Deciding to have kids is one of the biggest decisions someone can make outside of like, getting bangs. And while sex ed made it seem like you’ll get pregnant the first time you have sex, that’s not exactly how it goes for most couples.
“For some, conception can be a short road and for others, it can be a longer journey,” says Banafsheh Kashani, M.D., a double board-certified OB/GYN and reproductive endocrinology/infertility specialist. And if you’re not a part of the “we got magically pregnant the first time we didn’t use birth control” club, trying to conceive (or “TTC” as the fertility community calls it) can be extremely time-consuming and stressful. That, my friends, is where fertility trackers come in.
Why do you need trackers? Glad you asked. You see, there’s a decent chance it’ll be a little before you conjure up a positive pregnancy test. According to board-certified OB/GYN, Shieva Ghofrany, M.D., taking up to 12 months for healthy couples under the age of 35 to get pregnant is completely normal. “Couples should not get worried or feel that they *have* to see a fertility doctor unless it brings them peace of mind,” she says. “If you’re 35+, try for up to six months before seeking help.”
Fertility trackers come into the picture because they help pinpoint when you’re ovulating so you have the best shot of getting pregnant each month. This can shorten the length of time you’re trying because you’re literally making sure all the odds are in your favor.
But before throwing the best suggestions your way, we’ve enlisted the experts to answer a couple of the most pressing TTC questions so you don’t have to spend endless hours in pregnancy forums, attempting to decipher answers from people who can’t spell!
When, Exactly, Can Someone Get Pregnant?
Okay, so first things first, Dr. Kashani says you can, in theory, get pregnant at any time during your menstrual cycle, even during or just after your period. This is because sperm can live up to five days (maybe even more) after having sex, and depending on when you ovulate that month, well, you do the math.
That said, most people ovulate (the process where a mature egg travels down the fallopian tube to, potentially, be fertilized) sometime between 12 and 16 days after their period starts. While you might think you should just have sex on the day of ovulation, that’s actually not your best bet for putting a bun in the oven. Instead, Dr. Shieva says you want to time sex to happen during your fertile window to give your egg the best shot of meeting a little spermy. This window—which spans the five days leading up to ovulation, ovulation day, and the day after—is when you can actually conceive.
So How Can I Tell When I’m Ovulating?
With all of the importance being placed on the mythical ovulation date, figuring out when that happens is sort of key here. Physically, Dr. Kashani says you might feel period-like symptoms along the lines of cramps, breast tenderness, bloating, and headaches when you ovulate. Dr. Shieva also adds that your discharge might get a little tackier in the days leading up to ovulation and on the day of.
Truthfully, though, it’s sometimes hard to figure out WTF your body is saying. Is the headache because you’re ovulating or because you haven’t had any water for the last three hours? Are your boobs sore or is that just what it feels like to have boobs? To take some of the guesswork out of things, people use—you guessed it—fertility trackers and ovulation tools to better determine when their egg is making its monthly escape.
The 9 Best “Trying to Conceive” Products On the Market
If you’re trying to get pregnant, ovulation trackers and fertility products are, hands down, the best beginning tools out there. While these aren’t a fix-all, they will give you the best shot each month to either a) get you knocked up or b) give your doctor more information as to the next best steps to take.
And as someone who personally struggled to conceive after a miscarriage, I tried just about every device, supplement, and test imaginable before getting pregnant again. Ranging from wearable trackers to daily cookies that boost your system, here are the best TTC products that’ll give you a little bit of control during an extremely vulnerable time.
Best Fertility Thermometer: Daysy
Easy to use and totally non-invasive, special oral thermometers designed to track your basal body temperature are one of the simplest ways to accurately detect your fertile window. “Your temperature rises by approximately 1/2 a degree to 1 degree just after ovulation,” explains Dr. Kashani. “This occurs after the oocyte (egg) is released from the ovary, and as the ovary starts producing a hormone called progesterone.”
Technically, the Daysy thermometer can be used as contraception or for TTC, which means you can get multiple uses out of the device depending on where you’re at in life. Basically, you take your temperature the second you wake up—like before getting out of bed—and it tells you whether you’re fertile, possibly fertile, or not fertile that day. Daysy pairs with a (free!) app that charts your data, making it easy to see patterns in your cycle. It was this chart, in fact, that made me (rightfully) suspect I was pregnant again because instead of dropping on the day I should have gotten my period, my temperate remained elevated. Cool, right?
Best Wearable Fertility Tracker: Ava
If you don’t think you’ll remember to take your temperature at the same time every day, or you want even more science involved to doubly make sure you’re ovulating, Ava is for you. This celebrity-beloved, FDA-cleared tracker analyzes five different data points to decipher your fertile window, ovulation day, and when your period will start. It can also confirm whether or not you’re actually ovulating (some people have anovulatory cycles where no egg is released), which is important info you can take with you to the doctor.
