How To Replace Fear With Hope When You Are Trying To Get Pregnant

I have become aware of how much fear is present in women who are undergoing infertility treatments. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate fear from anxiety or worry, but I think there are some clear differences. Many women say: “If I fear the worst will happen and expect the worst, then if it happens, I already expected it so the bad news will be easier to manage.” In fact, I have never found this to be true.

What my clients have taught me, as well as what I have experienced in my own personal life, is that when our lives do not unfold as we had hoped they would, we always feel sadness, disappointment, and sometimes anger. Even if we have assumed and prepared for the worst outcome, the end result is that the sadness, the disappointment, and the anger are always the same.

Let’s take the example of preparing for a new in vitro fertilization cycle. If you begin the cycle assuming that you will be protecting yourself by believing the cycle probably won’t be successful, it is highly likely that you will feel emotionally drained and negative each day of the cycle. Those negative thoughts really do take a toll on you emotionally, as well as physically. You will feel much better during the cycle if you have the belief and the hope that your cycle will end in a successful pregnancy.

Even though you know the statistical success rates for your cycle, you really don’t know what the outcome of the cycle will be or which end of the success rates your cycle will be. It is a really good feeling to be hopeful and positive during the IVF cycle. You just feel better. If your cycle is cancelled for some reason, or if your pregnancy test results are negative, of course you will feel sad disappointed and maybe angry. There really is no shield or protection from these feelings. The sad feelings will linger for several days, and they will begin to leave when they are ready.

The truth is that women who are in treatment for infertility are afraid that they will not be a mother one day. They are afraid that their treatment will not be successful, that their pregnancy will not result in a full term delivery, or they will not live the dream of parenting. I actually don’t know anyone who sets out to be a mother who has not been able to achieve this dream. The dream may not unfold in the way that you initially envisioned it unfolding, but there will be a path that is exactly right for you.

Begin each day with a sense of hope that you will be a mother. Remind yourself that this journey, and this dream, will come to pass. Exactly when and how this occurs is unknown at this moment, but stay the course and keep the faith that your dream of becoming a mother will happen exactly when and how it is supposed to.

Notice where in your body you feel the hope, and bring your awareness to this place of hope throughout the day. Before going to bed at night, acknowledge and connect with your place of hope, and you will find that you will sleep more peacefully. When you begin to live in a place of hope, your fears become less real (you made them up anyway) and less important. Hope and fear do not  coexist equally, and when hope becomes your truth and your reality, there is little space for fear.

Hope is a way of thinking, a belief system, and an inner knowing. When we enter any new important time or event in our lives with hope, life is more enjoyable, happy, and peaceful. You may want to do an experiment for  the next two weeks and pay close attention to your thoughts, your beliefs, your feelings, and your physical well-being when you live in a place of hope rather than fear. This is a positive and powerful approach to your fertility treatment.

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Tips For Sleeping Peacefully During Infertility

Most women I talk with who are going through infertility have difficulty sleeping at least three nights per week.  Sleep is so vital to our physical and mental health, and there are many things you can do to prepare for a good night’s sleep. I want to share some tips which can help you improve your sleeping patterns, fall asleep easily, and stay asleep.

 Decrease your caffeine intake. Caffeine disrupts your natural sleep cycle. If you consume caffeine during the second half of the day, it is an even bigger obstacle to deep sleep during the night.

 Avoid naps during the day until your sleep patterns are stable. If you still need a nap during the day, a 20 minute nap is optimal to re-energize.

 Dim the lights in your home as the sun goes down.  This signals to your mind that it is time to wind down and transition from your active day into a more relaxing evening. As the sun sets, the pineal gland is able to sense the change in light transmitted through your eyes, and it begins to secrete a hormone, melatonin, to prepare your body for sleep. While eating dinner, light candles and dim your lights. This is not only romantic, it’s also very relaxing.

Although we live in a high-tech world today, it is important to turn off all of your electronic devices for at least one hour before going to bed. These devices are stimulating to the mind and significantly impair the secretion of melatonin due to the strong light they emit. Definitely avoid getting on infertility chat rooms in the evening which can trigger anxiety and worry.

Once you’ve turned off all of your electronics, or do a calming activity such as a gentle yoga practice. Light a candle or incense in your bedroom using scents such as lavender or vanilla that have a very calming and grounding effect. Your brain associates certain scents and aromas with relaxation.  If you enjoy taking warm baths, it’s a good idea to do this before going to bed.

Drink a cup of organic milk. Once the milk boils, add a pinch of cardamom, nutmeg and/or cinnamon. Let it cool and add some honey. This drink could help with insomnia. If you are lactose intolerant, use lactose-free milk or a bedtime tea which contains chamomile, valerian or lemon balm.

