A San Diego Infertility Support Group Takes a Mind-Body Approach
Clinical Social Worker Rachel Rabinor and Naturopathic Doctor Elizabeth Winter have started a 6-week infertility support group with a special focus on the mind-body connection for the San Diego community. The group began when Dr. Winter and Rachel Rabinor, through their own backgrounds in naturopathic medicine and midwifery and social work, respectively, felt there was an absence in real-time support for women grappling with the stressful, time-consuming and emotionally challenging aspects of infertility. Rabinor’s own personal experience with secondary infertility made her feel isolated and while she sought out support and advice through online communities and believes them to be a great resource, she still longed for a way to connect with others who were going through a similar experience. Dr. Winter’s impetus to begin the support group stems from her belief that integrative medicine is crucial when it comes to treating infertility. The two shared a similar interest in forming the kind of support group Rabinor had been looking for—one that honored the mind-body connection and incorporated techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, clean eating and yoga in a supportive, face-to-face environment.
We spoke with Rabinor and Dr. Winter to learn more about the support group and their areas of expertise in hopes that our patients might make use of such a resource. We aim to make the IVF process as stress-free as possible as stress can be a major, if not the major, inhibitor to successful IVF.
Dr. Winter, as a naturopathic doctor and midwife, is a staunch believer in focusing on infertility through integrative medicine. “It’s crucial in terms of preparing the body and supporting the body,” she notes. When she and Rabinor came together to address the lack of infertility support in San Diego, they began to brainstorm about what the group might look like and what they wanted the participants to gain. It would have a mind-body focus, addressing one’s mental health and wellbeing along with nutritional health and lifestyle. “Each woman’s infertility issue is very specific,” explains Dr. Winter, “and it’s necessary to provide targeted nutrition and supplements and the more specific the better.” The group then provides information about proper nutrition and supplements as well as lifestyle changes that can help alleviate stress, all within a group setting. Other topics covered include how to detox from toxic environmental exposures, appropriate exercises for health and wellbeing, sleep patterns and relationship issues.
Over the course of 6 weeks, the support group meets for an hour and half a week, focusing on building connections, sharing experiences, practicing guided meditations and mindfulness techniques in addition to nutrition and lifestyle factors that can help with overall fertility health. The group also offers homework to participants so that the skills and information learned in the once-a-week meeting can be worked on, practiced and incorporated into their daily lives. The group is all female. Rabinor explains the group’s women-only focus, noting that while group couple therapy with both men and women is certainly helpful, “it does change things,” she says. “Women in groups with other women communicate differently than in a mixed gender groups in general and also when dealing with such personal issues,” she continues. The support group is designed to provide women with a space where they can focus on all the various issues and emotions and challenges they face as women trying to have children. It’s not meant to be exclusionary, only to offer the best support possible. Rabinor notes how much shame and stress can go along with infertility and the drive to conceive or embark on IVF, especially for women. She hopes the support group ends the kind of isolation she had felt during her own journey through secondary infertility. “Relationships with family members can shift and change too,” she explains. In addition to expectations to have children, well-meaning family members and friends can inadvertently say inappropriate, hurtful things. The support group addresses such scenarios and provides participants with coping skills and techniques to alleviate the sting of such remarks or ways to avoid them altogether. While learning coping skills are crucial to the support group, it also emphasizes the importance of positive feedback and incorporates some CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) skills. “In addition to learning how to cope with infertility, the hope is that these skills and the information we provide can be helpful to people in their lives overall,” Rabinor concludes.
And to find out more about Rachel Rabinor, LCSW and Dr. Elizabeth Winter, ND, as well as their San Diego-based Infertility Support Group and Fertility Workshops, please visit their main websites at: