Grief and fertility challenges. So even when the end is having a healthy baby for many couples, there is a long struggle to conceive, and it can take a really brutal toll on people emotionally and physically. Women who are undergoing assisted reproduction treatment.
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Hi, this is Dr. Martha Lucas, and I want to thank the American Acupuncture Council for sponsoring this. Webinar on grief and fertility challenges, and we’re gonna talk about how grief can negatively affect fertility and how to help people. In my practice, this is one of my specialties. I have practices in Denver, Colorado, and Littleton, Colorado, and teach online also, and love to teach.
So I’m so happy to be here. So let’s go to the slides. Grief and fertility challenges. So even when the end is having a healthy baby for many couples, there is a long struggle to conceive, and it can take a really brutal toll on people emotionally and physically. Women who are undergoing assisted reproduction treatment.
Have so many emotions during this time, and many of them don’t become pregnant anyway, so there’s the grief about that. And then there are many who experience a pregnancy loss after their treatment. So all of this can lead to prolonged grief and mourning. Women may live with melancholy mourning throughout their fertility treatment.
So from start to finish because they start out with a little grief that they have tried to do natural ways to try to get pregnant and haven’t been able to do it. They desire their lost time as a pregnant. Woman, which interestingly enough can even happen to the women who have a baby because lots of I V F or assisted reproductive technology babies aren’t full term.
Some are born . Much more early as a preemie. And I have treated women who perhaps have to have an emergency C-section at 27 weeks, 29 weeks, 30 weeks, and they literally do mourn not having to have that whole 40 weeks as a pregnant woman. And it’s very interesting to treat them through that grief because
Even though they have a healthy baby, they bore a baby. They really do regret or grieve that they didn’t get to have that full term as a pregnant woman. If they don’t get pregnant, they miss what they call the lost love of a child. They mourn what they think of as a lost future, and some of them just as a lost role as a mother, they go through what
Can be described as an agonizing exertion of mourning because it’s hard mourning. Experiencing grief is a very hard emotion that sometimes you feel like you are never ever going to get over. Sadness can manifest in various ways. It can be just a mood that sometimes you have and sometimes you don’t.
It can be more severe sadness. It can be paralyzed thinking the person has a hard time even getting out of bed in the morning. It can be even. In extreme cases be delusional, but the common denominator for grief and fertility challenges is loss. The loss of having a baby, the loss of having the love of a child, the loss of the future that maybe you have thought about.
I. Since you were a younger woman, Freud’s description would be a state of desperate longing for reconciliation with an object or a person that is lost. Again, there’s that common theme of they have lost something I. Such women are not diagnosed with major depression. It’s not like they, oh, you have major depression and here’s your antidepressant.
It is more like a non, what we call a non ailing, productive and culturally accepted reaction to loss, or the fear of loss. Because remember I said some women go through this kind of sadness or grief throughout the whole . Fertility challenge throughout all of their work that they’re doing and all the procedures that they’re having.
So that’s the fear of loss. Now, we’ve discussed before in a webinar how fear scatters kidney energy, and we never wanna see that. We have, we must, in order to get pregnant, we need to have good, secure, solid, consolidated kidney energy. So this fear of loss that’s along with the grief also can affect the kidneys.
and then these women are constantly reconstructing their self-image as a woman, as a mother, or potential mother, and even as a partner because their partners are very affected by their emotions. Again, as I said earlier, some women who are receiving fertility treatments experience consecutive pregnancy losses.
For some, they never have a pregnancy loss or a miscarriage For others, there may even be more than one. I think we’ve all treated women who’ve had . Two miscarriages, three miscarriages. I’ve treated women that have had four or five, or even six miscarriages, and this also can lead to prolonged grief in both the woman and the partner.
Deep sadness, depressed mood, irritability, worry, anxiety, they can have changes in eating, changes in sleeping patterns. All of those are part of the normal grief response, but they can all be very disruptive to your regular life. Now, although grief is a natural non-pathological phenomenon, it can lead to complicated, more complicated grief reactions where the symptoms are more disruptive or pervasive or long lasting than what we call normal grief.
And as a practitioner, we need to realize that prolonged grief can interfere with the healing process so it’s can therefore interfere with the fertility. Process with all of the treatments and it’s going to affect their general quality of life. Could lead to substance abuse and increased risk of suicide.
And as I said, it’s can, especially according to our medicine, where we’re looking at the pulses and we’re looking at all, all the organ systems communicate with each other. Prolonged grief can interfere with the conception process. And they’re coming to us to help them create what I call a warm, fertile environment so that they can conceive.
These women may also feel like life is meaningless. They doubt their own identity or role in life again, because part of their role in life was to be a mother, and now they are having to look at that differently. And then when we’re looking at the woman, we need to look at the intensity and the duration of her grief symptoms.
A very common social factor that contributes to the grief is when the loss is not talked about. For some reason, this particular type of grief is sometimes invalidated. It’s like . Doesn’t count. Oh, you had this procedure, maybe it’s not gonna work, and then it didn’t work. So it’s just a part of the process.
That’s not the experience of the woman or the couple going through the process. To them, it’s a great loss to them. It’s, we’re trying this procedure. Oh good. We had a conception. And then of course they’re gonna be excited. Their excitement is still attenuated by worry and anxiety, but it’s. Still something that looks like it was successful, and then when it’s not successful, they’re going to have grief about it.
But as I said, sometimes this loss is something that people just take for granted, Hey, it can work, it might not work. And then the woman feels like she can’t talk about it. And then you have internalized grief. And as we know from Chinese medicine, the masters used to say that emotions caused all physical disease.
