Domar et al. 2000) of 184 women, there was a 55% pregnancy rate for the Mind-body fertility group compared to a 20% pregnancy rate for the control group. Managing stress enables you to make the best choices possible, stay the course of treatment, remain open to all family building options, and realize your dream of parenthood.

Our minds have the power to influence our health both physically and emotionally. Emotions represent physiological states that affect our bodies and our physical health in the same way as exercise, diabetes, or asthma. Stress reduction through the practice of mindfulness, or moment-to moment non-judgmental awareness, is now a vital component of medical treatment for a wide range of health challenges.

Discussing how the stress of infertility is affecting your life and receiving support and coping skills can help lead the way through this difficult journey. If you are interested in receiving further support and you are in the Oakland area contact me about getting into one of our support groups.  amoreena@gmail.com

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What to expect from infertility counseling from me, whether it is in a group , individual, or through couples counseling.

Individuals and couples with infertility often contemplate whether to seek counseling.  Some approach this decision with ease, but many others have questions about what is involved in a counseling relationship. In today’s blog, I will offer an inside view on the beliefs that have guided my counseling experiences with my infertile clients.

In my own experience, my first contact with a client usually is in a telephone conversation. On the telephone I try to learn how the prospective client (almost always a woman) defines the problem(s) she wants to work on; what her partner’s feelings are about being involved in counseling; whether she or her partner has ever been involved in counseling before; at what stage of diagnosis/treatment they are; and where they are currently getting medical intervention. I then offer a bit of information about myself, including possible appointment times that I have available; fees and insurance coverage information; and my office location. I also ask whether she has any questions that she would like to ask me before we meet. Then we set a date and time for the appointment or when the next support group is that is appropriate for her to join. Not all clients are ready for a support group and not all groups are appropriate for everyone.  Some groups have a specific focus and others are more open format.

So here are some things that are typical of my first meeting with my new clients. It is not unusual for the person with whom I have spoken on the telephone to take the lead in introducing me to her partner and in saying something along the lines of “I think I’m going crazy!” or “I don’t know how much more stress I can take.” And my response to that introduction is usually to point to my nearby box of tissues and to say that being upset comes with the territory of infertility. I also try to work in something about the courage it takes to begin a relationship with a counselor, since getting help will involve talking about difficult issues.

I ask both of them if they are comfortable with my taking notes as we speak, since I want to be sure to remember accurately how they portray their situations. And then I say that in my experience, each of them may have their own unique “take” on their infertility, so I will be encouraging both of them to clarify for me the dimensions of this experience that are important to them. This also opens the door for them to see each other’s perspective and to learn how important it may be to keep both perspectives on the table. It is here that I say to the partner of the telephone caller how much I appreciate his/her coming to this meeting, and how much I believe that person’s presence can help all of us to move forward in working on the issues connected with their infertility.

With those introductory remarks, I remind all of us that we have work to do, that our session will end in “X” minutes (I meet with clients for 50 minute sessions), and I encourage them to tell me how they hope I can be of help. I am careful to have both members of the couple speak about their own perspectives and to summarize my impressions of what seem to be the most pressing issues. I am interested in knowing how the couple has already tried to address their challenges and what successes and difficulties they have encountered. That will more than fill up the first session, and probably will spill over into subsequent sessions as well. Before ending, I ask the couple how they are feeling about the time we spent together today, whether they would like to return and, if so, whether this is a good time for regular future appointments, and whether I can look forward to having both of them at subsequent sessions. I tell them that after a few sessions I should be able to give them some idea of how many meetings we may need in order to address their concerns, and I express my appreciation for their openness in sharing with me today the challenges they are facing. I ask if they have any questions for me, which I try to answer as succinctly as I can.

