THE last thing Genevieve Morton wanted to hear when she and husband were trying desperately to conceive a baby was: “Relax.”
The well-meaning piece of advice tended to have opposite its intended effect, focusing her attention even more on what was not happening, and adding to the pressure and frustration she already felt at not being able to become a mother.
“I was so stressed,” she said. “It was just such a difficult time. I felt panicked and alone. Just the idea that I'll never have a baby – it was a really confronting time.”
Seeking reassurance during this difficult period, Genevieve would scour the shelves of bookstores for a helpful book but could find nothing to suit.
She found fabulous fertility books written from a medical perspective, but none written from the perspective of a frustrated, want-to-be-parent, so the freelance journalist wrote one herself.
Bump & Grind: The A to Z Survival Guide For When You're Trying to Get Pregnant and Sick of Being Told to RELAX! is the result.
“I thought, ‘I'm not going to leave this experience. I'm going to write something so other people don't feel so alone',” she said.
Now the mother of a 14-month-old son, Rafferty, Genevieve found herself contemplating a lifetime of childlessness at 34.
“We started trying for a baby when I was 34,” she said. “When I turned 35, we realised that it wasn't working and we starting thinking (that) something's going on, something might be wrong.”
After various tests, Genevieve and her husband were diagnosed with unexplained fertility. They considered their options, including IVF, but a trip to a naturopath changed Genevieve's approach to trying to conceive.
“I started looking after my body and heart, and did some meditation ... I was pregnant about three weeks later,” she said.
Sunshine Coast obstetrician, gynaecologist and infertility specialist Dr James Moir said about one-in-six couples experienced fertility problems.
Causes could include age, irregular cycles or unsuccessful sterilisation reversals, while about 20% of fertility problems were unexplained.
Dr Moir, the clinical director of IVF Sunshine Coast, acknowledged that difficulty conceiving could raise various emotional issues for women and their partners.
“There's a certain amount of stress and tension for every couple,” he said. “A, there's the fact that they are infertile and can't have a family, and B, it's stressful going through the whole IVF program.
“Some women do feel very depressed when they see every period.”
Dr Moir said medication to help a woman ovulate more regularly could sometimes assist, while other treatments included artificial insemination or full-blown IVF.
“We would hope that 75-80% of couples would eventually fall pregnant with one treatment or another,” he said.
And then there are always the flukes.
“We see women who might struggle with IVF for a five-year period and go off and forget about it and a year or two later, come back with a spontaneous pregnancy.”
Dr Moir said problems with infertility were increasing as the average age of motherhood increased.
His advice to couples in their 20s, who were struggling to conceive, was to seek help if they did not fall pregnant within a year, while couples in their 30s should seek help after six months if they did not conceive.
Genevieve regards herself as one of the lucky ones. She said people often did not understand what couples struggling to conceive went through unless they had experienced it themselves.
Her advice to well-meaning family and friends is to tread carefully: “This is a very sensitive area. If the person is not talking about it, they are probably trying to keep it private. Don't go there when you're not invited.”
Genevieve's advice to other women who want to become mothers is simple: look after yourself.
Reduce stress, nourish the body, and nourish your relationship.
“Ask yourself how stressed you are,” she said.
“If you are, it really works against you. How much pressure are you feeling? And where can you alleviate that stress that you're placing on yourself?
“Lifestyle has a big impact on fertility. Caffeine, alcohol, smoking. Really look at your lifestyle and see where you can minimise the damage. You might start eating fertility-friendly foods – oats, nuts, leafy greens.
“Nourish your relationships. It's really easy when you're trying to conceive to take it all out on your partner but really, at the end of the day, you're relationship is the most important part of baby-making.
“Take time out that has nothing to do with babies and just have fun together.”
Bump & Grind: the A-Z Survival Guide for When You're Trying to Get Pregnant and Sick and Tired of Being Told to RELAX!, $29.95, is available at bookstores or online at www.finch.com.au.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.