Caring for your mental health when trying to conceive
Tracey Sainsbury, Fertility Counsellor and Advisory Panel Member for Fertility Network UK reinforces the importance of caring for your mental, as well as physical health when trying to conceive, sharing some practical suggestions to promote self-care.
- Value your mental health.
Our mental health is as important as our physical health when we are trying to conceive, naturally or with assistance.
Research reassures that our mental health does not impact on the outcome of assisted conception treatment; but it can promote us not continuing with treatment as it becomes too stressful.
Accepting stress as a normal part of our fertility journey promotes us finding different ways to manage it as well as we can. When we are trying to conceive, we are in a situation without control or ability to influence the outcome, of course it is stressful at times.
The Fertility Quality of Life questionnaire provides an overview of how you’re feeling so you can decide if more support might be helpful http://www.fertistat.com/fertiqol/
The wheel of life coaching tool also provides a helicopter view of your life to help identify where support might be useful: https://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newHTE_93.htm Not related to fertility, but used by many fertility coaches.
- Validate the anger.
Just as stress accompanies us on any fertility journey, anger is a frequent appropriate companion emotion too, but often one we try and ignore, or rename. It is OK to claim feeling anxious, frustrated, but often messages from childhood, that anger is not good, and we ‘shouldn’t be angry’, make it a harder emotion to manage.
Grief, the process in coming to terms with not conceiving as we wanted to, nor often at the time we wanted to, includes anger. We may also be angry about the time spent thinking about fertility and money spent too.
Mind the mental health charity provide useful suggestions for managing anger: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/anger/about-anger/ ripping up newspapers, smashing ice cubes, pounding dough, all satisfy our senses, and can channel some of the negative emotional energy we often carry across the tops of our arms, back and up in to our neck.
- Remember you need not feel alone.
When we feel isolated our mental health can dip, and when our mental health dips we can feel the need to isolate, so we can spiral down quite quickly. But support is always available form others who understand.
Fertility Network UK and many clinics too, have patient support groups, and remote meetings enable you to access peer support from home: https://fertilitynetworkuk.org/how-we-can-help/support-groups/
Fertility Network UK’s Health Unlocked forum is there for you too: https://healthunlocked.com/fertility-network-uk providing support from others who understand.
- Get physical
Physical activities can have a great impact on our mental wellbeing. Fertility Yoga is just one of the activities that can help to feel more physically proactive as we move forwards with our fertility plans or if we are taking a break but want to do ‘something’.
Fertility Network UK’s Fertility Yoga sessions over summer and during October proved a great hit and we hope to continue this series soon.
Mindful walking can help to validate how we’re feeling, being more aware of the physical process of walking, the weight of our feet, the breaths we are taking and how we move as we walk, how the ground feels as we move forwards. Taking in the smells, sights and sounds whilst walking often just gives space for our thoughts to become a little quieter.
If you can’t get out and yoga is not for you, Progressive Muscle Relaxation Exercises can also help to recognise where and how in our bodies we are carrying stress, no special equipment needed. Sitting or lying down, slowly clench and release each of the muscles in your body. This provides time to just be, an opportunity to feel grounded again if things have felt overwhelming.
There are many guided mindfulness visualisations online, some fertility specific, if you think that might be helpful, find one with a non-irritating voice and give it a go. We can often feel a boost just knowing we have given ourselves the time to do something just for us.
- Acknowledge you ARE in control.
Sometimes we need to pause and acknowledge we are choosing to continue. Recognizing you are in control of your fertility journey. You are moving forwards because it feels 51% the right thing to do. The other 49% or less is there as no one can guarantee a positive outcome.
If we feel 50/50 we cannot move forwards, in any direction. This is not time wasted, time is our most precious gift, and often the one shared with ourselves least often. Time spent exploring options, getting comfy with decisions is time building the robustness and resilience to get back on the emotional rollercoaster – or walk away to explore alternate nurturing options. There are no rights or wrongs, just what feels most right for you in the present.
If counselling support would be helpful you can find a specialist counsellor via www.bica.net/find-a-counsellor.