How Long Does It Take to Get Pregnant? Well, That Depends
No two people are the same, but we can tell you how factors such as age, birth control, weight, substance abuse, medication, and stress may prolong your ability to conceive. With some help from an OBGYN, we may be able to pinpoint a TTC timeline for you.
There is no one size fits all strategy for getting pregnant, which means it’s difficult to determine how long it could take any given person to conceive. If you are having trouble getting pregnant, you’re not alone or hopeless—this is a lot more common than you may realize. According to Thebump.com, 1 in 7 women TTC face challenges—most couples conceive within six cycles with calculated intercourse.
Even if you’re in the small percent of women who conceive during their first cycle, one must remember pregnancy doesn’t begin the day you have sex. Planned Parenthood explains it can take up to six days for the sperm and egg to form a fertilized egg and six to 10 days for the fertilized egg to implant into the uterus. Pregnancy officially begins once the hormones needed to support a pregnancy are released.
Now that we have determined that our timeline begins 12-16 days after sex if successful the first go, lets deep dive into some common variables that could prolong conception.
According to Heather Bartos M.D., FACOG, Chief, OB-GYN Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton in Denton, Texas, 85% of women in their 20s/30s trying to conceive with no outstanding health concerns usually get pregnant within one year. As for women in their 40s (42 or less to be specific), Dr. Bartos reveals, “It's not that it takes longer to get pregnant, it may just be that there aren't enough quality eggs at that age. We use the time frame of 6 months to evaluate for fertility in this group.” As for 45 years of age and older, Dr. Bartos says the chances of pregnancy are truly negligible without assistance.
Once a period is regular again after the use of most birth controls is a good, natural sign your body is ready to conceive. In extreme cases (especially Depo Provera) a normal period can take up to 18 months. “Most women resume normal menstruation fairly quickly—normal menstruation means women are regularly ovulating, which increases the chances of pregnancy,” Dr. Bartos explained.
The Pill: According to Planned Parenthood, it is possible to get pregnant right after you stop taking the pill, even if your cycle isn’t regular—it may take a few months for your period to sync up to a routine again.
IUD: The Mirena IUD (intrauterine device) is a hormone-releasing contraceptive that is placed in the uterus and delivers a small amount of hormone (progestin) directly to the uterus—this form of contraception needs to be placed by a health care provider and is effective for up to five years. It takes the average young couple about 4-6 months to conceive and after one year approximately 85-90% of couples will conceive.
Injectable Contraceptives: In one large study, the average time to get pregnant after discontinuing Depo-Provera—an injection of the hormone progestin that keeps you from ovulating—was ten months.
Vaginal Ring and Patch: Lisa Mazzullo, M.D., co-author of Before Your Pregnancy: A 90-Day Guide for Couples on How to Prepare for a Healthy Conception told Parents.com that one should stop the use of NuvaRing of the Patch about two cycles before one wants to get pregnant.
Heavy Use of Alcohol and Smoking
Smoking: Not only is smoking linked to fertility issues but it also induce early menopause, damage to your cervix and fallopian tubes. “Compared to women who never smoked, researchers found that those who reported being active smokers at some point in their lives were 14 percent more likely to have infertility and 26 percent more likely to enter menopause early,” according to Reuters.com.
Drinking: Heavy drinking can also cause an increased risk of ovulation disorders which affect the release of eggs from the ovaries—this means women who drink heavily can increase how long it takes them to conceive.
Both: Dr. Bartos stresses, “These things can alter the DNA structure of the egg (and sperm). Even vaping can cause this. Nonetheless, these may affect the quality of the conception, not the timing of the conception.”
Being both over and underweight can negatively affect a woman's ovulation. Fat cells can produce some estrogen. So, when you are overweight, more estrogen than needed can affect ovulation regularity. While in the other direction, being significantly underweight can cause a lack of estrogen production throwing ovulation off balance as well. NBC news reports, that couples where both the man and woman had a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or higher were 60 percent less fecund than slimmer couples.
It’s well known that stress can change a woman’s cycle. According to a study done by the University of Louisville, women who felt more stressed during their ovulation window were about 40 percent less likely to conceive during that month.