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TEAM ZOELLA OCTOBER 22, 2020

Let’s Talk about Trying to Get Pregnant: Four Women Share Their TTC Journey

We spoke to four women willing to share their TTC stories and offer some first-hand advice and reassurance for anyone trying to conceive.

We spend the best part of our youth doing all we can to avoid getting pregnant but when you’re ready to start a family, it’s not always as simple as coming off the pill & going for it at the right time of the month. It can be one unexpected emotional rollercoaster and a whole lot of effort.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how long it takes to conceive, and everyone’s fertility journey is different.

It is estimated that one in seven couples may have difficulty conceiving. Whether it’s PCOS, low sperm count, endometriosis or unexplained infertility, the struggles of trying to conceive are still rarely spoken about and whilst there can be a whole host of reasons why couples may choose to keep their experience private, knowing what to expect can help debunk preconceived ideas of TTC and help others feel less isolated in the process.

After all, we are the ones peeing on eye-wateringly expensive sticks and feeling completely belittled when our period shows up uninvited, we should at least be able to talk about it.

We spoke to four women willing to share their TTC stories and offer some first-hand advice and reassurance for anyone trying to conceive.

Maddie Barsch – @maddiechester

Our very own Maddie, Talent Director at Gleam Futures is currently expecting.

Did you have any preconceived ideas of what the TTC experience would be like based on other people’s stories / things you’d heard?

To be completely honest I was quite pessimistic about the whole thing which is quite unlike me as a personality trait, I just really didn’t think it would be easy for us. I had previously been told by a gynaecologist that I have Polycystic Ovaries (PCO) and it also took me about 2 years to get my period back after coming off the contraceptive pill about 5+ years ago. Those things combined with me being in my 30s (god forbid) I thought meant that it wouldn’t be that straightforward. I’ve also had quite a few people close to me that have really struggled so I was aware that the journey could be a long one.

There’s an assumption that falling pregnant happens pretty quickly, possibly because the majority of people trying to conceive are doing so privately and will only share the news if they become pregnant. How long did it take for you to fall pregnant / how long were you trying to conceive?

Rather miraculously we got pregnant very quickly. We were on our second month of trying when that second line popped up, I was completely shocked and was not expecting it to happen that fast whatsoever.

Did you have any useful tools / apps to help plan your pregnancy and connect with your body?

The app that was often recommended which I used and thought was brilliant is the Ovia Fertility app. It’s brilliant at tracking your cycle and tells you when statistically your most fertile days areMaddie Barsch

I watched A LOT of TTC YouTube videos and took on board a lot of the tips that kept reappearing. The app that was often recommended which I used and thought was brilliant is the Ovia Fertility app. It’s brilliant at tracking your cycle and tells you when statistically your most fertile days are, it’s also full to the brim with information which I found really useful in those early days. In terms of other “tools” I also used ovulation strips, the cheap ones from Amazon which let you know when you’re about to have your “LH” surge ie you’re about to ovulate. Finally, and a little TMI but it’s what we’re here for, I also paid much more attention to my cervical mucus (google it). It turns out that’s also a great indicator for ovulation and I actually found that to be the easiest way to track my most fertile days.

Did you make any lifestyle changes to help improve your chances of getting pregnant?

I took baby making quite seriously and didn’t go into it with a “let’s see what happens” attitude at all. If there was anything I could do to speed the process along I was going to try. Disclaimer, I have no idea if any of these things would have made ANY difference had I not done them but they obviously didn’t hurt. I cut out caffeine and alcohol, started taking folic acid supplements, included maca powder in my morning smoothies, drank raspberry leaf tea during the first half of my cycle and tried to stay as active as possible.

Trying to conceive can be a stressful time emotionally, do you have any pointers for trying to stay positive and relaxed when you’re feeling discouraged?

In all honesty I don’t feel like I have the right to give advice here, I know friends who really had such a difficult time trying to conceive and I saw how frustrating and hard that was for them. I asked one of my good friends who spent over a year trying what she would say and her top tip for when you feel at a low point is to plan a trip. A little getaway (even if that’s just to a hotel an hour from home!) somewhere to just enjoy being with your partner and take your mind off the routine that can become incredibly unromantic.

