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  • Writer's pictureJoey Miller

Conception During Inconceivably Trying Times

Trying to conceive is stressful when pregnancy does not occur as or when you intend. It’s made worse when you are up against the challenges of advancing age or maternal health issues, when you’re struggling with infertility, or if you’ve already experienced pregnancy or infant loss. But in the throes of a global pandemic, your stress has just reached a whole new level.

On March 17, 2020, an expert Task Force for the American Society for Reproductive Medicine issued new guidelines for its members as they manage patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic, calling for the suspension of new and non-urgent fertility treatment cycles. While the ASRM will revisit these guidelines as the public health crisis evolves, the blow has been dealt, and for women in need of assistance to conceive, the already grueling path to pregnancy just got a whole lot tougher.

These times are also challenging—but less clear­—for women who are not undergoing fertility treatments and concerned about attempts to conceive during this time of such uncertainty and unknown. Many medical providers are cautioning their patients to seriously consider the current environment before actively trying. While you may be in good physical health right now, there are real concerns about the longer-term impact of COVID-19, so the risk factor and the desire to err on the side of caution looms large.

Whether the window to conceive has temporarily been closed for you, or you are begrudgingly closing it yourself for now, the depths of disappointment, frustration, anger, grief, and despair are extraordinary. Your sense of injustice and simultaneous feelings of helplessness over your circumstances may be growing as the current pandemic has not only thrown a wrench into your reproductive plans and the timing of them, it’s also made them heart-wrenching. With more states implementing shelter-in-place mandates, many women feel, “Not only am I now a prisoner within my own home but also in my own body.” It’s horribly unfair not to be able to participate in the pursuit of pregnancy in ways that others have historically with great ease and success.

In either case, the challenges faced are not just physical, but increasingly mental and emotional as your worries grow and multiply. You may find your head starting to spin and spiral, wondering how long restrictions will be in place, when you will be able to try, and how long it will take until you are finally successful. If this is happening to you, please stop and take a breath. With so much out of control, focus on today, on the information you do have, and most importantly, the things you can control.

Strategies for Taking Back Control

  • Let it out. Release your negative thoughts and feelings instead of continuing to carry them or trying to contain them. Pessimistic, cynical, and fatalistic thoughts are like springs; the more we try to press them down, the more pressure we build and the more force we create. A big and loud “F**K YOU, 2020!!” may feel quite good right about now.

  • Grieve. Count your losses. Categorize the things you can’t control. Mourn them. Then move on to things you can.

  • Differentiate disappointment and pain from suffering. Pain is inevitable from time to time. When you experience pain, recognize it, feel it, and do your best to face it. Resisting it produces tension and creates—even increases—suffering. Instead, work towards building tolerance and accepting these temporary realities to avoid making them worse. Yoga, mindfulness, and meditation are all excellent practices that can help with this, and you can pursue them in the safety of your home.

  • Maintain your perspective. Not trying to conceive now doesn’t have to mean not ever. Take each day as it comes and continue to reassess in the upcoming weeks and months ahead.

  • Adhere to personal and mandatory precautions to preserve your health so that when you can resume treatments or natural attempts for conception, you are in optimum health to do so.

  • If you’re still feeling out of control, seek mental health treatment NOW. Help is available. Many therapists and psychiatrists are offering telehealth appointments for individual therapy sessions and/or medication management to help you better address and cope with increased stress, drastic life changes, and increasing anxiety and/or depression.

Know that you are not alone. We, as a nation and as a world, are actively and aggressively working to change circumstances. The World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and all dedicated medical staff on the front lines are working tirelessly and around the clock to fight COVID-19 and for the health and life of all. That includes future life, too. Independent of your individual circumstances regarding fertility and desired conception, your fight right now can be enhanced if you live one day at a time, and don’t give up hope. This crisis is temporary, and while it has put you on pause for now, when it passes, you can resume your path to conception and motherhood.

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