My top 10 tips for coping with fertility challenges
- Knowledge is power. It can feel like you’ve been thrust into a whirlwind once you’ve established that your journey to conceive isn’t going to be as straightforward as maybe just coming off the pill. With the rug well and truly pulled from under you, you’ve probably been sent into a complete tailspin. Rest assured this is completely normal, totally understandable and a completely healthy response to such a curveball/bombshell. Now you’ve officially entered the world of ‘trying to conceive’ (#ttc for short), you’ve probably realised it’s a bloody minefield. It’s overwhelm central. So rather than nose-diving right in, I’d suggest taking a little time to think about what information you feel you need most right now. Is it more knowledge about your menstrual cycle and whether you’re ovulating (and therefore having sex at the right time)? Is it your options for assisted conception? Or maybe you’re already feeling overwhelmed and feel you need some emotional support right now? Perhaps you’d like some help with a physical condition which may be impacting on your fertility? Maybe take a little time to get your thoughts onto paper and perhaps take your top two and look at those first. Take a breath, then take your time to find credible sources of information (avoiding Dr Google) (see list at the end of this blog).
- Find your tribe. Rest assured, that whilst friends and family can be amazingly supportive, sometimes, it’s just simply impossible for those who have no experience of what you’re facing/going through (or what you’ve already been through) to understand. It’s time to find your tribe. I found mine on an online fertility forum and I’m connected with more than 50 amazing women as a result of my fertility journey, many of which I’m still regularly in touch with and who will be friends for life. (In fact, some of these wonderful ladies even helped with the final draft of this blog!)
- Build resilience. Whatever journey lies ahead requires strength. Whether that’s starting to pee on ovulation sticks, starting fertility investigations, medicated cycles such as IVF or deciding it’s the end of the road for your quest to start a family – you’ll need to dig deep. Pregnancy announcements, baby showers, ‘just relax and it’ll happen’ advice will all chip away at you, so having resources to tap into when you need them will be really helpful.
- Find your calm. Trying for a baby when you’re experiencing fertility challenges can be incredibly stressful, there’s no denying it. Its also undeniable that stress does have a negative impact on the body. Explore ways to find your calm which suits your lifestyle. This doesn’t have to be Yoga or meditation (though both are awesome in my book), but finding something absorbing to focus on alongside what you’re going through can provide a positive counterbalance.
- Be a team. Fertility challenges place an incredible strain on couples and its so easy for tensions to start to rise ironically at a stage where you need to be connected and strong to withstand the journey ahead. Take time to connect and remind each other of your love for and commitment to each other (which of course is what bought you to this situation in the first place).
- Stay informed. Whatever stage you’re at, continuing to be as informed as you possibly can about every stage of the journey you’re on is really important. The fertility world is full of jargon, especially if you’re going down the assisted conception route, and it’s easy to get lost in it all. If you are considering IVF, this is absolutely critical at every stage. Understand as much about your current situation as possible before you go into the consultation room and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Then do more research and ask more questions – don’t be afraid to question and challenge. This is your body and your money. IVF is not an easy option (or ‘instant baby’ as I was once told by a fertility consultant).
- Consider complementary therapies. I’m not just saying this because I’m a complementary therapist, I’m saying it because doing this was a HUGE help for me during my years trying to conceive. Research, explore, try different therapies and importantly, therapists. Connection with your therapist is vital so if you find that you love a particular treatment but the connection isn’t quite right with the therapist, then there is bound to be someone else out there who is the perfect fit for you.
- Focus on emotions. Don’t underestimate the power of the mind. It can be your biggest friend or greatest enemy at this time. If you feel you might have some pretty deep-seated emotional blockages, consider working with a BICA or National Fertility Society trained Counsellor. Or, if you feel you’d just like to create more balance in your life at this challenging time, and get into a more positive mindset, consider working with a fertility coach or a fertile body method practitioner.
- You are what you eat. Regardless of where you are on your journey to conception, or which route you’re taking, don’t underestimate the importance of nutrition. Your eating (and drinking) habits of TODAY will affect the quality of your eggs (and his sperm) in 3 months time. Yes, I hear you – I know the whole nutritional aspect feels like a right royal pain in the butt to think about. But, please remember, this stage of your life is SUCH a short period of time. Remind yourselves about how much you really want this baby you’re trying to conceive – a few months focussing on your health and nutrition is something positive you can do at this time when a lot of things feel out of control. And positive nutritional changes absolutely can (and do) make a difference. Fact.
- Be kind to yourself. This was the hardest one for me. Fertility challenges can be all consuming. They do start to take over your life. You do feel like you’ve lost control of the one thing we’re always told as women that our bodies are designed to do. Guilt, blame, anger and a whole host of other emotions and feelings can start to creep in and start to ripple into every aspect of your life. But remember, you are still here amongst all this craziness. You’re still breathing, eating, sleeping, maybe working and have a life to live. It’s so tempting to put things on hold, thinking things like ‘We can’t book that holiday, what if I’m pregnant then?’ or ‘I can’t say yes to the Hen Do because what if it clashes with an IVF cycle?’. Or, maybe you’ve made some huge changes to your diet and lifestyle and its left you feeling utterly miserable. Yes, maybe some things do have to be put on the back-burner or reprioritised for a while, but life doesn’t have to stop. If you can manage it, try to still make plans to do things that bring a little joy into your life at this time.
Wherever you are on your journey, support is available if you feel you need it, so do reach out.
As the only Fertile Body Method Practitioner and Reproductive Reflexologist trained in the ‘Reproflexology’ protocols in Northamptonshire, I’d love to support you if you think I might be able to help. Just drop me a line to arrange a call to chat about the options available.
Zita West’s Guide to Getting Pregnant (Zita West)
Zita West’s Guide to Fertility and Assisted Conception (Zita West)
Getting Pregnant (Professor Robert Winston)
Planning for a Healthy Baby (Belinda Barnes & Suzanne Gail Bradley)