I was on a panel recently with 5 amazing women, all experts in their field. Caia Care https://caia.care/ is an online women’s health portal that connects women to healthcare professionals from nutritionists, medical professionals to lactation consultants – they cover every life stage, every health preference and condition making services easier to access.
We were there to discuss women mental health as it’s mental health month and I was there to discuss fertility and mental health. Everyone going through their journey knows how much trying to conceive naturally or with the help of science can play on your mind, especially if things are not going according to plan.
As I asked a particular question which I’d like to address, “When it comes to women’s health, how might some of the unique experiences that women encounter related to fertility affect mental health and what are the strategies to cope?”
Bloody excellent question and a difficult one to answer! I always say everyone is different and every journey is unique and what I’m about to say worked for me and are suggestions to help you cope.
Where do I start? There are so many factors that will affect mental health going through a fertility journey, generally when you start to feel the stress it’s because things are not going according to plan and something is blocking a successful pregnancy. It could be a number of things:
Medical conditions such as endo, PCOS, gut health
IVF cycle after IVF cycle and it’s still not working
Having a miscarriage or multiply miscarriages
Being told your eggs are poor quality
Looking at that little number on your hand, you didn’t produce a harvest, not enough eggs
Or you had a great harvest but only 2 out of 17 eggs fertilised
The list can go on. And when the bad news starts and doesn’t seem to stop our inner chatterbox starts; we start to label ourselves, speak negatively about ourselves; I don’t feel like a woman, my body can’t do want it should do, which affects our mental health and our bodies.
I’m a firm believer of what you put out into the universe you get back. Not everyone believes that and that’s okay, but whatever works for me to achieve my dreams it what I’m going to do.
If it’s medical-related you need to investigate and seek a specialist that will look into perhaps other areas for answers, someone who is going to do a deep dive to find the answers.
However we can help ourselves by changing what we say to ourselves. Imagine if we started filling our mind with positive affirmations? We’re so quick to believe the negativity stuff about ourselves…if you say you’re never going to get a great job, always going to struggle with money, struggle with that addiction, never find love, chances are you might not.
Start by healing yourself, take time to get to know yourself, connect with your husband, partner, laugh at silly things, remind yourself why you were drawn to each other and what attracts you to them. Find your joy in the things you love to do.
Try and eliminate the stresses in your life, I know we all hate the dirty word people throw at us when TTC…RELAX and it will happen!! But stress does not help either when you're trying to have a baby and it’s not happening. But there is some true to it, if you’re stressed at work, stressed at home, to stressed to sleep, which means you’re drinking more coffee, drinking more wine (that’s not only me), having a cheeky cigarette, how is this helping your body? When I get stressed I break out in spots, something is happening internally so why wouldn’t it also affect your fertility?
Make some lifestyle changes, if you smoke, drink excessively, take drugs that all plays a part in your mental health and body, think about changing that. Look at who you’re talking to about your problems, when we’re trying to conceive naturally or by using science, we want a strong tribe/a strong team standing by our side, advocating for you – your partner, friends, family, which includes your specialists, therapies, coaches.
I made a conscious decision at work I wasn’t going to stress about tasks, the work will always be there in the morning. I was working in HR and dealing with people all day that had issues. I practiced not to take it on my shoulders and managed people’s expectations. My health came first.
The conversation needs to continue on women’s mental health, we need to be brave and put our hands up for help, it’s okay not to do everything. You’ll be surprised when you ask how many people want to help, including people you work with. Life will always throw challenges at you; it’s the way we deal with it that will determine our path.