For the best chance of getting pregnant, you need to get your eggs and your partner's sperm together as often as possible.
More than 8 out of 10 couples where the woman is aged under 40 will get pregnant within one year if they have regular unprotected sex. More than 9 out of 10 couples will get pregnant within two years.
Regular, unprotected sex means having sex every 2 to 3 days without using contraception.
You don't need to time having sex only around ovulation, though it is helpful to know when you are ovulating. Having vaginal sex every 2 to 3 days will give you the best chance of getting pregnant. Sperm can live for 2 to 3 days and this means there will always be fresh sperm in your system when you ovulate (release an egg).
Remember it’s important for you and your partner to try and keep sex enjoyable by concentrating on each other and your relationship, rather than worrying about conceiving. This will help you limit stress.
How does pregnancy start?
Your cycle starts on the first day of your period and continues up to the first day of your next period.
This is what happens during the cycle and the start of a pregnancy.
- Eggs mature in your ovaries once a month.
- The lining of your womb starts to get thicker to prepare for fertilised eggs.
- Once the egg is mature it is released from one of the ovaries – this is called ovulation.
- During ovulation your cervical mucus (this is the substance in your cervix, between the vagina and the womb) becomes thinner and clearer to help any sperm to swim to the egg.
- If you have sex, millions of sperm will swim up the cervix into the uterus and the fallopian tubes to meet a mature egg.
- If sperm is present at the point of ovulation, or during the next 24 hours, the egg may be fertilised (only one sperm has to join with the egg for this to happen).
- If the egg is fertilised, it starts to move towards the womb and divide into more cells.
- Once it reaches the womb the fertilised egg has to attach the lining of the womb, this is called implantation and is the start of pregnancy. Many fertilised eggs don’t implant and are passed out of the body.
- If the egg has not been fertilised, the egg is re-absorbed by the body, the hormone levels drop, and the womb lining is shed – the beginning of your next period.
Now that you know all about how to get pregnant, use our tool to find out if you are ready to conceive.
Best time to have sex to get pregnant
To boost your chances of conceiving, aim to have regular sex (every 2 to 3 days) throughout your cycle so you know that there should hopefully be good-quality sperm waiting when the egg is released. An active sex life is all most people need to conceive.
If you know when you ovulate each month you can give yourself the best chance of getting pregnant by having sex in the days leading up to ovulation. Continue having sex during ovulation. After this your fertile time will be over for that cycle.
Best position to have sex in to get pregnant
The position that you have sex in does not make a difference to conception so long as the man ejaculates sperm into the vagina. Once this happens the sperm can swim up through the cervix and into the womb and fallopian tubes to meet an egg if it is there.
Many people also say that if the woman raises her legs upwards after sex it helps the sperm get to the womb. There is no evidence to say that this is true. The route from the vagina to the womb is not a straight line, so you do not need to worry about all the sperm coming back out when you stand up.
When does ovulation happen?
Ovulation usually happens about 10 to 16 days before the start of your next period, so it helps to know your cycle length before you start trying to get pregnant.
You may have not known when you ovulate within your cycle, and if you have been using a hormone contraceptive such as the Pill, you won’t have had a natural menstrual cycle for a while, because the Pill prevents ovulation (egg release) from happening.
As a first step, mark on your diary the dates that you bleed during a period. You can then count how many days from the first day of your period to your next period to work out the length of your cycle.
The following signs can also help you know when you ovulate:
Cervical mucus changes
The cervix secretes mucus throughout the menstrual cycle, starting off sticky white and gradually becoming thinner and clearer.
Before and during ovulation the mucus increases and becomes much thinner, slippery and stretchy. Women often compare it to raw egg white.
This thinner mucus is designed to help the sperm swim easily through it.
The last day you notice the wetter secretions is sometimes known as ‘peak day’ and for most women this occurs very close to the time of ovulation.
You can also find out about your menstrual cycle by keeping a note of your temperature each morning when you wake up. Your temperature rises by about 0.2°C when ovulation has taken place.
As it only shows you when you have ovulated, and doesn’t tell you when your fertile time starts, this is not very useful for most women.
Using ovulation predictor kits (OPK)
Ovulation predictor kits are available from chemists and are fairly simple to use. They work by detecting a hormone in your urine that increases when ovulation is about to take place.
The simplest urine kit tests for luteinising hormone (LH), which increases 24-36 hours before ovulation. This will help to identify the best two days for conception, although a woman can be fertile for a day or so before and after this time.
It is best to become familiar with your usual menstrual cycle to help figure out when you should start testing. If you have an irregular cycle then an ovulation predictor kit can help you identify the time of ovulation but expect to use more of the test strips.
This content is currently being reviewed by our team. Updated information will be coming soon.