If you’re thinking about trying for a baby, you probably have a tonne of questions: What in the heck is ovulation? Are there any sex positions that can help me conceive? When should we even have sex? And do I really need to keep my legs in the air after sex or is that total baloney?
One of the most common concerns is how long the whole thing takes. At what point after sex will I actually be pregnant? When should I take a pregnancy test? Will I get pregnant straight away or will I be trying for months?
High school sex ed might have you believe that conceiving is as easy as fooling around once without a condom, but it’s not always that straightforward. Here’s how long it can really take to fall pregnant.
How long does it take to get pregnant?
The short of it is that the road to conception isn’t the same for everyone. Some women get pregnant almost as soon as they start trying, while for others, the process can take much longer. Some also have infertility problems, which can make getting pregnant even trickier.
Certain factors affect your chances of getting pregnant each month, like your and your partner’s age, your overall health and reproductive health, your lifestyle, and when and how frequently you have sex .
That being said, most women fall pregnant within a year of trying. According to a 2003 study, 75% of women under 35 conceive within 6 months of trying, 90% after 1 year and 95% after 2.
Around 30% of women conceive in the first month of trying, with the likelihood of falling pregnant decreasing each month . Other studies have found that 85-88% of couples conceive within a year and 90% within 2 years .
How long does it take to get pregnant after going off hormonal contraception?
If you’re using a form of hormonal birth control like the pill, a hormonal IUD or an implant, you’re probably wondering if coming off it will affect your ability to get pregnant.
The good news is that it probably won’t. A 2018 study found that contraception use — regardless of how long women used it, or whether it was hormonal — had no negative influence on their ability to conceive. Around 83% of these women were able to fall pregnant within a year of stopping their contraception .
Note, though, that your body will likely need a bit of time to adjust and return to its normal fertility levels after you stop using birth control.
The time it takes varies from person to person and also depends on the method of birth control you’ve used. Most women go back to a regular period cycle immediately after removing a hormonal IUD or vaginal ring, for example, while for those on the pill, it might take 2 months after stopping .
If you’re using contraception injections, it can take a bit longer — around 8-12 months after the last injection, or possibly longer. But again, there are big variations in individual timelines.
Non-hormonal forms of contraception like condoms and diaphragms don’t impact your fertility. This means there’s a chance you can get pregnant as soon as you have sex without them .
How common is infertility?
Infertility — defined as an inability to conceive after having unprotected sex for 12 months — affects about 1 in 6 Australian couples of reproductive age . In the US, it’s estimated that 9% of men have fertility problems and 11% of women .
Of these couples, there are lots of different underlying causes. For 2 in 5 couples, difficulty conceiving can be due to a sperm problem like low sperm count or sperm abnormalities, or genetic problems that lead to male infertility.
For another 2 in 5, it can be caused by issues with the woman’s reproductive system, such as ovulation problems, PCOS, endometriosis, fibroids or STIs. In other cases, there may be multiple reasons behind infertility or no apparent cause — this is known as unexplained infertility .
These days, there are numerous infertility treatments available including IVF, hormonal medications and artificial insemination. But these treatments can be emotionally and physically exhausting, as well as expensive — especially when they don’t work. For some, the unfortunate reality is that they may never be able to conceive.
What's the deal with fertility testing?
If a couple has been unsuccessful in conceiving, their doc might recommend a series of tests to figure out the cause. This is known as fertility testing, and it can be done by either one or both partners. Some people may also opt to undergo fertility testing before they try to fall pregnant, to find out if anything could reduce their chances.
There are several different ways to test fertility , including:
- Blood tests to check for any hormonal issues that affect ovulation and conception, as well as egg count
- Sperm testing using a semen sample
- STI testing for chlamydia, as this can affect both male and female fertility
- Ultrasound or X-ray to assess the reproductive system and look for any issues, such as fibroids or blockages
- Laparoscopy, a type of keyhole surgery performed on the lower abdomen to check for problems — although this is only recommended if there’s a high risk of fertility issues
A newer way to check fertility is genetic testing, which involves analysing a blood sample. This can then indicate any genetic conditions that may be impacting things like egg reserves and sperm production.
Can age affect your ability to get pregnant?
Absolutely. In fact, age has the biggest influence on the time it takes to conceive.
