by Meslissa Estes, LPC, LMFT
Trying to get pregnant can be extremely stressful. Anxiety can lead to thoughts of worry about what is wrong with you and your partner. A lot of times people jump to thinking the worst. There is a universal tendency to underestimate the stress caused by infertility, and the impact it has on your fertility journey.
According to RESOLVE, research has shown that women with infertility have the same levels of anxiety and depression as do women with cancer, heart disease, and HIV+ status. You are facing genetic and social pressure to have a baby. Often, you are surrounded by people in your life who have conceived easily, which only serves to heighten your stress.
How Stress Affects Your Life
Infertility can affect every area of your life. It can drive a wedge between you and your partner; misplaced blame, sadness, fear, and frustration, can all be directed at your partner. This is a time when you need to be closer than ever to your partner so that you can support and bolster one another.
Infertility can make you feel stressed about having sex. The male partner may feel like the only reason his wife wants to have sex with him is to conceive, and that indeed may be the reason why the female wants to have sex. It’s important to keep sex fun and to not make it feel like a job.
It can also affect your relationships with friends and family. You may not want to spend time with friends and family members that have recently had babies or that are building families with ease. When you start avoiding spending time with them, you may lose some support from them that you really need during this time. Family members and friends may not know what to say to you to comfort you. It can help to tell friends and family how they can be there for you. Sometimes all they need to say to you is “I’m here for you.”
Infertility can also affect your job. You may be in a bad mood at work and not your usual happy self, due to the stress of trying to conceive. It can be helpful to talk with your boss about what you are going through, especially if you are worried about having to take time off from work for fertility related appointments.
You may also be worried about the expense of fertility treatment, especially if you are going through IVF. There are companies and foundations that provide assistance with paying for fertility treatment.
Infertility can also cause you to be stressed out about your spiritual or religious beliefs. Often people think that “God is punishing them” and they may also start to lose faith in their beliefs. Some people may feel conflicted, because their religion doesn’t condone fertility treatment. This is a time when it can be helpful to increase your positive thinking and beliefs instead of decreasing them.
Talking with a counselor, either individually, as a couple, or in a support group setting, can help to reduce stress. According to RESOLVE, research showed a 55% take home baby rate for participants in mind/body groups, 54% for support groups, and 20% for the controls. A counselor can help you talk through your emotions, learn relaxation techniques, help you to challenge your negative thinking patterns, and come up with a plan for conceiving in conjunction with you doctor. Some people use cannabis to overcome stress related issues. Of course, this is out of the question if you are currently trying to conceive or have managed to become pregnant. Those that aren’t may want to take advantage of the dispensary supplies available online.
It is important to know how to reduce your stress. Some ways to reduce stress are:
- Identify what exactly is stressing you out and take action as soon as possible to work on reducing your stress
- Develop an awareness of stress and stress buttons; what is the cause, and how does stress make you feel
- Identify what your stress buttons are and how you react when your stress buttons are pushed; work on not letting your buttons be pushed and your reaction
- Realize that you are normal for feeling so stressed out while struggling with infertility
- Work on slowly reducing your stress, don’t expect for it to all go away quickly
- Work on your relationships with friends and family and let them know how they can be there for you emotionally and physically; you will feel less alone
- Allow yourself cry. You will probably feel better after a good cry.
- Let yourself be angry; punch a punching bag or pillow if you physically need to get your anger out.
- Pamper yourself- go get a massage, facial, manicure, or pedicure.
- Practice positive thinking, meditation, and/or prayer
- Take care of your health
- Work on becoming closer to your partner; do thoughtful gestures for your partner to increase intimacy
- Do yoga
- Try acupuncture or hypnosis
- Limit the amount of time per day that you talk about infertility with your partner so that you don’t become consumed by it
- Do deep breathing exercises, there are apps these days that will guide you through deep breathing exercises
- Journal your thoughts
- Counter negative thoughts that you have with positive thoughts
- Remove unnecessary duties or responsibilities from your life
- Turn your anxiety into useful energy
- Let yourself grieve; have a memorial for lost pregnancies
- Go on a relaxing trip
- Lay down on a bed or couch and rest
- Make a list of tasks you need to get done and prioritize them
- Use a calendar and update it often
- Start therapy
- Start engaging in hobbies that you have always wanted to try
- Say “no” to requests that you don’t have enough time for or don’t really want to do
- Get at least 8 hours of sleep per night; getting less than 8 hours can affect your mood in a negative way. If you are not getting this much sleep, you could look into purchasing something like a new mattress, maybe a twin mattress for couples. This may help you relax better and get a comfortable night’s sleep.
- Laugh as much as you can
- Engage in activities that make you happy
- Spend time with friends and family who support you in a positive way
- Attend a support group; it can be very beneficial to relate to people that are also dealing with infertility
- Schedule an appointment with your doctor as soon as you have questions so you don’t have to worry
- Listen to music that you enjoy to boost your mood
- Spend time in nature
- Research fertility treatment, but don’t let it consume you
- Research adoption as a possible option
- Think of what has worked for you in the past that you’ve done to help you through difficult situations and do the same
Remember that you are not alone in feeling stressed while dealing with infertility. Many people view it as the most stressful time in their lives. According to Alice Domar PhD, the most important thing to remember is that no matter how your infertility is resolved, you will be ok.
About the Author
Melissa Estes, LPC, LMFT, is the counselor at Aspire Fertility clinic in Houston, TX. She is a licensed professional counselor and a licensed marriage and family therapist. She studied psychology at Texas A&M University and earned her masters in marriage and family therapy from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. Melissa is active in the community as well. She has been interviewed by local TV and radio programs, including Great Day Houston. She has also assisted in teaching counseling techniques to counseling students.