No, really... how IS babby formed?
July 7, 2013 11:24 AM   Subscribe

Pursuant to this question and 3.5 years of awesomeness, we are now in the club and Officially Trying to Conceive. Also, beanplating like pros. (As one does.) Could youse please share everything you know about timing while trying?


--34ish (me) and 38ish (him) with no prior conception history.
--Unprotected for over a year, but only on the second official cycle. No hormonal BC for five years.
--Overweight but no signs of PCOS. Very reliable periods. Otherwise, reasonably healthy.

What we're doing so far:
--FertilityFriend app (including starting to chart basal temps -- good lord; I am at 96.7)
--Good 8 months or so of prenatals on my side; he's now taking Vitamin C horse pills
--Yes, we have TCoYF and have read it.
--Trying to get familiar with cervical fluid. (We were watching Buckaroo Banzai and when he checked out his engine residue gunk, my husband said, "Whoa, that's some good lookin' cervical fluid right there!" So... there's our term. Engine residue.)

I'm a little worried because he says he did it unprotected with his ex for quite a while and never (to his knowledge) had a pregnancy or scare. He's going in on the 19th to get his swimmers checked during a physical. (His ex now has a kid.)

Last month we did it every day during days 10-18. I thought we did it right on the nose w/r/t cervical fluid, but maybe not. I see that alternating days ("buildup") is good. I kind of would prefer to do it less frequently, if possible, but such is life. We are... less-frequent doers. We have wonderful times, but I have a lot of difficulty concentrating, so it gets mentally uncomfortable.

IT IS GOING TO BE OKAY. I know I should just lie back and think of England... but I just really like to have the Facts. Or at least some of them. More than these, though it's a good start.

Hope? Please?
posted by Madamina to Health & Fitness (29 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite


We are also less frequent doers with no prior conception history. Had also read TCoYF and yet for some reason I was mostly having sex at and around the ovulation date according to this period calculator I was using for several years, but I think I was having sex too late. And I didn't really want to do the daily sex thing, especially not right away, because I thought the stress and pressure would make me anxious. But after 5 months I was getting kind of tired of peeing on sticks and having them come out negative so we were talking about maybe getting ovulation pee sticks.

But we were pregnant as we had that convo! And I didn't know. This is what I did different on the month it worked:

Decided to try having sex earlier in the cycle, app be damned. I have long cycles, and thought I was ovulating around day 18, and so we were starting sex around day 15. We conceived by having sex on day 11 and 13.

Paid more attention to my cervical fluid. This is gross and probably really TMI but reaching up there and poking my cervix wasn't reliable for me. What was reliable was how things were down there with morning's first, er, poop. If, when you wipe front to back, the TP feels really, really slippery over your vulva, THAT is when you want to have sex. Sorry, that is way more than I really wanted to share with metafilter but it's what worked for me.

We only had sex twice that month, and it worked. Like I said, fifth month of trying. This is about average, I think, though I understand the stress to just get going already.

I got this really good book, The Panic-Free Pregnancy, and I'd really recommend it because it's rational and generally calming. This is what the author says about timing:

"Fertility experts agree that the odds of getting pregnant decrease dramatically after ovulation. That is, to get pregnant, you must have sex before you ovulate. The sperm must be present in the uterus or Fallopian tubes when the egg is released in order for conception to occur. If you wait for ovulation, then the key moment has passed . . . you are most likely to get pregnant if you have sex some time between six days before ovulation to one day before ovulation. . . [temperature charts] are even worse for timing intercourse because the body temperature rises after ovulation. So seeing a rise in body temperature indicates that "you ovulated." Good to know if you're curious whether you are ovulating at all (some women aren't). But useless if you're trying to get pregnant."

So I read that AFTER we got our first-ever BFP and I know it goes against a lot of what I recall from reading TCOYF but it also jived with my experience. Have sex earlier! And good luck!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:47 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

The pee on a stick ovulation tests were perfect for us. Got pregnant only after using them. They were so effective, in fact, that I have some left. If you'd like them, just memail me your address and I'll drop them in the mail.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 11:52 AM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Keep doing what you're doing and wait for his test results. You'll have more info then. We spent 2 years trying to conceive, that last year with me doing Fertility Friend and getting a bunch of tests. At the end they finally tested my husband and the issue was on his end. A month or so of treatment, I kept taking my temps and followed my ovulation schedule and got pregnant. I would say to stay on track with FF and see what happens with his test.
posted by DrGirlfriend at 11:58 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Have you tried ovulation test strips?

I highly recommend just getting some test strips. For about $20.00 you get 40 ovulation test strips and 10 pregnancy test strips.

