By Lori Butler
Many of my early childhood memories are of preparing family meals in the kitchen. I remember the excitement of donning an apron, and opening the big spiral-bound cookbook with my mother. Anticipation, and an atmosphere of togetherness, filled the air as we followed the directions, and measured the ingredients.
One of my mother’s favorite expressions was “a watched pot never boils.” I could not, however, fully comprehend the meaning of this mantra until I craved a “bun in my own oven”.
When I found myself challenged by infertility in my late 30’s, I was seeking the fastest way to motherhood. Forget the oven, bring on the microwave! Most recipes have more than one cooking method, right?
As I progressed on my fertility journey, I learned that making a baby is like making a soufflé. It’s not as easy as beating eggs, tossing in cheese, and pouring the mixture in a pie shell, like making quiche. Creating a new life takes preparation, precision, and the key ingredient: PATIENCE.
What I learned on my quest to conceive, echoed the life lesson that my mother was attempting to teach me as a child. I readjusted my focus, and waited longer than I had hoped, but I did eventually get pregnant and give birth to a beautiful baby boy.
Perhaps that’s what my fertility journey gave me, a taste of homemade patience. I know that embracing this gift makes me a better mother, and for that, I am forever grateful.
Once you have experienced summer in the Midwest, you’ve heard about the “Dog Days” of summer. In other words – the days that are the most hot, the most humid, the most miserable days from July through the end of August. Not every day is like that, but after a couple of days on 90+ temperatures and you start to feel like you’re melting. Is it fall yet?
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for longer than a couple of months, your fertility journey may be going through its own “dog days.” You know – the season where nothing seems to be going right or progressing in any hopeful or helpful way. You just feel bothered, annoyed, frustrated and simply – stuck.
Ironically, the dog days of summer were named for the brightest star - Sirius the Dog Star. The term dates back to the time of the ancient Egyptians where it was believed that the appearance of Sirius in the sky brought fertility to the Nile region.
Could the dog days of summer bring fertility to your life? It could happen, and when you’re feeling stuck, it can be a powerful motivator to evaluate your choices and the elements in your control to boost your fertility power.
Stuck for ideas?
“I swear, if one more person asked me about my biological clock, I was going to scream. I know how old I am. I know how old my partner is. What I didn’t know was what my age meant in terms of my fertility. Am I too old to have a baby?”
If you’re considering having a child and you’re over 30, it’s likely that someone has brought up your age – at least once.
While we may know that we are most fertile in our late teens and twenties, many people aren’t ready to have children then. There’s college, starting a career, finding the right partner, and all of a sudden, we start wondering if maybe while we were waiting for the right time, if we waited too long.
Age does play a role in fertility. But what you may not know is that you aren’t doomed if you’re over 30 – in fact, one if five women have a baby after the age of 30. Plus, your clock isn’t the only one ticking. Paternal age plays a role in fertility and having a healthy baby, too. So what do you need to know about age and baby-making?
First of all, fertility does decrease in women beginning at age 30, but the drop is a small one. The decrease tends to affect women closer to 37 to 38 years of age, and especially into her 40s. However, that does not mean that a woman of this age cannot get pregnant. What it does mean is that if you’re over 35 and you are having difficulty conceiving, you’ll want to access fertility treatment sooner rather than later. About half of women over 40 need to see a fertility specialist and a third of women between 35 and 39 do too.
The older mom and dad get, the risks are also raised for having complications in pregnancy and delivery or congenital abnormalities in the baby. If you are concerned about specific issues, you may want to meet with a genetic counselor who can explain your specific risks.
Questions? Talk to your doctor about the best way to modify your lifestyle so you can be as healthy as possible. Reducing stress and exposure to toxins, being at a healthy weight, and exercising can all help you to be in great shape to build your family.
When you build your family using IVF, one of the things you may worry about is whether or not your baby will have any problems as a result of his or her unique way of entering the world. For a long time, there haven’t been significant long-term results indicating just how well IVF babies did.
New studies are emerging and results are encouraging. IVF babies are just as likely as traditionally conceived babies to be healthy both short term and long term and can themselves become parents. Many parents were relieved when the world’s first baby born via IVF, Louise Brown, of England, had her own naturally conceived child not long ago.
