Infertility is the inability to conceive or sustain a pregnancy after 1 year (for women less than 35 years of age) or after 6 months (for women over 35 years old).
If you are struggling with infertility you may feel anger, guilt, shame, depressed, or broken. It is common for women going through infertility to struggle with anxiety or depression. But one of the things that I rarely see addressed is how women feel about their body while going through infertility. You may be feeling like your body is broken, like it let you down and is not doing its job to reproduce. If you are a woman, odds are you may have a history of a body dissatisfaction. Infertility may be bringing up some new feelings about your body or triggering ones from your past.
You may hate your body.
You may want to punish your body by saying mean things to/about it. You may want to punish your body by dieting, restricting or bingeing food. You might even want to hurt your body. You may have a hard time connecting with your body, struggling to remain intimate with your partner, or even feeling numb in certain areas.
If you are going through infertility, you are not broken.
Here are some ways to love your body through infertility;
Challenge your negative thoughts about your body - When you are having negative thoughts about your body it is easy to see your body as broken or bad. It is easy to want to punish your body or even to hate your body. By challenging these negative thoughts we can examine where they have come from, what proof we have to support them, and how to reframe them.
Praise your body - Even if you do not believe what you are saying, even if you cringe while you are saying it, say it. Start by focusing on the part of your body that you do love or that you feel is strong. Focus on the functions of your body and what it truly does for you. If you have other children this is a great activity to do together. This is also something you can do while doing a physical activity. Examples of this are, “I love my feet because they allow me to run many miles” and “I love my hands because they are steady and stable allowing me to create a painting or piece of pottery.”
Positive affirmations - When thinking of negative statements (i.e. “my body is broken”) try to mentally or verbally replace that statement with a positive statement about your body. For example, “I love my body” or “My body is strong” or “My body is amazing” or “My body can do so many things.” Start each day by looking in the mirror and saying one positive thing about your body.
Give your body the proper nourishment - Fill your body with foods that give you energy and make you feel good. Feed it until it is full. Nourish it when it shows signs of hunger.
Let your body rest - Trying to get pregnant is tough work. You are challenging your body physically, mentally, and emotionally everyday while trying to get pregnant. Being aware of when your body needs to rest; self-care is necessary. For most people, that is 7-9 hours of sleep and may be even more when undergoing procedures or fertility interventions.
Move your body - Physical and mental exercise is helpful.
Practice mind/body exercises - Mind/body exercises are those that combine breathe work with mental focus and body movement. This could be yoga or tai chi, as well as grounding exercises or progressive relaxation.
Know when to get help - Many women suffer from an eating disorder, disordered eating, and/or body image concerns in their lifetime. If going through infertility is triggering any disordered eating behaviors such as restricting, bingeing, purging, only eating certain foods, feeling detached from your body, or punishing your body in any other way it is time to seek professional help.