Take a Break From Trying to Conceive
Figuring out your infertility can quickly become a full time job. After about six months of timed intercourse with no results, it's easy to begin to panic, and start thinking about "upping your game." This includes any and all of the following (not a comprehensive list and in no particular order):
talking to your OB/GYN
trying acupuncture for infertility
trying yoga for infertility
seeing a chinese medicine doctor
having blood tests
getting a referral to a reproductive endocrinologist
having your partner's sperm tested
having an hysterosalpingography (HSG)
ovarian reserve testing
googling the results of your testing
trying clomid, letrozole, metformin, bromocriptine, or other drugs to enhance ovulation
results of testing may lead you to surgery, genetic testing, Intrauterine insemination (IUI), or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
And if after all of this, you're still not pregnant, it's easy for the rest of your life to feel like it's falling apart. This may include any and all of the following (not a comprehensive list and in no particular order):
All you and your spouse talk about is infertility, trying to conceive, results of fertility testing, appointments, and which ones of your friends are now pregnant.
Your work has been generous with time off for appointments, but you're starting to feel like you're running out of excuses.
You see your medical providers more than you do your friends.
You've started avoiding your friends and family because you don't have anything to talk about except infertility, and you know they won't get it anyway.
You're out of shape because you've been trying to heed advice to not over exercise which has lead to zero exercise.
You haven't done anything creative because all of your free time is spent going to appointments, researching outcomes, and reading online forums for infertility.
If you get to this point, it may be time to take a break. Yes, you'll do anything to get pregnant, but the life described above is not living. Taking a break looks like a lot of different things to different people. Often the biggest need comes after a failed IVF. It takes couples so much to get to the point of trying IVF, when it doesn't work you deserve to stop and collect yourself.
One thing to try is to make a list of all the infertility stuff you have added to your life. Then go through and decide if that addition is actually nourishing or depleting right now. Maybe you decide you actually like going to acupuncture even though you aren't getting the pregnancy results right now. Maybe you're sick of drinking bone marrow broth, but actually like the beets you've added to your diet. Maybe you've grown to appreciate the therapist you started seeing and find the time there is still helpful. Maybe you'd like to go 3 months without looking at the pictures of babies on the wall at your reproductive endocrinologist's office. That would be just fine. Think of all the changes you've made to your life in attempt to conceive. Which ones make you feel genuinely healthier? What do you miss? Can you reengage in that part of your life for a month or two?
Taking a break means coming back to yourself, taking stock of what matters. That can be anxiety provoking when all you want is to be a mom and you see time ticking away with each month lost, but when you feel like you're a fertility monster and your losing all of your connections, a few months off isn't going to change much except give you your sanity back.
Another part of "taking a break" can be not actively trying to conceive. It can actually be replenishing to not pee on six ovulation predictor kits this month. You can choose to have sex when you feel like it or not. Some women find great relief in not experiencing a two week wait for once. There can be real freedom in not wondering if you're pregnant or not.
To manage the anxiety that will surely arise when you allow yourself to talk about "taking a break", set a date with your partner to resume trying. Depending on other planned life events, maybe that's after a friend's wedding or a planned vacation, maybe after a busy period at work, or after your six week pottery class or 5k fun run. Put it in the calendar, maybe you actually make a follow up appointment with your RE, or just a date to discuss it again with your spouse. Make some rules about TTC conversation for the break period and hold yourselves to them. Clear the apps off your phone and hide the OPKs.
We know it's impossible to truly forget about getting pregnant. These are some tips to give yourself permission to get some distance from it for a short period of time. With distance, we get perspective, and most of all, much needed rest.
Allison Ramsey is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and fertility counseling specialist in the Asheville area. She’s a member of Resolve, The Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Contact her to start feeling better.