The commitment to love-making can be a lot and sex can become a bit of a ‘task’ when you’re trying to get pregnant, how did you deal with that / what advice do you have for anyone struggling to connect with their partner and keep things fun?

It definitely feels a bit more routine than normal when you know that there’s a human you’re trying to create out of all the sex and also because the timings of it are so important to get right which normally you would never even consider. On the subject of timings, there’s only really a week window where it’s vital that you’re getting the sperm where it needs to go so once you’ve worked out your ovulation patterns it turns out you don’t need to be having sex all day every day to make a baby. I think knowing this really took the pressure off a bit and it meant that when it was my fertile days we made extra effort to have date nights and enjoy spending time together so it didn’t feel too routine.

One thing you wish you knew at the start of your TTC that you know now…

If I had a crystal ball that could have shown me that we would get pregnant quite quickly I would love to go back and tell myself to worry less and be more chill about it. I was so convinced that it was going to be really hard for me, so I became incredibly clued up on everything to do with TTC. In reality I could probably have relaxed more and just let nature do its thing. I think that’s what’s quite daunting about the whole thing, you have no idea what your journey is going to be like until you start to try.

What NOT to say to someone TTC? (how can friends check in with you without asking the obvious?)

It’s such a personal journey and not everyone is comfortable sharing it so in this instance I would let your friend lead the conversation, not the other way around.Maddie Barsch

The chances are if someone has been trying to conceive for a while there is likely nothing you can tell them that they won’t have already read about, heard from a doctor or considered themselves. So, unless they have asked you for your advice or opinion I wouldn’t offer it. Similarly, I would be cautious of false hope success stories from a friend of a friend that took a magic potion that produced a baby. Instead, I would offer support and find out how they are feeling, it’s such a personal journey and not everyone is comfortable sharing it so in this instance I would let your friend lead the conversation, not the other way around.

How do you deal with a friend’s happy baby news if it hasn’t happened for you, yet?

This must be so difficult. I would of course be so thrilled for my friend and then privately I would probably pour a very large glass of wine, let myself cry and be sad, confide in my closest and surround myself with people and things that bring my life joy (like my dog). It breaks my heart that some people struggle so much and often are struggling in silence as infertility and fertility problems are still something that don’t get talked about enough. I really loved Desi Perkin’s YouTube series where she was so open and honest about her fertility journey. I think a lot of couples would really relate to their story.

Carys Whittaker – @busybee.carys

Carys is a content creator, YouTuber, ray of sunshine, and she’s currently expecting.

Did you have any preconceived ideas of what the TTC experience would be like based on other people’s stories / things you’d heard?

So when I started TTC using ovulation kits and having sex on the days with the highest rate of conception, I was surprised that it didn’t happen for us more quickly!Carys Whittaker

I had an idea that TTC wasn’t easy based on certain things I’d seen in films or heard in podcasts. None of my friends or close family have young kids, so I’ve never had a conversation in person with anyone about their personal TTC experience! I always assumed it was seen as ‘not easy’ based off people ‘having sex regularly and seeing what happens’. So when I started TTC using ovulation kits and having sex on the days with the highest rate of conception, I was surprised that it didn’t happen for us more quickly!

There’s an assumption that falling pregnant happens pretty quickly, possibly because the majority of people trying to conceive are doing so privately and will only share the news if they become pregnant. How long did it take for you to fall pregnant / how long were you trying to conceive?

It took us 5 months to conceive. I definitely agree that it feels like everyone just ‘falls pregnant’ straight away based on the fact there’s not a very open conversation around TTC. I think there is a lot of shame and embarrassment attached to TTC and how long it takes, which sucks. The more people that can share their stories and normalise the conversation around it, the less of a struggle it would be for a lot of people.

Did you have any useful tools / apps to help plan your pregnancy and connect with your body?

