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Posts Tagged ‘infertility’

That’s the question, isn’t it…I can say yes it is, just in my brief clinical experience, but after reading more lately, I can say for sure it is. Also I am seeing more and more secondary infertility. This is when conceiving child #1 wasn’t a problem, but the 2nd child becomes a challenge to conceive.

Infertility rates are on the rise and here are some reasons why.

About 10 to 15 percent of couples are truly infertile. But that number is getting closer to 15 or even 20 percent simply because more people these days are delaying childbirth, leading to a lot more infertility.

The trouble with waiting longer to have children is that a woman’s eggs decrease in both quantity and quality starting at age 30. When I say starting, we don’t know how fast that decline is and for some women it maybe faster. Also miscarriage rates increase because the rate of having a child with abnormalities also increase.  Typically once you hit 40, the likelihood of chromosomal abnormalities and unhealthier eggs are much higher.

Many preliminary diagnostics can be performed by a patient’s OB/GYN you don’t need to go see a specialist right away, but also don’t wait too long. If you are 40 you probably should go straight to a specialist and if you are in your 30s after a year of trying to conceive you should see a specialist.

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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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This is probably one of the hardest decisions a couple going through infertility has to face.  When do you decide to get more aggressive with treatments and how far are you willing to go?

There are many factors that go into this decision process and the number one would be your age.  The older you are the more aggressive you might want to be considering since time is a factor and these treatments do take some time just to get them started.  Another important factor would be diagnosis, if there is one yet.  Many times it takes going through more aggressive treatments to figure out exactly what is going on but also depending on your diagnosis it can determine whether you would be a good candidate or not.  Don’t waste months being in denial of your situation and not getting your standard tests completed. Too many times couples wait and then find out it might have been a simple fix or maybe it is not but at least they know the answer.

The next factor would be financial, and given most insurance companies cover little infertility costs this is something to take into account.  I firmly believe this should be treated like any other disease and women should get coverage on treatments within reason.  There is no need to put a 40 year old through 3 IUI’s before she can try IVF meanwhile wasting another 3-4 months and possible more loss. But that is the state of our affairs currently.

Of course the treatments are extensive and mentally challenging, but with the right support systems and coping skills you can manage it.  I highly recommend getting all the support lined up from the beginning of deciding to go down this journey.

Sit down with your spouse and have an honest conversation about what each person wants out of the process. How long are you both willing to do this? How much money are you willing to spend?  How far will you go medically?  Would you do IVF, surrogate, donor eggs, adopt ect?  Before you rule out anything, get the facts to make an educated decision.  Every option won’t be right for every couple, but it’s important to either get united on your stance or compromise.  You can’t do this alone, you need each other to support and cheer you on to the next level. It is taxing on the relationship and can be more so if you aren’t in agreement on the timeline or treatment plan.

Most of all have faith and believe it can happen. I have seen the impossible happen!

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Our first support group for women going through infertility issues is starting November 21 from 12-1pm.  That is a Saturday and this group will meet bi-weekly for 6 sessions.  My goal is for this group to be a safe supportive environment for you to be able to express yourself as well as learn mindfulness tools to help cope through your journey.  Women in all phases of the infertility process are welcome, whether you are doing natural, IUI, IVF, or deciding what is next we would love for you to join us.  We are meeting at the Integrative Women’s Health Center in Oakland, 3300 Webster Street. If you would like more information please email or call me, 650-224-1796 amoreena@gmail.com.

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What is considered infertile? If a couple has been actively trying to conceive a child for a year or more without success then it is possible one (or both) of them is infertile. Realistically a couple must also ensure they’ve tracked the woman’s cycle correctly and had the proper timing of intercourse around ovulation.
When a woman is faced with infertility it can be very stressful and she may find it difficult to believe she will ever become a mother. It may even put a strain on her marriage since it tends to take over a couples’ life. It is common that everything in their lives revolves around getting pregnant. The rollercoaster of emotions is tiresome especially if she has gone through multiple fertility treatments and hormone testing and still sees negative pregnancy tests month after month. This process is very disheartening and can discourage a couple.
Primary infertility refers to the inability to conceive or maintain a pregnancy.  If a woman has experienced a miscarriage or recurrent miscarriages then this may play a role in determining her fertility. Secondary infertility means a couple is having those same concerns after having a successful pregnancy.
There are several fertility treatments that a woman may receive which includes in-vitro fertilization (IVF), fertility drugs, surgery, and intra-uterine insemination (IUI). Acupuncture is a form of Chinese medicine that has been around for thousands of years and can be used solely as an alternative treatment for infertility or used in combination with those mentioned above.
Women in the Bay Area who have been struggling with infertility may find it reassuring to visit East Bay Acupuncture Clinic who specializes in fertility care. They are compassionate towards women who are dealing with this challenge. Their facility is located in Oakland near Kaiser and Alta Bates Hospital.  Within the next few weeks they will be launching an infertility support group that I will be facilitating along with individual therapy sessions as part of the clinic’s optional treatments.
Kim Shaieb

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“Infertility is inherently stressful–it can affect how you see yourself, your sexual relations, your marital relationship, and your relationships with other people.” –Sharon Covington, Director of Psychological Support Services, Shady Grove Fertility and Reproductive Science Center, Rockville, Maryland

The treatment of infertility brings cycles of hope and despair–and turns life into an emotional roller coaster. Infertile couples need psychological support, whether it be from family, friends, doctors, counselors, on-line support groups or each other. Many infertile couples turn to Resolve, a nonprofit organization founded in 1974 to provide support and information to infertile people and to increase awareness of infertility issues.

