You're in! See your latest actions or visit profile and dashboard
Account Information
Dashboard
March for Babies Dashboard

  • Preferences
  • Messages
  • Favorites

Trying to get pregnant

  • Most couples who try to get pregnant do so within 1 year.
  • Know when you ovulate to boost your chances for pregnancy.
  • Find out about health conditions that run in your family.
Now playing:
save print
e-mail

Getting pregnant

You've thought carefully about having a baby and decided you're ready. You stopped smoking and drinking alcohol. You're eating healthy foods and taking a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day. You've visited your health care provider, and you're putting money in your savings account each month. You're ready to start trying to get pregnant.

How does pregnancy happen?

A woman's ovaries release an egg every month, about 14 days before the first day of her period. This is called ovulation. When a couple has sexual intercourse (and does not use birth control) around the time of ovulation, a man's sperm swim to meet the woman's egg. When a sperm penetrates the egg, it's called fertilization or conception. The fertilized egg (embryo) then travels to the woman's uterus (womb), where it burrows into the lining of the uterus and begins to grow.

If you want to get pregnant, when should you stop birth control?

There are no rules about how long you should wait to start trying to get pregnant after stopping birth control. You can begin trying right away. But if you don't have regular periods, it may be more difficult to determine the right time for conception.

  • If you've been on birth control pills, you may not have regular periods for a month or two after stopping the pills.
  • If you take Depo-Provera, it can take from three months to one year to ovulate regularly after your last injection.
  • If you have an IUD (intrauterine device) or implants, you can start trying to get pregnant as soon as you have the device removed.
  • The barrier methods - such as condoms, diaphragms and spermicides - stop working as soon as you stop using them.

When is the best time to try to get pregnant?

A woman's egg is fertile for only 12 to 24 hours after its release. A man's sperm can live up to 72 hours after intercourse. So the best time to have sex if you're trying to conceive is:

  • A few days before ovulation
  • The day of ovulation

The closer intercourse is to ovulation, the more likely it is you'll get pregnant. And the more often you have sex, the more likely you are to get pregnant.

How do you know when you ovulate?

If your period is regular (it comes the same number of days apart every month): Use the March of Dimes ovulation calendar to help you figure out when you can get pregnant.

If your periods are irregular (the number of days apart varies from month to month): There are a number of fertility tracking methods that can help you determine when you're ovulating. They are listed below. It's important to talk to your health care provider to learn more about the most effective way to use them.

  • The temperature method: Use a basal body thermometer to take your temperature every day before you get out of bed. Your temperature will rise by up to 1 degree just as you ovulate. Having intercourse as close as possible to this temperature rise improves your chances of getting pregnant.
  • The cervical mucus method: Pay attention to the mucus in your vagina. It gets thinner, slippery, clearer and more plentiful just before ovulation.
  • Ovulation prediction kit: Ovulation prediction kits test urine for a substance called luteinizing hormone (LH). This hormone increases each month during ovulation and causes the ovaries to release eggs. The kit will tell you if your LH is increasing. You can purchase ovulation prediction kits at pharmacies.

If you use the temperature or cervical mucus methods, begin tracking changes a few months before you want to conceive. If you're using an ovulation predictor kit, begin using it about 10 days after the start of your last period.

What are the signs of pregnancy?

 

Knowing the signs of pregnancy can help you tell if you’re pregnant. Here are some signs that you might be pregnant:

 

 

If you have any of these pregnancy signs and think you may be pregnant, go to your health care provider. The sooner you know you're pregnant, the sooner you can begin prenatal checkups and start taking good care of yourself and your growing baby.

 

What if you don't get pregnant right away?

If you don't get pregnant right away, don't worry. Nearly 9 out of 10 couples who try to get pregnant do so within 1 year. It may not happen immediately, but the odds are it will happen soon.

If you've been trying to get pregnant for more than a year (or 6 months, if you're over 35 ), talk to your health care provider. You can get tests to find out why you're having problems getting pregnant. Some women have irregular or infrequent ovulation or damage to the tubes that carry the egg to the womb. Some men have low sperm counts or abnormal sperm. Many couples can overcome these problems with medical treatment.

