So you’ve decided to have a baby? That’s great news! Now it’s time to try to get pregnant (also known as trying to conceive). While getting pregnant is a natural process, there are definitely a few helpful things to know that can help you on your journey toward becoming a parent. Here are the ABCs of getting pregnant.
Stop Using Birth Control
One of the first steps to take is to stop using any hormonal birth control methods If you’re only using condoms, there’s not much involved in stopping—just don’t use. Depending on the type of birth control you use, you can expect different timing on when you will be able to ovulate and get pregnant—although there’s no way to know exactly how long—or not so long—it will take. Here’s a snapshot of a few popular birth control methods:
- Birth control pills: For women taking a combination pill with estrogen and progestin, most cycles return to normal within 1-3 months. Those taking progestin-only pills can get pregnant within weeks or days of stopping.
- Intrauterine Devices (IUDs) and Implants: These must be removed during a scheduled appointment with your provider. While it’s possible to get pregnant right away, most women begin ovulation within a month after removal.
- Birth control rings and patches: While it’s possible to get pregnant right away after removing your birth control ring or patch, most women need a few (1-3) months for their menstrual cycle to get back to normal.
- Injectable birth control (Depo-Provera): This method has a longer timeline before pregnancy typically occurs. Some women take 10 months or longer for their cycles to return to normal.
Track Your Cycle
When trying to get pregnant, having sex during the “fertile window”—the days just before, and on the day you ovulate—significantly increases your chance of conception. In order to know when you’ll likely ovulate, you will need to do some work to track your monthly cycle. You can use a number of methods to help pinpoint the day you ovulate to ensure you have the highest chance of pregnancy. This includes taking your basal body temperature, the calendar method, cervical mucus method, and/or using ovulation test kits.
When your body is prepared to ovulate (typically anywhere between Day 11 and Day 21 of an average 28-32 day cycle), the lining of your uterus will have thickened to prepare for a fertilized egg to implant. Once the egg is released, it will live for 12-24 hours after leaving the ovary, while healthy sperm can live up to 5 days in a woman’s body. Ideally, it’s best for the sperm to be ready and waiting in a woman’s fallopian tube so they can fertilize the egg as soon as it’s released…which is why it’s so important to have an idea of when ovulation happens.
Sperm Meets Egg
Whether you have sex during your “fertile window” or use another method of insemination, it’s time to try and get pregnant. During your fertile window you have a roughly 25% chance of getting pregnant. Try to have sex every day during your fertile window to increase your odds, and two to three times per week throughout the rest of your cycle in the event that ovulation doesn’t occur when anticipated.
Now comes one of the most challenging parts—waiting. After ovulating and having sex at just the right time, there’s a lot that needs to happen for pregnancy to occur. The fertilized egg will travel down the fallopian tubes and into the uterus where implantation occurs in the thickened uterine lining (about 6 days after ovulation). But don’t be tempted to take a pregnancy test quite yet.
Once implantation occurs, the hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin) hormone begins to be released, and levels continue to rise until there’s enough hCG to be detected by a pregnancy test. By the time all of this is said and done, it will have been about two weeks until you can take an accurate pregnancy test.
Take That Test
After your two-week-wait is over, you might feel nervous, excited, and maybe even a little scared to take a pregnancy test. Follow the manufacturer instructions closely in order to ensure you’re taking the test correctly, waiting the correct amount of time for the results to develop, and reading the results properly.
When you're planning to get pregnant, it's never easy to see a negative pregnancy test. It's completely okay and natural to feel disappointed. Wait a few days, and see if you get your period. If you do get your period, follow the old adage and “try, try again” the following month. If you don’t get your period, test again to see if you get a different result (after all, you may have ovulated on a different day than you anticipated).
If you’re less than 35 years of age and have been trying to get pregnant for a year without success, schedule an evaluation with your provider. For women 35 and older, an evaluation is recommended after six months of trying to conceive. For those older than 40, an evaluation is recommended before trying to get pregnant.
If you do get a positive result on your pregnancy test, get in touch with your provider to schedule an appointment. Your provider will likely bring you in for a quick checkup and another test to verify the pregnancy, and potentially order bloodwork to check your hormone levels. They will also likely schedule a viability ultrasound, which can confirm your pregnancy is progressing normally. This is typically done between 6 and 10 weeks of pregnancy, depending on your health history and provider.
We know getting pregnant is a lot to wrap your head around, both in terms of the mechanics of it all, and the big life changes on the horizon. We’re wishing you luck!