Infertility’s emotional effects

Depression, anger, anxiety, frustration, irritability, and grief are normal responses to infertility. Hormones can have profound effects on emotion, so treatments that send hormone levels shooting up and down may magnify the turmoil. As months go by without success, the stress of infertility builds. For many couples, the second year of infertility treatment is particularly trying.

Infertility can have damaging effects on a couple’s relationship if concerns are not addressed. A partner may feel guilty or angry about the cause of infertility, if it is known. Both may feel frustrated if the cause is unknown. Couples often have different attitudes towards treatment that can cause friction in the relationship. One may want to pursue all options, while the other may not want to be as aggressive. As most infertility treatments are performed on the woman, the unequal emotional and physical burden she bears can strain the relationship.

Counseling supports treatment

Good clinics build psychological support systems into their infertility treatment program. For example, clinics supply reading material in the waiting room, such as flyers on upcoming support groups and Resolve meetings. These can help patients understand the treatment process and find out about available support services. Some clinics develop their own counseling groups, and a few clinics have on-site counselors. Your doctor may be able to recommend a therapist who specializes in infertility patients.

Professional counseling can ease the emotional problems of infertility and may even improve the odds of conceiving a child. Recent research found that couples who participated in group counseling sessions were more likely to get pregnant than couples who did not. It is not clear whether the counseling sessions caused the difference, whether the participants were more likely to try high-tech treatments because of the support, or whether it was just a coincidence.

Most people end fertility treatment because they run out of emotional energy, not money. Couples may find it difficult to make decisions about alternative treatments or to end treatment. There’s always another treatment available–something new to try. Counseling may help the couple press on–or realize when it’s time to stop treatment.

Types of counseling

baby counselingPatients can choose the style of counseling that best suits their needs–whether individual counseling, couples counseling, or group counseling.

When to consider counseling

Don’t view counseling as a last ditch effort, but as a way to get a better understanding of infertility and its effects. Counseling can help patients develop coping mechanisms and avoid common problems.

Infertility counseling is particularly useful at critical decision points in treatment. For example, most patients are “running on empty” by the time they face IVF treatment. Counseling before IVF can help the patients know what to expect and can boost their emotional reserve.

Many individuals develop depression in the time period that they are experiencing difficulties conceiving. Quite often, women are reluctant to take medication for their depression because of concerns that it might harm the baby. However there are several new antidepressants that are effective in treating depression and considered safe in pregnancy. One of these medications, Prozac®, has been studied. It has not been associated with either increased miscarriages or birth defects. Frequently, the depression is alleviated by the good news of the pregnancy and the medication can be discontinued safely.

Women report symptoms of depression more often than men, although it can occur in either partner. Sometimes an individual is too depressed to identify their own depression. In those cases, the partner plays a crucial role in identifying the symptoms and getting professional help. Talk to your doctor if you think you or your partner is experiencing symptoms of depression. Your doctor can direct you to appropriate professional help.

Seek counseling when you notice:

  • infertility is affecting your normal functioning and relationships with others
  • persistent sadness and tearfulness
  • increased levels of anxiety or worry
  • isolating yourself from others
  • strained relationships
  • loss of interest in hobbies
  • difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • difficulty making decisions
  • difficulty accomplishing your usual tasks
  • change in appetite, weight, or sleep patterns
  • increased feelings of bitterness or anger
  • thoughts of death or suicide
  • continuing feelings of pessimism, guilt, or worthlessness

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Correction: Sleep-deprivation linked to infertility. (I had a feeling that would get your attention.) Did you ever consider that? How could you with all the other things to worry about:
You’ve cut down on alcohol, caffeine, and even processed food.

You’ve scheduled more time to relax and tried to reduce the stress in your life.

You’ve started a consistent exercise routine and detoxified your house.

You’ve charted your monthly cycle, bought ovulation kits, and still…nothing.

But you’ve overlooked one very important element: sleep, which you don’t get enough of.

The word “infertility” can quickly generate a response, especially among the 10 percent (more than 6 million) of women struggling with it. The topic routinely graces the covers of magazines and academic health reports.

Lately, the talk about toxins in our food, water, and air have been blamed for increasing the likelihood of infertility. But what if it’s much simpler than that? What if infertility can be partly blamed on how many hours of sleep you get a night. OR hours you don’t get?

A new report puts the spotlight on exactly this issue. The highlights:

  • Missing your required number of sleep hours a night can impact your ability to conceive.
  • The average woman (30 to 60 years old) gets only 6 hours 41 minutes of sleep during the work week, according to the National Sleep Foundation, when she really needs 7 to 9 hours.
  • Sleep has a powerful influence on the body’s hormonal system, which controls a woman’s cycle and regulates ovulation.
  • Too little sleep leads to low leptin levels, the hormone responsible for appetite and which can impact ovulation.
  • Insomniacs have a significantly higher level of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenocorticotropic, both of which can suppress a healthy fertility cycle.

The take-home message is clear: you could be doing “everything right” when it comes to preparing your body to conceive and bring a healthy baby to term. But with so much focus on external factors like your environment and what you put in your mouth, the time has come to add another aspect to this big equation: sleep.

All the healthy, pure food in the world and all the attention to getting your body into tip-top prenatal shape won’t cure a hormonal system gone awry from missing sleep. So if you’re thinking of having a baby, put sleep on the list. At the top. And if you’re going to worry about your environment, remember to also think about the one in the bedroom.

Article by Michael J. Breus, PhD, DABSM

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