It’s also the easiest to use since Ava looks like any other fitness tracker. You literally just put it on your wrist at night, go to sleep, and take it off in the morning. It monitors things like your temperature, your heart rate (which elevates during ovulation), and your breathing rate, and puts all the info on an easy-to-understand—and well-explained—graph in the app. This device also had me rightfully suspecting I was pregnant since it kept pushing out my “expected” period date.
Best Fertility Testing Kit: Modern Fertility
As previously mentioned, it can take up to a year for healthy couples under the age of 35 to conceive. That said, after a few months, you might be getting restless and start googling fertility clinics near you. Instead of spending all that time and money before you even know if it’s necessary, try a home fertility testing kit—like this one from Modern Fertility—first.
These work similarly to tests you’d get done in a lab, but they’re way cheaper and more convenient. This one involves collecting a blood sample at home (like, a few drops) and sending it off to check for the most important hormones involved in fertility. After a few days (which is way faster than tests from a standard clinic), you get your results and the option to talk to a specialist to go over them. Depending on what your report shows, Dr. Kashani says this can give your doctor insight on whether to move forward with other tests, take some proactive measures, and/or prescribe medications like progesterone supplements to help you sustain a pregnancy.
Best Ovulation Testing Kit: [email protected] Ovulation Test Strips
LH stips—which measure the levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your pee—are one of the best, most cost-effective tracking tools out there. Essentially, 24 hours before you ovulate, there’s a sudden surge of LH in your system, Dr. Shieva explains. “When you see the LH strips detect the elevation of LH, you want to have sex so the sperm is waiting for the egg.”
This pack was suggested to me when I was TTC, and it’s great because it comes with a whopping 50 test trips and 20 pregnancy tests. Since you want to start testing a few days after your period (because you might ovulate on a different day each month), you don’t feel like you’re wasting every last cent if you blow through a dozen or so sticks per cycle. You just want to make sure to track at the same time daily (or twice daily) to ensure you don’t miss your window!
Best Fertility Lube: Preseed
One little fact that you likely didn’t know is that using lube and TTC doesn’t exactly mix. “Lubricants that have ingredients like petroleum, propylene glycol, glycerin, parabens, silicone, and Nonoxynol-9 that can affect sperm motility,” explains Dr. Kashani. That doesn’t mean you can’t use *any* lube (which is good, because lube makes sex so much better). You just have to be particular about what you reach for.
The good news is that there are lubes specifically designed to help couples conceive by supporting sperm quality and mobility. Both Dr. Shieva and Dr. Kashani recommend Pre-Seed, and it gets my stamp of approval as well. I got pregnant the first month I used this stuff. Whether that was a coincidence or not, we’ll never know. But since sex without lube isn’t for me, Pre-Seed was a game changer in more ways than one.
Best Fertility Tracking App: Ovia
If you want a place to keep track of all your testing information—like LH results and basal body temps—you’ll likely want to use a fertility tracking app. Ovia uses an algorithm to predict your period and fertile window, plus it tells you when to take a pregnancy test (so you don’t waste a million when you’re actually too early to test but can’t help yourself). It promotes helpful articles and tips depending on where you’re at in your cycle, and it helps you track symptoms to decipher between PMS and a potential pregnancy.
What I really loved about the app, though, is that it’s completely free to use so you won’t hit any annoying paywalls. And if you have insurance with a major provider, it can unlock additional features like coaches and specialists who can answer all your questions and send you personalized resources.
Best Prenatal Vitamin: Nature Made Prenatal Multi + DHA
The best time to start taking a prenatal vitamin is in the months prior to trying to get pregnant. This is because your body needs time to soak up those nutrients and get ready for all that growing it’ll do with a baby.
While there are a zillion options out there, Nature Made Prenatal Multi + DHA is a standard favorite. You can find it in almost any store, it’s easy to take, and it’s got pretty much everything you need from folate to omega-3 to B12. The best part is you only have to take one soft pill a day (others require up to 8!) so even if you hate taking medicine, choking it down before bed is simple enough.
Best Fertility Support Snacks: Agni
For me, trying to get pregnant was an endless cycle of hope, sadness, frustration, and exhaustion. So when I came across a snack pack that was made to “support the building blocks of fertility,” I got two on the spot. The Agni Fertility Box contains treats made from ingredients that promote hormone balance, restful sleep, and digestion, all essential to fertility and ovulation.
Also, hi, the snacks are good. The box came with chocolate cookies I had to fight my husband over and a refreshing tea that actually calmed me TF down whenever I’d see another pregnancy post on Instagram. Unless you eat everything at once (which *is* possible), the box lasts a cycle which makes it easy to time for reorder…which I guarantee you’ll want to do.
Best Pregnancy Tests: First Response Comfort Check Pregnancy Test
The only thing that seems to happen most when TCC—more than sex and more than hate stalking everyone with a bump—is pregnancy tests. Even when you know it’s too early, even when you feel your period coming, it’s impossible to ignore the little voice in your head that says “maybe this month.” That’s how we all end up taking a zillion tests before getting a single positive.
