When you know you’re ready for a baby, you probably want to know how to get pregnant fast. You might expect that getting pregnant will happen without your even trying. Go off contraception, have sex, and boom: pregnant!
Needless to say, it doesn’t always happen like that. Some couples conceive the first month, but for many couples, it takes much longer than that. This doesn’t necessarily mean there is anything wrong with you. The truth is, it’s just not as easy to get pregnant as you thought it was. For a young couple at the peak of their fertility with no underlying fertility issues, having well-timed sex during the fertile window, the chances of conceiving are about 25 percent per cycle1. That means that even if you’re perfectly healthy and doing everything right, you’re never going to have better odds than one in four.
It’s important to go into this process knowing that you don’t have full control over how long it will take to get pregnant. That said, there are a few things you do have control over that can help increase the likelihood of getting pregnant quickly.
1. Get the timing right.
There are only six days per month when it’s possible for sex to result in pregnancy: the five days leading up to ovulation, and the day of ovulation itself (check out our fertility calendar). You can have sex every day or every other day during the fertile window—the chances of pregnancy are basically the same, so do what feels best for you and your partner.
If you don’t have time to have regular intercourse throughout the fertile window, try to hit at least the day before or two days before ovulation. Sex on those days offers the highest chances of conception.2
Probability of Pregnancy
Days before ovulation
|High||O-1, O-2, O-3|
|Low||O-6, O-5, O+1|
2. Know when you ovulate.
How do you get the timing right? You have to know when you ovulate, and be sure to have sex in the few days before that.
Don’t just download a period tracking app and trust what it tells you about your fertile days. The majority of fertility tracking apps have been shown to incorrectly estimate the fertile window based on clinical guidelines.[3 jabfm.2016.04.160022. J Am Board Fam Med July-August 2016 vol. 29 no. 4 508-511 <http://jabfm.org/content/29/4/508.full>]
To complicate matters even more, only 30 percent of women have a fertile window that is in the time frame specified by clinical guidelines—that is, between cycle days 10 and 173. Some women start their fertile window earlier, and others start it later. What’s more, the fertile window may vary for the same woman from month to month.
There are much more accurate ways of finding your fertile window than relying on apps. Cervical mucus monitoring and ovulation tests can give you a heads up that your body is preparing to ovulate. Basal body temperature can confirm that ovulation occurred, but by that time, it’s too late to get pregnant that cycle. To find out the beginning of your fertile window and confirm ovulation in a single device, you can use the Ava bracelet.
3. Consider going off birth control ahead of time.
It’s possible to get pregnant as soon as you stop your birth control method. There is no medical reason that you need to take a break from hormones before trying to conceive.
But if you’re using a hormonal method of birth control, it may be worth going off it ahead of time and using an alternate form of protection until you’re ready to start trying. The reason is that when you are taking hormonal birth control such as the Pill, you don’t have a real menstrual cycle. With some forms of hormonal contraception, you still bleed, and with others, you do not. But even if you bleed, it’s not a real period. The synthetic hormones suppress your natural cycle.
Note that with progestin-only forms of hormonal birth control, such as the Mirena IUD and the mini-pill, you may still ovulate even if you’re not getting your period. But if you’re taking a combined oral birth control pill, or have a Nuvaring or Nexplanon, then you are likely not ovulating.
Since it’s so important to learn to track your natural cycle in order to increase your chances of conceiving quickly, going off contraception early can give you some time to reacquaint yourself with your cycle and learn how to track it. There’s a bit of a learning curve with most methods, so you may appreciate some time to practice before you feel the pressure to conceive.
Another reason to stop your contraceptive early is that it may take some time for your cycle to return to normal after stopping hormonal birth control. You are more likely to have anovulatory cycles, late ovulation, and short luteal phases in your first few cycles after stopping the Pill, all of which make it harder to get pregnant. You might even experience post-pill amenorrhea, when it takes a while for your cycle to return in the first place.
- Sozou, Peter D. “Time to Pregnancy: A Computational Method for Using the Duration of Non-Conception for Predicting Conception.” October 4, 2012 <http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0046544> ↩
- “Daily Fecundability: First Results from a New Data Base,” Colombo B, Masarotto G, Demographic Research, vol. 3, issue 5 (2000) <https://www.mendeley.com/research-papers/daily-fecundability-first-results-new-data-base/> ↩
- BMJ 2000;321:1259 <http://www.bmj.com/content/321/7271/1259> ↩