Two-Week Wait: How to Make It Feel Like a One Week Wait Instead of Two

Written by: Dr. Ashley Eskew MD, MSCI

Edited by: Dr. Will Haas, MD, MBA

Last updated: October 5th, 2021

Woman looking at negative pregnancy test after two-week wait.

Trying to conceive and undergoing infertility treatments can be downright stressful at times, especially when it comes to the 2-week wait. That’s why we’re going to cover some tips to help you not only survive but to thrive. 

Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll discover:

What is the Two-Week Wait?

The 2-week wait refers to the period between ovulation and when an embryo implants.

More specifically, it’s the time until your body produces enough beta-hCG (i.e., the pregnancy hormone) to be detected in the urine or blood when you take a pregnancy test. Beta-hCG is commonly referred to as your “beta” because this is specific to the hormone of pregnancy.

And although it’s just two weeks… it can feel like an eternity when you’re in it. 

What is happening to my body?

Whether it’s the process of natural ovulation, superovulation, fertilization, implantation, or embryo transfer, your body undergoes A LOT of hormonal changes.

Progesterone, the primary hormone that supports pregnancy, starts to increase either from ovarian production (in the case of an ovulatory menstrual cycle) or from supplemental progesterone if you undergo an embryo transfer.

Two Week Wait Symptoms

It’s common to become hyper-aware of all physical sensations and symptoms during this time making you wonder even more…

Is this pregnancy? Or just ALL the hormones?

And even though that question can’t be answered during the wait (no matter how many tests you use), it’s important to understand what’s going on physiologically and why you’re feeling the way you’re feeling.

If you’ve undergone infertility treatments like IVF, then your hormones are likely at an all-time high. This can definitely accentuate baseline PMS-type symptoms. Just remember the goal of supplementing with those extra hormones (typically estrogen and progesterone in the case of embryo transfer) is to enhance your uterine lining and to create an optimal environment that supports a healthy pregnancy.

Unfortunately, these medications can often contribute to increased nausea, bloating, breast tenderness, fatigue, cramping, and even light spotting — all of which can also be experienced early in pregnancy.

These symptoms may also be experienced after using a medication like Clomid or Femara for ovulation induction or maybe experienced each month around the time of ovulation for many women too (even without medications!).

So how do you manage all of these symptoms while your mind is racing over these two weeks? 

Well… 

Let’s dive into what to do AND what not to do while you wait…

What NOT to Do While You Wait

Obsess over pregnancy symptoms

Now that you know ALL the potential symptoms you can experience from the medications designed to support your pregnancy efforts, it’s important to remember that they do not necessarily indicate if you’re pregnant or not. 

We know it’s easier said than done, but try not to fixate on early pregnancy symptoms too much or worry about what it does or does not mean.

If you find yourself obsessing over the little stuff (and who wouldn’t when trying to have a baby), try some simple deep breathing exercises to calm your nerves. We love the 4-7-8 method which is a great way to bring you a sense of inner calm.

One final word about the potential symptoms of pregnancy… If you’ve undergone fertility treatments via egg retrieval and you experience severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, rapid weight gain, decreased urine output, or difficulty breathing you should call your doctor or seek care immediately. These symptoms are more concerning and not considered a normal part of pregnancy or the post-operative state. 

Give into the early testing temptation

Although we are all tempted to do it, taking a home pregnancy test too early can yield false-positive and false-negative results both of which are equally devastating when TTC.

False-positive urine pregnancy tests can result if you are undergoing fertility treatments and take a “trigger shot” to cause egg maturation or ovulation, which include a variety of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) products like Pregnyl, Ovidrel, and Novarel. These can ultimately be detected in a urine pregnancy test for up to 10 days after use.

And while urine pregnancy tests have become more and more sensitive over time, false-negative results happen WAY too frequently to ever rely on them 100% for the initial beta following IVF. 

