Fertility Medications and Placebo Effect
Sometime last week I wrote about my chance meeting with Dr. Katherine Scott, RMACT’s IVF Lab Manager. Our conversation sparked some ideas that have been percolating ever since.
How much does it matter how a message is delivered? This is a question that is fairly rhetorical as we know it makes a difference. We know it makes a big difference, that’s why such mind-boggling amounts of money are spent on advertising and marketing research. We know that what we call something and how we describe that same thing affects how we think about it; how we take it in.
Last night I spent some time with our PA, Diana D’Amelio. We were discussing the efficacy of medications and supplements and the effect of the placebo. I love being surrounded by such smart people who think about matters in such deep ways. Speaking with her sparked some new thoughts.
Infertility is a science. And it’s an art. And there is so much that every one of us can do about our own health, treatment and general well being. The placebo effect gives us a lot of power. Thinking something will work, will be powerful, helps make it that way. In essence, that’s what the placebo effect means.
Taking a pill or tablet that has no medication in it can often give the same physiological reaction as taking a pill or tablet that has specific medication in it. This has always been true. This is how double blind studies create research that we rely on. And it is frequent that the placebo is very effective in treating whatever ails you.
I am not suggesting that you all stop taking your medication because you can just believe your way into becoming pregnant. Fertility medications are powerful and using them will often bring a response of more eggs/follicles that we are looking for, especially when undergoing IVF (in vitro fertilization). This blog is not about knocking fertility medications.
What I am suggesting is that believing they will work is a great idea. What I am suggesting is that believing that eating in a healthy way increases the healthiness. What I am suggesting is that believing that sleeping properly makes our sleep more restorative and healthy.
When you’ve had disappointments, it’s challenging to put your heart into it. It’s a natural reaction to guard against more disappointments by keeping an awareness of failure. We all get that. And sometimes the best that you can do is take the medications and keep your heart protected. If that’s where you are, please know that suspending judgment around yourself is more important than anything else.
Mantras for Health
If you feel you can add a little something to your already rigorous fertility treatment regime, I have a suggestion. Once or twice a day, (or every hour if you are ambitious), create a mantra for yourself and repeat it three or four times. It can be simple and easy or very specific and personal. Your own mantras for health. Here are a few suggestions.
- My fertility treatment will be successful
- I am creating health for myself
- I am healthy
- Everything is exactly as it should be
- I am bringing my baby closer
- Peace (shanty)
- I am doing whatever I need to do to create my family
- I am one with the universe
None of these may float your boat at all. Again, no judgment. You may have a prayer or a poem that will work for you.
Try it for a week if you can. It’s painless, calorie free, alcohol free, caffeine free. In fact, it’s free, costs nothing. When you say your mantra, close your eyes bring your thoughts deep into your cells and organs. Create health and well being.
My mantra for this week: everything is as it should be, in this moment.
I would love to hear your mantra.
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Infertility and the Day After Thanksgiving
Whether you are choosing to indulge in shopping or relaxing into peaceful serenity or some combination of the two, the day after Thanksgiving is just that: the day after. It may have been a lovely day or a rough day or some variation. Fertility announcements abound at this time of the year and putting on a happy face when you are feeling sad for yourself is not always easy. Nor is it gentle on our own hearts.
Overindulging can take on a lot of forms. Eating is only one. Whether we eat because it’s delicious or because we’re sad or happy or any other feeling, we do sometimes overdo it.
Wearing a mask for too long is burdensome and emotionally exhausting. We wear a mask when we feel one way and say and act another way. That can be over indulging too; not honoring yourself and your feelings as valid and important.
We tend to overindulge on holidays, in so many ways. We create an idea, based on the past about how the holiday “should” be. Or we decide how we want it to be. Rarely are we available to experience the moments as they are. That’s over indulging too, one of my favorite kinds, where our fantasies become more tangible than our realities.
An Invitation to Yoga Nidra and Finding Your Center
The Friday after Thanksgiving, I teach a way to achieve Yoga Nidra instead of any of my regular classes. It’s become a tradition up at PhysEd in New Milford, CT, for my students who are used to a vigorous class to come, practice lightly and then repose into Savasana for almost an hour.
That’s almost 60 minutes of lying down, having arranged the physical body as comfortably as possible, and sinking into yoga sleep. My favorite definition of Yoga Nidra from Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati is below:
Yoga Nidra means Yogic Sleep. It is a state of conscious Deep Sleep. In Meditation, you remain in the Waking state of consciousness, and gently focus the mind, while allowing thought patterns, emotions, sensations, and images to arise and go on. However, in Yoga Nidra, you leave the Waking state, go past the Dreaming state, and go to Deep Sleep, yet remain awake. While Yoga Nidra is a state that is very relaxing, it is also used by Yogis to purify the Samskaras, the deep impressions that are the driving force behind Karma.
According to the definition of Yoga Nidra and what it is and what it is not, I do not teach or facilitate Yoga Nidra. I create pathways of getting there by using guided meditation to achieve this. I am excited to be teaching Yoga Nidra in a more traditional way this Friday. I hope to have you join me.
