Infertility is invisible — we don't tend to talk about struggling to get pregnant. But it exists, and it's more common than most people think: In fact, as many as one in eight couples in the U.S. struggle to conceive.
As a natural fertility expert, I've watched clients around the world share this heartache. There's one particular quote I've heard that I think really illustrates the gravity of this invisible pain: "My battle with cancer was less stressful than my journey through infertility."
Trying for a baby can be one of the most exciting times of our lives — but for those with infertility, it can be overwhelming, frustrating, and depressing. I truly believe your journey to parenthood needs to be as joyful as holding your newborn. Here are a few things I tell my clients who are navigating infertility:
1. You are not your diagnosis.
Infertility is simply a label so you can get help. Our brains tend to gravitate toward "what ifs" and dwell on failure rates, even when a prognosis is good. I recommend staying in the present moment.
2. You probably haven't been trying to conceive for as long as you think you have.
Some couples might be worried about the amount of time they've been trying to conceive. But think of it this way: How much of that time were you withdrawing from hormonal contraception, under stress or trauma, or having sex at an infertile time?
It can take up to six months for your natural fertility rhythm to return after hormonal contraception. And studies have shown that stress can affect conception rates. It's important to reframe your timeline and stay positive.
3. You need to be informed about your own body.
The best gauge of your fertility is your body and its unique signs. I recommend charting your fertility naturally with the sympto-thermal method, in which you observe your cervical fluid, sensation, and basal body temperature.
This will help you pinpoint your fertile window, see hormonal patterns as they happen, and find out when you're ovulating. You should also consider speaking to an accredited fertility educator, who can help dispel some common myths about your fertility, for example, that all women ovulate on day 14.
4. Not every method is right for you.
It might not seem like it, but you should always remember that you have choice in the decisions necessary to make your baby dreams a reality. Sometimes when you're deep in the process of medical intervention and feeling overwhelmed, this gets forgotten.
But just because the people around you are professionals doesn't mean every decision is right for you. If a professional doesn’t resonate with you, get a second opinion or step away and take time to think it over. Always ask questions — it’s your body and your fertility.
5. Shift from lovemaking to baby-making.
Yes, you need to make love in order to make a baby. But having sex every single day isn't going to improve your chances of conception. I frequently hear of couples who are stressed out because they feel they need to have sex all the time, which only leads to libido issues and relationship problems.
Instead, you need to focus on your fertile window. You have the best chances of conception when you have sex about five to seven days before ovulation.
Distinguishing your fertile window can help take the pressure off of times in your cycle when you can’t get pregnant. This allows you to tap into the joy of pregnancy planning rather than what can become monotonous sex.
6. Reach out for support, not comparison.
You are not alone, even if you might feel like you are. There are some great support networks for couples who have had or who are going through similar fertility challenges. But I also recommend being cautious of these groups — I advise my clients not to take part in infertility forums unless they are facilitated by a professional.
Comparing your journey to someone else’s can give you unnecessary stress about things that may or may not be true. Discernment is key.
7. Connect with your partner and loved ones.
Be sure you have the right support — however that might look for you. It might mean having friends to call, or a professional counselor.
One piece of the puzzle many experts miss is the relationship between couples: The most important factor is communication between the two of you, and honoring each part of your journey to parenthood.
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