Fertility Support

What does a fertility doula do?

fertility_journey_doula

Full spectrum doulas are becoming more common in Toronto - as are folks looking for doula care beyond birth and postpartum. We thought we’d take a moment to explore fertility doula care - one of the full spectrum services we provide.

What is a fertility doula?

A fertility doula is someone who supports people in their journey to become pregnant, regardless of what that journey looks like. Whether going the fertility clinic route, at home monitoring and insemination, or a mixture of the two - a fertility doula provides you with support best suited to your needs and wants.

This can look many different ways: in person or phone check-ins to process procedures, emotions, and information. It can also include unlimited text support, attending clinic appointments alongside you, providing you with resources and referrals to complementary health care modalities, helping you in formulating a fertility plan. Depending on the doula, they may also offer mindfulness session as well as fertility yoga.

If you’d like to learn more check out this guest blog post from one of Corina’s former fertility clients where they talk about the care they received during their IVF journey.

How DO YOU BOOK A FERTILITY DOULA?

At Spectrum Doula Collective you can book fertility support hourly or you can purchase a package. Check out our prices here.

Who hires a fertility doula?

Anyone who needs and wants one! At Spectrum Doula Collective we have worked with the whole spectrum of families (including single parents as well as queer and straight couples) who were trying to conceive. 

Want to learn more? Drop us a line and in the meantime, enjoy these 5 grounding fertility practices.

xo,

The Spectrum Team

5 Grounding Practices during your Fertility Journey

ground practice

As full spectrum doulas we work with many people at different points in their perinatal journey. This includes supporting folks through their fertility journey - this includes anything from attending appointments with our clients, providing information, as well as providing a listening year when needed. We love to equip our clients with coping strategies for all (if not most) situations - whether we are there or not. 

 

For those times when we may not be there, here are 5 grounding practices you can do on your own:

1) Drink a warm beverage

Hear us out - we live in Canada and about now (mid-February) we are only drinking warm beverages - tea, coffee, hot chocolate, warm smoothies, hot broth, etc. It just makes us happy and we think you may enjoy it too. It's cosy and hygge. It makes us focus on the present and warms up from the inside out. 

2) Count your breaths

Give it a try - try counting 100 or 150 breaths. It doesn't matter if you think about other things - go back to one and remember it's not a race or a test. Pay attention to your breaths as you count them and as you reach close to 100 or 150 you may notice your breath pattern changing and your nervous system calming. 

3) Dance* for 5 minutes

Set your timer and (without music) dance - hardIt releases tension from both your body and your mind. (Meredith Grey does it)

*If dancing just isn't for you, job quickly on the spot or air punch forward and sideways #accessible

4) Get outside for an hour or two

We know it's cold outside but you could bundle up! Take a walk in a park, on a trail, on a busy street - whatever works for you (but watch our for that ice!). The change of scenery, air, and pace might get you thinking about other things - or about nothing at all. Consider it your pause and recharge. 

5) Call/meet a friend

We are social creature - even those of us who are introverted benefit from people around other people. Be mindful of when it's time to leave the social interaction for self-care. 

We hope you gives these practices a try and see what works for you! 

Love, 

The Spectrum Team

5 ways to improve sperm health

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Recently, we attended a seminar on Sperm Health at the Toronto Reproductive Acupuncture Clinic to learn more about improving sperm health and how important this is when trying to conceive.

Improving sperm health is so important when trying to conceive whether or not you are undergoing fertility assistance. Often when talking about fertility and conception the emphasis is placed on the health of the egg and/or uterus. This can put a lot pressure on people with these organs and make them feel solely responsible for challenges in trying to conceive and guilty when it doesn't go quite as planned. It was refreshing to see a seminar focused on sperm health! 

Improving sperm health can be both simple and accessible since you can do this mostly through lifestyle changes. Here are a couple of easy to implement strategies to improve sperm health:

1) Eat foods high in zinc

Foods high in zinc, such as pumpkin seeds or oysters, can boost testosterone and promote sperm count and motility.

2) Eat foods high in antioxidants

Eating foods high in antioxidants, such as almonds, walnuts, or pomegranate juice, help improve overall health and increase blood flow (meaning better erections).

3) Ejaculate often

Out with the old, in with the new - based on an Australian study frequent ejaculation decreases sperm DNA damage and maintains fertility range. Pretty easy, right?

4) Have good oral health

A 2014 study linked poor oral health and periodontitis with low sperm count! 

5) Use sperm friendly lubricants

Enough said! 

Naturopathic strategies (acupuncture; herbs and supplements; nutrition and fitness planning; etc) can be extremely beneficial for reproductive health. Individualized health and wellness support is essential in trying to conceive and can have positive impacts on the overall experience.

We are thrilled to find resources like the Toronto Reproductive Acupuncture Clinic! We encourage you to check out everything they offer, whether you are just starting trying to conceive or hoping to complement your ongoing fertility care! 

At Spectrum we understand how challenging this journey can be and offer emotional support and provide education and information to help you have the best experience during this time. Fertility Doula support is for anyone who could benefit from support throughout their conception journey. Contact us to learn more about how we can support you in your fertility journey.  

Love, 

The Spectrum Team

Finding my support through IVF

I never thought I'd have to go through IVF. I suppose not many people do - but work gets busy, life gets busy, and having a baby remains a nebulous possibility. Until it doesn't.

