This article contains sexually explicit content.
When I first met my husband in 2010, I knew that he would be the future father of my children. So having been on the pill nonstop since 2009, I decided to give myself a deadline of five years before we started thinking about having kids. Five years is enough time to eat, drink, and be merry with the man of your dreams, right? It was certainly enough time to get emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually ready to have a kid of my own.
Well, my five years are up, and here I am, about to embark on the biggest journey ever with my partner by my side.
This was the first time in a long time that I haven’t been on birth control, so at first I had no idea what to do or expect. While the idea of simply having sex constantly/on a daily basis seemed pretty great, I quickly found that in real life, it can be tedious (and even painful). Luckily, fertility-tracking apps can help baby-making newbies like me get used to the process. My expectations of what these apps could do for me were pretty simple: help me find out when I’m most fertile during my menstrual cycle so I can make sure my husband and I are on top of things (and by “things,” I, of course, mean “each other”.)
But would using these apps actually help me conceive a baby? To find out, I kept a monthlong log of my personal experience using four random apps (Ovia, Conceivable, Glow, and Life) to get our baby-making on an optimal schedule.
Day 1, Wednesday
I’ve been away for two weeks on vacation, and today I’m flying back to be with my husband. I stopped taking my pill six days ago, so I am, as you would say, rarin’ and ready to go. I am so tired, but I don’t care. Come hell or high water, there will be sexy time.
Day 2, Thursday
Since I arrived from my trip so late, our first bang of the month officially happened today. As soon as I wake up, I search “fertility tracker” in the App Store and install Ovia, one of the top results. The interface looks simple enough and not at all scary, although some of the details it required me to record confused me. For instance, how the hell do I answer this question about my “cervical position?”
Am I supposed to actually stick my finger in there? And if so, how deep? Ugh, I’m so not ready for this right now, but I suppose I’ll get the hang of it soon enough.
It also might be worth noting that today is in my fertile window, which means I’m chock-full of baby-making juice. What a great start!
Day 3, Friday
I realize I haven’t actually told anyone about my fertility app “sexperiment.” A few days before, I gave my editor a heads-up, who gladly gave me the go-ahead. But today, I decide to tell my husband, who expresses concern over the timing after I mention that our first sexcapade took place on a fertile day.
Husband: We should be careful during the first few weeks. If you get pregnant right away, you might get hit with morning sickness during our upcoming trip. [We’re scheduled to take a trip to Europe in the next six weeks.] It’s your first time in Europe, I don’t want you to have a terrible time.
Me: Hrmpfh okaaaaay.
We decide to hold off on the sex for a few days.
Day 5, Sunday
We have sex, fertile window or not. Hey, when the mood strikes you, you just have to go with it.
Day 7, Tuesday
We have sex again. I’m not as worried about getting pregnant ASAP and being sick in Europe, because according to Ovia, we’re no longer within my fertile window. Having said that, Ovia decides to show me this particular insight:
Boy, would it suck for my kid if it were born a day earlier than Christmas. Combination birthday/Christmas gifts are sad as hell.
Day 9, Thursday
Husband left early this morning for Montreal FOR A WEEK. I’m really regretting not initiating sex last night.
Day 11, Saturday
I wonder if these fertility apps should have an option for logging in some time with a vibrator, like a game component of some sort. I know it doesn’t have anything to do with fertility, but self-pleasure should at least garner me some points, especially since my husband is not here to cheer me up with sex.
Day 13, Monday
Had “welcome back home” sex, yay! I mark my mood as “happy” for obvious reasons.
As a side note, for the first time I notice that Ovia has “bowel movement” listed as a symptom, which I find… puzzling, to say the least.
Day 14, Tuesday
I decide it’s probably time to try another fertility app, so I install Conceivable. Conceivable advertises itself as “the first modern fertility program,” which means it sells herbal formula supplements along with the app to help increase your chances of getting pregnant. While I’m a bit concerned about the prospect of drinking something shady, the packaging looks pretty and not-so-sketchy, so I decide to give it a go.
