Fertility

How to not give up hope after a negative pregnancy test

Alice Rose  |   15 Aug 2020


Something we don’t always talk about in the trying to conceive community is just how many pregnancy tests we take, the emotions and anxieties that a plastic stick can bring and sadly how many of them turn out to be negative.

We see happy couples getting a BFP (big fat positive) pregnancy test on adverts and then, when we don’t experience the same joy, it can fill us with disappointment, anxiety and sheer heartbreak. Many of us will have been there, desperate to see those two lines for the first time EVER; or perhaps seeing them doesn’t fill you with excitement anymore, because you’re petrified of something going wrong, having experienced baby loss.

A pregnancy test can in itself trigger all kinds of anxieties and, in particular, during the 2WW (two-week-wait), the run up to to taking one after fertility treatment, it can be an all-consuming experience. Having been all too familiar with this scenario personally, we’re keen to promote mindfulness and meditation for all different parts of the fertility journey here at The Ribbon Box – and that includes our relationship with negative tests. So we chatted to the lovely Alice Rose (Fertility Advocate & Podcast Host), who runs mindfulness courses for those struggling with infertility, to give ideas on how to not give up hope.

The pain of a negative test

‘Numb, like my body has failed me yet again’

‘Heartbroken, empty, angry, sick, distraught’

‘Devastated’

‘Like an idiot’

‘Foolish for thinking it would ever be positive’

‘Lump in my stomach, rock in my mouth that I can’t swallow, hopeless, heartbroken. 

’Devastated, angry with all the time, money, emotions and effort wasted’

‘Will it ever happen, what happens if it doesn’t; what did I do wrong?’

‘Earth shattering’

‘Like I’m falling backwards. Back to the starting line again’

’Like the little light of hope has been blown out’

’Like the earth has dropped from under me. I don’t know whether to give in or try and find solid ground’

‘Like I’ve been broken in two’

Crushed. Angry. What’s wrong with my body?’

’Grief for what won’t be…’

These are a tiny fraction of the replies I had on instagram when I asked my followers to tell me what it felt like for them when they saw a negative pregnancy test.

I related to every one of these feelings: the physical, visceral, gut-wrenching emptiness; the pain; the shame; the fear and anxiety; that heart-sinking, awful and terrible grief.

Because that’s what it is: grief. What makes it harder is that the wider world simply doesn’t understand. ‘Ah well, you can try again next month’ might be the cheery reply from a friend or family member, if you choose to confide in them, not comprehending the enormity of what you’re having to deal with, month after month or year after year.

Here are my thoughts on how to cope

First of all, I would invite you to consider reducing the number of pregnancy tests you actually take. I know lots of people like to test as soon as possible after fertility treatment or after trying to conceive naturally, but there are a few reasons why you might want to rethink this plan and follow your fertility clinic’s timelines (if you’re having fertility treatment of course).

Firstly, if you test too early, you might get a confusing result. It might be a false positive if it’s picking up synthetic hormones from your fertility treatment, or it might be a false negative, if there’s not enough pregnancy hormone in your blood yet. So, you’re really not gaining any concrete evidence either way.

Secondly, taking pregnancy tests can cause a traumatic response because of how much fear and anxiety those little sticks have the potential to trigger. So one way to reduce the fear is simply not to take one until you actually need to. Wait for your period to come instead or, if you just need to know, then wait until the official test day, if you can.

Thirdly, it’s so easy to become all-consumed with this and it can become obsessive and compulsive when you keep testing. I’ve soooo been there. I became absolutely neurotic and I was so much happier when I learnt how to stop being so obsessed.

Instead, prepare your mindset by working on how to be present; have loads of things to do during the two week wait (2WW) and really commit to your self-care, setting boundaries around what you will and won’t do with other people, and prioritise your mental health and wellbeing. (You need to work on this every day in my humble opinion! 10 minutes a day will go a really long way to shifting your mindset. My mindset course is perfect for this).

Ways to prepare

It takes some commitment to learn mindfulness and to stay present, so it’s really important to take the time to do this. If you’re in a stronger, healthier mindset, you are going to be in a much better place to deal with whatever the results are. So try to do this before you get to the point where you’ll find out if you’re pregnant or not this time round.

On test day

Most of us will get up first thing and take the test. This is because you’ll read that using ‘first morning urine’ (another thoroughly delightful phrase which you’ll only know if you’re going through this!), is supposedly the most reliable, as it’s the most concentrated. It is also because you just WANT TO KNOW, right?!

Take a few minutes to do a bit of breath work. Breathe in and out, calmly with one hand on your heart and one on your tummy for a few moments. Centre yourself. Remind yourself that you are strong and that whatever happens, you will find the support you need. Repeat this in your head as an affirmation or mantra.

 If the test is negative

  1. Feel your feelings. Cry. Throw the pregnancy test into the bath. Scream into a pillow. Whatever it is you need to do, just do it. Remember that you’ve probably built up hormones from the tension and, with the crushing, crashing disappointment, these are racing through your body. This is not to mention hormones from fertility treatment drugs (like progesterone). They will start to clear soon. But in that moment, there’s just not much else for it but to allow them to be there and not bottle up those feelings.

  2. For the next step, personally I always needed somehow to process the excess energy. So, going for a walk, talking to someone I trusted that would understand and just finding some sort of outlet is really helpful. It might be going to an HIT class, or clearing out a cupboard, but try to find something physical. Sit in your body. You need to take a little bit of time to feel this and grieve.

  3. Rebuilding your confidence, reminding yourself you’re worthy and important, that you’re not a failure, and that the fact this time round it’s negative does not mean it will always be negative, will help you. You can listen to my ‘comfort and strength for a negative test’ meditation, which is full of really useful, helpful words of validation and reminds you that, through being vulnerable, through allowing yourself to be sad, you’re going to start to be able to build up strength again more quickly.

Finally, I want to send out my biggest empathy and love to anyone reading this because you’ve just had a negative test. You’re not foolish to have hoped.

Take care, Alice x

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