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Trying to Conceive: When to Freak Out When You’re Not Expecting

By Amalah

Dear Amalah,

My husband and I have started seriously trying to have a baby, and, like every other couple, assumed it would come more easily than it has. Naturally, I was going to get knocked up on the first try, and why the hell would I have spent all these years avoiding pregnancy if that’s not how it works? Flash forward to reality, and we’re on our 6th month trying to conceive (and I know a lot of people have tried a lot longer than this and I’m relatively new to this, so please don’t roll your eyes at me) but so far it just hasn’t happened.

I have been charting the past few months and although the sex hasn’t reached that “only for a purpose” stage, at times it is really the only reason I am into it. The first month of this project I got sucked into some of *those* trying-to-conceive websites, you know the ones: every woman who posts is on her first month “TTC” and oh my god we totally got pregnant on the first try, and oooh baby dust, and omfg I got the bfn and I hate AF!! And everyone is all smug and clearly lying about how the process has been going, b/c hello, there is no community in which 75% of the women are pregnant within the first two months. Breathe.

Anyway, I learned quickly enough to get the hell out of those chat rooms, but I still have a couple of nagging thoughts implanted (ha! no pun intended) from reading too many posts.

1) Is preseed really the only way to go? clearly, KY is not a contraceptive and plenty of people have had “oopsies” with it that it is possible to get pregnant while using it, but should I stop? Is this really a factor? Or is that just crap to sell a different product and scare chatroom readers into swearing they don’t use it?

2) Is there any truth behind the ‘ooh so totally take robitussin!’ myth, (you know, because it thins our your mucus) or are these women just really dumb? B/c fully 100% of the women who use it swear it works on the first try, so it must right? Because coincidences don’t exist?

Ugh, I guess I’ve just reached a point at which I need to hear that it’s ok to still be this far along and still trying. The first month aside, the last few months I’ve been fine, but realizing it’s been six months has sort of freaked me out. I’m 26 and my husband is 30, so we still have a lot of time to work on this, and I’m not at the point where I’m ready to turn to fertility treatments, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this, and honestly? I think it would help to read a super snarky piece from you on how ridiculous these hyper-competitive conception “communities” are.


(How’s about a nice fluffly fluff piece for Friday, huh? Oy.)

When Should You Start Worrying?

OK, first, you do need to take a deep breath. Six months is still VERY MUCH in the realm of “normal” for conception. It is the point where some couples (usually those on the older side of the fertility jungle) opt to get some diagnostic testing done, but I don’t think that’s really necessary for a young couple just starting to chart and obsess and throw things at the TV when they rent Knocked Up and OOPS! LOOK HOW EASY THAT WAS! HA HA.

And I completely understand your ambivalence — we’ve been actively trying for about a year now, although technically we haven’t done a damn thing to prevent pregnancy (other than a few months of breastfeeding, which as those communities will tell you: OOPS! HA HA.) for the past two years. And I’m STILL not ready to turn to fertility treatments.

Currently, we’re still having sporadic conversations about what we should do “about the baby thing.” These conversations never really go anywhere or lead to a plan — we just kind of acknowledge that this sucks and change the subject. So look at you! Proactive and writing to advice columns! Waaaay ahead of me.

Preseed, Robitussin, and Charting — Oh My

So let’s address your specific questions, neither of which I have any firsthand experience with, so yeah, this is gonna be super-informative:

preseed.jpg1. Preseed. Never used it. I always assumed it was one of those “can’t hurt, might help, so why not” sort of things. (There are a lot of those in the fertility world, as you’ve seen.) For us, the constant “baby thing” hanging over the bedroom is a mood-killer enough, so the idea of having a bottle of that stuff on the nightstand seemed like a bad idea. FOR US.
If you would like a little TMI, we got pregnant using a random lubricant that was quite possibly purchased at a store that maybe sold a lot of things that sort-of require AA batteries. Or so I’ve heard. Ahem.

2. Robitussin. Also never used it. Unlike the Preseed, this one actually seemed like it could hurt, because non-recommended dosing of OTC medicines is kiiiiiind of a no-no, regardless of whether you’re a responsible married woman attempting procreation or a teenager chugging it behind the bleachers attempting intoxication. Like you, I gathered that the “OMG it totally worked!” stories were probably a lot of coincidences (since most of these women didn’t have any diagnosed medical condition that was preventing pregnancy, and were all just waiting for the luck of the cycle draw).

3. Charting. Personally, I’m done with charting — I never could make heads nor tales out of my temperatures and my ridiculously irregular cycles. With Noah my cycles just mysteriously leveled out to 30 days for about two months and OOPS! LOOK HOW…SO VERY NOT EASY THAT WAS. This year I’ve had quite a few 30-day cycles but no positive tests, only to have my next few cycles drag on for over 40 or 50 days. So I managed to scrounge up a used Clearblue Easy Fertility Monitor from a kind and generous reader and I’m giving that a try.

Of course, she didn’t have the instruction booklet anymore and I was too lazy to look it up, so I just found out I was using it wrong. Am so dumb. But hey! That means this will be my first NON-DUMB cycle! A fresh start! Everything will be different now! THIS IS THE MONTH OF DIGITALLY COMMANDED SEX THAT YIELDS RESULTS!

