November 20, 2014
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Fertility


Handling the stress of trying to get pregnant

For something that seems so natural, a lot of things have to go just right for a woman to become pregnant. There's an element of timing involved, with only the handful of days before, during, and after ovulation when a woman is most fertile. There's the age issue, too, as a woman's supply of viable eggs diminishes over time.

Add into the mix your partner's fertility and any number of other potential factors - weight, nutrition, underlying conditions - and it begins to seem easier to believe in the stork than it is to get pregnant. So, if you're struggling to conceive, it's totally natural to feel stressed out!

You may spend month after month tracking your basal body temperature, sweating out the wait between ovulation and when your period might come, and imagining pregnancy symptoms that aren't really there. You might be sick of twiddling your thumbs as you wait for the results of yet another pregnancy test.

Well-intentioned relatives and friends may prod you with questions - "Why aren't you pregnant yet?" and "When are you going to have a baby?" Or the strain may be taking its toll on your relationship with your partner.

One of the biggest sources of stress in this whole getting-pregnant endeavour is the possibility that you might have a fertility problem. The thought has probably crossed your mind that there might be an underlying issue, but you've felt hesitant to call it infertility. Perhaps you've even avoided visiting your doctor for fear of what you might learn or because you're worried about undergoing procedures or being able to pay for potential treatments.

But if you've been struggling to get pregnant for more than a year (or 6 months if you're 35 or older), you need to know that you meet the criteria generally used to define infertility. This means it is time to seek help - use the fertility clinic locator to find a fertility clinic near you.

No matter how long you've been trying, however, options exist to help you deal with the stress.

Talk it out with your partner. Share your feelings, concerns, and fears with your partner. Your partner will find it easier to cope if he or she is not the only outlet for your emotions. After all, your partner has a lot to process too. Remember that you and your partner may communicate differently, deal with emotions differently, and solve problems differently. As a result, they also tend to cope differently with conception difficulties. Being aware of these differences can help you avoid misunderstandings and enable you to experience your treatment journey as a team. Even if things don't always go as hoped, you'll know what to do next and find the strength to continue. After all, you both want the same thing!

Reach out for support. Discussing fertility issues can be uncomfortable, and at first, many people choose to keep details of their fertility treatments private. It's reasonable given how stressful and invasive tests can be. You may want to keep matters to yourselves until you know what's going on.

But there are many good reasons to also reach out for support.

  • Your treatment journey can be less stressful. Fertility treatment triggers strong emotions. Hiding your situation may add to the burden. A number of people close to you may be able to provide support. However, these people cannot be supportive if they do not know that there is a problem. No one, especially fertile friends or family, can fully understand your feelings. So remember, you are not expecting others to understand completely, you are seeking their acceptance and support.
     
  • You'll realize that you're far from alone. It has been estimated that one in six couples experience difficulties with conception. According to Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society (CFAS), tens of thousands of patients go through treatment each year. Patient groups offer many kinds of support. They include people like yourselves and others who've been through fertility treatment and now want to offer insight.
     
  • Professional counsellors can offer practical suggestions to lessen your stress. Your doctor can put you in touch with a counsellor (e.g. a psychologist specializing in fertility issues). Some fertility clinics have their own staff psychologist who deals specifically with issues related to fertility, or will know specialists in your area. You may want to go alone or together with your partner.

Discuss your concerns with your best friend, a close family member, a counsellor, and your doctor. It can be such a relief to vent your anxieties, but you also stand to gain insight, support, and a plan for moving forward. Read "Fertility support groups" to find more sources of support.

Take care of yourself. If you allow stress to take over, it can impact your health, your habits, your mood, and perhaps even your chances of being able to conceive. Find ways to take the edge off and get plenty of rest. Maintain healthy habits. Give yourself and your partner the same kind of loving support and understanding you would offer a close friend. Celebrate your accomplishments and stay positive. Be proud of yourself for having the courage to undertake this journey.

Don't try to be a "superwoman"! Undergoing fertility treatments can be a very demanding process, both physically and emotionally. You may have to make nearly daily trips to the clinic, and complete a variety of blood work and tests that go along with this process. On top of that, you likely have a busy work schedule. Ask for help from family, friends and your partner, and eliminate unnecessary or stressful optional activities or appointments.

Don't let your fertility journey take over your life. Strike a balance between your desire to become pregnant and the rest of your life. Becoming pregnant doesn't have to define you or dominate your day-to-day life.

Consider trying alternative therapy for stress. Acupuncture, massage therapy, and meditation may help ease anxiety and stress. Look for acupuncturists or naturopaths who specialize in fertility treatment. But please be aware that the benefit of these interventions towards fertility remains uncertain.

Learn all you can. Research fertility issues by investigating online sources, books and magazines, and by asking questions of your counsellor, doctor, or a friend who has been through a similar situation. You may even consider visiting a fertility clinic in your area to see what they're all about. Most clinics will provide pamphlets and information to help you decide your next steps. You can also look into patient associations such as the Infertility Awareness Association of Canada, which can provide support, assistance, and further information on infertility. Read "Fertility support groups" to find sources of support.

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