How to get pregnant at a glance
- Natural conception is the reproductive process when sperm enters the vagina, travels through the cervix into the uterus (womb) and to one of the fallopian tubes, where fertilization of a mature egg occurs. The resulting embryo then travels to the uterus and attaches to the uterine wall for pregnancy.
- Many elements need to align for a natural pregnancy to occur, which is not as easy as many people think. A healthy woman around 30 only has a 20% chance of success each cycle; a healthy 40 year old has only a 5% chance of conceiving without medical intervention per cycle.
- Having unprotected sex consistently, knowing when ovulation occurs and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are key factors in getting pregnant naturally.
- Couples under 35 have the highest chances of conceiving naturally, but if pregnancy has not occurred within the first year of trying (six months for a woman over age 35), that is considered having infertility.
- When this is the case, it is time to see one of our reproductive specialists, who can evaluate the cause and create a treatment plan tailored to the individual’s needs.
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How to get pregnant naturally
Getting pregnant naturally is a complicated process that involves multiple steps, starting with the proper balance of reproductive hormones in both partners to produce healthy eggs in women (or those with a female reproductive system) and sperm in a man (or those with a male reproductive system).
During a menstrual cycle, the ovary releases one mature egg (ovulation) that is swept into one of the nearby fallopian tubes. The egg has to be fertilized within 12 to 24 hours. Through intercourse, the sperm enters the vagina, passing through the cervix and uterus and into one of the fallopian tubes. When the egg and sperm meet in the fallopian tube, they can attach to one another and result in fertilization and a single-cell zygote.
The zygote must then move to the uterus (womb), dividing into more and more cells and forming a ball along the way. This ball of cells is called a blastocyst, which arrives at the uterus 5-6 days after fertilization. When the blastocyst begins to implant in the uterus, a pregnancy officially starts.
Timing sex when a woman is most fertile (the fertility window)
Considering the above information on what must happen for conception to occur, the best thing a couple can do to try to get pregnant naturally is have sexual intercourse during the timeframe when a woman is most fertile. The fertility window for a woman begins five days prior to ovulation and ends after ovulation. Sperm can remain viable within a woman’s body up to five days but an egg is only viable for fertilization up to 24 hours after release.
Typically ovulation occurs about 14 days before menses, but this may vary and ovulation is not guaranteed to be on time every month. Ovulation happens when luteinizing hormone, LH, causes a woman’s body to release an egg.
No app or test will be a perfect predictor of ovulation. Over-the-counter ovulation predictor kits use a urine sample to detect the level of LH (luteinizing hormone), indicating the fertility window is open. The LH surge happens one day before ovulation, so start testing on the 11th day of the cycle to detect the LH surge. If possible, try testing at the same time each day, ideally in the afternoon. Testing first thing in the morning may cause false positive tests. Also, testing when the urine is very dilute, or clear, can cause false negative results.
Tracking basal body temperature is another way to predict ovulation, but it requires more work and must be carefully conducted. Also, once one’s temperature has risen, ovulation has already occurred and the most fertile window has passed. Some kits test saliva and cervical secretions, but these are not as reliable as the LH kits.
We recommend exposure to sperm through intercourse every 1-3 days around the time of ovulation to maximize chances of pregnancy during one’s most fertile window. Intercourse before ovulation is more likely to result in pregnancy than intercourse after ovulation. Timed intercourse ensures that there is always sperm available to fertilize an egg.
Chance of getting pregnant naturally
The chances of getting pregnant naturally are not as high as many people think, which is one of the reasons infertility isn’t diagnosed until a relatively long period of time trying to conceive has passed. The age of the woman, or an LGBTQ+ person with a female reproductive system, plays a big role.
This is because egg quantity and quality decline with age. Along with that decline comes a reduction in the chance of the egg developing into a healthy embryo that can become a healthy fetus and reach live birth.
A woman in her 20s has a 20%-25% chance of getting pregnant each month. This is the decade when a woman is typically most fertile as her eggs are at peak quality and plentiful.
A woman in her 30s has a 15%-20% chance of conceiving each month. However, a woman’s fertility begins to rapidly decline after the age of 35. A woman in her 30s may consider ovarian reserve testing to plan for pregnancy.
A woman in her 40s has less than a 5% chance for pregnancy each month. Women between the ages of 45 and 49 have only a 1% chance. This does not mean it will be impossible to get pregnant.
How long does it take to get pregnant?
Some couples can get pregnant quickly but typically conception is challenging for many. If having sex every two to three days, most couples will get pregnant within a year of trying.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine states that the chance of a young couple getting pregnant in the first three months ranges from 20% to 37%. There is an 80% chance a couple (if the partner with female reproductive system is under the age of 40) will get pregnant within a year and a 90% chance of conception in two years.
Do’s and don’ts for increasing natural conception
Getting pregnant shouldn’t be left to luck. These tips can improve the odds of conceiving.Do
- Tune into lifestyle factors like maintaining a well-balanced diet, healthy weight, moderate exercise and avoiding stress.
- Take a daily dose of folic acid.
- Pay attention to the body’s sign of ovulating, if not using an LH ovulation predictor kit (see above). These signs include an increase in clear, wet and stretchy vaginal secretions and a slight increase in body temperature.
- Try to approach having frequent sex as a pleasure and not as a chore to achieve pregnancy. Also, don’t limit sex to just timing intercourse in hopes of achieving pregnancy.
- Smoke or use any tobacco or marijuana products, which have negative effects for fertility and the health of a fetus.
- Drink alcohol, as heavy use could lead to decreased fertility and is generally not recommended when trying to conceive.
- Consume more than 200 milligrams of caffeine a day, which equals about 1-2 cups of coffee.
- Undertake intense, strenuous exercise for more than five hours a week, as more than that has been connected to decreased ovulation.
- Use herbs, supplements or “fertilty boosters” such as teas or testosterone/steroids unless discussed with your fertility specialist.
When to see a fertility specialist
If the partner with female reproductive organs is younger than 35, we recommend seeing a fertility specialist if unsuccessful after a year of trying to conceive. That timeframe is reduced to after six months if the woman is 35 or older and immediately if 40 or above. We provide fertility testing and treatment options for all individuals and couples no matter their sexual orientation or gender identification.
People with health histories that may hinder getting pregnant naturally should see a fertility specialist sooner rather than later. Some health factors include:
- Infrequent or no menstrual periods.
- Prior or current sexual transmitted infections (STIs).
- Past abdominal or pelvic surgery.
- History of infertility.
- Previous problems with testicles or genitals.
- Ejaculation problems.
- Opening of urethra not in the end of the penis, called hypospadias.