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Posted By YouMeMine on 01/06/2021

New Year, New You: Mapping Out Your Health and Fertility Journey for 2021

New Year, New You: Mapping Out Your Health and Fertility Journey for 2021

For many intended parents, 2020 was an emotionally exhausting minefield. Those who have conceived, or who have a pregnant surrogate, are worried. Those who haven’t conceived and are hoping to move forward soon are worried. 

Whether you decide to try and start your family now, or think it best to wait, we wanted to provide you with actionable tips that will help you be your healthiest during this time, and afterwards.

Read below for our conversation with psychotherapist and brain health expert, Dr. Teralyn Sell as she shares her tips for nourishing your brain, body, and reproductive health.

TIP #1: Nourish your brain and body

Whether you’re an intended parent, a donor, or a surrogate, nourishing yourself with healthy food is critical. One way to do that is to think of food as fuel for your body and brain. 

It’s no secret that infertility and family building are stressful endeavors. Supporting your brain’s health, and hormonal health, take healthy habits, including intake of nutrients that can elevate “feel-good” hormones and neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. Your neurotransmitters need protein to function at optimal levels. Nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals, are necessary for the neurotransmitter pathway to operate effectively. 

My tip? Opt for nutrient-dense foods and high-quality protein sources. These can include fatty fish such as salmon, as well as chicken, nuts, eggs, and tofu. 

What you don’t eat can be as important as what you do eat. If you have a diagnosis that impacts upon your fertility, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or any other type of insulin resistance disorder, avoid sugary substances and unhealthy carbohydrates, such as white bread and cake. Choose high-fiber, nutrient-rich carbohydrates, instead. These include whole grains, and cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussel sprouts.   

If you don’t think you’ll be able to get all of the nutrients you need from food, you can supplement your diet with folic acid, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. This is particularly important for people who are attempting conception and for those in early and later-stage pregnancy. 

Because at least one-third of infertility issues are related to male-factor, it’s important for men to stay healthy, too. Data indicates that an increased intake of supplements such as selenium, zinc, omega-3 fatty acids, CoenzymeQ10 (CoQ10) and carnitine can increase sperm quality.

Check with a qualified health professional, such as your doctor or a registered dietitian, to help with ideas for fueling up. 

The right foods may help improve mood, drive and focus - all things we need in 2021. 

TIP #2: Sleep, get more of it! 

Getting enough sleep supports health at all stages of life. The CDC recommends that adults get at least seven hours a night of restful sleep. If you’re trying to conceive or are pregnant, you may need more sleep than usual. Listen to your body! If you’re tired, take a nap. Not getting enough rest has been tied to complications during pregnancy, such as pre-eclampsia. Putting good sleep hygiene habits in a great first step in your fertility journey. 

Getting more sleep starts with healthy habits. My tip? If you snack in the evening, avoid sugary foods or alcohol. Instead, opt for a light protein snack, such as almonds. 

One of my favorite snacks is a calming tea with some collagen protein. This will stabilize your blood sugar before bed, which means less waking up in the middle of the night with racing thoughts. 

Also, set the stage in your bedroom by eliminating the use of electronics, especially those that transmit blue light. Scrolling through social media might seem relaxing, but really it’s stimulating. Instead, leave screens behind and opt for reading a hard cover or paperback book. 

Meditation or gentle stretching can also help you relax and wind down for sleep.  

Be sure your room temperature is cool and your bedding and bed are comfortable. 

You can also use the power of smell by diffusing essential oils in your bedroom, such as lavender.  Research has found that lavender can positively affect sleep. Additionally, your brain will begin to associate the smell of lavender (or whatever scent you choose) with sleep. 

If you have a fur baby under foot, keep in mind that some essential oils used in aromatherapy are toxic to cats and dogs. Check with your vet before you choose a scent. 

Tip #3: Move intentionally

If you’re unable to get to the gym during COVID (most of us can’t), keep in mind you can exercise just about anywhere. 

My tip? Think of exercise as simply moving your body more. Healthful movement can reduce infertility-related stress, plus help you keep your weight down, if that is important to you. Thirty minutes of movement a day is all it takes to improve mood and support well-being. 

If you’ve got a short amount of time, try some of the online classes and videos that are available in abundance at this time. Many are free. Some include the ability to interact with other users, providing a social outlet, and much-needed camaraderie.  

You can also find something you enjoy, and make an appointment with yourself to do it at the same time every day, so it is non-negotiable. For example, if you are working from home, before you move from your work chair to the couch, transition from work to home by going for a brisk walk out of doors. This will also have the added bonus of boosting all-important Vitamin D levels, especially if you get outside during the morning or early afternoon. Vitamin D has been linked to enhanced fertility, and also has benefits for the immune system.  

Tip #4: Meditate daily 

Research tells us that meditation is a great way to improve physical and mental health.  In fact, data indicates that women who are infertile showed increases in mindfulness, self-compassion, and meaning-based coping strategies after meditating. 

Don’t be afraid that you don’t know how to meditate. There are plenty of apps and videos you can use to help you get started. Calm, Headspace and Mindful IVF are some great options for both iPhone and Android. The most important part is to just start. Find a time in your day, maybe before you get out of bed or late at night, when you can be still and just breathe. Start with five intentional minutes and work your way up.  

Tip #5 Strive for kindness

No one, including you, is perfect. That also goes for your partner. Don’t expect or demand perfection in yourself or in your significant other, if you have one. Instead of demanding perfection, strive for kindness.

Kindness to self includes self-forgiveness. Maybe it took you a long time to transition from IUIs to IVF, or from IVF to egg donor IVF. That’s OK! It’s not just a process, it’s your process. You can only do things according to your personal time table.

Maybe your partner balked at giving you injections of fertility meds, or at the prospect of next steps. They’re human too, and need to process things according to their personal time table. 

There are no easy answers about the path forward right now, as it pertains to infertility treatments and pregnancy. Whatever you decide is best for you, is best for you. That doesn’t mean there won’t be question marks or misgivings along the way – there may be. Be kind to yourself, let the answers flow, and keep in touch with what makes sense for your body, brain, and overall well-being. Trust in the science but don’t become overwhelmed by it.

You know what’s best for you.    

Dr. Teralyn Sell is a Psychotherapist, Brain Health Expert and co-creator of a supplement line, Pro Recovery Rx. For over 20 years, Dr. Teralyn has helped people overwhelmed by anxiety and panic attacks eliminate their symptoms and get off of medication completely using natural approaches that balances brain chemistry while permanently changing behavior.

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