Trying for a baby is supposed to be a wonderful and exciting time, but for those struggling with infertility it is a rollercoaster of emotions, where it is difficult to deal with even the simplest daily tasks without it reminding them of wanting a baby. It can be an exhausting, heartbreaking and stressful time, full of ups and downs and feelings of hopelessness, failure and grief.
I know, I’ve been there.
I felt the grief every month that I still wasn’t pregnant, the grief for a life I wanted that included children. I felt that my life was at a standstill while everyone around me was moving forwards — babies, new jobs, new homes, holidays. I was putting off doing things ‘in case I get pregnant’. I felt jealousy towards people who were able to get pregnant, which made me feel worse. I just felt that they were living the life I wanted. It seriously affected my emotional and mental well-being.
I now work with ladies going through IFV and struggling with infertility, to help them break out of the overwhelm and negative cycle that infertility causes, to help them feel stronger and more emotionally stable, so their chances of getting pregnant are higher and the journey is less traumatic.
I would like to share some of the things that helped me, and that I now work through with the ladies I work with. When you are struggling with Infertility and feel like it is affecting your mental health, it can be difficult to work out how you can make changes. I would recommend taking small steps that you are comfortable with, don’t push yourself too far to start with.
Reduce your time on Google and social media
Many women have a tendency to obsessively Google symptoms, trying to work out what is happening with their bodies. That kind of relentless worrying is linked to anxiety and depression, and will only make you feel worse, as you are not able to confirm or disprove.
Social media can also have a negative affect on your well being whilst struggling with infertility. While you seem to be forever waiting for something to happen, putting other areas of your life on hold, everyone else appears to be moving on with their lives — promotions, new homes, babies, engagements.
Try to remember that people tend to only put positive things on social media (the things they want people to see) so don’t compare your life to theirs. If you find it difficult to see, it may be worth taking a break from social media during times you need to stay more relaxed, and turning off notifications from certain friends or groups if their posts upset you.
Take control of what you can
Infertility can leave you feeling out of control of your life and your future, however, there are some things you can take control of so you are making choices in the process and increasing your chances of getting pregnant.
Write it down.
Writing a journal can be a useful tool to help you deal with your emotions. Sometimes you may feel unable to voice your thoughts for fear of being judged or upsetting your partner.
A journal allows you to put all your thoughts in to a safe place so you can process them and get them out of your head. It will also be something to look back on to see how far you have come, and remind yourself of how strong you are.
Allow yourself sad days.
Every month when your period comes feels like a loss, you should give yourself the time and space to accept this sadness. If you feel sad, be sad. Don’t beat yourself up over it.
Talk to a friend, your partner or support network, then pick yourself up ready for the next step. If you find you are feeling very sad or depressed on a regular basis, please make an appointment to talk it through with a counsellor so you can get the extra support you need.
Use breathing techniques
Breathing is a great way for managing anxious thoughts and bringing yourself out of a stressed state.
When you feel yourself getting anxious you can do a breathing technique to calm your self down, bring your heart rate back to normal, and allow yourself to process the stressor before you react (for example if someone makes an inappropriate comment, or another pregnancy announcement).
They are like mini relaxations. It is important to practice these when you are not anxious, so you can use it effectively when you need it.
Recognise and celebrate your achievements
Although it may feel like infertility has taken over your life, it doesn’t define you or your achievements in life. You are a unique and amazing person, and it is important to remember who you are and everything you have achieved when you are having a bad day.
Write a ‘What I’ve got going for me’ journal that you can look at when you are feeling like your life is on hold or that infertility is making you feel like a failure.
Things you could include in the journal are lists of:
Struggling with infertility can be an extremely lonely process. A lot of people struggling don’t tell friends or family, but it is so important to get support from somewhere. Infertility can leave you questioning everything — your future, your relationship, and most crucially your mental health.
Talking through your thoughts with someone who understands will help validate your feelings and make you feel less alone. It will also help you see more clearly to be able to take positive action to change how you feel and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
There are lots of forms of support available — support groups, professional support (counsellors, coaches, hypnotherapists, acupuncturists), online fertility support (The Fertility Network) and don’t underestimate the support your friends and family will give you if you feel comfortable enough to confide in them. They may not fully understand but they can be great for having them there to listen when you need to vent, attending appointments with you or just making you smile when you are having a bad day.
Struggling to conceive is tough, but it doesn’t need to be a stressful and negative process. Take control of what you can, keep positive about your reasons for doing it and use your support network when you need it.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and would like more support, I run a free Facebook support group called TTC Support UK that you are more than welcome to join for peer support, advice and comfort from me and lots of lovely people who completely understand.
This article covers lots of feedback I have heard from patients, in the hope that it will help doctors and nurses understand how patients really feel, and also help everyone that is going through IVF know they are not alone.