How to get pregnant

For the best chance of getting pregnant, you need to get your fertile eggs and your partner's sperm together as often as possible.

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.

Are you ready to conceive? Use our tool to find out.

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.

Use our ovulation calculator to find out more about ovulation.

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.

Use our ovulation calculator to find out more about ovulation.

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.

Temperature

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.

Find out how long it takes to get pregnant.

Time sex right

To boost your chances of conceiving, aim to have regular sex 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 are quite sure 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.

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 conceive.

You may never have considered when you might 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.

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.

There are also apps available that can help you monitor your cycle.

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. It indicates that you are in your fertile phase, so this is the time to have sex if you want to get pregnant, but use contraception if you do not!

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.

Temperature

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 is only an indicator that 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 surges 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.

Take our pregnancy planning quiz

Find out more in our conception FAQs

Sources

  1. Macdonald S, Macgill-Cuerden J (2012) Mayes’ midwifery: a textbook for midwives, 14th edition, London Balliere Tindall
  2. NICE Guideline (2013) Fertility problems: assessment and treatment National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
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Last reviewed on June 5th, 2018. Next review date June 5th, 2021.

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Comments

  • By Hunny (not verified) on 26 Apr 2018 - 08:55

    My LMP 3/11/18 I slept with my regular partner a lot before and after my LMP but I slept with a different person on 3/26/ 18 he pulled out . I’m 6weeks and 3 days as of 4/25/18. Who can be the father

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 27 Apr 2018 - 09:41

    Hi - Thank you for your message.
    Your LMP is used to determine how many weeks pregnant you are (gestation) and when your estimated due date (EDD) is. Working on the premise you have a regular 28 day cycle - you would have conceived sometime around 17/03/2018 - this is an estimation based on that about 10 to 16 days before the start of your next period, an egg is released from one of the ovaries (ovulation).
    If sperm is present at the moment of ovulation, or some time during the next 24 hours, the egg may be fertilised.

  • By Jess (not verified) on 20 Apr 2018 - 16:01

    Hi there-

    I recently stopped taking my birth control pill. I finished the pack and didn’t continue the next. I had my period and when it ended I was sexual active multiple times, and didn’t use any form of protection. About two days after the unprotected sex, I started feeling weird. And about a week after the sex, I am experiencing cramps and fatigue. I was wondering if I could have ovulated right after my period and became pregnant ?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 23 Apr 2018 - 13:52

    Hi Jess, Yes it is possible to ovulate in the first month after stopping the pill. I would suggest that you do a pregnancy test if you miss your next period.

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 Apr 2018 - 17:12

    My cycle is 31 days so when am I likely to ovulate?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Apr 2018 - 09:10

    Hi there.
    Try using our Ovulation calculator(see link below) to work out when you are likely to ovulate using the date of the first day of your last menstrual period and your cycle length- you can do this each month and track it more easily in this way.
    https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/getting-pregnant/ovulation-calculator
    All the best
    Sophie, Tommy's Midwife

  • By Lucy K (not verified) on 10 Apr 2018 - 17:06

    My cycle length keeps changing. My last one was 31 days. When am I most likely to ovulate??

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Apr 2018 - 09:09

    Hi Lucy
    Try using our Ovulation calculator(see link below) to work out when you are likely to ovulate using the date of the first day of your last menstrual period and your cycle length- you can do this each month and track it more easily in this way.
    https://www.tommys.org/pregnancy-information/getting-pregnant/ovulation-calculator
    All the best
    Sophie, Tommy's Midwife

  • By Azhunny (not verified) on 7 Apr 2018 - 08:02

    My last menstruated period was around 9/18/17
    My bf and I had broke up
    I slept with a different guy after 10/11/17
    Found out I was pregnant 10/19/17
    Can I be confident it’s the first mans baby?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 9 Apr 2018 - 15:52

    With these dates, it is not possible to be 100% sure who the father is. The only way to be certain is to do a DNA test.

  • By Andrea (not verified) on 2 Apr 2018 - 06:19

    Hi, how possibly can I avoid another conception coz I have 10months baby & my husband & I r always on sex? My menstrual cycle starts 22nd day of the month. Am still breastfeeding my baby, is it enough?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Apr 2018 - 14:14

    Thank you for your comment. There's lots of choices for contraception; you can talk to your GP or make an appointment for your local contraception clinic to discuss what would be best for you.
    You can still get pregnant even though you are breastfeeding-as you are already having regular periods, breastfeeding is probably not stopping you ovulating so you would need another method of contraception.
    I have attached a link that you may find helpful-
    https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/when-contraception-after-baby/

    Take care
    Tommy's Midwife

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 23 Mar 2018 - 21:09

    I'm 36 years and trying to have a baby but i'm worried because my age and I've irregular periods.

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 26 Mar 2018 - 14:56

    Very pleased that you have seen our website. We hope that you are able to use our advice about conception and top tips for pregnancy.

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 10 Oct 2017 - 14:54

    Me and my husband have been tring to have a baby for thr past 6 months now the problem is we actually dont really have sex very often well we do but im sure not so much like peolle trying to have a baby as we both work full time... this month we had sex on our ovulation day which was the 14th day starting from my period.. some peolle have said when you start ovulation tha 8 days after is very important so you should try and have sex within that 7 days as well.. i would like some tips thank you

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 11 Oct 2017 - 14:01

    Hi, Firstly try not to worry. It can take many months before you get pregnant and this is quite normal. Have a look at our page 'Top tips to get pregnant'. https://www.tommys.org/comment/reply/212/7077
    Good luck

  • By Rabiya (not verified) on 14 Sep 2017 - 21:57

    Can I do gym while trying for baby ?

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 18 Sep 2017 - 10:20

    Being in good shape can help you conceive. The body works more efficiently when you are fit and having a toned body usually makes you feel more confident about yourself.
    Pregnancy can put a lot of strain on the body and is tiring. If you have the correct balance of muscular strength and flexibility, you can cope more easily with its demands.

    The government recommends that everyone does 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.
    If you haven’t done much regular exercise before start with 15 minutes of continuous exercise three times a week.
    Then you can increase that bit by bit to 30-minute sessions four times a week and then to daily exercise. The exercise should be enough to increase your heart and breathing rates, but you should still be able to have a conversation.

  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 16 Jul 2017 - 15:06

    Can I go swimming and that when trying to get pregnant

  • By Midwife @Tommys on 17 Jul 2017 - 15:03

    Yes, there is no reason not to swim when you are trying to conceive. In fact a good exercise regime for you and your partner can help you conceive and to be in the best health for your pregnancy. Good luck

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