How to Manage Fertility Treatments
So often my clients express overwhelm and anxiety in response to how to manage fertility treatments. Panic, fear and worry often dominate the emotional landscape and spiral individuals and couples into a deep, dark abyss of uncertainty. Today I will provide tips on how to manage fertility treatments and optimize your well-being during fertility treatments.
1. Manage stress
Yes, it’s easier said than done, but being stressed is quite literally the worst thing for you and your body right now. Stress floods our bodies with adrenaline and cortisol (the stress hormone) and catapults bodies into fight, flight or freeze AKA survival mode. Survival mode is all about surviving threat.
Threat may be real, like an actual dangerous situation and/or imminent death (think mountain lion stalking you in the woods type of threat) or imagined, like what if X, Y and Z happens and I can’t get pregnant type of threat. In the first scenario there is actual threat and your body will respond accordingly. In the second scenario, the threat is imagined because there is not ACTUAL EVIDENCE to suggest you will or won’t get pregnant, but the mere thought is powerful enough that your body will respond AS IF there is actual threat.
Stress states here and there are FINE, but chronic stress states are situations from which one cannot escape and long-term these stress states heighten anxiety and create hypervigilance counter productive to getting pregnant. When trying to conceive, finding ways to manage stress will help you learn how to manage fertility treatments.
2. Take a break
When you’ve been in fertility treatments for months at a time, or even years, it’s okay to take a break. Too much of anything is not recommended, and that includes too many doctor visits, needle pricks, lab draws and ultrasounds too. Studies show that women in fertility treatment have depression, anxiety and stress equal to those undergoing treatment for cancer. When you feel chronically stressed, taking a break is one way how to manage fertility treatments.
A break could mean a pause in treatments for a month or more to take that overdue vacation or visit family/friends. A break could mean a break from a strict diet or exercise regimen you started, thinking it would help, but now feels like a hopeless endeavor. Breaks can be short-term or long-term. Most importantly, the break is meant as a way to take care of yourself and exercise your own agency.
One client I worked with told me she made a new rule with herself to not take her supplements on Saturdays. During treatment, Saturdays became her “vitamin holiday day” and that meant on Saturday she didn’t make herself follow her strict vitamin protocol, which consisted of 30 or more supplements a day as recommend by her holistic practitioner.
Another client told me about an amazing hiking trip she and her partner planned for the summer. Pregnant or not, they planned to take two months off from treatment in the summer to enjoy their vacation and not think about doctor’s visits and results. Sometimes a break is just what you need in order to reset and learn how to manage fertility treatments.
3. Reduce rumination and what-if spirals
Look, it’s hard to not think about getting pregnant when all you want to do is get pregnant, but there is a difference between productive worry and unproductive worry.
Productive worry is goal oriented and time limited. For example:
I’m worried about not getting pregnant, so today I will drink plenty of water, eat 3 pieces of fruit and take a 10 minute walk to support my body.
Unproductive worry is endless worry that heightens negative feelings like shame, embarrassment, anger and anxiety. Worry is normal, but worrying so much that you cry all the time, yell at your partner for no real reason and feel angry and irritable because your emotional landscape is seeping out everywhere right now means that those negative thoughts and what-if thoughts are controlling you and your emotional well-being. An example of unproductive worry is:
I’m never going to get pregnant! I can’t believe this is happening. Why does everyone else get to have a baby and I can’t! I can’t believe this!! I know it’s never going to happen for me… even if I want it!! NOTHING EVER works out for me!!!
Instead of engaging in unproductive worry that only makes you feel worse, try this strategy:
- Limit worry to 10-15 minutes a day or 10-15 minute increments throughout the day
- Set a timer and freely scribble those thoughts with an old-fashioned pen to paper
- When the timer goes off, stop writing your thoughts
- Next, shift your focus and write 2-3 things you did (or will do) today to optimize your body for fertility fertility treatments
What you do today, tonight and tomorrow are the ONLY things within your control right now.
No one can control the outcome of your fertility treatments, not even your physician, but the choices you make every single day add up. Identifying what you did today to support your body, interrupts ruminative thoughts, halts what-if statements and shifts your attention to the present moment, instead of ruminating on the past or projecting into the future. Applying this strategy will help you learn how to manage fertility treatments more effectively.
4. Eliminate deadlines
I cannot stress enough the importance of eliminating deadlines in how to manage fertility treatments. This is the biggest pitfall I see client make when trying to conceive. So often clients will say “I really want to be pregnant by the new year” or “I need to be pregnant by my birthday.” These artificial deadlines create a sense of failure when that deadline isn’t met.
Each person has a limited amount of control and agency when trying to conceive. Yes, do ALL the things within your agency to optimize your health, but setting an intention to be pregnant by a certain date will worsen feelings of failure and heighten anxiety when that deadline is not met.
So many things are already outside of your control when trying to conceive and undergoing fertility treatments. This is an unfortunate reality. Eliminating firm deadlines and creating broader goals and objectives will improve your ability cope emotionally and psychologically with the ups and downs of fertility treatment and help you learn how to manage fertility treatment.
Instead of saying “I need to be pregnant by the new year” reframe your goal to “Getting pregnant is my goal. Even when I feel impatient, I trust that everything is unfolding just as intended.”
Getting pregnant can be hard enough. Why not help yourself cope better with support from Cope Better Therapy. Email Lori here if you would like to connect.
*information on this blog is not intended to replace medical advice