Every path to parenthood is unique, and the impact on mental health is real. Infertility issues or not, it’s completely typical to cycle through highs and lows. And while every experience is different, attending to your mental state should always be prioritized. It’s easier said than done, but one of the biggest barriers to mental health support is silence. And we’re not here for that. Knowing that you aren’t alone, along with specific steps you can take to support your mental health as you try for a baby, can give you an entirely new perspective on the situation. So we did the research and found these four tips for safeguarding mental health during the fertility journey.
Talk it out
Battling feelings of guilt, shame, or inadequacy aren’t uncommon when you struggle to conceive, and they can be compounded by anxiety, depression, irritability, jealousy, and grief. Those are big emotions to manage solo, and the psychological toll they take on both partners is no joke. But instead of stuffing those feelings down, talk to someone.
Psychological intervention may actually improve your chances of successfully conceiving, and researchers suspect it’s because therapy can help reduce the effects of certain stressors. At the very least, you and your partner can learn how to challenge negative thought patterns and replace them with positive self-talk.
Find a healthy outlet
It’s easy to fixate on your goal when you’re trying to conceive. But so much of the fertility journey is a waiting game, whether you’re waiting on results, waiting for an appointment, waiting to hear from your doctor, or just waiting on those two pink lines. That’s a recipe for anxiety, and the workaround is occupying your mind in other, more productive ways. Channel that nervous energy into something, anything — work, exercise, cooking, a new hobby. Mindfulness techniques, yoga, and journaling are also worth exploring, because they can all be helpful in reducing symptoms of anxiety.
Understand the difference between taking time for yourself and isolating yourself
Social isolation can wreak havoc on our mental well-being, and that’s a double-edged sword. It can be instinctual to pull back or distance yourself from those in your life, and the key is knowing what makes isolating yourself different from taking time for yourself. While the first is a method of coping that can actually compound negative feelings, the second is really an act of self-care — and that’s a good thing.
Lean on the people in your life that you love and trust, and not just to unload your feelings. Being present and engaged with the people who matter to you can be distracting in the very best way.
Manage what you can
When it comes to fertility, conception, pregnancy, and birth, most of it is completely beyond our control. But that doesn’t mean you’re entirely helpless. Being proactive and mindful about the things that are in your control can help you feel like you’re doing what you can to be an active participant in this whole crazy process. Simple steps like eating a varied, nutritious diet, getting consistent exercise, managing stress in healthy ways, prioritizing sleep, and taking a quality prenatal vitamin are all doable, and they’ll impact your mental health positively as well. Plus, they’re significant acts that can improve your chances of conceiving.
The only certainty on the path to parenthood is uncertainty — and all the emotions that come with it. Remind yourself that it’s okay to have ups and downs and highs and lows during this experience, and that you’re allowed to have different feelings. We’re complicated, complex beings and caring for ourselves means focusing not only on our physical health, but our mental and spiritual selves too. It’s easy to forget, especially when you’re consumed with trying to become a parent, but that’s when it’s truly most important.