How long will it take to get pregnant?
How long it takes is a lottery for most couples.
The length of time it takes to get pregnant is completely different for each couple, and while your health, lifestyle, age and when you decide to start trying for a baby are factors to consider, how long it takes is a lottery for most couples. It’s worth remembering that if you have regular intercourse without protection:
- 25% will conceive in the first month
- 60% within six months
- 75% within nine months
- 80% within a year
- 90% within 18 months
So if you are under 35 and have had regular intercourse (sex every two to three days) without protection for a year and haven't fallen pregnant, it’s probably time to seek medical help. If you are over 35, it is recommended that you seek medical advice after six months of trying. However, timing sex around ovulation will improve your chances of getting pregnant.
Use our Ovulation Calculator to work out your most fertile times.
What does 'my most fertile period' mean?
Astonishingly when a man ejaculates he releases about three and a half millilitres of sperm, and each millilitre contains about 60-150 million sperm. But of about 300 million sperm, only a few hundred will actually reach the egg. After ovulation, (remember this happens around 12-14 days before the end of the reproductive cycle) an egg can only be fertilized if it is met and penetrated by a sperm one to two days before ovulation and 24 hours afterwards. This is because sperm cells can live for 2-3 days but an egg only lives for 24 hours unless it is fertilized.
Fertilization happens when a sperm meets and penetrates an egg. The fertilized egg then divides repeatedly before implanting itself into the lining of the uterus. The pregnancy is now established and the placenta will start to form.
If you understand when you ovulate you stand a much greater chance of conceiving. The time in which you have intercourse can have a huge bearing on getting pregnant or not, because your fertile window is made up of a few days each month when pregnancy is possible. Sperm can survive for a maximum of five days inside a woman and your ovum or egg survives for one day.
This means that your fertile period is six days long comprised from five days before you ovulate and one day after. Pregnancy is possible on any one of these six days but your chances will increase if you have intercourse on the three days immediately leading up to and including your ovulation day. So this means you have a practical fertile window of just three days.
Most women ovulate 12-14 days before the end of their period, so it is easier to work out when you are most fertile if you keep a track of your cycle for a few months and make a note of how long your cycle lasts and the first day of each period. If you have a regular cycle that averages 28 days you can count back from the end of each cycle and predict ovulation at somewhere between 12-14 days.
Do I have a 'normal' cycle?
Most guides to getting pregnant base themselves on the 28 day cycle average because this is how long most women's cycles last for. If your cycle lasts between 23 and 35 days it is considered 'normal', especially if it has no more then a weeks variation from month to month. The problem exists if you have a very irregular cycle, because it is hard to predict when you are most fertile. If this is the case you may need to use an ovulation predictor kit, although these may not be suitable for all women. Talk to your GP if your cycle is irregular and you need help working out when you ovulate.
Don't forget that gurgle's Ovulation Calculator can take away the maths headache and confusion by doing the work for you. Simply input your details into the calculator and it will work out your fertile days over the coming months.
If you are over 35, it is recommended that you seek medical advice after six months of trying. If you have experienced two or more miscarriages, have irregular or painful periods, or a burning vaginal discharge, make an appointment with a health or fertility expert. The same goes if your partner experiences a decreased sex drive, ejaculation problems or impotence.
It goes without saying that the healthier you are, the more likely you are to conceive. One of the common reasons for infertility in the UK is your weight. Being overweight may cause insulin levels to rise in your body, which may cause your ovaries to over produce male hormones such as testosterone, which can cause ovulation problems.
Studies from the British Medical Journal found that women with a high waist to hip ratio or an ‘apple’ shape had more difficulty conceiving than those with a low waist to hip ratio or a ‘pear shape’.
If you are too thin, your body can also stop ovulating, so it is important to maintain a healthy weight.
It is important to start eating a healthy, varied diet at least three months before you try to conceive so your body (and your partner’s) is in tip top shape.
You can also get information and advice from:
- your doctor
- a community contraceptive (family planning) clinic
- a pharmacist
- FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association): 0845 122 8690
- Brook (under-25s only): 0808 802 1234
The information in this feature is intended for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your health, the health of your child or the health of someone you know, please consult with a doctor or other healthcare professional.