Navigating the Beta Test / (2WW)

Waiting to find out if you are pregnant is stressful, especially after IVF or FET. To keep the beta test result wait from completely taking over your life, make a plan of action in advance. While there is no way to not think about becoming pregnant, it is helpful to find comforting distractions and reduce obsessive thoughts. Most beta test days are typically 10-12 days post-transfer, then there is a secondary wait for the actual beta result, which can seem unbearable.

Use mindfulness to help let go of what you can’t control. You can’t control the outcome, but you can control your response. Find a mantra that helps, such as ‘so far, so good’ or ‘my body is ready to be pregnant’ to ground and center yourself.

Try to control obsessive thoughts re pregnancy symptoms, and resist the urge to take a pregnancy test before your beta hcg test. It’s truly too early to tell.

Stay busy: connect with friends; spend time with your partner not focused on pregnancy; practice calming rituals; do creative projects; deep breathe; get outside into nature; clean your house; or distract with reading fiction or watching relaxing media.

If you find yourself obsessing too much in unhealthy ways, give yourself up to 10 mins/day to structure formal worry time to express or write down all of your worries and then let go and move on with your day.

Sitting in uncertainty is challenging; waiting to find out if you are pregnant after a long infertility journey even more so. Make sure to continue to live your life and be hopeful, open and curious to what may happen next.

Understanding Postpartum Anxiety 

Postpartum anxiety is confusing - it can be hard to distinguish from regular new mom worry. What we look for is severity - has worry completely taken over? Are you unable to relax and enjoy your baby? Are you unable to rest at all? Are you having trouble turning off your brain? Are you worrying about everything? Is it difficult to focus on one thing?  Do you have nervous energy? Do you have a relentless to-do list? Are you ‘present’ but really in your head the whole time? Are you having sleep difficulties due to excessive thoughts? Is your appetite non-existent? Did you quickly lose your pregnancy weight? Do you have perfectionist traits? Are you focused on trying to do everything 'right' (when there is no right way to care for a new baby)? Are family members constantly telling you to just relax or calm down but you can’t?

Postpartum anxiety is experienced by approximately 10 percent of new moms. It can be related to having a history of anxiety before or during pregnancy, or from birth trauma or a newborn health concern. It can be impacted by higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which are present during pregnancy and early postpartum. Postpartum anxiety can be challenging to identify – it often gets grouped under the more commonly known postpartum depression, but is its own maternal mental health concern. It is a common concern in SF - I see more moms with postpartum anxiety in my practice than postpartum depression. One of the biggest regrets I hear from moms with postpartum anxiety is they feel they wasted their maternity leave worrying and constantly doing, rather than just slowing down and being with their baby and enjoying this special time. 

It is not always easy to tell others that you are having scary thoughts or excessive amounts of worry. Please know there is much strength in being open with others about feeling this way. If any of this describes your experience, please reach out for support to help manage these thoughts and stabilize your mood.

I’m glad to see that postpartum anxiety has received more media coverage in the past year. Below are links to some helpful articles.

Postpartum Anxiety Is a Thing—Here’s What to Watch Out For
https://greatist.com/live/postpartum-anxiety-symptoms-and-treatments

This is What It's Like to Have Postpartum Anxiety
https://www.scarymommy.com/postpartum-anxiety-exhaustion/

Postpartum Anxiety Affects 1 in 10 Moms
https://www.vogue.com/article/postpartum-anxiety-vogue-april-2018

The Lonely Terror of Postpartum Anxiety
https://www.thecut.com/2017/08/the-lonely-terror-of-postpartum-anxiety.html

Pregnancy Reading List

I’m often asked about pregnancy books for expectant parents. Here are some helpful resources to check out. 

For Moms-to-Be:

Becoming a Calm Mom: How to Manage Stress & Enjoy the First Year of Motherhood
Deborah Roth Ledley PhD

Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood - and Trusting Yourself and Your Body
Erica Chidi Cohen

The Birth of a Mother
Daniel Stern and Nadia Bruschweiler-Stern

The Mindful Mom-To-Be: A Modern Doula’s Guide to Building a Healthy Foundation from Pregnancy Through Birth
Lori Bregman

Mindful Motherhood: Practical Tools for Staying Sane During Pregnancy and Your Child's First Year
Cassandra Vieten PhD

The Journey to Parenthood: Myths, Reality and What Really Matters
Diana Lynn Barnes

For Dads- and Partners-to-Be:

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be
Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash

Dad’s Expecting Too: Expectant fathers, expectant mothers, new dads and new moms share advice, tips and stories about all the surprises, questions and joys ahead
Harlan Cohen  

Mommies, Daddies, Donors, Surrogates: Answering Tough Questions and Building Strong Families
Diane Ehrensaft 

Confessions of the Other Mother: Non-Biological Lesbian Moms Tell All
Harlyn Aizley

Postpartum Wellness

Let’s focus on maternal mental health. There is much post-birth emphasis on newborn health, but a new mom’s own health is also a priority. Postpartum mood changes affect both biological and adoptive moms. You have to be able to take care of yourself in order to take care of a newborn.

It can be helpful to talk about what you are experiencing as a new mom.

How are you feeling emotionally? Physically?
Is your body healing from the birth?
Are you sleeping? How is your appetite? Are you getting outside?
Who helps at night when the baby wakes?
Are you having any breastfeeding, supply or latch difficulties?
How is your mood? Are you sad or tearful? Are you irritable or angry? Detached and numb?
Are you anxious? What are your worries? Are any of your thoughts scaring you?
How do you feel about your connection to your baby?
Your connection to your partner?
What worries you the most about the way you feel? Does your partner know how you’re feeling? Is there anything you’re holding back from telling others?
How are you taking care of yourself?
Who can you turn to for support?

Many women experience difficulties adjusting to new motherhood. It makes sense; you've never been a new mom caring for a newborn or infant before. New motherhood is filled with transitions, some expected, but also many, many surprises. And cumulative sleep deprivation can wreck havoc. Often moms report that something feels off, but they may not know how to express what they are feeling or worry they may be judged so stay silent.

How can you take care of yourself? Learn about postpartum mood changes and check in with yourself. Ideally during postpartum and pediatric checkups, you will spend some time focusing on your health as a new mom. If not, find friends, family members or a mental health professional who will check in with you. If you’re not feeling like yourself, tell someone. Remember, it’s essential to put on your own oxygen mask first. 

Becoming a Mother

What kind of mother will you be? Becoming a mother is an ongoing process. Each stage of  pregnancy and parenting provides an opportunity to examine your life, your childhood, your relationships, and your hopes or fears around this major life transition.

Maternal identity is fluid and evolves over time. Many moms note that their new identity becomes more grounded as they feel more secure as a mother caring for a baby or young toddler. Here are some questions to consider on your journey to motherhood:

  • Who will my baby be?
  • What are my fantasies or fears around the imagined baby?
  • How will I change as I become a mother?
  • What are my hopes around becoming a mother?  
  • How will my day to day life change as I become a mother?
  • What scares me about becoming a mother?
  • How will my relationship with my partner change?
  • What parts of my own mothering do I appreciate from my childhood?
  • What do I want to leave behind from the way I was parented?
  • How will my identity shift as I move from a daughter role to being a mother myself?
  • How will I reconcile my career identity changes?
  • How do I feel about the physical changes to my body?
  • Who can I turn to for support through all of these changes?

It can be helpful to explore your thoughts and feelings around pregnancy, postpartum and becoming a mother. Make space to consider these changes through journaling, talking it out with your partner or a friend, or meeting with a mental health professional who specializes in perinatal and postpartum health.