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Planning to start a family?

Susie Gower on how to minimise the stress and anxiety of conception

Deciding to start a family is an exciting time. You're settled into your four-bed family home, you've persuaded the man of the house to exchange his prized Mazda MX5 for a Vauxhall Zafira and your dancing shoes are hanging up in the wardrobe, where they'll stay gathering dust, after your final all-singing all-dancing all-inclusive holiday to Ibiza.

Having a baby is something most of us assume will happen when we are ready. But what if nature's response is slow? Just 25% of couples actively trying to conceive do so within the first month, 60% become pregnant within six months, and 75% within nine months while 90% of couples can take up to 18 months to fall pregnant. As these statistics show, for some couples the path through conception can be long, couples often being unprepared for negative pregnancy test results that can be part of the journey.

Once you've started on the course of trying to conceive it's hard not to let your emotions get out of control, and expectations and pressure can easily mount up. Early excitement can quickly turn into worry as nagging questions like "what if it's never going to happen?" begin to bubble away under the surface. If you are experiencing stress, progesterone levels can be affected, making it more difficult to conceive.

Here's why. In order to conceive, a good, regular menstrual cycle is necessary. This will ensure that healthy eggs are released in time for safe implantation in the womb. Hormones released in the right amount and at the right stage are vital to this process. High stress levels can cause progesterone to be converted to the stress hormone, cortisol, which affects the balance and delicate blend required by the reproductive cycle. Most women have experienced disruption to their periods during times of stress. In the same way, stress can prevent conception. While well-intentioned parents and friends will be full of suggestions on how to 'lighten up' what can couples do to avoid this stress?

Keep it in perspective; it can take couples even without any medical complications 18 months to two years to fall pregnant. Trying to find ways to keep themselves in good spirits may help to keep away the blues. Most suggestions centre around relexation. Massage, yoga and meditation techniques have been found to be helpful. De-cluttering your life and prioritising tasks within it can be another useful way to relieve stress. If you can afford a cleaner consider finding one if being a domestic goddess takes it out of you. Get educated; arm yourself with enough information to understand the process of conception and don't be alarmed if it doesn't happen straight away. And keep the lines of communication open with your partner; talking about your feelings may help to stop them from spiralling out of control.

Couples can do a great deal for themselves by adopting a holistic lifestyle, in which both partners prepare for the healthy production of sperm and egg. Incorporating reflexology can assist in many areas – not solely to reduce stress. The holistic nature of reflexology means that it can help with weight control, fitness, absorption of vitamins and minerals (hand in hand with good nutrition) and boosting immunity. It can also assist with emotional and psychological well being; helping to reduce stress.

What is reflexology? According to the Association of Reflexologists' website, reflexology is "a Complementary Therapy that works on the feet or hands enabling the body to heal itself. Following illness, stress, injury or disease, it is in a state of imbalance and vital energy pathways are blocked, preventing the body from functioning effectively. Reflexology can be used to restore and maintain the body's natural equilibrium and encourage healing".

Reflexology is particularly popular with couples seeking to conceive. Couples who have been trying for months with no success have fallen pregnant quickly and easily after only a few sessions. This is because reflexology is particularly effective at balancing hormones and regulating a woman's menstrual cycle. The monthly cycle is influenced by the ebb and flow of key hormones like oestrogen, progesterone and luteinizing hormone, the production of which can be aided when a reflexologist works through the endocrine system in a particular sequence within a treatment session. Reflexology is also good for detoxing the body, and for stimulating a sluggish system. It is worth noting that it is also as effective for men as for women. Men with poor sperm count and shape can produce better quality sperm following reflexology treatment.

Susie Gower is a maternity reflexologist and a Reiki Master specialising in preconception, fertility, pregnancy and birth inducements. Over the years Susie has helped many couples realise their dream of falling pregnant. At her clinic in St Albans, she offers a selection of treatments and treatment plans for couples trying to conceive. This includes a four-month preconception plan which is made up of regular treatments to identify stresses, adopt coping strategies, balance the bodily systems, eliminate toxins and (for women) regulate the menstrual cycle.

A client testifies, "My husband and I had been trying for a baby for over a year. We'd seen our GP, had all the tests, and nothing was wrong. My sister-in-law suggested we try reflexology after reading something in a paper. After our first session with Susie we left feeling much more positive about our future as parents. I realised that what we had been missing was emotional support, and Susie's positivity spurred us on in our journey. After four sessions we were pregnant."

Whether you have started your journey or just about to embark on it, here is some final advice, remember to be realistic and to adopt a positive outlook, as nature doesn't always respond instantly.   It is quite natural to feel disappointed but it is important not to get disheartened or to lose hope.  Making some lifestyle changes and adding a reflexology treatment or two will be very beneficial and will certainly help you on your way.

For more information, contact Susie Gower at Well Being Therapies on 07857 352169 or visit www.well-being-therapies.co.uk.

This is the third in a series of articles by Susie Gower. Read the others: Advice for new parents and Advice on having another baby.

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