The Mental Shift That Helped This Doctor Get Pregnant When Nothing Else Would

Physician By Bindiya Gandhi, M.D.
Physician
Dr. Bindiya Gandhi is an American Board Family Medicine–certified physician who completed her family medicine training at Georgia Regents University/Medical College of Georgia.

Image by Simone Anne / Stocksy

Here at mbg, we're all about shining a light on complicated health issues that aren't adequately or thoroughly discussed elsewhere. A prime example: infertility. The truth is, infertility is an uncomfortable topic, and as a result, people don't talk about it. This leads to couples experiencing more anxiety, stress, and confusion than they ever should on their journey to starting a family—with women often bearing the brunt of the burden. So, as part of Infertility Awareness Week, we're shining the light on the surprising, lesser-known contributors to the growing infertility problem in this country so we're all more informed and empowered.

A few years ago, life was great. I had been married for over a year and my husband and I finally made the exciting decision to start growing our family. I had everything going for me—I was a successful family medicine doctor working in a large practice, I completed my integrative medicine fellowship, I'd successfully been raising a puppy (no small feat!) for a year, I'd done plenty of traveling—and a baby felt like the next logical thing to check off our list.

And how hard could it be? After all, I was a doctor who had delivered dozens of babies in residency. Surely, if women in their early 20s and even teenage years could get pregnant after just one try, then I, a financially stable, extremely healthy, mentally prepared woman in her early 30s, could figure this out. I was an overachiever, I worked hard, I had my whole life planned out, and not conceiving a baby when I wanted to wasn't an option.

Well, let's just say the universe had other ideas—and I learned that getting pregnant doesn't just happen because you have a perfectly organized schedule.

When it comes to making a baby, things don't always go to plan.

After months of trying (and trying), I still couldn't get pregnant—and it started to make me depressed. I would see patients in my practice who would "accidentally" get pregnant, and it would break my heart. Here I was, charting my temperature, peeing on a stick, trying every trick in the book that worked for my friends, and still nothing. For a while, I was embarrassed—being an integrative/functional medicine doctor, I knew I was the epitome of health and that nothing was medically wrong with me that should be limiting my fertility.

But then I started to ask around—and I noticed patterns. Among my friends, colleagues, and patients, I realized I wasn't the only one struggling to get pregnant despite a clean bill of health. Many women who were strong-willed, super-independent, type A overachievers were in the same situation as me. Women who were successful, happily married 30-somethings who had built amazing careers as doctors, lawyers, and executives at Fortune 500 companies. Women who were used to having control.

Why were we all in the same boat? After some careful thought, I understood that we all had something else in common: We didn't know how to surrender.

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Surrendering to the process is key—but it's not always easy.

I know what you're thinking: You always hear stories about people's friends and colleagues who get pregnant when they finally "stop trying," and I heard them too. But I never really got it. I mean, there were months when I wasn't "trying," and I didn't get pregnant.

But I hadn't truly let go. I thought I had surrendered, I thought I was trusting the process, but every other thought was still consumed with questions like "Am I ovulating?" or "Did I have intercourse at the right time?" Turns out, the personality traits that make so many of us successful in our careers are also inhibiting our fertility. Who would have thought?

I suddenly realized that I was putting all of this subconscious stress on my body because I wanted something so badly—and yet I could not achieve it, which led to a cascade of negative emotions and feelings of failure, which lead to even more stress. And as a physician, I knew that when your body is in chronic stress mode, or "fight or flight," you actually have lower adrenal hormones and progesterone, which inhibits ovulation, making it more difficult to conceive.

I knew this was something I had to work on and that I was the only thing standing in the way of my fertility. It wasn't until I turned inward, did some soul searching, and acknowledged that my personality (at least in this instance) was my weakness that I truly surrendered to the process. Mindfulness, guided meditation, and hypnotherapy were the tools that I personally needed to let go of (yours might be different), and not long after implementing them, I got the positive pregnancy test I was praying for. It's easy to say retrospectively that all I had to do was "stop caring," but I know it took work, deep soul-searching, and self-reflection.

Today, as a functional medicine doctor, I continue to work with tons of women to help them conceive. And regardless of what other approaches we take to ensure optimal health and fertility, I always make sure they know the power of their thoughts.

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