Are you ready to start a family? Or maybe you’re looking to expand the one you already have? Deciding it’s time to have a child is an exciting chapter in your life.
When things don’t go as you’ve imagined they would, it can also be a frustrating time. Planning and being well-informed can give you the best leg up when it comes to getting pregnant.
Are you looking to increase your chances of getting pregnant quickly? In this guide, we will help you skip the frustrating parts of trying to conceive — and get you to your end goal as fast as possible.
How Quickly Can I Get Pregnant?
Interested in knowing the averages for how long it takes to get pregnant? Following are the rates of women who conceive naturally within a year of trying, broken down by age (1).
- Women aged 20 to 24 have an 86 percent chance.
- Women aged 25 to 29 have a 78 percent chance.
- Women aged 30 to 34 have a 63 percent chance.
- Women aged 35 to 39 have a 52 percent chance.
- Women aged 40 to 44 have a 36 percent chance.
- Women aged 45 to 49 have a 5 percent chance.
- Women older than 50 have less than a 1 percent chance.
There is no hard and fast rule for how long it takes to get pregnant, however. This is just a snapshot of the odds. Every woman — and every couple — is different.
Several factors that play into how quickly conception takes place.
- Age: There’s not a strict time limit on when you’re able to conceive easily, but it is likely to happen more quickly when you’re younger (2). Working with a fertility specialist? You’ll likely find they’re willing to let you try without medical intervention longer, up to a year, when you’re younger (3). When you’re 35 years old and above, they typically want to intervene at the six month mark.
- Health: Your overall health will play a big role in how quickly you’re able to conceive — and how easy your pregnancy will be. You should plan on eating right and exercising — and know that being underweight can impact conception just as easily as being overweight can (4). Plan on drinking less or having no alcohol, and to stop smoking (5).
- Reproductive health: While your general health will be a factor in your ability to conceive, your reproductive health will matter too. For women, irregular periods can indicate underlying reproductive issues (6). If you have reproductive health concerns, contact your doctor.
- How frequently you engage in intercourse: Having enjoyable, frequent sex is the gateway to conceiving. It’s recommended that couples trying to conceive have sex no more than once a day, but at least every other day (7).
The majority of couples conceive naturally within a year. Many women are even able to conceive within the first month of trying.
However, it’s perfectly normal not to get pregnant immediately, so don’t become discouraged if it takes you a few cycles.
Have a candid conversation with your doctor about any of your concerns. Depending on your age — and other factors — your doctor may want to start fertility testing or treatments earlier than the one-year mark.
How to Get Pregnant Faster
It’s true you can’t control how quickly you get pregnant. However, there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of getting pregnant faster.
1. Discontinue Birth Control
Plan on completing the full cycle of pills you’re on, so as not to confuse your body.
It’s possible your body might need a few months to regulate the hormones and resume ovulation. It’s also possible for you to resume ovulating immediately though (9).
If you are using an intrauterine device, you’ll need to make an appointment with your care provider to have it removed.
If you’ve been using condoms, spermicide, or other non-hormonal birth control methods, discontinue them when you’re ready to try to conceive.
Trigger Warning Miscarriage
New studies have changed the traditional counseling regarding how to proceed after experiencing a miscarriage. You should plan to try again when you feel emotionally and physically ready.
If you’ve recently experienced a miscarriage, studies show that becoming pregnant within three months is associated with the lowest risk of another miscarriage (10).
In fact, women who conceive within six months after their initial miscarriage have the best reproductive outcomes with the lowest frequency of complications (11).
2. Get a Check-Up
Don’t underestimate the importance of prep work. Getting a clean bill of health before conceiving can set you up for a healthy pregnancy. While it’s important to determine your partner is healthy enough for sexual activity, most of a preconception workup focuses on you.
If you’re planning on trying to conceive, your doctor can run some blood tests. These tests will help rule out any existing conditions that could make conception difficult or point to an underlying health problem.
When planning a pregnancy, always rule out any existing sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). These can impact your fertility — both in the short and in the long term.
