Anxiety

8 Tips for Coping with the Stress of Trying to Conceive

How to stay sane while trying to get pregnant.

Posted Aug 19, 2015

Unsplash, Creative Commons Zero
Source: Unsplash, Creative Commons Zero

Trying to conceive can be stressful. This is especially true in the Facebook era when it may seem like all your friends of childbearing age are posting pregnancy or baby shots.

To make it worse, people will tell you that the best thing you can do to increase your odds of conceiving is to relax. This leads to getting what's called meta-cognitive anxiety, or anxiety about your anxiety. You get stressed out when you notice yourself feeling anxious because you're worried it's hurting your chances of conceiving. 

It's not easy, but here are some basic tips for staying sane during the process of trying to conceive.

1. Accept that you're anxious.

When you try to aggressively push anxiety away, it tends to push back harder. This is why accepting that you're feeling anxious can fast track you to feeling less so.

From an evolutionary perspective, the useful purpose of anxiety is to put us on the lookout for danger. It's a hypervigilance system. If we could easily shut anxiety off or distract ourselves with positive thoughts, anxiety wouldn't be as useful.

Your anxiety is reminding you that you're doing something that's important to you.

2. Consider limiting how much you read internet sites and forums about pregnancy.

With any form of anxiety, people tend to engage in compulsive checking and reassurance-seeking behaviors.  

Looking up loads of information about pregnancy on the internet can become a type of compulsive behaviour. Sometimes, you'll find helpful information. Other times, it will make you more worried or confused. If reading information online feels a bit compulsive, it's probably making you more anxious overall.  

Try to find the sweet spot for you. If it seems like reading about trying to conceive or pregnancy is making you more anxious, take a break from it. If it's not a problem for you, then there is no need to stop doing it. 

3. It's fine to want a second opinion from an RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist).

There is lots of help available for those who are trying to conceive. Since, for many people, conceiving is mostly a matter of time and timing, they typically aren't offered all of the testing and assistance that's available, at least initially.

If you would like to have more testing or assistance than what is being offered to you by your OB or family doctor, go see an RE. If you're in your 30s and haven't been offered blood tests like FSH and AMH, you may want to ask about these tests. 

Getting a fifth or sixth opinion is probably a sign of a healthy anxiety disorder, but getting a second opinion is not. 

4. Ditch your shame.

People can feel a sense of shame about taking time to conceive or needing help. Be kind to yourself—any shame you're feeling isn't warranted.  

Many more people take time to conceive or need assistance than talk about it. Not getting pregnant straight away or needing fertility help doesn't make you any less womanly (or manly, if you're a man).

5. Understand the psychology behind symptom spotting.

Symptom spotting is when, during the two-week wait between ovulation and your period, you're hyperaware of any signs that you are or aren't pregnant. As previously mentioned, anxiety is designed as a hypervigilance system. It puts you on lookout. When someone has any type of health-related anxiety, this hypervigilance usually extends to closely monitoring their own body. You'll notice lots of sensations that you wouldn't normally notice. 

Whatever you're noticing during the two-week wait—whether it's signs that are making you feel hopeful that you're pregnant or a lack of symptoms that are making you despondent—hold those thoughts lightly. The more you can recognize that whatever you're noticing may or may not have any meaning, the less of an emotional rollercoaster the two-week wait will be.

Overall, reacting to anxiety by becoming hyperaware is part of its functional purpose. It's how it's supposed to work. Unfortunately, this aspect isn't useful in every single situation.

6. Plan enjoyable activities for the two-week wait.

Some forms of distracting yourself can be quite useful for dealing with anxiety. One of those is doing enjoyable activities, especially those that involve getting out of your usual environment. Try planning a weekend or overnight trip to help break up your two-week wait. 

7. Try to have something else exciting and positive in your life, apart from trying to conceive.

Keep a balance between not taking on too much and not making trying to conceive the sole excitement in your life. Make sure you have a least one other project going on that you feel excited about. 

8. Don't avoid doing the basics.

Most people with anxiety go into hyper-monitoring mode. There are a few people who go into avoidance mode and react to anxiety by "winging it." This happens because focusing on the source of their anxiety causes it to spike. Therefore, the person might avoid doing the types of simple things that help people correctly time their attempts to conceive. For example, monitoring their cervical mucus, using OPKs, and keeping track of their cycles each month.

For more tips about coping with anxiety, see my book and my other PT articles.