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NSM Sex Survey: Conception, miscarriage and abortion

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As a community of mums (experiencing, expecting or experimenting!), we have a lot to learn from each other. As part of our recent Sex Survey, many local women shared their stories of struggling to conceive, pregnancy loss and the nitty-gritty of how they fell pregnant (or struggled to).

Over 800 people completed the survey, and opened up about their personal experiences around conception, fertility, contraception, pregnancy loss, and the less frequently tackled topics of miscarriage and abortion.

Note: This story may be triggering for some in its reference to abortion, miscarriage and other fertility issues.

Falling Pregnant

To plan, or not to plan… that is the question. When it comes to falling pregnant, 63% of North Shore Mums actively planned to have a baby, 25% thought they’d just ‘see what happens’, whilst 12% fell pregnant by accident.

At this moment in time, only around 6% of North Shore Mums are actively trying for a baby.

How long does it take?

For at least half of mums, it only took them a couple of months to fall pregnant. And, interestingly, mums are falling pregnant quicker with subsequent children.

But it’s not easy for everyone, with fertility problems an upsetting issue for many North Shore Mums, with 18% taking at least 12 months to fall pregnant with their first child.

1st Child2nd Child3rd Child
2 months or less52%58%61%
3-5 months19%17%17%
6-11 months11%11%8%
12-17 months7%5%5%
18-23 months4%3%3%
2-3 years4%4%2%
3-4 years1%2%2%
5+ years2%0%2%

Fertility Issues and Conception

Around a quarter of women (24%) said they experiencing issues conceiving. Many said they had struggled with conditions like PCOS or endometriosis, or underwent IVF to conceive or tried medications such as Clomid or Letrozole.

A few mums had more to share about their struggle to conceive, saying:

  • I have endometriosis, PCOS and a short cervix. I have had a past late term miscarriage.
  • I have a thyroid disorder and have started medication.
  • My two miscarriages were likely linked to weight, so I lost 24kg and fell pregnant.
  • I have no ovaries. Went through IVF using eggs that my sister donated.
  • I was diagnosed with secondary infertility, but eventually fell pregnant naturally before starting IVF.
  • After I did manage to have two kids naturally, I never used contraception again and never fell pregnant again.
  • Had a couple of miscarriages, including a partial molar pregnancy.
  • Two miscarriages, one molar pregnancy and two rainbow babies.
  • Took long time to conceive second child due to work related stress. I took 6 months off work, got pregnant second month into holiday.
  • I had irregular cycles due to low weight, but once I gained weight it was all OK.
  • I had to have my Fallopian tubes removed when I was 25 so all three of my children are through IVF
  • Idiopathic infertility. Only ovulate from one side. 2+ years of TTC told I needed IVF then fell pregnant. ectopic pregnancy – ruptured one Fallopian tube massive bleeding and blood transfusion. Was told never conceive. Then 3 months to the day that I had surgery to remove ruptured tube found out I was pregnant. Two babies have followed unplanned.
  • Husband had low sperm count, almost non existent. Went through one cycle for egg collection, and failed first transfer, 2nd transfer (of only remaining embryo) resulted in our child. Tried IVF again – 1st transfer failed, while waiting to transfer next embryo fell pregnant naturally. Miscarried at 10 weeks (embryo stopped developing at 5-6 weeks), quite traumatic. Ended up in emergency with ‘products of conception’ stuck in my cervix and me having labour-like pains. Needed to have remains manually removed by ED doctor. Waited 2 months, 3 more failed transfers. Last remaining embryo (and out last try for IVF) resulted in pregnancy. At 7 week scan, no heartbeat, and embryo had stopped developing at 5 weeks. Had D&C. And now husband is on medication that has basically stopped sperm production.
  • Fell pregnant naturally- first month of trying. Then had to terminate baby at 13 weeks due to severe heart failure. Couldn’t fall pregnant again after 2 more years of trying. Did 6 months of ovulation kits, did 2 months of ovulation tracking with Genea, tried acupuncture & lots of health supplements. Eventually did IVF & fell pregnant first cycle with only one viable embryo.
  • I had three miscarriages after cancer treatment— then IVF failed. Got pregnant naturally as I never wanted someone so badly (my baby), so just kept trying naturally.