Babies born by in vitro fertilization (IVF) do not face an increased risk of birth defects, nor are they at greater risk of being smaller than normal, according to a study conducted in Japan.
In a study conducted by Eastern Virginia Medical School's Jones Institute of Reproductive Medicine, which produced the first U.S. IVF baby in 1981, did a long term study of 173 children were who conceived via IVF and have now reached adulthood. The results? Compared with other young adults in that age group, adults who were conceived through IVF were "healthy and well-adjusted with no prevalence of increased susceptibility to chronic diseases," such as cancer or heart disease, according to a paper published online by the journal Fertility and Sterility.
One factor to keep in mind is that if mom or dad are older, smoke or are frequently exposed to environmental toxins, then the chance of birth defects or other problems will rise, regardless of how baby joins a family. Higher older multiple births also increase the possibility of having problems. This means parents have an important role in protecting their future baby’s health.
A few things you can do to this summer to increase your overall health and well-being:
*Get regular exercise – take a walk or go for a swim
*Stay well-hydrated when you’re outside
*Steer clear of second-hand smoke
*Play with friends and family – Frisbee, card games, or even silly word games. Laughter is good for you!
*Relaxing is just as important – make time for music, reading and chillin’ in the summertime.
One of the great things about summer is the fresh produce you can find at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Fresh veggies taste good, they are full of vitamins and minerals, and they make you feel better, knowing you doing everything you can to eat healthfully and prepare your body for a successful pregnancy.
When you’re trying to conceive, aim for seven servings of vegetables and fruits, two of those should be rich in folic acid. Folic acid rich foods include spinach, broccoli, orange juice, and lentils. Plus, make sure at least one of your fruits or vegetable servings is high in vitamin C, including oranges, papaya, kiwi, or cantaloupe.
Some veggies you don’t want to miss:
Avocados are at their peak in the summer and are also an excellent source of potassium, folate and vitamins C and B6, and are a good source of thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and magnesium. Plus, they contain a compound to help with healthy carotenoid absorption from vegetables, which makes them perfect for missing in a salad or added to store-bought salsa. Perfect avocados have an unblemished and uniform skin that has a little give when gently pressed.
Zucchinis are inexpensive, easy to find, and they are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. Plus, they are a good source of dietary fiber, magnesium, vitamin A, potassium, copper, folate, phosphorus, omega-3 fatty acids, and several B vitamins. Look for zucchini that are about the size of a cucumber, and serve them grated on a salad, sandwich or in pasta sauce.
Beets are becoming popular foodie circles and for good reason. Beets contain significant amounts of vitamin C. These aren’t your grandmother’s beats, cooked until they are nothing but a purple mush, Instead, fresh beets are great steamed and served thinly sliced in a cool summer salad.
Not sure what to do with your summer veggies and you can’t eat another salad? Add them to your grill. If they are small, like green beans, wrap them in aluminum foil, drizzle with a good quality olive oil and cook 8 – 10 minutes per side. For other veggies like zucchini, tomatoes, or eggplant, slice into ½ inch rounds, skewer them, drizzle with olive oil and grill 6-9 minutes per side.
“ You have absolutely no idea what I'm going through,” insisted Sarah to Brett, her husband of nine years. “ Your entire life doesn't focus around trying to get pregnant – you can get up in the morning without having to pee on a stick or obsess over every twinge and think, ‘It might be it this time.' I'm the one missing work, taking medicine that makes me feel like I'm crazy and your big job in all this in being a sperm donor! Poor you. ” With that, she stormed out of the room, leaving Brett feeling hurt and angry.
When a couple has difficulty getting pregnant, it isn't easy. There's no “fair” way to split the burden. “Infertility is very difficult on couples,” explains Dr. Tarun Jain, a reproductive endocrinologist with Chicago IVF. “It often involves painful tests, long waits and uncertain results. I think the effect of stress on our physiology is truly underestimated and couples need to be intentional in taking steps to protect their relationship.”
Difficulty getting pregnant can affect couples in several different ways:
If you find your relationship is starting to show a little wear and tear from your baby-making blues, consider making some of these changes:
Find a Referee
Not to duke it out, but to be an outsider who can help you both sort out your thoughts, feelings and goals. Sometimes having someone to listen to can improve your emotional well-being, minimize your stress levels, and help you better understand your partner's perspective. Ask your health care provider for a reference for a mental health professional who specializes in treating couples experiencing difficulty conceiving.
Different isn't Bad
It doesn't take a psychologist to know that men and women are wired differently. The way you respond to the stress and rigors of baby-making will probably be very different from how your partner responds. That doesn't mean either one of you are “right” or “wrong.” It means you're different, which is part of what attracted you to one another in the first place. Accepting that you will each be in different places emotionally at different times is one way to stay healthy.
Give Him the Silent Treatment
Every once in a while, you two need to take a break from talking about babies and baby-making. Plan some non-infertility dates where all things related to fertility are off-limits. No talking about semen, ovulation, menstrual cycles or babies. You two have lots of other topics to talk about, you just might be out of practice.
Take a Procreation Vacation
You remember your honeymoon, right? Wherever you were, it was a little slice of heaven because you were together. See if you can find room in your budget for a getaway – even if it's just for the weekend. Timing it around ovulation might not be handy if you're going through a medicated cycle, but plan it so the two of you can connect and remember why exactly you thought growing your family was such a good idea in the first place.
Some vacation hotspots even cater to trying to conceive couples and offer special packages like the Birds and the Bees package at the Five Gables Inn & Spa on Maryland's Chesapeake Bay includes a two-night stay with a couple's massage, oysters (purported to be an aphrodisiac) and wine, a pair of heart-print boxer shorts and a CD from love crooner Barry White. For the more adventurous, the Westin at Lucaya Grand Bahama Island offers a procreation package complete with Caribbean fertility concoctions.
The Good News
In a recent study conducted by the national nonprofit organization Healthy Woman, the majority of couples have a relationship that comes out stronger following an infertility struggle. In fact, ninety percent of women are still with the same partner they were with when they went through infertility treatment. Those that separated said the treatments were not a major reason for the breakup.There are ways to protect your relationship and to keep yours happy, healthy and going strong - however you build your family!
Is it possible to get pregnant while consuming a steady diet of Big Macs and chocolate milkshakes? Sure, but a poor diet doesn't make getting pregnant any easier. (Plus, eating lots of junk food makes you feel lethargic and bloated – and you know that doesn't feel healthy or sexy). Research continues to prove that certain foods do in fact improve reproductive function.
While enhancing your chances of conceiving, the bigger picture of living a fertile life is important including learning lifestyle, exercise and food choices that are fertility promoting.
Fertility Boosting Foods
The top foods to add to your diet (and his) are these:
For those interested in a more comprehensive meal plan, you may want to read Kathleen Flynn's new book Cooking for Fertility: Foods to Nourish Your Fertile Soul. Flynn explains, “For those experiencing infertility, specific meal plans address common Western and Chinese Medicine imbalances with healing foods. By optimizing your digestion, you naturally absorb more nutrients and prepare yourself for a healthy pregnancy.”
Try this tasty recipe from Flynn's cookbook:
Chocolate Mousse with Tofu and Avocado
Dark chocolate has numerous health benefits including its arginine content, which encourages blood flow to the uterus and ovaries. Tofu is a healthful alternative to whip cream and eggs and it preserves the creamy texture of this delicious mousse (along with the avocado). Using a low-glycemic sweetener is important to stabilize blood sugar levels, is important for energy levels, metabolism and balanced reproductive hormones.
Preparation time: 5 to 10 minutes
Serves 4 to 6
10 ounces dark chocolate, melted
1 package silken tofu
(optional: 1/2 an avocado)
2 to 4 tablespoons agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a blender or food processor, puree tofu and optional avocado, with agave, vanilla and cinnamon until perfectly smooth. Add melted chocolate and mix until fully combined.
Pour mixture in a bowl, and let sit in the fridge for at least 4 hours.