I used the clear blue digital ovulation monitor and sticks to track my ovulation days. I also used the Femometer app which is synced up to a BBT (basal body temperature) thermometer. This tracks your BBT and shows you when exactly you ovulated, and how your temperature then responds after ovulation which can be a sign of pregnancy. I think the ovulation sticks are great for understanding more about your body and your cycle but I found the thermometer to be a negative for me.

I become obsessed with the app and analysing my temperature chart when it ended up being no help and just made me feel more anxious about the whole process. The month I fell pregnant was actually the month we did a ‘month off’ any ovulation tracking or temperature tracking. I did still know a lot about my body and cycle from all the tracking I had done previously so I don’t regret doing it but I think a month off was needed for us.

Did you make any lifestyle changes to help improve your chances of getting pregnant?

Going from your normality to suddenly NO alcohol, a new diet, overthinking everything you eat, taking your temperature every morning and peeing on your ovulation sticks, it almost takes over your whole day!Carys Whitaker

For the first 2-3 months, I stopped drinking alcohol completely and looked into all sorts of foods/diets that could improve my chances of getting pregnant. From my experience, I actually found any extreme changes reminded me and my body daily that we were not only TTC but that I was REALLY trying hard. This was such a negative reminder daily for me. I had endless advice from my mum who is a GP and does a lot of family planning. She would always say how important it is to relax and not stress. At the time you might not feel over ‘stressed’ but I think it all adds up with you realising!

Going from your normality to suddenly NO alcohol, a new diet, overthinking everything you eat, taking your temperature every morning and peeing on your ovulation sticks, it almost takes over your whole day! I eventually decided to start living as ‘normally’ as possible and that helped me so much mentally. You have to keep living your life alongside TTC because otherwise, it can so easily consume every inch of you!!

Trying to conceive can be a stressful time emotionally, do you have any pointers for trying to stay positive and relaxed when you’re feeling discouraged?

I think I the first good thing to remember is that so many women are in the same boat as you and feeling exactly the same way. It’s Bloomin’ HARD!! For me, half the struggle was feeling alone and feeling guilty about struggling. Finding someone to talk to and open up to about how you’re feeling can help so much. I know it can be really hard to find the right people to talk too, if you’re struggling with that you could always look up TTC communities/forums online and see if that works for you. However you’re feeling, you’re not alone.

The commitment to love-making can be a lot and sex can become a bit of a ‘task’ when you’re trying to get pregnant, how did you deal with that / what advice do you have for anyone struggling to connect with their partner and keep things fun?

It’s so easy to feel bad when Sex becomes less enjoyable and more of a ‘task’ but it’s good to remind yourself, that’s totally normal! Most couples will go through that when TTC, we certainly did! Things I found helpful were:

  • Accepting that planning sex is okay when TTC. It doesn’t make you ‘unsexy’ or ‘less in love’ saying things like “we haven’t had sex yet today, maybe we should” is okay, it’s just being busy and being human!
  • Talking to each other and communicating about how you’re feeling and how you could spice things up for each other.
  • Take a month to step back and have sex less. This can be REALLY hard because you immediately think you’ll have less chance of conceiving but I think quality over quantity is important to try now and then!

One thing you wish you knew at the start of your TTC that you know now…
That certain lubricant brands can kill sperm!!! So if you use lubricant get a TTC friendly one like ‘preseed’.

What NOT to say to someone TTC?

Ask them how they’re doing and how TTC is going for them. Let them open up to you as much as they feel comfortable with. Try to create an understanding environment where they feel they can say things they might be embarrassed about or nervous to talk about. Refrain from phrases like ‘oh it will happen’ ‘don’t worry about it’ ‘the more you worry the less likely it is to happen’ ‘it always happens when you don’t want it too’ ‘stop worrying’.

How do you deal with a friend’s happy baby news if it hasn’t happened for you, yet?

Firstly, it’s never going to be easy so it’s a good start to be kind to yourself and know that it may hurt. Just because it hurts, it doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you human.

