After talking with lots of women experiencing infertility or pregnancy losses, and going through the journey myself, I have become convinced, that once we finally are pregnant, many previously infertile women often experience a sort of infertility post traumatic stress disorder.
I do not in any way wish to minimize the PTSD caused by other tragedies and losses, so please do not be offended. But, for patients experiencing infertility or even secondary infertility, miscarriages and pregnancy losses, I believe some of the same PTSD concepts can be used to help us cope and maybe move on.
Infertility PTSD doesn’t strike all infertile women, and certainly doesn’t affect everyone the same way. But I think it is not uncommon that once a previously infertile woman conceives, there often remains a sense of fear, anxiety and stress around waiting for the bad news that might come, or waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop.
Rather than join the ranks of the happily pregnant women, we sometimes miss out on the early joy of pregnancy because we are so fearful of something going wrong, or are waiting for the possibility getting bad news, that we simply can’t allow ourselves the space to just enjoy being pregnant.
I think this manifests itself in a variety of ways. It may mean that you just don’t tell family and friends for a period of time (I’ve even heard of people not telling until the baby is born!). For some, it is just hard to wrap our head around the fact that we really are pregnant and need to start planning and acting like a pregnant woman. For others, they may choose not to even think about buying baby books, shopping for the nursery, or signing up for online baby resources that track the pregnancy progress.
I think the saddest part is that in experiencing this stress, we often miss out on feeling the true joy of some of the early pregnancy milestones – simply because we are so traumatized and afraid that every appointment will be the one that brings the bad news.
I have certainly personally experienced some of this. At my second ultrasound, I told the doctor to please just check for both heartbeats first, then he could go back and do measurements, etc. – because I just couldn’t hear or comprehend anything he would say to me until I knew both twins still had good heartbeats.
Then, I was so scared when my husband started telling friends about the pregnancy. I kept thinking about how MANY people we would have to face and talk to about it if something bad happened – because I remembered how hard that had been during a previous miscarriage. So, I let that fear prevent me from fully enjoying the excitement of telling our friends.
Although I am sad in retrospect that I missed out a bit on the early pregnancy joy, I am now happy to say that some of my old confidence has returned, and I am beginning to get excited about the pregnancy and the joy that lies ahead.
I am pretty certain that there will be times that my confidence is rocked, but hopefully I will be able to return to the mindset that the future is bright and there are many reasons to be optimistic. After all, are the losses really any less painful just because we anticipated them or worried they may happen? I think not. So, why ruin the time we have by worrying about what might go wrong – I’d rather focus on the likelihood that things will go right!
And for anyone currently in the midst of this – know that you are not alone! If you can, try to find someone who can relate – it may be a therapist who specializes in fertility, or a friend who has been through a similar circumstance. I can assure you, that it is in the sharing of your thoughts (both good and bad) that you may be able to start to overcome the fears and anxiety and move to a place of hope and anticipation.