Many professional women deliberately postpone starting a family because they want to be in control of furthering their education, their career or accomplishing other important goals. Ironically, when it becomes time to start a family later in life, many women end up losing a degree of control because of fertility issues.
The good news is that there are excellent fertility treatments available. The challenge is that they have the potential to take over a couple’s life. Moreover, tracking ovulation, and forcing sex to happen during fertile times, can be frustrating with emotions ranging from insecurity to resentment to embarrassment.
Below are 5 tips or “life hacks” that couples can use to regain a measure of control:
1) Have a game plan: The stress of the unknown can be overwhelming. Some couples find it helpful to have a plan they discuss and agree upon in advance so they’re not trying to figure things out as they go along. For example, some couples find it helpful to map out a plan with time markers like, “We’ll try with no aids for a year; next we’ll add specialized diet and nutrition for six months; then we’ll add Lupron shots for six months; then we’ll take a break and relax for six months; and then try IVF for up to a year.”
2) Get a checkup: If there are any questions about your or your partner’s fertility, clear the confusion immediately. Challenges are always more difficult when they are vague and undefined — enlist a doctor to remove the guessing games. See a fertility specialist and learn about FSH levels, motility, follicle count, and any other key components of your fertility where you’d like clarity. Even if the answers aren’t what you want to hear, it’s best to get the information so you can start learning about options and solutions.
3) Time is of the essence: It’s okay to take your time, but don’t ignore the fact that fertility is time sensitive. Just like you want to start saving early so you can get the benefits of compounded interest, you should leverage time by getting information about your situation in a timely manner — waiting can be costly since fertility is often related to time. If it feels intimidating to think about getting all the information, start small by choosing one or two fertility doctors and making an initial appointment just to get the ball rolling. Your obstetrician or family doctor can likely help you get started or find a referral.
4) Trust the process: Once you have created a sensible plan together with your partner, and set up any necessary appointments to get important information, give yourself permission to relax into the plan. The beauty of doing all the legwork in advance of creating plans and setting appointments is that it frees you from constantly having to think and evaluate what’s next. If you have a game plan with time markers as described above, try to forget about all of the other phases except for the one you’re currently in with your partner. Focusing just on what’s directly in front of you will make the process seem less overwhelming.
5) Find ways to keep the romance and spontaneity alive: Many couples acknowledge that the urgency of a precise (and often short!) ovulation window each month can feel stressful. Because the woman is often the one tracking her fertility, she can feel awkward if she’s always the one urgently approaching her partner for sex because she’s trying to maximize her fertile days. The woman often ends up feeling insecure, while the man frequently feels hounded.
To alleviate this, I encourage men to track their wife’s fertility alongside her. This helps the woman to feel supported, and it allows the man to take on a ‘pursuer’ role in the bedroom rather than feeling pressured. When the man notices a fertile day, he can start with sending flowers or suggesting a dinner out – this dials up the romance and keeps you focused on being together as a couple.
If you are a woman facing fertility challenges, or a couple struggling with the emotions surrounding infertility, contact me to hear about some of the success stories I have witnessed – and get inspired for your upcoming journey
Dr. Chloe Carmichael Peet
Here’s a clip of Dr. Chloe being interviewed about fertility stress on RadioMD.