How to Get Pregnant (Besides the Obvious)
This isn’t going to be a birds-and-bees talk. We’re going to assume you know the basic mechanics that go into baby making. But for many women wanting and ready to be mothers, actually getting pregnant can be a little more complicated than just getting busy. Here’s a rough guide to how to get pregnant, if you’re ready to start trying to conceive. Like so many things in life, it often comes down to good timing.
How to get pregnant
Getting pregnant is all about getting to know the ins and outs of your body. No, not in the fun way — you’ll get to that later — but in the way of becoming very familiar with your menstrual cycle. You already know what happens during menstruation; to get pregnant you need to understand what is happening in your body between periods.
A normal menstrual cycle is about 28 days long, from the first day of a period to the last day before it starts again. (For each woman it can be different; for the purposes of this article, we’ll assume a 28-day cycle and you can adjust timings accordingly to your own body’s schedule.)
During the course of this 28-day cycle, the body moves through the following stages of preparing for a potential pregnancy:
- ~Days 1-5: Your uterus gets rid of last month’s unfertilized egg (your period)
- ~Days 10-13: Your ovaries get ready to release an egg (any viable sperm may survive long enough to fertilize the egg)
- ~Day 14: The egg is released (ovulation) and travels down the Fallopian tubes
- ~Days 15-16: The egg hangs out in the uterus for a bit in case any sperm swing by
- Day 17: If the egg isn’t fertilized, it dies
- Day 28: The unfertilized egg is flushed out of the body during menstruation
The difficulty in getting pregnant, for many average, healthy women, lies in the fact that you can never be 100% sure when each of these different steps is actually happening, and it may vary slightly from cycle to cycle. However, the schedule above provides a general, if fairly consistent, guide to how (or rather, when) to conceive.
The best time to have sex for pregnancy: ~Days 10-15
The 4-5 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and day after are the easiest time to conceive. Sperm can live in the uterus for 3-5 days, so even having intercourse a few days days before ovulation can result in conception. However, an egg that has made its way down the fallopian tubes but has not been fertilized dies very soon after. This means there is an approximately 5- to 7-day “sweet spot” on the calendar when women are most fertile: the 4-5 days before ovulation, the day of ovulation, and possibly the day after. Having intercourse on all of those days greatly increases your chances of getting pregnant, although even one time can be enough.
Worst time to have sex for pregnancy: ~Days 1-9 and Days 17-28
This time span includes your period and pre-ovulation days, which means there’s no egg present for sperm to fertilize, or there is an unviable egg that hasn’t yet been flushed out from the body.
Figuring out your unique cycle
Because all women are different, it’s important not to rely on the 28-day schedule when trying to pregnant, but rather to track your body’s own menstrual cycle. One easy way to predict when you’re ovulating is to watch the calendar or track your periods on a period tracker. (Though beware of placing too much stock in these apps; they have been criticized recently for inaccuracies, so be sure to choose one that follows the medical communities accepted timeframes for fertile windows.)
There are, however, other ways to know when you’re ovulating. One way is elevated body temperature. You can buy thermometers that specifically test for these slight deviations on body temperature. Also, certain hormone levels rise around ovulation; you can buy kits that will test your urine for the presence of these hormones. Some “symptoms” of ovulation are physical. You may notice a slight soreness in the lower abdomen, almost like mild period cramps. Another signal is vaginal discharge of a slightly different consistency, clear and almost mucus-like; this happens so that the body is better able to retain viable sperm. These signals are part of the process of the body preparing to release the egg and if you are aware of them, you can better track your fertile times of the month.
While tracking your body’s own natural cycle is not always a guarantee you will get pregnant, it is one of the best ways to be aware of when you are at your most fertile. This is good information to have handy, by the way, whether you’re trying to conceive or aiming for exactly the opposite! The more awareness you have about your own body and it’s rhythms and cycles, the better your chances for successfully planning a pregnancy.
If you think you have successfully followed this approach, read about the earliest signs you might be pregnant. And if you’ve been trying to get pregnant using this method for over a year with no success, here’s more information about seeking help for fertility issues.