With that said, there are ways you can boost your odds of getting pregnant fast‚ or at least as fast as possible for you. And, unfortunately, there are myths floating around about conception that aren’t doing you any favors, so it can be difficult to know what’s true. Here, experts share what hopeful parents should know about getting pregnant fast — and what to do if it’s not happening as quickly as you’d expected.
The Basics of How to Get Pregnant
By now you know how to get pregnant. (Cue: “The Birds and the Bees” talk.) But the actual timing of it all? That’s probably not something you learned in health class.
When it comes to getting pregnant, it’s all about your cycle, which starts anew each time you get your period. (Day 1 of your period equals Day 1 of your cycle.) Cycle length varies from person to person, but ovulation — the moment when a mature egg is released from an ovary and moves down the fallopian tube toward your uterus where it can be fertilized, and thus your most fertile time of the month — typically occurs about 14 days before your next period is due. Knowing your cycle well can definitely help you pinpoint the days you’ll be most fertile. Also keep in mind that sperm can live in your body for up to five days, so you have a window during which you can conceive.
“When someone has a 28-day cycle, they ovulate around day 14. I tell them to have sex on day 10, 12, and 14. When someone has regular periods, [they are almost always] ovulating,” says Zaher Merhi, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and the founder of Rejuvenating Fertility.
Expert Tips for Trying to Get Pregnant Fast
All that said, there are other things to keep in mind when you’re trying to get pregnant.
Don’t go overboard tracking ovulation.
If your cycle tends to be pretty regular, you don’t need to download every fertility tracking app or splurge on ovulation or fertility tests. Sure, they can help you identify when you’re ovulating, but they can also really stress you out, especially if you’re trying several tracking methods at once (trust me — I’ve been there!).
“Apps, ovulation kits, and basal body temperatures can be helpful for a few months to confirm that a woman is ovulatory,” says James Nodler, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at CCRM Fertility Houston. “Once this has been confirmed, I usually find continued tracking of ovulation to be more stressful than helpful.”
Plus, ovulation kits may not work for every single person, says Dr. Merhi. For example, when taken correctly, ovulation tests are approximately 99 percent accurate in detecting a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), which triggers ovulation 24-48 hours later. However, these tests can’t can’t tell whether or not ovulation actually occurs. It’s possible to have a surge in LH without releasing an egg, according to the American Pregnancy Association. “A patient might think she’s not ovulating, but she is and vice versa. So why do you need to get anxious about it?” (You can also simply keep an eye out for these interesting signs that you’re ovulating right now.)
Don’t get hung up on positioning.
And as for that old-school idea that you should lie with your legs elevated in order to help that sperm reach the egg? Well, there’s no real basis for that either. “None of the studies show that this is relevant,” says Dr. Merhi.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, someone has probably told you to “just relax and it’ll happen.” It can be pretty annoying advice, but there’s some truth to it, according to Dr. Merhi. “A lot of experts say ‘stress doesn’t matter,’ but I respectfully disagree. We know that stress increases your cortisol levels, and when that happens, the body gets out of whack and ovulation starts to get disorganized and implantation is less likely,” he says. “I know it’s easier said than done: Don’t be your own doctor, and don’t micromanage it too much.” (See: How Stress and Anxiety Affects Your Fertility)
Trusting your doctor’s advice is one way to bring that stress down, he adds. Dr. Merhi also recommends getting enough sleep, meditating, practicing yoga, and, if it’s possible, cutting back on your working hours. While there’s no consensus that stress plays a major role in helping you get pregnant fast, studies have found links between stress and a delay in conception.
The key is finding something that helps you relax…even if it involves zoning out in front of reality TV. “Reading a book or shopping may be a good method to reduce stress,” says Dr. Nodler. “Whatever works for an individual is great.”