Remember, urine pregnacy tests (UPTs) are qualitative, meaning they simply tell you YES or NO to the pregnancy question. On the other hand, a serum pregnancy test is qualitative and gives you an actual beta-hCG value. A beta-hCG blood test will always be the most accurate. 

Bottom line, testing too early at home could simply mean one of your key pregnancy hormones isn’t high enough to be detected in your urine yet.

If you find yourself wanting to test early, try to redirect that nervous energy to something that will benefit you both mentally and physically… More on that below! 

Overdo strenuous exercise

Although we fully encourage staying active as a part of your overall physical and mental wellness plan, try not overdo it. If your body isn’t accustomed to running a marathon, now is probably not the best time to decide you’re going to start training.

Or maybe you’re already accustomed to intense exercise. If that’s the case, consider active recovery for the next week or two with lower impact, steady-state exercise to get your blood flowing. Your body is going through a lot physically and hormonally, so it’s important not to overexert it during these two weeks.

At the same time, don’t feel like you have to stay sedentary and lay flat and not move all day. That may ultimately have the opposite effect. 

We recommend speaking with your physician about specific recommendations for exercise immediately following fertility treatment as everyone’s personal circumstances are unique. 

Stay home all week

It is tempting to avoid people and simply stay home all week. However, don’t underestimate the power of leaving your house and sharing quality time with family and friends. 

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a complete homebody. But, it’s important to recognize when that’s a restorative thing or simply restrictive and detrimental to your mental health. 

Be mindful of how alone time is affecting you… 

Sometimes getting out can make all the difference, even if you don’t necessarily want to go out and interact with anyone outside of your home.

Tips to Support Your Mind & Body While you Wait

While there are so many things to be stressed about during this time, emotional coping strategies are critical for both men and women to thrive during this time as well. 

Beyond simple things like nourishing your body with a fertility diet, getting 8 hours of sleep a night, avoiding alcohol, and taking your prenatal multivitamin, there are so many other resources you can tap into to help on the mental and physical side of things that are just as important.

Be kind to yourself… 

First and foremost don’t forget to take care of YOU. 

If any of your usual day to day causes you a significant amount of stress, look at what you can give up for a week. Don’t be hard on yourself for stressing or wondering what the outcome will be… 

If you find yourself stressing over it more than not, try tapping into that 4-7-8 breathing, go on a walk, get outside and get some fresh air, try cooking a new meal, or lean into your support group.

Practice evidence-based relaxation techniques… 

Every individual’s fertility journey is unique and filled with periods of waiting and unknown. 

Developing a mindfulness practice that facilitates peace within the chaos — a way to center yourself during the periods of unknown —  is critical to maintaining your overall quality of life throughout the process.

Behavioral interventions such as meditation and yoga (i.e., ones that focus on increasing mindfulness) have been shown to improve psychological distress and coping strategies in couples undergoing fertility treatment. (1-2)

In looking at data on yoga and fertility specifically, one study of women undergoing IVF treatment demonstrated that as little as one 55-minute yoga practice once a week for six weeks leading up to IVF treatment resulted in significantly improved overall quality of life, emotional and mind-body scores in addition to a significant reduction in anxiety and depression. (3)  In addition to the physical benefits such as increased strength and flexibility, the mental benefits from an increasing inner calm, stress reduction, and overall relaxation can positively impact many areas of life. (4)

Another study used a combined approach emphasizing mindfulness of thoughts and feelings through breath, guided body scans, and hatha yoga which resulted in improved self-compassion, coping strategies, and improved scores in all domains of a validated quality of life assessment (2). 

There are numerous guided meditations available online for free. Apps like Circle and Bloom, Headspace, and Calm are becoming more common and are easily accessible from the privacy and comfort of your own home. 

Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique that has been used for thousands of years. Acupuncture techniques can vary widely but have been increasingly studied for their potential benefit on fertility and fertility treatment outcomes. 

