By Robert Rudelic BS, NMT, MESCoping With Infertility – the mental toll and the roll of epigenetics and why unexplained infertility is not always just a medical or physical problem!
Scientists have made some incredible new discoveries on how our minds can literally affect our biology, especially through the study of epigenetics, the branch of science that looks at how inherited changes of phenotype (appearance) or gene expression are caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. Instead of looking at DNA as the only factor controlling our biology, scientists are also looking at what’s actually controlling the DNA, which includes our thoughts.
How Does This Relate to Fertility?
So what does any of this have to do with fertility? New evidence suggests that stress does affect fertility. Recent studies show that women with high levels of alpha-amylase, an enzyme that correlates with stress, have a harder time getting pregnant.
Infertility is a devastating issue for millions of people. While many women get pregnant easily, some even by accident, couples challenged by infertility seem blocked from achieving their goal of having a family. What started out as a dream being fulfilled quickly becomes an all-encompassing dilemma or obsession as it’s been described to me by many women going through this journey. They feel out of control, questioning themselves and their femininity, the who, what, how and all the why’s….
› Statistics – Source (Centers for Disease Control)
- 28% of infertility problems are unexplained. Many believe is it higher than 28%
- The number of women ages 15-44 with impaired fecundity (impaired ability to get pregnant or carry a baby to term): 7.5 million
- Percent of women ages 15-44 with impaired fecundity: 12.3%
- Number of married women ages 15-44 that are infertile (unable to get pregnant after at least 12 consecutive months of unprotected sex with partner): 1.0 million
- Percent of married women ages 15-44 that are infertile: 6.1%
- Number of women ages 15-44 who have ever used infertility services: 11.3 million
- The role stress plays in the lack of successful conceptions is often discounted in the medical community
- Nutrition advise and planning is something the couples must seek help for on their own
- The whole process is very cold and dehumanizing. (What effect does that have on the baby?)
Case Study of Mark and Jenna
Mark and Jenna came to me looking for answers. They had been trying to conceive for two years with no results. In the beginning, they never gave it a thought that there would be a problem getting pregnant. They were having fun painting the baby’s room, planning their future schedules to accommodate their new addition, arranging for daycare, etc. After several months of trying with no success, they began to worry and started noticing ads about infertility and its many causes – and, they asked themselves “could this be us? Could we be one of “them”? Little did they know at the time what that long two year journey would entail for them but in the end they found a bright light on the horizon!
› Study Format – 10 Session Case Study
› Overview of Client(s)
Mark and Jenna, a young couple in love, doing well in their careers with a strong social circle and enjoying the love and support of their families. It seemed like everyone around them was moving forward and getting serious about life, finding mates, getting married and settling in for the next phase of their lives.
Mark and Jenna wanted to have a family like many couples. They dreamed of being parents and having a community of friends centered around their kids. When they found out it was not going to be so easy their lives changed.
After a lot of thought and serious research they decided to enter the medical world of infertility thinking it would be as easy as a few tests, a couple rounds of Clomid (a common infertility drug) and they would be on their way. That’s what their friends told them and the medical community led them to believe – they had all the answers. Not so fast though! Even though Mark and Jenna were blessed with the luxury of having one of the leading infertility clinics in the country nearby, they soon became disillusioned and extremely disappointed.
For Mark and Jenna the incremental angst was growing with every failed attempt. The embarrassment when friends ask how things were going and the advice everyone was giving them was getting to be too much. Jenna was having nightmares now obsessing about having or not having a baby and crying at the mere sight of a young mother with her child. Mark had his own demons, especially helplessness. All he could do was be there for his young wife and hope for the best. Men are not wired for that. Men are problem solvers at heart and to make matters worse the doctors rarely consider the man unless sperm is the problem. Marks many fears were kept in the dark for fear he would upset Jenna in some way and cause even more anxiety in the relationship.
Along with the medical treatments they tried many things including detox programs, nutritional supplements, herbs, different sexual position, prayer, and still no results.
