In your mind you had a map of your life. And somewhere on that map was a baby. Then you met a road block – the journey to creating your family didn’t go as planned. You didn’t choose this route. However, you do have the power to decide the path you take next.
Our comprehensive treatment model, can help you RE-MAP your story of family building,
The Science Behind RE-MAP
Every therapeutic component of the RE-MAP treatment has been carefully researched, and is grounded in sound theory and science. We have created a program based on 5 pillars to improve your chance of conception and emotional and physical well-being.
R is for Routines & Research
During the hectic time when doctor’s appointments, blood draws, and timed intercourse become your new routine, it can lead to letting slip healthy lifestyle habits. An healthy lifestyle is even more important during the struggle of infertility, than ever before, to optimize your well being and fertility. It is also vitally important to know which lifestyle habits and complimentary treatment approaches have a beneficial impact on fertility and those that do not. You may have received contradictory messages:
‘Spending too much time in gym can reduce woman’s fertility’
(The Daily Telegraph, November 9, 2009) versus ‘How exercise can help you get pregnant’ (Mirror, November 20, 2012)
This can make you feel in the dark about what you should and should not be doing. You have limited time and resources, and you want to invest them in practices and behaviors that are maximally useful.
As psychologists, we have the training to critically analyze the research on alternative treatments (acupuncture, reflexology, etc.) and nutrition and lifestyle factors (diet, exercise, etc.) and to discern between effective and ineffective interventions for maximizing fertility.
In this way we can help you become an educated consumer of complimentary health practices.
We also work with you to put these practices into an individualized Fertility Health Plan by creating a daily and weekly schedule tailored to you. We teach you principles (e.g., monitoring, accountability, reinforcement loops) that have been scientifically supported to increase the maintenance of healthy habits (Lally & Gardner, 2011; Rubin, 2015) so that you create a plan you will actually stick to!
E is for Expressive Techniques
Your self-narrative has a big impact on who you are becoming and what happens next (Bruner, 2002; McAdams, 2001; Manczak, Zapata-Gietl, & McAdams, 2014; McAdams, 2001). We use expressive writing and vision boarding to help you re-write your fertility story. These powerful techniques can help you shift from feeling like you are helplessly stumbling along from one dead end to the next to confidently charting your course by getting back in the driver’s seat of your life.
We teach you writing techniques that have been linked with reduced infertility-related stress and depression (Frederickson et al., 2017; Matthiesen et al., 2012), and improved physical outcomes (Pennebaker & Seagal, 1999).
Writing about difficult or traumatic events is associated with improved psychological and physical outcomes, including fewer visits to the doctor, improved immune functioning, and lower depressive symptoms. In fact, studies examining the impact of expressive writing with couples experiencing infertility suggest that it is associated with reduced depression in women and less infertility-related stress in both men and women (Frederickson et al., 2017; Matthiesen et al., 2012).
M is for Mind-Body Medicine
How are your mind and body connected, what do they have to do with fertility, and how can you align your systems to support optimal conditions for living well while making this journey? It is now well established in the medical community, and backed by solid science, that our minds and bodies are interconnected. Drawing from this foundation, we teach mind-body practices, including mindfulness meditation, relaxation exercises, and yoga that have been shown in multiple studies to increase pregnancy rates and reduce psychological distress (Domar, et al., 2000, 2011). For example, in a study of women trying to conceive, 55% of women who participated in a mind-body group gave birth to a baby a year later, whereas only 20% of women who received routine care gave birth (Domar, et al., 2000).
Infertility itself, not to mention the time-consuming and expensive medical appointments and procedures and the rollercoaster of hope and disappointment are undoubtedly stressful. It is not surprising that infertility patients report stress levels as high as breast cancer patients and patients with other serious medical conditions (Need a citation here). In the medical community, there is still debate about whether stress causes infertility. However, we do know that high stress negatively affects fertility treatment success. Mind-body interventions can reverse this cycle. We help you maximize your chances of success, by nurturing your mind, body, and heart.
Psychological distress, even more than finances or physical discomfort, is the number one reason patients drop out of treatment (Domar, 2004). It is possible that your first round of IVF may not work. Successful pregnancy rates after one cycle range from 20-35% (varies by age) but reach 65% for couples who have undergone 6 cycles (JAMA, 2015). You might think of the journey to create a baby through ART as a marathon rather than a sprint. Just as you would train your physical body for a marathon, you can benefit from training your emotional muscles to endure the detours and bypasses on the bumpy road of infertility, so that you don’t drop out of treatment prematurely (i.e before a successful pregnancy!) due to stress.
At the core of mindfulness practice is adopting an attitude of kindness towards oneself. When you are on the infertility roller coaster, it can be easy to fall into a cycle of self-blame and experience feelings of failure. As part of mindfulness training, we teach you a set of practices to increase compassion towards yourself and partner. Given the havoc infertility wreaks on many dimensions of couples lives – sex, extended family, missed work, finances, the list goes on – it is not surprising that many couples experience increased conflict and disconnection. To make the journey more bearable for you and your partner, we help you invite a little relaxation and kindness into your lives.
A is for Assessment
Assessment is the first step in our treatment program.
We conduct a comprehensive assessment, based on the biopsychosocial model, of your psychosocial and fertility health so that we can tailor treatment to your specific needs. We use scientific tools to assess the areas of struggle that most need tending to.
- Biological: we assess the degree to which your lifestyle promotes fertility health, including nutrition, exercise, and naturopathic medicine practices. In addition, we assess your specific tendency (Rubin, 2015) for making habit change, as understanding this is integral to maintaining the lifestyle changes that can improve fertility health.
- Psychological: we measure mood and cognitions surrounding infertility, including levels of anxiety, depression, and limiting beliefs. We also assess current strategies you use for managing stress and painful emotions.
- Social: we assess the impact of infertility on interpersonal relationships and social functioning, and level of support you are currently receiving from family, friends, and your partner.
After gathering and analyzing all the above data, we generate a report with
specific recommendations individually tailored for you. We help you identify quantifiable goals. For one women, improving mood and reducing stress will be paramount, whereas for another, revised daily exercise and diet routines will be most important. In addition to being an incredibly valuable tool for prioritizing and refining goals, an assessment, as a stand-alone intervention, is beneficial in lowering distress and improving treatment effectiveness.
The end goal is a baby. Our mission is to equip you with the emotional resources, stamina, and flexibility to get there.
Negative Thoughts. This component teaches strategies for coping with difficult thought patterns and emotions that often accompany the infertility experience.
If you’ve walked the infertility journey you are no doubt familiar with those moments when your internal dialogue turns ugly: “this is all my fault, if only I hadn’t….. “
We teach you self-talk strategies to coach yourself through such moments and reframe distorted critical judgments into more balanced compassionate messages. There is solid research to support that changing our thoughts actually changes the neurocircuitry of our brains (Hanson, 2018). Such techniques have also been scientifically supported across many studies to reduce psychological distress and have been shown to help fertility outcomes (need Citations here).
Difficult Feelings. The landscape of infertility is dotted with many painful emotions. Women can often get stuck in the shame and grief of infertility that prevents them from mobilizing energy and moving into action. We teach you practices to tolerate and move through difficult emotions. These psychological tools will help you build resilience so that you can recover more effectively and quickly from challenges to get back in the game.
It takes a Village:
We have vetted and established relationships with a team of healthcare professionals that have expertise in infertility, from acupuncturists and naturopathic doctors to yoga instructors. We are happy to facilitate referrals and coordinate with other healthcare providers to give you with the best and most comprehensive fertility care.