Really can help in charting when to try.
posted by HMSSM at 11:58 AM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I read TCOYF and was geared up to start checking basal temps and cervical fluid but figured I'd try ovulation strips first as being somewhat less effort and was pregnant a month later. I used the cheap Wondfo strips from Amazon, which are really basic (no cool digital display or handy plastic strip holder) but have the benefit of costing about 25 cents apiece so you can start testing early, test 2x a day, whenever to make sure you don't miss your LH surge. You definitely want to have had sex before ovulation, not after.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 12:03 PM on July 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am very familiar with my engine fluid...
That being said I love the My Days app. It tracks your cycle and tells you your most fertile days. It has always been exactly right on in my case. It doesn't track temps, although you can record them in the Notes section.
posted by MayNicholas at 12:19 PM on July 7, 2013

The charting sounds great, and I also second the ovulation prediction kits. I would also want to know your BMI: depending on degree of overweight, this can mess with your hormones and make conception (and pregnancy and birth and losing weight post-partum) more difficult.

The engine fluid that's the best is the sticky eggwhite stuff. It's like a glue-straw for the sperm.

And, most important (as you may know): relax and enjoy the babymaking. Stress is often the biggest hurdle.

Good luck!!
posted by stillmoving at 12:21 PM on July 7, 2013

Different positions may help. My wife and I have a belief that both kids were conceived doggy style (she has a retroverted uterus).
posted by mattu at 12:37 PM on July 7, 2013

Completely unscientific suggestion: Go out and do something fun and romantic. Whatever qualifies in your book. Dinner, a show, camping... Whatever works for you!

I firmly believe that our little guy (now 18 months) was conceived because my wife and I had a happy un-stressed weekend. She took me out to a nice dinner at Morton's for my birthday, and then to the Atlanta car show to browse and sit in various cars. I'm a car nut, so that was my birthday treat.

Completely unscientific correlation: we had been trying for a while, and we traced my son's conception to that weekend.

My point being: if you are both happy and feeling relaxed, your body may cooperate. Take some pressure off yourself. Be romantic, do something unusual. Relax!

Wishing you all the best luck!
posted by Fleebnork at 1:28 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Counterpoint to the "you have to relax" messages: amidst a great deal of trouble getting and staying pregnant, my daughter was conceived 3 weeks after a miscarriage when my husband and I were both still very angry and sad, and my son was conceived during the only month I didn't track temperatures because my grandmother was dying and I was so upset.

The O-test strips are key, for me. I would definitely get yourself a boatload of those on Amazon. The temps are great for confirming that you are ovulating and that your ovulation is strong, but the LH strips are really key for finding the "board is green, clear to launch" day.
posted by KathrynT at 2:37 PM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

My DH and I had a long stretch of unprotected time with no luck, charted using My Days for a few months, but didn't get pregnant until the first cycle using PreSeed lube.

I highly recommend it.
posted by checkitnice at 2:58 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Stress doesn't lower fertility, so you can relax about that! Depression does, though, so make sure you take care of yourself.

Since you started charting, make sure you understand when - and if - you ovulate. Regular periods can be deceptive, because they are not necessarily ovulatory cycles.

Don't worry just yet, wait for his sperm analysis, track your temperatures, try for a couple more cycles. Call to schedule a visit with a fertility specialist NOW, for three months from now. If you get pregnant, cancel! If you're not pregnant in three months, you're not going to have to wait another however many months to get an appointment.

If it will make you feel like you have more control over the process, limit (or cut entirely, if you have the willpower) caffeine and alcohol from your diet. Take B6 supplements. I have heard great things about PreSeed, though if your cervical mucus is plentiful there's no real reason to try it yet - but it can't hurt.

I have that three month appointment scheduled for September, fingers crossed that I won't need it and neither will you!
posted by lydhre at 3:15 PM on July 7, 2013

I did all of this, using the old fashioned thermometers and hand written charts. My then husband's fertility came back with low swimmers (like, 20%) and some mutations. The fertility dr said I wasn't ovulating properly, on a regular basis. Diagnosis: there is no way you will get preggers without medical intervention.

Called my brother, who had several years between kids and he said, "just forget about it and relax." So I did, because we weren't willing to go through the advanced fertility treatments at that time.

As soon as I quit my highly stressful job with the free health insurance, found out I was pregnant. I'm thinking my hormones had something to do with me quitting. But stress didn't keep me from conceiving. Or maybe it was a COBRA conspiracy.

