When to Take a Break from Trying to Get Pregnant

Deciding to Put Fertility Treatment and Your Pregnancy Goals on Hold

Condoms to prevent pregnancy, might be used when taking a break from trying to conceive
Using condoms or another form of birth control may seem odd after experiencing infertility, but it may also be a way to take a true break from trying to conceive stress. Photo © User LotusHead from Stock.xchng

Thinking of taking a break from trying to conceive? Then you probably should. Even though you may feel like you can't stop, or like it'd just be easier to continue than take a break.

You should speak to your doctor, first, of course. (More on that below.) However, if the doctor approves, and you can get past the initial anxiety of deciding to stop, the experience can be healing. 

Trying to conceive can be emotionally exhausting.

You may feel as if your entire life centers on getting pregnant.

Taking time away -- whether for a couple months or a couple years -- can lower your stress levels and give you time to rediscover the rest of your life.

Reasons You May Consider Taking a Break

There are a number of reasons you may decide to take a break from TTC.

You're emotionally exhausted.

Infertility is associated with depression, anxiety, and high stress. You can (and should!) seek counseling to help cope with infertility.

But sometimes, therapy isn't enough. Sometimes, you really need time away to process what you've been through.

You need to make a big decision.

Your big decision may involve deciding whether you can afford the testing or treatments recommended by your fertility clinic, or on whether you want to consider an egg, embryo, or sperm donor, or even surrogacy.

When you're away from it all, even for just a month or two, it can help you make a decision that isn't tangled up in the emotions of the moment.

You've just experienced a loss.

Miscarriage is difficult on your body and your spirit. Even if your doctor signs off on your body being ready, you and your partner are the only ones who can know if you're emotionally ready.

You feel you need a break.

Everyone's stress limit is different. You don't need to have gone through three IVF cycles to feel burnt out.

You may feel burnt out before you even reach the fertility treatment stage.

Also, the level of stress you and your partner experience depend on so many things, including your age, your family situation, your diagnosis, your financial situation, and your personality.

If you feel you need a break, speak to your doctor and take one.

You're unsure if you should continue treatment.

Making the decision to stop pursuing treatments is not easy.

If you're not ready to call it quits, but you're also not sure you want to continue, consider taking a temporary break instead.

Then, after you've had time to decompress, you can make your decision.

Pros and Cons of Taking a Break

Some of the pros of taking a break include...

  • Time to consider your next step without as much pressure
  • Time to remember what life is like when you're not sticking yourself with needles or biting your nails during the two week wait
  • Time to process what you've been through without actively heaping on more TTC stress at the same time
  • Time to do things you can't normally do when trying to conceive

    Alas, taking a break also has downsides. Some of those include...

    • Lost time, especially if you're over 35 or if your cause of infertility worsens with time (Speak to your doctor before you assume you can't take a break.)
    • More anxiety (Some people would rather just get things over with than prolong the overall experience.)
    • Financial loss (For example, if you're in an IVF refund program that requires you to complete a certain number of treatment cycles in a certain period of time, you could lose thousands of dollars if you stop "too soon." You could forfeit your refund.)

    How to Take a Break

    The first thing to do is speak to your doctor.

    Ask her if taking a break may lower your chances for success when you start trying again. If time is a factor, ask whether a short break is possible.

    Even two months can help when you're overwhelmed.

    Also, remember that even if your doctor says your chances of success may decrease with a break, you need to weigh what's more important in the moment.

    Is your need for an emotional break most important? Or are the theoretical future chances of conceiving most important? 

    Speaking to a therapist who understands infertility can help you work through this question.

    Next, define what "taking a break" means to you.

    Some couples will decide to "not try but not prevent."

    This means they won't track ovulation or go through fertility treatments, but they won't go on birth control either.

    For others, taking a break means preventing and using some form of birth control.

    It may seem odd to actively prevent pregnancy after dealing with infertility. But when you're preventing, you won't be left wondering every month if you got pregnant despite not trying.

    Lastly, set an end date, or at least a reevaluation date, for your break. This is the date on which you and your partner will discuss whether or not to start trying again. 

    Taking a break is a vacation -- not a final decision to stop treatments for good (which comes with a weightier emotional toll.)

    Having an agreed upon end date can lessen tension between you and your partner, especially if you're not both eager to stop trying for awhile.

    Deciding to Try Again

    Remember that only you can decide when you're ready to try again. It must be a mutual decision between you and your partner.

    If one of you isn't ready yet, consider talking to a therapist who is familiar with infertility. Having a neutral third party to mediate can help.

    More on coping while trying to conceive:

    Continue Reading