9 Fertility Dos and Don'ts

When you're having trouble trying to conceive, your emotions are running high, and that can leave you feeling alone and confused when you start to think about what's next. So we asked Ali Domar, Ph.D., a professor of Ob-gyn and Reproductive Biology at Harvard Medical School and the Director of Mind/Body Services at Boston IVF, to reveal the top nine dos and don'ts of fertility to clear up any confusion.

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Don't Blame Yourself

Half of the surveyed couples trying to conceive agreed they may have waited too long to start trying. But, infertility is more common than you may think. One in 8 couples experience infertility. It's equally likely to be caused by the female or male partner and in some cases, it's caused by both. You can't waste your energy beating yourself up over something that's out of your control. "There is very little that you can do to cause infertility," says Dr. Domar. "Certain things aren't a good idea, but people with bad habits still get pregnant." The couples who think they waited too long to start trying, could have had the same result one, two, or 10 years ago. "At age 42 you could be infertile, but there's no telling you were fertile at age 22 either," says Dr. Domar.

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Do Seek Support

Infertility can be stressful; research has shown that the stress levels of infertile women are equivalent to those of women with cancer, AIDS, or heart disease. The stress is not going to help you get pregnant any faster. There are plenty of other women who aren't getting pregnant either, so a support group may help. You can find online infertility support groups, or ask your doctor or fertility specialist to recommend a local in-person group.

Consider confiding in a close friend or family member. More than half of the couples in the GfK Roper survey said they hid their infertility problems from friends and family, and 71 percent of couples have not told their mother. Even though you might feel ashamed, and it may be hard to open up at first, the support that follows can be rewarding. Those who did tell someone about their trouble trying to conceive said their family and friends were very supportive and 71 percent of them said having to people to talk to made the process easier.

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Don't Isolate Yourself

Many women struggling with fertility also struggle with social situations. Being infertile in a fertile world can be tough, says Dr. Domar. Suddenly it may seem like everyone around you is getting pregnant, and that can be really hard to deal with when you're the only one who isn't. Infertility can fuel jealousy toward people who get pregnant with an intensity greater than any you've experienced before. But that doesn't mean you should stay home just to avoid unexpected news of another woman's pregnancy. If you start feeling stressed out and phobic about social events, confide in a friend or family member you trust, or go to a support group to help get you through the tough times.

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Do Communicate with Your Partner

If you haven't noticed yet, you'll may soon see that infertility can put a strain on your relationship. The GfK Roper survey found that couples having trouble getting pregnant experience a great deal of emotional upheaval. Nearly two in five couples said stress and tension in their relationship has increased, and the men and women agree. The response included 42 percent of men and 36 percent of women. Dr. Domar urges couples to work together. Remember that each one of you is coping the best way you know how.

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Don't Assume IVF is the Only Way

Many couples believe that if they're not having any luck conceiving on their own, IVF is the only option left for getting pregnant. Because IVF comes with an average price tag of $12,400, the prospect can be daunting. But Dr. Domar says there are far less expensive and invasive ways to achieve a healthy pregnancy, such as taking ovulation medication pills or other prescription drugs.

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Don't Feel Ashamed

Remember, infertility is a medical condition, and 10 million people in the country are going through it. Many couples feel ashamed, but you shouldn't be ashamed of having fertility issues. Beyond feeling ashamed, seven in 10 women said infertility makes them feel flawed, and half of men said it makes them feel inadequate. The sooner you accept the cards you've been dealt, the sooner you can get help, and likely wind up with a healthy, happy baby.

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Do Empower Yourself

Infertility can make you feel like you have no control over your body, your partnership, your job, and your life, so Dr. Domar suggests focusing on what you can control. Learn which lifestyle habits you can change to increase your chance of conception -- stop smoking, limit alcohol and caffeine, pursue moderate exercise, and gain or lose weight so your BMI is in the normal range.

But don't stop at empowering yourself -- encourage your partner to do the same. "Infertility is a couples' issue," says Dr. Domar. "Many people assume it's always the woman's 'fault,' but medically it could just as likely be the male factor."

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Don't Lose Hope

Infertility is a temporary crisis. The majority of couples who experience infertility do end up with a healthy baby, according to Dr. Domar. Research shows that it will not have a permanent impact on the quality of your life.

Copyright © 2011 Meredith Corporation.

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