So I guess don't worry even if his test comes back poorly. Babby's like to be made. I have no idea what we were doing, but it wasn't that frequent, as I had my daughter who was about 8 or 9 at the time and we both worked full time, so it wasn't every day. And I had a friend with her daughter living with us at the time. I remember, because I had to ask her to leave so we could use her room for my daughter and make my daughter's room over into the nursery.

Good luck, I know it's stressful, waiting and hoping. I feel your pain.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 3:34 PM on July 7, 2013

You only have somewhere around a 20% chance of getting pregnant during any given cycle, even with perfect everything. Alternating days is fine, according to several ob-gyns I know. I also read a study in which the women's hormone levels were tracked more-or-less continuously and the conclusion was that sex up to three days before ovulation was good, sex on the day of ovulation was great, and sex the day after ovulation was pretty well useless. (If you like studies too, I'll try to find it again.)

If your husband doesn't already take a daily multivitamin, that would be something to consider -- selenium in particular has been associated with decreased sperm motility, and having all of his levels topped off regularly won't hurt him anyway. I'm sure his doctor will be able to give plenty of advice there though.
posted by teremala at 4:10 PM on July 7, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all of the help! I was unclear on how ovulation test strips worked, so that helps a lot.

I knew that regular lube was a no-no, but we don't use lube anyway. (Though maybe it might be worth getting some for the 5th time in one week...) Pre-Seed is just a substitute for any usual lube, right? As in "doesn't make you MORE likely to have the swimmers swim"?

I have been taking a tiny B6/B12/folic acid lozenge from Trader Joe's that doesn't taste like ass, so perhaps I will offer it to my husband.

BMI: 36. Yep, I'm fat. (So is he.) Things have looked okay hormone-wise on my last several physicals, but who knows -- there may be other hormones at play.

What kinds of fertility/sperm-check visits tend to be covered by insurance?
posted by Madamina at 4:41 PM on July 7, 2013

I am 41, as is my partner, and it took us over a year to get pregnant. I did the track my fertility thing - I just paid for the ovulation kits, had a fertility calendar on my ipad, and made sure we had sex around that time.

For me there there two things - other than just statistical probability - that seemed to help. I was going to begin fertility treatments, and one of the first steps was a hysterosalpingogram (which was covered by my insurance, and is a dye they use to check your fallopian tubes, but has the side effect of clearing out ones tubes as well. I won't lie, I bled for about 3-4 days afterwards; there was a lot of gunk. But my radiologist was solid: I was lucky and the actual procedure was not painful).

The second was to use pre-seed as the directions suggested (to use the syringe and inject a amount of it into my body before sex. Before I had been using it like ky jelly on my partner, but I think I realized that the syringe holds a goodly amount and is more effective at lubricating everything on the inside, which I think is the point).

I can't say for sure, but the combo of clearing and lubricating the path for the egg and sperm to meet worked, because 2 cycles later I was pregnant. Regardless of it you get a hysterosalpingogram, if you aren't using the syringe for the pre-seed, I would.

Good luck to you both.
posted by It's a Parasox at 5:25 PM on July 7, 2013

I used the clearblue fertility monitor and confirmed peak ovulation days with the test strips from Amazon that HMSSM linked to above. It made life a lot less stressful (I found charting to be very stressful - oh, and when charting I preferred Medhelp's ovulation tracker to Fertility Friend).

In terms of what your husband could do - mine cut caffeine out of his diet and started taking vitamins.

Good luck with everything!
posted by echo0720 at 5:30 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tracking my cervical fluid was key for me, so I recommend getting a good, uh, handle on what that looks like for you. My O day based on the fluid was a bit different from my O day based in my temperature so we would have missed our window just going off temps. I also used a Clearblue monitor but that's a big investment when the cheapy strips work almost just as well. (I got mine free for participating in a study, but that's a different story!)

If you're overweight you might also want to get your thyroid levels checked. I had a miscarriage, found out I was slightly hypothyroid and went on medication, then conceived a successful pregnancy a few months later. It may have been irrelevant but maybe not.
posted by apricot at 5:56 PM on July 7, 2013

i've been on this roller coaster for nearly a year. i know all the tricks of the trade!

-charting is good, unless it stresses you out too much, because you can confirm when ovulation occurred. (so if you get pregnant, you can figure out a more precise due date.) also, if you end up going to the RE doc, it will be good to have the charting data for them to rule out anything obvious, like a luteal phase defect.

-cervical fluid: if you have lots of egg white stuff, great! have sex. if not, get some pre-seed. shoot it up there. it's not just for lube. the composition of it is meant to mimic fertile cervical fluid, so it provides a nice medium for the sperms to swim in. i have also heard green tea helps with the mucus production and that taking a cough medicine with guaifenesin (and ONLY that), it can loosen up or thin your mucus. again, making it more sperm-friendly.

