Should you take a break from trying to conceive?Sep 12, 2022
This is a question I used to ask myself all the time when we were knee deep in our fertility struggles. Should we take a break?
But I never took a break that wasn’t imposed upon me. Even when I suffered a miscarriage. When my body was ready again, even though I told myself I wasn’t really trying, I was. We still had sex at the “right time” and I was always thinking about it. I was hiding it, but who was I kidding? Even saying that out loud makes me a little sad. Because I deserved a break. I needed a break. But I never allowed myself to – for various reasons which I’ll delve into below.
Trying to conceive becomes a habit and an obsession. It may happen at different times for all of us, but for me, it happened as soon as I stopped taking my contraception. I was all in.
Which is of course why that age old advice of “just stop trying” is so ridiculous. You can’t turn it off like it’s a light switch. And why would you do something that’s counter-intuitive to what you’re trying to achieve? It just doesn’t make sense to me. You would never say to someone “just stop trying to get that promotion, and it will happen”, would you?
But if you’re at that stage where you’re hearing that little voice inside you say “perhaps I should take a break”, then I’d encourage you to listen to her. Because that’s your intuition. That’s the inner you, that is screaming for help.
So why don’t we listen to that voice? Why didn’t I listen to that voice when it was screaming at me? Here are a few reasons why we don’t feel like we can take a break.
Firstly, time is ticking away. Our doctors, google, our family or even complete strangers sometimes, are all telling us that our biological clock is ticking and that we’d better hurry up before our eggs wither up and disappear on us. We feel rushed. For some of us, time is not a luxury we can play with.
This is a big hurdle to get over. But what if you took a month off, and it was exactly what you needed to come back refreshed? When you’re running a marathon, you’re allowed to stop for a drinks break, aren’t you? And this is no different. Because for some of us, our fertility journey is certainly a marathon. I have also learned that being “unproductive” is sometimes one of the most productive things we can do.
We also don’t want to take a break, because we want to get off this god-forsaken journey. It’s SO hard, that we feel rushed to get through it. Instead of waiting to recover from a miscarriage or a failed cycle, we jump back in there, desperate for it to end. I get it. We don’t want to be on this journey. You want it to be over. But unfortunately, we don’t know where the finish line is. And for those of us who are running that marathon, we do need to pace ourselves. If we keep sprinting, we may have to retire from the race before we’re ready to. Slow and steady will get you to that finish line, no matter where it is. I learned that the hard way.
Another reason is the fear of “but what if I take the month off, and this was the month that it’s supposed to happen?” What if this is the month where you finally had a good egg come through, and you wasted it? While you know there is very little logic in this line of questioning, it’s still there. I always felt scared to step away, because what if I got out of line and lost my place? Would I have to go to the back of the line and wait again? Or worse still, what if my baby was given to someone else while I was on my break? Yes, this journey can certainly stir up some odd thoughts, but that’s where my brain wandered to on those sleepless nights.
But this is fear. It’s trying to protect us, but instead it’s just keeping us stuck and destroying us in the process. There is no assembly line of babies being given away, and there is no queue that you’re waiting in (because some people don’t even have to line up to get their baby). It’s all bullsh*t.
And finally, it’s the self-imposed stigma attached to taking a break. I was a fighter (and I knew that because people kept telling me how strong I was), so taking some time off to look after myself seemed like weakness. It felt like defeat. And I was not done yet, so I had the attitude that I would put my head down, and push through no matter what. I think a part of me was worried that if I lost momentum, that perhaps it would be harder to get started again. I guess it’s the same as when I ran a half-marathon. I didn’t stop once during that 21km run (well, apart from going to the bathroom and having a quick sip of water), because I figured if I stopped, I’d stop for good.
I understand the fear of taking a break. But I also know first hand of the consequences of NOT taking one. I know the damage it can do to your physical and mental health. And in fact, I think it prolongs the journey even more.
So, what are the benefits of taking a break?
Firstly, think back to what life was like before you started trying to conceive. It was so much easier, wasn’t it? No timed sex, no two-week wait rollercoaster. No doctors’ scans and appointments and worrying about what you’re going to tell work – or feeling guilty for taking time off work. No googling the miracle cure. No putting plans on hold.
You may not even realize this, but your body is probably in a constant state of stress right now. Which is why you’re always exhausted. You’re lacking motivation to do anything. And life seems meaningless – like you’re just treading water.
Are you sick of living your life in two-week intervals? A break can provide a little slice of peace, and make room for rest. It can slow down the constant thoughts, the fears, the rollercoaster of emotions. And you can just be. Even if it’s just for one month. Imagine the reduced pressure.
Secondly, think back to what it was like to have sex with your partner before you started trying to conceive. It was actually fun, wasn’t it? The goal was an orgasm. There was no frustration when they couldn’t perform in the narrow window you provided them. There was no rush. It wasn’t forced or fake. It was natural, and a form of connection. A break means that you can have sex for pleasure, and will give you back that connection you may be craving. And did you know that an orgasm can reduce your stress? Yes, the hormone oxytocin, which is released during orgasm, lowers cortisol levels (which is the main stress hormone).
The simple truth is however, if you’re asking yourself this question right now, you already know the answer. But perhaps instead of an answer, what you’re seeking is permission? A way to get over the mindset hurdles and objections we spoke about above.
If your mind can’t get past the words “I’m taking a break”, let’s reframe it.
What about…… a pause, a refresh, a fertility detox, or a fertility holiday? You are taking a moment to recharge and come back stronger and refreshed.
Think about it – when you’re at work, you’re allocated a certain number of annual leave or vacation days. It’s a legal requirement (well, it is in Australia) to provide that allowance to employees, and for a very good reason. Because you need regular breaks from work – for your mental health. Yes, whatever your job, annual leave or vacation time is essential, because our minds and bodies require a break – and it’s known to actually improve your productivity too.
I don’t know about you, but when I’m working and feeling tired, a simple job that may take me 30 minutes on a good day, will take me 2 hours. But when you take a break or start fresh the next day, you knock it out of the park in an instant.
Your fertility journey can be approached in the same way. Especially if you’ve been trying to conceive for years. A fertility holiday will allow you to come back, and perhaps be even more productive (or fertile). And no, this is not me saying “just go on a holiday”, because that is ridiculous advice too. This is me giving you permission to take a pause.
So perhaps, instead of seeing this break as a waste of time, look at it as a way of saving time. That way you can come back refreshed, clear minded, and ready to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Let’s stop pushing and pushing and fighting and fighting until we fall over. Let’s start taking better care of ourselves. Because you deserve to take care of your mind, body and spirit. Its time we started nurturing and mothering ourselves a little better.
Because you are worthy of rest.
Would you like to know more about how you can work with me, so you can get back control of your life and start moving forward? My 1:1 coaching program is packed with information, tools and support. Find out how you can get on the wait list now.
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