Many STDs can also harm a developing pregnancy (12). If you do have an STD, make sure your partner is evaluated — and treated — as well.
During this visit, you’ll want to ask your doctor if you should be exercising more, or less if you tend to overdo it. Your doctor will likely suggest a change in your diet, including incorporating prenatal vitamins (13).
3. Know Your Cycle
Knowing and understanding your monthly cycle is one of the most important things you can do to increase your chances of conception (14).
The sooner you begin charting your cycle, the better. You’ll have more data points and a better understanding of when you’re likely to conceive.
Many women operate on a 28-day cycle, which will give you about five to six days a month when you are the most fertile.
To chart your fertility window, you’ll need to know the day your last period started. This is day 1 of your cycle.
When To Hit The Sheets
If you’re looking for more information on when you’re ovulating, you can also chart your basal body temperature. Studying your basal temperature using a basal body thermometer can help you more accurately pinpoint your ovulation (16).
Paying attention to your body can help clue you into where you are in your cycle (17). Tracking your basal body temperature is a great place to start — but it’s not the only thing your body can tell you about your fertility.
You can help anticipate when you’ll be ovulating by paying attention to how your cervical mucus changes throughout your cycle. If you notice you are experiencing more vaginal discharge than usual — especially if it’s watery and stretchy — you may be near ovulation (18).
Ovulation test strips are also available and can help make determining your fertility window a little easier.
4. Have Sex at the Right Time
Having sex before your expected ovulation can help account for any variation in when you ovulate. Sperm can also live in the body for several days — having some already in action can help increase your likelihood of conceiving.
Once you ovulate, there are only 12 to 24 hours for your egg to meet the sperm (20). If you know when you’ll be ovulating, you can have sex before ovulation. This can help ensure some of the slow-moving sperm will get to the egg on time.
If the sperm reach their final destination when you aren’t fertile, they won’t hang around. Have sex after ovulation to increase the odds for some of those fast-moving sperm to meet up with your egg.
Don’t forget to enjoy the process as you go along this wild ride. Stress doesn’t help with fertility so avoid the robot sex if at all possible. Orgasms improve the likelihood that sperm will successfully journey to your egg (21).
5. Lie in Bed After Sex
To help the sperm make their way to your egg, you can try staying in bed after you have intercourse. Standing and walking both allow gravity to work against you. Remaining in a neutral position in bed can give sperm a better chance of reaching your egg (22).
I used this trick with my pregnancies. Was it the deciding factor that allowed me to get pregnant? I don’t know, but it certainly didn’t hurt![editors-not name=”caitlin”]Menstrual cups may help with conception. Keep the cup on the nightstand to quickly insert after intercourse. This will keep the sperm close to the body in a warm, wet environment. While anecdotally, I’ve heard good things in practice- this is not evidence based.[/editors-note]
6. Ditch the Lubricant
Lubrication may seem like a great idea when you’re trying to conceive. After all, you’re having sex with a purpose, and probably frequently. Lubrication can help with any soreness you’re experiencing.
However, lubricant can also impede the sperm’s progress (23). If you’re trying to conceive, skipping lubricant altogether will be the best way to avoid hindering sperm.
If you just can’t let lubricant go, consider a fertility-friendly option, like Pre-Seed Personal Lubricant.
Looking for something more natural? Canola oil, olive oil, and even egg whites can be used as a lubricant while trying to conceive (24).
7. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Focus On Total Wellness
Stay away from processed meats during this time. You’ll find pre-packaged meats are loaded with extra sodium and preservatives.
Fresh meat and produce, on the other hand, are packed with great vitamins and health benefits. Eat fish in moderation and choose fresh whenever possible (26).
In addition to your healthy diet, you’ll want to exercise regularly. Getting fit and staying strong will help prepare your body for the stress of pregnancy and labor.
You don’t have to join an aerobics class to reap the benefits. You can easily get your heart rate up and some quality health benefits from a simple walk after dinner.
