No Laughing Matter

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Last week I happened to catch an interview on This Morning with TV presenter Julia Bradbury. She talked about her grueling IVF experience which happily resulted in the birth of her twins. She discussed the disappointment and failures she experienced during the five cycles she undertook and the added obstacle of her age (44).

Most fascinating was her reference to an Israeli study about the importance of remaining positive during embryo transfer. The research found that women who were made to laugh during IVF by bringing clowns into the surgery were statistically more likely to conceive than those who weren’t entertained.

This is not the first I have heard of this. My husband excitedly regaled this to me following our embryo transfer, during which, for reasons unknown to me, I got the giggles. Proper tear inducing giggles. I was laughing so much my husband had to turn away from me in an effort to stop the laughter. Perhaps it was nerves, or embarrassment at having my legs wide open, but that laughter clearly didn’t hurt as the outcome was a positive pregnancy. So have some jokes at the ready!

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Acupuncture & Reflexology

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In parts of Asia, acupuncture has been used for centuries to jump-start labour. But does it work? Research is inconclusive. One small study at the University of North Carolina found that women who got acupuncture were more likely to go into labour without a medical “push.” The study included 56 women who were 39.5 to 41 weeks pregnant. Half of the women got three acupuncture sessions, while the other half did not. Seventy percent of the women who got acupuncture went into labour on their own, compared to 50% who received standard care. The women who got acupuncture were also less likely to deliver by cesarean section — 39% compared to 17%.

9 months ago, to accompany my IVF treatment, I used acupuncture. I found the process very relaxing and positive. It was calming and restful, in fact I fell asleep! So last week I decided to give it another go as there are suggestions that it can be a a safe natural way to help bring on labour.  I was told to have two sessions which combined acupuncture and reflexology. The first was in week 38 to prepare the body for labour, and the second, scheduled for today, to induce labour. Watch this space!

Work Wind Down

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This is my last week of work before my maternity leave commences. I can’t really believe it has come around, but then again I can’t believe that any of this is real. So while I am excited to have some feet up time, as my teaching job is fairly active, it feels very bizarre. During my last pregnancy I got so ahead of myself thinking of maternity leave, the birth, the nursery and life with the baby. This time I am never thinking more than a week ahead as I don’t want to take anything for granted. That is why people who ask me about events that are more than a week or so ahead get met with a slightly panicked expression or a total dismissal. Family and social events in the future are so abstract that I can’t even imagine them. Thinking that far ahead makes me extremely anxious and it brings up all my fears that the happy ending we are desperate for will be cruelly snatched away once again. So for now I can’t commit to  anything beyond the imminent future. It’s just too damn scary.

Work has provided me with sanity and a much needed distraction from the consuming nervousness which may have prevailed. Let’s hope that the final work free weeks are not too slow or anxiety ridden. Who am I kidding? I fully expect a few freak outs!

Scans Glorious Scans

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So I caved again. I decided that the wait for the final scan (scheduled for 37 weeks) was too far off and I needed some reassurance that the baby was well. So yet more money was spent on yet another neurotic moment. However, as I told my husband, surely my peace of mind is priceless. Aptly named the reassurance scan, it did just that. Thankfully all is well and my fear that the placenta had been failing or was detaching from my uterus lining were unfounded. The little one looked well, has hair and is in the head down position ready for action. Now I must just plough on through the remaining 6 weeks. Not long now…When will I actually believe that there might be a baby?

Eat, Read, Sleep

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I have just returned from a lovely week of doing absolutely nothing! Nilch. Nada.

We disappeared to Cyprus for a week where we stayed at a lovely hotel and basically did sweet FA. Long breakfasts, reading in the sunshine, more eating, afternoon naps, spa treatments and a lot of Jack Bauer! It was exactly what we needed and certainly the most relaxed I have felt throughout the pregnancy.

Tomorrow we are at 30 weeks, and boy am I growing big! My tummy has really popped. With it comes some discomfort, however I just remind myself how lucky I am to be in this position at all. My husband bears the brunt of any complaints and has been generously providing back rubs.

So it’s back to work today and that well and truly ends the blissful relaxation. Back to reality.