For this reason, Dr. Kashani suggests First Response’s Comfort Check Test Kit because it comes with eight tests per pack which should last you at least two if not three cycles, depending on how much self-control you have. First Response is also more sensitive than some of the cheaper HG strips, so you’ll find out earlier when you do conceive. Praise be.
Ultimately, trying to get pregnant is a rollercoaster for many couples. If you experience infertility, know you’re not alone. By using the tools at your disposal and being an advocate for your own reproductive health, you’ll be closer than ever to posting the sonogram picture of your dreams.
Featured image courtesy of Ava Women.
This November, my wife and I checked off a depressing anniversary: one year of trying for a baby. As two halves of a same-sex marriage, both of us women, we’ve been in doctor’s offices for the past year undergoing IUI, or intrauterine insemination. A year might not sound like a long time in that sense, but in terms of money and effort and knowing we’ve had perfectly timed attempts again and again, it feels like an eternity. When we first started this process, technically there was no “infertility” diagnosis; we were just a same-sex couple who always knew we’d at least need assistance in acquiring sperm, if nothing else, or so we thought. But it’s become more complicated than that.
The procedure of IUI is performed in a doctor’s office. The short story of what happens is that when your body is ready for ovulation, which can mean medications for days before that to stimulate the ovaries, an injection is performed that prompts ovulation and you release one or more eggs depending on how many have grown to maturity (typically one, but sometimes more on medication). About a day after that injection is given, a doctor uses a speculum to open the cervix and a catheter (flexible, tubey thing) to insert the sperm directly into the uterus, not just into the vagina. So fun! The goal is for those sperm to swim up into the Fallopian tube, meet the egg, and then for the fertilized egg to descend, implant in the uterus and grow. We are using donor sperm purchased through a sperm bank, which is pricey and can be hard to acquire (our donor has a waitlist that took us months to get on), so we decided to basically get straight into a fertility center to make sure we had professional, medical support as we tried to conceive.
It’s hard to talk about this process for a variety of reasons; mostly, because it hasn’t worked yet, but also because trying to have a baby is incredibly personal no matter how you go about it. It’s intimate and important whether you’re at home or in a doctor’s office. Also, most stories of infertility are told at the end, after success has been achieved. I want to share from the middle, the dead center of the mess, still trying to navigate through the storm. We’re not at the finish line yet and I don’t know how long it’ll take or what method will finally get us to the other side, where we get to become parents. I’ve stopped trying to guess. But this isn’t a situation that is valid only once you’ve achieved the goal. We’re in the hard part, and that’s an important perspective to be standing in. We are in crying-on-the-couch, going-through-it mode. We always knew we would need some help getting pregnant since we’re both women and lack “access to sperm,” as our doctor hilariously put it, but we were not prepared for the length of time it’s taken, the ups and downs of the process along the way, and how much of the unknown we would face that I had absolutely no concept of before we started.
The Doctors Know A Lot, But Not Everything
Even with two uteruses, great doctors, and good odds, every case is different and the treatments aren’t foolproof. There is a lot of guesswork involved about how your body will respond to certain treatments and hormones and it doesn’t always happen the way you, or your doctor, expect. Even with drugs, and ultrasounds, and doctors we trust, we’ve had round after round of failed intrauterine inseminations. And the worst part is that, most of the time, the exact reason why is unknown. It could be the egg, or an insufficient uterine lining, or something else entirely. The egg could have been fertilized but failed to implant, or the egg and sperm could have failed to fertilize at all. Even when you know the exact day of ovulation, the size of the follicle down to the millimeter, or the precise thickness of the uterine lining, the reason it still doesn’t work isn’t always clear. It can take time and a lot of effort to create the perfectly balanced cocktail of medications, timing, and internal environment to make things work, and there are more factors than I ever realized.
The Roller Coaster Your Month Will Become
It’s not just the infamous TWW that’s difficult, which is the two-week waiting period after insemination is performed when you’re waiting to get, or miss, your period. There are doctor’s visits to check your follicles to make sure they’re maturing at the right rate, evaluate uterine lining levels, and did I mention every single one of those visits involves a vaginal ultrasound? None of this is happening in those cute abdominal ultrasounds like in the movies where they squeal and giggle because the gel is too cold. It’s way too early on for abdominal ultrasounds, which means every single appointment, there’s a probe inserted vaginally. The doctors are good at it, but even so, it’s like having a Pap smear three times a week. Most people don’t even mention that part in the struggle to get pregnant, which is a testament to the fucking strength of people with uteruses. It’s such a hard process already that being subjected to invasive vaginal examinations day in and day out just becomes part of the gig. But I’ll tell you about it, because I’m not tough, and I love to complain. And it’s not just uncomfortable and inconvenient: it’s an upheaval of your whole day-to-day life. I kind of just thought we’d live normally, come in on the day of insemination, and then get pregnant and move on. And for some people I’m sure that’s true, but not for us. There are consults and tests, and meds that work and meds that don’t, and then appointments and procedures, and more tests. Each little piece of news, good or bad, can derail your day, or week, or month.
