A fertility journey can be a really exciting time – but it can also be a time of stress and anxiety. For many couples trying to conceive the ‘Two Week Wait’ can be the most anxiety-inducing time period. Here we’ll explain exactly what the two-week wait is and some ways you can reduce stress for you and your partner during this time.
What is the two-week wait?
The ‘two-week wait’ refers to the time between ovulation and the due date of your partner’s next period. This is usually around 14 days – although it can vary depending on your average menstrual cycle length or if there are conditions like PCOS at play, which can cause irregular cycles.
The best time to have sex when trying to conceive is around ovulation which is usually around the midpoint of the menstrual cycle. It’s possible to get pregnant if you have sex a few days before ovulation – as sperm can live inside the female body for around 5 days – or just after, as the egg will live for around 24 hours after it has been released. You can learn more about the best time to have sex whilst trying to conceive here.
A late period is the best indicator of a possible pregnancy – which will usually happen around 14 days from the time of ovulation – and it’s recommended you take your first pregnancy test on the first day of a missed period – hence the two-week waiting time!
The two-week wait and fertility treatment
If you are trying to conceive through assisted fertility treatment, there is still usually a two week wait to get a positive pregnancy test result. If you are trying through artificial insemination (IUI) the process and wait time is largely the same, as you will inseminate around the time of ovulation.
However if you are going through ICSI or IVF, your embryo transfer will usually take place around 5 days after ovulation. An embryo transfer doesn’t technically mean you are pregnant – this can only be confirmed once the embryo has implanted and a blood test is usually taken around two weeks after the transfer has occurred.
The issue with early pregnancy testing
The lack of control we feel during the Two Week Wait can make it very tempting to take a test earlier, but this should be avoided. Pregnancy tests work by detecting human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG. This is a hormone that is only released once an egg is fertilised and implants in the lining of the uterus. It usually takes around 6-7 days for the egg to implant and up to two weeks for the hCG to be at detectable levels.
The time hCG becomes detectable is also usually around the time that you would expect to see the next period, if a pregnancy didn’t happen. That’s why most at-home pregnancy tests recommend that you wait until the first day of your missed period to take a test. There are some tests that claim to be able to detect hCG much earlier – but their accuracy is often debated.
Early testing can result in both false negatives and false positives – and this can be really hard to handle and not great for your mental wellbeing. If you test too early, even if you are pregnant, the hCG levels might not be high enough to be detected and you may get a negative result (and the disappointment that comes with it).
It is also possible to get false positives – especially if you are going through assisted fertility treatment. During procedures like IUI and IVF patients are often given a ‘trigger’ shot to support and encourage ovulation. These shots are often a powerful combination of hormones and some contain hCG. If you test too early and the hCG from the trigger shot it is still in your system, it can result in a false positive.
Anxiety and the two-week wait
It’s tempting to test early because the Two Week Wait can be a time of great anxiety and anticipation. If you are at the start of your fertility journey it might feel exciting – but if you have been trying for a while, you might find it quite triggering. The lack of control and the ‘not knowing’ can be very hard to deal with – and you might find yourself distracted or spiraling into negative thought patterns. If you’re feeling like this you are not alone!
How to reduce the stress of the two-week wait
As with every stage of your fertility journey, it’s important to try and reduce stress as much as possible during the Two Week Wait – for both your mental and physical health. Here are our tips on reducing anxiety during the two-week wait – for both you and your partner.
Understand symptom spotting
If you are the non-birthing partner, it can be hard to understand what it feels like to be pregnant – or to think you could be pregnant! Some people experience early symptoms of pregnancy before they receive a positive pregnancy test, these can include:
- Painful cramping
- Tender or swollen breasts
The problem is that these are also common symptoms of a period approaching. In the luteal phase (the phase of the menstrual cycle following ovulation) our body is not sure if we are pregnant or not. That’s why it produces progesterone – the hormone that supports early pregnancy (and also causes premenstrual symptoms). If you are going through assisted fertility treatment, you will likely have been given extra progesterone in the lead up to transfer – which can make these symptoms even more exacerbated.
These confusing symptoms can add to the anxiety and frustration of the Two Week Wait and it might be something your partner needs support with. Try to listen to their concerns and thoughts but also encourage them to take their mind off things, which leads us to our next piece of advice…
Plan healthy dates
If you and your partner are hoping you are pregnant, it’s likely that you’re trying to look after your health as much as possible during this time – particularly if you’re the person who is potentially pregnant! However, that doesn’t mean you have to sit at home, counting down the days until you can take a pregnancy test.
Now is a great time to plan some healthy dates. They give you an opportunity to nurture your relationship and spending time doing things you enjoy can help to distract you from the waiting and wondering.
Plan some dates that don’t involve alcohol and try to get out in nature if the weather allows! Maybe you could go for a gentle hike, a relaxing sea swim or a calming yoga class or sound bath. Or if you fancy getting a little creative you could attend an art or cooking class together – something that focuses your mind on something else other than baby making for a few hours.
Talk About Your Feelings
This is a hugely underrated way to be a better partner during the Two Week Wait. If your partner is the one experiencing symptoms, concerns, worries or anxiety, they may be very vocal about it. But how are you feeling about the whole thing?
It’s really important to express your feelings during a fertility journey. Not only will it help you personally, but it will also help your partner feel less alone and more seen and understood. You may think that bottling your emotions up is being ‘strong’ for your partner but in reality they will probably welcome hearing you talk about your emotions – and remind them that you’re in this together.
The two week wait can be stressful – but if you and your partner communicate your needs, make time for each other and try to support your mental and physical health, you’ll get through it – either ready to try again if things don’t work out or celebrate the happiness of a positive pregnancy test!