Another Milestone

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Yesterday was a significant day. It was the day we reached 20 weeks, which for many is poignant enough, but for us it also marks the stage we reached in our last pregnancy. It was at 20 weeks we received the earth – shattering news which resulted in us deciding to terminate. Thankfully all seems well so far and we are causiously optimistic about the future. In fact we have disappeared to Israel for some much needed sun, rest and relaxation. I am currently at a spa in a fluffy white robe. Bliss!
In 2 weeks we will have another scan and so that is our next mini milestone to work towards. For now we will just breathe a sigh of relief that we have passed the halfway mark and are, please g-d, in the less risky half of the pregnancy.

Support Our Midwives

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It’s been an eventful week. Last Thursday the anticipation of Monday’s scan became unbearable and I decided to visit the hospital. I just wanted to check the heartbeat and ensure all was well. The midwife was wonderful and so understanding of my lunacy. She told me plenty of women who have lost babies have similar moments and that I am welcome to visit whenever I need to. She said she will happily do Doppler checks whenever I need. Most importantly she understood why I am still expecting something to go wrong.
All the midwives I have encountered have been, without exception, outstanding. Kind and compassionate women who have really given the best care I could imagine. From the women on the labour ward during the horrendous ordeal of losing our baby, to the ladies who take bloods and accompany us to scans, we have been in the best hands.
On Monday health professionals, including midwives went on strike over the governments refusal to give staff a 1% pay rise. I support them and value their hard work, commitment and compassion. Do you?

De-stress

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20 Scientifically-Backed Ways to Ease Stress

The road to motherhood can be unbelievably stressful. With that in mind, here are 20 ways, backed up by good scientific evidence, to keep your stress in check:

1. Go For A 10 Minute Walk

While just about any walk will help to clear your head and boost endorphins, green spaces, can put your body into a state of meditation, thanks to a phenomenon known as “involuntary attention” during which something holds our attention, but simultaneously allows for reflection.

2. Breathe Deeply

Any yogi knows that the breath — known as pranayama or “life force” — plays an important role in nourishing the body. Breathing exercises – or even just taking a few deep breaths – can help reduce tension and relieve stress, thanks to an extra boost of oxygen.

3. Visualize

Simply make yourself comfortable and then try to picture a relaxing scene.

4. Eat A Snack

Stress-eating doesn’t have to be bad. Pick a snack that will fill you up — say, half an avocado, a handful of nuts or a hard boiled egg — because nothing is more stressful to the brain than feeling like you’ve run out of nourishment. Focus on your food: its texture, the way it tastes, how it makes you feel. Now you’ve turned your snack into a meditation.

5. Buy Yourself A Plant

Houseplants can actually help you calm down. Researchers have found that simply being around plants can induce your relaxation response.

6. Step Away From The Screen

Uninterrupted computer use has been associated with stress, lost sleep and depression in women. Make sure to take frequent breaks during your day of computer use — and try to shut offline at least an hour before bedtime.

7. Pucker Up

Kissing relieves stress by helping your brain to release endorphins.

8. Try This Naam Yoga Hand Trick

Applying pressure to the space between your second and third knuckle (the joints at the base of your pointer and middle fingers) can help to create a sense of instant calm.

9. Hang Up, Then Turn Off Your Phone

Mobile phones stress you out. Talking can even raise your blood pressure.

10. Put On Some Music

While classical music has a particularly soothing effect — it slows heart rate, lowers blood pressure and even decreases levels of stress hormones — any music that you love will flood your brain with feel-good neurochemicals like dopamine.

11. Treat Yourself!

Eating or drinking something sweet is soothing because it stems the production of the stress hormone, glucocorticoid.

12. Or, On The Other Hand, Plug In

Yes, screens can stress you out. But used in the right way, there’s no reason you can’t turn to the Internet to get a little stress relief such as web-based stress management programs.

13. Chew A Piece Of Gum

Chewing gum doesn’t just make your breath better — it can relieve anxiety, improve alertness and reduce stress during episodes of multitasking.

14. Watch A Viral Video

A good laugh is a fine relaxation technique. What’s more, even if you don’t find the viral video your uncle Joe sent you to be that funny, just the anticipation that it might be will actually boost endorphins.

15. Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Start with your toes and work your way up: tighten your foot muscles as much as you can, then relax them. Make your way up, tightening and relaxing each muscle until you’ve finished with your face. It may seem silly, but this practice can help reduce anxiety and stress.

16. Seriously, Turn Off Your Phone

Smartphones, in particular, are linked to increased stress, as more and more people feel pressure to respond to messages at all times.

17. See Your BFF

Friends aren’t just fun — your very closest ones can actually reduce your production of cortisol.

18. Eat A Banana (Or A Potato!)

Potassium helps to regulate blood pressure, which rises during times of stress.

19. Try Eagle Pose

Many yoga poses are known stress relievers, as they open the shoulders, relieve neck tension and do away with many of the physical symptoms of stress. Eagle pose is a prime example of how a brief asana can target back and neck tension. Learn how to do the pose here.

20. Craft

Repetitive motions — like the fine motor skills used to knit– can soothe anxiety.

Try one today!

Refunds for Unsuccessful IVF Couples

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On August 2nd the Telegraph wrote an article about a fertility clinic in Manchester which is offering refunds to couples for whom IVF treatment is unsuccessful.

The “money-back guarantee” will be rolled out at a clinic in Brighton later this month. Patients must be under 37 and using their own eggs to be eligible for the IVF Refund Programme which will allow them to get 70 per cent of their fees back. Depending on the plan they pick, refunds could be up £9,000.The clinic has said that the package was designed to ‘reassure’ patients worried about the costs of private treatment that they won’t lose out financially if they do not have a baby. Repeated courses of IVF can run to tens of thousands of pounds for couples who are not eligible for NHS funding when they are paying for treatment.

Dr Falconer, lead embryologist at Manchester Fertility said: “It’s fantastic for the patient because it will give them that peace of mind. They will get the very best, state of the art treatment to maximise their chances of success… and, if it doesn’t work the first time, at least they won’t have to go out and try to raise any more money. The guarantee lasts not just until they conceive but until they have a baby.”

A clinic in Brighton, Sussex, will offer its refund scheme from August 12, and more will follow suit in London, the south west and Northern Ireland in September.

Since the cost of IVF is unbelievably high new payment schemes such as this will alleviate a lot of stress for patients. We were extremely fortunate to have financial support from our parents. However there are many for whom this is not an option. I will be asking our clinic if they have any intention of implementing a similar scheme.

To read the article visit: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/11007856/Refunds-offered-to-unsuccessful-IVF-couples.html

Counting Weeks (Again)

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So the counting begins. Again. Initially we are counting to the 8 week scan on Friday. If that ends well I will count to the next one, presumably at 12 weeks. I try not to get ahead of myself with thoughts of due dates as there is far to much that can potentially go wrong before that. However I do know, all being well, if we get to that stage, that we would have the anomaly scan in October. Perhaps, if the baby is healthy we will start to relax a little from then. At present October seems far far away.

Stress-free Summer

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Schools out for summer! Usually that means an exciting trip, a loaded kindle and sun-bathing galore. I am a sun-worshipper (plastered in factor 30 obvs). Not this year, and for a good reason – early pregnancy.

Firstly we are neurotic about over-heating. During early pregnancy it is important not to raise your body temperature above 38.9 degrees. Secondly we decided to avoid air travel. And finally my husband starts a new job this week.

Luckily London is pretty lovely in summer.

What will I do for 5 weeks? Suggestions on a postcard please! I just received a new kenwood mixer and a 3,000 piece puzzle so that’s a good start!

My husband is super strict with me and is insisting I take it easy. So here is to a stress-free summer.

Get Some Headspace

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Over the last few months my husband and I have been embracing our inner hippy by using a series of meditation and mindfulness podcasts to reduce stress. Like anything else it is a skill that needs learning. The series of short exercises, initially just 10 minutes a day, from Headspace shows you how you can  master this invaluable skill. Andy Puddicombe, with his reassuing and calming voice, teaches you useful techniques that have assisted the management of our worries and anxiety during the IVF process. Many times I have fallen asleep mid-podcast, that’s just how calming it is! It leads to some much needed peace of mind and well-being.

Check it out at http://www.headspace.com

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