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.
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.
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.
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