We all have some expectations of the stress and anxiety we may experience when trying to start a family. But for couples struggling to conceive, the stress and anxiety of infertility can feel overwhelming.
Many women look forward to the day they have a family of their own. But unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. The thought of being infertile can take a toll on one's mental health. You may feel stressed and alone trying to cope with the circumstance you’re in.
If you feel that way, please know that you are not alone. And there are things you can do to help cope with the stress and anxiety you may be feeling at this time.
How the anxiety and stress of infertility can impact other areas of your life
Infertility can cause emotional stress on a couple. It’s not uncommon for couples struggling to conceive to feel the tension in their relationship as each person is experiencing emotions that can be difficult to process. Learning how to deal with this stress and anxiety in a healthy way can help you and your partner reconnect.
You may also feel pressure from others like your mother or mother-in-law who are excited to be grandparents and may not know that you’re having challenges conceiving. Questions “When are you going to make me a Grandma?” while meant to be light-hearted and fun take on a different tone when you’re experiencing the difficult emotions of fertility challenges.
And it can be heartbreaking and angering to attend baby shower after baby shower having to listen to women share their birth stories. Even when you want to be happy for your friends, it’s not easy.
If you try to hide the anxiety and stress that you’re feeling, it can cause larger problems with your mental health like depression. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to learn healthy ways to cope during this time.
How to Deal with Stress and Anxiety in Infertility
Learning positive ways to cope with the stress and anxiety of infertility is helpful for your mental health and emotional wellbeing. Here are some tips that can help:
1. Have a self-care routine
There are many ways that having good self-care habits in your life can help protect your mental health and wellbeing. This is especially true when we're facing difficult situations that put us under additional stress, such as fertility challenges.
Self-care can include things like:
Getting enough sleep
Showering and getting dressed for the day
Deep breathing or meditation
Spending time with friends
Going for a walk in nature
Dancing, painting, or reading (activities you enjoy)
If you haven't been good at incorporating self-care activities into your day, start small. Choose one habit to work on building and when you have that down, add in another.
If you're struggling to feel motivated enough to practice any self-care habits or routines, reach out to a therapist for help and guidance.
2. Find healthy distractions
If your mind is constantly filled with anxious thoughts around your fertility issues, looking for ways to distract your brain may be helpful. Look for things that you can do or participate in that will force you to shift your thinking away from your anxiety to something more positive or neutral.
A few ideas on things you could try include:
Adult coloring book, diamond painting or other craft activity
Go for a walk with a friend
Call your most hilarious friend for a chat
Focus on positive affirmations or practice mindfulness
Volunteer at a local nonprofit
Play a board game with friends or family
It's easy to allow the things we're concerned about to consume our thoughts, but that's not helpful. If you find that you've reached the point of worrying about something and your thoughts are unproductive, then do something to shift your thoughts somewhere else.
3. Change your self-talk
We have a tendency to talk to ourselves a lot worse than we would anyone else in our lives. Take a moment to evaluate your self-talk. What have you been saying to yourself? Would you say those same things to a friend in the same situation? If the answer is "no", then it's a good indicator that you need to work on changing how you're thinking about your situation and talking to yourself.
Instead of focusing on the bad, try to give yourself a pep talk. Remind yourself about the possibilities that exist for your situation.
4. Connect with others
There is a lot of power that can come from connecting with others who have a similar story. Social support helps you to know that you're not alone. And there is something very comforting about being able to talk with someone else who "gets it" because they're experiencing it too.
You can look for support groups in person or online. Along with therapy groups at a local therapy group, there are also many online groups you can choose from. If you're having a difficult time connecting with a group, ask your doctor or therapist for a recommendation.
You may feel some of the power of anxiety loosening as you share your story and listen to others share as well.
5. Educate yourself
Remember the phrase from school "knowledge is power"? That's a good phrase to focus on right now. Anxiety can take control when we allow the "what if" scenarios to run through our minds. This is why it can be helpful to educate yourself about your situation.
Talk to your doctor to make sure you understand the fertility challenges you're experiencing. Make sure you ask any questions that you have and understand the options that are available for you to become a parent.
When you are armed with knowledge, it can help you begin to process the information and work toward the best solution. You may also find it helpful to speak with other parents that have pursued different avenues toward becoming parents.
6. Reconnect with your partner
Fertility challenges can be stressful and challenging on a relationship. It's important to remember that you and your partner are on the same team and are going through this together.
Make sure you take time to connect with one another outside of this situation. If you've been trying for months or years, it may start to feel like the main focus of your relationship. Remember that you are a couple first. Go on dates with each other. Have fun and laugh. Enjoy each other's company.
If you're struggling in your relationship, don't hesitate to reach out to a therapist at The NEST Clinic in Stillwater MN. Couples therapy can help you and your partner repair and rebuild from any stress that fertility issues have placed on your relationship.
7. Talk to a therapist
It's normal to experience stress and anxiety if you're not conceiving as quickly as you expected. And the same is true for people who learn that they have health challenges that will make it difficult or impossible for them to conceive naturally. It's also normal to have a lot of difficult emotions when things don't go as planned throughout the process.
This can be a lot to handle on your own or without the help of an experienced professional. Talking to a therapist can make a positive difference in how you process and respond as you work through this situation.
At The NEST Clinic, we have therapists that specialize in women's reproductive mental health including infertility and loss. They can help with things such as;
Struggling with feelings of grief
Dealing with feelings of guilt or shame
Overwhelm from trying to decide what the next best steps are
Adjusting to the idea your future doesn’t look like you had planned
Exhausted from the rollercoaster of emotions from fertility treatments
Feelings of isolation as your mourn your loss (loss of pregnancy, stillborn, infant loss, or vision of the life you expected)
If you're trying to navigate this road on your own, our therapists are ready to help you through the process. You can get started today.