Trying To Get Pregnant? Here's What Your Doctor Won’t Tell You

Photographed by Maria DelRio.
To mark National Infertility Awareness Week, Refinery29 is dedicating a full week of coverage to an open discussion about becoming a parent. Check out more, here.

The career? Check. The partner? Check. So, now that you’ve got the life you want — and of course, you were born with all those eggs — congratulations, you’re ready to make a baby!

But wait: It’s actually not that simple.

Making the decision to start a family is a beautiful thing, but what you might not be prepared for is how long (and emotionally complex) the ride ahead could be. At least, that was the recurring theme of the responses Refinery29 got when we asked women to answer the question: What do you wish you knew before you started trying to conceive?

Over and over again, women told us that they were blindsided by the fact that baby-making isn’t always a one-and-done project. In fact, more often than not, it isn't like that at all.

Perhaps because so many women today spend years of their lives actively trying to avoid pregnancy, it can come as a shock that a healthy 30-year-old woman has only a 20% chance of getting pregnant in a given menstrual cycle, according to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine. This means that of 100 women trying to conceive during one cycle, 80 of those women will be trying again next month.

And that’s just for heterosexual couples — these odds mean little to those among us who have same-sex partners or who choose single parenthood. It also doesn’t take into account the roughly 12% of women of reproductive age in the U.S. who will have difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term because of infertility.

In spite of this complexity, the one thing women told us would make things easier is if we simply had more open and honest conversations about what the experience is really like. So, let’s talk about it. Ahead, 11 women share the tips, stories, and advice they wish they’d heard before they started trying.

1 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"I wish someone would have told me that there's no such thing as 'casually' trying. I think a lot of people stop birth control and then take the attitude that they'll just see what happens. But once you start and it doesn't work right away, it's almost impossible not to go down the rabbit hole of tracking your cycle and, eventually, doing ovulation tests and spending your last dollar on early detection pregnancy tests, so you can start testing five days before your period (which never works).

"I don't think I was prepared for the anxiety I felt once it had been three months and then four months of still trying (which is, admittedly, nothing compared to many women). If you want to get pregnant, there is so much fear around fertility and I think I tried to trick myself into thinking I could be chill. Me trying to get pregnant equaled absolutely no chill."

— Sarah, mom of one; currently pregnant, tried for 10 months
2 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"I wish I had known how common miscarriage really is. I guess it is talked about somewhat frequently, but I think a lot of moderately young first-timers just assume it's a them-not-us problem, when really, it's any woman's problem. I don't think health care providers prepare pregnant women for when or how they might find out that a pregnancy isn't going to make it. Everyone focuses on the happy circumstances, so when an appointment has to go that way, it is an awfully sad surprise; and one that can keep being awful for weeks, because miscarrying isn't always just an event that happens. Sometimes, you know the baby isn't viable long before you stop being pregnant. That waiting it out while having uncomfortable physical symptoms, and keeping it all a secret because you likely hadn't told anyone you were pregnant yet anyway, is the most emotionally painful part."

— Thea, 32, mom of one; got pregnant right away, miscarried, and then tried again for three months
3 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"Go off the pill (or any other form of hormonal contraception) a long time before you want to start trying. I’m talking maybe six months. That way, you can get an idea of what your cycles are like, instead of feeling completely confused and lost if they're really long, missing, or irregular and you start trying right away.

"For many people, getting pregnant takes time. I started freaking out and seeking out super-expensive, invasive fertility treatments just a few months into trying, because my cycles were super long and not one doctor said, 'Maybe you should wait a year before doing this stuff.' We ended up conceiving on our own, without the help of fertility treatments, nine months after we started."

— Paige, 31; mom of one, tried for nine months
4 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"I wish I had known what a low success rate frozen sperm has. While healthy straight couples can have up to anywhere from a 30 to 80% chance of pregnancy in the first three months (depending on who you ask), my wife and I have about a 5 to 12% chance. Not only that, but it costs us $1,000 or more a month just to buy a tiny vial of the stuff — less than would fill an eyedropper. It almost makes you wanna just throw caution to the wind and find a random guy to sleep with once a month."

— Elizabeth, 28; trying for 4 months
5 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"You're (probably) not going to get pregnant as soon as you stop taking the pill. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You know that there are other ways you can become a mom, but having those first initial thoughts of, What if I can't ever have kids?, is frightening. Many people do get pregnant right away, but I bet more people have issues.

