The 27 Weirdest Things I've Googled Since I Started Trying To Get Pregnant

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We live in a WebMD world. Feeling sick? Google it. Not sure how much ibuprofen it’s okay to take at once? Google it. It’s almost second nature to turn to the internet for medical advice nowadays. But as anyone who’s tried to get pregnant in probably the past 10 years knows, there’s almost a heightening to the frenzy of search terms you find yourself thumbing in when you’re hoping to add to your family.

And that’s just the thing: the hope. Because normally when you’re Googling a symptom, what’s driving you is mostly annoyance, with a little dread (Am I dying?!). But when you’re trying to conceive, the emotions are so much more mixed. You’re desperate to think that what’s going on means you’re pregnant, and terrified that it means you’re not. It’s a real mindfuck, kids.

I’m on month eight of trying to get knocked up, and while my Google obsession has slowed, I’m still pretty regularly tapping the colorful G to look up some wacky thing. Unfortunately, the medical information on the interwebs for hopeful parents is largely so bad. The reliable-seeming data you can find is stuff you already know, and answers for your weirder questions are only available on message boards, often filled with judgey people who exclusively speak in acronyms. Which you then have to Google.

That’s why I decided to round up a selection of the stuff I’ve searched the internet for since I started this process — from the understandable to the quite odd. And because Dr. Google hasn’t exactly been getting five stars on ZocDoc for me, I also called an actual fertility doctor to get free medical advice find out the truth about these search terms.

I spoke with Alan Copperman, MD, director of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Mount Sinai Hospital and medical director of Reproductive Medicine Associates of New York, and he was super comforting: “Everyone wants to know if what they’re feeling is normal or if there’s reason for concern,” Dr. Copperman says. “With heightened awareness comes anxiety, and you treat that with control, and you get that control from acquiring more information.

“The best thing a woman who’s feeling anxious can do is find a reliable source, which could be a physician or a reliable source on the internet, and maybe the worst thing she could do is rely on bad information,” he says. The bottom line: It’s okay to get emotional support and resources from an online community, but when it comes to medical advice? Step away from the laptop.

So here we go: the 27 weirdest things I’ve googled since I started trying to get pregnant — and some real talk from an MD about each one.

Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
1. sweaty palms pregnant

What the internet told me: I am definitely pregnant.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “Most likely, sweaty palms are the result of the high pregnancy hormones acting centrally. The brain actually perceives that it is hot and responds by sending signals to the body to sweat to try to cool off.”

(I wasn’t pregnant. It was unseasonably warm, and our office’s AC wasn’t on.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
2. itchy nose pregnant

What the internet told me:
I am definitely pregnant.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “[This is] commonly called 'Pregnancy Rhinitis.' It is probably the result of increased estrogen levels that cause the mucus membranes of the nose to swell and be perceived as stuffiness.”

(I wasn’t pregnant. It was just the start of allergy season.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
3. Nasacort safe for pregnancy

What the internet told me: It’s fine. Probably.

What Dr. Copperman told me:
“While the safest nasal sprays to use when pregnant are made of just saline, when indicated, Nasacort can be used. The FDA has not shown Nasacort to be harmful to the developing fetus, and it can be used if recommended by a physician.”

(Thank god. My itchy nose was driving me insane.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
4. Zyrtec pregnancy

What the internet told me: It’s fine. Probably.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “Zyrtec is a commonly used antihistamine. There is no evidence that it is harmful to the baby, but well-performed studies have not been completed.”

(Maybe I should be talking to an allergist.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
5. how early does pregnancy brain start

What the internet told me: Anytime between the second the sperm hits the egg and “never, it doesn’t exist, you’re just dumb.”

What Dr. Copperman told me: “Early pregnancy brain or ‘pregnancy fog’ is probably a short-term response to hormonal changes, stress, and sleep loss that can be associated with pregnancy. Reports of onset vary from just weeks into the pregnancy period to moments scattered throughout the whole pregnancy.”

(I wasn’t pregnant. Just spacey.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
6. Period tracker app

What the internet told me: Dot seems to be the sweet spot of simplicity and not-covered-in-pink-flowers-ness.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “There are probably hundreds of period tracker apps right now — The Bump, Glow, and Clue are some of the big ones some of our patients have used.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
7. pregnancy after Mirena

What the internet told me: It can take a while for the hormones from Mirena to work their way out of your system, message board ladies say.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “Mirena is fantastic — it’s a great birth control. Most patients tolerate it really well, and within a month of removing it, there’s usually resumption of normal menses.”

(This one’s hard for me: I’ve spent so little of my adult life not having some kind of hormones pumped into my body for birth control that I don’t know what my “normal menses” actually looks like. But I loved my IUD, I think it’s a fantastic method of birth control, and I do trust when doctors and researchers say it doesn’t affect fertility. Chalk my struggles up to something else.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
8. average length of time to get pregnant

What the internet told me: It seems to take most message board users either one week or, like, seven years.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “It really depends upon the age of the woman. For women in their 20s, within six months, about half will get pregnant, and within a year, 80%. For women in their 40s, about half will show up with some reproductive challenges and will need some support. Overall, if it’s taking longer than a year to get pregnant, you should get checked out. If you’re over 35 and it’s been more than six months, you should get checked out.”

