Conception is a tricky beast. You often have not idea how long it may take you to fall pregnant until you try and most people only begin trying when they feel “ready” to have a baby in arms. So by default, we often approach the process of getting pregnant from a starting point of impatience and with about one “shot” a month, most of us are in for a bit of a waiting game. To add insult to injury, people can be understandably quite private about their journey towards conception but this results in a rather solitary journey...
Given we probably know more about our iPhone than our menstrual cycle, when we decide to “start trying”, this can be the first time we have attuned to the science of conception and boy, is a mind-field – irregular periods or no period, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome…. For many of us, when we go off the pill, this is the first time we uncover irregularities with our biology. And don’t forget, we do this when we are “ready” for a baby. So here is the perfect storm, impatience and unknowns. It’s no surprise that these pressures and uncertainty lead to significant distress and anxiety in many women. The concern and negative self-talk most often turns inward in judging and blaming yourself: “Have I been too unhealthy – drank too much, ate the wrong thing, exercised too little/too much?….” “Am I too stressed?” “Am I doing too much?” “Should I have started trying earlier?” “Is this my fault?” “Is there something else I could have done?” “Why is my body failing me?”
This is what I want you to know:
- GPs recommend waiting six months before investigating further. Whilst this is not a hard and fast rule, it provides you with an average timeline for conception.
- If you have passed the 6-month mark and you have not fallen pregnant, you are not alone. Around 1 in 6 Australian couples experience an inability to conceive within 12 months.
- Ruminating and dwelling on past actions or inactions is not productive. It may feel like the default position but recognise that it is detrimental to your emotional wellbeing and can negatively impact conception.
- Whilst you may feel out of control there are things that you can do, ways for you to plan and contingencies that can you take.
This is what you can do:
- Proactively look for ways to reduce your stress levels – try yoga, meditation, mindfulness, regular exercise, socialising and sex for pleasure.
- If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, blame or relationship tension, seek professional counselling where you will be able to access practical tools and strategies to overcome unhelpful thinking habits and reduce the emotional burden.
- Working through feelings of failure needs to be grounded in facts. Seek medical professional insights so you can explore new information and gain a new perspective.
- It can help to have a plan A, B and C so you are not simply approaching this journey in terms of “success or failure”.
- Consider taking a break. Trying to conceive can be a stressful time with the monthly anticipation. This can impact your mental health, your sexual intimacy, your social relationships and often your work performance. Often taking a month off can give you an opportunity to cultivate aspects of your life and relationship, which have been sidelined or redefined by conception.
- Talk to your friends. It’s likely that there are many women around you with a very similar experience and it is often only when we open up to others that people share their vulnerabilities with us. A support network is invaluable on this journey.
Given the mind-blowing chemistry involved in creating incubating and delivering a little person, it is no surprise that it is not a standardised experience. But as a society, we enjoy the narrative of the near instantaneous conception, the glowing pregnancy and the “natural” delivery. If you are experiencing difficulty conceiving and managing your emotional wellbeing, reach out and connect with us. Your emotional health is a fundamental part of your key part of your fertility plan. Words: Belinda Williams, psychologist, career coach and co-founder of The Bumpy Road | Go to www.thebumpyroad.com.au