8 Things No One Tells You About Pregnancy After Infertility

Pregnancy Isn't a Magic, Happy Fix

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Getting the news that your finally pregnant can be exciting. Especially after months or years of trying, you may feel more hopeful for your future than you have in a long time.

However, along with your excitement, you may also feel anxious, worried, or even scared. You are more aware than most of what can go wrong during pregnancy—getting a big fat positive on a pregnancy test doesn’t guarantee a baby in the end.

When dealing with the emotions of infertility, many people think, “If I could just get pregnant, I’d be happy.”​ Except it doesn’t quite work like that.

What to know: It is completely normal to feel happy and nervous when you get pregnancy news. Also, pregnancy and postpartum depression are more frequent in women who have struggled to conceive. This may be partially hormonal and partially from the stress of infertility. Facing pregnancy-related depression does not imply you’re “ungrateful” or a “bad” mother. It is not your fault.

What to do to feel better: Don’t hold all your worries inside. Find at least one good friend who you can confide in. Also, consider seeing a therapist. All the emotional struggles of infertility do not magically disappear with a positive pregnancy test or even after a baby. It’s okay to ask for help.

If you think you may be depressed, please talk to your OB/GYN. There are possible medical causes for depression and you have more treatment options than you realize.

Survivor’s Guilt Is Real

African American woman using laptop in cafe, trying to be sensitive to friends with infertility
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If you’ve been dealing with infertility for some time, you likely have friends who are also struggling to conceive.​ Whether they are online friends or support group members, having fellow infertiles who understand where you are coming from can be a great comfort.

But when you get pregnant, you may worry about your still-infertile friends. You may feel like you are “leaving them behind.” ​​You may feel like you need to downplay your excitement or be overly aware of posting ​pregnancy news and pictures on social media. You don't want to hurt them. How can you share your pregnancy news?

What to know: Survivor’s guilt is a common and normal experience after infertility. Remember, however, that there’s a difference between a fertile-myrtle getting pregnant and a fellow trying-to-conceiver.

Many times, hearing a fellow trying-to-conceiver's good news offers hope and mutual excitement.​ Pregnancy envy is different when it’s “one of us” with the good news.

What to do to feel better: Talk to your friends in the infertility trenches. Don’t leave them in the dark about your pregnancy.​ Share with them your pregnancy news in a sensitive way.

On social media, remember that it is possible (on Facebook anyways) to block people on certain posts or share photos to only a certain list of friends. This is one way to get around the guilt over sharing pictures.​ (But ask your friends if they mind seeing your pregnancy photos before you block them. They may want to see!)

If you’re close friends, consider talking about your survivor’s guilt. It’ll help clear the air. You’ll both feel more comfortable moving forward.​ If you’re in a support group, talk to the leader about how the transition from the group works. There may be a pregnancy/parenting after infertility support group nearby. If there isn’t yet, perhaps you could start one!

Denial Happens

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You get a positive pregnant test. Yes! But then, you may find yourself testing again a few days later. Just to be sure.  You may question whether you’re really pregnant until you hear the heartbeat or until you see the first ultrasound.

On the darker side of denial, you may worry about bonding with your unborn baby. And you may be so worried about losing the pregnancy that you resist emotionally connecting to the experience.

What to know: Don’t worry if you don’t “bond” with your unborn baby.  As long as you eat and drink like you’re pregnant, not emotionally “bonding” with your unborn won’t hurt you or the baby. In fact, it's normal to not bond right away with your newborn baby. It's a myth that these feelings magically appear at birth. It takes time and that's okay.

What to do to feel better: Keep reminders of the pregnancy around you. Put your first ultrasound picture on your refrigerator or keep the positive pregnancy test in your bedroom. 

Try not to fall into the trap of taking repeat pregnancy tests to “confirm” you’re still pregnant. They may naturally vary in darkness, and this may cause unnecessary anxiety. If you're worried about bonding with your new baby, or feeling depressed, consider seeing a therapist who specializes in fertility or pregnancy related anxiety.

Leaving Your Fertility Clinic Can Be Disorienting

Pregnant Woman Having An Ultrasound
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The process of getting pregnant may have been filled with blood tests, frequent ultrasounds, and trips to the fertility clinic. You can be very busy with the work of getting pregnant.  Then, at some point, your fertility doctor will pass you onto a regular OB/GYN. They may not even want to see you for a few weeks.

Going from daily or weekly appointments to monthly ones can be unnerving.  You may worry in between appointments that “something is wrong,” even if all signs show that things are going well.

What to know: It is possible to have a healthy, uneventful pregnancy after infertility. If there are complications or your pregnancy is classified as high-risk, you may need more monitoring. But just having gone through infertility doesn’t single-handedly indicate more monitoring. Your doctor isn’t ignoring you. They are just treating you as they do any healthy pregnancy. And that’s a good thing!