Expect The Unexpected
If someone had told me that after a year of attempts, we’d be moving on to other even more expensive, invasive methods because no one was pregnant yet, I would have cackled. Two healthy women, both under the age of 30 when we started, using high-quality donor sperm. It seemed like we’d get pregnant in the first few rounds. Then, we didn’t, and half a year had somehow passed by. We had another unwelcome surprise when blood tests and ultrasounds diagnosed me with PCOS, which stands for polycystic ovary syndrome, and can manifest in different ways but for me tends to result in my body ovulating on a very irregular schedule, or not at all, which means I need more help getting pregnant and probably would even if I were in a straight relationship. We always knew we’d need sperm, but to need this much medical help in trying to conceive is unexpected. And those are big picture surprises. Smaller picture, there have also been roadblocks. One medication resulted in me developing between four and six mature follicles, which is so many my cycle was nearly canceled. Another medication resulted in me having an ideal uterine lining measurement for pregnancy, but no follicles ready to release a mature egg, so back to square one we went, reversing all the gains made in my uterus in the process. Every person with a uterus is different, and while I may be especially tricky, I have been consistently and genuinely surprised by how difficult it’s been to wrangle my cycle and my body. Coming into this with an admittedly casual mindset, adjusting to the big picture reality as well as riding the smaller waves, has been intense.
The Most Difficult Part Isn’t The Money, Although That Part Does Suck
You know the quote, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? That sums up going through infertility treatments. It’s the biggest leap of faith out there. You are trying to make something out of basically nothing, or at the very least, out of microscopic body parts you can’t even see, and then hoping it sticks. You are trying to create actual life over and over again. And when it doesn’t work, that loss is felt like just that: a loss. You technically can’t lose something you never had, but that carved-out feeling of pain is still there as the future you’re trying so hard to move toward just takes another step away from you. The more times you try, the harder it is, because you start having to deal with problems you could easily avoid if you were already pregnant. Just shipping donor sperm to our clinic alone costs hundreds of dollars. Ordering new medications for another attempt. Trying to calculate how much sperm is left, how many more vials we’ll need, trying not to panic at how many we’ve gone through already just in the process of trying, with nothing to show for it until someone is pregnant. There’s no moving on to the next step of our lives until we can surmount this one. If we were already pregnant, we could start thinking about buying baby stuff and telling our families and moving on to the fun parts. Instead, every negative test is like a step backward. It means another try, another month—at least—of money and time and procedures. Yet, we do it. We try again and again. And I’m proud every time. It’s brave to try again where you’ve just failed. If I’d known how long this would take and how complicated it’s been, I might have been afraid to try at all. A lot of the adjustment has just been accepting that I don’t know when it’s going to happen or when it’s going to work. There is some comfort in knowing we’re doing the best we can.
My wife said the other day that you cling on to the good stories, the ones you hear about where couples get pregnant the first try or early on, and you push the bad ones away and just hope your story will be one of the easy ones. I’ve lost faith many times this year and there have been times it felt like I was free-falling into an abyss. What I’ve tried to remember is that we are not on the edge of a cliff. We’re on a bridge. We’re taking steps to get to the other side. That’s sometimes all you can do.
Image: Sergey Filimonov /Stocksy.com
“The pregnancy is not developing. I’m sorry.” I sat on the exam table, masked, alone, and completely bewildered by what I’d just heard. Of course, I’d always known this was a possibility. Hell, I’d spent weeks avoiding friends and family members and keeping my pregnancy a secret because it was still early. But “knowing” and knowing are two very different things. We all “know” that pregnancy loss happens. Just a couple of weeks ago, Chrissy Teigen bravely shared with the world that she lost her baby after experiencing complications with her pregnancy. Yet many were shocked or uncomfortable that Teigen revealed something so personal in such detail, confirming that stories like hers are still too often spoken about in hushed tones. I for one am over this. October 15th is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, and in keeping with the spirit of the day, I’d like to share what I’ve learned after going through my own miscarriage.
It’s Surprisingly Common
Miscarriages are the most common cause of pregnancy loss, and they happen frequently. The statistics vary, but some tell us that about 10-20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, while others state that the rate is as high as 1 in 4. Anecdotally, it feels like it’s even more than that. Once I decided to open up and share my experience with other people, I started hearing so many others’ stories of pregnancy loss. If it hasn’t happened to the friends I’ve told, it’s happened to one of their friends or family members. While I’d never wish my experience on anyone, it’s comforting to know that I’m in the company of so many other strong and accomplished women.
Talking About It Helps
When I first learned my pregnancy wasn’t viable, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to share it with anyone beyond my closest friends and family members, for a couple of reasons. First, the experience can be hard to put into words. I barely had time to acclimate to the changes in my body and my identity before suddenly they were rendered obsolete. And yet, I was devastated, grieving for something that barely was. The abrupt shift was jarring, maddening, and totally disorienting. How do you explain that to someone who’s never been through it?
