12 Days of Christmas Fertility Toolkit

When preparing for the holiday season, a little planning can go a long way when it comes to self-care.

This year our team at the Lister Fertility Clinic are going to be sharing 12 tips over the 12 days of Christmas for anyone thinking about, or coping with, fertility related ‘stuff’ over the festive period.

Tracey Sainsbury, Fertility Counsellor at the clinic, will be sharing tips for people who are thinking about trying to conceive in the new year, and those who are looking to find out more about assisted conception, ‘just in case’ it doesn’t happen naturally. Many people do this – especially those of us who like a plan!

We will be sharing tips around the various fertility treatment options, whether you are considering egg freezing, embryo freezing, Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), or contemplating donor conception as part of your pathway to parenthood.

Christmas is also often a time when people who have been trying to conceive for some time take a break. It is a time to lighten up on the dietary regime, keep a little less fit and maybe indulge in a few forgotten treats; so we’ll include a few recipes for a morning after revival and, as the New Year draws closer, we’ll be looking at a few nutritional boosters in readiness for taking your next steps.  

If you’re a Lister Fertility Clinic patient we very much hope that you’re aware of our counselling service. This unlimited service is available to all patients before, during and after their treatment. Even if you don’t feel you need to meet us in person, you’re welcome to drop us an email at Traceys@lfclinic.com and ask for additional stress tips and strategies, or to receive our counselling booklets with links to relevant resources ahead of the holidays.

The Lister Fertility Clinic, like most clinics, closes over Christmas to enable essential works behind the scenes. Sadly not a team of helpful elves, but instead specialist operatives promoting optimum results for our patients next year. As we’re not going to be available on the phone for support, we’ll be sharing a self-help tip with each blog too.  

And back to those who like a plan, we hope anyone trying to conceive without assistance is successful. For those who are not, or for our lesbian couples and single women where there’s a choice not to settle for the wrong relationship, known donor or co-parent- please see the dates of our open evenings planned for 2018, to find out more about the treatment options available to you here at the Lister.

Your 12 Days of Christmas Fertility Toolkit:

25th December, 1st Day of Christmas

All I want for Christmas is a Baby

This can be one of the hardest days of the year for anyone who wants their first baby, or their second, or third. For those with primary or secondary infertility, or even just those beginning to think about trying to become a parent – we hope that today you can show a little kindness and compassion, to yourself.  

The greatest gift we can give is very often ourselves; our time is gift enough to many of the people who love and care for us. But infertility is often something we can’t or don’t feel able to share…and if we do often people just don’t understand.

So today is about doing something for you, a bit of indulgence. You may have to see people, some you may be glad to be with, others can feel hard work, but something you have to do. If it’s manageable plan a reward, a treat for coping.  We know that plans for today may have been made a long time ago, but if something doesn’t feel manageable, you are an autonomous adult and can choose not to go. When we recognise we have control (even if only of our feet!) we can choose to amend plans, change them or indeed ignore them.

We can also choose to empower anyone important to us with enhanced awareness of infertility and how to support us; we can do this via the Friends and Family Factsheet provided by Fertility Network UK, the national charity for fertility and involuntary childlessness. You can download the factsheet here: http://fertilitynetworkuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/FACTSHEET-Families-Parents-Friends-Colleagues-September-2016.pdf

And from everyone at the Lister Fertility Clinic, we wish you a very happy Christmas.

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26th December, 2nd Day of Christmas

History Needn’t Repeat Itself

I am reminded on the 26th December how grateful I am on behalf of all Welsh women that ‘holming’ no longer takes place; the ancient custom on this date of beating young women with holly on their bare limbs until they bled continued for many years, rather barbaric feels a bit of an understatement.

So today a fact… we aren’t clever enough as mere humans to stop ourselves getting pregnant if there is a healthy egg, a healthy sperm and no contra-indications to pregnancy. If I didn’t conceive last month and there was a chance of conception, chances are there was something amiss, and like ‘holming’ just because something has happened before, it doesn’t have to happen again (thankfully).

When you’re trying to conceive month after month, the tell-tale red spots that let you know that your period is on its way can become all too familiar for many, so much so we can unconsciously avoid sex. Avoid trying to conceive so that we can have a month off feeling like a failure as ‘we didn’t do it at the right time anyway’. Or, with assisted conception treatment, that you somehow did or didn’t do something that prevented a positive outcome. 

