When I was trying to conceive, visiting the fertility clinic daily became an unwanted part of my routine. I would wake up before dawn, get on the subway in the dark, and trudge uptown (far!) for my daily blood draw and sonogram. Good times! (Not!) Of course, in my mind’s eye, it was also always cold and raining. Sound familiar?
If you plodded through most of 2019, dragging yourself out of bed for testing and treatment over the course of many months and cycles, you may be looking at this Fall as a new start. While you’re dealing with what you can’t change, it may help to create new, fertility-friendly habits to help you deal with the day-to-day grind. Here are five ideas to try, for keeping both body and brain in balance.
Get enough sleep
It’s no longer a badge of honor to function on four hours a night. If you have to get up early to keep those a.m. doctor’s appointments, get to bed early the night before. There’s even data that indicates a positive link between reproductive hormone secretion and the amount of zzzz’s you get during infertility treatment. Yes, it’s often easier said than done, especially when you have a lot on your mind.
Creating a sleep-friendly routine can help. Try turning off all electronic devices (including your phone), an hour before lights out, and reading a book or magazine in bed. Also avoid that late-night glass of wine. Alcohol, a depressant, can wreak havoc with your circadian rhythms, disrupting sleep patterns and waking you up in the middle of the night.
Ohm yourself fertile
Yoga won’t take the place of fertility treatment for most people, but it can help increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, and reduce even crippling amounts of stress.
People who do yoga regularly often report increased feelings of serenity, a greater sense of control over life, enhanced ability to handle physical pain, and in some cases, heightened libido. Consider finding a yoga class to join. Classes might even yield a new community of friends, a huge plus. If seeing pregnant women is an (understandable) issue, avoid going to sessions scheduled right before or after prenatal yoga classes.
Healthy food, healthy (low carb) life
The connection between carbohydrates and insulin resistance is well established. For women with polycystic ovarian disease (PCOS) reducing carbohydrate intake may enhance ovulation. For everyone else, there’s no down side in choosing foods that are low in sugar, and high in vitamins, protein and fiber. There’s also no need to go to dieting extremes, in most cases. Many people enjoy the low-carb South Beach Diet. Others find the pro-health Mediterranean Diet easy to follow. Both are low in simple carbohydrates and unhealthy fats, plus feature delicious foods to eat.
Let go of that one, nasty habit
For some, it's overeating. For others, it’s smoking cigarettes. Some people drink alcohol to excess. Others use steroids or recreational drugs. Still others are addicted to their couch, eschewing exercise for five hours of television daily. Let’s face it, we’ve all got something. Just as good habits can be formed, bad habits can be eliminated. Examine your life for that nasty bad habit that is not doing your body, soul, or fertility any good, and make a plan for eradicating it from your life.
Grownup on board
They’re everywhere, those “baby on board” bumper stickers. If they help save even one life, they’re worth the pain of seeing them constantly, but it may be valuable to think of them in a different way. “Baby on board” means please help me keep my baby safe from harm. What if you thought that way about yourself? All lives are valuable, including yours. Baby yourself with increased awareness of what you need, what it takes to make you safe and healthy in the world, and what you deserve. Baby or not, you’re a nice person, after all.
The thing about habits, good or bad, is that they tend to stick. Actively choosing the ones that are best for you is a powerful form of self love. Your fertility, and psyche, will thank you.