How Quickly Can You Expect to Get Pregnant?

Avg chances of getting pregnant

Verywell / Chelsea Damraksa 

Just how quickly can you get pregnant? While some couples may conceive the very first month they try, roughly 75% will get pregnant within six months. Those who are not pregnant after one year may need medical assistance.

How long it takes you to get pregnant will depend on how frequently you're having sex, if you're having sex during your most fertile days, your age, and whether fertility challenges exist for you or your partner.

Odds of Getting Pregnant Right Away

Researchers in Germany wondered how quickly couples can expect to get pregnant. They were especially interested in how common infertility and subfertility are. Subfertility can be loosely defined as someone who takes longer than average to get pregnant, but eventually succeeds without help.

The researchers noticed that previous studies tracking time to conception eliminated truly infertile couples. Also, previous studies were biased because of their retrospective nature. In other words, the statistics were gathered after pregnancy was achieved and not collected from the beginning. What about all the couples who never conceived?

In this study, a group of 346 women were practicing natural family planning methods to get pregnant. Natural family planning includes things like body basal temperature charting and cervical mucus observation. They use these tools to determine their most fertile days.

This group of couples knew which days to have sex if they wanted to get pregnant, so mistimed intercourse would not be behind failure to conceive. The results:

  • After one month of trying, 38% were pregnant
  • After three months of trying, 68% were pregnant
  • After six months of trying, 81% were pregnant
  • After 12 months of trying, 92% were pregnant
  • Of 346 women, 310 conceived; the remaining 10.4% did not get pregnant

If the women who did not conceive are removed from the study results, the percentages change. In this group of 310 women:

  • 42% conceived in their first month of trying
  • 75% conceived by their third month
  • 88% conceived by six months
  • 98% conceived by 12 months

Couples Who Don't Get Pregnant After One Year

What about those who don't get pregnant after one year? If you're not pregnant after one year of trying—or after six months if you're 35 years or older—then you should see your doctor.

While 10% of couples may not get pregnant after 12 months of trying, half of this group will get pregnant after 36 months of trying. About 4% of couples will try for four years and still not get pregnant. This group of couples is unlikely to ever get pregnant without medical help.

How Long It Takes to Get Pregnant

This is a slightly different question but one that many people wonder about. If you do get pregnant in a given month, how long after you had sex did it happen?

First, keep in mind that fertilization of the egg isn't pregnancy. Any couple that has gone through IVF treatment and had an embryo transfer that "didn't stick" can tell you this. For pregnancy to happen, an embryo needs to implant itself into the endometrial lining.

Second, sperm can survive in the female reproductive tract for up to five days. This means if you have sex at 10 p.m. on Monday, but ovulation doesn't occur until 7 a.m. on Thursday, fertilization of the egg can still occur, though is less likely.

However, if you had sex on Friday, and Friday is the day you ovulate, fertilization may happen for up to 12 hours. After 12 hours, it is unlikely that the ovum will be fertilized. (You're most likely to get pregnant if you have sex the day before ovulation.) Regardless of when fertilization takes place, the uterus is primed for embryo implantation between 7 and 10 days after ovulation.

Taking into account how long sperm survive and the time it takes for fertilization and implantation, you can be pregnant as soon as seven days after you had sex or as long as 15 days.

Sometimes, women will wonder if they already are having pregnancy symptoms the day after they have unprotected sexual intercourse. They may "feel pregnant," but those feelings are not related to any possible fertilization or pregnancy. You won't have actual pregnancy signs or symptoms until after implantation occurs.

Reasons You're Not Getting Pregnant

Even if your doctor has reassured you that it may take six months to a year to conceive, you might be wondering why it's not happening quickly for you. Here are some possibilities.

  • Luck. So much must happen for ovulation, fertilization, and implantation to occur, and for the embryo to be healthy and genetically stable. Up to 70% of early miscarriages are due to genetic defects in the embryo. (You may not even know you conceived if this occurs; the loss might occur before your period is late.)
  • Frequency and timing of sexual intercourse. You don't need to drive yourself crazy trying to aim for your most fertile days (the two days prior to ovulation). That said, if you're consistently not having sex just before ovulation, or you're having sex infrequently, this may mean you'll need more time to conceive.
  • Age. The older a woman (and a man) get, the longer it may take for them to conceive. This doesn't necessarily mean they will be infertile—though those odds also go up with time. But age can make it less likely you'll conceive month by month. This is partially due to lower quality egg and sperm, with increased DNA mistakes.
  • Weight. If you or your partner are obese or severely underweight, this can increase the time it will take you to get pregnant. 
  • Fertility problems. You may not be getting pregnant because there are female or male fertility issues.  Sometimes, you have symptoms or risk factors, and you already know the odds of conceiving quickly might be lower for you. In other cases, the only sign that something is wrong is that you're not pregnant after six months to a year of trying.

When to Get Help

If you've been trying for less than six months, don't fret just yet. Keep trying. If you're older than 35, and you've been trying for six months, see a doctor. Since age can be a factor, it's important you don't wait. You may still conceive on your own! However, it's best to get checked out.

What if you're younger than 35, have been trying for six months, and don't want to wait until one year passes? Some doctors won't do fertility testing until a year goes by for women younger than age 35. However, if you have timed intercourse each of those six months, you may be able to convince your doctor to investigate sooner. One way to show this is with a fertility calendar

If you've been trying for a year and you're not yet pregnant, you should definitely see a doctor. Some couples hold out hope, not wanting to face the possibility of infertility. This is completely understandable. But since the passage of time could lower the chances of fertility treatments working. It's better to seek help sooner.

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