On Friday night, Fertile Yoga will meet twice, once from 6-7:15 and then from 7:30-8:30. You are welcome to one or the other or both.
It will be my first foray into a more traditional Yoga Nidra. I would love to have your company.
Whether you have indulged too vigorously in food, or drink, or happiness or sadness, Yoga Nidra will be a way to recenter yourself. To find your way back home.
Lisa Rosenthal's Google+
Affirmations for Health: A Positive Practice
You have the ability to replace thoughts or beliefs that you hold that may not be affirming or healthy.
Know that using positive affirmations may feel strange at first. These are suggestions. Perhaps there are other affirmations that you prefer.
As you become more used to repeating positive affirmations, you will feel calmed and soothed.
Ten Positive Affirmations to Try
- I hold myself up tall, with pride, for who I am in this moment: a beautiful, strong man or woman;
- I think well of myself and of my partner if I have one;
- I remember that I am a whole person, not an infertility diagnosis or a sperm count;
- I remind myself that I have value and worth, whether I am pregnant or not, whether I am a parent or not;
- I remind myself that I learn something about myself every day and that what I have learned about myself because of infertility is that I am strong and courageous. I know how much easier it would be to accept my infertility and remain childfree. I remind myself that I am brave enough to move forward and farther than I thought I could in my goal of becoming a parent;
- I remember the health and wellness that I enjoy in so many areas of my life;
- My gratitude towards the beautiful things that I enjoy in my life fill many moments;
- I know that when I become a parent I will hold it even closer to my heart because of my present experiences;
- I embrace my life as I am, knowing that my truest self is revealed through the hardship of this experience;
- I love myself--my body, my heart and my soul.
How to Use Affirmations
If you are creating or using your own affirmation, use it in the present tense, not the future tense. If you use it as a mantra, to repeat over and over again, let it warm you from the inside out. If it doesn't do that, try another one. And please share any affirmations that you like to use with us. I could always use a new one.
Here's a bonus, a long-time favorite of mine that my Fertile Yoga students are familiar with:
- I am beautiful, I am graceful, I am whole and complete.
Positive affirmations. Try one.
How far would you go to get pregnant? What would you be willing to do?
Desperation, fear, sadness and frustration. One of those feelings or some combination of them tends to fuel the drive to get pregnant after attempts to conceive haven't worked. In fertility treatment, especially, some of us get the feeling that each negative pregnancy test is a sign that they will all be negative.
So getting back to the question, what would you be willing to do to see that positive pregnancy test?
There was a "Ladies Night Out" in Danbury, over a year ago, where one patient discussed her willingness to "swim in a pool of sharks" if it would help her conceive. That phrase was at odds, later in the evening, when she stated that she wouldn't try yoga. It made me laugh, actually. (I assure you, Fertile yoga classes are far more pleasant than swimming in a shark infested pool, unless there's something about high risk activities which excite you.)
I know, from personal experience, from being in treatment, how difficult it can be to push ourselves into healthy behavior. Especially if you are in treatment and having to deal with fertility medications, ultrasounds, blood draws, doctors' appointments, egg retrieval, and transfers. And that's if things are relatively simple. Treatment, of course, can also include other, more complicated, more expensive, more intrusive procedures. All of these challenges can be quite enough without having to add more to do to help that treatment along. Not to mention the debilitating effects that we feel with depression or anxiety, perhaps new to us since being challenged with infertility.
If you are new to the challenges of infertility or to Reproductive Medicine Associates of CT (RMACT), I am not trying to scare you. Really, I am not. In fact, quite the opposite.
What I am saying is that while it has not been established that swimming in a tank of sharks is effective in improving your chances of getting pregnant, there are other ways that you can participate in your fertility treatment beyond the purely medical aspects. Alice Domar, PhD (Executive Director of the Domar Center for Mind/Body Health and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF. Go to domarcenter.com to read more about Dr. Domar. She has also written some of my favorite books on infertility and stress, including "Conquering Infertility: Dr. Alice Domar's Mind/Body Guide to Enhancing Fertility and Coping With Infertility) has the following to say:
Mind/body techniques can decrease physical symptoms of stress such as insomnia, headaches, abdominal pain and fatigue as well as psychological symptoms such as depression, anxiety, hostility, and tearfulness. And recent research has shown that women who participate in mind/body programs in conjunction with treatment from their physician have significantly higher pregnancy rates than women who receive medical treatment only. infertilitymindbody.com/foreword.htm
So don't swim in a tank of sharks. Or do. But definitely try a slow walk with the dog, partner or a friend. Do try a morning on the weekend, reading a favorite book, with a cup of tea in front of the fireplace. Do try a meditation cd or a yoga class.
And if you're in my neck of the woods, do come see me on Saturdays for Fertile Yoga. I don't guarantee much, but I do guarantee that class will be more relaxing than having sharks circle around you in a tank of water.
Norwalk office 10-11 (peer support group meets from 9:30-10:00, you are most welcome to come) 20 Glover Avenue.
YogaSpace from 4:15-5:30- 777 Federal Road, Brookfield CT
No experience necessary. I would love to have you.