I was also afraid of burdening those around me with the news. It seemed strange to reach out, only to share something so awful. But then I had a revelation. I’d spent weeks isolating myself from the people I cared about when I was pregnant and it was anxiety-producing and depressing. Why double down on behavior that wasn’t serving me in the first place when I actually needed people? So much of pregnancy is shrouded in secrecy. Well-meaning secrecy, perhaps, but secrecy nonetheless. And those secrets were making me sick. Once I decided to open up to my family, friends, and therapist, I was overwhelmed by the love and support I received, which is just what I needed to start healing.
It’s Not Pretty
I think the main reason we don’t talk openly about pregnancy loss is because it doesn’t jibe with the picture-perfect ideal of motherhood that we expect women to uphold. Motherhood is supposed to be pretty and, above all, easy. The content on social media seems to confirm this. After all, it’s much more pleasant to post a joyful pregnancy announcement or serene maternity shot than it is to share the gruesome details of your D&C. Don’t get me wrong: we absolutely should celebrate the happy moments, especially during a time when we’re all looking for a glimmer of hope. But the ideal of motherhood is just that. It doesn’t tell the whole story, especially when so many women struggle with loss and infertility.
The ugly physical side effects that accompany a miscarriage are almost nothing compared to the emotional ones. Grief is already a non-linear process, but as the hormones produced during pregnancy begin to leave the body you may very well feel like you’re losing your mind. In my case, I’d go from moments where I was watching my favorite trash on Bravo and laughing like old times, to moments where my anxiety would take hold, convincing me that I’d never be able to have a child, and leaving me curled up on my couch in hysterics. One study found that one in six women who miscarry suffer long-term PTSD. Symptoms like these are invisible and insidious, exacerbating the anxiety and depression that underly an already traumatic experience. The hopelessness can feel so real you take it as fact, even though it’s not.
It Takes Time To Heal
If you’d spoken to me in the first week or two following my miscarriage, I’d have told you that I didn’t know if I would ever recover. But somewhere around week three, as I confided in friends and family, made peace with the fact that this happened to me, and let go of the shame, I started to feel like myself again. The key is to allow yourself time to feel better. We’re all built differently, and dwelling on how you “should” and “shouldn’t” be feeling is useless. Acknowledging your pain and letting yourself feel it is essential to the healing process.
Ask For What You Need
Just like it’s okay to let yourself feel the pain, it’s okay to ask for what you need from loved ones. It’s not uncommon for there to be a disconnect in the grief experienced by the person who lost the pregnancy and the partner who cares, but doesn’t fully understand what the other is going through on a physical and emotional level. While some resentment is natural, it helps to model the behavior you’re looking for by asking, compassionately, for some compassion. The same goes for friends and family members who don’t know what to say and may not understand that silence isn’t always golden. If you want to talk about it, let them know and explain that a safe space to air your feelings is all you’re looking for.
This rule also goes for your medical care. If your doctor isn’t showing you the care and empathy you deserve after a pregnancy loss, there’s nothing wrong with looking for a new doctor. The doctor-patient relationship during a pregnancy is a long and intimate one, and it’s important that you and your doctor are on the same page about the kind of care you need to feel safe and comfortable.
Pregnancy loss is heart-wrenching, but it’s not insurmountable. Talk to those you trust and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. There’s strength in laying bare your weaknesses. While I have no idea what the road ahead looks like, I’m grateful I don’t have to walk it alone.
Image: Kinga Cichewicz / Unsplash
When we were in college (or high school, I don’t know your life), getting your period after a month of fooling around was the equivalent of Christmas morning. There was no better feeling than knowing you wouldn’t have to be a teen mom (without the reality show to boost you into Instagram stardom) and wouldn’t have to take care of a tiny creature that needs you all the time. Funny enough, now that some of us may be actually TRYING to get pregnant, it seems like the whole thing is, well, kind of not that easy. I wish we’d all known that back when we were ripping our hair out praying for our periods to come so that Frank the Tank from TKE wasn’t about to be the father of our unborn child.
Why is it that despite years of being careful with pills, Plan B, condoms, and the whole pharmacy aisle of family planning products for years, some people find themselves having a really tough time actually getting pregnant now that they WANT to have a kid? Here are some facts you might not know about getting pregnant.
1. It Can Take Up To A Year
Shockingly, a lot of couples trying to get pregnant won’t succeed on try number one. Although I myself am a freak of nature and this rule doesn’t apply to me (Betch Baby—out December 2019), according to WebMD and Dr. Robert Stillman, medical director of Shady Grove Fertility Centers in the Washington, D.C., area, about 85% of couples take one year to put a bun in the oven. “The average time it takes to conceive, for instance, is about six months, and women under 35 should wait until they’ve tried for a year before they consider calling their doctor or a fertility specialist with concerns.” So if you’re good with the idea of getting pregnant, don’t bank on getting it done in the first try. Give yourself six months to a year of tracking and trying before you start freaking out, k? There’s nothing wrong with you.