(I’m still in the range where there’s no cause for medical attention just yet — but it’s still hard to be patient.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
9. implantation bleeding or period

What the internet told me: When a fertilized egg implants into the uterine lining, you can supposedly have bleeding that may or may not be completely indistinguishable from your period and may or may not happen at the exact same time you’re expecting your period to arrive.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “The answer is: a pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests are more reliable than ever before. I think it’s an action a woman can take that will give her more control over the process. If she’s pregnant and bleeding, she should go to her OB and have her hormone levels taken. If she’s not pregnant, she can roll up her sleeves and be ready for the next cycle.”

(For me, any possible "implantation bleeding" has, so far, always been my period. I’ve never taken a test because, well, some part of me just knows.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
10. early pregnancy sense of smell

What the internet told me: Your nose gets more sensitive the second your husband looks at you funny. Also your sense of smell wouldn’t get more sensitive that early, so shut up, you big dumb dumb. (God, I love the internet.)

What Dr. Copperman told me: “Once again, elevated hormone levels are associated with changes throughout the body. This heightened sense, combined with morning sickness, can make the first trimester difficult for some women.”

(I wasn’t pregnant. I just have a really intense sense of smell. My first trimester, should it ever occur, is going to be awful.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
11. get pregnant fast

What the internet told me: Do it just before and during ovulation, among other incredibly obvious tips.

What Dr. Copperman told me:
I actually didn’t ask Dr. C. this question, because it was too embarrassing. It felt like asking an accountant how to get rich quick. The bottom line: It just doesn’t happen right away for some people.
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
12. Marijuana fertility

What the internet told me:
Weed is terrible for fertility, and you’re a terrible parent already for even thinking about smoking pot at a time like this.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “Moderate to heavy use of marijuana has been associated with abnormal spermatogenesis, or sperm formation, in men. Two to three months after stopping, function usually returns to normal.”

(TBH, I smoked a little pot recently and felt so damn relaxed, and slept so well that night, I had to wonder if it could be a secret fix for the age-old “You’re too stressed out to get pregnant, you just need to chill” problem. Maybe — but it won’t be an activity my husband and I can do together, apparently.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
13. Fertility awareness method app

What the internet told me: Kindara is the way to go.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “Any of these apps [are fine] as long as they don’t become obsessive and intrusive. The woman who wakes up at 6:05 in the morning to take her temperature or tests her cervical mucus four to five times per day — it can be intrusive. And there’s not that much more information that you can get (aside from just, when did the period start, and when did you have sex?) as far as a reproductive endocrinology point of view. When I look at an app, I’m looking for cycle regularity. We don’t have to go deep into the stretchability of the cervical mucus and the moment-to-moment temperature changes. That’s not realistic or practical.”

(I loved hearing this so much. I’d become totally obsessed with Kindara — tracking multiple factors and looking at my chart several times per day — and it was really stressing me out. After Dr. C’s great advice, I ditched my BBT thermometer and stopped letting all of this take over my life so much.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
14. Vitex and fertility

What the internet told me: Anecdotally, taking a Vitex (a.k.a. chasteberry) supplement can work miracles for all things hormonal — it fixes PMS, clears up hormonal acne, and can lengthen a short cycle. It also looks like there’s some preliminary — but not conclusive — scientific research out there to back this up.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “There are a ton of natural remedies out there that are being used and promoted for female fertility. Certainly when we talk about acupuncture and yoga and relaxation and exercise and wellness, there are so many benefits to being in that right frame of physical and mental health for attempting to achieve a pregnancy. I’m a huge supporter of the mind-body connection. However, there’s little evidence that women who don’t take these herbs do worse. And the problem with some of the herbal treatments is that they have not been presented to the FDA as a drug and gone through randomized controlled trials for dosage, safety, and efficacy. Just because it’s an herb doesn’t make it good.”

(Dr. C. is speaking my language here — I’m one of the world’s biggest supplement skeptics. But weirdly enough, I’m still taking Vitex…just in case.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
15. No cervical fluid

What the internet told me: If you don’t have stretchy, egg-white-like cervical fluid at the right time in your cycle, there’s no way in hell you’re getting pregnant.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “In the absence of a history of multiple abnormal pap smears, or a LEEP procedure, or cervical trauma, most women have adequate cervical fluid to allow the sperm to pass through. Inhospitable cervical mucus is not a major driver of infertility.”

(Thank goodness. The internet — and a scary book called Taking Charge Of Your Fertility — had me convinced that my clean underwear was a sign of total procreational doom.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
16. When to see a fertility doctor

What the internet told me: Wait a year, or six months if you’re over 35. You’ll get laughed out of the building if you go any earlier.

