Conception and Parenting With M.E./CFS

Parenting under any circumstances is a difficult and weighty responsibility for anyone. Imagine if you have to deal with a chronic illness at the same time! What if you want to have a baby but are unsure as to whether it is a good idea, due to your illness? Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (M.E.), often referred to as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), is a long-term (chronic) illness affecting men, women and children of all ages from about 2 yrs old. People from all different walks of life have suffered under this life-altering illness. It is estimated that around 250,000 people in the UK alone have M.E.

Chances are that you either know someone or even have someone in your family, suffering from this mysterious sickness.

If you are one of the unlucky people with M.E. you may have been struck down before you’ve had a chance to do any of the things you had planned to do with your life. You might have had a plan to have children, run your own business, go to university, succeed in your chosen career or even run the London marathon for charity. Suddenly your world is turned upside down and before you know it you are barely able to feed yourself or carry out your daily toilet. Even if you are well enough to do those things you may feel like you are living life in a drug-filled haze, struggling to concentrate, read or perform other hitherto normal mental or physical activities.

I know this from experience. My partner has it and M.E. has changed our lives significantly. This happened when our youngest was about 6 yrs old. Caring for three children is no piece of cake under any circumstances. I’d like to think that we rose to the occasion and have not done too bad a job under the circumstances, but I can’t lie and say it hasn’t been a struggle. There are many rewards to parenthood and I can say without question that I am glad we have children and I love them all more than life itself. I’m not sure that I would like to recommend parenting whilst simultaneously coping with a chronic illness, but I wouldn’t discourage it either. That will be your decision to make.

So what can sufferers of M.E. expect if they want to get pregnant?

“Action For M.E.” is a leading UK charity campaigning for more research and offering support for ME sufferers and their carers. According to Action for M.E.’s principal medical adviser, Professor Tony Pinching. “Some ask if CFS/M.E. can be passed on. Surprisingly few patients – female or male – consider whether they are ready to manage to look after a young child. Yet this is the critical issue!”

One of the main things an ME sufferer should bear in mind is the huge amount of energy caring for a child, especially a newborn, uses. Most of ME patients have to budget their energy each day and every week. Demands upon parents from a newborn are considerable. Is your partner able to share these demands? Will you be able to keep up without causing a major relapse? What if your baby is a light sleeper and wakes up several times a night? Would your medication adversely affect the development of your unborn child? These are all serious questions that merit consideration. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to discourage anyone. Many people with ME are parents and manage to succeed in raising good children in a warm and loving environment. But every ME patient is different so each situation should be assessed uniquely.

Conceiving with ME is usually no more difficult than without. But pace yourself! There is such a thing as too much sex, which can place unusually high demands upon the patient’s energy levels. Once pregnant, energy levels may decrease during the first few months, giving rise to more fatigue and morning sickness than normal. However, there is no increased risk of caesarian section birth. In fact, your energy levels may even rise during pregnancy. But this cannot be expected in every case. The opposite can just as easily happen.

Will there be an increased risk of the child having ME/CFS? According to Action For ME, “Although CFS/M.E. does seem to be slightly more common in genetically related family members, it is not genetically determined. If the statistical chance of a child getting CFS/M.E. later in life is slightly higher, this is not usually at a level that would affect the decision whether or not to go ahead.”

Delivery of the baby will usually be much the same as any other, but it is advisable to plan ahead for pain-killing purposes. Recovery afterwards might take a little longer than normal though.

For more comprehensive advice about getting pregnant with ME, it is recommended that you check out the official Action For ME website.

A Culture In Fear Of Childbirth And What We Can Do About It

We live in a culture of dichotomy. We have amazing technological advances for health and convenience, but sometimes those advances come with a cost. Emergency health services have saved countless lives and provide aid. That medical advances are so readily available is not something we should take for granted.

One major problem with emergency health services is that many people elect to use them when they are unnecessary, the effects of which can have negative effects on individuals and society as a whole. There is an increasingly casual attitude toward certain surgeries.