2. There Are No Tricks
Even though your mom may have sworn by being strapped upside down in moon boots (did we all throw up together), there are no “tricks” to getting pregnant. You know what will get you pregnant? Sperm fertilizing your egg. Boom. Magic. WebMD says, “There’s still only one way to get pregnant—by a sperm fertilizing the woman’s egg, which can happen for only about 12 to 24 hours after ovulation—approximately 14 days before the end of a woman’s monthly cycle. Ovulation sometimes can be harder to predict if a woman’s cycles are irregular. And for women who are getting older, monthly cycles first get shorter, then longer the closer they get to menopause.”
So, the big takeaway here is that even if your neighbor swore by mud masks and hypnosis, your bestie claims she was able to get pregnant because she only has sex in the morning on Wednesdays, and your mom tells you to invest in a water bed, the only thing that’ll get you pregnant is the right sperm at the right time.
3. Being Healthy Counts
Being overweight, underweight, or having little to no exercise routine (or healthy eating habits) can all affect how easy or hard it is for you to get pregnant. Today’s Parent says that being over or under weight (and anywhere above a 25% BMI) can greatly affect your chances of getting pregnant. For example, if you’re way under where you should be, weight-wise, your body may not be ovulating properly (which may explain why your periods are so irregular). On the flip side, if you’re overweight, that can affect your hormones balance, which can reduce fertility. And, while you may think that fertility treatments can help, they can actually be less effective for obese individuals. So, before you even jump into getting pregnant, make sure you’re healthy, kids.
4. We’re All Waiting Longer To Have Kids
…And that isn’t a bad thing! Having kids after age 30 means you’re out of your wild 20s stage and are (probably) somewhat more responsible. However, waiting longer means that you won’t have as easy of a time actually getting pregnant compared to your 19-year-old Mormon neighbor who seems to pop out a kid every other month.
According to The Bump, “a woman’s fertility starts to decline gradually at age 27 and then it drops dramatically after age 35. And while there are fertility treatments that can help couples conceive, they’re less likely to work if the patient is older.” So, yeah, you may see that a celebrity got pregnant at 48 or whatever, but don’t think that the rules didn’t apply to them or that they didn’t seek outside treatment or help in conceiving. We’re at our top fertility between 25-30, so once you pass that, your chances of getting pregnant start dropping each year. That isn’t to freak you out, it’s just to keep in mind if you’ve been dating the same guy for seven years and you’re about to hit 31 and he STILL won’t even talk about whether or not he wants kids.
5. Stress Is Sabotaging You
Not shockingly, the more you try and the more you don’t get pregnant, the more you’re likely to be stressed out and start feeling majorly negative vibes. You may ask yourself, “what’s wrong with me?” and feel like literally everyone around is getting pregnant in a snap while you’re a year in with no baby. A lot of fertility doctors are now recommending acupuncture, yoga, and meditation for women trying to get pregnant, since a crazy-high stress level is totally linked to an inability to conceive. “‘Some people truly have medical issues keeping them from getting pregnant,'” says Shahin Ghadir, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist and founding partner of Southern California Reproductive Center for The Bump. “‘But for others, when they relax and feel confident that they’re in good hands , things change. You can’t prove it, but I’ve seen miracles happen when people’s stress levels change.'” So do that meditation class. Go out for a walk. Book a 90-minute massage. Relaxing and trusting that you’re doing everything you need to do and taking care of yourself can work wonders.
6. Your Cycle Is Complicated
You may have thought you had a really good handle on how long your cycle is, when you ovulate, and what days you’re most fertile but, you could be wrong. Everyone seems to think that their specific cycle is 28 to 32 days long, right? Sorta. That can vary big time according to your personal genetic makeup. On top of that, most women think their ovulation date—the time they’re most fertile and likely to conceive—is exactly two weeks before the start of their period. Again, that can vary according to your cycle, which a new study helped shed some major light on.
According to Today’s Parent, the best way to tell when you’re ACTUALLY ovulating is to buy an ovulation monitoring device and check exactly when you’re at peak performance. On top of that, don’t freak out if you can’t or didn’t bone on your ovulation day. Sperm can live in your cervix for three days (I am SO DISGUSTED BY THIS), so even if you do the dirty on or around your ovulation day (especially before) you have a good chance of getting pregnant. Lastly, although your actual cycle can make you more lubed up down there or run dry depending on the month, try not to use lubricants. They can actually work against you and prevent you getting pregnant.
Images: Luma Pimentel, Unsplash; Giphy (6)
Growing up in a small town in Texas, all I wanted to do was to tell stories. In elementary school, while other girls planned pretend weddings, my twin sister, Heather, and I made up elaborate tales involving our imaginary friends, two middle-aged hobos. In middle school, I scribbled ideas in floral embroidered journals and wrote some truly terrible poetry. But a community production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat changed everything. I fell in love with acting and was accepted into a theater conservatory in New York City. While friends were falling in love, getting married and having children, I was laser-focused on my career.