"For example, I have PCOS, which contributes to my testosterone being higher than normal (something being on birth control masked — so I had no idea until I wanted to have a baby). I had to see an endocrinologist and a reproductive endocrinologist, which are damn expensive and not covered by some insurances. They put me on a pill called Metformin, which is typically used for patients with diabetes, but also works for people with high testosterone. Luckily, it lowered it enough where I was able to get my period on my own and I got pregnant within three months of that."

— Nicole, 28; mom of one, tried for a year
6 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"I wish I'd really internalised the statistics about how long it can take. When I went in to get my IUD removed, my doctor gently informed me that only 20% of couples get pregnant in an average month, and that 85% will get pregnant after trying for a year, but that was truly the first time I'd really heard that. I honestly brushed it off, because it didn't fit into my rubric of how I thought things were going to go (pull the goalie, get pregnant the next day).

"This is such a cliche, but we really do spend so much of our lives trying not to get pregnant that it feels like this thing that will happen the minute we stop trying to avoid it — it can be really hard to wrap your mind around it when it doesn't turn out that way. Of course, I'd heard of infertility and knew some women had trouble, but it never felt like something that would realistically happen to me.

"Also: very nitty-gritty, but I wish I'd known that regular lube (even lube that isn't spermicidal) can interfere with sperm motility and survival! We wasted three months using regular lube. Ugh."

— Anna, 29; trying for seven months
7 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"We got really lucky, in that it only took us three months to get pregnant, but I was grateful that before we started, we had friends who shared a good amount about their own journeys. For one couple, it took longer than us, but still a 'normal' amount of time. I know the sex started to feel a bit too scheduled. Another close friend and her husband experienced a much more difficult process and conceiving was a several-year journey (happily, fertility treatments worked in the end).

"Still, I wish that people had talked more openly about the dreaded 'two-week wait' between when you think you ovulated and the earliest you can possibly test, because I felt totally insane because of how stressed I could get in that time just wondering was this our month. (I was grateful that someone told me that ovulation predictor kits might help me feel more in control, because at least I'd know the earliest day I could start testing, rather than wasting a bunch of tests too early). I also wish that we talked more openly about the risks in the first trimester of pregnancy, because no one told me that once I got pregnant, I'd be terrified every day that I would miscarry. Prior to more openly sharing the news, this felt very isolating, because not even my husband could really understand — I was so afraid my body would betray me on this!

"In the end, I wish people just shared more about their conception process — sometimes it's easy, happy, and fun; sometimes it's really not at all."

— Abby, 30; currently pregnant after trying for three months
8 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"I'm glad I planned my pregnancies and was ready for both of them, but the actual conception part is not fun. Having sex multiple days in a row is not as cool as it sounds. Baby-making is totally different than normal sex. There's so much tracking and counting and waiting and wondering. It's stressful. Preparing yourself and, more importantly, your partner is important. They just hear the lots of sex part and not the rest."

— Amanda, 31; mom of one and currently pregnant, tried for 4 months
9 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"There are so many different phases to what it means to be 'trying,' and I wish someone had warned me about the possibility of this emotional roller coaster. From pulling the goalie for a while and being confused as to why you're not magically with child, to, 'Hey, this week might be prime baby-making time,' to googling fertility issues, to actually being tested for them, and on and on. And they all come with emotions."

— Sandi, 33; mom of two, tried for three years
10 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"I wish more people would have shared how long it took them to conceive. It took me a little over two years. And to be honest, we weren't charting my cycle or basal body temps for the first one-and-a-half years, we were just having lots and lots of sex with the attitude 'if it happens, that'd be awesome.' But after a while, my attitude shifted to 'how in the hell am I not pregnant yet?' So, I started charting. Still, we had no luck. Eventually, my attitude changed to 'well, maybe this just isn't in the cards for us.' I quit charting and taking basal temps and all that stressful crap. And then, it happened!

"Since my pregnancy, I've spoken with women who are desperately trying to get pregnant. I like to share that it took me over two years. I think a lot of women see that as something to be ashamed of, but I think it happens more than anyone talks about. And it would have been nice for someone to tell me that when I was basically giving up."

— Ashley, 32; mom of one, tried for two years
11 of 11
Illustrated by: Elliot Salazar.
"I wish I had included my husband in all of my research regarding trying to conceive and not felt like I wanted to have that magical movie moment of 'surprise, I'm pregnant." And I wish had been more willing to share my fears and anxieties, instead of feeling it necessary to hide them from him (as well as all my friends)."

— Machelle, 30; currently pregnant. I tried for four months, had a miscarriage, then tried another two cycles.

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