Like all bloggers, I get questions emailed to me as though I’m terribly wise. Because this is far from the truth, I thought I would crowdsource an answer for one of the folks with a question. (Maybe Wednesdays will become crowdsource day on Mihow.com?)
A very nice woman I’ll call “Stephanie” writes (slightly edited):
I was wondering if you could help me with something. I’m 36 years old and my husband and I have been trying to conceive our first child. We have been trying for 5 months and so far nothing. I thought I was pregnant twice only to get my period early and I’m very regular. TMI?
Anyway, how long did it take you to get pregnant? I’m worried I missed my opportunity. DH and I want a baby so bad but I feel like it will never happen.
I wrote “Stephanie” back personally. But I don’t feel that I’m a very good person to ask this of because I’ve only ever been pregnant once and I was 32 at the time. For us, it was really easy. I imagine that when/if we try again, now that I’m 35, we may not have such an easy time of it. Who knows.
Can you help her?
Edited to add: Feel free to leave comments anonymously, by the way. I should have stated as much considering this is very personal information. I promise you, your identity will remain private when it comes to stuff like this.
I think it depends if she was on birth control and how much stress is in her life. Both can affect fertility and make it harder to conceive.
I know a few people who were on birth control and it took them ages (a year, plus) after getting off it to become pregnant.
If she’s really worried there’s always fertility tests. While having your own child is wonderful, pregnancy isn’t the be all end all of having kids.
It is totally genetic. If you are having problems, I would talk to your doctor. I am 35, and I was on the pill since I was 18. My husband and I tried after waiting for 3 months after going off the pill. (Our doctor told us to wait 3 months.) We conceived on our first attempt. You will be fine. Age and birth control are not deciding factors. Good luck!
I really do think it’s different for everyone. I’m 30 and currently six months pregnant with my first child. We were using condoms as birth control, so I didn’t have to come off any bc before trying to get pregnant. It still took us nearly a year of trying. On the other hand, I have a friend who has been on the pill since she was 16 and when she and her husband decided to start trying, she went off the pill and was pregnant the very next month. We all thought it was a fluke, but when they tried for their second child the same thing happened.
And then I have a friend who has been trying with her husband for a year and has started seeking out fertility tests to find out if something is wrong because they can’t seem to get pregnant.
We’re all around the same age, all healthy men and women. So I think if you’re concerned then I would say mention it to your doctor and get the ball rolling with tests if that’s what the doc thinks is appropriate, but it really CAN take a while for it to happen even if you’re totally healthy and fertile!
I got pregnant by accident, after one hot night. I was 29. I was not on bc.
The reason we had a hot unprotected night is because it took my sister in law (26 years old) 16 months to get pregnant. I figured – eh. One time can’t hurt. (It was a blessed surprise! I love my son.)
Two of my girlfriends, in their mid 30s, have been trying for 3 years. They have not intervened, but are beginning to make appointments with fertility docs.
Another girlfriend, 29, just got pregnant after 8 months of trying.
Another girlfriend with a 12 year old was done having kids. Went on the pill. WHile on the pill, got pregnant. WITH TRIPLETS. This is not a joke.
A girl I met in birth class got pregnant the first month after she went off birth control.
So the moral of the story is – there is absolutely no way to know. It is normal for it to be abnormal. 5 months is not very long for most women I know. As in, 5 months is no cause for worry. But my SIL went to fertility docs around this time, went on Clomid to regulate her period, had her husband tested, they found no problems with either of them. It just took a little while for them.
A final story. Friends of mine who had their 3 kids in their 30s – first girl they got pg with after one month. So for the second kid they timed the attempts to the exact month that they wanted to get pg, and it took them 14 months. So for the third kid they were like – ooh, this could take a while, we’d better start early. And they got pg after one month. So instead of the neat, 2 years apart stair steps that they wanted, they ended up with a 7 year old, a 3 year old, and a 2 year old. Oh well.
I’m 36 as well. my husband and I had been trying off and on for about six months before I got pregnant. don’t worry that stress will somehow stop the process, either — it finally happened three weeks after my dad died, the one month where i just *assumed* it wouldn’t happen. it takes a while, but you’ll get there — the only opportunity you missed is the one where it’s easy to make it through pregnancy and labor without feeling like you’re 90. (i have a three-week old now, and trust me — it would have been easier when i was 17. go teen pregnancy!)
Fertility, while very individual, is known across the population to decrease with age. About 1/3 of couples where the woman is over the age 35 have problems becoming pregnant.
Many OB/GYNs say you are having problems/potentially infertile after a year of trying to get pregnant without success. But, I would really talk with your OB/GYN. If you do have issues, it is better not to wait a full year, especially as you grow older. If you want to get pregnant, you have a better chance of a good outcome the younger you are.
