How long does it take to get pregnant?

A happy couple hugging over positive pregnancy test
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We are raised thinking about pregnancy and usually talking about how to avoid it. Birth control may be something we learn about at a fairly early age, be that hormonal forms of birth control or abstinence as a way to prevent pregnancy. Basically everything we think in regards to pregnancy is that if we have sex, we will get pregnant. I think this leads to an unrealistic expectation for how long it takes to conceive.


Getting Pregnant Within a Year

Most rates of conception, how long it takes to get pregnant, discuss the rate of pregnancy within a year. If you are a healthy person and your partner is also a healthy person and you both are of normal fertility, you will simply stop using birth control and hopefully have a preconceptional health visit.

This is important to get pregnant, but the other piece to this is having well-timed intercourse. This means you should have sex near the time of ovulation. It doesn't do any good to skip the birth control and have sex just after the fertile window. That will increase the barriers to getting pregnant. Once you discontinue the use of birth control, and try to become pregnant the average couple in the above scenario will become pregnant at the following rates:

  • 25% in the first month
  • 60% in six months
  • 75% in nine months
  • 80% in twelve months
  • 90% in eighteen months

When Pregnancy Doesn't Happen in That Time Frame

Pregnancy is easily achieved for some, but requires a bit more effort for others.

The use of fertility charting or ovulation detection can be helpful at reducing the length of time it takes to get pregnant, but also for helping you to potentially identify if you are having a fertility issue.

When it takes a year or longer of actively trying to conceive, it is generally recommended that you see your practitioner for advice.

There could be a lot of things at play, which may be easily remedied. Infertility can be the reason you have not conceived. Approximately 30% of infertility is caused by male factors, 30% to female factors, and the rest is either a combination or the cause hasn't been found. 

Over 35 and Trying to Get Pregnant

There are special circumstances for women who are over 35. Since a woman's fertility decreases as she ages, it is recommended that you do not wait a whole year before seeking help with your fertility. If you are over 35 and have had six cycles of trying to get pregnant that were well timed you should talk to your practitioner at that point.

Be sure to let the person you're making the appointment with know your age and that you have been actively trying for six cycles or more to conceive with no luck.


Benson, M. Obstetric Pearls. Davis. 1999.

Kim S, Sundaram R, Buck Louis GM. 2010. Joint modeling of intercourse behavior and human fecundability using structural equation models. Biostatistics. 11(3): 559-71

Stanford JB, Dunson DB. Effects of Sexual Intercourse Patterns in Time to Pregnancy Studies Am. J. Epidemiol. (2007) 165 (9): 1088-1095. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwk111

Velde ER, Eijkemans HDF, Habbema HDF. 2000. Variation in couple fecundity and time to pregnancy, an essential concept in human reproduction. The Lancet. 355: 1928-9

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