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Getting Pampered to Get Pregnant

The sun shimmers over the Atlantic as I dip my toes into the sugary soft sand and lean back into my padded beach chair.  My body relaxes, my muscles liquid after a morning massage at the spa.  The breeze caresses my hair, and the warmth of the sun melts into my skin like butter.  I am experiencing the Nocturnal Nesting package at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a “procreation vacation” offered to help couples conceive in style.

My husband and I booked the getaway after my doctor suggested stress might be interfering with our efforts to conceive our second child.  After eight months of trying, we thought several days of indulgence and pampering might be just the prescription we needed to hasten the pitter-patter of little feet.  Our package included an ocean-view suite, a romantic couple’s massage, and aphrodisiac drinks and chocolates delivered to our room.  An on-site kids program provided the alone time we’d been craving.

For those who are already parents, a procreation vacation can be especially appealing.  Busy days of juggling kids, careers, and social responsibilities can take its toll on a relationship, making it difficult for couples to carve out time for each other and focus on the goal of conception.  And the process isn’t always easier the second time around.  An estimated 3 million couples a year experience trouble conceiving their second child, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Stress and Fertility

The process quickly becomes a catch-22.  The longer it takes, the more stressful it can be. The more stressed you are, the longer it takes, because stress can impact fertility.  “Stress hormones can affect reproductive hormones as well as adrenal hormones,” says Lisa Kolp, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at the Johns Hopkins Fertility Center in Baltimore. “Adrenal hormones affect the function of the ovary and sperm production.”

Several studies examining stress levels in women undergoing in-vitro fertilization found that women with elevated anxiety and high cortisol levels in their blood had a 20% lower success rate than women who did not report feelings of anxiety and depression.  Stress can interfere with male fertility as well.  In a study conducted by Northwestern University Medical School, men experiencing stress had lower sperm quality and reduced sperm counts.  

Pumpkin Soup, Anyone?

Not only are procreation vacations supposed to speed up the baby-making process by lowering stress, but the resorts also offer special amenities they claim will boost fertility. The Westin Our Lucaya Resort provides unlimited sea moss elixirs and pumpkin soup with their Procreation Vacation package, while the Marriott Harbor Beach pampers couples with chaste berry aromatherapy massages.  But do they work?

“There is no scientific basis for these substances,” says Victoria Jennings, Ph. D, director of the Institute for Reproductive Health and Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

However, the couple’s massage could be beneficial.  While research on lowering infertility-related stress hasn’t been conducted, numerous studies conclude that massage therapy reduces overall stress.

If you’ve been trying for less than a year, a procreation vacation might be a great way to reduce stress, reconnect with your partner, and celebrate your decision to add to your family.  “A procreation vacation is an excellent idea – if it occurs at the right time of the woman’s cycle,” says Jennings.  What more motivation do you need?

As for us, it’s still too early to tell whether our vacation was a success.  However, we both feel relaxed, re-energized, and ready for whatever lies ahead.

Know Your Fertility

To make the most of your procreation vacation, you need to know when you’re fertile.  Women are fertile for about 5 days of their cycle, according to Jennings.  She recommends making love for the three days before you ovulate.  Don’t know when that is?  

“Ovulation occurs about 14 days before the next period,” says Kolp.  For women with regular 28-day cycles, ovulation is occurring at about day 14, but “many women aim for day 14 without taking into consideration their own cycle pattern.”  Plus, a woman’s cycle can vary from month to month.  Inexpensive ovulation tests can help you figure out when you are most likely to conceive.

Take a Vacation, Already

Pick your pleasure from the four resort packages below. Except for the Five Gables Inn, they are all family-friendly, in case you need to bring the kid(s) you already have while you’re working on adding another one.

Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The Nocturnal Nesting package I experienced is offered May through September to coincide with the nesting sea turtle season.  The price starts at $499 per couple for the first night and $299 for additional nights. (954) 525-4000.  marriottharborbeach.com.    

The Five Gables Inn and Spa, St. Michaels, Maryland.
Leave the kids with the grandparents when you visit this couples-oriented romantic inn on the Chesapeake Bay. The 19th century inn offers a Birds and Bees package, which includes a two-night stay in a suite featuring a whirlpool tub, gas fireplace, and Swedish shower. If that’s not enough to get you going, melt away your worries with a couple’s massage at the spa, indulge with a dinner of oysters and wine, then end the evening snuggling the crooning of Barry White. Activities outside of the bedroom include complimentary bike rentals and horse-drawn carriage rides. Rates start at $810 per couple. (877) 466-0100.  fivegables.com.

Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa, Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
This mountain resort marries the grand adventure of parenthood with the adventure of the great outdoors.  In addition to a couples’ massage and in-room candle-lit dinner, the “Procreation Ski Vacation” offers two days of skiing at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and a dogsled trip to Granite Hot Springs.  Activities include hiking, horseback riding, and whitewater rafting.  The Kids’ Ranch takes kids 6 months and up, and the concierge can arrange babysitting in the evening.  The four-night package starts at $1,256 per person. (800) 631-6271. tetonlodge.com.  

Westin Our Lucaya Resort, Grand Bahama Island, Bahamas. How’s lazing on the sugar-sand beach or bobbing in the aqua-blue waters of the Caribbean for lowering your stress levels?  While the unlimited sea moss smoothies and pumpkin soup may not boost your baby-making chances, the 50-minute couple’s massage with aromatherapy will dissolve your muscles and your frustrations—for a few days, at least.  The three-night “Procreation Vacation” package also includes two dinners, one in your suite.  The Westin is family-friendly, with cribs, a daily kids program, and sitters on speed-dial at the concierge.  The package starts at $1,893 per couple. (242) 373-1333. starwoodhotels.com.

Kyla Steinkraus lives in Hinsdale, IL with her husband and two-year-old son.  She’s written for Pregnancy, Mothering, and Babyzone.com.  She hopes to give her son a sibling very soon.

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