Do Something Different in December
The nights are longer and the days are colder, which can make it harder to stay on track with a fitness regime. Also December is full of temptations, from holiday parties to family functions, delicious gift baskets, and meals eaten out while traveling. The holidays can be tough emotionally too, as well-meaning family members may inadvertently bring up painful feelings when they ask about when you’ll start or expand your family. And the natural slow-down at many fertility clinics this time of year may mean that some fertility interventions you’ve planned will have to wait until January.
So what’s a fertility patient to do to stay strong, both mentally and physically, during this season of parties and excess?
First, try to continue to work out even if you have to modify your normal routine. Do your best to maintain a minimum of 30 minutes of activity per day, such as a 15-minute walk after lunch and again at the end of the day before heading off to the Christmas office party.
This time of year is also the perfect time to check out complementary and alternative therapies to improve your health. Increased stress – another side effect of the holiday season! – is associated with decreased fertility and an increase in pregnancy complications such as preterm labor, gestational diabetes, and prolonged labor. In one study of fertility patients, those that received group support and cognitive behavioral therapy had double the pregnancy rate. In another study, a group of women receiving mind-body based techniques such as hypnosis, psychotherapy, and relaxation had a pregnancy rate of 56% compared to the control group, which had just a 41.9% incidence of pregnancy. And a case control study using hypnosis for patients undergoing IVF showed a doubling of implantations and pregnancy rates.
All of these studies support the idea that alternative therapies can make the difference in a woman’s quest to get pregnant. Additionally, meditation can help with relaxation and coping with stress. Acupuncture has also shown promise in fertility treatments. One analysis of the ancient Chinese treatment, which included seven trials and 1366 women surveyed, showed that acupuncture applied around time of embryo transfer did improve pregnancy rates and live birth rates. Even though more studies are needed to further evaluate the benefits of acupuncture in relation to fertility, the dangers of acupuncture are negligible — so why not do a trial session during this month or during your next round of fertility treatments?
Diet is always a part of health and fitness, and homeopathic supplements and careful eating is especially important if you are hoping to become pregnant now or in the New Year. As abundant temptation of rich and delicious holiday foods abound, try to improve your daily food choices. For example, a diet rich in antioxidants is crucial to support fertility, and five to nine servings of colorful fruits and vegetables will help. A daily multivitamin is also key, and taking a consistent dose of Vitamin C (750mg/day) showed improved pregnancy rates in one study. The herb chasteberry/Vitex has been shown to be beneficial in correcting some menstrual cycle irregularities. Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly DHA and EPA, are largely deficient in the American diet, so taking fish oil capsules or eating fish three times a week may help improve implantation rates. Omega 3′s also have been shown to be important in the developing fetal brain, which makes the case for fish oil especially compelling.
So if during this month you are encouraged to take a break from conventional high-tech fertility treatments, considering giving complementary and alternative therapies a try. Improve your health through diet and by choosing the right foods and supplements. Work on lowering your stress levels through acupuncture, massage and/or meditation. And continue to exercise in order to prepare your body to be healthy and ready to maintain a pregnancy in the coming new year.
And finally, if all else fails, don’t worry — we are ready for you in the New Year! We will be hosting a workshop on nutrition and exercise in January. Information is coming soon!