And when I first heard that . Over 20 years ago, I thought emotions cause all physical disease, but then as I started to take more and more pulses and listen to people, I realized that yes, absolutely what they meant was the emotions. Cause . Patterns in the pulses in the energetic system that then leads to physical disease because of blockages or deficiencies or excesses that the emotions cause like excess heart fire.
So it’s. Interest. When I was in graduate school and my school had two arms in the psychology department, research or clinical, I was like, oh, I don’t wanna be a clinical psychologist. I don’t wanna spend eight hours a day talking to people about their emotions. And now that’s what I do. So it’s interesting how the world turns.
So for some women, treatment can be apparently an infinite . Cycle of these things like try one, it didn’t work. Try another one. It didn’t work. Oh, first we’re gonna try the . Ai. Okay, that didn’t work. So we need to move up to something that’s a little more technological and move up and move up.
And remember this is involuntary absence of motherhood on their part. They thought, women get pregnant. I’m going to, wanna have a baby. It’s gonna be easy. And they’re, this is involuntary for them. A lot of women feel like they don’t have any control over this Also, interestingly enough, cognitive and emotional impacts of all this, like sadness and fertility treatment are linked to the maternal fetal attachment.
That’s the emotional bond that an expected mother develops with her unborn baby. And this is another reason why it’s important for us to diagnose. Pathological grief quickly. I have had women who’ve had a struggle getting pregnant, managed to, had a successful birth, then get pregnant again, and they go right back into this cycle.
And I’ve explained to them, you are creating an anxiety. Commitment connection with your unborn child instead of the emotional bond of being calm. I love you. You’re my child. If you continue to be anxious and sad worrying that you might have a miscarriage, when at this point you’re not having any symptoms of a miscarriage, And the development of this grief can be over a number of factors.
They get sometimes, depending on the bedside manner of their medical professionals, they can get . Messages that are really a little bit overwhelming. Your ovaries don’t work. Your partner’s sperm aren’t good swimmers, or they’re poor swimmers. What’s they get these diagnosis, like I say, fertility challenges because I feel like infertility is a damning.
Diagnosis. It’s like you’re infertile. That’s why I say fertility challenge. You’re experiencing a challenge. They have to go through the tests, the procedures, the waiting. There’s so many things for them to obsess about. Like any grieving process. And the five stages of grief that are mentioned by Kubler Ross.
Grief over infertility can have those same stages. Denial. That must be the wrong diagnosis. The doctors can’t be right about that. It must be my partner. Some people even blame the tests. We all know that there are, there have been lab tests before that didn’t have the right result. They, it must be a defective test.
Anger, I see this a lot too. She didn’t even wanna get pregnant and she is. Oh, I’ve been trying so hard to have a baby and why is it so easy for everybody else to get pregnant or everybody else seems to be pregnant, bla, being angry that you didn’t start earlier. Like, why did we wait for our careers to have a baby?
Then there’s the bargaining that they’ll do anything to get pregnant. There’s the depression stage. Nothing is going right. I’ll never get pregnant. My best friend is pregnant and I can’t even be happy for her, or I was invited to a baby shower, but I can’t go because it’s just . Too sad for me. And then acceptance.
It is what it is. We’ll just keep trying. I’m sure we’ve all treated women who’ve gone through cycles and cycles of treatments, and then finally just say, you know what? Whatever I’m done. I’m going to take a rest. We’ll see what happens. Now I have to say, I wish I had time to do a retrospective study of those women because
There’s a certain percent that get pregnant after that. And now from a Chinese medicine perspective, why would that happen? It would happen because they relax about it. So liver cheese stagnation gets resolved, their blood can flow better to the uterus, their bowel eye isn’t blocked anymore because they’re not so anxious, and their body literally opens up to the idea of pregnancy. And I think from a Chinese medicine perspective, it’s because they just give up and their body goes back to feeling more normal. Couples might experience loss after an unsuccessful treatment cycle, and then they are faced with the decision of, do we do the same thing?
Should we continue the same procedure, do a more complex procedure, or just move beyond ? Again, move on to the acceptance. We’re probably not gonna get pregnant stage. And then speaking of couples, infertility treatment is taking a toll on both partners. It’s not only a bunch of invasive procedures for the woman, it’s an emotional roller coaster for both of them.
Some people, some women do report that the couple are doing it together. Like I see the couple in my practice, I don’t only see the woman, I see the man and the woman because, I believe that they are doing it together for one thing. What if the male’s dmai is blocked? Then he might not be a great conception partner, so you do need to see the man also to make certain that his systems are all working well.
But unfortunately, some women do report that. And men, they have more fighting. They get a little estranged from each other, and that the treatments are having a negative effect on their sex lives, which is another loss for them. So they have the side effects of the hormone therapy, decrease in libido, mood swings, body changes like dry vagina and sensitive breasts.
All of this makes the intercourse experience less pleasant to the point where some women . don’t have sex anymore after they have the baby, just from the trauma of the pre-pregnancy. Challenges with that. And then they have another thing to mourn. They have grief about their pre infertility sex life, the emotional stability that they used to have with their partner and the harmony that they used to have with their partner.
One woman told me that she had just lost too much. Through the whole procedure, her loving husband, because their relationship was negative, affected her healthy body. She felt like her body just was completely destroyed by all the treatments. She says she had a great life before all this, and now after she had her i b F, she had a, has a daughter.
But her grief about her pre infertility, what she calls her pre infertility life, still continued. We’re gonna end here for today. . And I wanna again, thank the American Acupuncture Council for this presentation, for hosting this presentation. And next time we’re going to start with talking about the woman who has had a successful birth, but still is suffering from some grief.
And we’ll go over how you can help her using Chinese medicine. .