The desire to have healthy children can encourage some women to make healthier lifestyle choices when they want to get pregnant. Women may become more conscious of the food, beverages and drugs they are putting into their bodies and set aside time to exercise.
To optimize women’s fertility, taking better care of their bodies is a good first step. What else can women do to improve their odds of having a baby?
The most important advice for a woman who wants to get pregnant is to get to know her body, specifically her menstrual cycle, said Dr. Mary Ellen Pavone, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist and medical director of the IVF program at Northwestern Medicine’s Fertility and Reproductive Medicine in Chicago.
“It’s important to know how far apart her cycles are so she can more accurately time intercourse to try to get pregnant,” Pavone said.
Here are 12 tips that may help increase a healthy woman’s chances of becoming pregnant, assuming that neither she nor her partner have a known fertility problem.
How A Women Get Pregnant ?
Pregnancy is actually a pretty complicated process that has several steps. It all starts with sperm cells and an egg.
Sperm are microscopic cells that are made in testicles. Sperm mixes with other fluids to make semen (cum), which comes out of the penis during ejaculation. Millions and millions of sperm come out every time you ejaculate — but it only takes 1 sperm cell to meet with an egg for pregnancy to happen.
Eggs live in ovaries, and the hormones that control your menstrual cycle cause a few eggs to mature every month. When your egg is mature, it means it’s ready to be fertilized by a sperm cell. These hormones also make the lining of your uterus thick and spongy, which gets your body ready for pregnancy.
About halfway through your menstrual cycle, one mature egg leaves the ovary — called ovulation — and travels through the fallopian tube towards your uterus.
The egg hangs out for about 12-24 hours, slowly moving through the fallopian tube, to see if any sperm are around.
If semen gets in the vagina, the sperm cells can swim up through the cervix and uterus and into the fallopian tubes, looking for an egg. They have up to 6 days to find an egg before they die.
When a sperm cell joins with an egg, it’s called fertilization. Fertilization doesn’t happen right away. Since sperm can hang out in your uterus and fallopian tube for up to 6 days after sex, there’s up to 6 days between sex and fertilization.
If a sperm cell does join up with your egg, the fertilized egg moves down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. It begins to divide into more and more cells, forming a ball as it grows. The ball of cells (called a blastocyst) gets to the uterus about 3–4 days after fertilization.
The ball of cells floats in the uterus for another 2–3 days. If the ball of cells attaches to the lining of your uterus, it’s called implantation — when pregnancy officially begins.
Implantation usually starts about 6 days after fertilization, and takes about 3-4 days to complete. The embryo develops from cells on the inside of the ball. The placenta develops from the cells on the outside of the ball.
When a fertilized egg implants in the uterus, it releases pregnancy hormones that prevent the lining of your uterus from shedding — that’s why people don’t get periods when they’re pregnant. If your egg doesn’t meet up with sperm, or a fertilized egg doesn’t implant in your uterus, the thick lining of your uterus isn’t needed and it leaves your body during your period. Up to half of all fertilized eggs naturally don’t implant in the uterus — they pass out of your body during your period.
What are early pregnancy symptoms?
Many people notice symptoms early in their pregnancy, but others may not have any symptoms at all.
Common signs and symptoms of pregnancy can include:
- Missed period
- Swollen or tender breasts
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Feeling tired
- Peeing more often than usual
Some early pregnancy symptoms can sometimes feel like other common conditions (like PMS). So the only way to know for sure if you’re pregnant is to take a pregnancy test. You can either take a home pregnancy test (the kind you buy at the drug or grocery store), or get a pregnancy test at your doctor’s office or local Planned Parenthood Health Center.
How do people get pregnant with twins?
There are 2 ways that twins can happen. Identical twins are made when 1 already-fertilized egg splits into 2 separate embryos. Because identical twins come from the same sperm and egg, they have the same genetic material (DNA) and look exactly alike.
Non-identical twins (also called “fraternal” twins), are made when two separate eggs are fertilized by two separate sperm, and both fertilized eggs implant in the uterus. This can happen if your ovaries release more than one egg, or during certain kinds of fertility treatments. Non-identical twins have completely different genetic material (DNA), and usually don’t look alike. They’re the most common type of twin.
What is gestational age?
The term “gestational age” basically means how far along into a pregnancy you are. Gestational age is counted by starting with the first day of your last menstrual period (called LMP).
Gestational age can be kind of confusing, since it measures pregnancy from your last period — about 3-4 weeks BEFORE you’re actually pregnant. Common knowledge about pregnancy says it lasts 9 months, and it’s true that you’re usually pregnant for about 9 months. But the way pregnancy is measured makes it a little longer. A typical full-term pregnancy ranges from 38-42 weeks LMP — around 10 months.
