Before I became pregnant, I struggled a lot with anxiety. For a long time I didn’t even realise I was anxious. My anxiety was subtle. It would come in the shape of breathlessness. A feeling that I needed to yawn or breathe extremely deeply to get some air.
I am not sure if I ever had a panic attack. But it certainly felt that way. And I had trouble falling asleep when it happened. It usually came at night, just before bed, as I lay down to fall asleep. And then it would take me a long time before the feeling went away and I felt like I could ‘wind down’.
During those times, I would often wake up very early for work, with a foggy head, still exhausted from having a restless sleep, and I would rush off to work without a thought about my health.
Somehow, I managed to fall pregnant during those months, but the pregnancy didn’t last long. 6 weeks and 3 days to be exact. A few months later I fell pregnant again, but guess what? I had another miscarriage at 6 weeks and 3 days.
It was easy to spot a pattern, but I didn’t know what was causing these early miscarriages and I definitely wasn’t getting any useful answers from the medical system I was seeking advice from.
Fortunately, I discovered Traditional Chinese Medicine as I was going through those horrible period-like cramps of my second miscarriage. You can read more about what happened, here.
Here are a few things I learnt to help me break the terrible cycle of anxiety during my fertility journey:
1. Herbs and Acupuncture
There are so many forms of natural medicine out there that can help with men and women’s infertility. My fertility journey started with using Chinese herbs and acupuncture.
After a very informative skype consultation with my doctor of Chinese medicine, I must admit, I was reluctant to start taking Chinese herbs. Not only because I had heard that it tastes rather horrific, but also because I understood that it will take some time before my body would show improvement and of course, I was in a hurry to get pregnant again (and hold the pregnancy)! Aren’t we all?!
But after my first 4 weeks of taking Chinese herbs, I had the least painful period I had ever had, EVER! I was amazed and so relieved to start to experience some positive results. This was really a turning point in my fertility journey and played a huge part in helping me balance my body (and mind, for that matter!)
I was also advised to seek acupuncture treatment for fertility and I really enjoyed these sessions. I always came out feeling sooo relaxed and content.
I realised that I was in denial about how stressful my life had been, and receiving acupuncture treatment became a great way to kickstart my more relaxed approach to life.
2. Improving stress management
Even though my work was very rewarding in many ways, being a secondary school teacher in London was often extremely stressful, and had a big impact on my anxiety levels.
Now, I’m not suggesting you need to quit your job in order to fall pregnant, (though some women do and that’s what I did because we moved to Bali). Examining our life to see what’s causing us stress is the first step. Then we can decide what we can do to make sure we have enough rest, recovery and replenishment in our lives, and make the necessary changes to make it happen.
So, I learnt that the idea was not to create a completely stress-free life (there will always be some kind of challenge to deal with!,) but rather, I had to find ways to diminish stress or manage it better!
To me, it meant that I had to cut down on my various other commitments and improve my overall nutrition, which meant that my body and mind coped a lot better during stressful situations.
Which brings me to the next point…
3. Food for thought
Looking back, it’s obvious to me that the food I ate during the most stressful times of my life was not helping me nor my fertility. Like many people, I turned to sugar and caffeine for comfort and a ‘pick-me-up’ whenever I had a stressful day. Which was every day. I remember stopping at the corner shop after a tough day at school and buying a caffeinated carbonated drink, a packet of crisps and a bar of chocolate to ‘reset’ myself. Sugar, sugar and more sugar (And some MSG thrown in for good measure).
No, I didn’t become a complete anti-sugar puritan, nor did I go on a raw food diet or anything drastic like that. I started to become more conscious of what I was eating. I started reading ingredients on food labels that I was buying. Slowly but surely, I started avoiding anything that was highly processed and full of sugar. And I made sure I had more wholesome, nutritious meals more often. I made more time for cooking at home and when we did go out, we sought out places that were affordable but also used good quality produce.