This is often the case with Cesarean Sections, the delivery of a baby through a surgical incision in the mother’s abdomen and uterus. According to Wikipedia, the C-Section rate has risen to levels of 25% and above in many Asian and European countries, Latin America, and the United States (and a record 46% in China!).

Some of the reasons for the rise in Cesarean Section rates include after-effects of common medical labour interventions such as induction and epidurals, the cultural movement away from a midwifery model of care and the casual level to which insurance companies, doctors and hospital administrators approach major surgery. 1

At the heart of these and other reasons the Cesarean rate has gone up is the general fear many expectant mothers feel about childbirth. Such fear propels many expectant families to rely on the medical model for birthing, rather than educating themselves and making informed decisions about birth. And since the medical paradigm for birthing revolves around drugs, constant fetal
monitoring, induction and other interventions, it is clear why.

Fear About Birth? Uninformed Decisions? Medical Model For Births?
Higher Cesarean Rate

In fact, several studies in the recent past reveal fear as a factor in the C-Section rate, both directly (elective surgery) and indirectly (emergency surgery).

One recent study published in the international journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica (AOGS) revealed that fear of childbirth is a predisposing factor for emergency and elective cesarean sections. This fear increased the frequency of emergency and elective C-Sections, and it increased the rate of induction.2

1 “Why Is The National U.S. Cesarean Section Rate So High?” ChildbirthConnection.org, 5/11/ 2012.
2 Gunilla Sydsjö, Adam Sydsjö, Christina Gunnervik, Marie Bladh, Ann Josefsson. The obstetric outcome for women who received individualized treatment for fear of childbirth during pregnancy. Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica

A recent Australian survey revealed fear as the strongest motive to women to undergo C-section where there was no clear-cut medical reason for it. 3

So why are women so afraid of childbirth that they are basically handing their births over to a model that increasingly results in emergency surgery? We feel strongly that it is the loss of the communal approach to pre- and postnatal care that was once embedded in our culture. In place of real support and education about birth there is an acceptance that birth is painful and traumatic.

It is sad that so many women feel helpless, scared and confused about childbirth. In our culture, the support from extended family and friends has become patchy at best. The overmedicalization of birth has taken birth away from women and relinquished that control to doctors, hospitalists and insurance companies. Changing the cultural outlook on birthing babies starts with education and empowerment.

It seems more and more women feel birth is something that happens to them, rather than something that is in their control. Granted, no one can control the outcome of labour. But it is very possible to control how educated you are so you can make informed decisions. It is possible to learn methods such as deep breathing and hypnobirthing to reduce stress during pregnancy and labour. It is possible to learn pain management techniques and approaches such as perineal massage and gentle pushing to reduce the risk of tearing.

The childbirth fears cycle is sort of like the chicken and egg dilemma. Lack of education and support causes fear. Fear causes the inability to take action and learn about birthing.

So how do we break the fear cycle?

Take A Childbirth Class That Feels Right To You

Think about this analogy. If you were going to try skydiving for the first time, you wouldn’t just strap on some gear, hop in a plane and go for it. You would take a training class (in the case of skydiving it is required) and learn how to do everything correctly. Your life would depend on it.

It is similar to childbirth. You can throw caution to the wind and just let whatever happens to happen, or you can get as educated as possible to best prepare yourself. This experience can be both calming and empowering, which will ease your fears about childbirth.

Choose the class that feels right for you. When we were searching for the right class for us, we felt strongly about doing a home study. We much preferred being able to access the class on our own schedule. We felt much more relaxed and comfortable in our own home. It was also much easier to review something we didn’t catch the first time because we could access all of the videos, CDs and booklets at any time.

3 “Survey Shows Fear Motivates Women To Choose Cesarean,” Chilbirth.Amuchbetterway.com, September 11, 2009.

Imagery, Meditation and Hypnosis

Your subconscious mind is very powerful, and it has been filled with tons of negative imagery about childbirth from birth horror stories to television portrayals of traumatic births. Imagery, meditation and hypnosis are proactive ways to de-program all of that negativity.