With that came something I never anticipated: judgment about my life choices. At my father’s funeral, extended family seemed disappointed when they learned I was single and childless. I was twenty-one. I laughed off their “you still have time” comments and focused on my studies. After several years in New York, I moved to Los Angeles, and landed my dream job: working as a TV writer. I even published two crime novels.
While my career was taking off, I fell in love, married David, a handsome British tennis coach, and adopted Stevie, our adorable rescue pup. We were together for almost ten years when we decided to start a family. To our surprise, less than two months later, I was pregnant.
My first thought was, “oh crap. I’m not ready.” Then the morning sickness kicked in. I can’t say it was pleasant, but suddenly this baby was real and I wanted it. I kept imagining how it would feel to hold my child in my arms. I already knew my husband would make a great father, but I couldn’t wait to see him in action.
It all seemed too easy…and it was. At our first appointment, David and I sat in the doctor’s office, her smile fading, her body language drawing inward as she stared at the ultrasound. She’d delivered this news before, but her disappointment didn’t sound practiced. “The fetus is too small,” she said. There were other terms I’d never heard before. Missed miscarriage. Silent abortion. None of them good. “Come back in a week,” she advised. I went home, and disappeared into a Google black hole, praying that the mommy blogs offering hopeful stories of miracle babies would be my fate.
The evening before my follow-up with the doctor, I began hemorrhaging. David found me passed out on the bathroom floor. He called an ambulance, and I was rushed to the ER. The events that followed next were the kind of brutal feminine business us Texas ladies don’t discuss in proper company. Kind-faced doctors and nurses appeared, IVs were drawn, pain meds administered, ultrasounds ordered, and tearful “I love yous” whispered. The operating room greeted me with its bright lights, and then nothing but blackness. I woke a few hours later, stitched together, but not quite whole.
We did not immediately start “trying” (a word my sister hates, which means I have to use it!) again. I needed time to recover emotionally, and then work commitments kept me and David on opposite coasts for several months. Five months later, my mother died and I found myself consumed with grief. I’d lost my anchor, and was heartbroken knowing that my child would never meet her grandmother.
It was soul-crushing, but we decided to start again. My OB suggested additional tests to make sure we were both healthy, and discovered several small fibroids and cysts on my uterus, something previously undiagnosed. A hysteroscopy was scheduled, a relatively simple outpatient procedure that offered up a clean bill of health. Until a week later, when I began to hemorrhage at home and found myself experiencing a terrible case of déjà vu: bleeding out, an ambulance ride to the ER, and emergency surgery. I was given another clean bill of health, and yet still no baby.
Last year, we finally began consulting with a fertility specialist. Since then I’ve had three more hysteroscopies to remove scar tissue and fibroids. I’ve never officially been diagnosed with PCOS, though my symptoms and challenges conceiving are not dissimilar to those with that diagnosis. I’d hoped to get pregnant with IUI, but four rounds later, it was clear IVF was our only option. I am grateful that we are able to afford these costly fertility treatments, but I am learning that it is still an agonizing road, with no guarantees.
I never imagined I’d be the leading lady of a story riddled with so many cliches. If I were writing this, my heroine wouldn’t obsessively purchase pregnancy tests each month, fighting back tears when that single pink line appeared. She definitely wouldn’t burst into tears at baby showers or stifle that bubbling jealousy when her friends announced their pregnancies or catalogued their baby’s daily accomplishments. My heroine wouldn’t resent the well-meaning (yet incredibly annoying) advice about meditating/yoga/acupuncture/cutting out alcohol/carbs/grains/dairy. She certainly wouldn’t be the type who spiraled into depression when people offered advice like “just relax,” or “stop stressing,” or have you tried going on a vacation?” It’s clear to me now that a higher power is penning this tale.
Of all the stories I’ve written, this is by far the most difficult. But writing is my therapy. It’s how I process my experiences and connect with others. I also know I’m not the only woman struggling. There are thousands of women gathering in private spaces; sharing encouraging words and advice on secret Instagram and Facebook pages, their experiences told in whispers, not shouts. My question is: what if we did shout about it? What if we talked openly about miscarriages and IUI and IVF, about hormone injections and mood swings? What if we shared the difficulties that come with juggling your professional obligations with weekly doctors appointments and failed fertility cycles? What if we stopped being ashamed of something we have no control over? Can you imagine the freedom we would have?
I can. It wasn’t simple, but I finally made the decision to share my experiences. It’s the only control I have in any of this. I’ve also chosen to silence that voice, the one that kept whispering, “you shouldn’t have waited. This is all your fault.” I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. I wanted to act, and write, travel and explore the world. I wanted to discover who I was, to nurture my relationship with my husband and make sure we were ready for the responsibility that comes with bringing new life into the world. Of course, some days I’m frustrated, other days I’m angry, jealous, some days I’m achingly sad, but I am never hopeless. I truly believe that our story will end the way it was meant to—with a child of our own.