It’s worth mentioning a few other items you’ll want to give up during your journey to try to conceive. Some of them may be more difficult than others, but they’ll make for a healthier pregnancy and may make conception easier.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking is never healthy, but especially has implications when you’re trying to conceive or are pregnant. It can prematurely age your eggs (27).
- Don’t drink: Having several drinks a week can lessen the likelihood of conceiving. It has fertility implications for men as well, so it’s best to skip alcoholic beverages altogether (28).
- Avoid excess caffeine: Caffeine in small amounts won’t hurt your ability to conceive. If you live in an extra-caffeinated state, however, it’s best to cut back before you’re even pregnant (29). It’ll be good practice for once you’re pregnant, and coffee and soda are recommended to be limited (30).
- Avoid artificial sweeteners: Recent studies are indicating there may be a link between infertility and using artificial sweeteners (31). If you’re trying to conceive, it may be in your best interest to stop using artificial sweeteners altogether.
- Avoid marijuana (and other drugs): As the state’s legalize marijuana, more women are partaking than ever before. Marijuana has detrimental effects on the reproductive system and the likelihood of becoming and staying pregnant (32). Males should abstain from all recreational drugs as it is a significant cause of male infertility (33).
Getting and staying healthy also means managing any existing health conditions you might have. Diabetes, high blood pressure, polycystic ovary syndrome, thyroid conditions, and autoimmune diseases can make conceiving and pregnancy difficult.
You may even be on medication that’s contraindicated for pregnancy (34).
Having a pre-existing condition doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. It does mean you may need to pay more attention to how your body is handling the pregnancy journey.
Work closely with your doctor as you may require additional attention with more frequent visits during your pregnancy.
8. Boost Sperm Function
When you’re trying to conceive, it’s easy to get caught up in all the things you need to do to become pregnant successfully.
There are two parts of the equation, though, and sperm is equally important to conceive successfully. For best results, you’ll want to change your habits while also boosting your partner’s sperm function.
Your partner isn’t exempt from healthy eating, either. Zinc, folic acid, and vitamins E and C are essential for sperm development. Having healthy sperm is critical if you’re looking to have a healthy pregnancy.
Your partner can start by making dietary changes and cutting back on alcohol and cigarettes. Here are a few other things he can do to keep sperm count and mobility up (35).
- Stay active: Exercise is just as important for your partner as it is for you. For optimal sperm production, get moving — exercise can help create important enzymes that protect sperm. A high BMI is also linked to a lower sperm count.
- Stay cool: It’s not a myth — sperm are sensitive to heat. You may be unintentionally damaging or killing sperm by exposing the scrotum to high temperatures. He should avoid hot tubs and hot baths, as well as keeping the laptop on his lap or his phone in his pocket.
- Avoid stress: Stress has a whole host of negative side effects. Not only can it decrease your sex drive, but it may also interfere with sexual function and impact needed hormones.
9. Give It Time
It would be great if you conceived the moment you were ready. It doesn’t often happen like that, though. It’s pretty common for it to take a few cycles to conceive successfully, six to 12 months on average, although earlier is not uncommon.
Try not to get discouraged during this early part of the process. Doing so can lead to frustration and stress. You may find you’re doing damage to your ability to get pregnant (36).
Have you been charting fertility for some months and still haven’t had success conceiving? It may be time to talk to your doctor.
10. Don’t Be Ashamed to Get Help
Your end goal in this process is to conceive and have a baby. There’s nothing to be ashamed about if you require additional help to make that possible. It’s likely a doctor will run some tests and do some imaging to determine if there’s an easy answer to your difficulty.
It’s possible there may even be more than one reason you’re experiencing difficulty conceiving (37). Both you and your partner should be thoroughly evaluated to determine the cause and to create a treatment plan.
If you’re over 35, you’ll want to seek help after trying unsuccessfully to conceive for six months. If you’re under 35, you should plan on trying for a full year before seeing your doctor.
Your doctor can help you through this process — or refer you to a specialist if needed. You aren’t alone in struggling to conceive. Fortunately, there are plenty of options out there to help you.
10 Common Fertility Mistakes to Avoid
Looking to increase your chances of becoming pregnant? Couples who are trying to have a baby frequently make the following mistakes. Avoid them for the best chance to conceive.