At this point, there are no consistent findings in terms of acupuncture’s impact on pregnancy rates, but data has shown benefit in terms of decreasing anxiety and depression scores particularly in women with PCOS (5). Some women find it to be an incredibly calming and grounding experience.

If you’ve been curious and have been wanting to test the waters, ask your doctor for some recommendations that can be continued into pregnancy as well!

Connect with other fertility warriors… 

A community can be invaluable when going through stressful times especially if others understand exactly what you’re going through…  

Resolve has some great resources and options for local community support groups and forums. If in-person isn’t your thing, there are plenty of online support groups to tap into. It also has tons of other great information and patient resources for support!

On the other hand, if group gatherings or hearing other’s stories leaves you feeling more stressed and in a state of comparing yourself to others, maybe purposely taking a step back would serve you better. Consider leaning into family or close friends or try journaling as a source of support and a healthful outlet. 

There are so many ways to center yourself. 

Find what works for you!

Try something new… 

Periods of waiting are the PERFECT time to try something new. 

It doesn’t have to be dramatic or fancy… just something new to focus your energies on and change your environment a little bit.

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    Start a new tradition of going on a walk after dinner with your partner.

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    Play a new game.

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    Try a new recipe.

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    Work mindfulness practice into your everyday routine.

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    Go on a hike.

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    Take a weekend trip.

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    Watch a movie.

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    Meet up with a friend.

Sometimes just changing things up a little can give you a whole new perspective. 

Trust your body… 

Your body is nothing short of a miracle and capable of so much. If you find yourself stressing about being pregnant or not during the two-week wait or you catch yourself focusing on all the tests and test results… remember just how amazing your body truly is and all that it’s done for you to this point and will continue to do.

6 Tips for Support During the Two-Week Wait

Next Steps If You’re Not Pregnant

If the end of that two-week wait comes and only a single line appears OR you get your period again… know that you are going to be ok.

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    Lean into your partner.

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    Reach out to your closest friend.

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    Make a standing appointment with a therapist or counselor.

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    Follow up with your physician to discuss next steps.

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    Focus on your mindfulness based practices.

Prioritize yourself. 

Take care of yourself. 

Practice self-love. 

Find a fertility affirmation and tape it to your mirror so it’s the first and last thing you see each and every day… Let it be your sign.

Whatever you do, don’t lose hope. 

You’ve got this!

Final Thoughts

The two-week wait is an incredibly stressful part of the fertility journey… when it feels like all you can do is count the days. 

But during those times remember to be compassionate with yourself and to take care of yourself. Take one day at a time and lean on others for support.

Incorporate some of the strategies discussed above to not only survive those two weeks but to thrive in them. You are not alone in this.

With Love & Empowerment,
Dr. Ashley Eskew and Dr. Will Haas

References

  1. Galhardo A, Cunha M, Pinto-Gouveia J. Mindfulness-Based Program for Infertility: efficacy study. Fertil Steril 2013;100:1059-67.

  2. Li J, Long L, Liu Y, He W, Li M. Effects of a mindfulness-based intervention on fertility quality of life and pregnancy rates among women subjected to first in vitro fertilization treatment. Behav Res Ther 2016;77:96-104.

  3. Oron G, Allnutt E, Lackman T, Sokal-Arnon T, Holzer H, Takefman J. A prospective study using Hatha Yoga for stress reduction among women waiting for IVF treatment. Reprod Biomed Online 2015;30:542-8.

  4. Valoriani V, Lotti F, Vanni C, Noci MC, Fontanarosa N, Ferrari G, et al. Hatha-yoga as a psychological adjuvant for women undergoing IVF: a pilot study. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 2014;176:158-62.

  5. Stener-Victorin E, Holm G, Janson PO, Gustafson D, Waern M. Acupuncture and physical exercise for affective symptoms and health-related quality of life in polycystic ovary syndrome: secondary analysis from a randomized controlled trial. BMC Complement Altern Med 2013;13:131.

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