Despite being thought of as one of the most "natural" things our bodies can do, the reality of trying to get pregnant can be far from easy. Very often it is extremely taxing.
From multiple tries and having to make certain lifestyle changes, to the emotional exhaustion of waiting and hoping and external pressure to conceive depending on your life status, becoming pregnant can take its toll in more ways than one. And that's before the difficulty of fertility issues.
Psychologist Allison Keating joined Jennifer Zamparelli on 2fm to discuss the experience of trying to get pregnant, especially when there are no stated fertility issues.
Allison said she'd seen this come up in therapy often, particularly the pain felt when other people comment on a person's journey to parenthood. "It's the unsolicited advice ... or it's the really hurtful comments, [like] just relax, it'll happen!" she said.
"For women, it feels like a personal failure. And they're already doing all the right things for such a long time. Five years, six years, two years, it's a long, long time."
She also added that people report it putting a strain on their relationships: "Sex can feel robotic if it's timed around fertile periods, so it kind of can take the fun."
She said that "the fun turns into this agony" when women start getting period symptoms that feel the same as pregnancy symptoms such as tender breasts and tiredness, and are crestfallen when their period arrives.
Allison said that the process of timing and waiting for a positive result can start to feel like "a Groundhog Day with loads of dates that you have to be so aware of". "It's just feeling stuck in this really vicious cycle and especially when you're trying so hard and you're doing all the right things."
When it comes to making lifestyle changes, such as eating a cleaner diet or drinking less alcohol to increase your chances of conception, Allison says resentment can arise when one partner isn't doing the same as the other.
"A lot of pre-existing issues in the relationship can come up", she said, which is only exacerbated by hormone treatments one partner might be on.
Allison added that peppering couples or individuals with questions about when they're having a baby causes deep pain, something she wishes we could get out of the habit of doing. "I just wish people would stop. It's not an OK question to ask, because you don't actually know what's going on behind closed doors."
Focusing intently on trying to get pregnant can lead to many people becoming disengaged from their everyday lives and routines, because their attention is so firmly on reaching that milestone. Allison shared her tips for loosening yourself from that cycle and trying to do things that make you happier without feeling guilty.
"I think actually acknowledging how you're feeling", is her first tip. She suggested journalling how you're feeling, which will help validate how you're feeling, then going on to talk to friends and family who are helpful.
"Because some friends are helpful or trying to be helpful but you leave feeling worse, when you get the comments like, 'if you just relax everything will be fine.'"
As Jen acknowledged, journalling would also help people overcome the feeling that this journey has to be secret.
For those who do not become pregnant and continue with their lives without that longed-for child, Allison said this is a "huge loss" and should be acknowledged as such.
"If we think about loss, it is the loss that you have now but it is the future you'd planned for, it's the future you hoped for. So maybe you had this idea or you had a certain number in your head of children you would have hoped to have had."
She again suggested journalling and talking it through with your partner. "If necessary I think it's good to talk through with a therapist individually or as a couple, to process the loss of the child that you'd hoped to have."
To listen to the full interview, click above.
If you have been affected by issues raised in this story, please visit: www.rte.ie/helplines.