Many professionals will say the same about miscarriage, especially following a first pregnancy loss. However people telling you how common something is, doesn’t often help. What can help is connecting with people who understand. We run a support group here at the Lister that is open to all, we also provide information on specialist organisations that are there to provide support too, visit our support hub to find out more.  

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27th December, 3rd Day of Christmas

Thinking of Cycling?

Let’s turn away from treatment cycles for a moment and, as we approach the New Year, focus on a change cycle. Take a look of one of the coaching exercises from the The Coaching Tools Company below. Have a look at the wheel and  see the rating 0 near the middle and 10 close to the edge for each segment. Provide a rating for your current level of satisfaction in each area, then do the same again for how you desire it to be.

 

Now imagine both wheels are on your bike, how bumpy is your ride? What can you change, and if you can’t change it how much of an impact is the difference having? We ask, because if there’s things we can’t change, there’s help and support to help manage our thoughts around our current situation better.

We have specialist fertility counselling available at the Lister Fertility Clinic but sometimes people prefer to find a local counsellor, or a counsellor to focus on other things outside of fertility. You can find counsellors via the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy: http://www.itsgoodtotalk.org.uk/

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28th December, 4th Day of Christmas

4 Calling Birds…

So the song goes, though the type of calling I’m thinking about is picking up the phone and having someone on the end who is interested in what you have to say, or who can provide a positive distraction.

Do you have a friend from years ago who when you reconnect with it feels like you spoke yesterday, but might have been months or years before? Is there a recent friend from a support group or forum who has shared their number, or a Fertility Network UK regional volunteer you’ve been put in touch with?

Some of us are blessed with partners, friends and/or family that we can chat about everything to and they just listen and let us ramble on.

Having a journal entry, note, or list on our phone of who is there for us can be a reminder that there are people we can call when we don’t feel like venturing out or inviting people in, but we want to chat.

Many charities have a support line too, sometimes not knowing the person on the end of the phone gives us permission to be more honest about how we are feeling, we have several listed in our Support Hub https://ivf.org.uk/support-hub/

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29th December, 5th Day of Christmas

A Day of Rest and Relaxation

Sunday is usually our rest day, but this year that’s New Year’s Eve, so today can be our chill out day, we survived Christmas and aren’t yet too focussed on the weekend ahead.

What do you do to relax? Always the same things? Have you thought about trying something new?

We’re used to ‘there being an App for that’ in many areas, but frustratingly many of the mental health ones include a fee. This however is  changing, the NHS is getting involved too and currently testing one of my favourites ‘Chill Panda’ (free from the App store).

Amazon also has a huge selection of free-to-download relaxation apps. YouTube has many relaxation videos, including some on self-massage videos, we aren’t just suggesting our favourites as we recognise that we’re all individual and thankfully there’s plenty out there to choose from.

So if you’re finding it difficult to relax, try something different, make use of the technology available from the comfort of home and dip in to an App or video. It might help you today, but might also be a useful addition to your coping strategy tool box for the year ahead too.

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30th December, 6th Day of Christmas

Ice, Ice Baby

Ice – if you’re planning a New Year’s Eve party tomorrow make sure you check you have enough, it’s a thing we rarely buy, but often the supermarket freezer can be empty if you leave it too late.

So thinking about ice and the potential to leave things too late, maybe you’re thinking of egg freezing and wondering is it something to consider in the new year. Maybe you’re not ready to be a Mum just yet, or if you know you want a large family and wonder if it might extend your parenting potential.

Sadly, just like fertility treatment if you are trying to conceive, egg freezing brings no guarantees, but sometimes we want to explore if, for us as an individual, it is something that feels worth doing. Statistics are plentiful on the internet, but what really matters is your own fertility.

An initial consultation includes a blood test and an internal scan, both used to inform a fertility specialist how likely you are to respond to medication that will  stimulate your ovaries to produce more than the one egg produced naturally each month. Together with your age and medical history your consultant can explore the pros and cons of egg freezing, empowering you with the clarity you need to make an informed decision.

