(image from: flo.love)
First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby? That’s the way we are told things should play out from the time we are old enough to understand the basic concept of where we come from. Unfortunately for many couples, that is just not the case. In fact, roughly ten to fifteen percent of women between ages fifteen and forty-four have issues becoming and/or staying pregnant. That number is pretty high when you consider just how many women there are in the world. The stresses of struggling with fertility can leave many women feeling hopeless and at fault - or as though their body has turned against them in some way. It’s even harder to swallow when we live in such a “here and now” world where people are constantly posting updates about their successful pregnancies, families, and lifestyles. This is, however, a very common response to failed pregnancy attempts. For women who are having a tough time getting pregnant or dealing with a miscarriage, counselors have begun suggesting spending more time reconnecting with their bodies in order to attempt to regain some of that trust. So, before you go looking into IVF costs, IUI options, pills, or other tough-on-the-body options, consider some tips on how to reconnect with yourself and get your body, both mentally and physically, more prepared to carry a baby.
Practice Self Care
First and foremost, it is important to begin taking care of yourself. Both infertility and miscarriages can take an immense toll on your body with the intense amount of changing hormones, painful injections, and medications that make you feel “blah.” As women, we try to keep the bad things inside and to ourselves in order to keep up a facade of normalcy in front of friends and family, and that can be exhausting. Try caring for your body in more supportive and kind ways. Drink more water. Spend time reconnecting with nature. Take salt baths, get a massage or go shopping. Finding small moments to allow your body to feel cared for can help you heal and prepare for pregnancy.
Learn to Speak Kindly to Yourself
Along with taking care of yourself, you need to focus on the way you speak to yourself. Practicing self-compassion is allowing yourself to feel the negative without convincing yourself that you are in the wrong (don’t blame yourself). Simple acts of self kindness have the ability to change your overall mindset and reduce the amount of self-blame many struggling with fertility can relate to. There are many ways to practice self-compassion. Consider how you would treat a friend in the same scenario. How would you talk to them? Speak to yourself in the same way (even if it feels absolutely ridiculous), consider speaking to yourself with endearing names, and maybe give yourself a hug.
Repair the Mind-Body Connection
(image from: metro.co.uk)
In 2006, Human Reproduction published a study that found that many women tend to feel dehumanized by the process of undergoing fertility treatments. They can feel as though they have been reduced to being identified solely as the body parts associated with reproduction. This can cause a disconnect between mind and body, which is a strong and powerful connection, especially when trying to conceive. Practicing yoga and meditation is a way in which you incorporate mindful bodily awareness and allow you to relate more to your body as a whole again. There are plenty of infertility meditation programs designed to help with this exact problem. These practices can help women learn to listen to their bodies and address the heavy emotions that come with fertility struggles. These poses and meditations can be a way to take small vacations from all of the worries and painful emotions going on inside.
Seek Professional Help
No one likes to admit that they need help, but sometimes the amount of mistrust and anger women struggling with fertility face can evolve into hatred and disgust. This can lead to extreme symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are not just hard on us, they can be hard enough on the body that it rejects pregnancy. In cases like this, it can be very helpful and beneficial to seek support from a mental health professional. Counselors or psychologists can help you distinguish the harmful things you are saying to yourself and allow you to work through them in a supportive and nonjudgmental environment. They can help you connect with your body through visualization techniques (imagining your body strong and healthy and fertile) and behavioral changes (learning self-care and reducing/managing triggers). Seeking professional help can allow you to learn to support and care for your body the way it is, and learn how to move forward in a more healthy way.
One in six couples attempting to conceive will struggle with fertility. That number is quite daunting. For those who are living as the “one in six,” there is hope for you. Though you may have to go the routes of IVF and fertility treatment, it is important to learn how to care for yourself through all of it. Practicing self care and compassion are just a few ways that you can reconnect with your body to help prepare it for pregnancy. Even if times seem bleak and daunting, there is always an option out there for you. Keep your head up and take care of yourself.
Normalize and connect
“There’s this expectation that getting and staying pregnant should be easy, but for one in six couples, it’s not easy,” says Caitlin Dunne, an infertility specialist at the Pacific Centre for Reproductive Medicine in Vancouver. Despite this statistic, women often feel alone in their experiences. Dunne says she tries to normalize and destigmatize what her patients are going through. Both Dunne and Reddish also recommend that women connect with others who are going through similar struggles. Some find it helpful to read infertility blogs and commiserate with friends, while Li says that joining a support group has linked her with a community of non-judgemental women. “I definitely don’t think of them as failures, even though they’re also struggling with infertility,” she says.
Li and Allen are both still trying for a baby. Although the road ahead feels daunting, Li says that she isn’t giving up. “I’m doing everything I can to take care of my body and trying to trust that it will do what it’s meant to do,” says Li, as she and her husband prepare for another round of IUI. “I know I’ll be a mom someday—whatever that might look like.”
CANDY TAI is a wife to David and mom of 5 with a degree in Communications. She's a native Texan (Hook 'Em Horns!) who's been making her home in the Kansas City metro area for nearly 15 years. She loves being able to shuffle her kids from their various sports activities, piano lessons, and school activities. She enjoys fashion, beauty, reality TV, and moviegoing.