When you're trying to conceive, it can seem like everyone else is delivering happy pregnancy announcements while you're hyping yourself up to have sex and Googling, "How long does it take to get pregnant?"
Because one thing no one tells you about trying to get pregnant is how much waiting is involved. Before trying to conceive (TTC), you might picture a highlight reel: lots of great sex, a box of pregnancy tests, more sex, a positive line. But in reality, while there can be a lot of sex, it's punctuated by a lot of waiting around: to miss a period so you can take a test; for your period to end so you can start having sex again; for your fertile window so the sex feels "worth it." And sometimes, that process can repeat several times over. No one's guaranteed to get pregnant fast.
In fact, everyone's journey is different. So while it's hard to give generalizations about how long it takes to get pregnant, certain factors do play a role and can give you an idea of a possible timeline. Here's what you need to know.
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant?
All told, approximately 80 percent of couples will conceive after trying for six months, and 85 percent of couples will conceive within one year of trying, says Allison Canavan, MD, an ob-gyn with Axia Women's Health. From there, about 50 percent of couples will conceive after 36 months of trying, she adds.
To break it down even farther, in a study of 346 people who were actively trying to conceive (taking steps to figure out their most fertile days and intentionally having unprotected sex on those days), 68 percent became pregnant within three months of trying; 81 percent within six months; and 92 percent within 12 months, reports the journal Human Reproduction.
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant Based on Age?
Age has an impact on how long it takes to get pregnant, says Asima Ahmad, MD, MPH, FACOG, a reproductive endocrinologist, infertility specialist, and chief medical officer and co-founder of Carrot Fertility. Egg quantity and quality declines over time, she explains. That means as you get older, it may take longer to get pregnant.
Dr. Ahmad gives the following estimates that look at a person's chance of getting pregnant during each menstrual cycle.
|Age||Chance of pregnancy per menstrual cycle|
|20 to 24||25 to 35 percent|
|25 to 29||20 to 25 percent|
|30 to 34||15 to 20 percent|
|35 to 39||5 to 15 percent|
|40 and older||Less than 5 percent|
Another way to think of these numbers is that among one in four to five people aged 25 to 29 will get pregnant the first month they start trying.
These percentages might look intimidating, but even through age 39, most people will be able to get pregnant within a year of trying. And in fact, in the Human Reproduction study, the researchers stated that "age per se was not associated with any statistically significant reduction in [the cumulative probabilities of conception] and decreased final pregnancy prospects."
Worth noting: overall health, obesity, substance abuse, and alcohol intake can also play a role in fertility, Dr. Canavan says. "Each person is different, and the more you take care of your body and live a healthy lifestyle, the more your eggs will reflect that in a healthy pregnancy," says Elizabeth King, a certified fertility health coach and owner of Elizabeth King Coaching.
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant When Using Fertility Treatments?
Among people who are trying to conceive with the help of fertility treatments, how long it takes to get pregnant varies significantly, ranging from a few months to a few years, Dr. Canavan says.
The number is largely dependent on the cause of infertility and the treatment needed. "In about a third of cases, there might be more than one reason why someone is unable to get pregnant," Dr. Ahmad says. "Fertility treatment is not one-size-fits-all, and you need to take everything with a grain of salt because everyone has their unique situation and diagnosis."
Generally speaking, Dr. Ahmad says, for those using oral medications to aid ovulation, especially among those who may have ovulatory dysfunction (those who do not release an egg each month), there's up to a 20 percent chance of pregnancy per menstrual cycle. In other words, about one in five people will conceive during their first cycle trying using this method. For people over age 30 or with a different diagnosis, the figure may be different.
For those using ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination (IUI), there's roughly a 10 to 15 percent chance of pregnancy per cycle. Again, this figure are estimates — and may be different for those over age 35.
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant With IVF?
Since IVF cycles are different lengths than menstrual cycles, the estimates of your chances of conceiving during each one are a bit different, says Dr. Ahmad. These are general estimates, but again, the actual rates of success may differ depending on your diagnosis and age.
|Age||Percent chance of live birth per IVF cycle (including egg retrieval and all associated embryo transfers)|
|35 or younger||55 percent|
|35 to 37||41 percent|
|38 to 40||27 percent|
|41 to 42||13 percent|
|42 and older||4 percent|
This means about half of people under age 35 will conceive during their first IVF cycle.
How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant After Going Off Birth Control?
It can take as little as two to six weeks to get pregnant after going off hormonal birth control, Dr. Canavan says. "There's no long washout period that's required for those hormones to get out of your body before you can get pregnant," Dr. Ahmad says.
The Depo-Provera intramuscular shot is an exception, and may delay fertility for up to three to six months after stopping treatment, Dr. Canavan says. The shot is intended to prevent pregnancy for three months at a time, but even after that time period, sometimes people won't ovulate for another six months, says Dr. Ahmad.
Again, individual's experiences will vary. If you took birth control for non-contraceptive reasons such as regulating your cycles, preventing painful periods, and/or helping to treat polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), you may not be ovulating regularly, Dr. Ahmad points out. In that case, it may take you longer to get pregnant after stopping; not because of the birth control directly, but because of your own cycle.
Dr. Canavan suggests waiting one to three menstrual cycles before attempting pregnancy after stopping any method of contraception: "This allows you to determine your natural cycle length and recognise if there are any variations or surprises."
Tips to Keep in Mind When Trying to Get Pregnant
Dr. Canavan suggests speaking to your OB/GYN as soon as you decide you'd like to start trying. They might suggest genetic testing, making sure your vaccinations are up-to-date, and performing an overall medical workup, she adds. This will help ease your mind as you head into pregnancy.
She also suggests using the TTC time to take care of your body. "This means starting a prenatal vitamin at least three months before you get pregnant, decreasing alcohol and tobacco use, exercising, and focusing on your nutrition," Dr. Canavan says.
But if it's taking longer than expected to conceive — longer than 12 months for those under 35, and longer than six months for those over 35 — don't hesitate to speak to your OB/GYN, she says.
The emotional and mental aspect of trying to conceive can be difficult. So remember that you are not alone, and try to keep your mind healthy as well as your body. "Do your best to have a focus outside of getting pregnant so that you're not completely consumed each month with what's happening on that pregnancy test," King says. "Find things to regulate your nervous system like yoga, meditation, journaling, cooking, or walking, and stay creative in your life during the time that you're trying to create a human life."
Lastly, do your best to eliminate the pressure you (or others) put on yourself, Dr. Canavan says: "Try to enjoy intimacy for pleasure, not just for business!"