Each of these works by moving your attention to breathing, taking in slow deep breaths, until you are deeply relaxed and your mind becomes open to suggestions of learning. It is in these deep states of meditation and hypnosis that we openly accept birth as a wonderful and positive process. At the least, these methods are a great retreat from stress. Hypnosis, for example, has been shown effective in reducing stress about birth, reducing pain during labour, and
reducing the need for pain analgesia during labour.

Stay Away From Negative Stories About Birth

If a TV show comes on showing a woman in a stressful, painful or generally unnerving birth scenario, turn it off. Politely excuse yourself, or tell your friend you cannot listen to their story if it’s one that is about how traumatic their birth experience was. You might even interrupt them, smile and say something like, “Shhhh…This baby only wants to hear positive stories about
birth.” They may think you are a bit rude, but the more you consciously remove these images, the more room there will be for positive imagery.

Find A Supportive Caregiver and/or Doula

Finding the right caregiver will prepare you for the best possible birth outcome for a comfortable, natural childbirth that you want.

Because there are lots of different birthing options for you (hospital birth, home birth, natural birth, etc.), it is important to ask questions to find the right childbirth caregiver to fit your desired birth experience.

In addition to your care provider (OB and/or midwife), you may choose additional support people, such as a doula, childbirth education instructor or even a friend or family member that is in line with your desired childbirth experience.

You may want to come up with your birth plan first and use that as a guide to interview childbirth care providers or support people.

If your care provider makes you feel uncomfortable in any way, and you cannot resolve that issue, maybe it is time to consider changing providers. We changed providers twice before finding our amazing midwives and deciding on a home birth.

This may sound simple, but a 30-60 minute walk can be very therapeutic. We sometimes equate taking a long walk to a “standing hypnosis session,” as many of the same physical and mental processes are happening: regular breathing and a boost in the lower frequency waves associated with dreaming and sleep, lower heart rate, decrease blood pressure, increase circulation and pain alleviation.

Walking also has great physical benefits, especially during pregnancy. Walking will help ripen the cervix and prepare your uterus for birthing. Getting a few hours of walking in a day will also reduce the need for pain medication during labour. It is easy on your joints while it tones your muscles, which also helps during birth. It also increases cardiovascular endurance (great for a birthing time).

Share Your Positive Birth Stories

We always hear the horror stories. We always see birth portrayed as some crazy, traumatic experience on T.V. and in movies. This perception of birth as negative and traumatic can be shifted if those of us that have wonderful, positive births share our stories with friends and family. Blog about it. Post on Facebook. Join groups that share in these positive experiences.

About The Authors:

Mavi Gupta, M.D., C. C.Ht. and her husband, Jeremy Dyen, C.Ht. are the creators of the Birth Relaxation Kit, at www.birthrelaxationkit.com, the only birth hypnosis program presented by a board-certified physician and hypnotherapist who also birthed using hypnosis. They successfully used certain advanced birth relaxation techniques when Mavi birthed their daughter at home, pain-free. They are passionate about empowering expectant mothers (and fathers!) to visualize the birth they want–a birth without fear, without discomfort and even without pain in any setting. They offer a free comfortable birth presentation on the Birth Relaxation Kit website, as well as a free hypnobirthing mp3.

Mavi Gupta, M.D., C. C.Ht.
Board Certified Physician, Headache Specialist and Hypnotherapist. Mavi
is a graduate of The Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge,
Massachusetts and The University of Tennessee College of Medicine in Memphis, Tennessee.

Jeremy Dyen, C.Ht.
Certified Hypnotist, professional musician and teaching artist. Jeremy is one of
the most sought after keyboard players in Philadelphia. He has recorded on John Legend’s Grammy award-winning cd, Get Lifted. He’s performed with G-Love, Digable Planets, Zakir Hussain, and has shared the stage with numerous national acts.

Erectile Dysfunction When Trying To Conceive

A lot of fertility sites concentrate on all kinds of infertility problems but what frequently seems to be avoided is the almost taboo subject of erectile dysfunction.

What is it?

