How to handle the two week long waiting period between the embryo transfer and taking a pregnancy test.
The so-called “2 Week Wait” (2WW) is a two week waiting period between a fertility treatment, like an embryo transfer or an intrauterine insemination (IUI), and taking a pregnancy test. We have to wait for what seems like forever to find out whether the treatment worked and if we have successfully conceived or not. For me, this waiting period was filled with all kinds of emotions, stress, lack of sleep, anxiety and all sorts of ups and downs.
After the last few very busy weeks, it felt great to spend two whole days in bed doing nothing, just being cosy at home, sleeping whenever I wanted to, reading or watching a movie. However, this relaxing feeling did not last very long. It quickly turned out that relaxing and doing nothing was not the best strategy for me. My thoughts started to race all over the place and I began to focus on all the possible signals of my body that would indicate or somehow point to the outcome of our treatment.
In the early days of fertility treatments, doctors recommended strict bed rest for the entire two weeks after an embryo transfer. In fact, the women were not even supposed to stand up for a long time after the procedure and had to be transported to a hospital bed. Fortunately, that is no longer the case.
Doctors advise rest and taking it easy in general, but complete bed rest is neither necessary nor recommended.
The reason why doctors do not recommend bed rest after the fertility treatments is quite simple. Physical inactivity combined with high levels of oestrogen can promote the formation of blood clots. These blood clots can restrict blood flow to the embryo and may negatively affect the foetal development. Currently, it is advised to do light activities, such as yoga or going for walks.
However, there are still recommendation for the 2WW:
- Avoid sexual intercourse, as it can trigger uterine contractions which can disrupt the embryo or worse impair the process of implantation.
- Avoid intense forms of exercise, but as I mentioned earlier, going for a walk, light stretching or doing yoga (not hot yoga!) can be beneficial.
- Do not drink alcohol as you might already be pregnant, alcohol is a well-known teratogen (an exogen agent that causes an abnormality in fetal development).
The physical side is easy to handle. However, the mental side is a completely different story. I am very lucky that I can work from home but I found that it is not a good thing for me during the two week wait. My thoughts were all over the place thinking about the possible outcomes of the treatment. All of my hopes and dreams were rushing through my mind, just to be replaced by my fears and anxiety just a few moments later. I had to figure out a strategy that would help me overcome my busy mind.
Here is the list that we received after one of our preparation sessions where we learnt about how to handle our emotions during the 2 week wait. Some of the tips were very helpful!
Plan your day ahead
The best advice on the list was this one. Do not give yourself too much extra time for just wandering around and letting your thoughts take over your mind. They are looking for every opportunity to confuse you and make you anxious. Do not let them take over.
Do something creative
Releasing creative energy was another tip that helped me out mentally. I started to take an online aquarelle course, which was one of my plans for a long time but I never got around to it. It kept my mind busy and it made me happy at the same time. If you are not into arts and crafts, don’t worry. Even learning how to cook a new recipe and baking something fun and creative will do the trick as well. I also started practising yoga every day. Not too much, just 20 minutes a day followed by 10 minutes of meditation. It helped me a lot to relax my body and my mind at the same time. I did not register for a specific class, I just followed a few tutorial videos that I found online.
Take a short trip
Because the first weekend during the 2WW passed by way too slowly, we decided to go on a little trip during the second weekend. It was great to spend a little bit of quality time together further away from home. We did not do anything fancy, we just spent a lot of time in nature, walking around and enjoying some great food.
If you feel like you might be getting into a negative emotional spiral, do some microprograms. Go to the cinema to catch a fun movie (if you become pregnant, going to the cinema will not be the most ideal activity because of the constant urge to pee) or call an old friend. You don’t have to talk about your fertility treatments. Just talking about other good things that are happening in your life and hearing stories from your friend will ease your mind and will allow you to let go of your racing thoughts.
These tips helped handle my thoughts during the 2 week wait. Of course, all of us are different and other things can be beneficial for someone else, so make sure that you always listen to your body and mind!