Waiting Too Long
Our bodies are biologically ready to conceive and bear children much earlier than we are usually ready to get started.
There is a definite decline in fertility as women age (38). The majority of women in their early 20s trying to conceive can do so within the first year.
By the time women are in their late 30s, it may be necessary to try longer than one year to conceive naturally (39).
If you have a family history of early menopause, it may be something you’ll experience as well (40). Be sure to account for that possibility when family planning.
You may be busy getting an education, starting a career, or looking for the right partner to raise children with. Some women find that when they’re in a place to have children, their bodies are no longer primed to do so.
Delay That Clock
There may be a time limit on your ability to conceive and bear children — but there’s certainly not one on being a parent (42).
When you’re on a mission to conceive, it can be tempting to ramp up your sexual encounters. The number of times you have sex, though, isn’t as important as when you’re having sex. In fact, overdoing intercourse can have a negative impact on your ability to conceive.
Scheduling sex can turn it into a real chore. This can have a negative impact on the hormones produced during sex — hormones that are crucial for successfully conceiving (43). Research also suggests that frequent ejaculation can diminish the quantity of available sperm.
Having sex during your fertile window will be your ticket to conceiving. So go ahead and plan a romantic night out to set the mood. Plan to have intercourse every other day or once every three days for optimal results.
There’s a lot of information out there that suggests being healthy is a great way to start a pregnancy. Knowing you’ll probably gain a little weight and may have more difficulty staying active can put the pressure on to be in shape.
Still, now’s not the time to schedule intense workouts. If you are a professional athlete or self-proclaimed gym rat, you may need to cut back to conceive. Limit the hours you spend exercising, as optimal body conditions for pregnancy actually include some fat stores.
You are more likely to experience amenorrhea — or missing periods — without proper fat stores (44). Even if you do ovulate, it may be difficult to get pregnant.
Studies indicate that more than five hours of intense workouts a week can make it more difficult for you to conceive (45). Plan on moderate exercise three days a week. If you have any doubts about your routine, check with your doctor for advice.
Maintaining a healthy pregnancy is a great goal. There’s no need to cut your fitness habits entirely; you just may need to make some adjustments to your routine (46).
Too Much Stress
Trying to conceive can be a stressful process. Thoughts about a potential pregnancy may already consume your days — what to eat, how much to exercise, when to have sex, and more.
It’s easy to become caught up in everything you should and shouldn’t do, but don’t let it consume you. The extra stress that goes along with that can hinder your ability to become pregnant (47).
Do your best to manage your stress. Make time for meditation, yoga, or even just a walk (48). Meet friends and find ways to distract yourself from the task at hand.
Indulging in a little bit of self-care can go a long way to achieving your pregnancy goals. Don’t feel guilty about investing time in yourself while you’re trying to conceive.
Obsessing About Sex Positions
Your best friend may swear there’s a go-to position for having a boy or a girl, or for conceiving at all. Maybe they’ve even provided you with facts that seem to back up their argument.
But there’s not one sexual position that’s better than the next when it comes to conceiving (49). As long as sperm has the opportunity to meet egg, every position is equally effective at achieving pregnancy.
Douching is generally not recommended for women and may increase the chance of vaginosis (50). There are additional implications when you’re trying to conceive.
Cervical mucus helps sperm make its way to your egg. Douching serves to remove this mucus, directly impacting your ability to conceive. Douching can also alter the pH of your vagina, which can make for an inhospitable environment for sperm.
Enjoying the Pre-Baby Life Too Much
Is envisioning your future with a new little bundle making you ache for one last hurrah? You may be thinking this is your last chance to go out and party with your friends before a baby comes. The truth is, you need to curb your partying pre-baby.
Make sure you’re eating and sleeping well, taking those prenatal vitamins, and avoiding alcohol. It goes without saying you’ll want to stay away from illicit drugs during this time as well. Even over-the-counter drugs and prescribed medications can cause a problem when you’re trying to conceive.
