Ever heard of the “two week wait”? That refers to the period of time between your, IUI, or IVF embryo transfer and that ever-nerve-wracking blood pregnancy test. Depending on certain factors, like your average cycle length, your clinic’s protocol, or how many days after retrieval your embryo was transferred, the two week wait might not be exactly two weeks. That being said, whatever the actual length of time, you may spend it feeling like you’re going a little crazy!
The two week wait = basically more of the same
The two week wait can be tortuous. Not only have you likely already been waiting for months, or even years, to become pregnant or have a pregnancy go to term, but you’ve also probably been in tons of other holding patterns throughout this journey.
In other words, even outside of the two week wait, if you’re trying to conceive you’re basically always waiting. Waiting for test results to evaluate your fertility. Waiting to ovulate for timed intercourse. Waiting to get your period so you can start a new cycle. Waiting for your doctor to determine your treatment plan. Waiting for your medication to arrive. Waiting to see how your follicles are developing. Waiting to see how many eggs were retrieved. Waiting to see how many fertilized. Waiting to see if any embryos developed to blastocyst and then, if you’ve opted to test your embryos, to learn how many are chromosomally normal. The list goes on and on.
It’s draining and exhausting to constantly wait for the next piece of information to arrive, anticipating what you might hear. You’ll probably feel anxiety in advance of the actual news, and then, of course, disappointment if it doesn’t meet your hopes and expectations.
The ultimate culmination of this particular brand of purgatory is the final wait to learn if you’re pregnant after a treatment cycle. You’ve likely already invested mightily in this process—financially, emotionally, physically, and mentally. You’ve postponed and cancelled plans, changed your whole life around to accommodate this challenge, and generally been a slave to the process. You’ve been to hell and back, and probably already feel like a human pin cushion by the time you arrive at this point.
What the two week wait actually feels like
One of the hardest parts about the two week wait is trying to read your body for clues as to whether or not this cycle worked. “Are my breasts tender? What was that twinge in my abdomen? If I actually felt it, is it good or bad? Do I feel nauseous? Has my appetite changed? Could that bloat mean I’m pregnant? Is that blood? If it was, is it my period or could it be implantation bleeding? Should I do a home pregnancy test? Will that better prepare me for the news? What does it all mean?!”
During the two week wait, minutes can feel like hours, hours like days, days like weeks, and weeks like months while you wait to have your fate delivered to you. The second week often feels harder than the first, as the reality of finding out whether or not there will be a return on this massive investment looms even closer. Sometimes, you can feel very alone during this wait: perhaps you’ve chosen not to share with certain friends or family to avoid all those awkward questions or having to deliver bad news.
And if you have a partner, that partner might not fully understand what you’re experiencing during the two week wait. Or maybe your partner is able to compartmentalize his or her own feelings more effectively, because your partner is not the one whose body has become a barometer of success or failure. No matter how you slice it, the two week wait is brutal.
15 ways to survive the two week wait
So, what can you do to cope with the anticipatory anxiety and stress of the two week wait? Especially when many of your go-to coping mechanisms, e.g., heavy exercise, an occasional alcohol beverage, or certain foods you may like to indulge in, aren’t currently available to you? Glad you asked—here are our tips:
- Brace yourself. Head into your two week wait knowing it may be incredibly difficult. Acknowledging this will help you feel more prepared to process it.
- Get your crew on board. Prepare your loved ones who do know where you are in your #ttcjourney for the likelihood that the two week wait will be a challenging time for you, complete with instructions or feedback as to how to best support you. Help them help you, even if that means asking them to give you space or not ask you questions about it.
- Make plans you can flake on. If you’ve found in the past that you do better with distractions when dealing with a stressful time, make loose plans during your wait. Just make sure they’re the type of plans that you can easily cancel if you find you aren’t up for them.
- Or...don’t. If, on the other hand, you know you do best without commitments, clear your schedule as much as possible.
- Check yourself. Know that your moods will go up and down and keep in touch with your needs. If you feel like you need a quiet day, give yourself permission to lie under the covers and binge your favorite show. If you feel like you need air, movement, or company, go ahead and take a walk with a friend. Whatever works for you. The two week wait is a highly personal, individual, and customizable experience. Just listen to your heart, head, and body for what they’re telling you they need at any given time.
- Step away from the internet. We know you might be looking for reassurance. However, Googling during the two week wait typically can often lead you down a number of anxiety-ridden rabbit holes, supporting many of your worst fears about what may happen, or providing conflicting “information” that just creates confusion.
