Struggling with infertility can be one of the hardest things a woman can go through. So it can be a major emotional setback to read a study like the one recently conducted by scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles, which determined that babies born after IVF were 1.25 times more likely to be born with abnormalities. While experts agree it's important to read up on the fertility treatment you're undergoing, how do you remain focused — and dare we say even upbeat — in the wake of a study like this?
Sometimes laughter really is the best medicine
Lori Leroy, author of The Inadequate Conception, who refers to herself as a fertlity warrior says, "My best piece of advice is to try to laugh and find the lighter side of the situation if at all possible, which is the basis for my book. I did a strip tease for my husband before going back for my egg retrieval and him going back to do the deed, just to add some levity to the situation. I also had a bet with the nurses to see who had the most eggs retrieved that week (I won with 23). My book is chockfull of other anecdotes."
Stay focused on your health
Dr. Cynthia Murdock is a board-certified reproductive endocrinologist who stresses, "The most important thing she can do to avoid birth defects is improve her own health 90 days before conception." Here are a few important steps:
- Test for risk factors: hemoglobin A1c, vitamin D, blood pressure, cholesterol — these are simple tests that can be performed by your family doctor
- Start to take prenatal vitamins (800 mcg of folic acid)
- Boost important vitamins and minerals such as calcium (dairy, leafy greens), folic acid (citric fruit, fortified breads, lentils), iron (spinach, beans), omega-3 (low-mercury fish such as salmon)
- Limit alcohol
- Quit smoking
- Lower caffeine intake to less than 150 mg per day, which is equivalent to two (8 ounce) cups of coffee
- Identify stress management method (e.g., yoga, meditation)
- Schedule a preconception visit with your OB/GYN and be up to date on your PAP smear and mammogram
Surround yourself with a good support system
Because trying to conceive can be likened to a rollercoaster ride, it's important to figure out who you want to share your fertility struggles with — who will give you the type of support you need. "I didn't want people sugar-coating the situation or coddling me, but I did want real, honest support from family and friends," says Leroy.
Talk to your doctor
Because there is so much information out there about fertility treatments, it's critical that you're discussing any concerns over something you've read with the right person. "For parents considering in vitro fertilization or other forms of assisted reproductive technology, it is important that they understand and discuss with their doctor the potential risks of the procedure before making a decision," said lead study author Dr. Lorraine Kelley-Quon, a general surgery resident at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, in a statement.