How to Change Your Inner Dialogue About Your Infertility


Thoughts That Lead to Trouble When You're Fertility Challenged

Woman with a cloud over her head
Are your thoughts getting in the way of making healthy changes?. Anthony Harvie / Getty Images

How many times have you tried to quit a bad habit or lose weight, and found yourself quickly back to your old ways? You may even be trying to make these changes so you can improve your fertility.

Or maybe you’re trying to focus more on your non-fertility-obsessed life. Maybe you’re trying to move on beyond your infertility.

You want to live a healthier, happier life, so you’d think you’d be strongly motivated to take action. And yet, you don’t make the changes you say you want to make. Or you do, and then quit too quickly.

Our critical inner voices – along with our excuse-making alter egos – have 101 reasons why we can’t stick to a budget, why we can’t find support and connection with others, why we must have this chocolate pie RIGHT NOW.

Here are 5 thoughts that keep fertility challenged people from making healthier, happier choices.

Becoming aware of these thoughts won't make the trouble making voices go away completely -- but it'll help.


"No Matter What I Do, It's Not Like It'll Help Me Get Pregnant..."

Woman working out while listening to music
Exercise because it helps you feel good and makes you stronger. Don't make getting pregnant your sole motivation. Jose Luis Pelaez Inc / Getty Images

The troublemaking thought: “No matter what I do, it’s not like it’ll really help me get pregnant...”

If you want to make a life change, having a strong motivating factor helps. So you’d think that if you want to lose weight or get healthier, having pregnancy achievement as part of your motivation is a good idea.

It’s not. It’s a bad idea.

When your motivating force has a way of reminding you of “failure” frequently – ie, when you get your period – it’s like being set up to quit every 30 some days. Your period, along with its hormonal cravings, turns into some crazy will-power test.

You know these things take time, and you know it’s unreasonable to expect to conceive the very month you start losing weight. And yet, getting your period will remind you that you’re STILL NOT PREGNANT, and bam, out will come the Ben and Jerry’s.

Also, in many cases, losing weight will not help you directly conceive.

Losing weight in women who are obese has been found to restart ovulation and boost the odds of pregnancy, especially for women who are dealing with irregular ovulation. But it’s no guarantee. And it won’t work for every cause of infertility.

For example, if you’re dealing with blocked fallopian tubes, losing weight may boost your odds of IVF success, but it’s certainly not going to get you pregnant on your own.

What to think instead: “I’m making this change to get stronger.”

Come up with some other motivating force, preferably something more directly related to your goal. A dress you want to fit into. An event you want to look good for. A wish to feel stronger and healthier.


"What's the Point of Losing Weight if I'm Going to Gain It All Back?"

Woman weighing herself at home
Quiet Noise Creative / Getty Images

The troublemaking thought: “Why lose weight now when I’m just going to gain it all back when I’m pregnant?”

Isn’t it funny how you can both think that losing weight won’t help you get pregnant anyway AND, in the very next moment, think there’s no point since you’re just going to gain the weight back… when you get pregnant.

Here’s the thing. Yes, you will gain weight if you get pregnant. But keep in mind:

  1. Whatever weight you gain during pregnancy will be on top of what you already weigh. This means if you don’t lose weight now, after you have the baby, you will have pregnancy weight to lose… and the weight you have right now. Double whammy.
  2. How much weight you need to gain during pregnancy partially depends on how much you weigh now… so you’ll have fewer pounds to gain (less fun to have?) if you’re starting out overweight or obese.

Also important to remember is that women who are obese during pregnancy have a higher risk of some pregnancy complications and miscarriage. If you’re overweight, it really is better for you and your future baby if you lose the weight now.

What to think instead: “Starting pregnancy at a healthier weight will help me have a healthier pregnancy. And the weight I gain during pregnancy will mostly be baby or for the baby!”

According to the American Pregnancy Association, only 7 pounds of your expected pregnancy weight gain is maternal fat stores.

The baby takes up 7 to 8 pounds, the placenta another one or two, the amniotic fluids 2 pounds, and the enlarged uterus another 2 pounds. There’s also about 2 extra pounds of added breast tissue, 4 extra pounds of increased blood volume, and 4 pounds of fluid retention.

Most of what you gain isn’t fat – it’s baby and baby making equipment!


"We Can't Take a Break. What If We Miss Out?"

Couple with bikes looking at river view.
Tim Robberts / Getty Images

The troublemaking thought: “We can’t take a break now. What if we get pregnant next month?”

