Annie Clarke, Yoga Teacher + Founder of The Practice shares her IVF journey and why practicing yoga during your pregnancy can help ease anxiety and emotional changes that can arise during this time.
Q. Can you tell us more about 'The Practice' and where it all began?
A. The Practice is my online yoga studio that I created at the beginning of 2020 in order to address several factors that I found were impacting access to yoga - time, money and geography. I wanted to create a more affordable space for people to connect to a practice that had done so much to support me and many of those around me and so each month I share classes with hundreds of members within our community. Of course, when the pandemic hit, it was very fortunate to already have this online space and I am grateful that I could still offer a way to connect with many of the people I would see in studios week after week. We are just about to launch a specific pregnancy space within the community called Bump And Breath and I can't wait to support pregnancy people through The Practice in a safe and empowering way.
Q. Why is the practice of yoga so beneficial when pregnant? And are there particular poses that you'd recommend?
A. There are so many elements of yoga that can be really supportive during pregnancy. The things I have found particularly magic are seated open twists (where you keep the front of the body open, usually twisting the opposite way to how you might usually). and cat cows to help keep the spine moving, Breathing and meditation have also been a really key part of my yoga practice whilst pregnant for helping me to connect to the baby, to my changing body and to help with the inevitable anxieties or emotional changes that can arise during this time.
Q. What challenges have you faced whilst dressing during your pregnancy and how have you overcome them?
A. The biggest challenges for me have been making sustainable choices and feeling like myself. A lot of maternity wear can be quite frumpy and buying things to suit each stage or a changing body feels very disposable so I've avoided that as much as possible and tried to invest in a small number of things that will last beyond pregnancy to avoid throwing things away. I've also loved hand me downs from friends and have passed on things of mine that no longer fit to other pregnant friends to try and minimise our collective impact! It can be difficult to still feel like yourself from a style perspective when options are limited and you're trying to avoid buying lots - so I've focused on a few key pieces that I've worn continuously over the last 9 months and plan to wear beyond!
Q. Would you be open to sharing a little more about your IVF Journey?
A. Of course. After around 2 hours of TTC we realised that IVF was the likely route for us as I wasn't ovulating regularly. We were due to start our treatment with the NHS but there were huge hold ups due to the pandemic and the embryologist retiring at the local hospital so we decided to explore alternatives and found a 'low cost' clinic that works to support those with relatively straight forward circumstances and fortunately we fit their requirements so were able to start fairly quickly following our initial tests. The process can look different depending on the specific needs of couples or individuals going through treatment but we did a cycle of stimulation and an egg collection and I responded well to those. We had some embryos which were then graded so that we could choose which to use based on their development (it's fascinating). As part of the 'low cost' element to our clinic, they are very cautious around certain things and have much lower thresholds around certain things such as OHSS - ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome which is a possible effect of the stimulation drugs. While I didn't go on to develop OHSS, there was concern that I might, so all our embryos were frozen and we had to wait around 6 weeks longer than planned before we were able to have an embryo transferred. From this point, it is relatively similar to a 'natural' conception and you are in the two week wait. If the cycle has been successful, they will do an early viability scan and then likely discharge you into regular maternity care all being well. Or, you would go on to discuss what might be done differently next time with the drugs etc to support you in another round if that is what you want to do. Fertility treatment is incredible but it is easy to assume that it works for everyone which is not the case. It's by no means an easy option but I found the experience incredibly empowering and educational and am incredibly lucky to have had a healthy pregnancy as a result of our treatment.
Q. What are you most looking forward to about Motherhood?
A. I'm looking forward to meeting our baby and having something more important than ourselves to prioritise. I think parenthood is one of the most profound human experiences and see it as such a privilege to be on this journey. I can't wait to see my husband become a Dad and how our relationship will evolve.
Q. How have you found dressing during your pregnancy?
A. I think the way we dress has a huge impact on how we feel and during a time where we are living in changing bodies it is easy to lose our sense of identity. So, finding conscious brands that make you feel good and help you dress well with a bump has definitely made a difference to how I feel. I love seeing brands like Nine the Label who really honour identity, sustainability and commit to empowering birthing people through this special time.