I believe that the emotions you put out into the universe and give to others are the emotions that fill up your soul and mould you as a person. I try my hardest to see the good in situations and people and pour out as much kindness and love as I possibly can to myself and others… that being said, sometimes it’s just really hard and that’s okay too.

Ruth Crilly – @ModelRecomends

Ruth has two children and is the founder of The Night Feed app which connects and entertains new mums during the long, sleepless nights with a new baby! Download on the App Store or Google Play.

Did you have any preconceived ideas of what the TTC experience would be like based on other people’s stories/things you’d heard?

Do you know, it sounds terrible to say it, now, but it just never crossed my mind that I would have any problems. I assumed it would happen quickly and without incident; I think then when I started TTC, social media and sharing personal experiences hadn’t really kicked off online and so I had very few stories to refer to. I had obviously had friends who had struggled or had bad times, but it wasn’t really talked about that openly.

There’s an assumption that falling pregnant happens pretty quickly, possibly because the majority of people trying to conceive are doing so privately and will only share the news if they become pregnant. How long did it take for you to fall pregnant / how long were you trying to conceive?

It was when I miscarried that I really started being quite preoccupied with it – as every month passed, and every test came up negative, I just felt more and more despondent.Ruth Crilly

When we got married in 2008 we started trying in a very low-key way. After a couple of years, I realised that it just wasn’t happening, but just as we were about to go and see the GP about it properly, I got pregnant. It was when I miscarried that I really started being quite preoccupied with it – as every month passed, and every test came up negative, I just felt more and more despondent. I thought that it would never happen. It did happen, wonderfully, but I didn’t have my first baby until the summer of 2015, so almost seven years of trying!

Did you have any useful tools/apps to help plan your pregnancy and connect with your body?

I would absolutely track ovulation, but track it accurately. I remember my Mum saying to me for years, “I used to ovulate on day 9!” and me going “blah blah ok, yeah right” and I never used to start my ovulation sticks until about day 10 or 11 because I didn’t want to waste them! But I must have been completely missing my window every month for YEARS. I worked out that I conceived my daughter on day 9. Obviously, I haven’t told my Mum this because I hate being wrong. Haha. It’s actually not that funny really because it was YEARS of heartbreak. I wouldn’t blame the whole thing on ovulation miscalculation because we would try all through the month, not just “on the right days” but still. Get a tracker, get the monitor thing with the sticks, do it all!

Did you make any lifestyle changes to help improve your chances of getting pregnant?

I went to see an amazing Chinese Medicine Practitioner and he sat and quizzed me for ages about obvious and obscure parts of my personality and lifestyle. It opened my eyes to many bits of behaviour that were probably not helping in the whole TTC journey. I started taking Vitamin D, getting outside more, eating a better diet and I virtually stopped drinking and I also went for regular acupuncture sessions with him. I was pregnant within about six months of making the changes. I was actually due to go for my first IVF consultation when I found out I was pregnant!

Trying to conceive can be a stressful time emotionally, do you have any pointers for trying to stay positive and relaxed when you’re feeling discouraged?

Yes, I think that seeking help as soon as you can is really important for positivity, once you get past the time-frame that the experts usually set as being “normal” for getting pregnant. It’s just a massive weight off when you can share your worries and once the tests are booked it feels as though you’re actively doing something to help things along. I think that this is enormously beneficial. I’d also say that although I did change my lifestyle, you don’t want to stress yourself out and live like a saint for the whole time you’re trying – you can become obsessed with “getting things just right” but in the end, I think we conceived when we were blind drunk at a wine-tasting evening on holiday in Greece.

The commitment to love-making can be a lot and sex can become a bit of a ‘task’ when you’re trying to get pregnant, how did you deal with that / what advice do you have for anyone struggling to connect with their partner and keep things fun?

Oh, it just really wasn’t fun six years down the line. Nothing could have made it fun. We just sort of nodded at one another in a silent assent. “You may begin.”

