Trying to conceive when you are infertile can be consuming and exhausting. The frequent doctor appointments, planning your sexual intimacy, and the mental calisthenics of living life according to your cycle make a huge impact on you and your partner. This impact touches almost every part of your being: physical health, financial status, emotional well-being, and more. It seems perfectly reasonable that you might want to take a break (or several breaks) from infertility treatment, to allow yourself some time to heal.

We talked with several members of our online community. We asked them about the idea of taking a break from infertility treatment. The conversations were intriguing.

We tried the “break” thing.

It seems as if many infertility patients might take a break from the physical act of tracking and logging things like timing of sex, ovulation symptoms, or mental math between cycles. But they didn’t purposely look to break up with the hopes for skipping their period or a “this might be the month!”

I would pretend that I wasn’t trying and wouldn’t test, but when I knew I was ovulating, I would make sure to have sex, and if I was a day late or nauseous, I would jump for joy.

Nope! Still check my calendar… Still hope for missed periods!

No, and this continuing to try even when we’re taking a break is contributing to the stress I actually should be avoiding.

No. I don’t see how you can ever really stop hoping or being aware of your cycle after so many years of tracking it.

5 Sure-Fire Tips for Coping with the Stress of Infertility

I needed some space.

A few took their break a step further by not just trying to break up with scheduled intimacy and regular treatment procedures. They also intentionally sought “mental space” to avoid getting caught up in treatment, hopes, and other emotions. Interestingly the break looked different for a few of them but not at all that different for others.

In the back of my mind, I was still tracking my ovulation, timing our sex, and hoping my period might be a “no show.”

It’s hard once you know your body to not know your body, so you can’t ever not know the signs of ovulation. Sex for us has been spontaneous and fun again since we terminated treatments about 18 months ago.

(Even though my partner and I agreed to the break) I still secretly hoped that all the ignorant folks in our life who told us to “just relax” might just be right. That not trying might just be the secret to getting pregnant.

“Recalculating route.”

A few of the infertility patients discovered that their break turned into something they didn’t expect. And they are okay with the change in direction.

I actually did stop paying attention to what time of the month it was and that was a great relief. So in that sense, yes, we did stop trying. Now that’s not to say that once in a while, I didn’t think to myself, “Oh, this might be a good time to try,” or “I wonder if I might get surprised this month.” But on the whole, I didn’t give it too much attention. I don’t think the abandonment of hope is the point. The difference is the path we’re purposefully walking down now, and the focus and attention we give to that path. For us, that’s adoption. That doesn’t mean we wouldn’t be happy with a pregnancy, but it’s not our focus anymore.

We are on a real break from TTC. We use protection now. I haven’t taken my temperature once since our last loss. I don’t test anymore… I know that at some point in the future, we might decide to try again. For me it helps knowing that we have a list of goals we would have to reach before we considered it. It also helps that we made a deal to NOT get pregnant…

I really needed that!

Finally, several members of our infertility community admitted that while maybe they weren’t sure about it, taking a break was exactly what they needed to move forward. Even if “forward” was in a different direction they envisioned it to be when they started this journey, they found themselves grateful for the movement.

We really did take a break, and it was a huge relief. A few months of not actively trying really saved my sanity.

We are taking the holidays one day at a time, remembering to be thankful for the things that I have and not dwell on the things I don’t, and trying my hardest to stay optimistic and positive for the future.

Honestly, we have taken a break for more than six months and it has been the best thing for my sanity… Now, I feel renewed and ready to tackle the TTC struggle with new hope and energy.

Do YOU need a break?

Infertility is exhausting. Your heart, mind, marriage, and your wallet do need an occasional break. And that break might look different for you than another infertility patient. It might even look different today than it will look in six months. But it’s essential to figure out how to permit yourself to take that break when you need it. First, it’s crucial to recognize some of the signs that you might need a break.

  • You are tired of feeling resentful – of your partner, of others around you who are getting pregnant quickly, of total strangers.
  • You are exhausted at the thought of another round of injections or medications, or even of tracking your ovulation.
  • Your emotions feel frayed all the time, and you freak out, shut down, or melt down about everything and anything. Or nothing at all.
  • Finances are starting to scare you, and you don’t see any way out of the money pit. And you never considered it a money pit before, now that you think about it.
  • Anxiety and depression have become your closest companions. You don’t recognize yourself anymore.
  • Your marriage or partnership is not joyful or loving right now – it just feels like one more chore to “check off” on your list of things for which you are responsible.
  • Not even your favorite escapes, hobbies, or past times are holding interest anymore. You have detached from the things that fulfill you.

These signs are not exhaustive. But if you are deciding whether you need a break, it’s worth considering the list. If you and your partner can have the conversation together, finding the next steps can be good medicine for your relationship. If that conversation is a struggle, consider enlisting an infertility-informed counselor or therapist.

How to find a therapist that specializes in infertility.

You don’t just deserve a break from trying to get pregnant. You might need one to be able to see the path ahead.

Originally published in 2014; Updated and revised 2021
Image Credits: Mingo Haken; edkohler; Michellereyntjens