You’re finally pregnant after struggling with infertility; so why aren’t you full of joy? If you’re feeling anxious or numb, know that your reaction is common and natural after such a long period of stress. That said, there are ways to decrease or eliminate these feelings so you can enjoy your pregnancy and your new baby.
Common emotional responses to pregnancy after infertility
When pregnancy is finally achieved after so many disappointments, you may not want to get your hopes up. You may doubt your body’s ability to carry to term and find yourself obsessing over every symptom – or lack of symptoms. You may feel guilty for complaining about morning sickness or aches and pains, feeling like you should be thankful for every discomfort since you’re finally pregnant.
Sometimes a pregnant woman is afraid that anything or everything she does could hurt her baby. You might be concerned about exercising too much or too little, eating the wrong things, even taking a bath! Then realizing you’re too anxious, you may worry that your anxiety could be hurting the baby, which makes you worry more – an ongoing cycle of anxiety.
And when you transition to an OB from your fertility doctor, you may be concerned that the OB doesn’t have the expertise you need or worry that he or she won’t understand what you’re going through.
Finally, some women feel like they don’t fit in anywhere. You may feel like you don’t fit in with other pregnant women who got pregnant easily, and now you don’t fit in with the women you met along your journey of infertility. In fact, you may feel guilty and want to avoid them, because you’re pregnant and they’re not.
Please hear me when I tell you that all these feelings are understandable, but they are not necessary and can be alleviated.
How to alleviate your stress
Make sure your OB has experience caring for women who have high-risk pregnancies or who are pregnant following infertility. Your provider must be understanding and supportive, willing to offer you more tests than most women get, and be able to address your fears and concerns. Do NOT hesitate to tell your doctor about your symptoms! Your doctor will be able to either allay your concerns or address your symptoms if they seem unusual in any way.
Though some women may choose to get a home sonogram or Doppler to listen for the baby’s heartbeat, I would advise against it unless your doctor thinks it is absolutely necessary. The home versions of these instruments are less powerful than those the technicians use, and a heartbeat can be tricky to find on a young baby. You will be worrying yourself unnecessarily. Simply ask for more frequent testing or find an outpatient testing facility that does ultrasounds.
Find a support group with other pregnant women who have struggled with infertility, either in person or online. You don’t know who else may have experienced infertility or miscarriage so this is an easy way to connect with people in a similar position as you are. These groups are really helpful because you can share your experiences and support each other. Your situation is not uncommon, so share your story and feel the love and support from others.
Educate yourself. By learning all you can about a healthy pregnancy, delivery, and infant care, you will feel more empowered and less a victim of circumstance.
Allow yourself to bond with your baby, and don’t feel guilty if it doesn’t come easily or quickly. Talk to your baby in the womb, play your favorite music and dance around the room with your baby. Prepare a system of supportive helpers for after the baby arrives and be prepared for an emotional rollercoaster ride.
New mothers often feel emotional — happy, fearful, and overwhelmed. On top of that, you have years of anxiety and grief that have built up following unsuccessful treatments and/or miscarriages. These feelings won’t go away just because you have a baby in your arms. Be sure to talk these feelings out with your husband, your family and friends, and if necessary, a trained counselor. Find someone who is an expert in dealing with infertility who can help you heal from the past pain and be free to experience joy in the gift of new life.