Do you have any advice or words of encouragement for couples who are having difficulty conceiving a child? My spouse and I are both in our mid-thirties. We waited to have children until our careers were established. We've been trying for nearly a year to get pregnant, still without result. Are we doing something wrong? Is God punishing us?
If you've been trying unsuccessfully to have children, it's easy to slip into the mindset that drove Rachel to cry, "Give me children, or I'll die!" (Genesis 30:1). Looking around, you may see women becoming mothers who don't even want children. You may be struck by the unfairness of it all, and, as a result, burdened with bitterness and resentment. You may be struggling with a wide variety of deep and intense emotional issues. Whatever the details of your situation, we want you to know that we understand what you're feeling and going through.
What can you do about it? On the practical side, there are a number of things you can try. If you haven't already, we'd recommend that you see an infertility specialist and get an expert medical evaluation of your situation. After a year of trying, it's probably time to get some outside help and advice. If for some reason or other you don't feel ready to take that step, you may be able to maximize your chances of conception by taking the following actions at home:
- Identify your most fertile time of month. One way to do this is with an ovulation predictor test, available in drugstores. The over-the-counter kit, which has a high degree of accuracy if used correctly, is a seven-day urine test. It signals when ovulation – the time when a woman is most likely to conceive – is probably about to occur. A Basal Body Temperature (BBT) chart is another way to track ovulation. Available from a doctor, a drugstore, or online, this chart and a specially calibrated thermometer are used over a span of several months to discover the wife's ovulation pattern. Still another indicator is the condition of the woman's cervical mucus. Just before ovulation this mucus becomes clearer, more stringy and watery, and similar in consistency to egg whites.
- Take care of your body. Being obese or too thin can make it harder for a woman to conceive. A healthy body before pregnancy increases the likelihood of conception and makes for an easier pregnancy. This of course means nutritious eating, consistent exercise, and seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
- Reduce stress. While it's not true that you'll conceive if you "just relax," stress can hinder the process. It can affect a man's ability to "perform." It can even affect a woman's ability to conceive. So stop putting pressure on yourselves. You may need to take time out from "trying" for a while and just enjoy being a couple.
What if none of this works? What if your doctor tells you that, for physical reasons, pregnancy is simply out of the question for you? In that case, you need to understand that it isn't your fault – that God isn't "punishing" you and that you aren't "inferior" in any way to your friends who are entering into parenthood all around you. You should also be forewarned and prepared to deal with the emotional backlash that you and your spouse are likely to experience – the grief, the anger, the feelings of low-self esteem, and the loneliness that comes when you isolate yourself from pregnant women and couples with kids.
One way to confront these issues is to join a support group for couples dealing with infertility. Sharing your heartache with others who are going through similar trials can be an incredibly healing experience. One such group is Stepping Stones, a ministry of Bethany Christian Services. You can also find secular support groups through RESOLVE, a national infertility support organization with local chapters.
And don't hesitate to call our Counseling department. Our staff is in a position to refer you to support groups, counselors, and qualified Christian therapists who can help you work through the pain of infertility.
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Infertility (resource list)