Are you starting to make plans for the New Year? When it comes to fertility, it's always worth mapping out what your next steps should be, so that you can avoid the pitfalls that often accompany fertility treatments, whether they be via natural or assisted methods.
I find that the week between Christmas and the New Year is a great time for reflection, for taking stock of what happened over the past year and thinking of how best to improve upon your results and achievements for the year to come.
While most of us resolve to lose a bit of weight in January, especially after all the festive indulgence, for those with fertility issues the areas of focus may run a lot deeper;
What are my concerns?
- Do I really need IVF? Is it the best choice for me?
- Am I happy with the fertility consultant/clinic I'm attending?
- Is this new IVF protocol going to work? I.e. will I get enough eggs and have good quality embryos available for implantation?
- My problem isn't getting pregnant, it's holding on to it that's the problem. How can I minimise my risk of miscarriage when I conceive again?
- What can I do to support myself through this process and give myself the best chance of success?
The art of mind mapping
If there's one thing I've learnt about fertility over the years, is that it's never a linear problem!
Fertility issues are complex, often involving acute, as well as chronic health symptoms, male, as well as female fertility factors and a multitude of body systems e.g. a combination of immune, endocrine, cardiovascular imbalances.
This is why I would encourage you to try mind-mapping. You need a good bit of space, so try to put down your thoughts on an A3 sheet of paper, allowing yourself sufficient room to connect the dots and highlight the areas that you think may still require investigation. If there's something you reckon could be a contributing factor but aren't sure how it ties in to your overall health picture, make sure to jot it down anyway and flag it for further investigation.
Mind mapping is a great way to help you listen to your gut instinct. Many of the women and men I meet in clinic already have an inkling as to why conception remains elusive, they just haven't been given the opportunity to name it yet.
This is a sample mind map, but there are many variations and styles, so it's important to find one that suits you. Click on the image below for extra tips and tricks.
A patient I dealt with a number of years ago had sadly, experienced three early miscarriages by the time we met. The diagnosis she had been given was 'unexplained', as nothing had shown up in her various test panels. I kept asking questions, until she eventually acknowledged there was something that had been niggling away at her. It was a concern that had been dismissed by her consultant, so she had thought it wasn't worth mentioning to me.
The day before each of her miscarriages she had a nose bleed.
Sounds benign enough, doesn't it? Yet, this was a coincidence that couldn't be ignored. I recommended she have blood testing not just for the commonly screened for blood clotting markers (i.e. that cause the blood to be too sticky) but also for markers that could prevent her blood from clotting properly, e.g. the way it's supposed to, when laying down new blood vessels for the formation of the placenta.
It turned out, that she had a serious Vitamin K deficiency, most likely due to her longstanding history of digestive issues and difficulty putting on weight, in spite of a high calorie diet. Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient and she just wasn't able to absorb it efficiently, which had led to the problems with the blood clotting and the subsequent miscarriages.
After correcting the problem with supplementation and dietary changes, her Vitamin K levels were restored and thankfully, her subsequent pregnancy ended with the birth of a healthy baby girl.
The point of this story is to highlight the fact that if my patient had never mentioned her nosebleeds, she may never have discovered her issue was the opposite of what most women with blood disorders experience. Her blood wasn't too sticky, she had the opposite problem, which was leading to haemorrhaging each time she conceived.
Time to get started
It's best to complete your mind mapping when you are away from the distractions of work and are free to let your thoughts flow onto the page in front of you. The aim of this exercise is to bring you some clarity and focus, so that you will have a definite outline of what you want to investigate further over the weeks and months ahead.
So get cracking! You'll be amazed at how much better you will feel afterwards and you may even have that lightbulb moment that makes all the difference to your success in the future.