› Medical History
Jenna was diagnosed with endometriosis which is a very painful condition that did require surgery. This added to her anxiety over worrying if she was making the right decisions and if it would hurt her chances of getting pregnant. At times she did not have much confidence in the doctors but eventually relented to their suggestions out of fear – much of which was heightened by the doctors.
To overcome the emotional stress they were going through which they believed was contributing to their overall problem, ultimately get pregnant and have a family.
› Session 1
Valentine’s Day was the first session with Jenna. She set herself up on her back patio with her husband next to her and put her phone on speaker. I started by asking her a series of questions to assess her circumstances and get to know her a little. Very early in our conversation I realized that the first issue we needed to address was to get her out of her obsessive pattern of thinking of getting pregnant 24/7. When I asked her to rate the intensity of her obsessive thinking on a scale of 1-10, she said “25!” Along with thinking of getting pregnant 24/7, she was also experiencing feelings of guilt, embarrassment, shame, helplessness, anger, resentment, sadness and much more. Her emotions on so many levels were raw and her feeling of desperation was palpable.
After one hour of working with me she was amazed how calm she felt. When I had her go back and visualize the issue we worked on and bring to mind various scenarios around the situation, mentally create different circumstances around the situation to see if she could trigger the emotion and there was very little intensity left. She was amazed and so grateful for the experience. She later said that she had the best Valentine’s Day she’d had in years.
› Follow-Up Check-In Call
A few days after our initial session, we did a quick check-in to see how she was doing. She had text me a question about the tool I taught her in our session and needed to know if she was doing it correctly, so we did a brief review.
› Session 2
The focus of this session was to help Jenna regain her sanity and sense of self while going through this process and feel hopeful again. While day to day life was consumed by doctors’ appointments and thinking about getting pregnant, managing emotions is essential. Jenna had become overwhelmed and stressed by this all-consuming process. Managing stress is a key to not only getting pregnant but also having a healthy, happy baby. I introduced her to the work of Dr. Bruce Lipton – Internationally Acclaimed Epigenetics Pioneer and author of the book …“The Biology of Belief.” In this groundbreaking book he addresses the connection between the environment a baby is conceived in and the baby’s overall health in the womb and in the future. The environment is the key to conception and unfortunately this is mostly overlooked in the doctor’s office.
She started sleeping better and was feeling more hopeful and energized. Just the day before she had seen a friend with her new baby and because of applying what I taught her, she did not breakdown and cry afterwards. This was huge for her. She was feeling hopeful again and not so overwhelmed with emotions that she even accepted an invitation to a baby shower for a friend and was able to have a good time and handle questions about how she was doing with poise and composure with the feeling that everything was ok.
› Follow-Up Check-In Call
We talked about how she had handled herself in the presents of her friends and she expressed how she felt almost comfortable in answering their questions. Jenna was beginning to learn how to quickly address the negative emotions that show up sometimes in an instant.
› Session 3
Jenna shared how she was struggling as she took a look back on her present life and noticed that in so many ways all the days over the past two years were just the same old monotonous routine and – it was taking its toll. Just that morning, she woke up after having another nightmare and couldn’t shake the nagging desire to have a baby. Her thoughts while driving to work were on how many more people she’d have to hear about who are pregnant. At lunch a friend asked her how things were going. Driving home from work her thoughts were consumed with wondering if she’ll ever get pregnant. Upon arriving home she sees her husband and just wants his support but instead feels resentful.
Jenna is learning to embrace PowerTapping, (the tool I taught her) as a day to day practice and experiencing change in the way she perceives her world and is slowly becoming stronger and more confident. PowerTapping is a highly effective tool and can be done in the moment of upset or worry and takes as little as 30 seconds to calm down. Yoga or deep breathing or self-hypnosis or other methods don’t work so quickly. After spending a few minutes tapping she was surprised at her overall feeling of relief both physically and mentally.
› Follow-Up Check-In Call
She had a question about the PowerTapping technique which was “by doing it more often and for more time would I feel even better?” I said “Yes” and “Yes!” – and I also explained the added benefit would be that in a shorter amount of time she wouldn’t be tapping about these issues period – they’ll be gone.