One thing you wish you knew at the start of your TTC that you know now…

Try wearing a pad instead of using tampons/mooncup so that you have a good idea of your flow and the length of your periods because you will be asked this ALL THE TIME if you seek help!Ruth Crilly

You can ovulate on a really weird day and those sticks can be impossible to read – they always look SLIGHTLY positive, so start testing on day five or something for a few months so that you really get a feel for your cycle. Also, sorry if this is TMI, but try wearing a pad instead of using tampons/mooncup so that you have a good idea of your flow and the length of your periods because you will be asked this ALL THE TIME if you seek help!

What NOT to say to someone TTC? 

I think pretty much any question about it gets your back up and makes you feel inadequate and embarrassed, so it would be better for them to just ask how someone is generally and let them take the lead, I think. Saying that I used to LOVE talking about it with other people who were trying to TTC and not having a great time, because it used to make me feel less alone, so if you have anecdotal material that someone will relate to then that can be a good ice breaker. It’s a really tricky one. 

How do you deal with a friend’s happy baby news if it hasn’t happened for you, yet?

I don’t think that you ever do deal with it very well if I’m honest. Sorry, some of these answers aren’t ideal but I remember how raw it was when I heard people’s news – I was never jealous, per se, and I was always absolutely thrilled for them, but it would always throw up a “why me!” sense of self-pity and so I just used to embrace it and wallow for a while. I don’t think we need to be positive all the time – sometimes it’s OK to just feel incredibly hard done by.

Chaneen Saliee – @chaneensaliee

Chaneen is a content creator, founder of @wearetheempowered – Law of attraction manifestation coaching and @chicanddiscreet – affordable breastfeeding clothing.

Did you have any preconceived ideas of what the TTC experience would be like based on other people’s stories/things you’d heard?

I did have some preconceived ideas of what the trying to conceive experience would be like. I thought it would be very difficult and I thought potentially I wouldn’t be able to have children. That was a really hard reality or something for me to accept quite early on in my life. I didn’t plan then to have children because I thought I didn’t want the disappointment of trying and potentially facing disappointment over and over.

I was told at about 16 that because I had used the IUD I have likely ruined my chances of ever getting pregnant because ‘that’s the contraception they only give to women who have already had children and do not want anymore.’ This was told to me by a family friend who was a trained nurse and so I took her at her word and live with that belief for almost 10 years.

There’s an assumption that falling pregnant happens pretty quickly, possibly because the majority of people trying to conceive are doing so privately and will only share the news if they become pregnant. How long did it take for you to fall pregnant / how long were you trying to conceive?

I was able to conceive, but there was still a lot of fears surrounding what would happen throughout the pregnancy and to my life thereafter. Chaneen Saliee

So as I mentioned I never did try to conceive because I was afraid of the disappointment of not being able to conceive. And so when I did fall pregnant it was a surprise and it was a welcome surprise because I was able to conceive, but there was still a lot of fears surrounding what would happen throughout the pregnancy and to my life thereafter. 

I do think that the idea of trying to conceive is skewed and the experience is had often in private because of this heartbreak and this fear of it never happening and so we think that it is quite easy for women to fall pregnant and evidence of this is in the way that people often ask the question, “so when are you having a baby?” For women who are trying to conceive or who think they may have no chances of doing so, it is painful to hear this and then act as if it’s just a casual conversation, when really it dredges up so much pain, doubt and a heavy feeling of loss or of failure. 

Did you make any lifestyle changes to help improve your chances of getting pregnant?

I will say that while I never made any lifestyle changes to improve my chances of getting pregnant because I never tried to get pregnant I did make lifestyle changes once I knew that I was pregnant because I wanted to ensure that I could remain pregnant. It was always at the back of my mind the fear I had of never being able to get pregnant and then being pregnant and not knowing if I’m going to be able to maintain that pregnancy. 

Some of the things that I did to change my lifestyle really was to just rest more I set massive boundaries and I did not let anybody cross them and I didn’t push them aside for any reason. So my most important one I would say was resting and removing all stress if I needed to rest I would rest. At the time I was training to be a teacher which was a very heavy responsibility but I made the decision to put my career potentially on hold, on the back burner or maybe even give it up entirely so that I could ensure that I would be able to maintain my pregnancy. That was huge because I’d worked so hard to get to that point and all I felt I had to hold onto was my career and my love of travel but maintaining my pregnancy was far more important. 

