By Connie Stark, RNC, C.P.C.
Summer is the time of year for picnics, fun in the sun, and celebrating Independence Day. For those trying to conceive (TTC), enjoying the summer months can also look like living “in fertility” and planning for the celebration of pregnancy and parenthood.
We can strive to choose healthy lifestyle habits that promote and enhance our overall well-being. This may free us from the stigma of infertility and the “it will never work” language and mindset. We have the freedom to live outside of our diagnosis, whether the cause of infertility is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, male factors, unexplained, low egg quality, or other health conditions. This may free us to live as our best selves and find the best path forward to enhance our lives in preparation for pregnancy. We can make choices that help us see the strength in ourselves and stop feeling limitations or putting too much pressure on ourselves when TTC.
Think about it this way: when you plan a party as a host, what typically happens? Preparations begin, invitations are sent, food is purchased, and festivities for the day are planned to celebrate the day. Even if there are rainy days and the party may need to be delayed, or possibly moved indoors, there are still plans for the party. Consider taking this same proactive approach to planning for pregnancy and parenthood.
Whether you’re tracking menstrual cycles and ovulation, timing intercourse in the fertile window, or preparing for another frozen embryo transfer (FET) during an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle, focusing and having a clear vision of what parenthood looks like for you is key, and not to be feared. This vision should remain clear, and should not change from period to period, or with any negative pregnancy outcomes. Using a proactive mindset is a strategy that may not change your past or present circumstances, but it can support your future overall goal of parenthood. Being proactive means thinking about what’s ahead (instead of what’s behind) and focusing on the things you can control (instead of those you cannot control).
A proactive mindset with a vision of pregnancy and parenthood starts with a thought, which then triggers a choice or an action that promotes or supports your vision. Try to choose those “I can” thoughts as opposed to the “I can’t” thoughts.
Remember that healthy preconception lifestyle choices don’t have to be about restrictions, limitations, or feeling that you’re “missing out” or you “can’t have fun because you can’t get pregnant.” A proactive mindset is about making choices that empower you to feel confident, knowing you are preparing and working on your path to pregnancy and parenthood.
The freedom to live as your best self and enjoy life is possible. This does not minimize or take away from the struggles of coping with reproductive health challenges and wanting to grow your family. The journey can be difficult and filled with unpredictable outcomes and feelings. Trying to get pregnant can affect all parts of your daily life, including your mindset, as well as your physical, financial, social, and emotional well-being. Take a proactive approach by implementing self-care practices. Think about creative, thoughtful ways to ignite your spirit and make choices that enhance your overall well-being while planning for pregnancy.
There are numerous methods for enhancing your well-being that may also decrease stress, including relaxation techniques and stress management strategies. It’s also helpful to take a good look at your eating and exercise habits and remember how to be good to yourself. Before trying any of these techniques, check with your doctor to ensure they are appropriate for you and will not interfere with your treatment.
Stress itself may not actually cause infertility, but infertility (unfortunately) usually causes stress. With a proactive mindset, you can take a step forward and advocate for yourself by being aware that trying to conceive can feel isolating and emotional. You can take care of yourself by discussing your journey with a trusted family member, friend, healthcare provider, or support group. Consider connecting with a fertility coach who can guide you, share strategies to help manage your feelings, and check up on you. Also consider journaling, which can be a great way to express feelings that you may not feel comfortable sharing with others. Journaling can help release emotions. If you hold them in, it often extends the grief process, or can even lead to other physical and emotional problems. Journaling is a good way to express and hopefully purge the sadness, anger, or anxieties that you may be feeling, giving you the freedom to move forward in a proactive, positive way.
Some ways to take care of your physical self include feeding your body well with colorful fruits and vegetables, reducing sugary foods, staying hydrated, and following your doctor’s preconception recommendations for prenatal vitamins and supplements. When it comes to movement, consider daily walks in nature, or just go outside for a walk in the neighborhood for 20-30 minutes. Soak up some vitamin D while moving to the groove of your favorite tunes.
There are many ways you can express yourself socially. Some could be passing kindness forward, giving to others, supporting people in need, or connecting with old friends and family members who make you laugh. Don’t be afraid to try something new! Maybe indulge in a flavor-filled mocktail at your next summer party or event.
It can be very easy to lose focus of the big vision of parenthood when day-to-day life consumes most of your time and energy, on top of starting your period again or not seeing that positive pregnancy test. This is not an easy transition—it is a process that takes time, learning how to honor your past and live actively in your present moment while making choices that move you closer to your future, your goal of pregnancy, parenthood, and hopefully a new healthy baby. Taking care of yourself and having the freedom to make choices that prepare you for what lies ahead on the path to growing your family is worth a try. Consider that this may be the time to affirm your plan for parenthood, keep your vision clear, and have the freedom to live as your best self (and not your struggles) while TTC.