by Jennifer ‘Jay’ Palumbo
All around the world, fertility treatments are on hold because of the pandemic. Making this uncertain time even more stressful is when things do officially reopen, there could be a backlog in treatment.
When I was deep into the “trying to conceive trenches”, even the slightest delay would send me reeling. After my first IVF failed and we were about to start IVF number two (which I nicknamed ‘IVF – Electric Bugaloo’), the doctors discovered a uterine polyp that absolutely needed to be removed before any more treatment could recommence.
When you have been diagnosed with infertility, that means you have already been waiting too long to get pregnant. So, every set back feels like fuel to the fire.
As is my way, I employed both my sense of optimism and humor to try to make the most of the delay. I named my uterine polyp, “Jackson Polyp” and even started his own Twitter feed. I gave him a whole personality as a down-on-his-luck artist who was currently crashing in my uterus. It got to the point that I grew fond of him and was a little sad to see him get surgically evicted.
This leads me to the current pandemic pause we are in. Is there a way to make the most of this time?
Possibly. You can investigate second (or third) options via tele-health. You could do some research online on fertility options (but do not just blindly Google. I don’t want you driving yourself insane as much as it may be a chance to learn more about genetic testing or your diagnosis such as endometriosis).
The type A person in me though tends to crave hardcore action. You can’t control the pandemic. You can’t control your fertility (or the outcome of your treatment) but you can try to look at ways to get your body “pregnant ready”. Not only is this a positive way of looking at things as it says to yourself and your fertility-challenged self, “Listen bitch! I’m working towards getting pregnant so get on board!” but it also is SOMETHING proactive you can do right now while waiting.
So, while you are waiting for your upcoming IUI or IVF, here is a top ten list of positive things you can do now during the COVID-19 pandemic to get a little healthier and help your mindset.
- Start Taking Prenatal Vitamins (if You Aren’t Already): Prenatal vitamins are a good way of making sure you’re getting the right vitamins you need in the right amounts. Folic acid is especially important pre-pregnancy because it can help prevent neural tube defects that occur in the earliest weeks of pregnancy.
- Talk to Your Primary Care Physician About Your Health (via Telehealth): Getting ready for pregnancy or not, getting an annual check-up (even a virtual one) is always advisable. Talk to your doctor about your personal and family medical history to see if these could affect you in any way as you try to become pregnant or while you are pregnant. A complete exam will look for any conditions or infections that could affect your chances of getting pregnant and carrying a healthy baby to term, including HIV, hepatitis, urinary tract infections, anemia, and high blood pressure.
- Get any Chronic Medical Conditions Under Control: Pregnancy significantly increases demands on your body. If you have a chronic condition such as asthma or diabetes especially; pregnancy can complicate these conditions because it increases the demands on your body. Talk to your doctor about any adjustments in treatment or medications you should make before you get pregnant.
- Check if You Have All of Your Vaccinations: A standard tetanus shot is never a bad idea if it’s been a while but more importantly, diseases such as rubella (German measles) and chickenpox can potentially cause miscarriages or severe birth defects if you get them while you are pregnant. Ask your doctor where you are in the world of non-hormone related shots!
- Eat a Healthy Diet: Look, I love stress eating as much as the next gal. However, if you want to dive headlong into treatment when this pandemic is over, it doesn’t hurt to look at your diet. Reduce or remove the amount of processed foods you eat. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, lean protein and foods rich in folates, such as leafy green vegetables and enriched bread.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight: Being overweight can, unfortunately, reduce your chances of getting pregnant, as can being underweight. Body fat helps regulate the production of estrogen, so if you have too much or too little body fat you may have irregular ovulation. Ask your primary care physician, OB/GYN, or Reproductive Endocrinologist about the weight range that is healthy for your height and body type.
- Exercise: A DVD, Amazon Prime exercise videos, a quick and social-distance safe walk, or even just pacing can help. Regular exercise is an important factor in fertility because it impacts your weight and stress levels. Low-impact activities, such as walking, swimming, yoga, or biking may be a good option that you can continue once you become pregnant.
- Reduce Stress: Before you start laughing me as I know we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, hear me out. While there isn’t definitive proof on stress directly impacting your chances of getting pregnant, reducing stress can never hurt! Look for ways to reduce stress in your overall lifestyle and take advantage of exercise. Mediating, visualization, journaling, and really anything that you feel relaxes you! I’ve been enjoying the Headspace app for what it’s worth.
- Give Your Body a Rest From Extra Hormones: While you’re taking a break, look at it as also giving your hormone levels and all that it impacts a break too. I realise this is a small comfort but to not be stabbing yourself with Gonal-F or Follisim MUST count for something. If nothing else, you’re bruise-free for a bit!
- If You Smoke – Stop: No, but really though. Smoking can seriously hurt your chances of getting pregnant. Researchers have found that smoking couples were twice as likely to be childless after five years of not using contraception. There is nothing good about smoking for you, your baby, or anyone else around you.
And if I could also sneak a number eleven in my top ten list: LAUGH. Watch a movie, read a book, or engage in any activity that makes you laugh. Binge-watching the Tiger King, The IT Crowd, Schitt’s Creek, The Graham Norton Show – whatever. We all could use a laugh these days and having even five minutes of escaping the problems of the world (and our reproductive organs) are always a good thing.