by: Dr. Ryan Blazei, Reproductive Psychologist
The Two-Week Wait, or 2WW, is that time between ovulation and the expected date of your next period. No one likes to wait. But when you’re waiting for a positive pregnancy test, waiting can feel tortuous. And, if you’re going through infertility, you’ve likely already been waiting for what feels like way too long. You want it to happen now and you start to wonder if it’ll ever happen. Many feel that the 2WW is the most difficult time in fertility treatments. Usually things we do a lot get easier. Not so when the thing you’re doing is waiting.
So what can you do during the 2WW? First, set a realistic goal for yourself. If you typically experience high stress during your previous 2WW’s, it’s unlikely that you’re going to feel at totally peace during this 2WW. So, instead of trying to make it perfect, try to make it a bit better. Make a goal of trying at least 2 strategies to improve your mood during these weeks. You can’t control what the pregnant test is going to say, but you can control whether you engage in behaviors that have been shown to help your mood. The trick is finding a balance between allowing yourself to feel and process your emotions while also making space in your day for distractions and fun activities.
Strategies for Coping with the 2WW:
Limit the time you spend talking and thinking about the cycle. Some people find it helpful to set a specific time each day (maybe 30 minutes) to think about the cycle, worry about the outcome, and plan for next steps. This could be time spent alone thinking, time spent journaling, or time spent talking with your spouse or close friend. The trick is to only allow yourself to spend this set time on these activities and to stop and move on to another activity when the specified time is up. When you find yourself thinking about the cycle during the day, notice the thought and remind yourself that you’ll be thinking about it later in the day at your specified time.
Don’t allow yourself to indulge in compulsive Internet searching. We’ve all been there. We start searching for one question and then follow link after link until we realize we’ve spent hours online and have more questions and uncertainty than when we started. Many people are drawn to searching for new infertility blogs or articles or message boards looking for success stories to motivate them. While these resources can be excellent sources of support in moderation, many find that they are spending excessive amounts of time reading these during the 2WW. Try making a promise to yourself not to read any infertility or pregnancy articles or blogs during the wait. If you are a person who enjoys perusing the Internet, it may be helpful to come up with a list of non-fertility topics that you can research during this time instead. The goal is to get your mind off of infertility and onto something else during this particularly stressful time.
Help the time move by keeping yourself busy. Purposely schedule several enjoyable activities throughout the two weeks. Activities should be enjoyable and engaging to you and might include getting together with friends, eating out at a favorite restaurant, going out to a movie, visiting a new museum, etc. Try to have something positive to look forward to every few days during the wait.
Use these two weeks to learn and practice relaxation techniques. We all know that the fight or flight response kicks in when we feel frightened or threatened. What many people don’t realize is that chronic stressors like going through infertility treatments can also elicit the flight or flight response and can keep it activated for long stretches of time. Eliciting the relaxation response is one way to break out of the stress cycle. Something as simple as taking a few minutes several times per day to breathe slowly and deeply can induce a relaxation response and can start to lower your stress levels even during times that you are not practicing the breathing techniques.
Modify your thinking. This is certainly easier said than done. But, can you find anything positive about the struggles you’ve gone through? While no one would choose to go through infertility and treatments, is there something that you can take away from this experience that is positive? Many people report that going through infertility has brought them closer with their spouse. Or, they find that they have much more empathy for the struggles that other people go through. Yet others gain strength from a friend who has been down this path before and then hope one day to be able to help someone else in a similar way.
Dr. Ryan Blazei is a licensed psychologist in private practice in Cary, NC. She is a member of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and counsels on infertility and family building options. Dr. Blazei can be reached at [email protected], (919) 720-1452, or www.RyanWBlazeiPhD.com. She also facilitates a free drop-in support group on the second Wednesday of every month from 7pm-8pm in the lobby of Carolina Conceptions. All are welcome to attend.