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Self Care and Infertility
a blog by Carrie Gottlieb, Ph.D., September 23, 2013
As I therapist, I often talk to my patients about good self care. While this may seem like a relatively easy task, in the throes of treatment cycles, it is easy to lose yourself in the busyness of appointments, medications schedules, lab work, and ultrasounds. All of the focus is on the end goal, in this case baby…baby…baby.
While this mindset is certainly understandable, given the high stress levels, isolation, and features of depression and anxiety associated with the experience of infertility, self care becomes that much more important. Try to remember, you are not just a person trying to have a baby, but likely a person also juggling work, family, friends, and other obligations- not to mention grappling with the physical and psychological aspects of infertility.
Self care can look like many different things. There is no right way to take care of yourself - anything you can do to make yourself feel better is a step in the right direction. Below are some self care ideas and places for you to start prioritizing your own needs.
Five Ways to Take Care of Yourself
- Get enough sleep
- Do something not infertility related
- Know your limits
- Exercise in moderation
- Get support
Sleep is essential for regulating things such as mood, memory, concentration, and energy levels. The depression and anxiety that is often associated with infertility can interfere with your ability to get adequate or restful sleep. Make sure you set up a "sleep schedule," which means to try to go to bed and wake up around the same time each night, planning to get between 7 to 8 hours per night. Watch your caffeine intake, especially later in the day. Night time rituals can help prepare your mind and body to transition to sleep and can include things like take a bath, drinking decaffeinated tea, or reading If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep, talk to your medical team about medications that might be helpful.
You are more than your infertility, but often it is easy to forget that fact. Before all of this infertility stuff, you were a well-rounded person with varied interests and talents. Don’t forget that!! Try something totally unrelated to babies and treatments. Take a class, try a new sport, plan a fun vacation. You should always have something else to focus on.
There is only so much one person can take. Know your limits and know when it is time to opt out of an baby shower, not babysit for your toddler cousin, or even talk to a friend about all the new "mommy talk." Even think about taking treatment breaks when you need it. It is important to speak with your medical team about treatment breaks, but often they are supportive of this and encouraging of their patients to come back when they are feeling more ready.
Countless research studies tout the positive mood impact on exercise and its ability to help manage symptoms of depression and anxiety. This does not need to look like triathlon training, even short increments of exercise can be helpful. Be sure to talk to your medical team if you are cycling or on certain medications. They can advise as to what kinds of exercise is safe. Walking is almost always on the approved exercise list.
You are not alone! Join a support group, find an infertility therapist a message board, or start reading infertility blogs. More information about support options are available through FertilityAuthority, FertileThougths and Resolve.org and most fertility centers have therapist on staff available to help.