12 Ways to Cope When Trying to Get Pregnant Overwhelms You

How to Take Back Your Life When Living with Infertility

Young couple lying on back, woman holding rose flower, thinking about how to cope with infertility
Check out these 12 ways to cope with infertility. Simon Lekias/Photodisc/Getty Images

Trying to get pregnant can quickly take over your life, especially when it takes longer than you first expected. Infertility is extremely difficult emotionally. The fertility challenged can get sucked into a whirlpool of sadness and obsession, and it's not uncommon for those trying to conceive (TTC) to even become depressed.

11 Ways to Cope When Trying to Get Pregnant Feels Overwhelming

Sadly, we can't always change our circumstances.

What we can control, however, is how we cope the challenges we face. With something as heart-wrenching as trying to become pregnant this certainly isn't easy, and we won't make light of the challenge. You will still need to let out your grief and express your frustration. That said, here are 12 ideas to help you cope and keep infertility from taking over your life.

1. Don't Let the Two Week Wait Take Over

The two-week wait is a time of high stress for most women trying to conceive. Each day between ovulation and your pending next period can feel like a year, and you may feel constantly anxious.

If you want to stop letting the two-week wait take over your life, it may help to focus on other things and people during that time.

This is the time to...

  • Plan a date with your partner
  • Go on a girls-night-out with your friends
  • See that movie you always wanted to see
  • Get started on some home or craft project

    Your two-week wait obsessions may still linger in the back of your mind, but that's much better than letting them sit in the front seat. If you're finding those two weeks almost unbearable, check out further ideas on how to survive the two week wait.

    2. Put Down the Pregnancy Tests

    When you're trying to conceive, pregnancy test taking becomes a science...

    one that kind of ignores all the real science behind the tests. But, a science!

    Like a lab scientist, you have your supplies. (That stash of cheap pregnancy tests in your bathroom cabinet.) You may experiment by taking the tests earlier and earlier. You might take your tests out into the sunlight, into the dark closet, under a flashlight, whatever, searching for that second pink line that just won't show up.

    You're not going to like this suggestion, but... you need to put down those pregnancy tests.

    Throw out your stash. (Or, at least give them to a friend to hold onto.) Resist testing until your period is at least one day late. If you are thinking you just can't do this, you may wish to know a few of the other reasons not to take an early pregnancy test. As long as your life centers around pregnancy tests, you are going to struggle. 

    3. Stop Letting Your Period's Arrival Pull You Down for Days

    Most women aren't thrilled when their monthly period comes. But when you're trying to conceive, you're likely to feel upset. Getting your period is a pretty definitive sign that this month was another failure. Whatever hope you had that this time was going to work is squashed.

    If you've experienced miscarriages, getting your period may not only signal another failed cycle but also remind you of previous losses.

    For some women, until they go through a lot of healing and time, periods can be intense reminders of their inability not only to get pregnant but to stay pregnant.

    No one expects you to be cheery on the first day of your cycle—but don't let it pull you down for days or weeks. You end up feeling depressed the first week of your cycles, ambivalent or obsessed with ovulating the next week or so of your cycle, and then anxious during the last two weeks of your cycle. That's no way to live! From taking a moment to grieve, to giving yourself self-care treats, to talking to a trusted friend, there are a number of things that may help you cope with your period's arrival.

    4. Remember and Reclaim What You Used to Love

    The stress of infertility can get our minds so wrapped up in getting pregnant that we forget what we used to do for fun.

    Get some paper and a pen and start make a list. Write down everything you can possibly think of that you once enjoyed doing. Feel free to even write down what made you laugh when you were a kid—why not?

    If you're having trouble, call up a friend or have your partner help you out. Ask them directly what they remember doing together with you that made you smile. See how many items you can add to the list. Aim for 50!

    Then, post your list where you'll see it every day. Hopefully, on the days you're feeling really down, you'll see the list and take action on something you wrote.

    If you're still struggling, brainstorm other ways in which to declare your independence from infertility. That may mean refusing to be known as that "infertile friend," making long term plans that aren't baby related, or even listing your successes.

    5. Spend More Romantic Time With Your Partner

    Infertility is notorious for turning sex into a chore. From frustration to shame to a lower libido, trying to get pregnant can impact your sex life.

    What used to be a passionate time to connect intimately with your partner may now feel like a task—one with a seemingly unattainable goal. When the sexual relationship breaks down, the every-day parts of your relationship may soon follow.

    It's important to give attention to the relationship you have with your partner. Take time to talk to each other about how infertility is impacting your relationship, and what you both need to feel more connected.

    Remember that list of fun things we asked you to make? It's likely that several are activities you do with others. You may even want to make a new list together, featuring the activities you'd like to do as a couple.

    Sex is more than a conception machine. If you're really struggling in this area, check out some ideas on how to improve your sex life while trying to get pregnant.

    6. Make Time for Relaxation and Self-Care

    Taking care of yourself does not just mean eating right and seeing your doctor for check-ups. It also means making time for relaxation.