Prior to logging onto the Conceivable app, I’m required to answer a five-question fertility “assessment,” which makes me think that the app is targeted primarily at couples that have been trying to get pregnant for years.
Although I’ve only been on the baby-making bandwagon for a few weeks, I trudge on.
The results of the information I input about my menstrual cycle are sort of daunting, but the idea of an app summarizing information that I would normally be overwhelmed by gives me a bit of relief.
The Conceivable app looks clean and concise, and it doesn’t require nearly as much information as Ovia does. Apart from asking me about my “waking temp”—which I still had no clue how to measure, and, let’s be honest, had no desire to, either—all Conceivable wants me to do is take note of my energy level, stress level, and mood (it only has six options), as well as the quality of my digestion, poop, and sleep.
It also wants me to keep track of my water and vegetable intake (under the Goals tab) as well as the length of my sleep. Because these things are important, whether you’re trying to have a baby or not.
I decide to install a third fertility app and choose Glow, which was recommended by a friend who said she had a good experience using it. I immediately like it because the first thing it does is actually explain to me what my basal body temperature (BBT) is, and why it’s important to note when you’re tracking fertility. Basically, my BBT is my temperature when it’s at rest, and when I’m ovulating, my temperature is supposed to be higher.
The app also teaches me how to measure my cervical mucus (CM), which is also a strong indicator of my fertility. So far, I’ve either skipped this field altogether or just logged it as “nothing felt, nothing seen,” which seemed like a safe non-answer at the time. Warning: These instructions on how to check the consistency of your cervical mucus are not for the faint of heart.
Glow is also the only app to ask me about my ethnicity. For a second, I wonder if that actually has any effects to the insights the app would yield about my fertility, but I quickly snap out of it. After all, fertility apps probably aren’t designed to be that sophisticated. Glow probably just wants to keep track of its user demographic. Whatevs.
Other questions Glow asks include “female position during male ejaculation,” a question I find oddly invigorating because it makes me feel like my favorite sexual positions actually matter when it came down to conceiving.
Well whaddayaknow, that laying-still-for-15-minutes-after-sex-to-get-pregnant myth is utter bullshit. Thanks, Glow.
Day 15, Wednesday
Just had sex. All is right in the world. And my stats are making me feel like a champ.
Also, I didn’t poop today, so I guess Ovia’s bowel movement field isn’t so weird after all.
Day 16, Thursday
Well, shit. I just got my period. A day early. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I’m too bummed to Google if it’s normal for this to happen to me, since I just got off the pill a few weeks ago.
In the wake of this bad news, I receive an email from Conceivable, which tells me not to freak out about the latest results of my assessment. It was a nice note to get on a disappointing day like this one.
Day 17, Friday
My period is especially heavy, which is fairly common for women who’ve just gone off the pill. This is how my day went, in a nutshell:
Me: WTF why is there so much blood? What the hell does this mean? It’s only been four hours and I need to change my tampon again? WHAT IS THIS WITCHCRAFT? And why isn’t there anything on the apps telling me about this?
Husband: Don’t worry too much, babe. That’s just your body cleaning house.
Me: ARE YOU CALLING ME DIRTY???
Husband: Calm down, let me get you a Frappuccino.
Me: Hold me.
Funny how Glow predicted that I would act this way. Gonna take my husband up on those period snuggles right about now.
Day 20, Monday
My Conceivable herbal formulas finally arrive in the mail.
Also, I can’t believe that I actually still have my period. After enjoying three-day, pill-induced monthly periods for the last five years, a five-day period seems way too long. I hope I don’t die of anemia.
Day 21, Tuesday
The BBT thermometer has arrived.
I also install another fertility app called Life. It’s very professional-looking. It asks pretty much the same questions as the other apps, but the answers are pretty monosyllabic: If a certain tag is applicable, you check it.