(Other than, you know, boring old orgasms. Pfft.)

And while we’re on that subject — even if everything is fine (perfect 28-day cycles, robust manly sperm, exquisitely timed boots-knocking — you’ve got about a 25% chance of success each month. 25%! Throw in something even remotely wonky and that percentage plummets even further. And the sad fact is that a lot of us are a little wonky. We get stressed, cycles get long, there’s a bum egg or two, our husbands don’t remember their multivitamins. Then there are the more serious conditions that no amount of babydust (bleh) or pineapple (blehbleh) or “just relaxing” (BLEHBLEHBLEH!) can fix. But you know, we all cross that bridge in our own time, with some of us hanging out in the gift shop a little too long. (Look, honey! A “Bridges of America” coffee table book!)

More From AlphaMom

Pregnancy Fears: It’s Never Going to Happen
How Prepared is Too Prepared to Have a Baby?
Natural Fertility Boosters

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • Liz

    November 2, 2007 at 12:36 pm

    Just wanted to chime in to let your reader know that I recently did some research on the lubricant issue, as my husband and I are trying to conceive. I’m a librarian at a medical facility, not a doctor (there’s your disclaimer!).
    The research I read (multiple studies) showed that lubricants like KY Jelly, olive oil, and even saliva can damage sperm motility. I was surprised by this, since I’ve never seen any warning about this on KY packaging.
    If you want to do your own reading, go to PubMed (from the National Institutes of Health), and type in lubricants and fertility. PubMed won’t give you the full-text for many of the articles, but the summaries will be informative.

  • Liz

    November 2, 2007 at 12:40 pm

    p.s. I bought some Pre-Seed, but haven’t used it yet. Warm water seems to work well enough for us.
    Welcome to TMI Friday!

  • lizneust

    November 2, 2007 at 12:41 pm

    I second the ovulation predictor kit – whether you do the old fashioned pee-on-sticks or newfangled digital thingy. It’s a lot less messy and math-oriented than old-school charting, PLUS it makes it really clear when you “must” have sex as opposed to just date night sex. We discovered after trying and trying and a miscarriage and trying and trying, that I don’t follow the old “14 days” nonsense. I do it somewhere around day 16 of my otherwise perfectly textbook 28 day cycle. So no wonder we weren’t getting pregnant that easily. If nothing else, it relieves you of wondering when might be the right time, so a little less stress. And now we’ve got two little girls, so who the heck has time for sex anyway?

  • qwyneth

    November 2, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Crikey, this was a well timed subject. I just got another negative last night and even though I know it’s way too early in the process to get upset (2 months, I know, I’m stupid–but backstory, I have PCOS and we’re been using the oh-so-effective withdrawal method for a year and a half now). And yet, I am…not…handling it well. I cried myself to sleep last night, literally, and have been welling up on and off all day long. I was just so convinced that I was pregnant. My boobs are even spilling out of their cups! Apparently I’m just getting fat, not pregnant.
    Anyway, thank you. We bought some preseed a month ago but haven’t used it yet. Next cycle I guess.
    Good luck, both of you!

  • heels

    November 2, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    My husband and I were both 25 and healthy, I had normal periods (28 days ALWAYS), and it still took us 8 months to conceive. The month that we finally did we only had sex ONCE because we were letting ourselves take a month off from the grueling sex schedule we’d been on. I started feeling sick and never once thought it was possible that I was pregnant (even though every month before I was CONVINCED that I was!).
    I do give some credit to our dog. Wait! It’s not gross! We adopted her 2 months before I got pregnant, and I think that having a creature to take care of helped take the desperate edge off. While this is a method with drawbacks (that dog, though I love her, is a PAIN IN MY ASS now), I really think it helped me.

  • Melissa

    November 2, 2007 at 6:48 pm

    Six months is definitely still early in the ball game for this sort of thing. I didn’t even have a period for the first 4 months that we “pulled the goalie”.
    And randomly enough, I have to second the dog coincidence. We bought a dog and two months later, just as I had decided that a dog was enough and what was I doing thinking that I was ready for a baby, oh hey, I’m pregnant. Weird.

  • Heidi T

    November 2, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    I actually did use Robitussin to conceive my daughter. I knew it was my timeof the month for ovulation but I noticed my mucus wasn’t the right consistency so I took some Robitussin for two days and got pregnant. It could totally have been coincidence. It was the third month of trying.

    • DeannaLyted

      January 6, 2015 at 7:35 am

      robitussin PM? non drowsy? day formula? actual robitussin or the CVS/generic brand?? And did you take it as instructed on the bottle, or just once a day? Thanks…

      TTC in Cali.

  • Noelle

    November 2, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    Hi. I am 33. I conceived my first at 31. I have diabetes. Just writing to say, you are more than likely normal. The clear blue easy fertility monitor worked great for me. I got mine on ebay for a reasonable 30 bucks. And we did avoid lubricants (didn’t use preseed, did use room temp egg yolks once out of desperation. It totally killed the mood for me, so I didn’t do it again, but I did find out about it from a reliable source). I think (anecdotally) that the first pregnancy takes longer. I got preggo with the second in 1 month. Hang in there, try to keep your mind off of it, and for God’s sake, avoid those crazy abbreviation ridden chat rooms as much as possible.