-take a prenatal vitamin

-testing: my primary care doc ran an initial blood test on me. it was day 3 of my cycle and checked my estrogen level and something else that indicated my ovarian reserve. all was good. so we thought eh, let's check out my husband's swimmers. i am not sure how to do this officially. (find an RE? a urologist?), but i found a test on amazon that he took at home. it was called spermcheck. it can't tell you about motility or mobility, just basic sperm count. (he's fine, btw). but it made it easier to rule that out at home and not force him to jack off at the doctor's office, which didn't sound too fun.

ok so enough with the tests and the vitamins and the science. time for some woo.

couples who are trying to conceive get pretty annoyed when people tell them to "just relax" and it'll happen. but i do believe our minds have enormous control over our bodies--even (especially) subconsciously. i am a total type a personality. when i decided i wanted a baby i took a carpet-bomb approach. special lube and supplements! goal-oriented sex! charting and obsessively watching calendar! guess what? i am not pregnant, even though i am totally ovulating, have totally had sex on the right days with my totally spermy husband in my totally cervical fluid-y vag.

am i secretly messed up? should i re-read the symptoms of endometriosis or PCOS again? maybe.

but then again, maybe it just takes this long. and maybe it takes even longer for those of us who tend toward anxiety and stress and wanting to control things. and maybe it's also not-so-good when we're over 35 and every which way we turn another article is telling us how screwed we are in the fertility department what with the advanced maternal age and all.

so i am now taking a different approach.
yoga. possibly acupuncture. meditation. massage.
chilling the eff out.
believing my body is fine, it is not messed up, i didn't lose my chance.
having positive visions of pregnancy and childbirth: it doesn't have to be scary or painful.
letting myself be in love with my husband and enjoy our time together, not just look at him as the sperm-shooter. looking at him and thinking "hey, i like you, let's make a baby!"
letting go of anxiety and worry wherever possible, though it's really hard.

there is a huge community on the internets around home/natural birth. i wish there was one around natural fertility. the natural birthers say babies come out more easily in an environment of love and without worry--that your cervix doesn't want to open when you're scared or anxious. i can't help but think what helps the baby come out might also help it get in.
posted by apostrophe at 6:14 PM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I absolutely agree about using yoga. I swore by yoga when I was going thru infertility. I also think eating well is a good thing. For women with PCOS (and other women too, depending), weight loss helps fertility. Strenuous exercise isn't really recommended so I found the combination of exercise through yoga and improving my diet to be really helpful - at least for my emotional health.

However, I'm not a proponent of "natural fertility" exactly, because if you're already at advanced maternal age (35) and you spend 6-12 months trying "natural" approaches to fertility, that's 1 year further down the line making it that much harder to conceive and that much more likely that you'll have chromosomal abnormalities (for both you and husband, age is an issue, in case you weren't aware of the male age thing).

So, yes, natural approaches, and do it for years if you have time to burn, but if you don't have that time - I fully agree with the suggestion to make an appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist. Standard stuff that gets checked at physicals won't cover you, unless you were getting checked for PCOS to begin with (I'm assuming they did check your thyroid, though). I also hope that you do not need to go the assisted reproduction route, but the fact that you've been having unprotected sex for a year and you're on your way to 35 suggests to me that being ready to see an RE sooner rather than later could be a good idea for you (feel free to try any and all the other ideas here too in the meantime, of course).

FWIW, I did intrauterine insemination for several cycles and I could see that my husband's sperm count doubled if we waited a little longer in between the IUI and the last time we had had sex - so I'm definitely a believer that doing it every day is not necessarily a good idea (and, ouch!).
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:33 PM on July 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're really worried about money/insurance, some primary care doctors are pretty profligate about giving out Clomid scripts. And Clomid is generic and cheap. But I still recommend seeing a specialist over doing that if at all possible. For me, I got Clomid from my OB for several months before going to an RE, who diagnosed me with PCOS at my first appointment - I felt so frustrated that I had gone through the heartache of several failed cycles of Clomid without trying to figure out what my actual issue was first.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 6:35 PM on July 7, 2013

I've had trouble conceiving due to fertility issues (PCOS). However, friends of mine who do not have known problems have reported great success with the "Sperm meets Egg Plan". My fertility doctors always recommend every other day for intercourse for me during my fertile period; I've heard that every day can be a bit too often (perhaps less sperm are available at the optimal time?)
posted by tigeri at 8:00 PM on July 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

I'm of a similar BMI to yourself and had similar slowness in conceiving. After a year and a half of unprotected sex and one possible early miscarriage, what seemed to do it for me was:

1) changing position
2) doubling my daily folic acid pill from 400mcg to 800mcg (some people, especially after miscarriages, take even more)
3) watching my ovulation cycle like a hawk

as a result, I know exactly what day I got pregnant (October 14th, 2011), and had a baby exactly 9 months later (July 14th, 2012!). Freaky.