Hollie Overton is a TV writer and producer currently working on TELL ME A STORY for CBS All-Access. She has written for Shadowhunters, Cold Case, and The Client List. Hollie’s debut thriller, BABY DOLL was an international bestseller and was published in eleven countries. Her 2nd novel, THE WALLS was released Aug. 2017. Her 3rd novel THE RUNAWAY was just released on August 6, 2019. An identical twin, Hollie grew up in Kingsville, Texas but now resides in LA with her husband, David and rescue dog, Stevie.
Let’s face it. Infertility is just one of those things in life that sneaks up on you, and you may not know until you’re trying to get pregnant. Once you realize you’re part of more than 6 million women whom it affects, it can feel completely overwhelming. The great thing is we live in an era of the best possible fertility treatments available. Family balancing, economic factors, and delay in childbearing have all lead to the increased demand in assisted reproductive technologies, but how much do you really know about them? For starters, more than 7 million women have utilized infertility services. Since information about fertility treatments isn’t typically discussed outside of the doctor’s office, let’s set the record straight on some common misconceptions about fertility.
1. You Don’t Need To Worry About Fertility Until You’re Ready To Get Pregnant
Just because your biological clock isn’t ticking yet doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider where your fertility stands. Approximately 12% of women in the US have impaired fertility. After you turn 30 (!!!) your egg quality decreases, so it’s better to start fertility treatment with the best quality eggs—meaning when you still have a good selection available. If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant in the future, but your biological clock isn’t ticking quite loudly enough yet, freezing your eggs is a helpful option to “stop the clock,” so to speak.
This option isn’t just for those between the ages of 35 and 40. If you’re younger but focused on your career, traveling, or something other than starting a family, having the option to potentially conceive later can give you some peace of mind.
And when you are finally ready, be sure to visit a fertility doctor for an assessment. In addition to conducting an initial assessment of your ovarian reserve, they can teach you how to get your best chance of properly conceiving.
2. You’re Too Young (Or Old) To Consider Fertility Treatments
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Tired Hollywood movie plots tend to make it appear as though infertility will only hit once you turn 35, but that’s not the case. A woman is actually defined as facing infertility if she is not able to get pregnant after one year of well-timed intercourse (if you’re under 35) and 6 months of well-timed intercourse (if you’re over 35). If you’re under 35 and can get pregnant but have experienced multiple miscarriages, this is also considered to be a cause of infertility.
If you’re younger, your odds are higher that you’ll be successful with fertility treatments. If you’re over the age of 35, your chances of getting pregnant decreases, but a fertility doctor can work with you to see what your best options are for fertility treatments.
3. You’re Guaranteed To Conceive If You Use In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
While using IVF doesn’t come with any guarantee you’ll become pregnant, it does increase your chances of conceiving, especially if you’ve been trying. Ultimately, your success rate is determined by your age.
If you’re 35 or younger, a single IVF treatment can increase your odds of conceiving to 50-60 percent. The use of next-generation sequencing in the screening of embryos for transfer has also led to shorter duration of time to successful pregnancies. For context, your chances of conceiving naturally during any cycle is less than 25 percent. And if you’re dealing with infertility, you may have less than a 5 percent chance of becoming pregnant. Generally speaking, about two-thirds of women treated for infertility end up having successful pregnancies.
4. You’ll Have Twins Or Triplets If You Use Fertility Treatments
No, you probably won’t end up as an Octomom. Though your chances of getting pregnant with more than one child increases with fertility treatments, not everyone experiences this. All in all, your risk of developing twins is less than 2 percent, and there are ways to control it—like choosing to have just one embryo transferred during IVF. Intrauterine insemination (IUI) can also inform how high your risk is of having multiples, since it allows your fertility doctor to predict the number of mature eggs that your body will ovulate.
5. IVF Is The Only Option
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IVF is actually not the first choice when it comes to fertility treatment. If you can conceive naturally, that’s your best bet, but if you’re facing fertility issues and you’re younger than 38, your fertility doctor will go the IUI route (usually a minimum of 3 cycles). You’ll have lower chances of conceiving with an IUI cycle compared to IVF, but it is less invasive and most young women who have fertility issues do end up becoming pregnant with this treatment. If you don’t conceive within three cycles, your fertility doctor will typically recommend trying IVF as the next option.
By no means is this list exhaustive of the questions you may have about infertility. Even if there’s a chance you may want children later in life, ask your fertility doctor so you can have all your information straight from the source. They can help you make a decision about whether it will be maybe-baby in the future and create an action plan to get there.
Dr. Ho is a board-certified OB/GYN and board-certified in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility. Dr. Ho has over 30 years of experience and is very proficient in treating patients of all backgrounds but specializes in treating patients of Asian descent. He has assisted elite clientele, including authoritative government officials and high-end celebrities in Vietnam.
Images: Dr. Ho; scary mommy (2) / Instagram