  • Noelle

    November 3, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Whoops. Egg whites, not yolks. YUCK.

  • boofyq

    November 4, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    If you haven’t yet, I strongly recommend reading “Taking Charge of Your Fertility” by Dr. Toni Weschler. You’re charting, so you probably know much of what she says, but it’s a great book.
    I can vouch that Preseed totally worked for us (for lubrication AND to aid in TTC). We conceived the 1st month we tried using it. I tried Robitussin and it didn’t do much for my cervical mucus (and I agree — taking meds like that kind of made me nervous). I also tried eating crushed whole cloves of garlic for the same purpose — ended up with wicked heartburn and horrendous garlic breath, which didn’t seem worth it.
    If you’re really on top of knowing your cycle and when you’re most fertile, are timing sex optimally and using preseed, and do that for 4-6 months without results, I’d probably get started with the process of getting checked out. Especially if you’re already well into your 30s.
    Me? We conceived in our 4th month of trying, had a very early miscarriage, started trying again and using preseed, conceived twins after 4 more months. The girls are here and wonderful — made all the stressing over TTC worth it!

  • Youngwife

    November 4, 2007 at 9:26 pm

    We are using the NaPro Technology Creighton Fertility Method. It can work for women with any type of cycle: Super regular, wonky, nonexistant, whatever. It does not use basal temperature. Instead you chart presence/absence, type, and quality of mucus. It is not based on calendar days or counting. This method can be used for attempting to achieve or avoid pregnancy.
    We are not trying to conceive right now but we will be soon. I can’t even begin to imagine the frustration and possible dissapointment involved in this process. But I wanted to add my little bit of possibley helpful knowledge.

  • Alice_R

    November 5, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    I second the recommendation for Taking Charge of Your Fertility – great book, and can be really helpful for a lot of people. Not just to conceive or avoid pregnancy, but to keep track of your overall reproductive health.
    I started charting a few months ago and took it to my midwife and she was alarmed at what she saw, considering I have a long family history of PCOS and fatal ovarian cancer diagnoses. I had planned on trying to conceive soon, but I have to address some issues that I have first, and if I hadn’t been charting, I would never have known about them. My midwife is closely watching my charts to help me recognize symptoms of problems, and I’m going in for blood tests later this month.

  • Vitriola

    November 6, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    AA batteries? Where were you shopping for lube, the penlight store?

  • Shawn

    January 14, 2014 at 2:04 am

    This is all B.S. I am tired. I am 33, on chlomid, and my husband and I can’t stop arguing and crying about having a baby, which isn’t freaking happening. Everybody in the damn world is having a kid and I can’t. We have been trying for a year and I am so tired of everyone saying,don’t think about it, use a calendar, make sure you organsm. Why can’t people just listen and hug? I don’t want to hear how you succeeded because it obviously isn’t working for me. I just want a little piece of my husband and myself perfectly mixed into a human. Why is it so hard? We are good people!!!!

    • Brienne

      January 14, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      Shawn….I am sending you a hug.  My husband and I spent a year trying for our daughter (who is 6 now) and we are now at 8 months trying for the second one.  It sucks – when you’re doing everything right and still not pregnant like you want to be.  

    • DeannaLyted

      January 6, 2015 at 9:21 am

      I am right behind you. 31, been trying 4 months, no conception in sight. I can’t stop freaking out at my husband and I feel like everyone in the world is getting to have their children except me. I am hugging you from California! good luck to you!

  • Nume

    April 6, 2015 at 3:26 am

    Well, I have been married for 8 months and I have been trying to conceive as well. I have read articles on how to get pregnant and foods to take and not to take but it never works. So one day I just thought about, when you look online it mentions all these things about fertility and stuff but it never mentions anything about prayers. I believe that if you want a child, you need to go directly to the source and ask. Prayers are a blessing from God so what prevents you from asking Him. Forget all this things you see over the Internet, it only makes you more anxious and personally that affects your hormones. Haven’t you wondered why women get pregnant when they are not expecting. I started focusing on other things to take my mind off the pressure of conceiving because it was affecting the flow of blood during my cycle and messing with my cycle times. I have decided to relax and pray to God everyday to send me a child and I think you should do that too

  • Mm

    May 20, 2015 at 11:48 pm

    If you have a problem with scant, minimal, practically non-existant cervical mucous you’ll see (and feel!) that robitussin is a MIRACLE IN A FREAKING BOTTLE for CM. If you haven’t got CM issues don’t bother, and if youre not noticing any difference then I would definitely be seeing a doctor about lack of cm, it doesn’t create cm but thins out what is already there. The only active ingredient MUST be guaiphenesin. In Australia that is the red “Chesty Cough” one. I’ve tried another brand that had that one active ingredient and it didn’t work at all. It is also used as assistive treatment in Napro Technology/CrMS