Dr. Merhi agrees, saying: “Even if people don’t believe acupuncture has a direct impact on fertility, I do strongly believe it does help. I’ve tried it, and I can tell you: You feel different after acupuncture.” Both experts give acupuncture a thumbs up for its ability to bring down stress levels. (A win-win? It can also improve your sex life.)
Work on your overall health.
“Diet and exercise can have a big impact [on fertility],” says Dr. Nodler. “In all women, a diet high in vegetables and low in saturated fats and processed foods can be beneficial to achieving a healthy pregnancy.”
General health is important, but getting your weight within a healthy range matters, too. “In women with PCOS, losing weight can allow them to begin ovulating and sometimes is all that is needed to achieve pregnancy,” says Dr. Nodler. “Exercise can be beneficial as well in helping a woman lose weight and achieve pregnancy. However, too much exercise and being underweight can be another reason why women may not ovulate and may have a more difficult time becoming pregnant.” (See: How Your Exercise Routine Can Affect Your Fertility)
But, it’s not all about weight.
If your weight falls within that healthy range, don’t take this as permission to neglect healthy eating habits. Remember: Your eating habits can affect your overall health — and, by virtue of that, fertility — in a way that can’t always be reflected on the scale. A 2018 study suggests that eating too much fast food and too few fresh fruits can make it harder for someone to get pregnant, and a Harvard review of previously published studies indicates a link between diet and fertility as well.
“It’s not about just being obese,” says Dr. Merhi. “You can have a skinny person who eats junk food and their eggs will be bad quality and you can have someone who is a little overweight and eats healthy and their eggs will be better. What you eat is extremely important.”
Think about your partner’s health, too.
If you’re trying at home with a partner who has a penis (as opposed to a more clinical setting, which many same-sex couples or singles could do), encourage them to adopt healthy habits, as well. It matters! There are a lot of studies showing that there’s a drop in the sperm count in people who live in countries with high rates of obesity, smoking, poor diet, exposure to environmental endocrine disputers, and radiation from cell phones, which can all affect sperm health, says Dr. Merhi. The good news? Research shows that diets characterized by high intakes of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and a low intake of meat are associated with better semen quality.
You don’t need a lifestyle overhaul.
While improving your diet and working out regularly may help, changing your life completely may be more stressful than beneficial. “I see a lot of patients who want to get pregnant and suddenly they cut alcohol or coffee immediately,” says Dr. Merhi. “That’s not the time. You’re not pregnant yet — why do you need to cut these out? Have a glass of wine if it relaxes you. Have a cup of coffee or two. There are studies that show one or two glasses of wine a day [may help] women get pregnant faster because they’re more relaxed and not stressed out.” (Related: Are Fertility Foods a Real Thing?)
Don’t worry about your history with birth control.
If you’ve been on birth control for years, don’t fear that your ability to conceive will be negatively affected. Fertility returns to normal just one to three months after you stop taking birth control or remove your IUD — and you actually have a good chance of ovulating that first month off birth control, according to Diana Hoppe, M.D., ob-gyn and women’s health specialist, in a previous article for Shape.
You may want to chat with your doctor.
You’ve probably heard that you should try to conceive on your own for a year before consulting a reproductive endocrinologist, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to everyone. There are things you can do in the meantime, even if it’s not quite time to seek help from a reproduction specialist — such as chatting with your ob-gyn, who may be able to do an initial fertility workup or go over any factors that may affect your ability to get pregnant. (See: Should You Get Your Fertility Tested Before Even Thinking About Having Kids?)
“In any couple that has risk factors for tubal blockage such as a history of gonorrhea or chlamydia, endometriosis, or a major abdominal surgery, evaluation should begin right away,” says Dr. Nodler. “Also, if a woman has irregular menstrual cycles, or if the man has a high likelihood of having a low sperm count due to something in his history, evaluation should begin right away. When a women is over 35, evaluation should begin after only six months of trying. In a woman over 40, it is reasonable to do a fertility evaluation before even attempting pregnancy.”