Trying to conceive can be a stressful time emotionally, do you have any pointers for trying to stay positive and relaxed when you’re feeling discouraged?

Research unconventional alternatives and keep an open mind. There are some incredible stories of women who have tried alternative or holistic methods that helped them conceive.Chaneen Saliee

Watch lots of funny movies, research unconventional alternatives and keep an open mind. There are some incredible stories of women who have tried alternative or holistic methods that helped them conceive. Most importantly though I would say find a community of supportive women who are living through this experience too. 

How do you deal with a friend’s happy baby news if it hasn’t happened for you, yet?

Try to have the outlook or perspective that their happy baby news is a sign that it is possible for you too – our journeys are all very different.

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ZoeAshleyBethanNaomiOne half of the story Recent comment authors
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Mireia
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Mireia

This is by far one of my favourite posts you have made😘 it’s a topic that most people should talk about

Jade
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Jade

It really does help to know there are other women out there who are struggling too. I have been trying for almost 8 years with nothing. I have endometriosis and other chronic illnesses. I have finally gotten somewhere with doctors and am expecting a tube test in the future!

Carri
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Carri

Love this post. I conceived unbelievably quick. But then feared something would go wrong the whole pregnancy because of that. My Dr had told me you must wait for your period to return once getting the implant out of your arm. Mine didn’t because I got pregnant immediately. I was worried the whole time about not regulating first. Luckily everything was good and when I researched it was common, but again, not commonly talked about!

Lom
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Lom

Love this post! So important!

Sandra
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Sandra

What is TTC? The actual word was never mentioned in the article

Leah
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Leah

I think you need to explain at the start what TTC stands for as this isn’t explained at all and I had to google this. Interesting read though.

Sarah
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Sarah

Thank you so much for this post! Such an important topic and so interesting to read from different perspectives.

Sarah
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Sarah

I’m 5 years into trying to start our family and just found out today that our 3rd round of IVF has failed. Would be good to see a wider spectrum of journeys, such as IVF, surrogacy or adoption on future articles as there is still so much stigma surrounding these.

One half of the story
Guest
One half of the story

Unfortunately it’s focused on success stories and that’s not going to be the outcome for everyone. Why not talk about how to move on when you know you won’t ever be a parent?

Naomi
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Naomi

Thank you for this!
I have PCOS and was lucky my daughter was a surprise baby but 7 years later & 3 years of trying still nothing. We’ve had tests and tried all sorts of different methods but nothing yet. It’s nice that people are discussing the topic, this needs to be talked about more 💕

Bethan
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Bethan

It would also be interesting to hear from a mans perspective. When my husband and I were trying to conceive and it was taking a while, everyone automatically assumed it was an issue with me. We eventually went and got tested just to know where we stood, could we do anything etc. After having tests it turned out my husband had low sperm and very low motility. This was particularly hard for him as, as I said previously, it always seems to come down to the woman and it being her body not getting pregnant. It never crossed his mind… Read more »

Ashley
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Ashley

So grateful for this article. My husband and I started TTC a few months ago and I am already obsessively taking pregnancy tests, which I know is pointless unless the right time of the month, but I still take them anyway. The waiting to know is the hardest part each month, especially when it feels like everyone I know is announcing pregnancies. It’s good to know there are others out there who are not loving the TTC experience.

Zoe
Guest
Zoe

Great article. I assumed because both my sisters and my mother conceived first time that I would too so its been a roller coaster TTC’ing for almost a year now without any luck. I’ve started acupuncture and am taking Chinese herbs and I’m taking this time to deal with physical (potential endometriosis and gut health) and emotional issues I’ve ignored for many years which are probably impacting on my fertility. So although its taking longer than expected I feel it will be a positive outcome not just when we conceive but healing my body at the same time. I just… Read more »

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