and the best one yet ‘Just don’t think about it.’
So many of us are given this ‘helpful advice’ when the fact is that unless someone has personally experienced wanting to start a family and then being denied this choice it is impossible for them to understand.
Deep breath and prepare for a rant:
My response to ‘Just relax’
In response to “Just relax” I always wanted to reply “Oh of course silly me I was under the impression that feeling anxious and continually worried that I may never get to be a mum was actually helpful. Please do enlighten me on how the hell I am supposed to just relax.”
I felt that by people telling me to relax, including my Dr., was the equivalent of them telling me infertility was my fault because I was too stressed. I have since learnt that women undergoing infertility treatment experience the same level of stress, anxiety and depression as women who have cancer, HIV or heart disease*. Would you tell someone with cancer to “Just relax”? Me thinks not.
We are fully aware that stress does impact our fertility in the following ways:
- When you are feeling stressed you are less likely to have sex. I should not need to explain why this might be an issue when trying to get pregnant!
- Extreme stress can delay or even prevent ovulation.
- There is a link between stress and the immune system, those under stress are more likely to experience health issues which could have a knock-on effect to fertility.
- When stressed you are more likely to indulge in coping habits which negatively impact fertility, such as smoking, drinking, recreational drugs or having a dysfunctional relationship with food, either under or over eating. All of which have been proven to adversely affect the quality of both sperm and eggs.
- To top it off if you are diagnosed with infertility you are more likely to stop trying to conceive if you are stressed. Studies show that more people either just did not commence treatment, or abandoned treatment due to emotional stress levels rather than medical prognosis.
Knowing the above is incredibly stressful in its own right. What we need is someone to tell us HOW to manage our stress levels including the stress created by infertility.
Solution : Mindfulness
Mindfulness is simply paying attention to the present moment without judgement. The Mental Health Foundation reports that clinical studies have shown that by practising mindfulness participants experienced up to a 70% reduction in anxiety, an increase in disease fighting antibodies, suggesting improvements to the immune system, improved sleep and a reduction in negative feelings such as anger, tension and depression.*
Whoopi I much prefer detailed solutions and positive statistics to vague suggestions. I have created a FREE Fertility Support Pack to get you started. It includes an introduction to mindfulness, a 5 minute meditation and an e-book that includes 10 easy ways to bring mindfulness into your day. (For your free pack sign-up.)
My response to ‘Stay positive’
Again people are actually trying to be helpful, keeping yourself focused on the fact that the vast majority of those who experience infertility do go on to become parents is a really good idea. However ‘false positivity’ can actually do more harm than good. I’m talking about the people and books that advice you to stick a smile on your face and chant “ I am pregnant, I am pregnant” all day long. I am a great believer in doing everything we can to feel happier and I have read and been inspired by many ‘positive thinking’ books and agree with many of the principles discussed, the issue surfaces when we do not accept our current situation/thoughts and instead try to force ourselves to think positively.
We have negative emotions for a reason, they are there to warn us when something is not right. So many of us have set off down that route of beginning to believe that the reason we not yet pregnant is because we have not been positive enough. This is a great way to make yourself incredibly anxious and unhappy!
If we try to block out our negative thinking with positive we are in essence sticking a plaster over an oozing wound that needs attention. We need to process and deal with our negative thinking in order to release it and be free of it.
Solution : Emotional Freedom Technique
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is a type of meridian tapping that combines ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology with startling results. EFT allows you to tune into and express exactly how are you feeling in the moment and release those emotions and thought patterns that are not serving you.
When I first read about this technique I thought it was extremely bizarre and could not possibly work but I was determined to do everything in my power to feel better so if tapping on my face might help it was worth giving it a go.
I started tapping on my beliefs about my body, about pregnancy, parenthood, on the fear I felt about doctors appointments, surgery and IVF. I started feeling differently about things that I thought were set in stone and gradually it felt like I stepped into the sunlight after spending a long time in a darkened room.
Mindfulness taught me to recognise that I am not my thinking and that it is the thoughts we have about situations not the situations themselves that cause us distress. EFT is the next piece of the puzzle to allow you to cut the ties to repetitive negative thinking.
Our natural state is one of positivity, once you release your negative thinking you won’t need to force yourself to think positively – you just will!
I really enjoy bringing mindfulness into my day, the shorter meditations are great at lunch hour and ‘detaching’ myself from my thoughts is making a real difference. The two key things I loved though, and that I feel helped me more than anything else, were your take on ‘positive’ thinking, and the attitude of ‘yes please!’ to seeing other pregnant women. I was lucky enough to have IVF at Guys, where the success rates for a blastocyst transfer for someone my age (33) was around 50%. It was so much easier to say to myself “well, it works for 50% of the people, so why shouldn’t that include me too?”, rather than “this will work, this will work!”. It meant that my husband and I entered IVF very positively, and managed to laugh a lot throughout. PS The course started, purely coincidentally, as I was beginning my first cycle of IVF, and I am very chuffed to say that I am now 14 weeks pregnant. I sincerely believe that the techniques you share, especially EFT (which, you are right, I did feel daft doing, but had a strange magnetic draw which meant I returned to it when things were tough) played a part.
As part of your FREE fertility support Pack you will receive a 20 minute tutorial on how to do EFT and experience this powerful technique for yourself.
My response to ‘Just don’t think about it’
This one always cracks me up. I’ve wanted to be a mum since I was a toddler and my mum had my brother and the fact that someone seriously thinks that I can just switch off my maternal instincts just seems bizarre.
However what they are trying to communicate is to stop worrying about it. Worry is simply imagining a future that we do not want. Again telling someone not to worry is as helpful as telling them to just relax.
Solution : Make a change
The definition of insanity is said to be to repeating the same action time and time again and expecting a different result. If you do something different then it is almost impossible not to change the outcome. Make the decision today to practice the techniques I am sharing with you and be open to change. It is possible to overcome anxiety and worry. It is possible to feel positive about your body and fertility. It is also possible for you to get happy, really happy, while trying to conceive and even going through treatment. I know because I have done it.
If you would like support and direction in doing this then come and watch my free online workshop. I’m offering the first week of my Embrace online course for free to give you the opportunity to start your own well-being practice.
To learn more
To receive your FREE fertility support pack click here. Suitable for anyone trying to conceive, going through treatment or who is now pregnant following difficulties.
Over to you
What change are you going to make today to help you be less stressed and happier on your journey to motherhood? Add a comment below or join the conversation in our online support community.
* Domar A. Fertility and Sterility Issue 58.