At age 39, after several years of trying (naturally) and IUI (intra-uterine insemination) attempts, I finally relented and agreed to try IVF. I wasn't sure what to expect and my husband knew even less. We went through several clinics and we felt lost in the sea of people trying to have a baby, with doctors and nurses always too busy to answer all of our questions and to hold our hands through the process. 

And so I did what I do best - research! Throughout that research though, I still felt like I wanted support, not just information. That's how I came across Spectrum Doula Collective. I knew about birth doulas but I didn't know about doula fertility support! My doula, Corina, has been invaluable throughout the whole process.

Corina's help was crucial on two occasions that many of you may not even think of as traditionally associated with a doula. First, she accompanied me to my hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test, which I was convinced - based on Google searching - would be one of the most terrifying experiences on earth. I had postponed this visit for over a year and if it hadn't been for Corina I would have never moved forward in my fertility journey.

Corina squeezes my feet in encouragement

Corina squeezes my feet in encouragement

But she was there for me and she did a great job of explaining the science behind the procedure and all possible outcomes and, most importantly, comforting me when I was scared. As a result, the entire experience was positive and our bond grew from it.

It was thus no surprise that she was the person of choice to accompany me to the fertility clinic for an egg retrieval operation. I wasn't nearly as scared going into it because I knew I would be with someone who not only cared, but was also cool-headed and knowledgeable as to how to best handle me before, during, and after the procedure.

My husband and friends also care, but they aren't as great on the other two counts (needle-phobia, anyone?) and the least thing I needed on that day was worrying about someone ELSE's experience.

The procedure wasn't easy but Corina's presence made a huge difference. She made me relax, she made me laugh, and above all she made me feel safe. The picture is an 'after' shot in which she is squeezing my feet in encouragement. About an hour later we were at laughing at the outrageous, 'under sedation influence' topics we had covered while I was on the operating table. I felt relieved and hopeful.

I still do - and I am wholeheartedly (and bravely) navigating the rest of my fertility journey with Corina (and my loved ones by my side). 

Written by Spectrum Doula Collective Client

 

At Spectrum Doula Collective we work with the whole spectrum of families (including single, LGBTQIA+, and polyamorous folks) who are trying to conceive. We will attend important appointments at the fertility clinic for uncomfortable tests, such as the egg retrieval process, hysterosalpingogram (fallopian tube test), and insemination/in vitro fertilization. Our goal is to instill confidence and provide emotional and physical support for clients who are trying to conceive, or hope to be a parent later on.

When it's a period.

Trying to conceive is not an easy process, but that moment you get your period and you know, you know that for sure you are not pregnant is devastating. We are grateful to a client of ours who has shared how challenging trying to conceive has been for her, and just how difficult it is when it ends with a period. 

 

I never imagined that I would struggle with fertility. I suppose no one ever does. But somehow we are surprised whether we get pregnant quickly, or when we don't get pregnant at all. I've known people who planned for at least six months of trying before a positive pregnancy and then when that positive pregnancy happened right away they were actually disappointed and wished they had more time. On the other hand, I also have friends who have waited until all their ducks are perfectly in a row, and then when it doesn't happen right away it's heartbreaking. 

Back about 6 years ago, when the idea of kids was a little seedling, I had travelled to Chicago for the weekend with my married friends to catch a Cubs game. Like one does at a baseball game, in one of the oldest ball parks in the world, is to indulge in the park's delicacies - hot dogs and beer. We were of course disappointed to find the hot dog we had been given had been boiled, soggy, and limp, but nothing a little ketchup can't fix. 

After the game, my friend started to feel ill, so ill she spent the rest of the evening in the washroom, followed by the next two mornings, and our whole drive back to Toronto not feeling herself. Her husband and I could only assume it was the not so delicate hot dog, we clearly just had stomachs of steel. Turns out she was pregnant. That bad ballpark hotdog was her little man - we couldn't believe it - and well neither could she. 

The significance of this story is that I think about it often. Now that I'm trying to conceive, I seem to mistake my indigestion for a positive pregnancy on the regular... it can't be that chicken I ate!? It's been two years of trying, and it's tough. I always seem to waver between hopefulness and hopelessness. Every twinge I feel I wonder... could it be?? 

There are so many aspects that can be unpacked when trying to conceive, the monitoring, the fertility clinic, the fertility drugs, the constant stream of well intentioned but unsolicited advice. But it's that very real and very brief moment when you know you've got to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and find what little hope you have for another month of monitoring, tracking, and trying, is the one moment I struggle most with. That moment your body tells you another month has passed, another failed attempt. That moment you get your period. 

It feels weird to look back at those decades of relief (sometimes glee) when you get your period, and then just like that you dread it, and not just because of the bloating, and cramping, but because it simply magnifies the sadness, the sadness of another month gone and your dream of having a family a little more crushed. But then again, I can't help but feel hopeful as I near my expected period date, wondering if the bloating, or tiredness I feel is a sign of a positive pregnancy. And then it arrives, as if shedding the aftermath of a battle that's just happened in my uterus. And I feel a loss, a great loss. I had dreamed, hoped and imagined that I would soon begin a new life with babe in tow. But instead I have to clean up the blood and move on. A lost opportunity, and my life in suspension waiting for another month, another attempt, and potentially another loss.

Written by Spectrum Doula Collective Client

 

At Spectrum Doula Collective we work with families who are trying to conceive, we will attend important appointments at the fertility clinic for uncomfortable tests, such as the egg retrieval process, hysterosalipingogram (fallopian tube test), and insemination/in vitro fertilization. Our goal is to be emotional and physical support for our clients who are trying to conceive, or hope to be a parent later on.