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The Anxiety of Pregnancy After Infertility
by Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW
Women who have experienced infertility desperately long to hear the words “You are pregnant.” And when you do, there is a sense of elation and disbelief as you recognize that your dreams of pregnancy are now a reality. However, for many women there is a lingering fear that something will go wrong during your pregnancy and you may lose your baby. You won’t allow yourself to believe your baby will be healthy until you see it and hold it in your arms. Where does this anxiety come from and how do you make it go away?
I was the leader of a support group for RESOLVE created especially for women (and their partners) who became pregnant after battling infertility and were extremely anxious throughout their entire pregnancies. It was a popular group. Anxiety was also a common theme for most of my friends who battled and beat infertility. It was true for women I spoke with, as well as their partners.
Why Does this Anxiety Persist?
The infertility journey can include painful losses and devastating disappointments. And those feelings don’t always disappear; they may follow you into your pregnancy. If one or more of your infertility treatments was unsuccessful, you may assume that your pregnancy will be unsuccessful too. You may be doing your best to “prepare yourself emotionally” in case you have to face unforeseen problems in your pregnancy.
The Costs of Carrying Anxiety with You
Anxiety creates stress that can negatively impact your pregnancy. It can affect your sleep and your ability to function at work. And importantly, you may not allow yourself any time to celebrate any of the precious moments in your pregnancy. This was a regular theme in our support group. Many people came back to the group after their babies were born and expressed major regrets at not taking time out to enjoy any of the moments of their pregnancy.
Alleviating the Anxiety
First, understand that this is a common emotion that many people experience. It is normal. Secondly, recognize where the anxiety is coming from. It comes from past experiences. Try to keep these past failures you had in the past. Approach your pregnancy as a new, positive experience.
Another strategy is to take your pregnancy one day at a time. Don’t focus on worrying about what will happen in nine months. That can help build anxiety and stress. Break your pregnancy into manageable parts. Choose significant milestones and take the time to celebrate and enjoy them as they occur and pass. For example, getting through your first trimester may be one milestone you set. Other examples may be your first ultrasound, feeling your baby kick for the first time, or the first time you have to shop for maternity clothes. Have some fun selecting your own meaningful milestones. Spend some time thinking about how you want to celebrate these moments; it may be a special meal, gift, or treating yourself to flowers. Have fun deciding how and with whom you will celebrate.
You may want to journal during your pregnancy. If you do, make sure you write during these significant milestone moments. It will help you take the time you need to think about and enjoy them. Taking the time to approach your pregnancy in this way will help to alleviate your anxiety. You will be glad that you did!
Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW, is the author of the award winning Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire. (Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing). Iris has been a licensed clinical social worker for more than 30 years; learn more at her website, www.infertilityrollercoaster.com.