Erectile dysfunction is an inability to get or maintain an erection. It is also known as male impotence, a relatively serious problem if you are trying to get pregnant. Perhaps this subject is pushed to the back burner due to its embarrassing nature. For most men, their sexual organ is viewed as a symbol of their strength, masculinity and virility. Thus the male ego finds it a difficult subject to discuss.

Is it Common?

You may find it surprising to know that approximately 1 in every 10 men suffers from erectile dysfunction. Amongst men with diabetes that percentage rockets to 50%. The statistics worsen with age with men over 65 the most likely to have this problem. Unfortunately for some, this condition appears to be becoming more common.

What Causes It?

Several possible causes are:-

  • Clogged arteries
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Damaged nerves (such as multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury and stroke)
  • Low levels of testosterone
  • Psychological problems (such as anxiety, stress, depression)
  • Medication (such as alcohol, narcotics, blood pressure medication and sedatives)
  • Surgery (prostate removal and pelvic surgery)

How It Is Treated

Treatment varies depending upon how bad the problem is. In many cases, a few lifestyle changes can lead to a full recovery. Sometimes more mechanic methods are necessary. Here a few of the treatment methods:-

  • Surgical implants. There are several different variations upon the same theme. One of the most common types is inflatable implants that can be pumped up upon demand by squeezing a pump hidden inside the scrotum. Implants are usually completely unseen and inconspicuous.
  • Vacuum pump. The male member is placed in a plastic tube. The air inside is pumped out using a small squeezable pump. The suction is used to increase flow to the blood vessels in the penis, thus engorging it. Then a constriction device (not unlike a rubber ring) is placed over the base of the penis to help hold this pressure and thus maintain an erection. For safety reasons, the rubber ring must be removed within thirty minutes.
  • Oral medications (including Viagra (Sildenafil), Cialis (Tadalafil), Levitra (Vardenafil)). These medications are called PDE-5 inhibitors. Consult a qualified doctor before taking these medications as they can be lethal when taken with certain other medications or medical conditions. Only one tablet should be taken in any 24hr period.
  • Injected medication. Alprostadil known as EDEX and Caverject can be injected directly into the penis, this causes the blood vessels to dilate. Erection usually comes along about 10-15 minutes later and will usually last for the next 45-60 minutes. Misapplication or adverse reaction to this medication can be rather painful and usually leads to the embarrassing side-effect of priapism (an erection that lasts for a few hours or more, which can lead to tissue damage).
  • Suppository (a different method of applying alprostadil as opposed to injection). The tiny suppository is inserted deeply into the urethra. Over the next 10-15 minutes, it then dissolves into the surrounding tissue causing a localized dilation of the penile blood vessels.
  • Lifestyle changes (more about this later on).
  • Psychological changes (more about this later on too).
  • Hypnotherapy. It is worth noting that impotence has been successfully treated using hypnotherapy in cases where the cause has been due to psychological factors such as stress, performance anxiety etc.

What Lifestyle Changes?

It is usually recommended that most patients try to make lifestyle changes before using medication or surgery. Remember; Healthy parents make healthy babies! The following changes are frequently advised:-

  • Weight loss. Patients that are overweight should try to reach their target BMI.
  • Stop Smoking. Smoking increases your odds of impotence by 50%!
  • Cut down on the booze. Better still cut it out altogether, at least until you have successfully conceived.
  • Don’t do illegal drugs. Taking any illegal drugs including so-called soft drugs should be stopped completely.
  • Regular exercise. Exercising regularly will help stabilize one’s metabolism and assist any effort to reduce MBI.
  • Reduce stress. This is one of the most important lifestyle changes (see section below dedicated to psychological changes).

