How Long to Get Pregnant? Timing While Trying (2024)

On average, getting pregnant happens within the first three months of having unprotected sex (without a condom or birth control). However, for some, it can take much longer. Chances of becoming pregnant depend on age, overall health, menstrual cycle tracking, ovulation calculation, and timing of intercourse.

This article reviews your chances of pregnancy while trying and not trying and factors that affect how long it could take to get pregnant.

How Long to Get Pregnant? Timing While Trying (1)

A Note on Gender and Sex Terminology

Verywell Health acknowledges that sex and gender are related concepts, but they are not the same. To reflect our sources accurately, this article uses terms like “female,” “male,” “woman,” and “man” as the sources use them.

Chance of Pregnancy While Trying: How Long?

For healthy people in their 20s and early 30s, the chance of getting pregnant within any given menstrual cycle (month) is 25%. About 80% of people will get pregnant within the first six months of trying, and around 85% to 90% will get pregnant within one year.

Having unprotected sex every one to two days during your fertile window (five days before and the day of ovulation) increases the odds of becoming pregnant. Newer studies note that having sex one to two days before ovulation increases the chances of conception even more than having sex on the day of ovulation.

Conception—when a sperm and egg combine—can occur within 15 minutes of having unprotected sex. But, it takes the embryo (fertilized egg) five to six days to implant in the uterus, officially resulting in pregnancy.

How to Track Ovulation

No ovulation tracking method is perfect by itself. Calculate your ovulation timing using a combination of the following:

  • Basal body temperature (BBT): Ovulation typically occurs within three days after your BBT rises.
  • Calendar method: Track your period's first and last day to calculate your average cycle length. Count 14 days back from when you expect your next period to calculate ovulation.
  • Cervical mucus: When vagin*l discharge is clear, slippery, and stretchy, similar to raw egg whites, you are most fertile.
  • Fertility awareness-based method (FABM) apps: FABM apps notify you when you're most fertile to help you plan or prevent pregnancy.
  • Fertility monitor: Electronic devices that track temperature or hormones.
  • Ovulation predictor kits (OPKs): OPKs are urine tests that detect luteinizing hormone (LH), which surges before ovulation.
  • Ovulation symptoms: Signs include discomfort on one side, breast tenderness, and a higher sex drive.

If you think you are pregnant, consider a home pregnancy test. Pregnancy tests look for the human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) hormone, which is made by the placenta (the organ that sustains pregnancy) and takes time to be deteced in your body after conception. Pregnancy tests are most accurate if you take them a week after your period is late.

Many pregnancy symptoms don't appear until after you miss a period, but the following might show up earlier:

  • Implantation bleeding (light spotting six to 12 days after conception)
  • Breast sensitivity
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting

Chance of Pregnancy Without Trying: How Long?

Each month, there's about a 25% chance of getting pregnant if you're having unprotected sex. Odds are lower when you have sex outside of the fertile window. The following are examples of the odds of getting pregnant after unprotected sex by the day in your menstrual cycle:

  • Day 8: 3.2%,
  • Day 12: 9.4%,
  • Day 21: Less than 2%

Age and Ease of Getting Pregnant

Fertility peaks in your late teens and early 20s, when you have the most plentiful and healthy eggs. Fertility declines slightly in your early 30s but is most noticeable around age 35. By age 40, pregnancy odds decrease from 25% to 10% in any given cycle, with the average last pregnancy occurring at about age 41.

When It Takes Longer Than You Expect to Get Pregnant

Infertility affects 10% to 15% of couples, with causes divided equally among female fertility concerns, male fertility problems, and unexplained factors. Consult a healthcare provider if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are under 35 and haven’t conceived after a year of trying.
  • You are over 35 and haven’t conceived after six months of trying.
  • You are over 40 when first trying to conceive.
  • Either partner has a known medical condition that could affect fertility, including low libido (sex drive).
  • Your average menstrual cycle length is less than 21 days or greater than 35 days.

Your provider may suggest a consultation with a fertility specialist to help you understand your fertility status and give you guidance on the next steps, which may include further testing, ovulation tracking, or fertility treatments.

Other Factors That Affect How Long Pregnancy Could Take

The following factors can affect your odds of becoming pregnant:

  • The regularity of your menstrual cycle and ovulation
  • How you time having sex
  • Your or your partner's fertility
  • Other medical conditions you may have
  • Lifestyle factors

For instance, if your cycle varies by five days or more each cycle, your chances of pregnancy within the first six months of trying drop from 80% to 58%.

Medical Conditions


The following are examples of medical conditions that affect female fertility:

  • Abnormal uterine shape or having fibroids, polyps, or scar tissue
  • Blockages of the fallopian tubes that carry eggs to the womb
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and infections of the reproductive organs
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), endometriosis, or a luteal phase defect (LPD)
  • Radiation (can damage eggs)
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Thyroid or pituitary disorders

Lifestyle and Other Factors

The following lifestyle factors can negatively affect both male and female fertility.

  • Excessive alcohol use (more than two drinks per day)
  • High caffeine intake (more than two cups of coffee per day)
  • High exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls
  • Recreational drug use
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Other factors that can affect female partners include:

  • Being underweight
  • Eating disorders
  • Having obesity (severely overweight)
  • Overly strenuous exercise
  • Unhealthy diet

Factors Affecting Males

As males age, at around 50, sperm quality decreases, making it harder to conceive. However, the following factors can cause unhealthy male reproductive organs or problems with sperm amounts, shape, and movement, which can impact fertility at any age.

  • Diabetes
  • Environmental toxins (certain pesticides and lead)
  • Genetic disorders
  • Low testosterone levels
  • Prostate surgery
  • Radiation
  • Substance abuse
  • STIs
  • Testicular injury
  • Testicular torsion (twisting of the cord supplying blood to the testes)
  • Undescended testicl*s (a condition at birth in which testes don't move from the abdomen to the scrotum)
  • Varicoceles (enlarged veins in the scrotum)

Summary

On average, people having regular, unprotected sex conceive within a year. But, irregular cycles, medical conditions, and lifestyle factors such as weight management, smoking, excessive alcohol, and stress can impact fertility.

Experts recommend that people less than 35 consult a healthcare provider if they don’t get pregnant within one year of trying. For those over 35 or with known medical issues, the recommendation is to consult a fertility specialist after six months of trying.

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Optimizing natural fertility: a committee opinion (2022).

  2. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Having a baby after age 35: how aging affects fertility and pregnancy.

  3. Favaro C, Pearson JT, Rowland SP, et al. Time to pregnancy for women using a fertility awareness-based mobile application to plan a pregnancy. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2021;30(11):1538-1545. doi:10.1089/jwh.2021.0026

  4. US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Trying to conceive.

  5. US Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health. Knowing if you are pregnant.

  6. Lutterodt MC, Kähler P, Kragstrup J, Nicolaisdottir DR, Siersma V, Ertmann R K. Examining to what extent pregnancy-related physical symptoms worry women in the first trimester of pregnancy: A cross-sectional study in general practice. BJGP Open. 2019;3(4). doi:10.3399/bjgpopen19X101674

  7. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. How common is infertility?

  8. Ahn SH, Lee I, Cho S, et al. Predictive factors of conception and the cumulative pregnancy rate in subfertile couples undergoing timed intercourse with ultrasound. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2021;12:650883. doi:10.3389/fendo.2021.650883

Additional Reading

How Long to Get Pregnant? Timing While Trying (2)

By Brandi Jones, MSN-ED RN-BC
Jones is a registered nurse and freelance health writer with more than two decades of healthcare experience.

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