I do not think of myself as a therapist who lets my clients entirely drive the counseling process. I tend to be fairly interactive in offering feedback to clients on their skills and resources. I am respectful of the social work edict “Start where the client is and stay with him/her.” To me this means that I should be respectful of where my clients want to focus, but it doesn’t prevent me from testing whether they are ready to be pushed to new places. If they have had an infertility intervention for months that isn’t working, I am likely to push them to ask their physician to make a plan with them that includes how long to continue with one intervention before moving on to a different one. If they have spent many dollars and many years on infertility treatment, I may revisit an earlier statement that they won’t consider adoption or a surrogate, by asking if they would consider collecting information about either of their previously rejected options. If I see areas of difficulty on which they have not asked for my help, I may make an observation that such-and-such an issue seems to be an “elephant in the room,” and I am wondering whether there is a reason they haven’t felt ready to examine it. So, even as I try to stay apace with my clients’ issues, I also push and prod a bit, just to see whether new growth and resilience enables them to feel resilient enough to consider new directions. If not, I step back, and I am not surprised when, weeks later, they may raise the question of the proverbial elephant for future examination.

So, for those of you who are contemplating seeking counseling for any of your infertility issues, I hope that my own disclosures about the way I think of the counseling experience will help you in your own interactions with a therapist. Keep in mind that not everyone shares my perspective that client partners are the first choice when providing counseling, nor that the families of the couple may be the “elephants in the room,” nor that the therapist takes as active a role as I do, nor that assertive behavior with health care providers is a place for therapeutic intervention. But all therapists should be able to be clear with you about areas in which they can offer new knowledge and skills, how they observe confidentiality, and their comfort with the ever-so-present issues of loss and mis-communication.

Source: Connie Shapiro, PhD

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Did you know that over 80,000 chemicals have been released into our environment? It’s scary that no one has tested all of these 80,000 chemicals to determine their effect on your health. No one has performed medical studies to find out how all these 80,000 chemicals interact with each other or how they interact inside your body, or what their combined and cumulative effect is on your health.

Folks, we are in the middle of a chemical crap shoot. No one knows how this will turn out. But the limited research so far is mostly bad news.

Here is a recent example: a chemical called “bisphenol A” and its possible relationship to PCOS.

Bisphenol A (BPA) is sometimes referred to as an “endocrine disruptor” or “hormone disrupter”. This chemical is found in numerous consumer plastic products and canned foods to which you are exposed.

The University of Buenos Aires in Argentina recently completed a study of rats exposed to BPA. The researchers exposed baby female rats to BPA.

When the female rats became adults, they discovered that their BPA exposure was associated with increased testosterone and estrogen, and reduced progesterone. This is an unbalanced hormone pattern commonly seen in women who have polycystic ovary syndrome.

In addition, the exposed female rats had much reduced fertility. Also, their ovaries had large numbers of ovarian cysts.

If it can happen to a rat, can it happen to you? Think of the rats as canaries in a coal mine. If the canary dies, the miners are in trouble. One recent study showed that 99% of pregnant women had at least one urine sample with detectable levels of BPA. That’s 99 of every 100 women!

Even though it’s invisible, you can start by reducing your exposure to BPA. It is used in a multitude of hard plastic products such as water bottles, food containers, infant bottles and medical equipment and supplies. BPA may also be found in the lining of canned foods and in many other non-obvious products such as thermal-printed cash register receipts and some dental sealants.

We suggest that you reduce the use of canned foods and eat more fresh food instead. Try to use glass containers instead of plastic for food, water and beverages. Don’t use plastic bottles to feed your baby; use glass instead.

Finally, it is critical that you improve the quality of your diet. Why? Because a diet that is free of chemicals as a diet can be is the best option.

Fernandez, MO et al, Neonatal Exposure to Bisphenol A and Reproductive and Endocrine Alterations Resembling the Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in Adult Rats

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I am frequently hearing from my clients their concerns about doing IUI or IVF are primarily because of the stress it puts you through emotionally and physically.  Most of these concerns are a result of what others have experienced and have either shared with these women or posted online somewhere.  In my experience we are more likely to hear the horror stories rather than the good ones. So I am writing this post to discuss how to keep your head screwed on straight during the treatment cycle and how to have a positive experience.  You may be thinking, yeah right that’s not possible. But it really is and from personal experience with IVF recently you can do it!

First word of advice is to not compare yourself to anyone else who is going through or has gone through IUI/IVF.  We all have different reactions to medications and no one’s experience is identical to another.  Also we tend to follow in people footsteps when we hear about how badly it went for them. We then anticipate a horrible experience, work ourselves up and therefore, have a horrible experience.  So avoid chat boards with negative stories and avoid getting other peoples opinion other than your Dr. or therapist.

