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Offering Hope

Catherine McDiarmid-Watt | Tuesday, February 05, 2008 | 0 comments

The stress, money and marital problems were bad enough. But after months of trying and failing to get pregnant, the ultimate blow came when a good friend didn't invite Paula Dowd to a baby shower for fear it would be hurtful.

"People can't relate," Dowd said. "They don't understand what you're going through. You start to feel more and more socially isolated."

Dowd's struggle with infertility, which she eventually overcame, led to a new outlook on life - and a major career change. A few years after her ordeal began, Dowd quit her job as a marketing director, went back to school and become a counselor to help infertile women.

This month, Dowd will begin support classes at her new MindBodyWellness clinic in Redondo Beach, a practice that she hopes will complement fertility physicians in the South Bay.

"As a society, we tend to minimize the impact that infertility has on women," Dowd said. "For some women, particularly in some minority cultures, child-bearing is their sole purpose in life. It's like, if I can't do this, who am I?"

More women than ever are struggling with fertility problems. Roughly 15 percent of couples - whether the problem be with the woman, man or both - can't conceive for a variety of reasons, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Health experts say one of the factors is that women are waiting longer to have children. The number of new mothers over 40 tripled from 1980 to 2005, according to the California Public Policy Institute. Nationally, the average age of first-time mothers rose to an all-time high of 27 in 2005. After the age of 35, it becomes much more difficult for women to conceive naturally.


Dowd was certainly in tune with today's trend. At 32, she and her husband decided they were emotionally and financially ready for a family. After a year of failed attempts, she started to get worried.

They spent thousands of dollars on various medical procedures, but nothing worked. She was also diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in which the female body produces a high level of androgens, or male hormones, that inhibit pregnancy.

Tensions were running high, she said. Dowd had no problem adopting, but as an only child, she wanted at least one biological child.

"I had a strong desire to carry that genetic link to the future," she said.

She decided to try a 10-week mind-body class suggested by her fertility doctor. In the group meetings, participants talked about what they were going through, meditated, practiced yoga and learned how to take care of themselves.

Armed with a calming CD of music, she went to her doctor for in vitro fertilization, an expensive procedure in which the eggs and sperm are fertilized in a petri dish. A month later, at age 34, she was pregnant.

"It was totally different that time," she said. "I went into it completely relaxed, centered."

Research shows that when stressed, the body triggers the "flight or fight" response and releases toxins to ward off danger. Those toxins can lead to a number of health problems, including infertility, she said.

Dowd was resigned to adopt a second child - she and her husband had already spent about $30,000 on fertility treatments, which weren't covered by insurance. But she continued to practice her relaxation techniques, and became pregnant again at 37 without any medical assistance.

That's when Dowd became a believer. After being approached by a few women at work who struggled with similar problems, the new mother decided on a new career path.

She became a licensed counselor and began working with women individually at a MindBodyWellness clinic in Santa Monica. Dowd, who is now 40, plans to hold her first group meeting at her new offices on Palos Verdes Boulevard later this month.

In addition to helping women conceive, she said she hopes her work will create happier women, and therefore happier mothers. Even if women can't conceive, "they will become parents if they want to be," she said, referring to adoption and other options.

"We don't realize how much control we have over our bodies," she said. "For me this is about giving women possibility and hope."

FIND OUT MORE

For information about the MindBodyWellness clinic in Redondo Beach, call 310-373-9355 or go to http://www.mindbodywellnessla.com/ .

Source: http://www.dailybreeze.com/ci_8170715



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Catherine

About Catherine: I am mom to three grown sons, two grandchildren and two rescue dogs. After years of raising my boys as a single mom, I remarried a wonderful man who had never had a child of his own. Unexpectedly, I found myself pregnant at 49!
Sadly we lost that precious baby at 8 weeks, and decided to try again. Five more losses, turned down for donor egg, foster care and adoption due to my age and losses - we have accepted that there will be no more babies in our house.

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