Women's bodies and the ways in which they each operate are inimitable and, therefore, there's no secret formula for getting pregnant that'll work for all women — simply, your chances of getting pregnant vary with your health history, your partner's health history, your diet, your age, your ovulation cycle, your environment, the lunar cycle and so many other factors.
Here's a comprehensive guide on the best time to get pregnant and how, but note that you should consult your fertility doctor to discuss your personal pregnancy. Because pregnancy is just that: personal.
How to get pregnant: A quick overview
The fertility rate in the United States is 60.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 44 years old, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2015, there were 3,978,497 babies born, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. Just shy of four million is a lot of babies, and you're wondering how they've happened.
For some women, this happens quicker (and/or with fewer complications) than others. But, out of every 100 couples trying to conceive, just 80 to 90 will get pregnant within a year, according to the National Health Service, U.K.
Conception occurs when a sperm fertilizes an egg. This can happen in a few ways:
- Sexual Intercourse
- Artificial Insemination
- In Vitro Fertilization
Through sexual intercourse, conception is most likely to happen within a day or so of your ovulation — the discharge of ova or ovules, your eggs, from your ovaries. If your menstrual cycle is around 28 days long, you're likely ovulating about 14 days after the first day of your last period. This makes that time the most fertile time for you to have sexual intercourse. That said, because eggs live for about 12 to 24 hours after they've been released, and sperm can live for up to seven days inside your body, sperm has some time to travel up to your fallopian tubes to fertilize your eggs.
Artificial insemination (AI) refers to the deliberate introduction of sperm into your cervix or uterine cavity through means other than sexual intercourse. Conception, again, is most likely to occur during ovulation.
You may also use in vitro fertilization, a process of fertilization in which an egg is combined with sperm outside the body, in vitro. That process involves monitoring and stimulation your ovulatory process, removing an ovum or ova from your ovaries and allowing sperm to fertilize them in a liquid in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they're placed in your uterus.
The best time to get pregnant
The best time to get pregnant, of course, is when you're ovulating. Again, if you're menstrual cycle is around 28 days long, you're probably ovulating about 14 days after the first day of your last period. So the best time to get pregnant, more specifically, is likely about two weeks after your last period.
That said, every woman's cycle is different. The average menstrual cycle is 24 to 38 days and the typical period lasts anywhere from four to eight days, according to the Office on Women's Health. That's quite a wide range, never mind that some women don't even get periods due to birth control methods and/or health complications.
In fact, 70 percent of white women and 80 percent of African American women will develop uterine fibroids, non-cancerous growths that develop in or around the womb and that can affect the period cycle, according to Healthline. Meanwhile, endometriosis — which is an often painful disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus (the endometrium) instead grows outside your uterus, involving the ovaries, fallopian tubes and the tissue lining the pelvis — affects about one in 10 women ages 15 to 49. More than 10 million women have menorrhagia, which refers to extremely heavy menstrual bleeding, and about five percent of women experience premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), which is similar to premenstrual syndrome (PMS) but is far more serious with exacerbated symptoms.
The point: All women's bodies are different, so there's no one answer to the best time to get pregnant. But by practicing family planning with a doctor and the help of ovulation and fertility tracking apps, you can increase your chances of pregnancy.
How to maximize your chances of getting pregnant
Wondering, how can I increase my chances of getting pregnant? Fortunately, there are ways to maximize your chances of pregnancy. While they won't work for everyone, they can't hurt your efforts.
- Have more frequent sex. Of course, the more sex you have, the better your chances of getting pregnant are.
- Have sex (or use AI) during your fertility window — the period of time that you're ovulating and, thus, most fertile.
- Take ovulation predictor tests, which work similarly to pregnancy tests in that they come as test sticks or strips that react with your urine.
- Chart your basal body temperature, which requires you to take your temperature every morning before you get up — your basal body temperature is your body's temperature at complete rest, and your hormones affect it. Progesterone, in particular, raises it and increases after ovulation. So when your basal body temperature rises and remains high for a few days, this may be because you recently ovulated.
- Track your vaginal discharge, which changes with impending ovulation. It becomes stretchy and more mucusy before you're ovulating.
- Test your saliva with an at-home ferning test. This uses a microscope to look at what appears like frost in a sample of saliva. This appearance can be a sign of ovulation.
- Use ovulation and fertility apps to help you track your cycles.
- Have sex (or use AI) just after a full moon, as research suggests that "the period of decreasing illumination immediately after full moon may precipitate ovulation."
- Change your diet, as diet and lifestyle changes can help boost fertility by up to 69 percent, according to research. According to Healthline, eat foods rich in antioxidants, avoid trans fats, cut down on carbs (and eat less refined carbs), introduce more fiber, swap to vegetable-based protein sources, quit caffeine, increase your iron intake, avoid excess alcohol, stay away from unfermented soy products and consider natural supplements and multivitamins. Increased physical activity and, equally, relaxation time, also correlate with improved health that positively impacts your chances of getting pregnant.
How many days after your period are you the most fertile?
You're likely ovulating about 14 days after the first day of your last period if your cycle is 28 days. So the best time to get pregnant, when you're most fertile, may be about two weeks after your last period. That said it's best to track your personal ovulation cycle so you can be sure the best time for you.
How long should you keep sperm inside to get pregnant?
Eggs live for about 12 to 24 hours after they've been released, and sperm can live for up to seven days inside your body. Therefore, sperm has some time to fertilize your eggs.
Can you get pregnant at any time of the month?
To get pregnant, sperm has to fertilize your eggs, which can happen during or around the time of your ovulation cycle.
How many days out of the month can you get pregnant?
You can get pregnant during the few days leading up to your ovulation and during and within one day after your ovulation since eggs can live for about 12 to 24 hours after they've been released. This leaves just a few-days window of getting pregnant, but those days depend on your cycle.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.