How to Get Pregnant on Your Own
Getting pregnant at a glance
- Couples can maximize their chances of getting pregnant without infertility treatments by knowing how to get pregnant and making sure they are having intercourse in the most productive way or making changes to their lifestyle habits that can impede their fertility.
- Difficulty getting pregnant can be frustrating but it is not always an indication of infertility nor is it always a sign that a couple or individual needs to consult a fertility specialist.
- Couples should first try everything they can do to enhance their prospects of natural conception through their normal fertility, defined as achieving pregnancy within 12 months of unprotected sexual intercourse.
How couples can increase their chance of getting pregnant
About 85 percent of couples in their 20s and mid-30s become pregnant within 12 months of trying. So for many couples, conception is within reach! However, other couples may benefit from speaking with a medical provider on ways to improve their chances of becoming pregnant.
Visit a primary care doctor or OB/GYN
The best place to start the path to parenthood is in the office of one’s regular doctor. A routine check of both the male and female partner can help determine potential health issues that could prevent or complicate a pregnancy, as well as proposed potential lifestyle changes that increase a couple’s odds. Women should visit their OB/GYN prior to trying to conceive to determine the state of their reproductive health and to discuss any family history of infertility or any concerns about other health conditions that could cause potential infertility.
Stop using birth control well in advance
A preconception visit with an OB/GYN is also an opportunity to discuss the timeline for discontinuing birth control. Certain hormonal birth control methods, like Depo-Provera shots or oral contraceptive pills, can affect hormone levels and make pregnancy harder to achieve for some time after use has been discontinued.
It’s estimated that it can take up to 18 months for the average couple to attain pregnancy after Depo-Provera discontinuation and an average of 4-6 months after oral contraceptive pills are discontinued. A better understanding of what previous birth control practices mean for conception can be helpful to couples as they endeavor to start their families.
Research best sexual practices & disregard myths
There is little evidence that certain sexual positions, having intercourse at a certain time during the day or maintaining certain positions after intercourse will improve the likelihood of becoming pregnant. Research does not support the belief that having intercourse more than every 2-3 days helps improve the chances of pregnancy (but it doesn’t hurt either). Additionally, a woman’s climax may help transport sperm, but there is little evidence to show that sexual climax improves the chances of pregnancy.
Despite the rumor that lubricants can help sperm reach the egg, some lubricants such as K-Y Jelly and some types of Astroglide can affect sperm survival and motility. In fact, some lubricants are spermicidal or are intended to kill sperm. For couples that prefer to use a lubricant, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) recommends using mineral or canola oils or hydroxyethylcellulose-based lubricants, as they do not have the same effect on sperm.
Understanding ovulation & conception
Increasing the frequency of intercourse, ceasing birth control methods and eliminating potentially harmful lubricants are helpful, but an understanding of the woman’s menstrual cycle and her ovulation can be critical in attaining pregnancy. Couples can maximize their chances of getting pregnant by increasing the frequency of their intercourse to every other day or every three days around ovulation.
It’s first helpful to put the pieces of the how-to-get pregnant puzzle together.
- In order to become pregnant, the woman’s ovaries must release an egg that must travel to one of the two fallopian tubes where it can be fertilized by the man’s sperm.
- The sperm must be presented to the female’s fallopian tubes by entering through the vagina during intercourse at the proper time.
- The fertilized egg, or embryo, then travels to the uterus where it implants into the uterine lining and develops into a fetus.
Menstrual cycle lengths vary for a number of reasons but generally range from 21-35 days. The average cycle is 28 days. Ovulation, or the release of the egg from the ovaries, typically occurs about two weeks before the start of a menstrual period. For a woman with the typical 28-day cycle, ovulation would be expected on days 13 through 15.
The egg is only viable for 12-24 hours after leaving the ovary, and male sperm is typically viable for up to five days after ejaculation. In theory, having unprotected intercourse the day of, or up to two days prior to, ovulation increases the likelihood of pregnancy. Pregnancies can occur if intercourse occurred up to five days prior to ovulation. This is why increasing the frequency of sexual intercourse to every other day or every third day prior to and during the “fertile window” (the 6-day time period ending on the day the egg is believed to have been released) can help improve the likelihood of conception.
