Dr. Dana McQueen answers all the questions you’ve ever wondered about the amount of time it takes to get pregnant.

 

By Dr. Dana McQueen

When you’re trying to have a baby, each month can seem like an eternity! Many women want to know how long it will take them to get pregnant. While it is impossible to predict the exact number of months it will take you, the following provides a general guideline on what to expect. 

1. How long should women expect to wait when trying to conceive?

Most women will get pregnant in the first six cycles of trying to conceive. In one study of couples timing intercourse to the fertile window, 38% were pregnant after one cycle, 68% after three cycles, 81% after six cycles and 92% after 12 cycles. In this study, the fertile window was determined through cervical mucus monitoring and basal body temperature. At home, you can also use ovulation tests to detect the fertile window.

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2. What factors influence the amount of time it takes to get pregnant?

Unfortunately age impacts your chances of getting pregnant and affects the time to get pregnant. In a study of 3,000 women with no history of infertility, 79% of women age 25-27 years became pregnant within 12 months of trying to conceive compared to 55% of women age 40-45. Because of the impact of age on the chances of pregnancy, we recommend that women who are over age 35 see an OBGYN or fertility specialist after six months of trying.

In addition to age, lifestyle factors including obesity, smoking, and high levels of caffeine have also been associated with decreased fertility. That means optimizing your health while trying to conceive is important!

3. What can women do to get pregnant faster?

One way to maximize your chances of conceiving in each cycle is to monitor for your fertile window. In a study of over 5,000 women published in November 2019, the authors reported that women who tracked their fertile window (charting menstrual cycles, measuring basal body temperature, monitoring cervical fluid, or using ovulation tests) had a shorter time to pregnancy compared to those who did not.

4. What should women do to prepare once they decide to start trying to get pregnant?

Once you decide to start trying to get pregnant, it is important to start a prenatal vitamin that contains at least 400 mcg of folate. Taking folate before pregnancy can reduce the risk of neural tube defects. In addition, start paying attention to your diet and overall health. Starting pregnancy at a normal weight and with conditions like diabetes and hypertension well controlled improves your chances of a healthy pregnancy and baby.  

5. When should women visit the doctor? Before they start trying? After? How long should they wait after they start trying before seeing the doctor?

I recommend that you visit the doctor BEFORE you start trying to get pregnant. In a preconception visit, we will discuss recommendations while trying to conceive and do preconception testing to make sure you are healthy before you get pregnant. We will also make sure you are up to date on all your vaccines and discuss genetic carrier screening. Genetic carrier screening is a test to make sure you and your partner don’t carry any recessive diseases that could be passed down to your children. 

Once you are trying to conceive, we recommend visiting a fertility specialist after 12 months without success (or after six months if you are over 35). An exception to this is if you are having irregular menstrual cycles. This may be a sign that you are not ovulating and should see a fertility specialist right away, instead of waiting six to 12 months.  

 

Dana McQueen, MD MAS received her medical degree from the University of California, Irvine, completed her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Chicago, completed a one year Fellowship in Recurrent Pregnancy Loss at the University of Illinois, and received a MAS (Masters of Advanced Studies) in Clinical Research from University of California, San Diego. Dr. McQueen will complete her fellowship at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility in Summer 2020 and will be joining Reproductive Science Center in Oakland in Fall 2020. You can follow her on Instagram @drdanamcqueen.
Photo by Joey Thompson on Unsplash.