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Author: Maya Maria Brown, M.A. Counseling Psychology, Relationship Expert

  • 1 in 8 couples struggles to get pregnant, and can face many challenges.

  • There are practical things you can do to support yourself through the process of trying to conceive.

  • Infertility can cause problems in relationships, and each person might approach things differently.

  • It’s important to actively invest in your relationship when trying to get pregnant.

Infertility and trying to get pregnant in relationships

SUMMARY

IN THIS ARTICLE, YOU WILL:

Heads up: this article explores fertility issues, miscarriages and pregnancy. If these are sensitive topics for you, please be sure you have support for yourself in place before reading.

 

I want to acknowledge that this article focuses on men and women who are trying to conceive as partners. Some of the content of this article can apply for same-sex couples, transgender people, single people, multi-partner relationships and other experiences, but it’s important to consider that they might have challenges and aspects of their stories that are not covered in this article.

I was 19 when I first realized I wanted to have kids. The desire to be pregnant and be a mom grew and grew over the years, and 10 years later, I was finally happily married and we were ready to start trying to conceive (or TTC, for short).

 

Listen: I didn’t have any anxiety about getting pregnant. Not at first. We’re taught our whole lives to take all these steps to avoid getting pregnant because one wrong move and BAM! You’re pregnant.

 

And it’s true - we should be very careful if we don’t want to get pregnant. But if we do want to, it’s not always that easy or simple. If you have been trying to get pregnant, I’m with you. I’m going to share my experience and ideas, and hopefully help you out a little.

 

If you don’t know what it’s like to have trouble TTC, understanding what the struggle can feel like can make all the difference to the people in your life who are going through it. Which, believe me, is more people than you think.

Trying to get pregnant

Learning how to deal with not getting pregnant right away

Just imagine what it’s like to try getting pregnant for the first time after years of wanting and waiting.

 

I was excited, hopeful, ready. My husband was cautious, curious and finally also ready. I waited and waited to find out if we were successful, looking forward to that positive pregnancy test and planning how we would announce it to our families. I was giddy with anticipation.

 

Fact: a super healthy couple who gets the timing exactly right only has around a 20% chance of getting pregnant each month.

 

This was news to me. So, the first month that failed hit me hard. That’s when I realized that TTC (again, that’s Trying To Conceive) could be a longer process than I thought.

 

Month after month, I felt the ups and downs of the process. Trying to hold on to hope each month, and feeling the crushing disappointment every time we weren’t successful. I didn’t know how to stop worrying about getting pregnant, and the TTC stress felt heavy and overwhelming.

 

You know what else? All around me were couples getting pregnant. You know what I mean. It seems like every other day, someone announces a pregnancy. Don’t get me wrong - I celebrated every friend and family member who shared their news with joy.

 

But let’s face it: when it seems like everyone else is getting the one thing you want more than anything, and you don’t know why you can’t have it, chances are that it’s going to be tough.

 

Fertility issues and infertility

After TTC for 6 months, many couples start to worry about their chances, but infertility is defined as not getting pregnant after one year of trying. When it comes to infertility, couples can feel like they're the only ones with this challenge.

 

But here’s the truth: while it seems like people are popping out babies left and right, it might shock you to know that 1 in 8 couples struggles to get pregnant.

 

If you’re wondering, “Why is infertility so common?” then you’re not alone. We don’t have all the answers, but we know that infertility in couples results from problems with men and women equally. No matter the reason, fertility problems can be discouraging, and stress and fertility can go hand-in-hand.

 

But what is unexplained infertility? For nearly one third of infertile couples, there is no problem that doctors can detect. Couples with unexplained infertility might not be having sex at the right time, have an underlying issue that isn’t seen, or are just unlucky each month.

 

Either way, there are different kinds of support for infertility, depending on the couple, where they live, and the options available to them.

 

Some of the treatments for infertility are:

 

  • Lifestyle changes

  • Medication

  • Surgery (for things like sperm blockage, endometriosis or fibroids)

  • Fertility drugs

  • Intrauterine insemination (IUI)

  • In vitro fertilization (IVF)

It can be very hard to know how to deal with not getting pregnant. Some of the reasons why you might feel this disappointment are:

 

  • You have wanted to be pregnant or be a parent for a long time

  • You know how much your partner wants to have a child

  • Other people in your life seem to get pregnant easily and often

  • You feel like something is wrong with you because you or your partner are not pregnant yet

  • You have familial, religious or cultural expectations put on you to have a child

  • You timed things in your life in a certain way, and not getting pregnant is affecting your plans

 

Needless to say, the result of these experiences can be crushing. TTC depression is something many people experience, and it can feel impossible to know how to stop obsessing over getting pregnant.

 

I feel the weight of several of those reasons, and have looked for advice for how to be patient while trying to conceive wherever I could. Lots of people have tried to tell me how to relax while trying to get pregnant, but it’s been hard to not feel this disappointment.

 

So what’s the secret?

 

I have worked hard to figure out how to stay positive when trying to conceive. The truth is, it’s still really difficult most days. But from both my personal and professional experience, I can share five ideas that can help those who are struggling to get pregnant:

 

  1. Remember why you are doing this.
    It can be easy for the TTC process to become nothing more than tracking your temperature and ovulation, making sure you eat the right things, having sex at the right time, and agonizing during the waiting time to find out if it worked. But if you can remember why you’re doing this, each step can instead feel like a step towards a really awesome goal.
     