Psychological Changes For Him

In 25% of men with erectile dysfunction, medications are ineffectual. In these cases, the cause is often psychological. Stress, depression, emotional trauma and feelings of low self-worth are often the cause of impotence. If you are a male sufferer of this condition try to avoid thinking of yourself negatively. You are still a strong and virile man, your body is just in need of a little time to stabilize itself. Look at it like this; Every athlete needs a breather sometimes. They may be at the peak of fitness, but they still need a rest after a trying event. No-one can run forever. Your body is merely having a rest while it prepares itself for the next event. Give yourself a little time to regroup, take care to prepare your body and mind and revitalize it just like an athlete. Tell yourself that once you have done this you will be back on top form again, ready to go. Don’t put yourself under the pressure of a time limit, just let nature follow its course.

An excellent way to help change your thought process is daily meditation, ideally anchored by a form of chi kung (qigong). It only takes about 20-30 minutes per day to make a huge change and it does not even wear you out! But isn’t yoga and tai chi a load of namby-pamby nonsense? No, absolutely not. Many forms of chi kung have been carefully developed over thousands of years by experts. Once you get past your own preconceptions you will find it to be invigorating, calming, enjoyable and much less effort than a game of squash. Most guys don’t think Jackie Chan or Jet Li are sissies, yet they use chi kung as part of their kung fu training! Chi kung has a well-proven track record of helping with virility. An expert chi kung master will understand the need to treat their client’s confidentiality in much the same way as a doctor and will be used to helping patients with numerous conditions. It is important to remember that these are trained health professionals and can usually help you more than your local doctor.

As you meditate, focus upon strength, peaceful tranquillity and connecting with nature. Imagine energy filling you with radiant light and connecting you to the earth and the universe. All creation is energy. Scientists say that every part of us made of different forms of energy. Every cell, neutron, proton, electron, every thought and every impulse is energy. This energy is connected to the surrounding universe. Meditating on this will help to dissipate your stress and help your mind and body as a whole, not just your sexual potency.

Share with your partner

Calmly share your fears with your partner. Don’t attach blame to either party. There is no shame in what you are going through. It does not mean that you are less of a man because of your problem. If you are finding sex boring or monotonous and find it sometimes a little difficult to maintain an erection, then spice it up a bit. Try new positions. Don’t try to have sex too often, it can be exhausting and counterproductive. Go at your own pace.

If you are finding it difficult to get an erection, think about what normally gets you aroused (maybe the sight of your partner as she gets undressed at the end of the day, maybe something else). Try reading an explicit novel or collection of sexy short stories. Watch a blue movie with your partner. Unless it particularly turns you on, don’t think of sex as “trying to get pregnant”. This reduces it to a chore, rather than a passionate pleasure.

What can a woman do to help her partner?

The following information is given in the spirit of friendship and advice. Please don’t take it as being rude or judgmental. This information is explicit but general advice for helping men with erectile dysfunction. You may have to pick and choose or adapt these suggestions to fit your particular situation and needs.

  • Give your man lots of love, kindness and understanding.
  • Make him feel like a big strong man and show him and tell him that you respect him and are proud to be his wife. Male potency is strongly affected by ego, so any help you can give him to boost his self-esteem is a good thing. Don’t tell him that you are trying to boost his ego, because that would undermine your efforts.
  • Don’t put him under pressure to “perform”. Performance anxiety is a big downer for men. Whether you or he have previously expressed an interest in it or not, avoid suggesting anything like a threesome. Even if you are normally that sexually liberal, it would almost certainly put him under pressure to perform. Not only would it be completely counter-productive it may also deeply humiliate him and leave him emotionally scarred. The same applies to use a video camera in the bedroom. Use little enticements not big.
  • Make sex fun. I don’t know how adventurous your tastes in the bedroom are, but try to entice one another. Push the envelope a little. Use role play or bedroom toys. Use foreplay. Try new sexual positions, if you are able to get that far. Dress up for the occasion. An example:-
    To make sex fun, see if he would like you to give him oral sex (this would help him to disassociate sex with procreation and thus help remove the pressure to conceive). If it works, it will help him to feel more virile. Maybe at a future time, you could try vaginal instead of oral penetration when his ego and body is ready.
  • Dress up. Never forget that you are a beautiful woman (yes even with love handles or swollen ankles) and your husband no doubt finds you attractive, especially if he sees you in sexy lingerie!
  • Less is more. Depending upon your man’s tastes, you may wish to try waxing your intimate areas, skip wearing undies one day or walk around the house nude to pleasantly surprise him. Lots of fellas like the thought of their woman being a little bit naughty especially for them. Whisper in his ear and tell him you’re not wearing any panties under your dress. Little things like that might just stoke his fire and help him to feel desirable, wanted and needed. Don’t underestimate the power you have to excite him and please him.
  • Get rid of the phrase “it’s my fertile time”. I know you may be trying for a baby but using that phrase or similar saps nearly all of the romance and passion out of the situation. It is what we could call a “pressure phrase”, that is sure to make him feel performance anxiety again.
  • Don’t think he does not care. He may not always tell you how much you mean to him but he’s only a man and we all know how much they love to express their inner feelings about everything except football! Wanting to make a baby with you is sure evidence of his true feelings.
  • Help him avoid stress. If he is worried about money, try to spend less. Let him know that you are happy no matter whether you are poor or rich, so long as you are together. If he is stressed about work, lend a sympathetic ear.
  • Make your home a haven. As far as it depends upon you try to make the home a stress free haven, a place to look forward to returning to at the end of a busy day.

