interview with an expert

The Pre-Baby Blues: Is Trying to Conceive Making you Depressed?

Trying to conceive without positive results is an emotional roller coaster. For some, it can even lead to mental health issues. In the following interview with therapist Janine Canaday, LPC, LCPC, of Living Wellness, LLC, we will investigate how trying to conceive affects mental health and what you can do if you need extra support.

Is it normal to feel depressed, anxious, overwhelmed, hopeless if getting pregnant takes longer than expected?

Yes, feelings of sadness, anxiety, and anger to name a few are natural to experience and express. These feelings are usually indicators that a situation or experience that we are having requires additional attention to process and work through. For many women, motherhood is a valued and important part of life that is often sought after. When what we value most in life is not present or is difficult to obtain, it is normal to a degree to experience symptoms of depression, anxiety, fear and overwhelm.

The CDC reports that about 12% of women aged 15-44 experience challenges with fertility as well as 35% of couples where both men and women play a role in the challenges of conceiving. The messaging that we get from society, social images and the media can sometimes convey that conceiving a baby is easy and can happen quickly. In reality, it is a very intricate process that requires precise factors to be present. It is not as easy as it looks! Through many attempts, doctor visits, tests and procedures, the whole experience of trying to conceive can be emotionally, mentally and physically draining. It can be very devastating to experience and take an emotional toll on the relationship.

How can you tell if you are depressed or just going through a rough time?

Those who experience symptoms of depression will often show some of the following signs: fatigue, loss of interest, loss of appetite, isolation, extreme sadness, poor concentration, fearfulness, lack of energy, irritability, changes in weight, headaches, difficulty sleeping, feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness. When these symptoms impact one’s daily routine in a significant way and have been preset for at least 2 weeks or longer, then it may be time to consider professional support.

If you find that managing day to day responsibilities around the house, at work or school and with your family are becoming too overwhelming and unbearable, then it may be more than just a rough period of time. Also, if you are frequently feeling unmotivated, it is becoming too difficult to get out of bed and engaging in daily grooming seems daunting, then please pay attention to these signs. It is important to communicate with trusted individuals whom you find to be supportive about what you are feeling. In addition, it is equally as important to do a regular self-check of your emotions by paying attention to your thoughts, bodily sensations and responses to triggering or stressful situations. This level of self-awareness is vital to knowing when it is time to seek support in order to treat your symptoms early with effective interventions.

How can you find purpose when the one thing you want so desperately, to be a mother, you can't seem to attain?

What is so amazing about life is that even on our hardest days and in our darkest hours there is hope, healing and purpose. Each woman who experiences the challenges of infertility has a unique story. A story of trials, pain, triumph and joy with many chapters and edited revisions that has led her down a journey she least expected. Power and purpose can be found in the journey. It can be very easy and even natural to focus on the pain, the heart break of infertility and the uncertainty of what life may bring next. Allow yourself to feel the full variety of emotions that come to you, but choose to not live in that space. Acknowledge that what you are experiencing is very difficult, yet know it does not have to be the end of your story or what defines you as a woman. You have the power and control to write and create more chapters of healing and victory. Refrain from self-comparison because it discredits your unique story that only you can tell. No one else has experienced what you have been through the way you did. Your desire and purpose for motherhood may show up for you in ways that you may not have possibly anticipated, dreamed of or imagined.  Stay encouraged!

What can couples who are feeling distant or fighting, arguing, ignoring, or blowing up about treatment plans and the stresses of getting pregnant do to enhance their relationship?

Going through the challenging journey of infertility can be very stressful for both people. It can be an emotional roller coaster that can cause strain in the relationship if left unchecked. What is most important for couples to do is to engage in effective communication and set/maintain healthy boundaries. Make a decision to speak to each other instead of at each other. Share your feelings, listen with the intent to understand each other and reflect back on what you heard your partner say to show empathy and support. It is important that each partner feels heard. Discuss one issue at a time, take turns talking and express your feelings using “I” statements to show responsibility for your emotions. Keep in mind that constant fighting, arguing and ignoring each other is ineffective, invalidating and minimizes your partners’ feelings.

You are a team. It is vital to work together as a united front. I will often have couples who are experiencing challenges within their relationship complete worksheets that help them remember why they fell in love in the first place and why they decided to do this journey called life together. Take a moment to engage in quality time asking each other “discovery” questions about your hopes, dreams, desires and goals for your family. Reminisce on past shared experiences that were happy and joyful. Look through photo albums, make a collage or a vision board together to bring the passion and laughter back within your relationship. Start dating each other all over again!  

How important is self-care for mental health while struggling with illness/reproductive challenges? When is it time to seek mental health help?

Frequent self-care is paramount in managing a healthy balance of what life has to offer. Stress that is improperly managed can have an impact on your health and body. Prolonged and chronic stress can negatively impact your cardiovascular system, endocrine system, nervous system and reproductive system to name a few. It is important to stay informed and gain information from your doctors and specialists about what specifically happens within your body during periods of chronic stress as it relates to fertility.

Self-care may include joining a support group of other women experiencing similar challenges, journaling or writing about your feelings and your journey, spending time with loved ones, doing enjoyable things and engaging in relaxation techniques. Practicing deep breathing, mindfulness skills (being present in the moment), yoga or exercise and healthy eating are excellent ways to bring your mind and body back to a state of homeostasis and calm. Positive self-affirmation statements are also very important in keeping your thoughts focused on what is helpful and productive. Some of my clients have reported that using aroma therapy and Himalayan salt lamps are effective at reducing stress. Set aside at least 15-30 minutes each day to engage in self-care. It is a necessary part of your overall quality of life and health.

