Anxiety and Infertility

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1 in 8 couples struggle with infertility. Infertility is a disease that carries a lot of stigma. If you are going through infertility, it is common that you may be feeling: shame, loss of control, detached from your body, sad, angry, emotional, depressed, and even anxious.

Anxiety is common when going through infertility.

In Rewiring your Anxious Brain, by Catherine M. Pittman, PHD and Elizabeth M. Karle, MILS, you learn that anxiety can come from the cortex or the amygdala. The anxiety that develops in the cortex, is the anxiety that you interpret; the “what ifs”. What if you never get pregnant? What if you never become a parent? What if you do get pregnant and lose the baby? What if infertility ruins your relationship?

In addition, these thoughts are usually accompanied by physiological symptoms. This is anxiety that comes from the amygdala. Anxiety that comes from the amygdala is the physical sensations and anxiety of past experiences. This type of anxiety contains the triggers and associations. Examples include feeling anxious every time you see a pregnancy test because it was negative before and that caused anxiety. Also, anxiety about going to the doctors office because the last time you were there you got bad news.

Anxiety symptoms can include, but are not limited to, racing thoughts, rapid heartbeat, sweaty or clammy hands, upset stomach or butterflies, tight muscles, inability to focus, feeling lightheaded, and dizziness. Everyone experiences anxiety, as it is our body’s coping mechanism for danger. It is when there is no danger and our body still goes into the fight/flight/freeze mode that it starts impacting our functioning in life and becomes an anxiety disorder.

Stress is a common trigger for anxiety. If you are going through infertility this can be a stressful time in your life. Infertility treatments can also be emotionally and physically stressful. If you are feeling anxious you do not have to let it control you.

Here are some ways to deal with your anxiety:

  1. Exercise - When you exercise you can lower the baseline for your anxiety so that it doesn’t peak every time you start to notice your symptoms of anxiety. Exercise is also great when you are feeling anxious. When your body goes into fight, flight or freeze mode your body sends energy to the parts of the body that you need to either fight or flee, when you exercise you can use up that excess energy allowing your body to get the message that you are no longer in danger.

  2. Breath - If you are feeling anxious one of the best things that you can do is start to take some deep breaths and start to notice your breath. When your body is in the fight or flight mode our breathing becomes quicker to get more oxygen into the parts of our body preparing to fight or flee. When you start to slow down your breath your body gets the message that you are no longer in danger.

  3. Take charge of what you are in control of - If you are going through infertility, it can be easy to feel out of control. Write down your anxious thoughts. In one column, put those thoughts that you have control over. In the other column, put those thoughts that you do not have control over. Take the list that you have control over and work on those things. Rip up the other list.

  4. Say no - It can be very difficult some days to be facing infertility. You do not have to go to every baby shower or every kid’s birthday party. You do not have to join in on every holiday. You get to decide what you can handle that day. You do not have to listen to people’s advice or tips on how they got pregnant. It is okay to say no and to set boundaries.

  5. Be kind to yourself - Going through infertility is not easy. It is very important that you treat yourself kindly through the process-self affirmations, self care, mediation, support groups, counseling. These are all great ways to show yourself kindness through this difficult journey.

    If you are struggling with infertility and anxiety you are not alone. Please contact Kull Counseling, LLC to learn more about coping with anxiety during infertility. 608.239.4807 or julie@kullcounselingmadison.com

#miscarriage matters...my story

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October is pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. I hope that sharing my story may help someone else find comfort and strength.

This Thanksgiving will mark 4 years since I said goodbye to one of the men that I respected most in this world, my grandfather. As the priest mentioned later at his funeral, it was so fitting that he died on Thanksgiving because he was the most thankful and giving man despite facing many challenges in his life. It was difficult to say goodbye to him, and bittersweet, as I had a secret that only my sisters knew, I was pregnant with my second child.

Fast forward 5 days later and I was sitting at the doctor’s office with my husband and one year old waiting for our 8 week ultrasound. I remember thinking how lucky I felt and how it almost did not feel real. I could not wait to show our daughter that she had a sibling on the way.

The doctor’s office confirmed my pregnancy with a blood test, so it was on to the ultrasound. As the tech started to move the wand around she was silent. I looked at the screen and knew immediately that something was wrong. I had seen what a 8 week ultrasound looked like with my first child and I knew this baby did not have a heartbeat. What happened next is a blur of talking with the doctor, crying, and feeling so empty. I will never forget the nurse that sat me down to go over my options with me telling me how sorry she was and that she had had 4 miscarriages. In that moment, hearing her story gave me strength to get through that day.

I decided to wait hoping that the baby would come out naturally on its own. I spent the next few weeks trying to heal and also let go. I went to my grandfather’s funeral, showing little emotion, fearing that any emotion would lead to a breakdown or trigger the miscarriage.

The baby did not come out on its own. The miscarriage took an entire month to complete. It was a month filled with pain, bleeding, and doctor’s appointments.

After the physical symptoms had subsided, the emotional ones had kicked in. Every person that has had a miscarriage is different and everyone reacts differently. I was embarrassed, ashamed and heart broken. I felt like my body had one job in life and it failed. I told a few people in my support circle. Some people were great, some people had a hard time relating. Support came from surprising places. Even with this support I felt really lonely. I looked for resources in the community and nothing was the right fit. Based on the challenges I had finding help in the community, I made a promise to myself that when I was at a place to help others with pregnancy loss that I would. In 2016 I started taking trainings and doing research on psychotherapy and pregnancy loss. In October of 2017 I started offering a support group for miscarriage.

Having a miscarriage can make someone feel so alone. If you or someone that you love has had an early pregnancy loss please share this resource with them. No one should have to go through this alone.

For more information on pregnancy loss or to sign up for the free monthly support group please contact julie@kullcounselingmadison.com or 608.239.4807.