The first trimester of pregnancy has some of the most crucial developments for a fetus. During this time, medications are closely monitored and few are suggested for use (53). Always err on the side of caution when it comes to medications, especially if you’re actively trying to get pregnant.
As stated earlier, smoking is off limits. The chemicals in cigarettes can cause damage to sperm and eggs (54). If you’re already pregnant, there are many documented ramifications to exposing a pregnancy to smoking (55).
Waiting Too Long to See a Doctor
Suspect you have something going on that’s preventing you from becoming pregnant? Don’t wait too long to see your doctor.
For younger couples, it’s frequently recommended you try a full year before seeking medical help. If you’re over the age of 35, though, it’s usually advised you seek medical consultation after 6 months of unsuccessful attempts (56).
Especially if you’re over the age of 35, time is not in your favor. It’s best to get started early with a fertility doctor, even if it only serves to rule out complications. You won’t regret going in for that initial appointment — but you may regret it if you wait too long.
Ignoring Male Health and Lifestyle Issues
Conception and pregnancy are frequently viewed as women’s issues. But both the man and the woman play a part in conceiving.
For optimal results in your pregnancy journey, make sure your partner is being as healthy as you are. Smoking is linked to a decrease in fertility (57). Excess alcohol can also have a negative impact on sperm (58).
Taking Pregnancy Tests too Early
Waiting is hard. When you’ve been trying to conceive, you want to know immediately if you’ve been successful. Unfortunately, you need to give your body time before taking a pregnancy test.
If you take a pregnancy test too early, you won’t get an accurate reading. The increase in hormones that a pregnancy test relies on won’t happen until after the embryo implants in the uterine wall. For best results, plan on waiting until 12 days after you ovulated to test.
It’s easier to have a false-negative than a false-positive test. If you had a negative test but still think there’s a chance you could be pregnant, take another the following morning (59). Make sure to test first thing in the morning when your urine is most concentrated.
Myths About Fertility
There are a lot of superstitions attached to fertility, conception, and pregnancy. Don’t be fooled by information just because it’s presented as true. A lot of what you’re hearing isn’t rooted in fact at all.
The Shop Closes at 35
What the science says: Yes, there is a decline in fertility as you age. Just because you aren’t as fertile as you once were, though, doesn’t mean conception and pregnancy is off the table.
The percentages provided earlier in this article assume you aren’t working with a fertility specialist or using any intervention. This is for natural conception only. Fortunately, we live in an age where natural conception isn’t our only option when it comes to getting pregnant and having a family.
Discuss fertility treatment options with your doctor if you’re concerned you won’t be able to conceive naturally. There are many options for addressing infertility, including the following (60).
- Fertility drugs: If your doctor determines you aren’t producing the needed hormones to achieve pregnancy, opting for hormone treatments can be the key to success. Available in both pill form or as an injectable, these hormones can help trigger ovulation or help you maintain a pregnancy. As many as 50 percent of women using this treatment plan typically conceive.
- Artificial insemination: A step beyond fertility drugs, artificial insemination (frequently referred to as intrauterine insemination, or IUI) involves preparing sperm and then inserting them directly into the uterus. This cuts down on the travel the sperm need to make and gets them one step closer to your egg. Between 60 and 70 percent of women are able to conceive using this method.
- In vitro fertilization: If fertility drugs and IUI have been unsuccessful, your doctor may want to move forward with in vitro fertilization (IVF). During this process, sperm will be collected from your partner and eggs will be harvested from you. In a lab, your partner’s sperm will inseminate your egg, and your doctor will analyze each embryo before you will undergo a procedure to have the healthiest embryo placed in your uterus.
These are just a few of many fertility options available to you. Talking with your doctor will be the best way to know what course of treatment is appropriate for you.
Verdict: This myth is false. The shop, so to speak, remains open for quite a while.
You may need to approach your fertility differently after the age of 35. Successfully conceiving and carrying to term is certainly not out of the question, though — women do it every day.
You Only Get Pregnant During Intercourse
What the science says: Sperm can continue to live in a hospitable environment (your body, for instance) for up to 72 hours (61).
