When finding out whether a fertility treatment has worked, two weeks can be a long time. Here are 10 tips to help those Trying To Conceive (TTC) survive the infamous two-week wait.
After a fertility treatment, the desire to find out if it worked can be intense. Are you pregnant now, and finally on your way to fulfilling a long-cherished dream?
Unfortunately, you’d need to wait a little while to find out.
When an embryo is implanted in the uterus, the level of Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) increases in the body, and becomes detectable in blood and urine. This can be picked up in a pregnancy test .
However, it takes time for hCG to increase to levels that would conclusively indicate a pregnancy. This generally takes around 10 days to two weeks . Due to this, couples who are TTC find themselves confronted by the dreaded two-week wait — in some circles, it is also affectionately referred to as TWW.
This is the two weeks after a fertility treatment (or ovulation, for those not using assisted conception) you have to wait before taking an at-home pregnancy test.
Understandably, this may be one of the most anxiety-fraught two weeks of your life. To help you get through this nail-biting period, here are 10 tips to survive through the two-week wait.
1. Keep yourself busy
It’s not just your imagination — time really does seem to pass faster when you’re having fun.
Researchers have found that our internal perception of time speeds up when we experience a release of dopamine, which is triggered when something pleasurable occurs . When examined further, this effect was found to be most pronounced when the object of pleasure elicited goal-seeking behaviour .
Ok, so what does all this gobbledygook mean when it comes to waiting out the two weekends before testing for pregnancy? Well, it suggests that keeping ourselves busy during this period is likely to be useful, but with the caveat of engaging in productive, goal-oriented activities.
In other words, don’t just do something for the sake of doing something. Or worse, force yourself to take on tedious, unappealing tasks. Instead, find something that engages you, elicits good feelings, and can be achieved fairly easily.
For example, instead of simply buying flowers (an act that brings pleasure), try learning floral arrangement, or share your creations in a bouquet-making hobby group (a pleasurable activity that offers engagement and challenge).
The goal here is to keep yourself engaged and focused in order to help time pass faster and reduce opportunities for anxieties and worries to creep in.
2. Pay attention to your mental health
When you’re TTC, you are likely to be under a heavier mental load than usual. Thus, paying attention to your mental health is more important than ever. This means not only being aware of your own thoughts and feelings, but also knowing when to take action or seek relief.
Some warning signs to watch out for include feeling overwhelmed and not being able to cope, feeling highly anxious and stressed, or feeling numb, tired and withdrawn .
Think about it this way: You wouldn’t let a pot deliberately boil over, so why shouldn’t you pay the same attention and care to your own brewing thoughts and emotions? Exactly.
3. Schedule time to obsess
Paradoxically, allowing yourself to obsess over whether conception has taken place or not may be helpful for some — as long as it’s done in a controlled manner.
The idea is to let yourself have a ‘release valve’ to let off steam, which can help you decompress and better manage your feelings. Afterall, it is arguably healthier to let yourself worry for a short period each day, rather than to do so for two entire weeks in a row.
Set aside 15 or 20 minutes each day to allow yourself to worry or obsess over your potential pregnancy in any way you like.
You might compulsively go over your basal body temperature chart, or look up bodily signs and symptoms that indicate fertilisation and implantation has taken place. It could also be something as simple as taking out your calendar and counting down how long before you can take your pregnancy test.
However, once this scheduled ‘obsession time’ is over, stop and get on with your day. Allowing yourself to linger is counter-productive, and could amplify your negative feelings. Remember, the goal is to manage your anxiety and impatience by giving it an outlet.
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4. Set up a support structure
Dealing with fertility challenges can be draining physically and mentally draining. Couples who are finding it difficult to conceive can have higher rates of depression and anxiety, as reported in several studies from different countries around the world .
And let’s not forget that TTC can be expensive, due to the high cost of fertility treatments. In particular, IVF becomes more expensive with age, as more cycles are required the older you are .
All these mean that the quest for a successful pregnancy can be more stressful than expected, and the two-week wait is just a small part of the journey!
As such, it might be prudent to set up a support structure. Besides your primary care provider, you might also find it helpful to find a support group, engage a therapist, or reach out to your close friends and relatives. Having a mix of formal and informal sources of support can cover a greater range of your needs, including those you perhaps never knew you needed.
5. Be selective in who you tell
On a related note, it might be a good idea to be selective about who you tell when you’re trying for a baby.
During a time when emotions can run high, the last thing you need is to receive unsolicited advice from well-meaning-but-thoughtless relatives. Or for a careless colleague to spill the beans all over Instagram, causing you to have to answer awkward questions.
When reaching out to share your burdens, don’t be afraid to screen out anyone who is likely to aggravate you, no matter how close you are. You’re simply protecting your mental and emotional well-being — as you should.
6. Draw up a plan
While counting down the days until you can test for pregnancy, you may be beset by a sense of helplessness. This likely stems from a loss of control, which is common among couples dealing with infertility.
To help counteract this negative feeling, draw up a plan for what to do after the pregnancy test. What should you do if you get a positive result? What are your next steps if the result is negative?
Be as detailed as possible. The more specific your plan is, the more uncertainty you remove from the picture. This will allow you to wait out the two-week period with more calm and confidence.
7. Avoid testing too early
Having to wait a whole 14 days (or one day after your period is definitely late) before taking a pregnancy test can be excruciating. It is understandably tempting to take one a few days earlier. Afterall, what’s the harm, right?
Yes, technically there is no harm taking a pregnancy test earlier than recommended. However, testing too early increases the chances of receiving a false negative result, as the hCG hormone that indicates pregnancy is unlikely to have risen to a high enough level to be picked up yet .
The resulting disappointment could send you on a downward spiral, only for you to discover days or weeks later that you are well and truly pregnant afterall. That’s a roller coaster of emotion that nobody needs!
Our advice? It's better to wait until the right time to take a pregnancy test for the most accurate and reliable results. Afterall, good news is always worth the wait.
8. Stay away from triggers
Given the rich online lives we lead, it can be easy to encounter posts or content that are triggering if you’re TTC. A worrisome headline, an unexpected pregnancy announcement, or an advertisement for baby clothing can lead to unease and other unwanted feelings.
Therefore, it is vital to filter out the messages we receive while enduring the two-week wait (and when trying to get pregnant, for that matter). The same goes for the people in your life, as discussed earlier.
As you wait to take your pregnancy test, stay away from triggers to make a fraught period more manageable and less volatile.
9. Don’t over-analyse signs
Besides a missed period, there are many other common signs of pregnancy, including breast tenderness, nausea and vomiting, increased thirst and fatigue. There may also be digestive issues such as constipation, bloating and cramps .
However, you may recognise that many of these symptoms can also be caused by many other conditions. Or it could just be stress, which may be heightened when TTC .
For an easier time during the two-week wait, resist the urge to go looking for bodily changes that might indicate pregnancy, and certainly don’t over-analyse any that you happen to find.
10. Just let go
When you come to the two-week wait, recognise that there’s really nothing else you can do. At this point, you and your partner have already done what you can, and you simply need to sit back and let nature take its course.
It may also be helpful to zoom out a little. Remind yourself that starting a family or having a child is a marathon, not a sprint. Your pregnancy journey may have more than a few curves and bends than you can foresee at the moment.
What’s important is to keep making strides towards your goal, with guidance and advice from your fertility team. Life is a mystery; you never know when pregnancy may take, until you do.
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