15 ways to stay sane when trying for a baby
Navigating infertility is easier if you are prepared. Fertility coach and therapist Helena Tubridy, RGN RM, shares the best practical advice from her three decades of helping couples conceive
1 Start right
Infertility erodes that sense of control over life that we take for granted. You can take it back and make sure you are both doing everything to increase your chances of pregnancy. Hopefully, you won't need to follow through on them, but some questions are easier to discuss at the beginning of your fertility journey. Are you both equally committed to the idea of being parents? How do you feel about fertility treatment?
2 Research fertility
Find out how your cycle works. Chart your cycle and know your most fertile time. If you're trying to conceive longer than a year under the age of 30 or for six months after 30, it's time for both of you to get a thorough fertility check-up. Consider it a pre-conception appraisal, to be ready for a healthy pregnancy.
3 Project manage
Keep records of all investigations, surgery and treatments, for handy reference. That way, you keep track of the process if you change provider. Remembering the chronology of treatment is hard. Dates and times blur into each other and things get missed or mixed up. Chronicling your timeline saves on wasted months and money.
4 Prepare for pregnancy
For most of us, our mindset is fixed on achieving results. I encourage clients to flip their thinking to see the bigger picture. We focus on a healthy pregnancy rather than just conceiving. Instead of worrying about setbacks and failure, we 'try on' success for a change. Keep it simple with easy steps to know you are doing your best. I often find when clients shift excess pounds and get fit, they feel so much better. Studies show that egg and sperm quality improve, too. Simple tips to healthier eating that work are to bring a homemade lunch to work and fill the freezer for days when cooking is too much to handle, and to break up with takeout. 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. A three-month plan works well. When you notice real benefits all the new good habits become established with very little effort.
5 Choose your route
Are you going to use low-impact medical treatment with fertility tracking or go directly into high-tech IVF? Is there a more graduated approach that gives you the best chance of pregnancy? It's all too easy to forget what was said at a clinic visit. Ask questions, take notes and then phone or email your doctor to get updates.
6 Organise your finances
No one likes talking money. Infertility treatment costs quickly mount up and financial worries stretch relationships. The sooner you discuss the nitty-gritty of money, the better. Compare clinic costs and payment options here and abroad. Look carefully at add-ons. Check out validated, good-quality research to verify treatment results. Can you budget for various treatments? Some people save up in advance; others use a nest egg or borrow money to pay for treatment. Take stock of progress every three months to get the best value for your money.
7 Cultivate an inner circle
Family and friends are the first to step up and give support, but sometimes their time to shine may be down the line. Trying to conceive puts life on hold and it's easy to feel isolated when folk just don't get how tough it is. Connection is good for you. Stay in touch with your tribe. We all like knowing what to do, so feel free to give people guidelines around helping you in useful ways. Once they know how to be there for you, they'll be happy to be involved.
8 Work days
If you're lucky enough to work from home, or have flexible work times, doctor appointments are easy to schedule without disruption. Bosses are usually very 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 at work. Create a distraction-free atmosphere to stay on top of things. Once you get in the work zone, you'll have the satisfaction of staying focused and productive.
9 Don't see sex as a chore
The dreaded fertile window at ovulation sees couples struggling with baby-making sex. Remember why you got together in the first place and how great orgasms make you feel. Why set limits to something so good? Sex boosts fertility, and gets your womb ready for pregnancy. Sex all during the month eases mid-month pressure to perform. It's not unusual for men to suffer temporary erection dysfunction either. Few realise how easily hypnosis helps.
10 Prepare some Soundbites
Holidays are a time to catch up and celebrate festivities. Facing another Christmas without a baby places you right in the spotlight for more awkward conversations. People mean well - and say the most outrageous things. So, it pays to develop a hide like a rhino or be prepared with your replies. Learn to deflect questions like a politician.
11 Mind your mental health
No matter how good your relationship or support network is, infertility takes its toll. Sometimes it's easier to talk with a trained professional when negativity sets in. Mental health matters when the pressure is on to conceive. Studies show that women who have IVF are at higher risk of post-partum depression. Baby news and repeat pregnancies, gender reveals and baby showers are lovely - and 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 horrible feelings but, if you let them, they quickly take over. Breathing is a natural tranquilliser. Calm down the frustration with 10 generous, easy, deep breaths - way into your belly - and reframe the situation: "Women do get pregnant, and I'm just not pregnant yet."
12 Play Truant from TTC (Trying to conceive)
When things get tough, it's time to check out from babymaking. Weave in some time with your other half to have a laugh, enjoy a movie, a meal or a walk - without any baby talk. Constant reference to what you don't yet have drains joy from the nice things in your life. If you good about minding yourself, the odd blowout does more good than harm. The secret is to savour it, sans guilt. Every day you make memories. A few happy ones help you build resilience.
13 Do a Dr Google detox
Have you Googled until your eyes burned and lurked in discussion boards? All you really want to hear is "You're pregnant." Why should you resist the allure of online world where people know what it's like to want a baby? Everyone has a story or a holy grail of how to get pregnant. Even doctors trying to conceive find it hard to curb the impulse - even if it irks them to see loads of inaccurate stuff posted! Studies show too much time online contributes to depression.
14 Strengthen yourself for Sad times
Everyone loves the happy stories of how people conceived on their first IVF or got pregnant against the odds. The reality is that IVF offers approximately a 20pc chance of pregnancy, roughly the same as you get in a given month of trying to conceive naturally. Sadly, around one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage and IVF increases the risk of pregnancy loss. People respond in different ways to grief. Men tend to get sidelined at this time. People rarely know how to respond helpfully. They say stupid, hurtful things. Learning to live with loss takes its own time. There are no hard-and-fast rules. Some are ready to try again within a couple of months while others wait a lot longer. This is a time when therapy offers real help.
15 Care for yourself
Manage your worries. Most of what we worry about is habitual; things rarely turn out exactly as we fear. Create islands of peace in the grind of trying to conceive: time in nature has special benefits, as does mindfulness.
Give labels to your emotions: saying them out loud slows down the worry process and puts you back in control.
For more from Helena See helenatubridy.com
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