Practicing alternate nostril breathing at bedtime is a cleansing breath that calms the nervous system and clears and steadies the mind. This is how alternate nostril breathing is done:

Use your right hand to close your nostrils. Tuck your index and middle finger into your nose. Place the thumb by your right nostril and your ring and little fingers by your left nostril.

·        Inhale through the left nostril, closing the right nostril with the thumb, and take a long inhalation breath.

·         Hold the breath while keeping the nostrils closed for a few seconds.

·        Exhale through the right nostril, closing the left nostril with the ring and little fingers, and take a long exhalation.

·        Inhale through the right nostril, keeping the left nostril closed with the ring and little fingers and take a long inhalation.

·        Hold the breath, closing both nostrils, for several seconds.

·        Exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed with the thumb, and take a long exhalation.

 This is one round of alternate nostril breathing, and I recommend you practice 5 – 10 rounds. It will help you relax your body and mind.

Infertility can be stressful, but getting good nights sleep can ease the stress of infertility and improve your overall health and well being.

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Enjoy Romance, Passion, And Sex On Valentines Day And Calm The Frustrations Of Infertility

Happy Valentines Day! This is a perfect day to celebrate and be grateful for your wonderful partner. What if you celebrated your relationship not just today…but every day? If your sex life has decreased during infertility treatment, you are not alone. Why should you settle for an infrequent or unfulfilling sexual relationship with your partner? You deserve better.  

During the past twenty-two years, I have specialized in counseling individuals, couples and groups who are experiencing infertility. I talk with couples openly and intimately about how their sex life is affected during infertility treatments, and I have never heard a couple say their sex life improved during treatment. Instead, their sexual activity ranges form ‘about the same” to “non-existent”.

Couples often report that they are uncomfortable discussing these issues with their doctor because they feel too vulnerable and embarrassed. These feelings can be exacerbated if a couple is already experiencing feelings of shame or embarrassment about being diagnosed as infertile.

The mental, emotional, and physical experiences of infertility can have a negative impact on your sexual desire and sexual performance. Hormonal fluctuations affect your sexual interest and arousal. Normal sexual activity is interrupted during diagnostic testing and treatment. You may find your sexual desire decreasing as the focus of sex shifts from pleasure to becoming pregnant. Couples often lose interest in sex except during the middle of a woman’s menstrual cycle each month when she is most likely to become pregnant. Knowing there is a one or two day  window of time each month when a sperm can fertilize an egg is stressful and puts pressure on a couple to have intercourse whether they feel like it or not.

Couples want to stay connected during infertility. They want to please each other, and they need to create ways to keep their romance and passion alive. In order for this to happen, it is important to communicate to your partner the physical and sexual feelings and responses that you are experiencing during infertility. It’s best to have these conversations when you are both feeling rested and calm, not when you are feeling stressed or exhausted.

Both men and women want to feel special, loved and desired. Remember that sex is not just physical; it is also a mental and emotional experience. Flirt with each other, give surprise gifts and express your love in non-verbal ways. You can send cards or e-mails to stimulate sexual interest. When someone says they want to feel “loved” what they are often seeking from a partner is attention, which is being fully present when you are talking, listening or spending time together.

There is an exchange of energy which seems to magically occur during physical touch that leaves couples feeling more connected to one another. Take time to touch each other often throughout the day. Take time to look at each other in loving ways. Take time to say kind words. Remember what first attracted you to each other and remember why you chose to spend your lives together. If you make it a priority to nurture your physical relationship, you may find that some of the frustrations of infertility became calmer and less important. Today and each day for the rest of your lives, create ways to stay close and connected. This enables you to find comfort and peace during the journey of building your family together.

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Best Lubricants When Trying To Conceive

Have you ever wondered if your lubricant could be interfering with pregnancy? This is a great article with all the information you need to know.

Reuters Health Information

Study Warns Some Lubricants Could Block Conception

By Ronnie Cohen

February 05, 2014

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Couples trying to conceive may want to avoid some common sexual lubricants, which a new study says can harm sperm and reduce the chances of pregnancy.

“Lubricants available on the shelf at Target, Walmart are not lubricants any couple should use if they are trying to have a baby,” said Kazim R. Chohan, senior author of the study and director of the Andrology Laboratory at the State University of New York Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse.

“Couples can try them for their sexual pleasure,” Chohan told Reuters Health. “But if they are trying to have a baby, then they are not going to work for them.”

Two of five commercial products Chohan investigated in the study are no longer available in stores. Johnson & Johnson recalled K-Y Tingling Jelly and K-Y Sensitive Jelly from retail outlets last year after finding the lubricants required additional data for U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval, according to a company statement.

Some previous research suggests women trying to get pregnant are more likely to suffer from vaginal dryness, Chohan and his colleagues noted January 24the online in Fertility and Sterility.

But, they write, “Commercial coital lubricants have been wrongly perceived to maintain fertility.”

