Infertility and imperfection in the internet age

Infertility and imperfection in the internet age

by Shilini Hemalal, author on The Conception Diaries Shilini Hemalal 2 August 2018

You only need to open up Instagram these days to see what everyone likes to portray as their perfect life. Women in particular often face additional pressure to aspire to perfection well beyond their Insta pics. Everyone wants to be the ideal empowered superwoman who balances motherhood and a career and who, of course, looks amazing doing it!

The incredibly high standard that women are held to in 2018 can be daunting. Dealing with infertility can enhance those pressures. If you are having difficulties starting your family, it might seem like the internet age we live in is constantly shoving fit-mommies and part-time-CEOs-full-time-mamas in your face. Social media inherently encourages the display of individual successes in order to gain the respect and likes of one’s peers. This can, understandably, create stress and anxiety for anyone going through infertility.

The idea that you can do it all is definitely empowering. But the idea that you need to do it all can be quite anxiety-provoking. How exactly do perfectionism, anxiety, and stress play into fertility? Well, in a big way, in fact. It’s important to consider how striving for perfection in your social and family life might itself be contributing to your infertility.

Some women who experience infertility feel they have done everything in their control to achieve pregnancy. You have been monitoring your cycle to a T; you’ve been meticulously precise about taking your hormone injections; your diet is chock-full of all the vitamins and minerals your doctor has recommended; your intimate time with your partner has been penciled in for your most fertile time of the month; you’ve even tried acupuncture; and now your sister’s best friend’s cousin just posted the most adorable pregnancy announcement on Instagram. You might be very frustrated, asking yourself, “Why aren’t I pregnant yet?!”

The internal stress and pressure of trying to meet the very high expectation you have set for yourself to start a family is not conducive to physical or emotional health. The more you try to control your fertility, the more it might begin to feel out of your control. Chronic stress can affect ovulation by altering signals to the hypothalamus, which regulates the hormones that trigger the ovaries to release eggs each month. Women under nonstop stress could ovulate less regularly, making it difficult to determine an exact window of fertility.

So, how can you quell the high expectations and stress that we, as women, put on ourselves to do it all? Here are a few tips:

  • Build a support system.
    Surround yourself with a good support system full of family and friends (not followers) who make you feel that being you, just as you are, is super!
  • Take care.
    Self care is different for everyone. It’s whatever makes you feel revitalized. For example, get proper rest, eat well, and get in some physical activity.
  • Make positive affirmations.
    When things are out of your control and not going your way, it can be easy to dwell on the negatives. Keep note of all the positive aspects of your everyday life and, more importantly, about yourself.
  • Treat yourself.
    Go see a movie. Buy yourself that item that’s been on your wishlist for months. Eat the delicious snack you’ve been craving. You deserve it.
  • Remember that social media isn’t always real.
    Online profiles display a version of people that is flawless. People crop, filter, and pose, and they exaggerate their happiness and success, but that’s not what their life looks like on a regular day.
  • Try not to compare.
    Comparison is the thief of happiness. Keep in mind that the grass always looks greener on the other side.
  • Unfollow.
    The goal of social media is not to make you feel negative about your life. So, if certain individuals are contributing to your stressful vibes, just unfollow or block them as needed — because, let’s get real, you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
  • Take a break from social media.
    The world you see on your screen can get overwhelming. The simplest solution might just be to remove yourself from social media for as long as you need.

Despite what life events you might be experiencing at the moment, remember that you are a superwoman just by doing what you do every day!

Shilini Hemalal, guest author on The Conception Diaries Guest author: Shilini Hemalal is a graduate of the University of Guelph, with a Bachelors in Arts and Science, specializing in Biology and Family & Child Studies. She is currently completing her Masters of Medical Science at the University of Toronto, writing her thesis on the psychosocial aspects of reproductive care. She is an aspiring medical student and future OBGYN.