What to do to feel better: Talk to your OB/GYN about your discomfort. Many doctors are willing to see you slightly more often for peace of mind.​ Some doctors will even let you call ahead and schedule a quick walk-in appointment to check the heartbeat with the handheld doppler. Of course, if you have any worrisome symptoms or signs of a problem, don’t hesitate to call your doctor in between appointments.

Your Pregnancy May Not Be a Typical One

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While many pregnancies after infertility are normal, statistically speaking, you may be at higher risk for some pregnancy problems.​ Your risks will depend on why you couldn’t get pregnant, your previous pregnancy history, your current health and weight, and how you conceived.

If you took fertility drugs, your risk of conceiving multiples is higher. Twins and triplet pregnancies do come with more risk to you and your baby.​ The risk for premature labor is higher in women after infertility, even if you conceived just one baby.

What to know: Being at a higher risk for complications doesn’t mean that they will happen. Those risks may still be small.​ Also, for some complications, there is nothing you or your doctor can do differently. It’s important you don’t put too much responsibility or misdirected blame on yourself if something does happen.

What to do to feel better: Talk to your doctor about the risks you may face during pregnancy. Ask what you can do to reduce those risks, if anything. For example, premature labor is more likely to occur if you’re dehydrated or not well nourished. One way you can further reduce your risk is to eat and drink right.

Premature labor can also be stopped if caught early enough. Knowing the signs and symptoms and when to call your doctor can increase the odds of carrying your baby to term or at least carrying your baby longer if you were unaware that labor started too soon.  

Suddenly Worried You’ve Made a Mistake

Hispanic mother holding unhappy baby girl
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“Maybe you’re just not meant to be a parent." This is one of those things people say (but shouldn’t!) to men and women struggling to conceive. It’s infuriating and frustrating (and untrue.)

Then, you get pregnant and start to worry about what will happen when the baby comes.  A small part of you may wonder if all those people were right. Maybe you weren’t meant to have children. Maybe, somehow, you have tricked fate into giving you a baby even though you’re not fit to parent. If you have these thoughts, you’re not alone.

What to know: Even those who haven’t dealt with infertility may worry whether they are going to be good parents.  This is a common fear.

What to do to feel better: Talk to people about your concerns. Whether you talk to a friend or therapist, saying your worries out loud can help you realize how unlikely they actually are.

Also, remember that you don’t have to figure out how to parent by yourself.  There are thousands of books, articles, and videos on parenting. You can also ask your family, friends, your child’s pediatrician, and parenting experts for advice.  You’ll soon discover there are few right and wrong answers. There are so many ways to be a good parent, you’ll eventually learn what your parenting style is.

Feeling Tribe-less

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Trying-to-conceivers tend to gather and support each other online. Whether through blogging, social media groups, or forums, you find people who get what it’s like to struggle to have a baby.  You become a member of the infertility tribe.

Then, when you get pregnant, it may feel like you’re losing your membership card.  There are so many places—online and off—for newly pregnant and new parents to connect. But you may also feel out of place with them and tribe-less.

What to know: You don’t lose your membership to the infertility tribe after you get pregnant or have a child.​ It’s normal to feel out of place at first. Just be careful not to assume that you can’t connect to women who conceive quickly and easily. You may have more in common than you realize.  

What to do to feel better: There are support groups for those pregnant or parenting after infertility, both online and off.​ Connect with your local RESOLVE contact to see if they have an in-person group.

When you’re with the “extra fertile” moms, look for common ground whenever possible. Maybe a particular mom can’t relate to your IVF cycle, but she may have experienced a miscarriage. Or maybe you have similar hobbies that are non-baby related. Don't let infertility become your only identity

It's Okay to Complain Once in Awhile

Pregnant woman waiting for her doctor
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Your journey to pregnancy may have been longer and bumpier than most. But once there, you’re more likely to appreciate every moment.  Seeing the first blur on the ultrasound, hearing the heartbeat (or heartbeats!) for the first time, and feeling the first kick are special milestones for many women. For you, those years of struggle will likely increase your awareness and happiness in these moments. They may even bring you to tears.

But you will also have moments when you're not so thrilled.  Times when you're uncomfortable or not feeling well—morning sickness, backaches, feeling overheated. You may have spent years rolling your eyes at women who complained about morning sickness or lack of sleep when a baby is all you ever wanted. Now, here you are, determined not complain.

What to know: It really is okay to complain. It’s okay if you don’t love every single moment of your pregnancy. It is okay to not love vomiting every morning. And it is okay to feel exhausted with a newborn baby.

What to do to feel better: For the special moments, record them. You may want to keep a journal or scrapbook, take a video during your doctor's appointment to catch the first heartbeat sounds, or snap pictures of your growing bump from week to week. You may want to share these videos and pictures—on social media, with friends and family, or keep them to yourself.

For the difficult moments, reach out for help. You do not need to prove yourself as a supermom. (By the way, supermoms are a myth. They don’t really exist.)​ Most importantly, please, complain if you feel like it. After everything you’ve gone through, you’ve earned the right!

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