The researchers examined sperm motility in test tubes in the presence of five commercial gels and four common oils. The semen samples from 22 healthy donors were examined over the course of an hour of exposure to each product.

All the commercial lubricants except Pre-Seed, a product specifically formulated for couples trying to conceive, impaired the sperm’s overall movement and their ability to move forward.

In addition to Pre-Seed and the two recalled K-Y gels, the study looked at K-Y Warming Jelly and Astroglide.

The study found no negative impact on sperm from exposure to canola or baby oil. Sesame oil, however, was associated with an immediate, drastic decline in sperm movement.

And mustard oil had the opposite effect. When researchers mixed mustard oil with semen, the sperm became hyperactive and stayed that way for at least an hour.

Chohan’s laboratory tested mustard oil because sex workers in Bangladesh often use it as a vaginal lubricant as well as to try to kill bacteria. The authors called the results “very interesting” and suggested mustard oil should be studied further.

Past studies also have shown that over-the-counter lubricants impeded the ability of sperm to swim during test-tube experiments.

A 2012 study that tracked couples trying to conceive, however, reported no difference in success rates between couples who used lubricants and those who did not (see Reuters Health story of July 10, 2012).

Barry Behr, director of Stanford University Medical Center’s in-vitro fertilization and assisted reproduction laboratories, told Reuters Health he could have predicted the current study’s results on commercial lubricants and natural oils.

“We don’t recommend K-Y Jelly. We recommend baby oil or mineral oil – not scented,” he said.

Behr and Chohan both said physicians have long advised patients who want to conceive to steer clear of commercial lubricants.

But Dr. Charles Coddington III, president elect of the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technologies and a Mayo Clinic professor of obstetrics and gynecology, told Reuters Health the study’s findings surprised him.

“The bigger surprise to me is the Astroglide because I thought that had been studied a little better,” he said. “I thought Astroglide was a good agent.”

Behr said he was surprised a few years back when he learned Astroglide, “a lubricant marketed to fertility practices, had some spermicidal properties.” Stanford fertility doctors give patients who need lubricants samples of mineral oil, which is inexpensive, nontoxic and readily available, he said.

“I can give you some mineral oil for five cents,” Behr said. “It would really be a shame that someone couldn’t get pregnant because they were using a spermicidal cream.”


Fertil Steril 2014.

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OVERCOMING Infertility – A Symposium On Ways to Become A Parent

OVERCOMING Infertility – A Symposium On Ways to Become A Parent

I am speaking at this symposium and hope you will join me. Bring your friends and family to this wonderful event.

Saturday, November 9, 2013 from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM (EST)

Heritage Sandy Springs
6110 Blue Stone Road Northeast
Atlanta, GA 30328

The Cade Foundation will host a free education focused seminar that will include a panel of experts from the Atlanta metropolitan area who support families with infertility and/or considering adoption. This will include:

Fertility Treatment- RBA (Reproductive Biology Associates)

Adoption -  AIS (Adoption Information Services)

Legal support for adoption or 3rd party fertility treatment – The Law office of Sara M. Clay P.C.

Infertility Counselor – Carol Fulwiler Jones MA

Please join us!

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Top Recommendation For Yoga Fertility Solutions: Pay Attention

While I was taking an asana yoga class in India, the teacher stopped the class and said, “PAY ATTENTION! You are not paying attention to your practice. What is the point of doing your yoga practice if you are not focusing on what you are doing?”

 This comment still resonates with me. What is the point in doing anything if you are not fully engaged in the present moment?  Going through the motions of your daily life will only get you through the day. You miss the special moments, the special feelings that arise, and the sensations of being alive and aware.

You may be thinking you prefer not being fully aware of the emotional challenges of infertility. I’ll suggest a different perspective. All feelings come and go throughout the day, and if you are not paying close attention, you may not notice the many feelings that surface when the challenges are absent. You never feel just one way, like happy or sad, for the entire day. You can watch your feelings come and go, and it’s best to be gentle on yourself and try not to judge your feelings. Notice them, pay attention to them, and let them find their natural flow.

 When you are paying attention during your yoga practice, you will find the benefits of the yoga practice remain with you after the class ends. The reason is because the true essence of yoga is to clear the distractions and chatter of the mind. Once the mind is clear, focused, and calm, paying attention requires little to no effort. Practice paying attention to your feelings, and you will begin to experience your fertility in new ways.

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Blog Talk Radio Show on Infertility: Therapeutic Wisdom, Skills, and Success Strategies

I was the guest speaker on Leesa Myers’  Blog Talk Radio Show on September 9, 2013. The topic was: Infertility: Therapeutic Wisdom, Skills, and Success Strategies.

Hope you will listen, enjoy, and learn.

