How to Get Pregnant
How to get pregnant overview
- Healthy lifestyle practices and knowledge of basic sexual reproduction can help couples who may be having difficulty getting pregnant.
- Couples can follow the guidelines for maximizing the potential for pregnancy to see if they can have a child naturally before seeking medical help.
- Getting pregnant depends upon a number of factors for men and women, including age, lifestyle, when they’re having sex and how often.
- Timing intercourse so it coincides with the woman’s ovulation (when her ovaries release an egg) is a key factor, and there are several ways to predict when ovulation occurs.
Understanding sex & conception
Sexual intercourse for reproduction requires the man to ejaculate semen into the woman’s vagina. It’s important for men and women to understand their reproductive organs and how these affect fertility. Women particularly should understand their menstrual cycle and when they are most fertile.
Before a woman starts trying to conceive, she should have a physical exam to check for underlying medical conditions that need to be addressed before she gets pregnant. This is also the time to inquire about prenatal vitamins.
The male partner shouldn’t need an exam, assuming he can ejaculate.
Common questions about sex & getting pregnant
- Fertility myths hold that having sex in certain positions increases the chance of pregnancy, but this is not factual.
- Similarly, some believe that immediately after male ejaculation the woman should maintain a body position that promotes success of the sperm reaching the egg, but this is also not supported by facts.
- It is true that a woman’s orgasm helps transport sperm present in the vagina, but there is no evidence that the woman’s orgasm increases her chances of pregnancy.
- Certain lubricants do inhibit sperm motility (ability to move toward the egg), including saliva, olive oil, Astroglide, K-Y Brand Jelly and K-Y Brand Touch.
When to have sex to get pregnant
Research suggests that having sex daily results in a 37 percent probability of pregnancy. On average, a sexually active couple has about a 25 percent chance of becoming pregnant (when not having sex on a daily basis). Daily intercourse might be scientifically optimal, however, it may not be personally practical.
Even though timing of intercourse is important, focusing too hard on a schedule can increase stress, which reduces fertility, so it’s important to still have fun during sex.
Guidelines for timing intercourse
Here are some guidelines for when and how often to have sexual intercourse:
- Having sex at least twice a week increases the probability of pregnancy
- Having sex only once a week drops the likelihood of getting pregnant by 15 percent from the average
- Long periods of abstinence can decrease the quality of the man’s sperm, which impacts male fertility
- The optimal time for intercourse is just prior to a woman’s ovulation; after ovulation pregnancy is less likely to occur
- A woman should understand when she might ovulate, which is explained below; having sex every day or two during a woman’s mid cycle results in the best chance of conception
- The more you have sex, the more likely you are to have it during the prime fertility window
Determining when a woman is ovulating (the fertility window)
Knowing when a woman ovulates is the most important aspect of having sex to get pregnant (or to avoid reproduction). Ovulation is the release of an egg from a follicle in one of the woman’s ovaries into the fallopian tube, making it available for fertilization by sperm.
Ovulation occurs on days 13-15 of the menstrual cycle for women with a normal 28-day cycle. The start of a woman’s menstrual cycle is the first day of her period (the start of menstrual bleeding).
Peak fertility time varies greatly from woman to woman, and is also affected by whether she has regular or irregular menstrual cycles. Typically, the fertile window is during the six-day interval ending on the day of ovulation.
There are many options of predicting when a woman will ovulate, including mobile tracking apps, self-examination, hormone evaluation kits, electronic monitors, and temperature tracking charts.
Being aware of the fertility window is useful no matter what method is used, and a combination of methods may be best. Common methods of ovulation monitoring are listed below.
During a woman’s menstrual cycle, hormone levels change the texture and amount of cervical mucus, a type of vaginal discharge. The probability of conception is highest on the day when cervical mucus is slippery and clear, indicating ovulation has occurred.
Pregnancy can still occur when cervical mucus has a different consistency; however, other consistencies are not as optimal. Monitoring cervical mucus is an inexpensive way to track ovulation.
Basal body temperature (BBT) chart
BBT is a woman’s temperature when she first wakes up in the morning. During ovulation, hormones raise the BBT. Basal body temperature charting and tracking is another affordable way to monitor ovulation.
How to chart BBT:
- When progesterone levels rise during ovulation it raises body temperature by about 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit.
- An increase for several days may indicate ovulation has occurred.
- Using the BBT does not predict ovulation, it merely charts when it has happened.
- After charting BBT for a few months, a pattern of probable ovulation should appear.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) level monitoring
Urine-analysis kits available over the counter track changes in LH levels, which typically surge 12-36 hours before ovulation. Unlike other ovulation monitoring methods, LH monitoring predicts ovulation before it happens, which is the optimal time to have sex to conceive.
How to monitor LH levels:
- Start testing a couple of days prior to expected ovulation, which is typically on days 13-15 of the menstrual cycle for women with a normal 28-day cycle.
- For irregular cycles, testing should coincide with the latest and earliest possible dates of ovulation.
- With five consecutive days of testing, there’s an 80 percent chance of detecting ovulation, and a 95 percent chance with 10 days of testing.
Lifestyle factors that affect chances of getting pregnant
There is little evidence suggesting specific diets increase fertility, so be wary of claims for a specific “fertility diet.” However, a healthy diet is key for a healthy pregnancy.
When trying to conceive it is best to avoid alcohol, large amounts of caffeine (more than five cups of coffee a day), and smoking. Data suggest they all have marked effects on fertility.
Learn more about nutrition and fertility
Underweight, overweight or obese women are less fertile. Obesity in men impacts sperm count and quality.
Learn more about obesity and fertility
Stress interferes with ovulation and may reduce fertility in women. If you are worried about getting pregnant, find ways to relax, de-stress and enjoy the process. LLU Fertility staff can help you with ways to reduce stress, such as acupuncture.
Moderate exercise can increase chances of getting pregnant but too much exercise can suppress ovulation. Women should check with their physician to determine an appropriate level of exercise.