When you’re trying to fall pregnant and you can’t, it can feel like you’ve been left out of the world’s most exclusive club that is parenthood. Walking down the street can often be the most triggering experience as it feels as if suddenly there are adorable babies in prams and blossoming pregnant bellies everywhere. All you want is one little baby but for whatever reason, it’s not happening right now.
Infertility hurts. It’s a constant ache in your heart and longing that can be hard to explain to someone who hasn’t experienced it. And don’t even get us started on the dreaded day each and every month when your period arrives bang on time like clockwork. Hello, unwelcome guest. It’s a nightmare to be seeing you again; don’t make yourself comfortable.
You might be asking yourself: can anxiety cause infertility? The short answer is no. Stress and anxiety alone cannot cause infertility, but your state of mind is a key element to the overall picture when managing your fertility.
And while we wish we could just crawl under the doona and not face the world until our beautiful baby is finally in our arms, unfortunately, that’s not how the world works. We have to get on with things even when our hearts are breaking… And it can be really damn hard.
So to support you, we’ve rounded up all the practical ways to help you manage the stress of infertility. We see you, we feel you, and we’re with you — because you don’t have to suffer in silence.
1. Let it out
There is nothing more therapeutic than a good, solid sobbing session. So often we feel the need to put on a brave face for the outside world and just get on with things. When in reality, we are screaming on the inside.
So crank up your favourite sad music playlist, get the tissues, get in a safe space, and just.let.it.all.out. There is no shame in facing your feelings. In fact, tackling them head-on instead of running away from them is extremely healthy. Whether you have a sob session daily, weekly, or monthly, this is your permission to not slap on a brave face 24-7 and just “soldier on” with things. It’s OK to be vulnerable and sit in the sadness of the situation. And remember, no feeling is permanent.
2. Speak to a psychologist
Similarly, there is no shame in seeking professional help as you navigate this extremely trying chapter. There is no timeline on how long you might be walking this path so make sure you have a strong support network holding your hand — that means medical experts, too.
As a starting point, speak to your GP about your situation and they will be able to give you a list of recommended psychologists who specialise in fertility counseling. Don’t forget that in Australia through Medicare, you can claim up to 20 sessions with a mental health professional each year. So why not take advantage of the incredible support on offer?
3. Connect with someone going through a similar experience
While your friends may mean well and try to offer support, it can be hard to speak to people who haven’t walked the path of infertility themselves. What your friends can do, however, is link you up with a mutual friend who may be in a similar situation as you.
Alternatively, there is a multitude of fertility support online. Start searching in closed Facebook Groups and let the conversation start from there. All you need is one like-minded friend in your corner, even if it’s just virtually, to help cheer you on — and vice versa.
4. Make sure you have things to look forward to
It sounds so simple, but making sure you have time out away from your fertility stuff is just as important as trying to fall pregnant. Between work and medical appointments, it’s easy for your weeks to get sucked up by life admin.
So whether it’s a weekend away with your besties, a Sunday brunch date with a mate, or just some quality time with your partner so you can reconnect away from all the noise — making sure you have exciting things in your diary that you’re looking forward to is not only a way to take care of yourself, but a great distraction to get your mind off things.
5. Focus on sleep, exercise, and diet
Again, it sounds so obvious but during this time, you really need to be looking after yourself. Making sure you’re getting enough sleep every night will ensure you’re well-rested. Implementing good sleep hygiene before bed (no screens for an hour before bed, reading a book instead, trying a nighttime meditation practice, going to bed at the same time each night, etc.) is another great way to make sure you’re getting enough rest.
When we’re stressed and anxious, the first thing we want to do is eat comfort foods (aka junk). Of course you shouldn’t deny yourself anything, but just make sure you’re putting nutritious food back into your body, too. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
The best stress reliever? Exercise. We’re not saying go and run a marathon. Even a simple walk or a fun dance session in the living room can relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression, so get that body moving! While you’re at it, why not listen to a podcast that has absolutely nothing to do with fertility, babies, or trying to fall pregnant to really take your mind off things?
6. Find your “therapy” and bathe in it
Whether it’s going for a run, doing Pilates, getting a massage, or just screaming underwater — find whatever it is that makes you feel good, both physically and mentally — and do it. A lot. This is a really tough time in your life and you need to make sure you’re doing things that serve you.
Remember to go easy on yourself. If you find yourself falling into a trap of negative self-talk and berating yourself for not getting pregnant, take a moment and remember to speak to yourself how you would a dear friend.
You are not a failure and you are not the sum of your body parts and fertility. Help is always available; don’t be afraid to ask for it.