Your Fertility Journey

Starting Your Family

Whether you are just starting out on your fertility journey, having decided that now is the right time to start your family; or whether you have been on the road to conception for a while, therapy and counselling, either one on one or as a couple, can support your aspirations.

One of the first things couples may consider when they stop using contraception is what changes they can make to their lifestyle as part of the transition to providing a healthy and beneficial environment for a baby. There is more to preparing for your own little miracle than decorating and furnishing the spare bedroom as a nursery. Reducing or stopping smoking altogether; limiting alcohol; paying attention to your nutrition – these are all subjects which come up for discussion and agreement.

Raising The Chances of Success

Aspects which are sometimes not taken into consideration can make a difference to achieving successful conception and a healthy, trouble-free pregnancy. Body weight, exercise, stress and age all have their effect on our reproductive systems. Being ready, both emotionally and mentally, to have a family is fundamental to success. Therapy  is a beneficial and respectful way of improving and optimising your chances of success. Professional support can help by supporting you through these changes to your lifestyle in a holistic approach.

Your fertility journey - sleeping baby

There are many couples who discover that their journey to parenthood becomes more complex as they seek medical assistance through Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART). In these cases therapy is there to support you through the process. Therapy and counselling can help you to relax and to visualise positive outcomes.  It can help you to align body and mind for the highest possible chance of success. Therapy can assist in coping with the emotional demands which come with the process of IVF cycles and the quest for conception.  The therapeutic process is there to support you throughout your fertility journey. Practical techniques and imagery, both under hypnosis and awake, give you the tools you need to gain the most benefit from your treatments.

Stress and Fertility

Research has shown a link between stress and reduced fertility. A study of pre-conception stress and the risk of infertility, carried out at the Ohio State University College of Medicine (2005-2009), showed that women in the top third of subjects monitored for stress markers in their saliva exhibited a 29% reduction in fecundity compared to women in the lowest third. This translated as an up to two fold increased risk of infertility in these women.

Stress causes the adrenal gland to produce adrenaline, which in turn inhibits the reproductive system from utilizing progesterone. In women, progesterone levels rise in the ovaries before ovulation takes place and then subsequently plays an important role in the placenta in maintaining pregnancy.  In men, progesterone is the precursor for the production of testosterone, which is essential for the formation of sperm.  When experiencing stress, progesterone, which would normally be available for use by the reproductive system in both men and women, is used by the adrenal glands in the production of cortisol – effectively reducing fertility in both sexes.

Stress also triggers the production of high levels of prolactin by the pituitary gland, which acts to inhibit ovulation and can result in poor quality of uterine lining, reducing the chance of a successful embryo implant.

IVF and Psychotherapeutic Counselling

A study conducted into pregnancy rates for IVF, involving 1,156 women found a correlation between successful conception rates and psychotherapeutic support. 56.4% of women who had received therapeutic support in advance of treatment successfully conceived. Participants who agreed to therapeutic support at the time they gave consent for IVF had a 41.9% success rate. This compared to 44.3% in the group which declined support and 39.0% in the group which made no comment.

The aim of the study was to measure whether the simple offer of psychotherapeutic support during assisted reproduction made a difference to the success rate. 

The findings of the study supported the conclusion that psychotherapy should be a part of any fertility treatment (e.g. family therapy; hypnotherapy; counselling; relaxation and physical perception exercises) to optimise the chances of success.

Emotional Rollercoaster

From the first moment that you embark on putting your plans for a family into practice, you sign up to the emotional process that accompanies the anticipation which builds up each month until the fateful day when menstruation either occurs, with its subsequent feelings of disappointment, or fails to materialise, at which point life goes on hold until either pregnancy is confirmed or the unwanted period simply arrives late.  For couples which do not fall pregnant straight away, this monthly cycle can mean a whirlwind of conflicting emotions which accumulate and build as time passes.

This not only reflects on the chances of successful conception as stress, depression and anxiety increase, but also impacts on the relationship as each individual in the couple seeks to cope with their own feelings and those of their partner.  Sex can become a chore instead of a pleasure and the focus on getting pregnant can mean losing sight of all the things in the relationship which were valued and special. Your own circumstances can impact on other family relationships and friendships, changing the way you interact with others – particularly in relation to parenting and pregnancy.

Having professional support in place, either for you as individuals or together as a couple, can help to maintain a healthy and vibrant relationship as you move through these events; so that you finish your journey, wherever it may take you, in a space which is comfortable and hopefully shared with the family you set out to achieve.

For more information or to book a consultation, please use my contact form.

 

 

Coping with Anxiety

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a term used to describe feelings of apprehension, fear, nervousness and worry. Anxiousness is one of the most common health problems in the UK today, with more than 1 in 10 people (according to Anxiety UK) likely to experience a disabling anxiety disorder during their lifetime. 

Anxiety is a normal reaction to have when we are faced with any kind of pressure – being asked to do something new.  That might be stepping outside our comfort zone. It may be having to fulfil expectations, either of ourselves or of other people or working to deadlines and timescales. So many aspects of our daily lives cause stress and when it remains within healthy bounds we barely notice it. It is feelings of anxiousness which give us that push to overcome procrastination; to “get the job done”; or to prepare ourselves for events in our lives which are important to us, whether that is a job interview; a speech; moving house; examinations; marriage; or any other situation we may face in life. It gives us the edge to act and achieve.

Anxiety

Sometimes though, anxiety becomes our normal response to everyday living. We find ourselves feeling anxious about things which previously we would have dealt with easily and without question or doubt. The Mental Health Foundation tells us that Generalised Anxiety Disorder (that is general anxiety without a fixed focus) affects up to 5% of the population in the UK; and accounts for up to 30% of mental health problems which people consult their GP for.

Types of Anxiety Disorder

There are a number of different types of anxiety disorder.  I commonly encounter the ones below through my work as a therapist and counsellor:

  • Social anxiety disorder can make it difficult to interact with others, as we fear being judged by people we come into contact with. This can cause us to withdraw from and avoid meeting or being with others as a way of avoiding triggering our anxiety.
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) can manifest as a means of controlling our anxiety. This might be in the form of repetitive actions, such as continually checking that doors and windows are shut and locked. Perhaps it is manifested by repeated routines such as hand washing; or in a less visible way by intrusive and distressing thoughts.
  • Panic disorder (panic attacks) can be very frightening, triggering symptoms such as: palpitations; nausea; confusion and breathing difficulties. These attacks tend to peak and die away within around ten minutes.  For some an attack can be more prolonged. It is not uncommon for a panic attack to be triggered simply by fear that one might occur.
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a non-specific state of anxiety which affects every aspect of our daily life. It is estimated that up to 5 in 100 people live with this disorder. It can lead to a constant state of apprehension and fear. Rather than having a specific trigger, GAD is ever present and manifests as a “worst case scenario” response to everyday situations. This can range from being convinced that we are going to fail before we start something – to imagining that our partner has met with an accident on the way home because they are running ten minutes late.

Moving On

Overcoming anxiety requires our commitment to what can be a gradual process of replacing negative response patterns with positive ones, particularly when our issue is deep rooted and sustained. New techniques and tools, designed to help us turn our lives around need to be practiced daily on an ongoing basis; until they become part of our normal daily function.  The more committed we are to finding a resolution the more effective treatment has been shown to be.

Do you identify with any of the symptoms of anxiety described above? Counselling, BWRT or hypnotherapy can help you to overcome your problems.  Contact me today to make an appointment.