Haley Neidich, LCSW
While trying to get pregnant should be a time of excitement and anticipation, it can actually often be a period of anxiety and stress. Many couples who are planning for a baby, expect it to happen easily. The truth is, that sometimes it does, but more often, it can take longer than anticipated. Surprisingly, out of every hundred healthy 30-year old women who are trying to conceive each month, only 20 of them will be successful. That means that 80 will need to keep trying. Fortunately, there are a variety of fertility treatments available for couples who wish to start a family, so there’s no need to despair. This can cause you to feel like you are on an emotional rollercoaster, which can be increased by the hormonal fluctuation which occurs naturally during the menstrual cycle. Failure to conceive can quickly lead to stress and anxiety, which in some cases can develop into depression. Unfortunately, these conditions can reduce your chances of getting pregnant by affecting the hormones which control ovulation. Stress can affect the way your hypothalamus functions causing you to ovulate later than normal or even not at all. Avoiding stress and keeping positive can be key in attaining that much-anticipated positive pregnancy test.
Here are five tips for maintaining peak mental health while trying to conceive.
Get a checkup
Before you even start trying to get pregnant get a complete medical checkup with your doctor. Tell them about any menstrual problems such as irregular or painful periods or Premenstrual syndrome. The hormone changes that women experience during their monthly menstrual cycle vary, but if you are experiencing severe mood changes, feeling anxious or depressed, these can affect your chances of becoming pregnant. Also, if you are currently receiving treatment for any kind of mental illness you should tell your doctor that you are trying to conceive. He may want to change your medication or include another kind of non-drug therapy to help control your condition. Irregular periods are often associated with anxiety disorders, bipolar disorders, eating disorders, and depression. Seek treatment for any mental health condition that could affect your health or that of your baby. If you have been taking the pill, stop and you will have the same chance of getting pregnant in the first month as someone who has not been using this form of contraception. If you’re dealing with significant mental health symptoms, be sure to talk to a therapist while you’re TTC.
Eat, sleep, and exercise
This may sound really basic, but eating a healthy varied diet, getting enough sleep, and keeping up a regular exercise routine can help make your road to baby-making success shorter. The old expression that a healthy body makes a healthy mind is true, and by taking good care of your body you will strengthen your mental determination and resilience. That means, that if at first, you don’t conceive, you will be happy and able to try, try, and try again. Making sure that your body is well cared for ensures that your baby, when it happens, will develop in the best possible conditions. Drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, and recreational drugs, and cut down on the caffeine. Smoking tobacco has been proved to be related to fertility issues, making you lose eggs faster, so quit now. Remember to take a good multi-vitamin supplement that includes Folic Acid to protect your child and omega-3 to ward off depression. Exercise has been proven to help fight off depression, give you more energy, and it can also keep you at an ideal body weight to ensure that you are not affected by diabetes or thyroid disease during pregnancy.
Communication and consideration
Talk to your partner. By being open and honest about your emotions means that your partner will be better able to support and help you. Remember that he too is suffering from the same emotional ups and downs as you, but without the hormones. Be considerate of his feelings and loving towards each other. This period is actually a good time to strengthen your relationship and become closer. Try keeping a journal. The simple act of writing down your feelings can help to liberate your mind. Discuss with your partner any issues that are bothering you about the prospect of having a child. These could be financial worries, religious differences, or other issues. Worrying about things can make conception harder, so try to resolve any issues that may be causing you anxiety.
Relax, don’t stress
Don’t let becoming pregnant take over your life. Get in tune with your body and be aware of your fertility cycles, but don’t be a slave to them. There are several apps which can help you to track your fertility cycle and determine when you are most likely to achieve conception. However, don’t only have sexual relations when you are fertile. Keep the diversion in your love life by enjoying sex for what it is, fun, bonding, relaxing and not solely for making babies. Practice yoga, meditate, learn a new skill, keep up your hobbies. All of these things can help you to reduce your stress levels. Accept that the miracle of conception is simply not something over which we have complete control, so relax and enjoy the ride.
Be patient-up to a point!
If, after a year of trying, (6-months if you are over 35), you have not become pregnant visit your doctor for a fertility evaluation. There could be a simple physical reason why you are not getting pregnant. Both you and your partner will need to be examined and tested to determine the problem and to receive the correct fertility treatment. Many people find that support groups where they can share their experiences with others in similar situations can help. Feeling that you are not alone in your battle to conceive can be comforting and success stories of others can inspire you to keep trying. Sometimes couples can try for years before finally, they become parents. Oddly, couples who decide to adopt a child quite often achieve pregnancy themselves shortly afterward.
While there are many things that you can do to increase your chances of conception there is no guarantee of pregnancy. The miracle of life is not something over which we have complete control and if you are not destined to be a natural mother there are many other rewarding options that can fill your life with joy and happiness.
— Haley Neidich, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and the Senior Director of Clinical Development for ThriveTalk.com, an online therapy company helping to serve pre and post natal Mamas around the world manage the transition to motherhood and mitigate their risk for post-partum mental health disorders.