This article featured in The Irish Independent 24.04.17. Hopefully you won’t need to follow on my girlfriend tips to stay sane while trying to conceive, but some questions are easier for you discuss right at the start of your fertility journey.
1. Are you both on the same page with the idea of having kids. This means getting into the best shape for pregnancy – basic things like shedding weight, eating better, cutting down on alcohol. How dos feel about fertility treatments?
2. Chart your cycle and know your most fertile time. If you’re TTC for any longer than a year under the age of thirty, or for 6 months after 30, it’s time for both of you to get a thorough fertility check up with a specialist fertility doctor.
3. Keep records of all investigations, surgery and treatments. Everything. That way you keep track of the process when you change provider. Dates and times get confused and tend to blur into each other under the influence of medications. It’s all too easy to forget what was said at a clinic visit. Ask questions, take notes, phone or email your doctor to get updates.
4. Prepare for pregnancy! Worry about TTC or treatment not working is not an option. Focus on being pregnant. Shed excess pounds and get into a fitness habit. Fill the freezer for days when cooking is too much to handle. Break up with take-out, it’s a threat not a treat. Your other half needs to be on board with healthy eating, adequate hydration, optimum BMI and weight, enough exercise, reduced toxic chemical load, regular sleep, good sex and managing stress. Stress won’t stop you getting pregnant but infertility is grueling and adds to cortisol and adrenaline overload.
5. Are you going to use low impact medical treatment with fertility tracking, or go directly into high tech IVF? Is there a happy mean? How committed are you both for the long haul of fertility treatment?
6. No one likes talking money and it’s harder when TTC & emotions run high. Infertility treatment costs quickly mount up. Compare clinic costs and payment options here, and abroad. Look carefully at add-ons. How can you budget for various treatments? Some people save up in advance, use a nest egg or borrow money to pay for treatment. How much can you afford to spend on treatment?
7. Infertility is isolating and it’s worth the effort to stay in touch with friends. Sometimes it’s difficult for family and friends to step up and support you. Their time to shine may be down the line. Coffee and lunch dates are ideal ways to connect – without overload. Give people guidelines around helping you in ways that work for you. Once they know how to be there they’ll be happy to be involved.
8. If you’re lucky enough to have flexible work times doctor appointments are easy to schedule without disruption. Bosses are usually supportive when they know what’s happening. Maybe the whole office doesn’t need to be in the loop, but it helps to have someone in your corner.
9. Sex in baby-making captivity gets stale. The dreaded fertile window at ovulation sees couples struggling with intimacy. Remember why you got together in the first place and how good great sex makes you feel? Sex is seriously good for fertility, and prepares your womb for pregnancy. Sex all during the month feels great and eases mid-month pressure.
10. Holidays are a time to catch up and celebrate. Another Christmas without a baby puts you right in the spotlight for awkward conversations. People mean well – and say the most outrageous things. It pays to develop a hide like a rhino or be prepared with your replies. Learn to deflect questions like a politician.
11. No matter how good your relationship or support network is, infertility takes its toll. Sometimes it’s easier to talk with me when negativity sets in. Mental health matters. Studies show that women who have IVF are at higher risk of post-natal depression. Baby news and repeat pregnancies, gender reveals and baby showers are lovely, but can hurt like hell. Alien emotions of jealousy, rage and grief are normal responses when you’re stuck, waiting to get pregnant. You’re not a bad person for feeling them. Reframe the situation: ‘Women do get pregnant and I’m just not pregnant yet.’
12. When things get tough it’s time to play truant from baby making. Weave in some time with your other half to have a laugh, enjoy a movie, a meal or a walk – sans baby talk. If you’re good about minding yourself, the odd blow out does more good than harm. The secret is to enjoy it.
13. You’ve Googled and lurked online and all you want to hear is: ‘You’re pregnant.” Resist the calming keystrokes. Everyone’s got TTC advice but beware the very real and depressing effects of forums.
14. Everyone loves to hear how people conceived on their first IVF or got pregnant against the odds. The stark reality is that IVF offers about a 20% chance of pregnancy. It’s roughly the same as a normal month of trying to conceive naturally. Sadly, up to 1:4 pregnancies end in miscarriage. IVF increases the risk of pregnancy loss. It’s tough. Folk say stupid, hurtful things. Learning to live with loss takes its own time.
15. Fear and worry fire up the Fight or Flight adrenaline response and shut down reproductive activity. Hypnosis and mindfulness refocuses the mind to mitigate the effects of stress on the body.
And the rest? Create your islands of peace in the grind of TTC with meditation, massage and narrative journaling, spend time in nature and specifically on forest walks.