Many of my regular readers will already know that I’ve been trying to get pregnant since October 2017. It’s only been about 3 and a half months, but I’ve already learnt a lot and found some better ways to cope with the process. If you want to know my thoughts on trying for a baby, have a read of this post: My (complicated) baby fever.
I have a condition known as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). This affects my hormone levels, which have a knock on affect on my insulin, moods, energy level, periods, body hair and weight gain. Importantly for my current endeavour, having PCOS means I don’t ovulate very often, and that I can’t map out my menstrual cycle to predict ovulation.
The first few months after making the decision to try to conceive were a disaster for me. I convinced myself that I was pregnant, becoming hypersensitive to my body, and feeling like I had a lot of symptoms of pregnancy. I kept taking pregnancy tests, every one was negative, but that didn’t stop me from believing that I was pregnant, and reading online forums that reinforced this belief. It wasn’t until my period finally started (10 weeks after my previous period in October) that I resigned myself that I was not pregnant. If you want to read the full story, have a look at this blog post: Trying to Conceive with PCOS.
I still don’t really understand what was happening to my body during that period. Perhaps it was all psychosomatic, or perhaps it was a reaction to the changing hormonal levels in my body due to my new diet (I stopped eating high carb and sugar foods in September based on my doctor’s recommendation). Whatever it was, I know for certain that I can’t continue my conception journey with such high levels of anxiety and self evaluation. I’ve made a set of rules to try to handle my strong emotions, which I will share with you now. I understand they are very personal to me, and perhaps what works for me won’t work for someone else, but they still might give you some ideas of coping strategies if you are struggling with your own conception journey.
1. Take a Test Once a Week
Unlike many people who are trying to conceive, I can’t just have lots of sex during a two week “fertile window” then take a test if my period doesn’t arrive a week later. For starters, I have no idea when my period will arrive, it could be 28 days from my last one, or it could be 70 days, or anything in between. When you have that high a level of variation, it’s easy to think you could be pregnant as soon as the 28 day mark has passed. However, with PCOS, it is unlikely.
When that first 28 day mark passed, I was taking a pregnancy test first thing in the morning, nearly every other day. All this did was lead me to obsession and upset that each one was reliably negative. It was like a compulsion, I felt the need to check all the time. I even started to think the tests I have are faulty and I should buy a really expensive one.
I knew this was an important habit to break, so here is my new rule: wait 28 days after the first day of my period. There is no point testing in those first four weeks, because it is sure to be negative. After that period, test only once a week. My day is Friday. I test first thing on Friday morning. I then put it out of my mind for another week. I continue to test each Friday until my period begins, and the cycle starts again. I think this has been the most important factor in keeping my mind calm.
2. Take Folic Acid
Folic acid is very important in the early stages of pregnancy. I have a family history of spina bifida, which has been related to lack of folic acid during the early stages of pregnancy. What worries me is that I could be pregnant and not know it. Rather than add to my stress, I just take a folic acid supplement daily. I don’t think it can hurt me, and if it turns out I am pregnant I can feel confident that I am doing all I can to reduce the risk of spina bifida. Folic Acid is a fairly cheap supplement to buy, so I don’t mind just having it in.
3. Reduce Alcohol
This one I find a little bit tricky, as the culture in the UK is very alcohol focused. I know that alcohol is bad for a fetus but I am someone who drinks alcohol regularly and I don’t want to raise questions or suspicion in my friends. When I meet people to socialise, either in their homes, or out for dinner or a pub, they expect me to be drinking. What I do not want to do is tell them I’m trying to get pregnant (because it may lead to avoidable heartache if I have to explain to them that I am not able to get pregnant in the future), or have people wonder if I might be pregnant when I’m not. I know my family would immediately assume I’m pregnant if I refused a glass of wine, which is incredibly frustrating.
The rule I have set for myself is to not drink at all when at home, and when I am socialising I stick to just one glass of red wine. If I ever do get a positive pregnancy test I will cease alcohol all together.
