6 Tips For Coping With Infertility

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Why Can’t I Fall Pregnant?

BY DR SARAH HUGHES

We spend our early adult years praying we won’t fall pregnant.  Earlier warnings delivered by parents and teachers create the illusion that falling pregnant is pretty much a given unless you’re vigilant with birth control. 

As you start to plan for pregnancy, thinking through and weighing up your readiness to become a parent, the financial aspects of having a child, and the feasibility of balancing work and parenting, that you won’t fall pregnant according to your time line is a very distant thought and one that might not even enter your mind.

1 in 6 couples will have trouble falling pregnant

1 in 6 couples will have trouble falling pregnant

When you don’t fall pregnant as quickly as you thought you would, fear surfaces quickly.

“I’ll never fall pregnant”

“I’ve left it too late, now I’ll never be a mother”

Worse, your fear quickly turns to self-blame:

“I shouldn’t have waited so long”

“This is my punishment for putting my career first for so many years”

“Maybe being childless will be the price I pay for having an abortion at 18”

Conception is a complex process and despite what we’re led to believe earlier in life, it’s not that easy to fall pregnant.  Only about 20% of couples trying to conceive will fall pregnant within one month.  Seventy percent of couples will fall pregnant within 6 months, and 85% within 12 months of trying.

It’s normal to not fall pregnant straight away, so if you fall in the 80% of couples who don’t fall pregnant within 1 month of trying, don’t panic.  If you’re still not pregnant after 12 months, try not to blame yourself.  There are a lot of things that can go wrong during conception, many of which have nothing to do with your age or past decisions.  Infertility is devastating and, well, it flat out just sucks.  While there’s no magic fix, I hope that these tools for coping might help in some small way.

Tip #1: Don’t Blame Yourself

Most women blame themselves when they’re having trouble falling pregnant – “I shouldn’t have waited so long”, “I should have eaten better when I was pregnant, then I wouldn’t have lost the baby”.  Self-criticisms like these are rarely accurate.  It’s hard, but try to remember that your fertility difficulties are not your fault.

Tip #2: Know Your Partner Will React Differently To You

If your partner isn’t reacting in the way you think they should, try not to judge their reaction – everyone reacts differently to infertility.  Women are more likely to want to talk about their feelings, whereas men usually prefer to avoid talking.  Neither style of coping is wrong, they’re just different.

Tip #3: Take Care of Yourself: Have Non-Pregnancy Interests

Trying to fall pregnant can feel like a full-time job, but focusing all of your attention and effort on pregnancy can increase your risk for anxiety and depression.  Try to have areas of your life that aren’t baby-related, like “baby-talk fee” time with friends.  Fertility treatments can make this difficult, but try to limit pregnancy talk to a set time each day.

Tip #4: Give Yourself Permission to Say No

Avoiding all activities will have a negative effect on your mood, so try to do things you usually enjoy even if you don’t feel like it.  If most of your friends have children, avoiding all baby activities can also make you feel socially isolated.  If you’re having a particularly bad day, it’s ok to give yourself a break and say no to baby-focused celebrations, but try not to avoid all celebrations.  Try going for part of the celebration and have something planned for afterwards, like a bubble bath or a facial.

Tip #5: Educate Yourself, But Not Too Much

It’s definitely helpful to learn about infertility and treatments so you can ask the right questions when you have appointments, but endless reading and research can be unhelpful.  It can help you feel in control in the short-term, but keeps you pre-occupied with pregnancy overall.

Tip #6: Take Care of Yourself When your Period’s Due

When you’re trying to conceive the arrival of your period is crushing.  It’s also when you’re most vulnerable to thoughts like “I’m never going to fall pregnant”.  If you’ve had previous miscarriages your period can also be a reminder of previous losses.  You will feel upset when your period arrives, but try not to get caught up in the thoughts that come with this.  It’s easier said than done, but buying into these thoughts will affect your mood and your anxiety.

Dr. Sarah Hughes is a clinical psychologist and the founder of Think Clinical Psychologists. She enjoys working with children, adolescents, and adults, and specialises in anxiety, depression, postnatal depression, eating disorders, self-harm, and challenging behaviour.