Embarking on the journey to conceive a child is an exciting time, filled with a lot of anticipation but also, at times, worry. While getting pregnant can happen quickly for some, it may take longer for others. You may be wondering, “How long should I try to get pregnant before seeking help?” and “At what point should I seek fertility help?” It's natural to wonder how long you should try to conceive before considering a visit to a doctor. Let’s review some of these questions, some conception timeline statistics, and the factors that may influence the decision to seek medical advice and when.
What are the statistics for how long it takes for someone to conceive?
According to the stats for ages 35 and up, the older you are, the longer it can take to conceive. 35 isn’t really a magical cut-off age for fertility, it’s more a mile marker for physicians and insurance companies to use.
How long should I try to get pregnant before seeing a doctor?
A lot of people wait for a full year of trying to conceive (TTC) before they seek advice from a healthcare professional; however, there are certain factors that may warrant seeking medical advice earlier in the process. A pre-pregnancy checkup is a great place to start when you are planning on trying to conceive, especially if you have any concerns about any underlying health issues.
Most experts agree that if you’re under 35, it’s okay to try for a year before seeking advice from a healthcare professional. If you’re over 35, they recommend trying for six months before seeing a healthcare professional. For those trying at home via insemination, it is generally recommended that if you have tried for six cycles (six months) without conceiving, you should consult a healthcare professional. The 6 and 12-month guidelines of when to seek fertility care are both guidelines of the medical community AND guidelines insurance companies use for reimbursement of fertility appointments and diagnostics. If you have ANY health concerns about fertility, no matter your age, please seek care from a healthcare professional sooner than later. You don’t have to wait for a specific number of months before seeking care.
There are other specific factors that influence fertility where you’ll seek healthcare advice sooner than a year:
Known Medical Conditions and Chronic Illness If you (or your partner) have a known medical condition that may impact fertility, such as endometriosis, it's wise to seek guidance sooner rather than later. Some chronic illnesses can also affect your fertility, so if you have a chronic disease you are managing day to day (such as an autoimmune disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc.), it’s a good idea to ask if and how it affects your fertility and any considerations you need to know about medications you take to manage the illness.
Irregular Cycles or Previous Reproductive Issues
If you have irregular menstrual cycles, PCOS, a history of pelvic infections, or have undergone treatments or surgeries that may affect fertility, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional earlier in the process.
Lifestyle choices such as smoking and vaping, drug use, excessive alcohol consumption, being underweight or overweight, and chronic stress can affect fertility. If any of these factors apply to you, your partner, or your sperm donor, it's worth discussing these factors with a healthcare professional and making a plan together before trying to get pregnant.
How long will it take me to get pregnant?
The time it takes to get pregnant can vary from person to person, and there are several factors that contribute to how long it can take. While it’s most common to take up to a year of trying (intercourse without protection or birth control, or insemination with each fertile window in your cycle) in order to conceive, everyone has individual factors going on that will affect their timeline.
Timing of Ovulation
Pregnancy can only occur when an egg is released from the ovary and fertilized by sperm during a specific window of time, known as ovulation. Understanding and accurately predicting the timing of ovulation can be challenging, especially for people who are not actively tracking their cycles. It may take several cycles to determine the optimal timing for conception. We recommend using an ovulation predictor kit. There are also some good resources out there on how to start tracking your cycle and how to read an ovulation test to get you started!
Frequency of Intercourse or Insemination
To maximize the chances of conception for hetero couples, regular sexual intercourse or insemination is recommended. However, hetero couples may not always have intercourse during the fertile window, leading to missed opportunities for conception. Timing intercourse correctly within the menstrual cycle is crucial, and it can take time to establish a consistent routine. The same goes if you are TTC via artificial insemination–if you want a chance to conceive, you must inseminate during your fertile window.
Underlying Health Factors
Certain health conditions, such as hormonal imbalances, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, or thyroid disorders, can affect fertility and make it more challenging to conceive. Identifying and addressing these underlying factors may take time and medical intervention.
Lifestyle factors, such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor diet, chronic stress, and being significantly underweight or overweight, can affect fertility and affect the amount of time it takes to get pregnant. Making positive changes to improve overall health and fertility may take extra time and effort.
Factors Out of Our Control
Sometimes, even with perfect timing and optimal health, conception does not occur immediately. It is important to remember that getting pregnant is a complex biological process that involves the alignment of numerous factors, and sometimes it simply comes down to chance.
When should I seek medical advice when trying to get pregnant?
If you fall into any of the above categories or if you have been actively trying to conceive for over a year without success (or trying for six months if you are over 35 or have been trying at-home insemination for six cycles), it may be time to schedule a visit with your doctor to discuss your fertility status. Your OBGYN/Primary Care Provider may be able to do a workup or they may refer you to a fertility specialist or reproductive endocrinologist. Keep in mind these visits are not just for females. Male factor issues are the cause of infertility about half the time. These specialists can conduct a thorough evaluation of both partners, or you and your donor, and identify any potential issues. They provide personalized advice and treatment options based on your specific circumstances. If you have lifestyle factors going on that can affect your fertility, get those addressed right away.
It's important to remember that everyone's fertility journey is unique, and the time it takes to conceive can vary. Patience, open communication, and seeking professional help, when needed, can help navigate the path to parenthood with confidence and understanding.
What can help me get pregnant faster?
While it's always great to check in with your doctor while trying to conceive, there are a few things you can do at home to potentially enhance your fertility from the start:
Have Intercourse or Inseminate During Your Fertile Window The fertile window in the menstrual cycle is a crucial time when conception is most likely to occur. During this period, it's important for individuals and couples who are trying to conceive to consider either having intercourse or exploring artificial insemination options. If you are going the intercourse route, time intercourse during the fertile window. For those facing fertility challenges or pursuing alternative family-building methods, artificial insemination is an option and should also be done during the fertile window. Either way, be sure to use a fertility-friendly lubricant!
Eat a Balanced Diet
Focus on a nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.Certain nutrients, such as folate and iron, play a crucial role in fertility and early pregnancy.*Link to prenatal vitamins blog
Managing Your Emotional and Mental Health
High levels of stress can affect reproductive hormones and disrupt the menstrual cycle. Explore stress-reduction techniques like exercise, meditation, or therapy to promote a more balanced emotional state. Make sure you are taking time for self-care and getting enough sleep.
Avoid Harmful Substances
Smoking and vaping, drug use, excessive alcohol consumption (whether daily use or occasional binge drinking), and prescription drug abuse can significantly impair fertility in all genders. It's important to eliminate or reduce exposure to these substances when trying to conceive.
The Importance of Emotional Support During the Trying-to-Conceive Journey
The journey to parenthood can be deeply emotional and challenging. It’s common to feel like circumstances are out of your control, or to even have obsessive or intrusive thoughts. If you are constantly thinking, “Why aren’t I pregnant yet?” and feeling like you want to keep trying but also want to give up because it’s so stressful, you are NOT alone. These feelings are very common in the trying-to-conceive journey. It's essential to seek emotional support from loved ones who understand what it’s like and considerjoining support groups *link to affiliate partner* where you can connect with people experiencing similar struggles. Additionally, talking to a mental health professional can provide valuable guidance in managing the emotional aspects of trying to conceive.
Everyone is different–there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting pregnant
Every fertility journey is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. While waiting for a longer period (one year) is generally recommended for younger people under 35, it's important to consider individual circumstances and consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns, lifestyle factors, or medical history that can affect your conception timeline. They can provide personalized guidance, address any underlying issues, and explore treatment options to help you achieve your dream of starting or expanding your family.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized guidance and treatment options.