4. Get into a Sex Routine
That might sound boring, unromantic, or un spontaneous, but it is completely necessary for me. I have no idea when I am ovulating. I looked at various fertility apps and methods such as taking your temperature every morning, but none of these methods are reliable if you have PCOS. I simply do not know if I am ovulating. For a fighting chance at pregnancy, sperm needs to be entering my womb on a regular basis.
I’m trying my hardest to not make it in to a chore. I really hope my husband doesn’t feel that way. I don’t stick to an exact schedule, I keep it in my mind when we had sex, and try to have sex at least every other day. Sometimes it is every day, sometimes we miss a day, I try not to worry about it too much. I’m masturbating less, which is tricky for doing my sex toy reviews, but I guess is testament to the amount of sex we’ve been having.
5. Relax and Enjoy Yourself
Sex should be a fun, and a way to connect with my partner. I always remember that. I have gotten into this post-sex relaxation routine, and I love it. Particularly for evening or afternoon sessions. This routine is important to me because it takes me out of the headspace of worrying about if I am pregnant, and in to a calmer frame of mind. After my husband has ejaculated, I rest on my back with my hips elevated using my Liberator Wedge. We cuddle for a bit, and he naps if he’s in the mood, or gets up and goes for a shower if he’s not. I masturbate using a trusty clitoral toy (recently my womanizer 2 go), even if I’ve already had an orgasm, because the contractions during orgasm can help sperm along their way. I also never say no to another orgasm. Basking in my afterglow, comfortable on my liberator wedge, I then do a mindfulness meditation on loving kindness using the Calm app on my phone. This meditation is all about sending love and good thoughts to yourself and the people in your life. It leaves me feeling good and warm, and takes my mind away from those anxious, self-analysing thoughts.
6. Don’t Over-Analyse Your Body
This was my major issue, and it is so difficult not to do it. Every time I’m unexplainably tired, or feel a bit nauseous in the morning, my brain just jumps immediately to pregnancy. You know what though? Sometimes feeling tired is just tiredness. I have struggled with fatigue for most of my adult life. I need to remind myself that, and that over analysing my body is never helpful. If the thought comes into my head, I just let it drift away again, telling myself that I will take a test on Friday, and not to worry about it in the meantime. That is why rule one is so important to stick to.
7. Buy Tests in Bulk
This one is less of a rule and more of a financial necessity. If I’m taking pregnancy tests regularly, they need to be affordable. I’ve found that you can buy the ones that you dip in a container of urine (like they do at the doctors) for far cheaper than the pee on a stick kind. You can also buy them in bulk for even cheaper and just have them in the house. When you have PCOS you know it will take you a while to conceive, so why not buy 30 at a time? I’ll probably use them all. Here you can buy 25 tests for $7.99 in the USA or 30 tests for £4.49 in the UK. That’s the same price as just two pee on the stick kind. They are just as sensitive and easier to use, because you can control perfectly how long you hold them in your cup of urine for.
8. Beware of Online Forums
When you have a diagnosed condition such as PCOS, the temptation to spend all your time reading online forums about it is overwhelming. It’s exhausting reading other people’s stories and trying to relate them to yourself, some hopeful, some not. I’m trying to avoid it for the time being because it stops me from obsessing so much. I also know that every body is different, what helped one person may do nothing for me. There is also a lot of pressure to lose weight on PCOS advice articles, and although my diet has meant I have lost some weight, I still really hate reading over and over again that if you have PCOS and you want to conceive you just need to lose weight. I think this is a way to make people feel stressed, body conscious and guilty. I don’t need that in my life.
So there you have it. I’m going to continue with my little conception routine for a year (well, until October 2018, a year from the start of this journey). It’s still early days and I am feeling optimistic. If we are unsuccessful after a year of trying, I will talk to a doctor about fertility treatment. For the time being though, I’m trying to relax and enjoy this journey.
Have you got any advice for keeping calm while trying to conceive? I’d love to hear it, drop me a comment below.