The bad news: I have to pay for premium to access the sex-tracking function of the app. Which is a shame, because that’s been my favorite part of all the fertility-tracking apps I’ve used thus far.
Day 22, Wednesday
I take my first BBT reading today. Have to wait for the husband to get up and go to the bathroom so I can take it and not annoy the hell out of him with the device’s incessant beeping noises. The result: 97.7. I guess that’s good?
Also, today is the first time I try taking Conceivable’s supplements. Today’s formula: Enrich.
Despite the gross-sounding ingredients, Enrich actually doesn’t taste too horrible. But I prefer not to have this spicy aftertaste lingering in my mouth, so I wash it down with some milk. And Cookie Crisp cereal.
Oh, and finally my husband and I get to have sex! I turn on the reminder option in the Glow and Life apps to let me know when I’m fertile so I CAN GET ON THAT.
Day 23, Thursday
This morning, my BBT was up by .1 degrees F. What does that even mean? Also, my BBT thermometer’s box says it can be used rectally. Why would I want to do that? If it’s not an option mentioned in the apps, I will not try it. NO.
In other news, Glow just reminded me of my ovulation!
Day 24, Friday
So did Conceivable and Life.
To celebrate my sudden abundance in fertility, I have sex with my husband.
As a reward for being a diligent baby-maker, Glow gives me a few personalized insights. The first is fairly obvious.
Day 27, Monday
My BBT is up by more than .5, and according to Glow, that means I’m ovulating. The app also says that today is officially the most important day to have sex.
I’m so excited that it’s finally, actually, baby-making time that I actually bother to take prenatal vitamins. I also check my cervical fluid, which is primo quality. In fact, Glow describes it as “optimal.”
AND YES OF COURSE WE HAVE SEX.
Day 28, Tuesday
Just had moar sex. Because why not? Plant the seed while the soil is fertile, amirite?
Day 29, Wednesday
The Life app just sent me a notification that today is marked for “ovulation,” which I find perplexing.
Does this mean I only get one day of prime baby-making juice?
Day 30, Thursday
The Conceivable app finally switches my herbal supplement to a different one called “Unwind.” It was perfectly timed, too: My body is aching like hell from exercise, and I was worried I wouldn’t be able to bring it in bed tonight. (The Ovia app marked today as my peak fertility, so part of me feels like I need to get laid.) Unwind doesn’t taste unpleasant, but it’s still not exactly a trip to Baskin-Robbins.
We end the day by having sex, because peak fertility must not be wasted. (Ugh, I sound like a complete asshole bragging about how much sex I have with my husband. But maybe all couples trying to conceive sound like assholes.)
Day 31, Friday
We have sex again, for the fifth time this week. My Conceivable calendar makes me look like a freaking champ. Nothing but hearts, baby!
Day 34, Monday
I’ve been using these apps for more than a month now, but I only notice this little tidbit on Ovia’s interface today: 10 days until pregnancy test. For the first time, I actually grab my bloated tummy and imagine for a second, What if there’s something in there? I feel a mix of excitement and “Oh shit, this might actually be it.” Additionally, I’m a bit worried because I’ve been feeling weird cramps since yesterday.
And then, there’s this, just in case y’all were still wondering about my cervical mucus:
I’m confused. Am I or aren’t I on track? All of a sudden, I start second-guessing all the info I’ve ever put into these apps.
Day 35, Tuesday
I decided to finally email Conceivable CEO Kirsten Karchmer and find out what the hell is going on with my body. I tell her about my scary (but probably normal) torrent of blood during my first period off the pill. I also ask for more information on the formula package I received as part of the Conceivable program.
A day later, she emails me back personally. She does a pretty awesome job assuaging my mounting dread over this fertility business. First of all, she says, it is normal to have a very erratic period when you first get off the pill.
“Your body is trying to figure out how to do something on its own that it has been receiving coaching on for a long time,” Karchmer writes. “Without intervention it can take 3 to 6 months to get totally back to normal. If your cycle was pretty normal before, it usually goes faster.”