This is because, as you get older, your egg supply drops. When you’re born, your ovaries contain a fixed number of eggs, meaning that with each ovulation cycle (where your body releases an egg), you lose one, or a few, forever.
And as you age, the eggs that are still there tend to be lower in quality. Male fertility declines with age, too, but the pattern isn’t as clear.
The research does vary a little, but a 2020 study found that you’re at your most fertile in your 20s, when your likelihood of conceiving is 85% within 1 year. This drops to 75% at the age of 30, 66% at 35 and then 44% at 40 . There’s also a higher chance of miscarriage, stillbirth and genetic abnormalities if you have a baby after 35, as well as having multiple pregnancies .
Can stress affect fertility?
The research isn’t totally clear, but there is growing evidence that stress can affect your fertility.
When you’re stressed, your body produces a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is key in the fight or flight response as it helps deliver energy to different parts of your body. It also suppresses certain bodily functions, including your reproductive system, negatively affecting both ovulation and sperm count .
One study found that cortisol can impact the physiology of your ovaries, along with egg quality — which could certainly hamper your ability to get pregnant .
On top of stress, several other lifestyle factors can adversely affect fertility in both men and women, including being over or underweight, poor nutrition, overexercising, drug use, heavy drinking, smoking and even excessive caffeine intake (generally more than 2 cups per day) .
Is there anything you can do to get pregnant faster?
Wondering how you can speed up the process? While there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to get pregnant faster, there are a few things you can do to boost the probability of conceiving.
Get a check-up
You want to make sure both you and your partner are in good nick before trying. Make an appointment with your GP to get a general health check-up, and ensure you let them know you’re planning to try for a baby. They will likely look at:
- Your medical history, especially any conditions that can impact your fertility or pregnancy
- Your gynecological history
- Your immunisation history — if you’re not up to date with your immunisations, note that some vaccines require a waiting period after administration before trying to get pregnant
- Your lifestyle and any habits to give up before becoming pregnant
- Your blood, noting any nutrient deficiencies and STIs
- Any medications you’re on
Depending on your age and where you’re at in the process, you can also talk to your doc or a fertility specialist about fertility testing. If you’re aged 35 or lower, it’s recommended you reach out to them after 1 year of trying.
If you’re older than 35, make an appointment after 6 months of trying. And if you’re older than 40, consider getting a fertility evaluation before trying to conceive .
Figure out your cycle
You may want to get to know your menstrual cycle very well, because to actually get pregnant, you need to time sexual intercourse with ovulation. Ovulation is when your ovaries release an egg to be fertilised, and it happens about midway through your menstrual cycle.
To up the likelihood of conceiving, you should have sex within the 5 days before, or on the day of, ovulation — this is known as your fertile window . Sperm can survive in the female body for up to 5 days, so if you have sex within your fertile window, they’ll be ready and waiting for the egg to drop .
Alternatively, you can just have sex every day or every other day. This means you’ll likely hit your fertile window naturally, without needing to keep track of your cycle.
Kin Fertility's Conceiving Essentials has everything that you need to start your conceiving journey, including ovulation tests and pregnancy tests. With a proven accuracy rate of 99%, we’ll help you to take the guesswork out of knowing when to conceive.
Adjust your lifestyle
If certain lifestyle habits could be hindering your chances of getting pregnant, now’s the time to address them. Work towards a healthy weight, curb smoking and heavy drinking, ditch recreational drugs, and keep your stress levels in check.
Because all of these things can impact sperm count and quality, you may want to get your partner on board with the lifestyle overhaul, too.
Nutrition also plays an important role in fertility, and changing your diet may just increase your odds of conceiving successfully. Research has found that a diet high in saturated fats and sugar is connected to poorer fertility in both men and women. On the other hand, a diet high in unsaturated fats, veggies, whole grains and fish may improve fertility in both sexes .
To ensure your body’s in the absolute best shape possible, you can also start taking a prenatal vitamin before you fall pregnant. In fact, it’s recommended you introduce a prenatal about a month (or even 3 months) before you start trying and continue taking it throughout pregnancy . Prenatal vitamins support your and your growing baby’s health.
Kin’s Prenatal Vitamin is a great option, delivering 12 highly bioavailable ingredients essential for a healthy pregnancy. Bonus? Mums who’ve used it report fewer side effects — like reflux, nausea, constipation and fishy burps — meaning you can stay focused on the fun stuff: babymaking.
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