› Session 4
Six days had passed since learning that the most recent attempt to get pregnant had failed. Jenna was taking estrogen to get her extremely low levels up so the embryo could take. It did not work. She “lost it” in the doctors’ office – kicking a trash can and ripping the paper cloth off the exam table. In our session she explained what happened and how she reacted. She was very down on herself as she usually is. Self-love will be an ongoing effort and process. I pointed out how well she did and the profound change she has made from where she was and how she would have reacted before we started our work and how she handled it this time. When she realized it she immediately recognized her old habit pattern and how well she felt responding in her new chosen response behavior.
This very disappointing incident would have set her off for weeks or even months plus added to her overall negative self talk that she’s damaged and will never have a baby. Instead she had a normal, healthy release of pain and disappointment then released the emotions with tapping and moved on.
› Follow-Up Check-In Call
We spoke briefly how she was so programed to react in certain ways and then we reinforced her new way of handling her emotions.
› Session 5
Jenna was very stressed because in just a few days she would be hosting her in-laws and would be breaking the news to them about the latest failure. I learned her mother in-law was not very nice to her and had treated her horribly since day one. She was not “good enough” for her son. Jenna had been previously married and because of that – she was flawed in her eyes. Jenna opened up about the history between them, and the roll Mark played in it. We worked on many of the aspects she presented and after we cleared the old hurts and resentments we shifted to how she (Jenna) wishes to be in the presences of her mother-in-law from now on. The visit was coming up so we rehearsed using P.I.V.M. – my advanced visualization method, and got her demeanor and wording down and she felt really good about how she wanted to handle the issue. I spoke to her about the need for her to “train” her mother-in-law how to treat her, and them as a couple. She decided on several things that will be needed for them to move forward and we rehearsed them as well. She felt confident and we finished with a few good fist pumps.
She now feels far less guilty about not living up to her own expectation and she’s not beating herself up as much either. All of this needs to be seen in context, she was “obsessed” with getting pregnant and it affected everything in her life in a negative way. She lived in a constant state of anxiety, self-doubt, anger, disappointment, helplessness and despair. Now she’s upbeat and more balanced than ever. She told me over and over again how grateful she is for having found me and the work I do is so powerful and how it could help so many people get through this journey better. She really has embraced the epigenetic model I presented to her. First create a host (womb on the physical level) that the baby would want to live in for 9 months then create a family environment the baby would want to grow up in.
› Follow-Up Check-In Call
Jenna was so excited to tell me how she had put into action everything we had worked on and how lovely her mother-in-law had been towards her during their visit.
› Session 6
Mark and Jenna were doing fine as a couple but as with all couples there were unspoken issues lurking. By looking forward and clearing up issues – it sets the table for a better relationship in the immediate and in the future. This involved working with Mark to clear some of his issues which stemmed directly from his family environment growing up. He desperately wanted to be able to stand up to his mother when she expresses disapproval of Jenna – the women he loves and chose to marry and point out and stop how she speaks to her disrespectfully even when others are present. We worked on how he can handle this in a straightforward way with strength and confidence and be vulnerable and empathetic and at the same time.
Mark had a major Ah Ha moment! It was a major breakthrough for him and it brought up some things to follow up on. Mark can be a bit passive so getting out of his comfort zone to take action is a big step. He now has a better understanding of how Jenna feels when his mother does and says hurtful things and his way of dealing with it is to just ignore it. This make Jenna feel unsupported and says to his mother that her actions are acceptable.
› Follow-Up Check-In Call
Wow – what an awesome call! Mark shared the conversation he had with his mother and felt almost ecstatic. Never before in his life had he been able to express his feelings to his mother and set boundaries. He brought up her prejudice against Jenna over her previous marriage and reminded her of his past relationship with his live-in girlfriend that lasted longer than Jenna’s marriage! How did a piece of paper make it so different? Before the conversation was over, they had come to an agreement on how things were going to be moving forward.