There is no right thing or wrong thing to do, just what feels most right. Here at the Lister Fertility Clinic, support is available via our open door counselling service whatever you decide is right for you.

So if freezing eggs is something you’re thinking about, get in touch next week and make an appointment, or book on to an Egg Freezing open evening to find out more.

If you’ve been through IVF and have happily reached a point where your family feels complete, having embryos remaining frozen, we know, can be difficult for many people. Exploring what to do with frozen embryos is something that is mentioned in fertility counselling ahead of treatment, so there is awareness of support being available when things have gone well, not just if things are difficult.

Lots of our patients don’t dip in to the counselling service, but we hope former patients, not just those currently in treatment are aware that support remains available.

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31st December New Year’s Eve, 7th Day of Christmas

Reflection and Resolution

The Czech Republic in 1733 (apparently) began the tradition of Watchnight for Christian faiths. A Midnight Mass for Catholics and, for others, a time to party! But often also, as in older customs, New Year’s Eve is a time to reflect on the year past, and sometimes too, to create a resolution for the year ahead.

But… if your resolution  includes trying to stay relaxed, stay positive and remain optimistic; we know that often this plan fails if you are planning fertility treatment. Not in any way because you have done anything wrong, but because it’s just not possible to remain wholly positive when you’re in a hopefully life changing situation where we have no control. To top it all, it’s driven by primal unconscious desires to become a parent, rather than our more rational conscious self.

So instead, my hope for the New Year for anyone trying to conceive, with or without assistance, is to have more self-compassion, to be a little kinder to yourselves, to make friends with the unhelpful thoughts, the negative feelings and even the waiting!

To recognise thoughts as just thoughts that will pass. Wholly appropriate thoughts for our unconscious when we’re wanting to become a parent, that success as a human is becoming a parent, a validation for being, and if this is not achieved we can routinely feel very low.

Our positives can sometimes feel a bit too high, meaning we have further to fall, so therefore are a bit scary. But thoughts, positive or negative,  will pass. I’ve not come across an inappropriate thought from someone experiencing infertility. 

So with that in mind, it’s absolutely fine to feel however you are feeling, and indeed the same applies for your partner if you’re in a relationship. May your New Year’s resolution involve unconditional love and support for each other…and yourself.

If friends or family suggest you should ‘stay relaxed’, ‘feel perky or positive’, ‘not be so down’, please do share this post.

Whatever you decide to do tonight everyone at the Lister Fertility Clinic wishes you a very Happy New Year.

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1st January 2018, 8th Day of Christmas

Being More Mindful

Yesterday we looked at accepting our thoughts and feelings as being routine, today we’re going to take that a step further, literally. Often New Year’s Day is the ideal day to go for a walk.

When we look up in to the sky, quite often we see clouds; there are different sizes and shapes, some splitting, some clumping, some looking quite abstract and some definitely forming a familiar structure.

If we think of ourselves as the sky and our thoughts and feelings as the clouds, we can begin to appreciate how much more we are than our thoughts and feelings and how ‘unstuck’ we are. Taking a little time to visualise your thoughts on each cloud as they move across the sky can alleviate pressure and tension we carry physically, in addition to helping us feel more mentally unburdened.

If clouds aren’t your thing, try mindful walking instead. It’s not so much about where you are, rather being aware of your body, your breathing and the sensation of you within your body. Just having this body awareness, even for a short time can be relaxing.

If you think Mindful Walking might be a useful resource for your coping strategies tool kit, have a google. There are lots of guides and for cold wet days, even some podcasts of mindful walks you can listen to from your chair, or whilst on your commute in the new year.

But for some it’s about pulling on walking boots or wellies and just getting some fresh air. Exercise in any form can help us to feel holistically better.

However you are spending your first day of the New Year, do try to spend a bit of time outside, as for many of us it will be back to work tomorrow.

For us here at the Lister Fertility Clinic, we look forward to a special year as we celebrate 30 years of providing the best care we can to our exceptional patients.

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2nd January 2018, 9th Day of Christmas

Back to work with a Breakfast Boost

If you’re thinking about trying to conceive then my guess is that you’re becoming more aware of what you’re eating, and possibly wondering if you overdid things over the holidays.

