How Soon After Sex Do You Get Pregnant?

Will lying on your back after intercourse help?

In This Article

You know that sex leads to pregnancy, but how soon after sex could you actually get pregnant? The answer isn't exact. Instead, it's a range—it could be in minutes or take a few days.

Below, we explore how long it takes to get pregnant, how to maximize your chance of conceiving, and when pregnancy symptoms can actually begin.

Overview

Conception may take place as soon as three minutes after sexual intercourse, or it may take up to five days. Implantation occurs five to 10 days after fertilization, which means anywhere from five to 15 days after you had sex.

Pregnancy symptoms may start as early as a week after you had sex or may take several weeks to start. Some women never get noticeable early pregnancy symptoms.

Could lying down after sex help you conceive faster? It seems like it makes sense. Sperm need to swim through the reproductive system. Perhaps it's easier for them to make the journey if they don't have to swim up—and can just swim horizontally. However, things are slightly more complicated than that.

Fertilization can occur within minutes of sex...but it's also possible to have intercourse on Tuesday and not conceive until Friday!

Conception

You might think that the time between sex and conception is just the amount of time it takes sperm to swim to the egg. However, how quickly sperm swim doesn’t fully answer the question.

how soon after sex can you become pregnant?
Illustration by Emily Roberts, Verywell

Studies have found that sperm take between two and 10 minutes to travel from the cervix through to the fallopian tubes (where they hope to meet an egg). This is regardless of gravity.

They will swim "up" through the uterus no matter what position your body is in. If there is an egg waiting, conception can occur as quickly as three minutes after sexual intercourse.

That said, sperm can survive inside the female reproductive system for up to five days. This means that the day you had sex doesn’t have to be the day you got pregnant. If you had sex on Monday, and you ovulate on Thursday, conception can occur days after you had sexual intercourse.

Sometimes, a doctor will estimate the day of conception based on how many weeks the fetus measures in an ultrasound, and this conception date doesn't match up with a day the couple had sex. This possible delay between intercourse and fertilization explains how that can happen.

While you're more likely to get pregnant if you have sex two to three days before ovulation, you can get pregnant from sex that occurs up to six days before an egg is released from the ovary.

Implantation

Conception is when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg. Implantation is when the fertilized egg (which is now an embryo) implants itself into the uterine wall. You’re not technically pregnant until this happens. Implantation doesn’t happen right after fertilization.

Many people assume that fertilization happens in the uterus. This isn’t correct. The sperm cells meet the egg in the fallopian tubes, and this is where conception happens.

After conception, the embryo needs to go through a number of development stages before it can implant itself into the uterine lining. It also needs to travel from inside the fallopian tubes down into the uterus. This takes a few days.

Implantation usually occurs between five and 10 days after fertilization. But as you read above, fertilization can occur as soon as a few minutes after sex or as many as five days after. This means that implantation can occur as soon as five days after you had sex or as late as 15 days after sexual intercourse.

Pregnancy Symptoms

Whether fertilization occurs within minutes of sex or days later, will you be able to feel you're pregnant when it happens? Unfortunately, no.

Some women claim to have "known" they conceived within minutes of sex. The truth is that it's scientifically impossible.

Any potential pregnancy symptoms won't appear until embryo implantation (at the very, very earliest), and that doesn't happen for another seven to 10 days. It takes time for the fertilized egg to travel from the fallopian tubes and find a soft landing area in the uterus.

Having pregnancy signs at the time of implantation is also unlikely. Most women don't start to experience pregnancy symptoms until they are a few days past their expected period. Some women never "feel" pregnant.

The earliest you might expect to “feel pregnant” after sex would be around seven days. More commonly, it takes between two to four weeks after sex before pregnancy symptoms are noticeable.

Lying on Your Back

Just about every woman has received advice to remain on her back after sex, in hopes it'll make it easier to get pregnant. There’s no research specifically on lying still after sex to back up the claim.

However, there is research on the fertility treatment intrauterine insemination (or IUI). During IUI treatment, specially washed sperm are transferred directly to the woman’s uterus via the cervix through a thin catheter.

In one study, researchers wanted to know if IUI treatment would be more effective if the woman remained on her back for 15 minutes after the procedure.

Researchers found that the women who remained on their backs for 15 minutes after the sperm transfer had a 27% pregnancy rate after three cycles. The women who were encouraged to get up right after the treatment had an 18% pregnancy rate after three cycles.

Remaining horizontal after IUI treatment did improve pregnancy rates. Whether that would translate to sexual intercourse, is unclear.

Aim for 10 to 20 Minutes

If you’re going to lie on your back, how long should you stay there to reap any benefits? Again, there’s no research on sexual intercourse to give us an answer. However, we have another study on IUI that may give us a clue.

In this study, 396 couples having IUI treatment for male factor infertilitycervical issues, or unexplained infertility were randomly assigned to a post-IUI “rest” group. Women were either asked to remain horizontal for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, or 20 minutes post-insemination.

In this particular study, the clinical pregnancy rates were dramatically different between the 5 and 10-minute groups. 

Clinical Pregnancy Rates Per Cycle

  • 4.5% for those who remained horizontal for 5 minutes
  • 15.9% for those who remained horizontal for 10 minutes
  • 19.7% for those who remained horizontal for 20 minutes

The difference between the 10 and 20-minute groups was not considered to be statistically significant. Therefore, the researchers suggest women remain lying down for at least 10 minutes after insemination. 

However, if you need to use the bathroom right after sex (especially if you get frequent urinary tract infections), get up and go ahead. You’re not going to ruin your chances of conception.

Note: Don't compare these results to the first study referenced above. This study looked at the pregnancy rate per cycle, while the first study mentioned in this article was looking at cumulative pregnancy rates after three treatment cycles.

A Word From Verywell

You may conceive within minutes of sexual intercourse, but, more commonly, hours or days will pass between intercourse and the day of the egg is fertilized.

Lying down after or during sex may help you get pregnant faster, but it probably won't make a big difference. Sperm cells will swim towards your ovaries whether you’re standing up or standing on your head! 

Remember that a pregnancy test can’t detect pregnancy at the moment of conception or even on your implantation day. There needs to be enough pregnancy hormone in the body for the test to come up positive.

This takes time. In order not to waste pregnancy tests, wait until your period is at least one day late before peeing on a stick. Otherwise, you may get a false negative, even if you are pregnant.

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Article Sources
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