01:47

Trying to Get Pregnant: How Long Should It Take?

In this video, ob-gyn Jennifer Wu, MD, explains how long it typically takes for couples to become pregnant and possible causes of infertility.

Lauren SmithMera Goodman, MD
Written by Lauren Smith | Reviewed by Mera Goodman, MD
Updated on January 12, 2021

After sitting through your junior high sex ed classes, you may have walked away expecting any sexual encounter to result in a baby. It’s true that one round of sex can certainly be enough to conceive, but getting pregnant when you’re trying to conceive often doesn’t happen on the first try.

“Many people think that they’ll get pregnant the first time they ever have sex,” says Jennifer Wu, MD, ob-gyn at Lenox Hill Hospital. “But actually, it does need to be timed to ovulation.”

Before you’re planning for a baby, your menstrual cycle is mostly just the annoying thing that causes period cramps and bloating. Once you’re trying to conceive, though, watching the calendar of your cycle takes on a whole new meaning and hawk-eyed attention to detail. That’s because the egg released during ovulation must be present for conception to happen.

“The egg only hangs around for 24 hours, waiting for the sperm,” says Dr. Wu. “You do have to make sure you’re having sex at the right time, but even when you are having sex at the right time, you don’t necessarily get pregnant.”

Having sex during ovulation and not getting pregnant doesn’t necessarily mean anything’s wrong, though. Conception is never a guaranteed thing and may take several, um, attempts. How long you wait to discuss fertility issues with your doctor depends largely on your age, as a general rule.

Infertility is defined as not being able to get pregnant after a year of trying, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, which means taking several months is normal, healthy, and even expected.

Patients in their twenties and early thirties could wait a year before checking in with the doctor, suggests Dr. Wu. A doctor might be able to help you optimize your chances of getting pregnant by helping you understand your menstrual cycle, recommend using ovulation prediction kits, and doing testing and radiology studies to screen for medical reasons that could be impacting your odds of conceiving.

Women who are 35 or older, however, should see their doctors sooner. If there is a medical issue affecting your ability to conceive, your doctor wants to help you find it so you don’t waste too much time.

Infertility affects about 6 percent of women ages 15 to 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These medical factors could affect fertility, according to Dr. Wu.

  • Blocked tubes (which could be due to endometriosis)

  • No ovulation

  • Problem with the lining of the uterus

  • Issues with the man’s sperm

Your doctor can help you and your partner determine when to start medical testing and/or explore other procedures, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF). But for young, otherwise healthy patients, you may just need more time to try for a baby. “I mainly tell  patients who are young, ‘Just have fun, have sex, and you can always come back to me in six months if you’re not pregnant,’” says Dr. Wu.

Additional Medical Contributors
  • Jennifer Wu, MDDr. Wu is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist practicing in New York City.

    References

    Infertility. Washington, DC: U.S. Office on Women’s Health. (Accessed on January 10, 2021 at https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/infertility.)

    Infertility FAQs. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2017. (Accessed on January 10, 2021 at https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/index.htm.)

    GoodRx Health has strict sourcing policies and relies on primary sources such as medical organizations, governmental agencies, academic institutions, and peer-reviewed scientific journals. Learn more about how we ensure our content is accurate, thorough, and unbiased by reading our editorial guidelines.

    Was this page helpful?

    image
    Subscribe and save.Get prescription saving tips and more from GoodRx Health. Enter your email to sign up.
    By signing up, I agree to GoodRx's Terms and Privacy Policy, and to receive marketing messages from GoodRx.

    Wordmark logo (w/ dimension values)
    GoodRx FacebookGoodRx InstagramGoodRx Twitter
    Legitscript ApprovedPharmacyBBB Accredited Business
    provider image
    Welcome! You’re in GoodRx Provider Mode. Now, you’ll enjoy a streamlined experience created specifically for healthcare providers.