When you start thinking about taking a break from trying to conceive, you may immediately start to see the break month as The Miracle Month.

In other words, that month – just because you decided not to try – feels like it contains the most possibility for pregnancy success. (Of course, this isn’t true… that month is no luckier than any other.)

It makes sense. Your brain loves to tell you could accomplish something, if you just tried... especially when you can’t try.

This doesn’t just happen in fertility, it also happens in other situations.

“I will totally climb Mount Everest. Once I have enough money to make the trip...”

“One day, I’ll write a bestselling book. When I’m not busy...”

As long as you don’t do it, you can believe it could happen. This thought process may help you feel better about those bucket list items you keep putting off.

But it can also keep you from taking a much needed break when you’re trying to get pregnant.

What to think instead: “My odds of getting pregnant are the same every month. We need a break now. We will start trying again in [some future month here].”

Having a future date set can be comforting, as it can remind you that the break is temporary, and you’ll have another chance at pregnancy when that date comes.


"Clomid/Lupron/Other-Fertility-Drug Made Me Eat This."

Chocolate and banana smoothie
A smoothie can help calm your snack cravings but still be a healthy choice. Mike Kemp / Getty Images

The troublemaking thought: “Clomid is making me eat this entire carton of ice cream. It’s not my fault!”

Fertility drugs aren’t just blamed for food cravings. They also get the blame for overspending, bad moods, and other misbehaviors.

You may want to scream at a coworker. However, you have the choice not to act on those desires. You can’t blame it on Clomid or Lupron. (Though I know it’s tempting!)

Weight gain is associated with fertility treatments, but the exact cause is not clear. You’re more likely to retain water when taking fertility drugs, but that should go away once treatment is over.

It’s more likely that the stress of treatments leads to unhealthy coping habits – like emotional eating. The emotional eating then leads to weight gain.

Whenever you place the blame for your unhealthy habits on fertility drugs, you’re basically giving yourself permission to do whatever you want. It’s not your fault! You can’t help it! It’s the drugs!

But you can control your actions. You really can.

What to think instead: “These fertility drugs may make it harder for me to stick to my goals, but I can still do it. They are not in charge of me.”

Have a plan on how you’ll comfort yourself when cravings strike. Make a list of other ways to feel better, healthier options.

Some ideas: get a massage, from your partner or scheduled at a spa. Take a walk around the block. Do some yoga. Watch a movie or rerun of a favorite show. Listen to a playlist of music that boosts your mood. Call up a friend. Go out dancing, or bowling, or skating. Whatever!

Making a list of healthy snacks can help, too. Keep the list on your refrigerator, for when temptation strikes.

It’s good to have a comfort list around whether or not you struggle with weight gain and emotional eating. Fertility treatment is stressful! You can use all the support you can get.


"Why Even Try to Call a Friend? They Won't Understand."

Three friends hanging out
We all have our unique challenges, but we can still support each other. Zero Creatives / Getty Images

The troublemaking thought: “Why even try to explain how I feel to a friend? They can’t understand.”

When you’re going through infertility, you may feel very alone. The fact that 1 in 8 couples face infertility doesn’t help when your 7 couple friends are all fertility queens and kings.

This may lead to you not reaching out for help. How can someone who gets pregnant so easily relate to your struggle?

Or you may have friends with infertility, but maybe they have different struggles than you do. They are fighting primary infertility, while you’re struggling with secondary infertility. Or the other way around.

Or maybe your cause of infertility is more complicated. Maybe your treatment options more limited or more expensive. Or maybe you have no options besides moving on with a childfree life.

Here’s the thing: a friend doesn’t have to have the exact same experience as you to provide support or empathy.

If that were true, no one would be able to offer anyone else support. Because we all have unique challenges, unique backgrounds, and unique resources.

What to think instead: “My friend may not have experienced my unique struggles, but they have faced struggles of a different sort. They want to help me... I’ll teach them how.”

Yes, teach your friends how to support you. Tell them what you need or don’t need. Speak up when they unintentionally say something hurtful.

Most important, stop keeping your infertility a secret. If you don't come out of the closet on your infertility, how can your friends support you best?

Remember that support will not only help you cope better with the stress of infertility, but it will also help you live a healthier life. Yes, really! It’s hard to take care of yourself when you feel alone.

You’re not alone. Reach out. Get support.

More on coping with infertility:

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