When you’re struggling to get pregnant, every pregnancy test can pull up a thick jumble of emotions. “As the months go on and the tests keep coming back negative, it’s really frustrating,” says Carolynn Dubé, executive director of Fertility Matters Canada, a patient support network. Not only do women grow frustrated with their bodies and their partners, they can begin to worry about their chances of having a baby. “The more time goes on, the more the fear of a negative pregnancy test plays with your mental headspace,” says Dubé. If the negative tests are beginning to wear on you, here are some approaches to help you cope with the stress.
1. Make a plan “A lot of patients cope well if they have a plan for the next step,” says Beth Taylor, an OB/GYN and co-director of the Vancouver-based Olive Fertility Centre. Having a path forward gives patients hope and comfort, she explains. Depending on where you are in the process, the plan can be anything from “If we have our fifth negative test, we’ll call the doctor” to “Let’s try exploring the intrauterine insemination option.”
2. Have a network Tell a select group of supportive people that you’re taking the test and that they need to have shoulders ready to lean on just in case. “Find a support network of people other than your partner or spouse. Because of the emotions involved in these tests, both partners will experience that mourning separately and differently,” says Dubé. Look for good listeners in your life—you don’t need someone who will just tell you “Relax, it’s just not your time.” Dubé notes that there are support groups across the country, as well as some online for those who prefer anonymity.
3. Review your facts Knowledge is power, right? “For many people it takes from nine to 12 months to conceive,” says Taylor. So it’s good to be realistic. If you don’t have any facts to lean on, you may want to talk to your doctor about testing your partner’s sperm for viability, getting your tubes checked for blockages and an ultrasound to check your egg supply and other fertility-related tests.
4. Find your happy While it sounds trivial, tried-and-true mood lifters can temporarily take you out of a state of funk. So rewatch Bridesmaids or crack open a Gillian Flynn book. “Surround yourself with things that give you joy, make you happy and feel comfortable as often as you can, but especially around the time leading up to and after taking those pregnancy tests,” says Dubé. “They won’t take away the pain of the test but they can take away a little bit of the sting.”
5. Be proactive “Some people are empowered by taking action,” says Taylor. “This way, they don’t feel passive in the process.” Taking action might be anything from doing yoga or instituting a healthier eating program to help you feel your best and most ready to conceive. “I see women who have been trying for a year and then go on and start something like that and it gives them focus and direction. Active planning is helpful,” says Taylor.
6. Keep up activities Engage in something you’re passionate about. That could be anything from delving into an engaging work project or spending time with family. “Stay busy and involved in activities that serve a purpose or fill your cup,” says Dubé. “When it’s a pattern and keeps happening months over months, it becomes even more important to continue to find purpose in meaningful activities, whatever that is for you.”
7. Know that you're grieving Dubé says that when you’re struggling to get pregnant, you can go through a grieving process every month. “You mourn the loss of this potential child that you were hopeful for and very quickly have to gear yourself up to do it all again.” If you’re struggling emotionally, turn to a counsellor for help. “It’s another tool in for your toolbox to support yourself through these negative tests,” Dubé adds.