Ovulation tracking methods
While this natural fertility window is optimal during certain days of the female menstrual cycle, ovulation is often difficult to track with precision. According to a study from ASRM and the Society for Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility (SREI), ovulation tracking methods can accurately predict when ovulation is occurring, but there is little evidence that ovulation monitoring during the menstrual cycle increases the chances of achieving pregnancy. Women who track their cycles by using observations of several factors accurately predict their ovulation about 50 percent of the time.
Ovulation tracking is quite difficult because menstrual cycles vary in length, and irregular menstrual cycles are not uncommon in women. Though 25 percent of infertility cases involve ovulatory disorders, irregular cycles are not always an indication of infertility. A medical evaluation can determine if irregular menses are actually within the normal range or the result of an underlying condition.
When used properly, ovulation tracking methods can help predict when ovulation is occurring for many women with some accuracy. Though ovulation tracking does not significantly increase the chances of pregnancy, it can help couples better predict when the “fertile window” will occur and determine the best days to have intercourse.
Popular ovulation monitoring techniques include the following.
Smartphone apps. Smartphones can help users calculate when ovulation will begin. Most apps estimate approximate ovulation dates with information the user provides and average cycle length information. These are no more accurate than counting the days on the calendar manually.
Tracking changes in cervical mucus. During each menstrual cycle, vaginal secretions change consistency and can be used to somewhat reliably determine what stage of the menstrual cycle a woman is in. Research conducted by ASRM found that tracking changes in cervical mucus can be more effective than tracking menstruation and ovulation on a calendar. However, the practice is still quite limited.
Measuring basal body temperature (BBT). Basal body temperature may rise after ovulation has occurred. Measuring BBT can determine that ovulation has already occurred but it cannot predict when ovulation is going to happen.
Urine analysis kits. These measure the level of luteinizing hormone (LH) in the urine. LH levels in the urine surge 12-36 hours before ovulation begins. When used properly, LH tests can identify whether ovulation is occurring over 80 percent of the time. Research shows that though relatively effective in determining ovulation, LH testing can result in false positives and provide unreliable results if the user is taking ovulation induction medications, has PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), or has unknowingly entered menopause.
Lifestyle changes that can help couples get pregnant
Difficulty conceiving can be a result of factors that affect both men and women. This includes lifestyle factors well within the control of both partners.
What’s affecting your chances
Couples should consider making some of the following lifestyle adjustments before and during their efforts to conceive.
Do eat a healthy, well balanced diet. A healthy diet helps with weight management. Research shows that a healthy diet can help mitigate the relationship between weight and infertility, as obese, overweight or underweight women can experience a decrease in fertility. Obesity also negatively affects men’s sperm count and quality.
Do start taking prenatal vitamins. A large body of research shows that women who take folate-containing vitamins or folic acid supplements prior to conceiving and through the course of their pregnancy can reduce the risk that their offspring will be born with birth defects.
Do continue moderate exercise. Moderate exercise looks different for every individual, based on their fitness level and fitness goals. Exercise can help manage stress, which can interfere with female ovulation, and help men and women manage their weight, which can impede fertility.
Do limit caffeine consumption. Though the connection is somewhat unclear, excess caffeine consumption (more than four cups of coffee a day) appears to harm female fertility and may increase the risk of miscarriage. Reduced fertility was not seen in women who drink less than two cups a day.
Do discuss medications with a doctor. Certain prescription and over-the-counter medications can increase the risk of birth defects. Always discuss the medications you are taking with your provider to review the safety of those medications while attempting to conceive.
Don’t use tobacco products or other recreational drugs. Tobacco products, including but not limited to cigarettes, cigars, electric cigarettes or vape pens, and chewing tobacco, negatively impact fertility in women and men.
Don’t drink alcohol. Women who are trying to get pregnant are encouraged to stop using alcohol completely. Alcohol consumption can lower the number and quality of a man’s sperm and contribute to poor overall health.