Also remember that it isn’t necessarily a problem with the female in the relationship. Men have infertility issues too and a doctor or team of doctors often need to sort out these issues.
A great link for more info on fertility issues:
It’s funny. I have heard this concept of it happens whenever you stop trying as well. Have you ever heard of those couples who try and try and try and then finally adopt and then, lo and behold, a month later they’re pregnant?
Thanks for all the stories, advice.
I have friends who have been trying for years (on again off again) and still haven’t had any luck. They are all older as well. (Upper 30s)
I also think it’s interesting this idea of birth control possibly messing with fertility. I have wondered that myself and I know it’s not a definite roadblock, but one wonders how much it does do to the female reproductive system over time.
Anyway… I am rambling.
My doctor cautioned that it could take up to a year to get pregnant. With that in mind, I thought, “OK let’s get on this.” And….We got pregnant the first month of trying. Go figure.
BUT my sister had problems getting pregnant and after a year of trying had to go on drugs, which eventually worked.
A friend of mine it took her about 8 months while another friend it took her probably 6 months.
Everyone is different but unfortunately you just don’t know what it’s like for you until you try! They do say it’s easier to get pregnant after you’ve had other kids, which I generally find to be true.
I was in my late thirties when we started trying – we spent about 8 months trying and then went to our OBGYN, who prescribed Clomid – I took it once and bingo – preggers.
I’m not sure if it was the drug, or that I also stopped paying attention to my online ovulation calendar and decided to try earlier that month. Either way it worked.
I also have a good friend who conceived at 45 – it was definitely harder for her, but she did it!
Standard medical protocol:
If you are over 35 and have been trying for 6 months unsuccessfully, you need to see a doctor. I would see a Reproductive Endocronologist, instead of your regular OB/Gyn because they are far more experienced.
If you are under 35, you need to see someone after trying for 1 year.
“I have heard this concept of it happens whenever you stop trying as well. Have you ever heard of those couples who try and try and try and then finally adopt and then, lo and behold, a month later they’re pregnant?”
This happened to my parents! They had been trying for several years to get pregnant. They adopted my brother when he was three months old, and nine months later I was born! My mom’s ob/gyn told her that he wished he had some kind of doll to give patients like her. :) I really do think that being in a relaxed state of mind helps your body be receptive.
Ha–almost everybody I know (including me and my mom way back in the day) got pregnant their first month off the pill! I thought the old wive’s tale was that you were *more* fertile after taking the pill. I guess you just never know.
Good luck, “Stephanie”!
I don’t have anything really fresh to add to this because all of the previous comments are extremely helpful. It’s different for everybody. I got pregnant 3 months after going off the pill, but it took my sister-in-law nearly a year.
One thing I can add is that you maintain a healthy diet and exercise regimen during this period. Exercise gets blood flowing..everywhere and you want to be in really good health before pregnancy because you’ll need that strength to get you through so that when the child is born, you’ll be able to bounce back quickly.
Good Luck with this “Stephanie”, I hope all goes well for you!
Good luck ‘Stephanie’ – most people already summarized what I know – if you are over 35, start seeing a doctor after 6 months of trying. You are regular which is half the battle – many of us having issues are not. I tried Clomid 4 months, (28 turning 29) and then Letrozole – 1st month of letrozole did the trick. I had just started seeing an RE instead of my OB – felt much more comfy with them. And you don’t see tons of pregnant women in the office waiting with you which would reduce me to tears and add to the stress.
Stress can be a factor… the month I started letrozole I also started seeing a christian counselor just to talk to someone ‘neutral’ in the process, and had it set in my mind that next month would be the month because we were going to start IUIs and monitoring. Luckily didn’t need to do that!
You can temp, and chart and do all that stuff but in the end that just made it too stressful for me. I quit all of that except using OPKs.
2nd time around (@31) much easier – had the meds sitting on the counter to take, and got pregnant the month before I started… only used OPKs.
Again good luck! Best wishes!
The joking-yet-serious part of me says:
Get a bottle of Jack, drink till you black out. Wake up pregnant. That seems to happen to far too many people I know.
The more serious part of me says:
If you’re trying and haven’t used Mucinex yet, you should look into it. It doesn’t just break down your throat/chest congestion… it does it ‘down there’ too — which is reported to make it easier for pregnancy to happen when the issue is with the sperm/egg ‘settling’ into a happy little place.
Holy shit, Jonathan, that’s the craziest idea I’ve read all day!
Regarding your first part? Let’s just say that I know for a fact that method works. ;] Only, I don’t drink Jack.
Yeah – I thought it was crazy too… but try a Yahoo search on it. You’ll be amazed.
