There’s no denying that this pandemic has caused such huge disruption and forced people to put many dreams and aspirations aside. With lockdown 3.0 fully underway, it’s been a rather tumultuous year to say the least. What does this mean if you’re trying to have a baby, though? If you pinned 2020 as the year you’d start trying, you’d be forgiven for feeling a little anxious and unsure about whether to delay things. As we embark on another year, knowing we still have a way to go before we truly see the light emerging at the end of the long tunnel, should you continue waiting, avoiding what could be a very different, perhaps more stressful pregnancy and birth experience, or should you put your fertility first and bite the bullet? For many struggling with fertility issues, waiting simply isn’t an option and the conundrum of balancing the pro’s vs con’s is undoubtedly a very personal choice.
Below we chat to ex-midwife, top fertility expert and IVF expert, Zita West, on getting pregnant during a pandemic and how her new online program, HUG, is helping to support women during this difficult time.
You have been supporting women through IVF for 10 years. How has the pandemic had an impact on the IVF process and on women and/or families going through it?
I’ve been a midwife for 40 years and an acupuncturist for 25 years, opening the IVF clinic nearly 10 years ago now and incorporating the holistic side into this too. Covid has had a big impact on the IVF world, especially in the first lockdown when clinics closed and there was no access to tests or investigations. And not just this, the impact financially on many couples has made it harder to go through this treatment privately, and for many going through it is already an emotional and challenging time on relationships, and this is exacerbated in an extra stressful situation. I started to and support these women and couples on Instagram the first time around which then led to my idea for HUG.
Let’s talk about HUG! You’ve developed this online programme to help combat some of the ways the pandemic has affected women trying to conceive. Please can you share what it is all about?
HUG stands for Heart, Uterus, Gut and is a mix of ancient wisdom and neuroscience and is a transformational set of tools to get your body into a balanced state through breathing and visualisation. It relates to every aspect of your day – how you live your life emotionally, your relationships, your diet, exercise, sleep and work/life balance. It’s how you love, how compassionate/creative/gutsy or courageous you are. It is also about self-compassion and not beating yourself up when you make mistakes. This is how you fulfil your life dreams, goals and ambitions.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But we all have patterns of behaviour that disrupt our life on a daily basis. We get stuck in the same old pattern with the same disruption and it feels difficult and inflexible. Then there is frustration on every level and our hormones play havoc.
So a daily ritual to anchor and centre you which through a HUG guided sequence and visualisation, the neural networks of the brain, heart and gut will help reset and rewrite the pathways and strengthen positivity through your body.
We understand the importance of the role the uterus plays in conceiving but why the focus on Heart and Gut in the programme too?
The gut is the second brain and has an intelligence of its own. It sends messages to the brain via neural networks and on an emotional level it’s about decision making – think of the cognitive language we use: gut feeling, gut-wrenching, gutted. The heart has neural networks and is the seat of our emotions it’s linked to love and compassion, and when you think about fertility there is a lot of heartache there.
How have your pregnant clients been impacted during this pandemic? And is there a way you’ve managed to support them too?
Yes, I did a free 30 days course for them during the pandemic and am continuing to do Live IGTV sessions. I have also included an early pregnancy visualisation in the HUG offering as this is a very stressful time for women early in pregnancy, especially if they have gone through fertility treatment to get here.
Has stress and anxiety always played havoc with conceiving?
I think stress is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. There is a lot of fear around fertility due to the tick-tock of the biological clock, and while age is a huge part of this other factors come into play such as the work/life balance, single women being on the pill and not really knowing their bodies. Everybody manages stress and situations differently, some are better able to cope than others but uncertainty causes the most stress of if and when it’s going to happen and I don’t know many women who are able to cope with that side of it all.
If someone is on the journey to conceiving – what would be your top three tips for helping them to reach their goal?
– Mindset managing – especially expectations as it takes on average 8-12 months to conceive
– Sex and more sex – sounds obvious but many only have sex around ovulation which can be too late! You need fresh sperm too, so aim for 3 times a week regularly.
– Nutrition and supplements. The egg and sperm are cells too – they need to be looked after