Many people can’t remember the exact date of their last menstrual period — that’s totally okay. Your nurse or doctor can find out the gestational age using an ultrasound.
What are the different ways I can get pregnant?
In order to get pregnant, sperm needs to fertilize an egg. Pregnancy officially starts when a fertilized egg (embryo) attaches to the wall of your uterus, where it grows into a baby over 9 months. There are a few different ways this can happen.
The most common way people get pregnant is from vaginal sex — when a person who has a penis ejaculates inside the other person’s vagina. Sperm cells in semen (cum) swim up the vagina, through the cervix and uterus, and into the fallopian tubes. If there’s an egg in the fallopian tube and it meets up with sperm, the fertilized egg moves down into the uterus. If the fertilized egg attaches to the wall of the uterus, pregnancy begins.
It’s also possible to get pregnant from other kinds of sexual activity — even if the penis doesn’t ejaculate inside the vagina — but this is way less common. If semen (cum) gets ON the vulva or near the vaginal opening, sperm cells can swim into the vagina and cause pregnancy. This can happen if semen drips or is wiped onto the vulva, or if someone touches your vulva or vagina with fingers or sex toys that have wet semen on them. Pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) can also have a tiny bit of sperm in it, so pre-cum may cause pregnancy if it gets into the vagina.
You can also get pregnant using different kinds of alternative insemination or in-vitro fertilization. During alternative insemination, semen is inserted into your vagina or uterus using a syringe or other device. You either put the semen in at home by yourself or with a partner, or with the help of a doctor. People can use frozen sperm from a sperm bank, or fresh sperm from a known donor (like a partner or family friend). Alternative insemination is an option for single people, couples who don’t make sperm, or couples dealing with infertility.
In-vitro fertilization is when a doctor takes eggs out of your or someone else’s body and mixes them with sperm in a lab to fertilize the eggs. Then the doctor puts the fertilized eggs (embryos) into your uterus. If one or more of the embryos attaches to your uterine lining, pregnancy begins. In-vitro fertilization helps people struggling with infertility get pregnant.
How long does it take to get pregnant?
The amount of time it takes to get pregnant is different for each person, and can depend on a lot of things (like your age, genetics, and overall health).
If you’re fertile and having unprotected vaginal sex, there’s a very good chance you’ll get pregnant within 1 year. About 85 out of 100 people who try to get pregnant succeed within 1 year. But everyone’s different — for some people it’s much faster, while it may take longer for others.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for 6 months to a year with no luck, talk with your doctor, or visit your local Planned Parenthood health center to see if they can help and make sure everything’s okay.
How do I increase my chances of getting pregnant?
One of the best ways to increase your chances of getting pregnant is knowing what days you ovulate (when you’re most likely to get pregnant), and planning vaginal sex or insemination around those days.
Everyone’s body is different, but ovulation usually happens about 14 days before your period starts. An egg lives for about 1 day after it’s released (ovulation), and sperm can live in the body for about 6 days after sex. So people are usually fertile for around 7 days of every menstrual cycle: the 5 days before you ovulate, and the day you ovulate. You can also get pregnant a day or 2 after ovulation, but it’s less likely.
Some people have very regular cycles, and some people’s cycles vary from month to month. Many people track their menstrual cycles and other fertility signs to help them figure out when they’re ovulating. This is called fertility awareness — some people use it to prevent pregnancy, and others use it to try to get pregnant.
You can use a fertility chart to keep track of your cycle and when you’re most fertile (like your body temperature, changes in your cervical mucus, and your menstrual cycle). There are apps that can make it easy to chart your cycle and figure out your fertile days.
You can also use ovulation predictor kits — urine tests that tell you when you’re ovulating. You can buy ovulation predictor tests in the drugstore, usually near the pregnancy tests. Ovulation predictor tests look for a hormone called luteinizing hormone, which increases in your body right before you ovulate.
If you’re thinking about getting pregnant soon, visit your doctor or your local Planned Parenthood health center for a preconception visit. They can give you more tips on increasing your chances of getting pregnant and help make sure you have the healthiest pregnancy you can.
How do I get pregnant if I was on birth control?
If you’re on birth control and want to get pregnant, simply stop using your birth control method. With most methods (like the IUD, implant, pill, patch, and ring), fertility usually comes back right after you stop using it — often within the same month.
Birth control doesn’t hurt your ability to get pregnant long-term, but a few types (like the Depo shot) may temporarily affect your fertility for several months after you stop using it.
How can I prevent an unplanned pregnancy?
If you ever have vaginal (penis-in-vagina) sex, using birth control is the best way to avoid an unintended pregnancy. There are tons of safe and effective types of birth control out there. Take our quiz or Click Here Planned Parenthood health center to find the best method for you.