    Relaxation may mean taking a long bubble bath, or it might mean turning up the music and dancing yourself silly in your living room. Relaxation might be meditation, yoga, or an art class. Many of these practices can help to change your inner dialogue about your infertility by keeping you in the moment. When you are in the moment it's harder to fester on former fertility failures or future fertility fears.

    There are several mind-body therapies for infertility that can help you relax, and some have been shown to improve pregnancy rates. They're worth trying!

    7. Make Time to Acknowledge the Difficult Feelings

    Taking back your life from infertility doesn't mean pretending infertility doesn't have a strong effect on your emotions. In fact, making time to acknowledge the difficult feelings can help you feel freer and more relaxed. It's important to find a safe place and time to shed your infertility tears.

    One way to express yourself is through writing. Writing can be healing, and the fertility community has a wonderful blog community.

    If you don't have a blog yet, consider starting your own fertility blog. If you have one, get more involved with the fertility bloggers. Melissa at Stirrup Queens and Sperm Palace Jesters can announce your blog, lead you to other blogs, and help connect you with others facing similar challenges.

    8. Join a Support Group

    Many couples with infertility feel isolated. It seems as if all their friends and family are getting pregnant, raising children, and moving on with the next phase of their lives.

    In the meantime, you're left alone, trying to get pregnant and feeling like the only childless couple left (or only couple who can't have more kids.)

    This is how a support group can help. You'll be with other couples who really get it.

    To find a support group near you, speak to your fertility clinic or check the map to see if there is a RESOLVE infertility support group in your area.

    9. Don't Be Ashamed to Seek Professional Help

    Support groups are a good place to connect with others, but sometimes, you need more personal attention.

    Depression, anxiety, and panic attacks are common in infertility patients. If you're seeing any of the signs that infertility has hijacked your life, the time is now. Yet even if you feel you are coping adequately, finding a fertility therapist can be priceless. Counseling can help you work through the difficult emotions that infertility brings.

    Some therapists have special training or experience with infertility, and they can also help you with making informed decisions regarding treatment and moving forward. Therapy may also help a couple whose relationship is struggling. Or, a therapist can help a couple who can't agree on what to do next. Sometimes men are reluctant to see a counselor, but it can be the men who—because they tend to talk less than women—benefit the most from the opportunity to talk openly about the challenge of infertility.

    10. Let Your Friends Support You

    Sometimes we're so busy trying to protect ourselves from our family-oriented friends that we forget that they are still the same people who were our childless best buddies not too long ago.

    Friends and family often want to support you, but they don't know how. They are afraid of saying the wrong thing... or not saying the right thing. Don't wait for them to read your mind.

    Does your sister complain about her morning sickness too often? Ask her if she could not talk so much about her pregnancy. Tell her you would love to just chat about some new movies or a book you both read.

    Let friends and family know when you just need a shoulder to cry on.

    Sometimes friends and family can't support you because you haven't given them a chance—you’ve never told them! There are both benefits and pitfalls to sharing your infertility, and you do not need to broadcast your troubles to the world. Not all people are equally tactful in this arena. But chances are you have at least a few friends and family who would be great supports.

    If it is your friend coping with infertility, take a moment to learn about what NOT to do when supporting an infertile friend.

    If it is you coping with infertility, take a moment to think about how to answer the dreaded question: "When do you plan on having kids?"

    11. Don't Be Afraid to Take a Break

    If trying to get pregnant has truly taken over your life, and all your efforts to take things back are not working, it may be time to step away for awhile.

    Taking a break from trying to conceive can help you get a handle on your regular life.

    You should speak to your doctor, however, about the length of your break. If you're over 35, time may be a factor. But many people should be able to take at least a few months off to regroup.

    12. Practice Reframing

    One simple stress management technique may not only help you cope with your current challenge, but can be invaluable throughout your life. This is the art of reframing. In reframing your situation doesn't change. Instead, you change—reframe—the way you look at it. An example of reframing would be for a woman going through chemotherapy for breast cancer to focus not on losing the hair on her head, but instead on the "benefit" of not having to shave her legs for several months. We use that example to emphasize that sometimes it's not easy to reframe. You may have to practice and practice some more; the proverbial "fake it till you make it" kind of thing.

    Perhaps when you get your period you can have a celebratory glass of wine (something you couldn't do if you were pregnant.) It may take some brainstorming, but our minds are limber. With a little "exercise," a little reframing can often do wonders for our outlook.

    Bottom Line on Coping While Trying to Conceive

    Trying to get pregnant can have a tremendous emotional impact and may affect every aspect of your life. That said, there a number of things you can do when you find the stress overwhelming. Most important is to stop blaming yourself. Take a moment to check out some other things to stop doing to yourself if you're fertility challenged.

    Sources:

    Benyamini, Y., Gozlan, M., and A. Weissman. Normalization as a Strategy for Maintaining Quality of Life While Coping with Infertility in a Pronatalist Culture. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2017 Jun 15. (Epub ahead of print).

    Psaros, C., Kagan, L., Shifren, J. et al. Mind-Body Group Treatment for Women Coping with Infertility: A Pilot Study. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2015. 36(2):75-83.

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