What Dr. Copperman told me: Basically, while those numbers are a good marker of when it’s time to seek help, there’s no hard and fast rule that you have to wait that long. “These days, we’re seeing patients more and more frequently pre-conceptually. Women who aren’t even trying or married come in to see if they’re candidates for egg freezing. Or to get an Anti-Mullerian Hormone test [which measures the ovarian reserve]. And once a couple does see a reproductive endocrinologist, the workup and treatment is more streamlined than ever before. There used to be a lot of pills and a lot of shots given out, and you’d end up with lots of multiples, but these days we’re more focused on shortening this journey, lightening the burden of treatment, and helping a couple get pregnant as fast as possible, with a healthy singleton baby.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
17. How early can you feel pregnancy symptoms

What the internet told me:
Apparently women are just running around feeling pregnant immediately after having sex.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “It’s really unusual to feel anything significant before a missed period, though I know there are stories of women who feel like they can feel the embryo attach. Studies have been done, and it’s no better than 50-50 for women whose self-reported perception of pregnancy was accurate. Some women do get morning sickness really early, and feel tired fairly early, so it’s not unreasonable that women who are four weeks pregnant — in other words, two weeks after ovulation — could have some mild symptoms.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
18. Clearblue fertility monitor

What the internet told me: The fertility-awareness-method folks seem to think this device is a complete waste of money. Others say it’s a godsend.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “I think that these monitors are great for informational purposes. But when people use them and don’t have sex until the kit turns positive, and then have to leave work or jump on an airplane to get to their partner, that’s probably an overuse of the technology. People should be having intercourse every other day up to the time of ovulation.”

(I bought one. Trying not to go nuts with it. It weirdly feels less nutty than taking my temperature every day.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
19. Ovulation cramps

What the internet told me: Mittelschmerz is a very real thing and you can totally tell you’re ovulating.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “Ovulation can hurt — the fluid that gets released around the egg can be irritating to the lining of the abdominal cavity.”

(I’ve been a little obsessed with any twinges I feel near my ovaries ever since I had an ovarian cyst that burst about four years ago. But my twinges never seemed to align with a rise in BBT, when I was taking that daily, or with my Clearblue kit telling me I was peaking. So I may be better off ignoring them.)
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
20. Not ovulating

What the internet told me: If you don’t have a clear rise in BBT, you definitely are not ovulating.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “It really is usually obvious. If a woman is not on the Pill and has regular cycles, then she’s almost always ovulating. You would not normally be able to have a regular cycle without ovulation.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
21. Short cycle long period

What the internet told me: You are never getting pregnant.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “One of the clues we see in some women who have reproductive aging is that they start to have shorter follicular phases. They start to ovulate a bit earlier in the cycle — you’ll see a 24-day cycle, and she’s ovulating on day 10 or 11. So we’ll want to make sure that’s not because she has diminished ovarian reserve.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
22. Short luteal phase

What the internet told me: If the time between ovulation and your period is less than 10 days, you’re fucked.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “Every once in awhile, you see someone with a short luteal phase — it’s not very common that someone will ovulate and get their period fewer than 10 days later, but it can happen.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
23. Anovulatory bleeding vs. period

What the internet told me: Kind of like the implantation-bleeding-versus-period question, apparently you can have a period that seems exactly like a normal period, even if you aren’t ovulating, the interwebs sez.

What Dr. Copperman told me:
“Regular cycles are almost always the result of ovulation.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
24. Spotting vs. period

What the internet told me: If you’re tracking your period, but your period starts with a few days of spotting, wait until you have dark-red blood to count it as Day 1.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “It really varies — for some women, spotting is the norm; for some women, a heavy period is the norm. I encourage people to know what their norm is. If someone has spotting for seven to 10 days, it’s something we will work up, to make sure she doesn’t have a polyp or hormone imbalance.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
25. No temperature rise after ovulation

What the internet told me: This does not exist. You didn’t ovulate. You’re doomed.

What Dr. Copperman told me:
“Some people feel better tracking their temperatures, and I don’t think it’s a bad idea as long as it’s not disruptive. I don’t think [lack of temperature rise] is something to be concerned about. I’m not the least bit worried about it.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
26. Progesterone treatment for luteal phase defect

What the internet told me: The answers here were super mixed. I couldn’t suss out at all whether this treatment is effective, or how awful or not-awful it is.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “We support progesterone for the rare instances when someone has a short luteal phase. It’s not harmful to do, and some patients may benefit from it.”
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar
27. Preparing to get pregnant

What the internet told me: Quit drinking, exercise regularly, eat healthily.

What Dr. Copperman told me: “What we’re looking for is a BMI that is healthy, which means not 16 and not 35 — a woman in good physical shape, with good nutrition, taking prenatal vitamins. You can also have some basic pre-conception tests done for genetic issues such as Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis, and hearing loss. Overall, physical and emotional health are the important things.”

To be honest, I still don’t feel like I have clear answers on everything I’ve been wondering about pregnancy-wise. Because the truth is, as Dr. C. said, a lot of this is less about information I actually need, and more about trying to gain control over a largely uncontrollable process. I’m sure I’ll be back on the Google train the minute I have a positive pregnancy test (assuming that day does come — fingers crossed). But in the meantime, I’m trying to take a step back, trust my body, and only seek medical advice from an actual medical professional.