An­nal­isa Bar­bieri

I’m wor­ried I can’t get preg­nant

The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents - Send your prob­lem to an­nal­isa.bar­bieri@mac.com. An­nal­isa re­grets she can­not en­ter into per­sonal cor­re­spon­dence

I am 35, mar­ried, with a five-year-old. I have been try­ing to get preg­nant for three-and-a-half years. In that time, I have had a mis­car­riage and an ec­topic preg­nancy, for which I re­ceived non­sur­gi­cal in­ter­ven­tion.

My hus­band has come around to the fact that it may never hap­pen for us again. He seems to ac­cept we may be a fam­ily with just one child, and I want to be able to ac­cept that, too. I know it’s out of my con­trol, but I can’t stop wor­ry­ing. I feel that try­ing to get preg­nant has made me anx­ious and con­trol­ling, and taken much of the joy out of our sex life. I don’t want to be like this and I’m sure the anx­i­ety isn’t help­ing when it comes to our chances of get­ting preg­nant.

I want to be able to fo­cus on my lovely daugh­ter and en­joy her child­hood, in­stead of spend­ing ev­ery month hop­ing and then be­ing hit with dis­ap­point­ment when my pe­riod ar­rives. IVF and other fer­til­ity treat­ments are not a fi­nan­cial op­tion for us, and the doc­tors I’ve spo­ken to don’t seem to think I was high risk for the ec­topic preg­nancy (they don’t think it would hap­pen again). I have been see­ing a ther­a­pist, who is very help­ful.

I’m not ready to stop try­ing for an­other baby al­to­gether, but I would love to hear your ad­vice on ways to stop stress­ing about it so much.

I think try­ing to stop stress­ing about some­thing that matters so much to you is ask­ing a lot, and maybe you need to al­low your­self to be who you are at this time. Some women find it helps to take a break from try­ing to con­ceive (TTC), dur­ing which time they “let them­selves off the hook”; oth­ers can’t do this, be­cause they worry even more that they might have got preg­nant dur­ing that time. For peo­ple like me (an over­thinker), it’s the “what ifs” that screw me up, and if I can min­imise those, then I can re­duce some of the stress and anx­i­ety. What I like are facts, which I can use as a spring­board to an in­formed choice.

I con­tacted Cather­ine Hill from the Fer­til­ity Net­work (fer­til­i­tynet­workuk.org). The FN deals with all as­pects of in/fer­til­ity, and Hill has per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence of in­fer­til­ity. “Sec­ondary in­fer­til­ity [af­ter hav­ing a child] can be ev­ery bit as painful as pri­mary in­fer­til­ity,” she said. “And, un­like pri­mary in­fer­til­ity, you of­ten don’t have ac­cess to NHS test­ing and can’t get NHS-funded fer­til­ity treat­ment.”

Hill also felt that hav­ing some more con­crete in­for­ma­tion (in­so­far as you can get it) may help you. You don’t say whether you’ve had any tests. Your GP can ad­vise if any are avail­able on the NHS. If there are none, you might want to con­sider hav­ing them pri­vately (tests cost a lot less than fer­til­ity treat­ments); con­tact the Hu­man Fer­til­i­sa­tion & Em­bry­ol­ogy Au­thor­ity (hfea.gov.uk) to find a clinic. Also, has your hus­band had his sperm count checked?

For­give me for men­tion­ing this, but I’d kick my­self if I didn’t: are you fully aware of the signs of ovu­la­tion? There’s a great book called Tak­ing Charge Of Your Fer­til­ity, by Toni Weschler, which I rec­om­mend.

You say you feel alone, but how much have you let your hus­band into this? How hon­est does he feel he can be, and how hon­est are you with each other? Some­times cou­ples in this sit­u­a­tion are afraid to say what they feel for all sorts of rea­sons, per­haps be­cause they try to se­cond guess what the other wants, or don’t want to ap­pear needy. Your hus­band could be wor­ried about the im­pact an­other preg­nancy may have on you. The sex can be­come me­chan­i­cal when you are TTC, but don’t worry now. It is what it has to be. “If you did de­cide not to go ahead try­ing to con­ceive,” Hill ad­vises, “you need to grieve for the child you never had.”

I’m glad you’re hav­ing ther­apy. For any­one else in this sit­u­a­tion, the Bri­tish In­fer­til­ity Coun­selling As­so­ci­a­tion ( bica.net) has lists of coun­sel­lors; the FN also has a sup­port line (0121-323 5025), which is staffed by a former fer­til­ity nurse and trained coun­sel­lor, as well as sup­port groups.

You don’t have to give up, if you don’t want to; but I think you need to take con­trol where you can. Try to un­der­stand what’s go­ing on with your (and your hus­band’s) fer­til­ity. I’m sure you’ve thought of all the usual things such as med­i­ta­tion, yoga and ex­er­cise to help you re­lax (they do help). Talk to peo­ple who have been in your sit­u­a­tion – their viewpoint may be in­valu­able. I’d love to hear what oth­ers in this sit­u­a­tion found ben­e­fi­cial: please post your com­ments on­line

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