If you are finding it too difficult to engage in self-care, are experiencing a lack in motivation and are feeling hopeless and helpless about your situation. Please seek support from a trusted professional.

Wrapping up

It’s normal to feel anxious when it comes to trying to conceive. Finding the right coping tools can make all the difference. If you don’t have a plan for getting pregnant, start by talking to a professional. Knowing what your best options to take back control of your fertility will help you feel less overwhelmed. If you or a loved one suspects you are depressed, contact a therapist like Janine. You don’t have to do this alone.

About Janine

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I am licensed in both Virginia and Maryland. My office is located at 2663 Osborne Rd. Suite 7, Chester, VA. 23831. Virtual counseling is available for those who prefer this option and for those who live in Maryland. For additional information about me and my practice, please visit my website at www.iamlivingwellness.com or my profile on the Psychology Today website. I can be reached at 443.272.1429.  For more encouragement and support please follow Living Wellness, LLC on Facebook and Instagram. I wish you well!



Interview with an Expert: Acupuncture with Katya Chizayeva

Katya Chizayeva

Katya Chizayeva

Update September 25/2018 : Katya is in town but the schedule has changed. Inquire via Facebook or phone for new schedule. And click here if you need help getting pregnant.

If you want to learn more about the benefits of acupuncture while trying to conceive, this article is for you. If you're in Greater New Orleans, there is affordable and accessible acupuncture treatment available now; the details are listed below.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medicine with well documented benefits for families trying to conceive. In clinical studies, acupuncture has been shown to increase sperm count in men, regulate uterine and ovarian blood flow, normalize ovarian functioning in PCOS, ameliorate insulin resistance,  enhance implantation success, increase endorphin levels and hypothalamus function, regulate the menstrual cycle, bring on ovulation in women diagnosed with anovulation, and increase clinical pregnancy rates and live birth rates of IVF. 

Furthermore, acupuncture has been shown to reduce stress among IVF patients as well.  

Queen Bee interviewed herbalist and acupuncturist Katya Chizayeva to learn more about her experience using acupuncture and herbs to enhance women's health and fertility specifically. 

She first explained how acupuncture works in laywomen's terms. She explained that the body is covered with fascia, which conducts electricity and electrical charge. When thin, lightweight needles are used to stimulate certain points, this electrical charge carries over tissues into different systems, turning into chemical messages. These chemical messages stimulate the different systems, are interpreted by the body and result in physiological changes.

Katya then described the way that acupuncture "has potential to build and regulate fluids such as intra and intercelular fluids, and blood. Hormones are also part of the fluid systems. [Acupuncture] can nourish and move blood stagnation that can be caused by trauma and birth control usage, which causes the blood to become malnourished and stagnant."

She also echoed what the aforementioned studies found, that acupuncture is very helpful for regulating your cycle, dealing with estrogen dominance, PMS, pelvic inflammatory disease, severe cramps, and readjusting after years of birth control use. She has found that acupuncture helps to regulate sleep which can in turn help the rest of your body to regulate as well. Lastly, she noted that acupuncture is great for people who can't relax and for type A, high strung individuals. She has found that acupuncture is great for calming the nervous system and resets the bodies of over-thinkers or those with anxiety about the future. 

For all it's benefits, Katya warned that "acupuncture is not a cure all, it's a tool, and it depends on the person. When you are inconsistent, results are inconsistent." As with any other treatment or healing process, acupuncture is not a quick fix. Practitioners recommend at least 3 months of consistent treatment to see lasting improvements in women's health issues. 

From Katya's experience, clients dealing with fertility or women's health issues who have had the most success demonstrate the following qualities:

  • Receive acupuncture 1-2 x per week for at least 3 months

  • The partner also receives acupuncture

  • The client and their partner doing the outside work required for their specific issues (ie, lifestyle changes, diet changes, exercise, losing weight, etc.)

  • The client(s) used prescribed herbs

  • The clients are already committed to shifting their lifestyle change and see acupuncture as an extra push in the right direction, not a magic solution

She described ideal clients as people who are already running forward. Acupuncture is like an extra boost that pushes them further ahead, but will not substitute for lack of effort.

Women who are overweight or dealing with other issues that require medication need to work through these challenges simultaneously to receive the full benefit of acupuncture. Furthermore, the partners need to be involved. Katya described a married couple in which the wife was following a strict regime and dedicated to healing but the husband was taking several medications, not exercising, and not making adequate lifestyle changes to improve his overall health and wellness. She found these types of cases to be the most challenging because sperm health is equally as important as egg and uterine health. All the acupuncture in the world for the wife would do nothing for conception if the husband was not also willing to put in work. It takes two (if you are using your partner's sperm). 

In conclusion, from what Katya has explained, acupuncture is a tool for healing backed by science but requires real life work on the client's part to achieve success. For the best results: be consistent, follow through with lifestyle changes, and incorporate your partner (if their genes will be a part of conception). 

If you are in the New Orleans area and are looking for affordable acupuncture, Katya has space available. She offers private sessions for $50, and packages for preconception, prenatal, and postnatal care. She will also host Community Acupuncture on June 3rd from 2-5 pm at the Sanctuary Arts Center, 2525 Burgundy Street, $25-$40 sliding scale.  Depending on attendance she may continue the Community Acupuncture more permanently at that space. For more information, call her at (415) 5680-0004.

Have you tried acupuncture? What did you think?

P.S. If you need extra support while trying to conceive, schedule a complementary call with Fertility Coach Kaci here.