I’ve also heard that Robitussin w/guaifenesin works too… and I think I heard of Nyquil, but I could be wrong on that one.
Yep – everyone’s different. Heard that before? I have been pregnant 3 times, and all 3 times I got pregnant the first time we tried. The first time I was 33, then I was 34 and 35 the second & third times. Unfortunately I had a miscarriage with the first, but now have 2 beautiful boys – one 15 months and one 2 weeks old. I hadn’t been on birth control for a number of years, was eating a VERY healthy diet and was exercising 5 days a week and think my healthy lifestyle played a large role in making it so easy each time. But who knows?
Another voice for age not necessarily making a difference. My wife was 37 and I 39 when we decided to go for it. We expected it to take a long time, esp since my brother & his wife — both a number of years younger — had had to try for a long time before becoming pregnant with their first. In fact we made all kinds of plans — selling the apartment, buying a new one, etc — based on a long-term effort. And then it happened during the first attempt. So much for plans.
For those who have been trying and are frustrated, aforementioned brother is a worthwhile example. It took a couple of years to get things going the first time, but they’re now the proud parents of two lovely girls.
BTW Peggy Orenstein’s “Waiting for Daisy” is a sad/funny meditation on the whole process from decision making to attempts. Especially relevant for older would-be parental types.
my answer is “it all depends”.
i’ve been pregnant twice but have no baby to show for it! i’ve had two first trimester miscarriages. first one happened when i was 34, next at 35. i’m 35 now and will soon be trying again when we figure out WHY i can’t carry past the first trimester.
for our first pregnancy it took 3 months. the next one took 8. that was a VERY frustrating 8 months and that’s when we went to see the RE to say “wtf?”. we ended up getting pregnant on our own the second time in the middle or our infertility testing.
it may be time for you to research an RE in your area or first you can try charting at fertilityfriend.com or use ovulation predictor kits or the clear blue easy fertility monitor. i *heart* my monitor. maybe a bit too much.
our RE put us through various tests. yes, husband even got to provide his sample. it’s not *always* the woman’s fault! we’ll be going back to him to continue our quest for answers.
so as i said, the answer varies. since you’re questioning this, i think it’s time for professional help.
the drunken romps in bed probably do help some people but if you truly have a fertility issue, you can do that till the cows come home and never get knocked up. infertility is no joke.
i wish you luck!
I really recommend the book “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” it is available on Amazon. Not every woman’s cycle is the same, and you may not be ovulating when you think you are. This book is great at explaining the things that need to happen for you to get pregnant (it isn’t always as easy as just having lots of sex) as well as how to chart your fertility. We were trying for 4 months and getting impatient, I used the methods in this book and we were preggers the next month. I was ovulating several days later than the 14 day standard you’ll find on most websites and we just kept missing it. Good luck!
I was 39 when I conceived 17 months ago – the one time in my entire adult, sexually-active life that I had missed a day or two on the pill and decided to get “jiggy with it.” Luckily, it was also the same day he proposed (yeah, she’s a love child in the truest sense).
Other friends, both old and young have had more trouble. But several have heeded the suggestion that I read in a magazine while waiting for an ultrasound, that you should drink whole milk and NO skim or 1%, or 2% milk products, and have finally conceived. For some reason, female fertility goes up on the whole milk (only).
I also hear the stress/focusing on the baby story a lot (for like 5-years-long a lot).
Meantime, it’s true -many folks have real obstacles.
So, for what it’s worth, before you figure you’re in the minority of people having real fertility troubles, go live a little. Drink the whole milk. Eat the whole fat ice cream and have a whole lotta steamy fun -just for the sake of the fun. The rest will follow.
.. and if not, there’s always the Mucinex ! ?!!!
Best of luck.
Yeah, what everyone else said. :) After being on the pill for 6 years, we started trying when I was 26. After a year, I went to my gyno, who started me on Clomid. I took it for a few months,and nothing happened. He referred me to a reproductive endocrinologist, who ran a bunch of tests and told me that we had “unexplained” infertility. He lined out all the options for us, and my husband and I discussed them. We finally decided to just wait a while, stop all meds and chartings, etc., because we had lots of plans still. A week later, we were pregnant (19 months after starting to try). We now have a beautiful 6 month old little girl.
I know how hard it is to want something so much, and not get it. Good luck to you!
I agree with a lot of the recommendations here. I started trying when I was in my early 30s and struggled for years, surgery and eventually becoming pregnant thanks to the wonders of IVF. Age and stress are major factors. I totally agree with the 6 months of nothing – see a doctor. After 35 a woman needs to be a little aggressive about pursuing options because the reality is that fertility drops significantly after that point. It isn’t by any means impossible, but it is harder and the pressure we put on ourselves only makes that worse and more emotionally challenging. I thought it would never happen for me, I was really at my lowest point after one failed IVF attempt. I spent 6 months preparing for another attempt with yoga, clean living, meditation and a great therapist. I put myself in a much better place and I knew within a week of my second IVF attempt that it was successful. And I have a lovely daughter who is now 6 years old.