My conclusion is that my body benefits from switching it up a little. Maybe yours does too? Either way, sometimes these things do take time, and it's not necessarily because you're doing something wrong... it's just that the right elements aren't in play.
posted by saturnine at 8:07 PM on July 7, 2013

From all the reading I did when I started TTC, I will second PreSeed and the Sperm Meets Egg Plan. Every other day starting on Day 8 is a reasonable approach that will not have you trying too late.

And also in the can't hurt / might help category: orgasm. I ended up getting pregnant the first month we were trying (at age 35), which I credit to some good vibrations directly after the swimmers were launched (along with good timing).

FWIW, I found it difficult to pinpoint ovulation based on my body's signals. I had EWCM and a SLOW cervix on too many days. Ovulation pee strips sound like a better plan to me, if you don't want to spend half your time with your finger up your hooha.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 8:11 AM on July 8, 2013

We had sex every day. EVERY DAY. For six months while trying to conceive. What I took away from that was that having sex on the exact right day isn't everything. Even with a carpet bombing approach there is still a lot of luck involved.

You'll be okay. If science and facts help you stay calm (they helped me a lot), really don't keep reading the internet. There is way too much half information and misinformation and your imagination will drive you nuts. Start talking to doctors. Unprotected sex counts as trying, and trying for a year without a pregnancy is clinical infertility. Whether or not you seek treatment is up to you of course, but talking to your doctors and getting some tests done will help you feel in control and feed your hungry brain with delicious, delicious facts.
posted by annekate at 8:33 PM on July 9, 2013

hi. i am the person above who said to chill out & do yoga. anyhoo, i just found out i have stage 3/4 endometriosis and i will need surgery and/or IVF to get this baby thing going. so, um, i guess i take back my earlier advice! i mean, relax and whatnot for sure, because stress is a factor. but if you're charting and going all out with no luck for 6 months or so, go get checked out. the RE doctor did a sonogram and knew what the problem was right away. so glad i didn't waste more time.
posted by apostrophe at 7:50 AM on September 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hola, amigos. It's been two months since I rapped at ya. Nothing's happened yet.

I started seeing a naturopath and an acupuncturist. I cut sugar and most gluten and (this one was just the worst) cheese out of my diet. I am taking a bunch of horse pill vitamins.

My acupuncturist recommended getting another slate of tests: LH, FSH, prolactin, free testosterone, estradiol, vitamin D, glucose fasting, HbgA1C and iron counts. Then at least we'll have a little more data.

But the important thing I wanted to say is that this week I have pretty much HAD IT with being a Specimen, and I want some goddamn pizza, and I don't care who knows it. So I am telling pretty much anyone who is halfway discreet what is going on.

Because this is hitting literally every single one of my anxieties: eating right, spending money, doing things wrong, doing things RIGHT but seeing absolutely zero effect, doing things on your own while your partner sits there and watches. (He's wonderful, but aside from taking vitamins there's nothing much he can do aside from buying me guacamole.)

So... fuck it. I'm eating whatever the hell I want this weekend and that's what's going to happen. Because my mental state is way more important than worrying about whether some little sperm performs the proper kind of gymnastics routine because I clapped my hands and made an offering to Patron Saint #362.

I'm doing okay; just a little frayed. But I wanted to write this down because I hope that people who read this in the future will see that they're not alone, either.
posted by Madamina at 10:17 AM on September 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

seriously, this stuff is ROUGH. it doesn't help that all my good friends got pregnant either accidentally or easily. it feels like my womanly nature has been insulted! so i'm not sure how long you guys have been trying--looks like unprotected sex for over a year + a few months of hardcore trying? yeah, i think you're due for going to the RE. and dude, i did NOT want to go there, because i didn't want to be an official person who needed official fertility help. but i'm so glad i did, since that transvaginal ultrasound they routinely do on 1st visits showed my problem right away. i mean, we could have gone on for months and months with crushing disappointment every time my period came and had no idea of the trouble goin' on inside. make the appointment. knowledge is power!
posted by apostrophe at 6:11 PM on September 7, 2013

Response by poster: So... uh... got any leads on plus-sized maternity clothes that won't break the bank?

posted by Madamina at 11:27 AM on September 22, 2013 [14 favorites]

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