After they’ve made the decision to have a baby, many people try to do everything they can to conceive during their next cycle. But it’s important to remember that getting pregnant can take time.
It’s normal for it to take a few months or longer to get pregnant. If you’re anxious about it, there are a few steps you can take that may help make trying more effective.
Here are some ways you can safely try to increase your chances.
Your high school health teacher probably made it sound like you can get pregnant any time you have sex. But in truth, it’s a little more complicated.
Each month, there are a series of hormonal changes in your body that cause an immature egg in the ovary to grow and mature. Every menstrual cycle is different. The final stages of egg maturation and ovulation take about 2 weeks on average, beginning with the last menstrual period.
Once the egg is mature, it’s released from the ovary in a process known as ovulation. The egg then travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. The egg is only viable for about 24 hours once it’s been released.
If a sperm cell fertilizes the egg during this time frame, the fertilized egg usually keeps traveling toward the uterus. It will then typically implant into the uterine lining.
The key is to have sex in the days before and during ovulation. That way, the sperm cells are in the fallopian tubes when the egg is released. This makes it easier for fertilization to occur. Sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for up to 5 days.
The best way to increase your odds of getting pregnant quickly is to make sure that you’re having sex at the right time in your cycle.
If you have regular cycles, you will typically ovulate around 2 weeks before your period.
According to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), this means your fertile window will likely be approximately 5 days before your expected ovulation to 1 day after. The probability increases as you move closer to ovulation.
If you have irregular cycles, it can be a little more difficult to predict when you will ovulate and when your fertile window will be.
There are a number of techniques that you can use to help more precisely pinpoint your ovulation and fertile window.
Ovulation predictor kit
These kits are similar to a urine pregnancy test. You will urinate on the test strips once or twice a day, starting a few days before you think you will ovulate.
The test strips detect luteinizing hormone (LH), which surges right before ovulation.
Once you get a positive result (check your test instructions for details), you should have sex that day and the next. Fertility tends to fall off sharply afterward. These test kits are available over the counter at your pharmacy.
Basal body temperature
By measuring your basal body temperature (BBT) every morning before getting out of bed, you might be able to detect, first, a very slight decrease and then a very slight rise in temperature for 3 mornings in a row.
The temperature rise may be as little as half of a degree. This can be a signal that you’ve ovulated. Keep in mind that an egg only survives about 24 hours after ovulation so this so-called fertile window may not be a good indicator of when you should have sex.
Since your chances of conceiving are very low once ovulation has occurred, and a rise in BBT is a sign that ovulation has occurred, a change in BBT indicates that you may have missed the window. All of this means BBT is not a reliable method of timing intercourse if you’re trying to conceive.
Other concerns that this method isn’t always reliable include different factors — such as infection — that can cause a rise in temperature. Some women also find it difficult to detect that rise in temperature.
Cervical mucus changes
As the ovarian follicle — a small sac in the ovary that contains the maturing egg — develops, your estrogen level rises. This rise in estrogen causes your cervical mucus to become thin and slippery. You may also notice an increase in cervical mucus.
As you start seeing these changes, you should begin having sex every day or every other day until ovulation. Once ovulation occurs, your cervical mucus will become thick and sticky. It also may appear cloudy.
If you’re having difficulty tracking your ovulation using the above methods, you can talk with your doctor about your options.
Some doctors will monitor you with regular blood hormone tests and ultrasounds of your ovaries. This will help you know exactly when your ovulation will occur or verify whether you are actually ovulating.
There are a lot of myths about sex, fertility, and how to make pregnancy more likely. Some of these recommend different positions or keeping the hips elevated after sex for a period of time.
Others claim that if the woman orgasms (or doesn’t), conception is more likely. It’s important to note that there are no studies that support these claims.
Certain lubricants can decrease sperm motility and viability. This is important information when trying to get pregnant.
You’ll want to avoid:
- K-Y jelly
- olive oil
If you need to use a lubricant, try:
- mineral oil
- canola oil
These products will not interfere with your partner’s sperm.
Before trying to get pregnant, it’s highly advised that you work toward being as healthy as possible. In fact, most doctors will recommend that you make an appointment with your OB-GYN before you’re pregnant.
At this preconception visit, you’ll talk about any existing health problems, review your immunizations and consider updating any that are out of date, especially those like rubella or varicella, that cannot be given while pregnant.
You may also be offered screenings for genetic diseases. You can also address other health concerns you might have.
Your doctor might recommend that you make lifestyle changes before you get pregnant. These might include:
- maintaining a moderate weight
- eating nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, and lean protein
- staying physically active, such as exercising regularly
- reducing the amount of alcohol you consume if you drink
- quitting smoking if you smoke
- limiting caffeine
If you drink a lot of coffee or soda, it may be helpful to begin cutting back now. Current ACOG recommendations are to limit caffeine intake to less than 200 mg per day. This is equivalent to 1–2 cups of coffee, depending on their size and strength.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends taking a prenatal vitamin with at least
Taking folic acid helps reduce the risk of certain birth defects.
Most couples with limited to no health concerns will typically conceive within a year of actively trying to get pregnant. If you do not get pregnant within a year and are under age 35, it’s recommended that you see your doctor for a fertility evaluation.
If you’re over age 35, it’s advised that you should only wait 6 months before seeing a doctor.
It’s important that couples see a fertility specialist if they have a history of multiple miscarriages or know that they have a genetic or medical condition that might affect their fertility. If the birthing partner is over age 40, it’s recommended that they be evaluated prior to trying to conceive.
A doctor’s visit can also help identify other conditions that may affect fertility, including PCOS, endometriosis, blocked tubes, or a partner with a sperm problem.
It can be challenging when pregnancy doesn’t happen right away. This can be a normal event, so it’s important that you try to be patient. Not being able to conceive immediately, does not mean that it’ll never happen for you.
Try to keep up the baby-making fun, be adventurous, and stay relaxed.
Doing these things can help increase your well-being and help make the process more enjoyable while you’re preparing for the positive result you’ve been waiting for.
Nicole Galan is a registered nurse specializing in women’s health and infertility issues. She has cared for hundreds of couples across the country and is currently working in a large IVF center in Southern California. Her book, “The Everything Fertility Book,” was published in 2011. She also runs Tiny Toes Consulting Inc., which allows her to provide personalized support to couples in all stages of their infertility treatment. Nicole earned her nursing degree from Pace University in New York City and also holds a BS in biology from Philadelphia University.