Next I would suggest to make sure you are getting the support you need.  That may be going to a support group or getting your own individual therapy in order to have a place to process your anxiety.  Getting the fears and anxieties off your chest can make for a much easier experience and being able to connect with others in a group is extremely validating.

Focus on the miracle you are making everyday rather than the negative aspects of the medication or the fact that you have to resort to extreme measures to achieve pregnancy.  It’s a miracle how far fertility treatments have come and some of us would never have the opportunity to get pregnant if it wasn’t was the advancement in science. So remember how lucky you are to even be able to get to take advantage of it…some people just can’t afford it and therefore their journey stops there.

Take care of yourself whether that would be giving yourself time to be alone and read a book, take a nap, go for a run, or get acupuncture.  Make sure you are doing something for yourself daily and it can be just taking 20 minutes to focus on your breathe….just make sure you do something.  This is the time to baby yourself and enjoy your body and the miracles it brings you on a daily basis.

Again this doesn’t have to be the worst experience ever.  I wouldn’t sign up for it as a good time, but I don’t think it has to be dreaded and you definitely don’t want to go into this IUI/IVF experience thinking you will fall apart.  Good luck to you all, you are true warriors and what great parents you will be after going through this journey!  Be proud of yourselves!

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Infertility involves grief and loss whether it is a profound distinct loss at the onset of treatment or a gradual accumulation of losses over time.  The losses of infertility may involve the loss of individual and/or couple’s health, physical and psychological well-being, life goals, status, prestige, self-confidence, and assumption of fertility, loss of privacy and control of one’s body, and anticipatory grief at the possibility of being childless.  Infertility may typically involve grief responses such as shock, disbelief, anger, blame, shame, and guilt, while over time, feelings of loss of control, dimished self-esteem, chronic bereavement, anxiety, and depression may persist.

It has even been suggested that infertility is a disenfranchised grief in that infertility is a loss that can lead to intense grief, although others may not recognize it or perceive it as minor.  This is a different kind of grief because the lost relationship has no legitimacy, is socially unrecognized or unacknowledged.  The griever is typically not recognized as having suffered a loss and justified in grieving.  This makes this type of grief as a more complicated bereavement because the usual supports that facilitate grieving and the healing process are absent.  Infertility may be so socially unacceptable that the same of the diagnosis, treatments for it, and/or family-building alternatives may lead the infertile couple to keep his or her losses hidden to minimize social stigma.

Given all of this it is critical that you don’t wait until you can barely move through your day to get support.  In fact I believe it is important once you realize that you are on this journey to seek out a qualified infertility counselor/therapist and a support group to deal with the process.  This journey can be the hardest thing a couple will go through in their life and it doesn’t have to be done alone, nor should it.  Because it is hard for others to grasp the pain you are dealing with I do encourage you to get further support.  Resolve.org is a great place to start to find clinicians and groups in your local area.  Here in Oakland, CA we have support groups, workshops, and individual work. Contact me for further information at amoreena@gmail.com.

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Coping with Fertility Challenges
Mind-Body Workshop by Amoreena Berg, MFT
Monday, February 8, 6:00PM
Click for more info and to Register

Struggles with fertility can be one of the most difficult things for a woman – and a couple – to face. Is this infertility battle taking control of your life and ruining your days? Are you losing sleep over your fertility issues and withdrawing from life? I am a family therapist specializing in fertility issues, and yes have been there too – I have my own personal journey with fertility issues.

This talk will provide you with some tools to get the stress of infertility under control. This Co-ed, gay-friendly group will teach you mind-body based practices and techniques to ease the stress of infertility. We discuss treatment and family building options, encourage questions and conversation, and provide support and understanding in challenging times.

Location: Lolo Integrative Medicine Clinic- Integrative Women’s Health Program
3300 Webster Street, Ste. 408, Oakland, CA 94609

For questions or more information about this and other events, please contact 510.444.2772 or visit http://www.ebiwomenshealth.com

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