Think Positive, Feel Positive

It is common among women living with infertility to experience recurring negative thoughts like -- "I waited too long," and "There must be something wrong with me." Can these thoughts interfere with a woman's ability to conceive and sustain a healthy pregnancy? No direct biological mechanism is likely to exist; however, these thoughts can have a negative impact on a woman's overall mood state by contributing toward feelings of worry, anxiety, sadness and hopelessness. Studies have shown that women with higher levels of distress and depression experience conditions that are less than optimal for conceiving and maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Fortunately, there are very effective techniques to counter recurring negative thoughts. You may want to try the following two-step process of interrupting negative thoughts and then countering them with more neutral and realistic ones.

Let's begin with: Creating Alternative Thoughts. Make a list of your top ten recurrent negative thoughts. Next, take the role of supportive scientist who calmly evaluates all the evidence. Then write down 2-3 alternative responses for each negative thought. For example: Instead of "I waited too long," you might come up with, "I made the best decisions that I could with the information that I had!" And, instead of: "There must be something wrong with me," you might come up with "I am learning more about myself everyday and I try to made sound decisions based on what I know." Once you have your list of alternative statements, begin to use them when the negative thoughts arise.

Now, Step Two: Thought Stopping. While it is nearly impossible to prevent negative thoughts from entering our consciousness, much can be done to interrupt them and shortening their duration. One technique for interrupting them is as soon as you experience a negative idea, say to yourself (either in your head or out loud), "STOP!!!" I also suggest that either in combination with saying "STOP!!!" or as a separate technique conjure up the image of a large, red, stop sign. If the stop sign doesn't work you may want to wear a thin rubber band on your wrist (though not too tight, the idea is to get your attention, not to hurt yourself!) and snap it lightly to interrupt the negative thought process.

After you interrupt the negative thought, you can begin to tell yourself one of the more realistic and positive alternative thoughts that you came up with. Over time, if you methodically use this technique, you can begin to interrupt the negative thoughts sooner and replace them with less distressing ones earlier. This process can positively impact mood and can reduce levels of both distress and depression. Best of luck.

Gayle D. Crespy, Psy.D., Program Director