10 Things to Stop Doing to Yourself If You're Fertility Challenged

Stop Blaming Yourself

String hand game with birds perched on the string
While it's easy to entangle yourself with blame, you need to let that go. pchyburrs / Getty Images

Infertility is difficult to live with, but sometimes, we make things harder on ourselves. Not intentionally or consciously, of course. We may not know it can be any other way, or we just don't realize we're self-sabotaging ourselves.

Here are some things you should stop doing if you are fertility challenged.

Stop Blaming Yourself

Maybe you waited "too long" to start making a family. Maybe something foolish you did as a college student has wreaked havoc with your fertility. Maybe you wonder if that year you decided to live on only fast food wasn't the brightest idea.

Or, perhaps you have no idea what could possibly have led to your current fertility woes. But you're sure it's something you could have stopped had you only known better.

You need to stop blaming yourself.

Even if you can find a way to somehow make it "your fault," you should still stop blaming yourself.

It doesn't help. It just depresses you.

Plus, most cases of infertility are either not preventable or not predictable. You really can't know if you had done something differently whether you'd be a Fertile Myrtle or not.

Drop the blame, and focus on what's most important now—moving forward and tackling the problem.

Stop "Waiting for a Miracle"

Rear view of woman making conceptual clock face
Your fertility has a time limit. Don't waste time waiting for a miracle, reach out and get the help you need. pchyburrs / Getty Images

If you have been trying to conceive for more than a year (or more than six months, if you're over 35), and you have not succeeded, it's time to see a doctor.

Some couples decide this advice isn't really for them, though. It's for those other people. You know, the infertile ones. They decide to keep trying on their own and pray for a miracle.

Here's the problem with that thinking: There are some causes of infertility that worsen with time.

While you pray for your miracle, your chances may be quickly disappearing.

There's nothing wrong with deciding to keep trying and wait on treatment, or even deciding not to pursue fertility treatment in the end.

But you shouldn't avoid fertility testing. At least find out what is wrong and what your options may be.

Get checked out, both you and your partner, and confirm that whatever is wrong can wait.

Then, if you want, set a "miracle waiting" period. Speak to your doctor about how long they think you can try without losing valuable time.

Stop Feeling Hopeless

Picture of a woman holding a picture of blue sky
Remember that behind the dark clouds is blue sky. Thomas Jackson / Getty Images

A diagnosis of infertility can hit a person hard. Sometimes, it's difficult to see past the next couple days or weeks.

You may feel hopeless, certain that you will never conceive or that your life will never be happy.

While it's possible you won't conceive, you'll feel better if you can keep your thoughts focused on the positive possibilities. Low-tech treatments work for many couples. Your chances for success may be better than you think. Speak to your doctor about your particular prognosis.

Also, remember what your end goals are.

If you can't conceive a biological child, maybe you can use an embryo donor, egg donor, or sperm donor. If you can't use donor gametes, maybe you can adopt. If you can't adopt, remember that people can live childfree and have happy, normal lives.

To be clear, these other possibilities don't magically make the pain go away. You will need time for grieving and healing from the trauma of infertility.

However, when you start to wonder if you will never have a child, or when you start to think your life is ruined, try as best as you can to hold onto at least a sliver of hope.

There is life after infertility. Please remember that.

Stop Acting Helpless

Couple speaking to a doctor about fertility treatments
Take control of your situation by talking to your doctor and researching your options. XiXinXing / Getty Images

Most couples are extremely pro-active in their care. But not everyone realizes they are the decision makers.

To the couples whose doctors tell them they are "too young," despite trying for over a year...

To the couples whose fertility clinics refused to try IVF with their own eggs because their chances aren't great, not realizing that the clinic probably doesn't want to "ruin" their track record with a risk...

To the women whose doctors won't test or treat them until they lose weight, but leave it to them to figure out how exactly to do so...

You are not as helpless as it seems.

If the doctor you're seeing refuses to run an evaluation, go find a new doctor.

If a clinic turns you down because your chances are "too low," seek out a second opinion.

If your doctor tells you to lose weight, be sure they evaluate and treat any hormonal imbalances that may make losing weight difficult, and ask for a referral to a nutritionist. Maybe go get a second opinion on whether you really need to lose weight first.

You have so much more power than you realize.

Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself.

Stop Living Life in Two-Week Increments

woman holding a pregnancy test
When trying to conceive, you may feel like every month resolves around one question -- will you get pregnant this cycle or not?. moodboard / Getty Images

This is a basic one but so common it deserves special mention.

When you're trying to conceive, your life can easily fall into two-week increments: the two weeks you wait for ovulation, followed by the two weeks you wait to take a pregnancy test.

