Dossier: Planning a family

Trouble conceiving: when fun turns to frustration

If a couple has difficulty conceiving, the desire for a child can put the relationship under pressure. Mental health coach Nicole Regli talks about how couples can overcome the crisis together, how body and mind are connected and how to find your way back to more light-heartedness.

Interview: Julie Freudiger; photo: unsplash

How are the men and women who come to you for coaching?

Some are suffering from depression or burnout, others have noticed that they’re obsessed with their desire to have children. Many people come to me because they want to find other ways of dealing with the issue. The unfulfilled desire to have a child can make you feel like your life is on hold. You’re no longer living your own life and don’t enjoy it any more. All your attention is focused on this one desire.

When should someone seek professional help?

It’s not about how long you’ve wanted a child. A 38-year-old women who’s been trying to conceive for four months can experience the same anxiety and sadness as a 28-year-old who’s been trying for five years. You should certainly think about seeking help if your entire daily routine is based around your cycle, if you no longer book holidays and you’ve lost your joie de vivre. But you have to want help. You must be willing to make a change.

Presumably, this can be a longer process?

Some clients conceive after only a few sessions with me, some take around a year, while others never fall pregnant. That’s the difficult thing about wanting a child. We’re used to achieving goals within a specific time period. For example, when we’re planning the next step on the career ladder. But women can never know whether they will ever be mothers. This uncertainty can be frightening.

Which therapies are suitable for which clients?

Any therapy can work with any clients. But it depends on which part of the process they’re in. And they have to ask themselves whether they’re doing something because they believe in it or whether they’re just grasping at straws. Sometimes less is more. Simply doing nothing can also help.

Your coaching sessions also deal with unconscious mental blocks, fears and beliefs that can stand in the way of getting pregnant. What does this involve?

I take an holistic approach to the desire to have a child. It’s not just the quality of the egg cell that influences fertility, but also our psyche and life circumstances. For example, if I believe I have to fight for everything in life, this can have an impact on my desire or ability to have children – but not necessarily so. A difficult mother-daughter relationship can also cause problems. The same applies to traumatic childbirth. However, the desire to have children itself may be the problem, because you’re putting yourself under so much pressure.

How does the coaching work?

I work with my clients to try to get to the root of the problem. This may involve hypnosis, a kind of meditation. Or I ask the woman to draw a picture of her uterus on paper. I recently had a woman who drew her uterus with a lot of holes – she was surprised herself by the image. To work through a difficult parent-child relationship, I look to the family constellation. So, the desire to have a child can be an opportunity for personal development.

How are body and mind connected?

Mental health has an influence on our physical health. Stress and anxiety can trigger physical defence reactions. Today many doctors also believe that relaxation and the psyche have an influence on whether someone can conceive. So many women are now much more willing to consider coaching and alternative forms of therapy. I work closely with doctors.

Do men handle an unfulfilled desire to have children differently?

Men often handle the topic more easily than women. A common problem faced by men is their helplessness in the face of their partner’s emotional state. Often they no longer know how to respond. Women are very sensitive in this phase and misunderstandings happen easily. For example, when a man tries to comfort their partner by saying he can imagine a life without children, she interprets this as him not wanting children at all. As soon as the women feel better emotionally, the men automatically feel better as well. But, of course, not all people are affected in the same way.

How can you overcome this phase as a couple?

Communication is key. Men tend to look for solutions, while women prefer to be comforted. So, women have to communicate their needs clearly and say what they need at any given moment. And they have to ask what their partner needs. And couples also shouldn’t forget that sex is about desire. If the sex is focused solely on ovulation, the joy of making love is lost and sex becomes frustrating. Some men feel they are being used exclusively for breeding.

What’s your tip for relieving the pressure of an unfulfilled desire for children?

Childless couples can feel excluded. Make new friends with people who also have no children and enjoy the spontaneity! It’s important to enjoy life, so ask yourself what you enjoy. What makes you feel good? The better you feel, the better your body feels. I want to help my clients rediscover the joys of life so they can be happy again.

Nicole Regli

Nicole Regli has been working as a coach to help men and women with issues relating to childlessness, pregnancy and birth for over ten years. She also gives seminars, trains coaches on the topics of fertility and birth preparation and is author of the book “Eizellenglück. Vom Frust zur Lust bei unerfülltem Kinderwunsch” (Egg cell lottery: when fun turns to frustration if you can’t conceive). Nicole Regli has four children.