Some women get pregnant very quickly, in fact 1 in 3 women who are having regular sex (every 2 to 3 days) or timing sex around ovulation, will conceive within a month.
If they are having regular unprotected sex:
- more than 8 out of 10 couples where the woman is aged under 40 will be pregnant by 1 year
- more than 9 out of 10 couples will get pregnant by 2 years.
Regular unprotected sex means having vaginal sex every 2 to 3 days without using contraception.
However, age makes a difference. Starting at age 34 your ability to get pregnant starts to decline gradually.
Age and getting pregnant
Your age is not something you can control. Many women are having babies later in life for very valid reasons such as not feeling stable enough to support a child (for example, with money or housing), not wanting to have a child before or not having a partner to have a child with.
However, we know that fertility (ability to get pregnant) declines with age and this decline speeds up after the age of 35. This is because the number and quality of eggs decreases. Male fertility also declines with age, though not as much as female fertility.
One study found that for couples having regular unprotected sex:
- around 7 out of 10 women aged 30 will conceive within one year
- around 6 out of 10 women aged 35 will conceive within one year
- around 4 out of 10 women aged 40 will conceive within one year.
After the age of 40, it gets harder to conceive and you may be offered fertility treatment.
Improving your fertility
Fertility is affected by lifestyle. There are some things you can do to improve your fertility. For example, if you smoke it will take you longer to get pregnant than a non-smoker. If you give up smoking now, your chances of conceiving faster will increase.
Other things you can do to improve your fertility include:
- being a healthy weight
- being active
- eating a healthy, balanced diet
- cutting caffeine to under 200mg a day
- avoiding alcohol
- avoiding recreational/illicit drugs.
Find out more about what to do before conception.
Stopping contraception and getting pregnant
Some types of contraception may delay fertility for a while after you stop taking it. For example the progestogen-only injection for contraception may delay normal fertility for up to one year after the last injection. Find out more about stopping contraception.
If you take the contraceptive pill many doctors advise that you should delay trying to conceive until you have had one normal period. This helps them to date a pregnancy more accurately.
When should I get help with conception?
Speak to your GP if you have been trying for a year conceive.
Many doctors prefer you to have been having regular sex without contraception for at least a year before referring you for fertility tests. Regular sex means 2-3 times a week.
You should see your GP sooner if:
- you are over 36
- you have a known fertility issue, such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- your partner has a known fertility issue, such as low sperm count
- you are concerned you or your reproductive partner may have an undiagnosed medical issue that may be affecting your ability to get pregnant.
There are ways to help couples conceive if they're having problems getting pregnant. Find out more about fertility problems.
Find out more about how you will know when you are pregnant.
Sozou PD,Hartshorne GM (2012) Time to Pregnancy: A Computational Method for Using the Duration of Non-Conception for Predicting Conception. Plos One. Published: October 4, 2012 https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046544
Gnoth C, Godehardt D et al (2003) Time to pregnancy: results of the German prospective study and impact on the management of infertility, Human Reproduction, Volume 18, Issue 9, 1 September 2003, Pages 1959–1966, https://doi.org/10.1093/humrep/deg366
RCOG (2011) Reproductive Ageing. Scientific Advisory Committee. Opinion Paper 24. London: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. www.rcog.org.uk
NHS Choices (accessed May 2018) Infertility, Page last reviewed:14/02/2017 Next review due: 14/02/2020. www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility
NICE Guidelines (2017) Fertility problems: assessment and treatment National Institute for Health and Care Excellence
Leridon H. Can assisted reproductive technology compensate for the natural decline in fertility with age? A model assessment. Human Reproduction 2004;19(7):1548.
British Medical AssociatIion (2014) Smoking and reproductive life; The impact of smoking on sexual, reproductive and child health, page 13
NHS Choices [accessed May 2018] Quit Smoking, Page last reviewed:16/01/2016 Next review due:04/01/2019 www.nhs.uk/live-well/quit-smoking/
Clinical Knowledge Summaries (Aug 2017) Pre-conception advice and management https://cks.nice.org.uk/pre-conception-advice-and-management
ℹLast reviewed on June 5th, 2018. Next review date June 5th, 2021.
By Midwife @Tommys on 15 Jun 2018 - 16:58
Thank you so much for such lovely feedback and glad you find the site so helpful. Well spotted with the typo! We shall get this changed.
By Sonya84 (not verified) on 14 Jun 2018 - 17:39
The site is so helpful, thank you for doing all this amazing work!
Just noticed that a link appears missing in second paragraph in Age and getting pregnant section:
"However, we know that fertility (ability to get pregnant) declines with age (link to maternal age page)..."