Interestingly, only 37% of North Shore Mums are currently using some kind of contraception. Of those using, the most popular forms of contraception are:

  • The contraceptive pill: 29%
  • Condom: 26%
  • IUD (e.g. Mirena): 24%
  • Vasectomy: 8%
  • Birth control implant (e.g. Nexplanon): 3%
  • Withdrawal (“pulling out”) 3%
  • Rhythm Method (abstinence around fertile time): 2%
  • Female tubal ligation (‘tubes tied’): 1%
  • Diaphragm: 0.3%

Other methods used included having had a hysterectomy, abstinence, and breastfeeding.


Having a miscarriage is a devastating experience, but it’s not an uncommon one – with at least 1 in 3 (36%) North Shore Mums having experienced a miscarriage at some stage in their life.

Reassuringly, of those who have had them, 68% have just had the one miscarriage, and numbers drop off quite dramatically afterwards.

  • One: 68%
  • Two: 16%
  • Three: 8%
  • Four: 3%
  • Five: 1%
  • Six: 1%
  • Seven+: 2%


21% of respondents have had an abortion at some stage in their life, sharing the reasons why they chose this option:

  • I was too young and irresponsible to be a mum. Now that I have two children I know it was the best decision I have ever made.
  • I was still at uni and thought it was not the right time to have a baby.
  • I was single, 19 and the condom broke. He wasn’t my boyfriend.
  • Was 17, first boyfriend. Not a bad experience.
  • I was 19 year old and not in stable relationship. I didn’t see myself being with my partner long term and I was also aware that I was young.
  • It was probably the most difficult things I have ever had to go through mentally, physically and emotionally but I was young and just wasn’t ready so I know it was the right decision at the time.
  • It was a very sad moment. I was immature and insecure at that time. I really regret that I did it. I was forced by my boyfriend then, as he didn’t want the baby.
  • I regret every second of it. I had a very traumatic first birth experience and just couldn’t comprehend having another baby so soon, so I aborted. I so wish I didn’t. I would have the three child family I always wanted to have.
  • My second pregnancy was 9 months after my second child, and I just wasn’t ready.
  • An accident. Our third child was only six months old and we just could do it.
  • It wasn’t the right time for us to have number 3. A year later was.
  • I had a termination at 15 weeks for medical reasons. Our baby had a very rare chromosomal abnormality and was considered not compatible with life by the doctors.
  • An unplanned pregnancy when our 2nd child was a year old and I was 40. I didn’t feel mentally or physically able to cope with another child. I had just returned to work after 3 years.
  • My now-husband and I fell pregnant after only knowing each other a month, after a condom broke and the emergency contraceptive pill failed. I was 24 and he was 23 and we chose for me to have an abortion. I spiralled into a depression afterwards and said I didn’t want to have sex again until we were ready to have children. He said he would wait for me. A few months later our celibacy came to an end and we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best. I fell pregnant immediately and our gorgeous son is now 12.
  • It is not something that I talk about, ever, and I have had three abortions – two with partners in my early 20s and one with my husband a few months after we met. I don’t regret it, as we are now in a position to provide for children, whereas before I definitely was not.


So, who took the survey? The typical respondent was female, in her 30s or 40s, heterosexual, married and been with her partner for at least 10 years. She’s got at least one child, but more likely 2 kids, aged somewhere between a baby and 10 years old, and lives in (or near) the North Shore. But to delve a little deeper into the stats:

Age: 60% aged 30-39 years, 29% 40-49, 10% 29 or under.

Local Government Area:

  • 24% Ku-ring-gai Council
  • 20% Hornsby Shire Council
  • 11% Northern Beaches Council
  • 10% Willoughby Council
  • 10% North Sydney Council
  • 9% Lane Cove Council
  • 2% Mosman Council
  • 6% Ryde Council
  • 8% Other

Number of children: 49% have 2 kids, 28% 1 child, 16% have 3 kids, 5% 4 or more

Relationship Status: 86% married, 9% de facto, 2% in a relationship, 3% divorced

Sexuality: 96% heterosexual, 2% homosexual, 2% bisexual

This is just one half of the survey! You can read the results of our survey questions about sex lives, sexual confessions, masturbation and everything in between the sheets in our Sex Survey: The Results (Part 1).

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