The Two Week Wait
Let’s do a little biology review so you know exactly what’s happening during the two week wait. Once an egg is released via ovulation, conception happens in the fallopian tubes when a sperm fertilizes the egg. The fertilized egg then descends to the uterus and rapidly divides in a process called cleavage. When it has divided into an organized mass of cells, it is considered a blastocyst.
Approximately 5-6 days after fertilization, the blastocyst implants into the uterine wall. Once it’s safely embedded into the uterus, the early placenta starts producing hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin), the hormone that triggers a pregnancy test to turn positive.
This process is undetectable and you likely will have no idea that it’s happening – or not happening, unfortunately. And that’s what can be so anxiety-producing for many hopeful parents.
Dr. Marisa Perera, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist specializing in fertility, perinatal, and reproductive mental health, explains that it’s totally normal to feel a little freaked out during the two week wait—especially because the outcome is mostly out of your control: “When it comes to trying to get pregnant, our best efforts, like timing baby-making perfectly, following a nutritious diet, exercising, managing stress, and avoiding certain substances, do not guarantee a positive pregnancy result. It is challenging to accept that we don’t have much control over something we highly desire. Tolerating two weeks of uncertainty about the status of that somewhat uncontrollable, highly desired test result naturally brings anxiety.”
You may be experiencing a variety of worries. When should you test? How long will you have to wait to know if you’re pregnant? Will you get pregnant this cycle? What will you do if it doesn’t happen this cycle – or the next, or the next? Is there something else going on? Do you have a fertility issue?
While the what-ifs are completely normal, it can be quite helpful to have some ways to cope with the emotional ups and downs of the two week wait.
Tips to Quieting the Two Week Wait Anxiety
Meditation and mindfulness can be powerful practices as you wait to find out if you’re pregnant or not. Both of these practices can ground you, your body, and your emotions in the present moment—rather than cycling through a list of possible pregnancy symptoms or imagining what you’ll do if you get a positive.
Dr. Perera explains how taking a few moments of mindfulness can benefit you during this time: “Anxiety works by preoccupying the mind with undesired, catastrophic, and often unlikely scenarios about the future. A strategy to combat this is to intentionally focus on your present moment. To do this, label the focus of your thoughts as the past, present, or future. When you notice your thoughts are caught up in the past or future, intentionally guide your attention instead to what is happening in your present moment.”
Meditation and mindfulness are both linked to overall fertility benefits, too—so they’re great to practice well before the two week wait. Meditation can lower cortisol, increase melatonin, and boost dopamine. Some research has linked yoga and meditation to higher progesterone and increased levels of DHEA (a hormone that supports egg health). Other studies have found positive correlations between mindfulness and lower stress for women who have experienced miscarriage, as well as those doing IVF.
As you likely already know, exercise is good for you—both body and mind. Research indicates that moderate exercise is very beneficial for people trying to conceive. A 2012 study as well as one in 2016 both found that moderate exercise is great for almost everyone who is trying to get pregnant.
Gentle movement like walking, stretching, yoga, or pilates might feel appropriate in the luteal phase (as well as in early pregnancy, should it happen for you). Take a hike with a friend, hop on your bike for a low-key ride around the neighborhood, or head to a class at your favorite local fitness studio.
It is safe to do vigorous exercise in the time between ovulation and menstruation—as long as that’s something your body is already used to. If you already lift heavy weights or run 10ks on the regular, it’s fine to keep going on that path, for as long as it feels good for you and your body. Note that the definition of vigorous will vary based on your fitness level, but in general, if you can talk through your workout, it can be considered moderate. Either way, the two week wait isn’t a great time to start a new rigorous routine—keep things in line with your regular level of activity during this period.
Regular exercise can set you up for a healthy pregnancy, too. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends exercise in pregnancy, and some research indicates that regular exercise can lower your chances of gestational diabetes and gestational hypertension, and even increase your chances of a vaginal birth.
Here at Expectful, we offer a host of exercise options, like live and on-demand prenatal fitness classes, pilates, yoga, and stretching. Our offerings are designed specifically for people trying to conceive, expecting, and new moms, so they’re all perfect to try in the two week wait.
The mental and emotional experience of trying to conceive can feel overwhelming at times. So cut yourself some slack—be gentle with yourself during these days and weeks. This can mean building in some extra self-care, taking responsibilities off your plate, and/or communicating with a trusted support person. It can also simply mean accepting your feelings, says Dr. Perera.
“All emotions you feel are valid. Your best bet is to accept how you feel rather than distracting from or trying to change it. In an emotionally uncomfortable moment, practice emotional acceptance by saying to yourself something like “I am anxious, I am worried. Not knowing if I am pregnant when I want to be is uncomfortable, I don’t like it. I also understand this is how things are for me right now and that I cannot change it. I am tolerating my discomfort and will go with what life brings.”
Take An Early Pregnancy Test
You probably have a stack of at-home pregnancy tests waiting in your medicine cabinet. Rather than taking one every day leading up to your predicted menstruation (and squinting to see if there’s a line!), you may opt to take a more trustworthy hGC blood test instead. This uber-accurate form of testing can tell you if you’re pregnant as early as 7 days after conception.
Labcorp has an hCG pregnancy test that you can purchase online without visiting a doctor. . This blood test can help confirm a pregnancy with greater accuracy and earlier in gestation than many at-home OTC pregnancy tests. This test is easy to complete—just purchase online, set up your blood test at a local Labcorp facility, and then the results are delivered to you in a private online portal. No doctor’s orders needed.
If you’d like to shorten your two week wait, a Labcorp hCG test can be a great way to get some peace of mind.
Whatever your result, Expectful is here to help. Our evidence-backed content, calming mindfulness practices and more can help you cope with uncertainty from preconception through motherhood.