What’s In Your Fertility Toolbox?
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The experience of fertility treatment can be easily likened to riding a roller coaster at your favorite amusement park. One second, you’re full of anticipation and excitement starting the ride, moving up the first peak and then the next, you’re full of anxiety, and maybe even a bit of fear, as you plummet down, your stomach flip-flopping the entire way. During these ups and downs and all-over-the-place emotions you experience as you pursue fertility treatment, it’s comforting to keep yourself focused on your goal. The reason to get on a roller coaster is often for the thrill of it, but your reason for fertility treatment is far more fundamental- to have a baby. Some days are going to feel easier than others, but it’s important to remember that even on those more difficult days, you are not alone. In fact, if you look hard enough, you’ll discover, and maybe even be surprised to find out, that you have a fertility toolbox full of tools that you can rely on whenever you need that extra bit of support…
The Tools Within Your Fertility Toolbox
- Your RMA of Connecticut Care Team. Are all the fertility acronyms (i.e. AMH, FSH, TSH, IUI, IVF, etc.) confusing the you-know-what out of you? Maybe you have questions about your diagnostic testing or treatment protocol? Or questions about your insurance coverage and a bill you received? Don’t worry-you are not alone! Your RMA of Connecticut care team, comprised of a fertility doctor (a board-certified Reproductive Endocrinologist), a nurse, a patient navigator, and an insurance and billing advocate, is here to help you every step of the way. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your team with any questions and/or concerns that arise during your diagnostic and treatment cycles and remember - no question is too small!
- Support Person. Are you feeling down/stressed/anxious/nervous/excited? Or do you just need to vent about the rigors of what you’re going through? Regardless of how you’re feeling, it’s important to make sure you have someone that you trust and can lean on, whether that be your spouse, a family member or close friend, for support. Even if that someone doesn’t understand exactly what you’re going through, it’s nice to know you have someone you can call on for that extra TLC when needed.
- Journaling. Writing can be very therapeutic as it helps you get your emotions out of your head and onto paper, helping you see, in written words, how you feel about certain experiences and/or aspects of your treatment. Journaling is a great way to help you to process your feelings and move forward on your family building journey. Please keep in mind that journaling doesn’t mean you have to be a good writer or even like writing, it’s just another tool for you to pull out of your toolbox should you need it.
- Helpful Resources. It’s important to remember that there are a lot of great resources out there that can help you along your path to parenthood. Some might be helpful and others not so much, but it’s important to remember that there is support and it comes in various forms. My suggestion - try whatever piques your interest. There may just be one that makes a world of difference. Some of my favorite resources include the Path to Fertility blog where you can get information on various fertility related topics; the FertiCalm app, which is full of various coping strategies to help you and can be used anytime, anywhere; and the book Detours written by a dear friend, Sue Johnston, which chronicles various fertility journeys.
- Support Services. There may come a point in your family building journey where you might need some extra support, which is why RMA of Connecticut created their Integrated Fertility and Wellness Program. This program was designed to help couples maintain their emotional, marital, and physical balance during fertility treatment. Think of this as a five-pronged approach- there’s Acupuncture, Fertile Yoga, Fertility Counseling, Ladies Night In, and last but in no way least, Fertility Nutrition.
- A is for acupuncture, so let’s start there. RMA of Connecticut has three Acupuncturists on staff, covering all four Connecticut offices. Amy Matton, MTCM, L.Ac., Elaine Malin, MTCM, L.Ac., and Melissa Sommer, MS, LAc. Dipl. Ac. are all experienced with the specific needs of fertility patients, including male partners, and other challenges outside of fertility. Laser acupuncture (RMA of Connecticut is the only fertility program who offers this - and I highly recommend it!) is suggested before and after IVF transfers, at any point during a fertility treatment protocol and even if you’re taking a break from treatment. Traditional acupuncture is used extensively as well.
- Fertile Yoga. A gentle, restorative style of yoga, which is offered four times a month, in each of the RMA of Connecticut offices. Perfect for any time in a fertility treatment cycle, there is an emphasis on meditation and stress reduction. This program is offered by Lisa Rosenthal, who is currently in Registered Yoga Teacher Training for her 500 certification.
- Another piece of IFW- Fertility Counseling. Speaking with one of our experienced fertility counselors during your time on the fertility roller coaster ride can put the brakes on- they’re excellent resources for seeing the bigger picture as well as helping with the day to day trials and tribulations. They can help you reframe your experiences, bringing tremendous relief with the stresses of fertility treatment. Lisa Schuman, LCSW (and Director of Mental Health Services at RMA of Connecticut) and Melissa Kelleher, LCSW, can make specific suggestions on time management, relationships, transitional decisions and being able to recognize yourself while going through the process of fertility treatment.
- Ladies Night In. One of the most challenging aspects of infertility is the isolation that is felt with friends, colleagues and family. Knowing that you are not alone in what you are feeling and experiencing can be very comforting. In fact, many women make new close friends in Ladies Night In, people who can understand the realities of the ups and downs of fertility treatment because they’re experiencing it too. This group meets four times a month (once a month in each of our Connecticut offices) and is facilitated by Lisa Rosenthal, a former fertility patient and RMA of Connecticut’s Patient Advocate.
- Fertility Nutrition. Maybe some of the issues you’re experiencing while trying to conceive are related to the complex relationship with food and weight, PCOS or a general fertility healthy food plan and lifestyle. Carolyn Gundell, M.S., who leads RMACT’s Fertility Nutrition Program, is an amazing resource available to all patients. Carolyn has a great passion for nutrition and its link to fertility, which she shares with her patients to empower them with food and lifestyle behaviors that optimize their health for conception, successful fertility treatment, successful pregnancies and healthy babies.