How Long Does It Take To Get Pregnant?

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Whenever you decide you want to be pregnant, you are probably ready for it to happen right then. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work that way. Read on to learn about how long it can take to get pregnant and when to seek help from your doctor.

Chances of Pregnancy                                                    

 Every 28 days or so, a woman’s ovary releases an egg. If that egg encounters a sperm cell, the two join and can then develop into an embryo. If successfully implanted in the uterine wall, that embryo has a chance to continue to develop into a fetus. This process means that a pregnancy can only begin if an egg is released and if there is sperm present when that happens. If both conditions are met, the chances of pregnancy in women ages 25 to 35 are still only about 20 percent, according to reproductive endocrinologist Albert Yuzpe speaking to Today’s Parent. [1]

These odds mean that even if you time sex just right—sperm can live for about seven days after sex, but an egg only survives about 24 hours after ovulation—you still might have to wait a while to get pregnant. If it happens on your first or second try, great! But if not, the good news is that on average about 84 percent of women conceive after a year of unprotected sex, and 92 percent of people will have conceived after two years. [2]

The waiting game

In cases where both partners are healthy and everything is working as it should, the chances are good that conception will happen within a year. About half of women under 37 will have conceived within three months and about two thirds of women will have conceived by six months. [1]

While the odds are good, it can feel really hard to wait, especially if friends are announcing their pregnancies all around you. If you are younger than 35 and have been trying for more than a year to get pregnant, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor and perhaps start the process of testing to see whether there are any fertility challenges that you and your partner should be aware of. If you are 35 or older and haven’t gotten pregnant after six months of trying, that’s the time to consult your physician. [3]

Strategies to try

 If you want to be pregnant, there are a few things you can do that might help things along. The first is to carefully time intercourse, so that it coincides with ovulation. But how can you know when you are ovulating? It turns out that there is a system known as the Fertility Awareness Method or FAM that uses readouts from your body to help you know when things are happening during your cycle. You can learn more about using your temperature and other bodily signals to know when to time sex for the maximum chance of getting pregnant in this blog post. Keep in mind that for some people, trying to time sex can feel stressful. If this is true for you, then you might not want to try FAM.

Speaking of stress, one thing you can do to improve your chances of getting pregnant is to try to reduce stressors in your life. Of course, this might be easier said than done, and, especially if you have been trying to get pregnant for a while, the effort might be a stressor in and of itself. A recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology (read about it in this blog post) revealed that stress might reduce fertility by up to 25 percent. [4] If you suspect that your lifestyle might be contributing to difficulties getting pregnant, you can always talk to your doctor, as well as take steps on your own to reduce stress levels. Just five minutes per day of deep breathing might help.

Reasonable levels of exercise and eating well are both things that can have a positive impact on your stress levels, as well as on your fertility. If you want to learn more about how diet can affect your chances of conceiving, check out this blog post. If you’ve tried all of these things, or even if you haven’t, but you still feel worried about your ability to get pregnant, you can always talk with your doctor.

References:

  1. “How long does it take to get pregnant?” Today’s Parent
  2. Fertility: Assessment and Treatment for People with Fertility Problems,” NICE Clinical Guidelines, National Collaborating Centre for Women’s and Children’s Health (UK), Royal College of Obstetricians & Gynaecologists, 2013 Feb.
  3. Healthline, “How long does it take to get pregnant?
  4. Perceived Stress and Fecundability: A Preconception Cohort Study of North American Couples, American Journal of Epidemiology,
Abby Olena
Dr. Abby Olena has a PhD in Biological Sciences from Vanderbilt University. She lives with her husband and children in North Carolina, where she writes about science and parenting, produces a conversational podcast, and teaches prenatal yoga.

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