It has made such a difference. And now we eat so much healthier than we ever did. With just small changes and better choices.
4. Don’t watch scary movies!
I remember, when trying to conceive, I was told not to watch anything before bed that’s upsetting or gives me an adrenaline rush. Why? Because when we’re in a stressful situation, our bodies release more cortisol. And if too much of this is released too often, it can affect our reproductive health!
So I stopped watching ‘Stranger Things’ and started watching lots of comedies and feel good movies instead.
And, heaven forbid, I read inspiring books again! These definitely made a huge difference to my anxiety levels before bed.
5. The right kind of exercise
Believe it or not, I’ve been a Tai Chi practitioner since 2009 and I studied yoga on and off since 2001. I have been a dancer since the age of 3 and have learnt so many dance styles that can be of great benefit to the body.
But as time went by and the pressures of life and work took over, these amazing skills started to lie dormant. It was not until I decided to incorporate a little bit of breathing and stretching exercises into my daily routine (instead of just doing a class once a week) that I really saw a difference in how it benefited my body and soul.
Stretching and yoga have really helped me to get rid of the physical tension that was stored in my body from a stressful day at work. And breathing exercises really helped me with that awful breathless feeling that used to stop me from sleeping at night.
I soon learnt that you don’t need to do an intense 90 minute yoga class or aerobic workout every day to get rid of your anxiety. A 20 minute relaxation routine before bed on a regular basis can be more than sufficient.
6. Getting rid of FOMO
I think I have suffered from the ‘Fear Of Missing Out’ all my life. As a child, I did athletics, choir, ballet, art, piano, percussion, orchestra and enjoyed all of it. As a teenager, I had to start choosing but I still wanted to do everything! As a dance student at university, I couldn’t learn enough dance styles because I loved all of them!
And as a young person in my twenties, living in London, I wanted to be part of everything the city had to offer! I packed my life with lots of activities and commitments and there was this feeling in me that I always had to be busy. Even though I enjoyed most of what I did, it was never enough and I was probably always living in a state of anxiety.
It was not until my husband pointed out (on numerous occasions) that I don’t have to live like this and that it’s ok to stop, that I started considering changing. Oh, let’s be honest, it was only when I realised that the way I was living my life was affecting my fertility, that I decided to make some changes.
7. Breathing and Meditation
One of those changes was learning about how to STOP. I had to say to myself, “it’s ok to stop when you’re tired and just lie on the couch and do nothing’.
So, once I was able to stop, I disciplined myself to sit with a straight back, on the floor and just focus on my breathing.
Of course, when you start meditating, the first thing you notice is how annoyingly busy your mind is. But for the first time, I actually noticed my mind. I was aware of my thoughts. And instead of running away from them by keeping myself in a constant state of busy-ness and anxiety, I saw them, I cried and I healed whatever needed to be healed. (This happened over time, of course!)
I also learnt some breathing techniques that are specifically for anxiety, which I used to practice before going to bed at night and helped me fall asleep with ease. You can learn some gentle meditation and breathing exercises in our course Get Your Body Baby Ready, The Intensive Masterclass.
Break the Cycle
These are just a few of the things I did to start taking care of myself and my reproductive health. Everyone has a different journey, everybody experiences anxiety differently, and you need to do what’s right for you and your fertility journey.
I realise that some of you reading this, may not have access to an acupuncturist or doctor of Traditional Chineses Medicine. That’s ok, our circumstances are all different and we have to work within our circumstances. But here is one amazing thing you can do by yourself to help boost your fertility…
We’ve also developed a short course called Kickstart Your Fertility In 7 Days where you’ll learn about the most amazing acupressure points and some of them specifically help with anxiety.
What are your experiences with anxiety, on your fertility journey? Let us know in the comments, below. If you have any questions, we’ll do our best to answer them.
I wish you every success and happiness on your fertility journey!
Every Mama To Be Matters!