The NHS advise that anyone trying to conceive eats a healthy balanced diet; a simple tip is to always think about a colourful diet, i.e for breakfast this could mean adding some berries to your breakfast cereal.

Smoothies can be super delicious, but often full of sugar. Even homemade smoothies can be a little less healthy than eating the whole fruit, as the structure in whole fruit and berries means the sugar absorption is slowed.

As this is the first official working day of the new year, I think a treat is deserved and when thinking of fertility recipes I always look first to Emma Cannon, her website currently has a super recipe for Spelt & Kefir Pancakes, which make a perfect breakfast…do add berries of your choice too.

But whatever you decide to eat for breakfast, do eat breakfast.

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3rd January, 10th Day of Christmas

Making that call

The new year might have raised awareness of a desire to act, to put wheels in motion, to be bold and brave, or just a thought that it might be worthwhile just checking things out.

If you’re ready to get started give us a call and book an initial consultation, our team will talk you through the next steps and schedule a convenient appointment for you, either at our main clinic at the Lister Hospital in Chelsea, or at our Satellite clinic at The Shard. 

If you are becoming more fertility aware but not sure that you’re ready to do anything, or indeed just thinking that a bit of information might provide the reassurance that time is on your side, then do give us a call and schedule a Fit for Fertility Consultation at our main clinic in Chelsea.

If you’re thinking- we’ve been trying to conceive for ages but contacting a clinic feels daunting, or if you’re having treatment elsewhere and just want to see what the clinic is like, whilst meeting other people in a similar situation – get in touch to come along to our support group next week. https://ivf.org.uk/about/clinic-support-group/

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4th January, 11th Day of Christmas

Weight for it…

Feeling like you over indulged this Christmas? We all know a healthy weight promotes optimum health, especially when we are thinking about trying to conceive. We are delighted to work closely with the Lister Hospital’s Dietician, Komal Kumar, who shared Nutritional Booster tips for the clinic last month.  The NHS also provide general diet advice to help you reach a healthy BMI. What many people don’t know is being underweight can impact on fertility as much as being overweight. Weight is also important for our altruistic egg donors and women hoping to egg share as part of their treatment; whatever treatment pathway you are planning your nurse will be able to confirm if dietary support would be useful and we’ll be including a few fertility focussed treats at our support group on the 9th January. If you’d like to come along to the support group do contact Tracey Traceys@lfclinic.com.

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5th January, 12th Day of Christmas

Big Picture Plans and Treatment Options

Our last blog of the holidays, a day with most of the year ahead of us and for people venturing to the clinic keen to become parents, there’s often just one thing on their mind- ‘I want a baby’.

Now, here in the present, a baby would be super and for our consultants it’s wholly appropriate for them to work from the point of the least invasive treatment, whilst exploring all options and providing clarity to enable patients to make informed decisions about their treatment pathway.

But here in our counselling offices, when meeting with patients, we often suggest that once you’ve had the information you need, you take time to pause, to think of the big picture plans. If you tried to conceive naturally, or had a fantasy family in mind for some time, what did this look like? One child, two, three, more?

If you’re now 39 and know you’ve been trying to conceive for a few years and need assistance, but know that 2, 3 or possibly 4 children would be your ideal, then do tell the doctor. Embryos frozen now, in some cases, can give the same chance of success as fresh embryos transferred.  But if insemination feels best, that’s fine, go for it, but go for it knowing that sadly the chance of future treatment being successful decreases as we age.

Our bodies (including our eggs) are optimised to promote healthy babies being born, so most often we won’t conceive, which though we know is preferable to experiencing pregnancy loss, can still be incredibly difficult.

Recognising the significance of the fantasy family is so important, for many couples conceiving through IVF brings the much wanted joy of a child. However, if they had hoped for another, not just a child for them, but a sibling for their first born, then often there can be a collective judgement from others around how they should instead focus on being grateful for what they have.

So, if you’re taking your first steps in to the clinic, do share your end goal with your consultant, including what your future family would look like if everything was possible. If that isn’t achieved, or whilst you’re trying, do get in touch with our counselling service for support. We work closely with many national charities providing support relating to fertility, for primary or secondary infertility, as a single person, or those in a relationship and also more specialist support for fertility related loss.

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