What can your partner do?

If you're having trouble getting pregnant, your partner can do things to help his sperm production. He can:

  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol he drinks.
  • Give up marijuana and other drugs.
  • Wear boxers and loose pants instead of briefs and tight pants.
  • Ask his provider about his prescription medications. Some medications used to treat high blood pressure, infections and other health conditions can make a man less fertile.

For more information

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
CDC Show Your Love Campaign

March 2007

Ovulation calendar

Knowing when you're ovulating can boost your chances of getting pregnant. Start your personal ovulation calendar.

Most common questions

Genetic counseling

How do you know you're pregnant?

Knowing the signs of pregnancy can help you tell if you’re pregnant. Here are some signs that you might be pregnant:

If you have any of these pregnancy signs and think you may be pregnant, go to your health care provider. The sooner you know you're pregnant, the sooner you can begin prenatal checkups and start taking good care of yourself and your growing baby.

How soon can I take a pregnancy test?

Home pregnancy tests are usually more accurate when your period is late - about 2 weeks after conception (getting pregnant). If they're done too early, they may say that you're not pregnant when you really are. This is called a false negative. That's why it’s best to take a home pregnancy test when your period is late. Carefully follow the test's instructions. Tests done at a lab or at your health care provider's office are more accurate.

I’m late for my period but my pregnancy test is negative. Why?

If you've taken a home pregnancy test and it's negative (shows that you're not pregnant), you may want to take a blood pregnancy test at your health care provider's office. A blood pregnancy test is more sensitive than a home pregnancy test that checks your urine. The blood pregnancy test can tell a pregnancy very early on. 


Pregnancy tests work by looking for the hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), a hormone that a woman's body makes during pregnancy. If both a blood and urine test come back negative and you still have a missed period, talk with your health care provider. Things like stress, eating habits, illness or infection can cause changes in your menstrual cycle.

I’ve been trying to get pregnant for 3 months. What’s wrong?

Pregnancy may not occur right away, so there is no need to worry. For most couples, it may take up to 1 year to conceive. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for more than a year, or 6 months if you're over 35, it may be time to talk with your health care provider. You and your partner can get tests to find out why you are not getting pregnant

Is it possible to ovulate without having a period?

Ovulation is when a woman's ovary releases an egg. This egg travels down into the fallopian tube. If you had sex without using birth control, sperm will swim up to meet your egg so that your egg can be fertilized. If no fertilization occurs, and after about two weeks, your body sheds the unfertilized egg, the uterine lining and blood and tissue that would have nurtured a fertilized egg. This is known as menstruation (your period).


You ovulate before you menstruate. But if you don't get your period, it doesn't necessarily mean that you haven't ovulated. For example, some women have irregular cycles. Even if you're very regular, once in a while your cycle may change. Therefore, it's hard to pinpoint exactly when you ovulate. If you don't get your period, you may want to take a pregnancy test.

What is the best time to get pregnant?

The best time to get pregnant is a few days before ovulation or the day of ovulation. This is because a man's sperm can live up to 72 hours after intercourse and a woman's egg is fertile for 12 to 24 hours after its release. If your periods are regular, use an ovulation calculator. If your periods are irregular, use one of the following. Talk to your health care provider to learn more about the most effective way to use these.

  • Purchase a basal body thermometer. Use it to take your temperature before you get out of bed every day. Your temperature goes up by 1 degree when you ovulate.
  • Check the mucus in your vagina. It may become thinner, more slippery, clearer and more plentiful just before ovulation.
  • Purchase an ovulation prediction kit. Use it to test your urine for a substance called luteinizing hormone (LH). LH increases each month during ovulation.

Have intercourse as close as possible to ovulation to improve your chance of getting pregnant.

Have questions?

People are talking!

Join the conversation on this topic in our community.

Stay informed

Get the newsletter and find out how you're helping babies.