The worst part about this is there are no breaks; there's no anxiety-free time.

Either you're anxious about ovulating or anxious about feeling pregnant.

This is no way to live!

While it's unrealistic to think you'd be able to just drop all the fretting, you should at least try to live beyond the two week wait craziness. You may need the support of friends, a support group, or a counselor to learn how. But it's possible.

Even if you spend just an hour of each day not thinking about ovulation or pregnancy, that would be a great improvement!

Stop Basing Your Self-Worth on Your Fertility

Infertility may make you feel broken, but you are more than your fertility.
Infertility may make you feel broken, but you are more than your fertility. Photo (c) User bacon_pola from Stock.xchng.com

Infertility can make you feel worthless. Broken. Ashamed. These are all very common feelings, experienced by men and women who live with infertility.

Before you started trying to conceive, before you ever realized you faced infertility, you probably felt different about yourself—hopefully more positive.

You need to remember that the old you is still there. You don't become someone else when you're diagnosed with infertility.

If you were awesome and lovable before infertility, then you're just as awesome and lovable after.

If you doubt this, think about what you'd say to a friend who told you they felt ashamed and worthless because of their infertility. You probably wouldn't say to them, "Yep, you're right. You're worthless!" No way.

You know it's not true of a friend, and you need to understand it's also not true of yourself.

You are so much more than your fertility.

Stop Seeing Your Sex Life as Only a Broken Conception Machine

Above view of affectionate couple lying in bed.
Your relationship, your passion, and your love are stronger than infertility. Emir Memedovski / Getty Images

Sex can go from passionate to a chore. Sex can become a reminder of your infertility when you're struggling to conceive.

Before you tried to conceive, you likely thought of sex as something more than a means to getting pregnant. However, somehow, after you struggle with conception, sex turns into a broken conception machine.

All the good stuff you used to enjoy—the passion, the warm feelings, the connection—may disappear.

Try to remember that your sex life is not only about having a baby.

Think of all the things you enjoyed about sex before you started your fertility journey. See if you can't bring some of it back into the bedroom.

While it'll take some work, you can improve your sex life while trying to conceive.

Stop Waiting to Live Your Life as a Family

Friends dining around long dining table on balcony at wedding reception
You don't need kids to have a family. Hero Images / Getty Images

Society has a very limited definition of what makes a family a real family.

If we are to believe the advertisements, you need at least two kids and a dog before you're authentic.

The truth is that family is defined in so many ways. It does not require blood relation or children or a dog to qualify.

Sometimes, a fertility-challenged couple will wait until they have kids to begin their own family traditions or holiday traditions. They remember how it was in their homes growing up and feel like they can't have those enjoyable rituals until they have children of their own.

That's not true.

If you wait to live your life as a family, you may later regret the lost time.

Start living as a family now.

The authentic-family police won't knock at your door if you don't wait for two kids and a dog.

Stop Suffering Silently

two friends chatting in a cafe
Don't keep everything to yourself. Reach out for support. MACIEJ NOSKOWSKI / Getty Images

You probably shouldn't tell everyone about your fertility challenges (though that is an option to consider.)

But keeping it completely secret is not only unnecessary but psychologically painful.

When you keep something like that a secret, it festers. The shame about your condition just grows and grows. Shame is like mold—it thrives in darkness.

Exposing your fertility challenges to even one friend will shine a bit of light on the shame and lessen the shame you feel. Carefully consider the friends and family members who you think can be supportive and just let it out.

If the person you tell reacts badly, don't let that stop you. Try someone else until you find one person who you can be authentic with.

It'll be a relief to not hold it all inside.

Stop Trying to Do This All Alone

Women hugging in group therapy session
A support group can get you support and help you know that you're not alone. Tom Merton / Getty Images

Though you may feel alone, though it may seem you're the only infertile couple among all your friends, you are not alone in this big world.

One in eight experience fertility problems at some point in their lives. There's a good chance someone you know has struggled with trying to conceive, but like you, they are keeping it secret.

Be brave and break the silence.

You have more opportunities for support than you realize.

You can join a RESOLVE infertility support group. You can become a fertility forum member. You can start an infertility blog and participate in the very large fertility blogosphere. You can find a therapist who can help you through the difficult emotions of infertility.

Be sure to also seek support in your partner.

It's amazing how two people can live together and go through infertility as a couple, but still try to cope with it alone.

Speak to each other. Share your fears with each other, including the scary ones, like worries that your partner will leave you because you're infertile. Lean on each other.

If infertility has harmed your relationship, see a therapist together to address the issues.

More on coping while trying to conceive:

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