I’ve been trying to get pregnant for 10 months. Here’s what experts have to say about the gray area of fertility that I’m in.

High angle view of disappointed young Asian woman sitting on the bed and holding a negative pregnancy test.
  • I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to have a baby all year.
  • In the past, it’s taken me about six to nine months to get pregnant.
  • Even without an official infertility diagnosis, a long conception journey takes a toll, experts say.

One pink line confirmed what my cramping abdomen was already telling me: I wasn’t pregnant. Yet again. 

When I stopped taking birth control to have my first child, I was sure I would instantly conceive. My grandma had 12 kids, and my mom had four. None of my plethora of cousins had trouble getting pregnant. Yet it took nine months — time in which I could have gestated an entire human — to get a positive pregnancy test. Trying for my second took over six months. I’ve been trying for a third for most of the year, but I continue to come up empty-wombed. 

I’m not infertile, which is defined as being unable to get pregnant after a year of unprotected sex. But I’ve come to think of myself as existing in a fertility gray zone, where getting pregnant takes a painfully long time.

What research says — and doesn’t say — about fertility

As with many areas of women’s health, there’s little data on the exact chances of conception each month. The best study I could find, from 2003, said about 30% of couples who ditched birth control would get pregnant during their first cycle of unprotected sex. From there, the chances fell. Although about 75% of couples would conceive within the first six months of trying, if they weren’t pregnant after a year, their chances of conceiving on each cycle were about 5%.

Doctors generally advise couples to seek help if they’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant for a year. If the partner with the uterus is older than 35, they recommend seeking treatment after six months since fertility declines with age, and time is of the essence. 

While you wait to see if you’ll officially need help getting pregnant, there’s not much you can do. Yes, sex is fun, but sex while trying to conceive is like a working holiday. 

“If you do the math, a woman has 10 to 15 tries to get pregnant in a single year, so timing is critical to optimize the chances of conception,” said Amy Divaraniya, a data scientist and the CEO of Oova, who founded the company after having trouble conceiving.

The emotional roller coaster

That math is the most maddening part about trying to get pregnant. I think about a possible third child 24/7, but I can only act on that desire for a couple of days each month, during my fertile window. Even then, doing everything right could result in more heartbreak. Then, it’s more waiting. 

“Especially if you’re a type-A overachiever like I am, infertility is basically a complete loss of control of your own body,” said Arielle Spiegel, the founder and CEO of CoFertility, a database of information on fertility health. “If you’re trying to conceive for a long period of time, you’re basically faced with constant disappointment month after month.”

Couples are sometimes told to focus on living healthy, to “stop trying so hard,” or to reduce their stress, despite the fact that there’s no clear evidence that stress causes difficulty conceiving.

“It’s a devastating journey,” Divaraniya said. “Having lived the road of infertility myself, the path can be isolating, defeating, and heartbreaking.”

Coping with a long conception process

Although it’s taking me longer to get pregnant, I’m comforted by the fact that I’ve conceived three times before, including a miscarriage. When I’m levelheaded, I can accept that this is a normal part of our conception process.

Divaraniya said it could be helpful to remind yourself that for some couples, it just takes time. About 95% of couples conceived after two years, even without assistance, the 2003 study found. 

“It is really important to take a step back and try to avoid diving headfirst into the dark hole that infertility creates,” Divaraniya added. 

At the same time, it’s OK to experience a range of emotions, Spiegel said. Wanting to be pregnant and not conceiving is difficult, no matter how long you’ve been trying. 

“Allow yourself to feel all the emotions and be okay with not being okay,” Spiegel continued. “Accept that this process is really hard, and it could help to talk to someone about it.”

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