  2. Think of this as part of the pregnancy.
    This is all prep time, getting you ready for the pregnancy and parenting that are to come. The clock doesn’t have to only start when the test is positive. Take this time to be kind to your mind and body, and instead of viewing each passing month as a waste, think of it as a step in the preparation process.
     

  3. Create rituals for yourself.
    Do something kind for yourself on the first day of each new cycle (or “Disappointment Day,” as I so affectionately call it), whether it’s a bubble bath or your favorite dessert or comfort movie. Find things you can do throughout the month that help you feel supported, comforted, present, refreshed or inspired.
     

  4. Find meaning in the small things.
    Try to not miss out on the little pleasures in life, like a sunny day or an extra long hug with your partner. We can easily get swept up in the challenges of TTC, but finding even small glimmers of light can help lift our spirits.
     

  5. Live your full life as a full person.
    As much as we want to plan around a baby coming, we can’t put off the things we want to do “just in case.” Plan that trip, start that new hobby, dream big for yourself as an individual, and you can always change the plans if needed. Remember that you deserve a full life, no matter what happens with the TTC journey.

5 ideas for how to deal with disappointment of not conceiving

For many people who are trying to get pregnant, relationship problems can appear or grow. When TTC, couples can face all kinds of challenges as individuals and as a couple.

 

For example: male performance anxiety when trying to conceive can be really challenging. You know that you only have a few days when you could get pregnant, so it’s important that the man is able to show up to have sex on those days. But that kind of pressure can make it really difficult to do so, and his partner might not understand that and feel frustrated.

 

Or how about this: a couple is trying to get pregnant after a miscarriage. One person is feeling hopeful because they got pregnant before, and is motivated to keep trying. The other is feeling devastated by the loss of the previous pregnancy, and is scared that if they get pregnant again, they could have another miscarriage.

 

A few more examples:

 

  • One partner wants a baby more than the other, so their motivation levels are different.

  • One partner is very emotional through the process, and the other is detached, so they don’t understand each other.

  • One partner has done tons of research and tries to control the whole process, and the other feels stuck and forgotten.

  • One partner wants to tell people in their life that they’re TTC, and the other wants to keep it private.

  • Both partners have different ways of handling stress, so one is trying to reach out to their partner for support, and the other shuts down and wants to be alone.

 

Do you see where I’m going with this?

 

For a couple trying to get pregnant, even if they have a strong relationship, the process can pull them apart. Trying to make a baby can be hard enough; maintaining a positive relationship while doing so can feel impossible.

 

Is it normal for couples to argue every day when TTC? Who knows what’s normal at this point. It turns out that every couple is different.

 

But remember this: there were (hopefully) good things about your relationship before you started TTC. See if you can keep those things front-of-mind. Stick with me for some more ideas on how to have a positive relationship while trying to get pregnant.

Infertility and marriage problems

4 ways to support your relationship while trying to conceive

 
 
 
 

I’ve come across many stories of people struggling when TTC.

 

One woman shared with me that she was fighting with her husband during ovulation every month. Another woman was fighting with her husband during IVF. They were both so tired of trying to get pregnant, and were on edge all the time.

 

Someone else shared she had an unsupportive husband, infertility issues and they were considering breaking up because of infertility.

 

The main thing I see men wondering is “how to support my wife while trying to conceive.”

 

I have put as much energy as I can into supporting my relationship while we are TTC. I have researched, worked with all kinds of people, and tried things out myself.

 

I asked people who are TTC for their ideas for how to support your relationship in the process, and some of the things they shared are:

 

  • Have honest conversations about how we feel

  • Support each other even if we don’t understand each other

  • Enjoy our shared hobbies and interests

  • Remember our life-long commitment to each other

  • Have time apart and be alone sometimes

  • Be close and cuddle throughout the month

  • Focus on our mutual goals

  • Have grace with one another when we’re feeling moody

  • Slow down other parts of our lives to focus on ourselves and our relationship

  • Hear other people’s stories so we know we’re not alone

  • Talk about our feelings with other people so we have more support

 

In addition to this wonderful list, there are four things that the Coupleness app can help couples strengthen their relationships with during this process:

 

  1. Express gratitude for each other on a regular basis. Remember that you’re in this together, and are both trying your best. Plus, feeling gratitude has lots of positive benefits, like feeling more joy and less alone.
     

  2. Stay curious about each other and don’t forget that you’re whole humans. You each still have stories to tell, dreams to share, interests to explore… don’t let the TTC process overshadow who you are.
     

  3. Spend 10 minutes a day talking about something other than the TTC process. This is a twist on the research that shows we should spend 10 minutes a day talking about something other than our kids, work, chores or relationships. Talk about your dreams, reminisce together, ask each other fun questions, or anything else that comes to mind.
     

  4. Check in with yourselves, and share your feelings with each other. Start a daily habit of connecting with yourself, reflecting on your day, and letting your partner know what’s going on with you. This can help you feel more grounded, and closer with each other.

 

So it all comes down to this: many of us feel the rollercoaster of emotions in the TTC process, from hope to disappointment, from connection to loneliness. But we don’t have to lose ourselves in the process, and our relationships don’t need to be casualties of infertility.

 

Taking the time to invest in your relationship and strengthen your connection with your partner can be what carries you through the TTC journey. Because in the end, no matter what happens, you can still have each other.

 
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