"All I want for Christmas is...."
For most people, that sentence will not end with "a child", but for the one in six couples who experience infertility, that could very well be on their holiday wish list.
For those of you who dream of expanding your family, here are a few tips to help guide you through the holiday season:
- Optimize your food intake. The holiday is always a great time for delicious food and good company, but it's important to eat regular portions and continue to exercise in order to keep within a healthy body weight.
Numerous scientific studies have shown that body weight, and specifically a person's body mass index (BMI), is directly correlated with fertility rates. BMIs of over 35 and lower than 19 often have health issues which are associated with infertility, so it's best to stay within a healthy BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. Weight issues, whether under or overweight, may reduce the frequency of ovulation or compromise the body's environment and chances to conceive even with treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).
In order to avoid weight gain (or loss) during the holidays, here are a few tips to be mindful of:
- Eat healthy snacks before you begin your holiday feast so you will be more full before the meal.
- Consume filling but healthy portions first such as a hot broth to avoid eating too much during the main course.
- Stand at least an arm's length away from munchies so you will be less tempted to have seconds.
- Concentrate on your meal while eating it. Research shows that multitasking at mealtime can make your mind less aware of the calories in your mouth. Enjoy the smell, taste and texture of your food. Not only will you find it tastier, it will help you from overeating.
- Watch your alcohol intake. It can be very hard to avoid drinking a glass or two during the holidays, but studies have shown that drinking more than three to four drinks per week has been associated with decreased fertility in both men and women. The holiday is always a great time for delicious food and good company, but it's important to eat regular portions and continue to exercise in order to keep within a healthy body weight.
To avoid the temptation, have a non-alcoholic beverage such as non-alcoholic cider, tea, hot chocolate or coffee with you at the table. That way, you know a variety of non-alcoholic drinks will be easily available, regardless of whether you're at home or at a party.
If you must drink, drink a glass of water or sparkling water with lime for each alcoholic beverage you have. Sparkling drinks can also act as a disguise for those who are pregnant and don't want people to know quite yet.
- Pamper yourself. Stress is a leading cause of infertility and although fertility drugs can certainly help increase your chance of conceiving, they will not overcome the effects of stress on fertility when you are trying to conceive naturally. So take the holiday season to unwind and focus on self-care: get a massage, do yoga, read your favourite book. And who knows? It might be just what you need to have a baby!
- Have sex. Trying to conceive can become a stressful and unsexy process when there are thermometers, ovulation kits and other tools involved, but it's important to have sex two to three times a week just for the pleasure! Not only is it a great stress reliever, it will be a great time to connect with your partner and enjoy each other's company.
- Reset for the new year. For those who are trying to conceive, especially single women who may be trying to decide between becoming a single parent or choosing egg freezing, the holidays can be a tough time as it brings into focus family and resolutions for the future.
Instead of focusing on your worries, think about the positives. The holiday season brings about your closest friends and relatives. If you're having trouble conceiving, this might be the time to tell your pillars of support of what you're going through. Don't be shy to put it out there and ask for their help; after all, "ask and you shall receive."
- Feel free to say no to events or set boundaries for events you feel may be too difficult for you at this time. You won't be in this place forever and your family and friends may not understand at the moment but they will in the long term.
Remember, there are always solutions. One way or another, you will get to the other side.
If you are a family member or friend who is trying to help a loved one through their fertility journey, kudos to you for being proactive in your support. It's helpful to remember that for those who suffer from infertility, being asked questions or having others show concern about their family planning intentions or absence of partner can be extremely hurtful, despite the very best of intentions. Instead, offer an ear. If someone wants to open up, they will approach you when they are ready. For those trying to conceive, sometimes just knowing that their friends and family are there to support them is enough.
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