For someone in their early to mid 20’s 5 months isn’t a long time.
At 36, you are certainly not old, but you are past “prime” time for easily getting pregnant. Because you don’t have a lot of time window to waste here, I go with everyone else and think you should get into a doctor as soon as possible.
just thought i would add a bit of positive news for those trying and over 35: my cousin is 37 and decided to try for a baby this year. just got the call last night that she is 8 weeks pregnant. so that happened pretty fast. she said they just had decided to relax and give it a year – just to see. not sure if that is a “method” but thought it was positive.
Yeah, you guys are making me think that TJ and I should get started right away! Now I’m all, OMG what if there’s something behind this 35 thing?
The thought of having another one right now is kind of funny for us. We are smack dab in the middle of the terrible twos. Combine that with chronic ear infections and the two of us are wondering if we’ll ever *want* to do it again!
M — there is definitely truth behind the over-35 thing, at least in the aggregate. Back when we were deliberating, someone — Greening, maybe? — showed us the fertility-to-age graph. At 35 it drops like a stone. Greening was pretty blunt with L — said, basically, something to the effect of “I don’t even advise women over 38 to try unless they have significant resources for intervention.” It was a factor in our decision — about when as much as about if: we figured we didn’t have a lot of time left before not choosing became our choice — without a doubt.
That said, individual genetics are hugely important, almost certainly more important than anything else. Also unknowable, of course. Things like maternal health and diet also matter a whole lot, especially as one gets older.
And I do think stressing can make things worse. Of course that’s entirely unscientific. But my bro & his wife fit into the category of folks who tried and tried and tried, interventions included, and then finally succeeded when they took a break from all that.
I’m 28 and I’ve been struggling with fertility issues for 16 months.
Oh, and when I was 15, I had a miscarriage. At the time, this was a blessing.
After taking The Pill for 8+ years, I came off of it in Nov 2007. Since then, I’ve been confirmed pregnant twice, but neither pregnancy developed properly. The first pregnancy ended in miscarriage in April 2008. The OB at the hospital told me my hCG levels were too low to be 7 weeks along, which is what I technically was. The second pregnancy I had to have a methotrexate injection to end the pregnancy in December 2008. My OB suspected the pregnancy was a slowly developing ectopic pregnancy as again my hCG levels were too low, and nothing was showing up on an ultrasound. Following both failed pregnancies, I had to wait three cycles before resuming conception attempts. Oh, and my cycles are on the longer side at 38 days. I’m now due to resume babymaking attempts, but I’ve decided to lose some weight and focus on other things I need to get done first.
I’ve done the Mucinex thing, and I’ve conceived at least twice in this time frame. Between pregnancies, my OB – on a hunch – had me tested for MTHFR defects. MTHFR is a genetic defect that, basically, causes microscopic blood-clotting due to the bodies inability to process normal doses of folic acid. Essentially, MTHFR defects cause chronic miscarriages. It is suspected that 20% of the population has a version of an MTHFR defect. To counteract this defect I take a whopping 4mg of folic acid everyday. This is 4x the amount of folic acid in the average prenatal vitamin. (Oh, and MTHFR can effect sperm too, so have your men take multivitamins.)
To top this all off, I’ve got a cyst on one ovary and a small amount of free fluid in the abdominal cavity. Further, I believe that I have a borderline case of PCOS. But because all my tests (and there have been MANY) are in the normal range at this time, I cannot be treated for it.
Anyway, if anyone has had two miscarriages or more, and especially women in their 30s, I suggest asking your doctor about MTHFR. Some doctors don’t believe it causes problems, and for some people it doesn’t when they’re young. If your doctor blows it off, get another doctor.
Robitussin and “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” worked for us (though it did take nearly a year and I’m only 26)!
I’m 34½ and we’re on our third month of trying. My partner and I are seeing an RE and are doing IUI. It’s a tedious process for everyone, it seems, and it takes time; even without any fertility problems, it often takes time.
Hang in there!
Everything that everyone has said seems a bit right. I actually came to this site hoping it would help me determine if I should take Nyquil or not because my husband and I have been trying for 3 years to get pregnant. The doctors have found no infertility issues other than I’m not tracking an ovulation. I just finished taking letrozole and we are hoping this will be the month! Hang in there…but don’t wait tok long to see a doctor. We waited for two years and we are now on three since we first saw the doctor in February. It’s seems to be a long process for those of us who REALLY want it.