Karchmer’s answers regarding the herbs are lengthy and incredibly detailed. She explains how the Conceivable program is designed to look at each phase of my menstrual cycle and determine any areas that are suboptimal. In a nutshell, “Release” is formulated to regulate blood flow, “Enrich” to promote healthy blood production, and “Unwind” to help the liver get back into shape so it can metabolize hormones linked to menstruation.
Final days, final thoughts
Although the past 31 days have been a whirlwind, overall I’m pretty glad I started using fertility trackers. Each one I’ve tried did a version of what a fertility app is supposed to do: Help a woman transition from a predictable and baby-less schedule produced by birth control pills to a less predictable schedule aimed at helping you produce new life.
Ovia is straightforward and easy to use, with added fields for food and water intake, which is great for a meticulous tracker like myself. I’d probably use this when I decide to start monitoring my food again more closely.
Conceivable also gave me a ton of information, such as what type of lifestyle I needed to adopt and what food I needed to eat to optimize my body’s baby-making abilities. It’s all good advice, but it’s the only app I tried that required a monthly subscription, and I’m too new in the baby-making game for a $200 monthly expense to be totally worth it.
Life didn’t really provide me with any insights or literature on pregnancy or fertility-related questions, but I could definitely see myself using it for tracking almost everything worth observing in my passage to pregnancy. It can help track my symptoms, my moods, my fertility, and even my weight: In fact, it’s sort of like a pregnancy LifeJournal. But considering that I’ve only been actively trying to get pregnant for a month or so, if I had to choose an app to stick to, it would have to be Glow. It’s simple and user-friendly, and because I’m still a beginner when it comes to tracking my own fertility, a bit of spoon-fed information about how my body works is tremendously useful once in a while.
However, if there’s anything this sexperiment has taught me, it’s that whatever you’re feeling while tracking your fertility, your partner is going through the same emotions as well, if not with more anxiety and paranoia.
One time, for instance, I made a joke about how my husband and I should have sex that night because I was “prime.” His grin disappeared. “You’re still doing that?” he asked. “You’re not planning to do that permanently, are you?” I said no and made a mental note never to bring up my fertility again in casual conversations. It got to the point that every time we finished having sex and I reached for my iPod to log my conquest, I felt like a portion of the romance died with every swipe and tally.
Another discovery I’ve made through this ordeal is that it’s way too early for me to be thinking about pregnancy 24/7. It’s nice to know that you’re having sex on the right days when you’re prime for conception, but in general, sex is almost always better when there are no strings or expectations attached to the experience. I have a feeling being stress-free is probably better for your ovaries, anyway.
Although my period is a few days late as of this writing, the pregnancy tests I’ve taken so far have all been negative, which sort of proves my stress theory. If I still don’t get my period in a few days, I’ll take another test and hope for the best. Whatever the result, I’m sure I’ll be fine either way. I’m happy to be a mom-in-the-making, but I’m also happy to keep tracking and trying again.
Day 212, Thursday
It’s been a number of months since my last update, but I figured this would make a great ending to an otherwise taxing experience of using fertility apps to get knocked up:
I have been pregnant for 20 weeks and six days, but the sight of my belly still surprises me sometimes. I’m completely done with the nausea (FINALLY!) and am now in the eat-all-the-things phase of my childbearing. People say I should be feeling movement at this stage and should be able to hear a heartbeat (I ordered a fetal stethoscope online), but my futile attempts to monitor my baby in utero have been unsuccessful thus far. I, am, however, glad to know that Glow has a pregnancy monitoring app called Nurture that gives me adequate visuals to tide me over till my next checkup ultrasound.
Today, a banana. Tomorrow, a pomegranate. In 133 days (more or less), an adorable human.
A version of this story originally appeared on the Daily Dot on May 20, 2015.
Illustration by Max Fleishman | All photos by Jam Kotenko