Hello WombCare Warriors,

1 in 6 couples struggle with infertility in Canada and this number has doubled since the 1980s.  My husband and I are in this group of 1 in 6 and our reproductive journey has been incredibly challenging, with many twists and disappointments, however through it all, we are hopeful to have the family we’ve waited so long for.

Infertility is defined as

  • the inability to naturally conceive after having regular unprotected sex for more than one year for women that are under 35 years old, and after 6 months for women over 35
  • Inability to contribute to biologically to a conception or
  • Inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth

During this unprecedented health crisis, most fertility treatments have been cancelled to minimize in-person interactions and abide by physical distancing measures.  This restricted lock down has created substantial anxiety, discouragement, and grief for many couples seeking to expand their families.  For couples among marginalized communities that struggle with infertility, the gap widens greatly as they commonly lack access to reputable treatment centers due to limited transportation, funds, and competent clinical expertise.

Ontario’s official lock down kickoff on March 17, 2020 will forever be etched in my memory when my world and yours stood still.  It also marked the end of my husband and I’s sixth unsuccessful IUI (intrauterine insemination) bringing tears and grief around an inability to conceive.  We were soon advised by our fertility clinic that treatments would cease indefinitely and in a strange way, this new and threatening COVID-19 reality, presented a new perspective of how we view delay.  For the first time, this delay in fertility treatment was a blessing, not a curse, as some would interpret it.  The silver lining with COVID-19 allowed us to pause from the recurring long commutes in Toronto traffic, early morning appointments, blood tests, ultrasounds, taking of medications to help boost and grow follicles, tracking of follicles, and fertility procedures.

A few lessons this COVID-19 pandemic has taught me that I want to share with those struggling with infertility is to look for the tiny blessings that this period has given you, no matter how small, this perspective will you hope and healing

4 BIG LESSONS:

1.RESET – If we are honest with ourselves, adding fertility appointments to an already hectic work schedule requires a lot of juggling and can be quite stressful while going through cycle after cycle. Permitting your body a chance to RESET from the daily grind can help to relieve stress.  Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone that can disrupt ovulation, reduce progesterone levels, drain your sex drive, adversely affecting fertility.

2.REJUVENATE – To help maintain my self-care routine, I decided to boost my mindfulness strategy by meditating at every morning at 3 am with the aspirations of becoming a mother and writing these declarations down in my journal.  I have also committed to going on long runs in my neighbourhood to help free my mind and give myself permission to not worry about my reproductive health and future.  Additionally, I have committed even more to eating high antioxidant fruits and vegetables (citrus fruits, blueberries, brussels sprouts, greens leafy vegetables, and Brazil nuts to name a few) that do not cause an inflammatory response in my uterus.  All of these daily practices add to me being happy, healthy, and whole.

3. REACH OUT – After much reflection and discussion, my husband and I reached out to my gynecologist to explore our options and next steps. This process has brought so much relief to know that our options to expand our families are numerous and a slight shift in our original plan affords us a whole new perspective.  I have also reached out to online support groups through Fertility Matters Canada and Inspire to engage with others going through similar struggles.

4. RESILIENCE – I have learned how resilient I am during these uncertain times. This lock down is not in vain, no time has been wasted but is preparation for the journey to parenthood.  As the Canadian economy and fertility clinics slowly reopen, there are still many unknowns that infertile couples face as to when they will either resume treatment  or start a new plan in this new era. To all the couples facing infertility, just be confident in knowing that you have endured so much and have built the prerequisite strength to forge you into the next chapter of your reproductive journey.

References:

Fertility Matters Canada – https://fertilitymatters.ca/

Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society – https://cfas.ca/index.html

Inspire Support Groups – https://www.inspire.com/groups/finding-a-resolution-for-infertility/?origin=freshen