› Session 7
The focus in this session was on being completely open and honest about the ways in which they each handle stress. Jenna admitted that she had terrible eating habits and frequently visited McDonalds. Because both enjoy being outdoors and getting exercise, neither of them are particularly over weight – but whenever she felt stressed she would head for McDonalds. She didn’t need to be reminded that this was unhealthy and she knew she needed a better way to handle stress. She was unaware though of the hormonal damage she was inflicting on her body by eating this way so I went in depth on this issue and explained how this was a big problem and the hormonal disruption could have a profound effect on infertility. For Mark, he was not interested in going to McDonalds but his way of handling stress was to bury himself in his work and hide out behind his business and not be present for her.
They were both able to open up and the honesty between them was great. There was no blaming or judgment. We worked on Jenna creating a food journal and keeping a close eye on the stress eating. She was excited to make the change and more than willing to do the work. Mark made the commitment to take things head on and stop hiding behind his work. He agreed to be more open about how he was feeling and not look down on himself when he was feeling vulnerable.
› Follow-Up Check-In Call
Jenna was happy to report she had not been to McDonalds once since our last session and because of doing PowerTapping whenever she thought about it her desire to go there was greatly reduced. Mark was sticking to his work schedule and not staying in his office to avoid going home – no matter what was going on.
› Session 8
We focused more on Mark in this session. He, like many men have a difficult time with all of this because he alone can’t solve the problem. I addressed how men in our society are not necessary trained to be loving, supportive or vulnerable and how conventional man-wisdom says that real men don’t do that kind of stuff. If there’s a problem – head for the man-cave! Often men misinterpret being empathetic and vulnerable as weak, wimpy and emotionally unstable. We worked on getting in touch with and working through his feelings of being helpless, frustrated, guilty, angry, sad, and worried for his wife – many of the things men experience but don’t openly talk about. I taught him my P.I.V.M. technique that I had taught Jenna and we worked on him coming to terms and being ok with his feelings and how best to handle things when certain situations came up.
I believe men are the real untold story as well as the unaddressed party in all of this. So much focus is on the women – that’s appropriate, but men can play such an important roll if trained to do so. So much is not understood about that roll men have in the fertility process and what men need to do to really be an integral part of it. Mark was beginning to understand the importance of his roll and the need for him to really be there for Jenna and how vulnerability leads to empathy, inner peace and strength. Practicing and using the PowerTapping tool he now owns, is a fast and painless process that pays dividends immediately and also sets the stage for a stronger relationship in the future.
› Follow-Up Check-In Call
Quick call and we talked about how Mark was doing. Positive overall and went through a round of P.I.V.M.
› Session 9
An epigenetic perspective is how I approached this session. We worked on the importance of a strong healthy host, Jenna, the mother – the micro climate. Then, the need for Mark and Jenna to be a loving, committed couple for the baby to grow up in that macro climate. The need for Jenna, the host, to take care of herself is taking care of the host for the baby, this is the first step. Mental and emotional health, nutrition, exercise, work load all need to be addressed and adjusted so the baby has the best environment to grow in. Having a loving support structure is important but the host must love herself because that is translated to the baby from the moment of conception.
Mark and Jenna are now fully committed to getting every aspect of their life on track and create the best environment and be ready for the blessing they believe is coming.
› Session 10
We did a complete review of the 10 weeks we had spent working together and how far both Mark and Jenna had come from that first session. We had a few good laughs about some of the things that had once been such a huge problem that now seemed a bit silly. We reinforced all of the steps to take when any negative emotion showed up and how to kick it to the curb.
Mark and Jenna came to me through the recommendation of a friend of theirs who had a devastating crisis that I coached him through and he was able to successfully move through it. Jenna said “when I first spoke to Robert, he seemed to know exactly what I was going through -it was like he was in my head”. What a joy to see the difference 10 weeks make!
When you have the proper tools for the job the job gets done faster and with better results. Time is of the essence especially after having been in the infertility maze for a while. Most of all – you’re not alone in the battle. My effective, completely non-invasive approach gets results!
Oh – and by the way – Jenna is expecting her second child….naturally!