Last year I empathised with a patient as we coined the term Fertility Fatigue to describe her current state of being. I have since found myself reflecting on this term frequently, as I meet with a constant stream of women ground down and exhausted by the fertility journey. The novelty of trying for a baby wears thin very quickly, after months of disappointing single lines on a pregnancy test. Of course it is harder still for the enduring fertility warrior, who is years down the IVF road.
Mentally, Fertility Fatigue is the constant worry and wondering. It is the relentless obsessing and future planning around whether this cycle works or it doesn’t. It is the ongoing decision making for all the next steps to take. It is all the research needed into everything from diets, supplements, fertility specialists and fertility procedures. It is also the mental juggling of how to fit the endless fertility related appointments into your already busy life.
Emotionally, Fertility Fatigue is tackling disappointment, despair, depression, grief, frustration and having overwhelm as a constant companion. It is the courage faced when handling yet another birth announcement from a friend or work colleague. It is the ability to cope with attending a baby shower or child’s 1st birthday party. It is the difficulty navigating the unsolicited advice well meaning friends and family offer. It is the holding back of tears as you watch a pregnant mum to be rub her belly. It is the anxiety that arises from the Two Week Wait. It is also the toll fertility takes on your relationship, stripping your union of its carefree nature as you struggle to discuss anything other than fertility. It is also the feeling of gradually becoming more and more fragile, and not the happy go lucky soul you were before all this began.
Physically, Fertility Fatigue is coping with the pain of injections and their side effects. It is accepting bloating, weight gain, fatigue, nausea and hot flushes caused by synthetic hormones. It is the exhaustion of waking far too early for morning scans and blood tests. It is the pain of enduring surgical investigations and procedures. It is the terribly swollen ovaries, following egg retrievals. It is also the cramps and heaviness of your period with a failed cycle or miscarriage.
Fertility Fatigue is simply the exhaustion of enduring all of this, while wondering if it will all be worth it in the end. Will your prayers finally be answered? Will you be able to hold a baby of your own after all this struggle?
The majority of women on a fertility journey, eventually feel in varying degrees, burnt out by Fertility Fatigue. So it is important to realise that you are not alone in how you are feeling. You are human, you are not invincible and this may prove to be one of the most difficult chapters of your life.
If you are struggling with Fertility Fatigue try including the following strategies into your week:
- Remember what brought you joy prior to trying to conceive, and re-engage with these activities regularly. Whether it is being creative, reading, walking along the beach or taking a yoga class.
- Recharge by regularly spending time in nature.
- Meditate. If this is not something you are use to, try guided meditations.
- Talk out your feelings with a fertility counsellor or psychologist.
- Organise fun unusual dates with your partner where discussing fertility is prohibited. Try new restaurants, watch a roller derby match or go for a city kayak tour! The more unusual the date is, the more you’ll have to laugh and talk about later.
- Commit to weekly acupuncture as current research shows it is capable of reducing anxiety. (Hullender Rubin, L. et al. 2022)
By adopting some of these strategies into your week, you may find a little of your old self returns. You may find you are not as fatigued by the fertility journey after all.
Hullender Rubin, L. et.al (Feb 2022) Effect of Acupuncture on In Vitro Fertilization Related Anxiety: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Elsevier.