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Yoga Fertility Solutions

I rrecently spent seven weeks in India traveling and studying Yoga and Fertility at the Krishnamacharya Yoga Mandiram in Chennai, a large city on the coast of southern India. I have studied, practiced, and taught yoga in this tradition for over 30 years. The focus of my trip was to take an intensive four week course, The Heart of Yoga.  I took seven hours of yoga classes each day, and during my lunch breaks or at the end of class, I often had a private lesson with one of their master teachers who specializes in Yoga and Fertility. I was also given a personal yoga practice to be done every evening. To say the least, it was a yoga immersion which I have wanted to experience for the past 25 years.

I will be blogging about what I learned about yoga and fertility, and I am very excited to share this ancient wisdom with women, men and couples who are struggling to become parents. I look forward to reviewing my book of notes and memories of an enlightened Yoga and Fertility journey.   

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The New Normal NBC TV Series: A Critique By The Infertility Counselor

I have been remiss in blogging about “The New Normal” TV series. There are some very positive aspects of this show, and some not so positive aspects.

Let’s start with the positive:

The parents express how desperately they want a child. This is true for all couples I have seen who are making these heroic efforts to become parents.

I love Goldie saying,” A family is a family and love is love”. That warms my heart.

I also love Brian saying, “Not being the baby’s biodad doesn’t make me less of a Dad”.

Another great quote, “A surrogate is like an easy bake oven”.

There are many lines which express perfectly the way surrogates and intended parents feel and think. This helps people understand and soften into this particular way of creating a family.

Now for the not so positive:

I was VERY disappointed to learn that Goldie is a traditional surrogate, rather than a gestational carrier. It is very rare for anyone to use a traditional surrogate so this misleads the general public about surrogacy. In fact, I think it’s damaging, and I’ll tell you why. I have counseled with many amazing women who want to be gestational carriers. The gestational carriers like knowing that they are not using their own eggs so the baby has no genetic connection to them. This helps them stay more emotionally detached and clear that they are growing a baby created by the couple’s embryos (or in the case of a gestational carrier for a gay couple, it would be the man’s sperm and donor eggs). Most gestational carriers say they would never consider traditional surrogacy because then the baby would be conceived with her eggs, and therefore genetically connected to her. This may make it too difficult for her to give up the baby after delivery.

I have met with many gay couples who want to have a child. They create embryos using one of the man’s sperm and an egg donor. The donor may be anonymous, or she may be a friend or relative (not a relative of the man who is using his sperm). The egg donor goes through in vitro fertilization to retrieve her eggs, and then her eggs are mixed with the man’s sperm to create embryos. Typically one or two embryos are transferred into the uterus of a gestational carrier, and the additional embryos are frozen. The frozen embryos may be used to try other cycles if the carrier does not become pregnant this cycle. The embryos may also be used for having other children in the future.

I also felt that many of the characters were trying too hard to play an exaggerated role, and it was a bit over the top and irritating at times. The grandmother, Jane, was way too strong of an outspoken bigot. Goldie’s daughter, Shania, was trying too hard to be an odd child and acted too mature for her young age. Goldie’s ex-boyfriend, Rocky, is an idiot and I can’t imagine she would have ever been interested in him in the first place. I liked the other characters.

Overall, the show is entertaining. As I stated earlier, it is a misrepresentation of surrogacy, and I am sad NBC didn’t do their homework to get this critical piece correct. I will stay tuned and see how the season unfolds, but they really lost my attention after the first episode. As an infertility counselor who counsels hundreds of men, women, and couples who are using assisted medical technologies to create their families, I advocate strongly for a well informed public who can better understand and support the 7.3 million people who are struggling to become parents.

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NBC Series “The New Normal” Reviewed By The Infertility Counselor

I have been anxiously awaiting the new NBC television series, The New Normal.  I have been an infertility counselor for over twenty years, and I have counseled with hundreds of couples, including same sex couples, who are passionately pursuing their dream of becoming parents with the help of egg donors, sperm donors, embryo donors, and gestational carriers.

Many of these assisted reproductive technologies are not understood, and I applaud NBC for airing a television series which shows the road less traveled for many couples who are trying to build their families. In addition, it’s so cool that NBC got even edgier by casting a gay couple. It is time this topic of building families through donors and surrogates was out of the closet. We have over 7 million people in the US who are experiencing infertility, and the numbers are increasing at alarming rates.

In the introduction of my book, Managing The Stress Of Infertility: How To Balance Your Emotions, Get The Support You Need, And Deal With Painful Social Situations When You’re Trying To Become Pregnant, I write: “My dream is that one day infertility will no longer be a secret disease and people can openly talk about their treatment and family-building choices without fear of judgment, stigma, or negative consequences. Life is a gift to be celebrated. A child is a gift to a parent, no matter how conception occurs or how a parent and child come together.”

So I’m signing off the watch the season preview. The opening premiere is Tuesday, September 11, 9::30 EST. Stay tuned and I’ll blog about it tomorrow.

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