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Taking a Break from Trying to Conceive

Deciding to Put Fertility Treatment and Your Pregnancy Goals on Hold


Updated December 25, 2012

Condoms to prevent pregnancy.

Using condoms or another form of birth control may seem odd after experiencing infertility, but it may also be a way to take a true break from trying to conceive stress.

Photo © User LotusHead from Stock.xchng

Taking a break from trying to conceive may seem harder to do than just continuing, but if you can get past the initial anxiety of deciding to take one, you may find the experience healing. As I'm sure you already know, trying to conceive can be emotionally exhausting. You may feel your entire life centers on trying to get pregnant. Taking time away - whether for a couple months or a couple years -- can help lessen your stress levels and give you time to rediscover the rest of your life.

If you're thinking of taking a break, be sure to speak to your doctor about your plans (see why below), and then set some "rules" with your partner so the break gives you what you both need most.

Reasons You May Consider Taking a Break

There are a number of reasons you may decide to take a break from TTC.

  • You're emotionally exhausted. Infertility is associated with depression, anxiety, and high stress. You can (and should!) seek counseling to help cope with infertility, but sometimes, therapy isn't enough and you really need time away to process what you've been through.

  • You need to make a big decision. Whether your big decision involves deciding whether you can afford the testing or treatments recommended by your fertility clinic, or your big decision centers on whether you want to consider donor gametes or surrogacy, taking time away from trying to conceive can help you make a decision that isn't tangled up in your emotions of the moment.

  • You've just experienced a loss. Miscarriage is difficult on your body and your spirit. Even if your doctor signs off on your body being ready to try again, you and your partner are the only ones who can know if you're emotionally ready to jump back in.

  • You feel you need a break. The level of stress you and your partner experience depends on so many things, including your age, your current family situation, your diagnosis, and your personality. If you feel you need a break, speak to your doctor and take one.

  • You're unsure if you should continue treatment. Making the decision to stop pursuing treatments is not easy. If you're not ready to call it quits, but you're also not sure you want to continue, consider taking a temporary break instead. Then, after you've had time to decompress, you can make your decision.

Pros and Cons of Taking a Break

Some of the pros of taking a break include:

  • Time to consider your next step without as much pressure.
  • Time to remember what life is like when you're not sticking yourself with needles or biting your nails during the two week wait.
  • Time to process what you've been through without actively heaping on more TTC stress at the same time.
  • Time to do things you can't normally do when trying to conceive.

Alas, even taking a break can have its downsides. Some of those include:

  • Lost time, especially if you're over 35 or if your cause of infertility worsens with time. (But speak to your doctor before you assume you can't take a break.)
  • More anxiety. Some people would rather just get things over with than prolong the overall experience.
  • Financial loss. For example, if you're in an IVF refund program that requires you to complete a certain number of treatment cycles in a certain period of time to qualify, you could lose money if you take a break before your agreed upon treatment cycles are completed.

How to Take a Break

The first thing to do is speak to your doctor. Ask her if taking a break may lower your chances for success when you start trying again, and if time is a factor, whether a short break is possible. Even two months can help when you're overwhelmed.

Also remember that even if your doctor does say your chances of success will lessen, you need to weigh what's more important in the moment: your need for a break or your theoretical future chances of conceiving. Speaking to a therapist who understands infertility can help you work through this question if you're struggling with it by yourself.

Next, define what "taking a break" means to you. Some couples will decide to "not try but not prevent", meaning they won't be tracking ovulation or going through fertility treatments, but they won't be on birth control either. For others, taking a break means preventing and using some form of birth control. It may seem odd to actively prevent pregnancy after dealing with infertility, but when you're preventing, you won't be left wondering every month if you got pregnant despite not trying.

Lastly, set an end date, or at least a reevaluation date. This is the date you and your partner will discuss whether or not to start trying again. Taking a break is a vacation -- not a final decision to stop treatments for good (which comes with a weightier emotional toll.) Having an agreed upon end date can also lower the amount of arguing between you and your partner if you're not both eager to take a break.

Deciding to Try Again

Remember that only you can decide when you're ready to try again, and it must be a mutual decision between you and your partner. If one of you isn't ready yet, consider talking to a therapist who is familiar with infertility. Having a neutral third party to mediate can help.

More on coping while trying to conceive:

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Fertility
  4. Fertility Treatments: Clomid, Fertility Drugs, IUI, and IVF
  5. Taking a Break from Trying to Conceive (TTC)

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