- Prep for test day. On the day you know you’ll be getting bloodwork results, think about where you might be, who you’ll be with, and what you might be doing—and prepare accordingly. If there’s a way to orchestrate whatever scenario would feel most helpful to you (whether the result is positive or negative), such as taking the afternoon off of work, try to do it.
- Stay skeptical. Remember that whatever physical sensations you experience during the two week wait aren’t indicative of cycle success or failure. If you’re undergoing fertility treatment, you’re probably on numerous meds that can create changes to your body, and it could be too early for you to actually be symptomatically pregnant. Know that whatever you’re feeling or not feeling, or think you may be feeling, is normal and doesn’t tell you whether or not you’re pregnant. Use this information to comfort you, e.g., “That twinge neither confirms nor denies a pregnancy,” not to create fear, e.g., “Oh no, that definitely means I must not be pregnant!”
- When in doubt, skip the home pregnancy test. Holding up a pregnancy test to the light to see if the faintest line came through? Is the uncertainty killing you yet? Keep in mind, the only way to absolutely know for sure if you’re pregnant at this stage is to do a blood pregnancy test with your doctor.
- Treat yourself. Indulge yourself as much as possible during the two week wait, with whatever works for you (within clinical parameters, of course). The word, “selfish,” doesn’t exist right now. Read what you want, watch what you want, do what feels like it might de-stress you without guilt.
- If there are things that make you feel empowered during the wait, be proactive. There may be certain actions you choose to take during the two week wait that support your emotional needs, and foster a sense of control and agency. If you feel like more of a participant in the two week wait by, for example, eating certain recommended foods, engaging in meditation, regularly doing acupuncture, etc.,go for it. If your doctor has said they are safe, and they help you to feel involved in your process without a sense of obligation, embrace your chosen program.
- Acceptance is key. Validate WHATEVER feelings you may have, and try to love and nurture yourself in ways that feel beneficial and helpful. You’ve already been through so much—you don’t need to feel unnecessary negative emotions! The sadness, fear, sense of loss/grief, anxiety, and disappointment you may have already experienced are enough. If you can, remove guilt by accepting that at this point the outcome is beyond your control and you aren’t to blame if the cycle doesn’t work. Release yourself from self-blame and guilt. There is no such thing as “fault” here.
- Let go of control. During the two week wait, it’s important to remind yourself that you won’t affect the result by feeling certain emotions or doing certain things. You might want to feel in control of the process, so would rather beat yourself up for what you did or didn’t do than accept that the outcome is out of your control. Trust that you’ve already done everything you could possibly do, whatever that looked like for you (there’s no one prescription for making this work!).
- Live in the now. The two week wait can be an anxiety-inducing spiral full of scary stories we tell ourselves, like, “If this doesn’t work, I will be that person who can never get pregnant.” You may want to be emotionally prepared for disappointment, but trust that you’re already well aware of that possibility. The goal is to maintain as much emotional equilibrium as possible during the wait, for YOUR well-being. You deserve it and have earned that right; you are more than just a potential vessel for pregnancy.
- But make a backup plan. Even if you’re taking things one day at a time, feel free to at least plan your very next steps in the event of an unsuccessful cycle. Just as long as you give yourself permission to reevaluate them as soon as you actually know where things stand.
Remember that the two-week wait will inevitably end. It may feel like an eternity, but you will get through it! And you will survive it, because you are even more resilient than you know—just make sure to show yourself lots of love, no matter what the outcome.
Nora Spielman, LCSW is a fertility-focused psychotherapist in Manhattan providing individual and couples counseling throughout family-building and relationship challenges. She has extensive experience helping her clients grapple with a variety of issues, including depression, anxiety, grief, loss, stress-related symptoms, communication problems, professional challenges, and more. Her goal is to help each client learn from and work through obstacles and complications, using tools that can be utilized throughout the rest of their lives. Prior to opening her own private practice, Spielman worked at Columbia University’s Fertility Center, where she oversaw clinic operations, managed physician schedules, and optimized patient experiences. Before that, Spielman worked at Odyssey House, The Manor as a social worker with their Family Center. There, she provided individual and group counseling for up to 55 clients working through a comprehensive residential substance abuse treatment program. With her clients, she aims to teach them effective coping mechanisms to help alleviate some of the strain of family building and, ideally, lead to a period of introspection and personal growth.
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