So remember that nothing is impossible and you and your partner are not alone. With a few relatively minor lifestyle changes and a little help, you can not only get your bedroom bounce back but also find a new lease of life. Trying to conceive and creating a family could be part of that journey too.

Help With Despair and Suicidal Urges

I know that there are many women that find trying for a baby difficult not only physically but also mentally and emotionally. When a woman has a miscarriage or stillbirth it can be extremely painful emotionally. Depression is quite often found in women in this situation. Postnatal and antenatal depression is also far more common than most of us realise too.

It was particularly brought home to me when a friend of mine recently committed suicide. She had struggled with depression for quite some time. Her depression had been triggered by other circumstances, which I won’t go into here. But it got me to thinking about how I felt after I had a miscarriage, how it affected me and my husband. I’d be lying if I said that I had no depression back then. It was hard to accept that the little life inside me was no more. I felt guilty, wondering if it was my fault, angry that something like this could happen when all I ever wanted was to give love to this baby.

If you are one of the many women struggling with similar feelings please, don’t suffer them alone. Contemplating suicide is never the answer. Speaking to trusted family, friends or a health professional is a far better option. If anyone, male or female, ever feels they cannot cope anymore, I would urge them to at least seek the support of a listening ear. Samaritans is a charity offering confidential support and are always willing to listen no matter what the time of day or night. They are only ever a phone call away.

David Richards, professor of mental health services research at the University of Exeter, offers the following tips for coping when you’re depressed (excerpt taken from UK National Health Service article).

1. Be more active
Don’t withdraw from life. Socialising can improve your mood. Keeping in touch with friends and family means you have someone to talk to when you feel low.

Take up some form of exercise. There’s evidence that exercise can help lift your mood. If you haven’t exercised for a while, start gently by walking for 20 minutes every day. Find out more about exercise for depression.

2. Face your fears
Don’t avoid the things you find difficult. When people feel low or anxious, they sometimes avoid talking to other people. Some people can lose their confidence in driving or travelling.

If this starts to happen, facing up to these situations will help them become easier.

3. Don’t drink too much alcohol
For some people, alcohol can become a problem. You may drink more than usual as a way of coping with or hiding your emotions, or just to fill time. But alcohol won’t help you solve your problems. It could also make you feel more depressed.

4. Have a routine
When people feel down, they can get into poor sleep patterns, staying up late and sleeping during the day. Try to get up at your normal time and stick to your routine as much as possible.

Not having a routine can affect your eating. You may stop cooking, eat snacks instead of proper meals or miss breakfast because you’re still in bed. Find out more about healthy eating and depression.

“We all know what it feels like to be down,” says Professor Richards. “Most people who feel low will start to feel better after a few days or weeks. But if these feelings persist or get in the way of everyday life, it’s time to seek help.”

If you’re still feeling down or anxious after a couple of weeks, talk to your Doctor or medical professional.