Depending on when you ovulate and when the sperm reaches your egg, you can conceive a day — or even three days — after intercourse. Most pregnancies occur from having intercourse about two days before the woman ovulated (62).
Verdict: This myth is also false. Sperm can be present in your body for up to 72 hours. This is why it’s so important to know when you will ovulate — and to plan to have intercourse prior to ovulation.
Go ahead and have sex while ovulating as well. This will help give you the best chance of conceiving.
Tight Underwear Impacts a Man’s Fertility
What the science says: There are things to avoid to help keep sperm functional at its optimal level. Tight underwear may be one of them.
Sperm are sensitive to heat, so what you willwant to avoid are hot temperatures in the scrotal region. Saunas, hot baths, and even a hot laptop can damage healthy sperm. Whether tight underwear heat up sperm too much is up for debate.
The good news about overheating the sperm is this damage isn’t permanent. The bad news is, it can take several months for a healthy sperm supply to replenish. If you’re trying, or plan to try, to conceive in the near future, put an end to these activities.
Verdict: There might be some merit to this one, so your partner might want to consider switching to boxers while trying to conceive (63). Although tight underwear won’t definitively hurt your fertility chances, it may be best to err on the side of caution.
Using Birth Control Permanently Affects Fertility
What the science says: Birth control is great for preventing pregnancy — when you’re using it. Research-based evidence shows there are no long-term effects on a woman’s fertility from using hormone-based birth control (64).
Verdict: False. There’s no evidence that suggests a woman’s fertility is hurt by using hormone-based birth control.
There are some real risks that go along with using hormone-based birth control, however (65). These risks can include elevated blood pressure, less effectiveness while using an antibiotic, potential bone loss, and a greater risk of STDs.
Always use birth control under the supervision of a doctor and discuss all options — and risks — that go along with your birth control of choice. Have you determined a hormone-based birth control isn’t right for you? There are many non-hormonal options on the market that may be what you’re looking for.
If you’re looking for a contraceptive method with an immediate return to fertility, consider an IUD.
Editor's Note:Caitlin Goodwin, MSN, RN, CNM
It’s Always the Woman’s Fault
What the science says: Half of the genetic material a baby receives is from its father. The only way for that genetic material to get where it needs to be is with a healthy, well-formed, and mobile sperm. During the process of conception, there are many opportunities for the man to be “at fault.”
When considering fertility, it’s best to not put blame on anyone. If you’re experiencing a fertility problem, there may be something that needs to be addressed. Identify the issue and address it, but don’t place blame on yourself or your partner.
Some fertility issues linked to a man’s sperm include the following (66):
- Compromised or damaged sperm: Sperm must be healthy to carry out their mission to inseminate an egg. Malformed sperm can carry incomplete genetic material or be unable to get to the egg.
- Low sperm count: The numbers matter when it comes to sperm — normal sperm count is considered at least 15 million per milliliter of semen (67). If you have fewer sperm in your ejaculate, your sperm count will be considered low. The more sperm you have, the greater the chances of achieving pregnancy.
- Poor sperm mobility: Even if there is enough sperm in your partner’s ejaculate, it’s not helpful if the sperm has difficulty traveling. If sperm can’t get to the egg before it dies — or before the ovulation window is over — you won’t be able to conceive.
Fortunately, there are options for working with male infertility just as there are when dealing with a woman’s infertility. If you’re concerned there’s a problem, have your partner make an appointment with his doctor.
Verdict: False. Fertility problems affect women and men equally.
Forty percent of infertility problems are linked to women. Another 40 percent are linked to men. The remaining 20 percent is a combined effort (68).
The Bottom Line
Pregnancy may or may not come easily to you. Even if it does, it may take a few cycles to happen.
If it doesn’t? You can take comfort in knowing there are options out there that can make pregnancy a reality for you.
What’s your fertility and pregnancy journey been like? Do you have an experience that could help someone who’s struggling?
We’d love to hear about it — the good, and the not so good. Leave us a comment below. And please share this article with any couples you know who could use the advice.