TTC? Here are 10 ways to stay sane

It’s one big waiting game when you’re trying for a baby. Don’t let the stress and anxiety get you down…

At the supermarket, you see mums waiting in line with squalling babies in their arms. At the malls, families with kids throng child-friendly attractions and restaurants.

To make things worse, your social media notifications constantly pop up with news of your friends getting pregnant.

Indeed, everyone seems to be having babies ― except you ― which makes the process of trying to conceive just that more fraught, stressful, heartbreaking even.

We are sure you’ve been receiving tons of advice from well-meaning relatives and friends, which can be frustrating ― and even embarrassing. Plenty of people may tell you to relax and it will happen.

Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist from Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness, notes that the emotional challenges are more impactful on women than men. “Societal expectations are high for a female to one day to become a mother and many women see it as a necessary achievement in life.”

He adds that women who are unable to conceive often react with shame, guilt and self-blame. “Psychological illnesses are pervasive in women with infertility and often, anxiety disorders and depression can set in.”

Dr Lim also notes that men, too, can experience disappointment and sadness when confronted with difficulty conceiving. “They feel ashamed if they are the ones who are infertile. Often, the routine of trying to conceive month after month can lead to both physical and mental burnout.”

In addition, when men and women try to conceive at a later age, “knowing that one’s fertility period is limited adds to the stress,” says Dr Lim.

Couples can add to each other’s stress ― particularly if they start pointing the finger at each other and question each other’s commitment.

“Psychological illnesses are pervasive in women with infertility and often, anxiety disorders and depression can set in.”

If the couple decides to go the way of fertility treatment, the process can take a toll on the couple “due to the time needed for treatment and the side effects,” says Dr Lim.

While it’s not easy, here are some strategies to ride out this difficult time.

1. Read up
If you haven’t already, find out all there is to know about conceiving. Get yours and your husband’s health checked, make sure you know what foods to eat and what to avoid, and get clued in on when is the best time of month for that baby-making to happen. If it doesn’t happen for a while, make sure you’re not doing anything wrong, like forgoing lubricant, or not having enough sex.

2. Be patient
Baby-making takes…a while. Rest assured that it will not happen right away, and this will ease your disappointment when you don’t see the double blue lines after your first few cycles. Gynaecologist Dr Christopher Chong explains that a fertile couple in their mid-20s who has sex regularly has a one in four chance of conceiving each month. What this also means is that three out of four will not conceive that particular month ― so take a deep breath, relax and stay positive!

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3. Communicate with your spouse
Getting pregnant is a team effort, and “couples needs to communicate openly with each other about their expectations and feelings,” Dr Lim notes. It’s easy to take out your frustrations on those closest to you, but remember that he or she is going through a hard time as well. Keep in mind that you love your spouse and that is why you are trying for a baby together. So, make sure you spend time and energy making sure he or she feels loved.

4. Avoid blame
Pointing a finger at the other is easy to do, especially if you’ve gone through fertility treatment without any luck. “But be encouraging and work together as a team,” says Dr Lim. “Avoid self-blame, too, as this can also bring down the morale of your spouse.”

5. Don’t obsess
It’s easy to focus on what day of the cycle you are on, and when you are ovulating. This just creates added stress ― and the fun out of baby-making! When you’re going through the agonising “two week wait” (the time between ovulation and when you get reliable pregnancy test results), don’t obsess about every little sign of spotting or breast tenderness. Instead, go out, meet friends, or take up a new hobby!

When you’re going through the agonising “two week wait”, don’t obsess about every little sign of spotting or breast tenderness.

6. Enjoy sex
Sex is enjoyable and fun! Even if you have the “specific goal” of getting pregnant, this should not detract from the excitement of creating a baby together. Get creative with foreplay, or book a weekend getaway to ramp up that lovin’ feeling. Check out our sex alphabet for more ideas to up the romance!

7. Take a break
Take a break if the routine of tracking your ovulation and waiting for good news is wearing you down. Shelve those ovulation kits for a couple of cycles and just enjoy your time together as a couple. Go for dates, take a short vacation, and ban any baby talk. Use this time to discover yourselves and recharge your spirits and your relationship!

8. Find support
As a couple, decide on how honest you want to be with your family and friends. Some couples may decide that they prefer to let their loved ones know about their struggles, as they will be supported better this way. There are also plenty of local support groups online that could connect you with other couples going through the same journey.

9. Seek professional help
If you are consumed by negative thoughts, or think you are becoming depressed because you haven’t been able to conceive, seek professional help. “It may be necessary to see mental health professionals like psychiatrists or psychologists to help work through any negative thoughts the individual may have,” says Dr Lim. Medical treatment may also be necessary. Often, simply getting more accurate information, or addressing infertility myths can alleviate self-blame.

10. Decide on the next step
Feeling that there is no light at the end of the tunnel can be depressing. But know that you’ll always have options. If you are going through fertility treatment, it may be a good idea to “decide and agree when to call it quits when it comes to treatment,” says Dr Lim. “There’s always the alternative of adoption.”

Photos: iStock

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