How Can I Improve My Chances of Getting Pregnant?

Delays in getting pregnant may not signal an issue, and can be normal, especially once you are past age 30. You can improve your chances of getting pregnant by understanding your fertility cycle, and having sex on days you are ovulating.
Delays in getting pregnant may not signal an issue, and can be normal, especially once you are past age 30. You can improve your chances of getting pregnant by understanding your fertility cycle, and having sex on days you are ovulating.

Once you've decided to have a baby and have stopped using birth control, it might be easy to assume you'll be picking out baby names within a month or two.

It can seem concerning if you're not pregnant even after trying for several months. But this delay is normal. At age 30, your odds of getting pregnant during any given month are only 20%, so there's no reason to be alarmed if you don't test positive immediately after you start trying to conceive.

Understanding your fertility cycle

The best way to increase your chances of getting pregnant is by having sex at the ideal time. To make sure you're doing that, it helps to understand your fertility cycle.

During any given month, there are six days when you can become pregnant, which include the five days before ovulation and the day of ovulation.  

Your menstrual cycle is measured as beginning on the first day of one period and ending on the first day of the next. Around midway through the cycle, your body releases hormones that trigger ovulation.

Ovulation occurs when your ovaries release an egg into your fallopian tubes so that it's available to be fertilized by sperm. This period is called the fertile window.  

Traditional guidelines assume that ovulation occurs 14 days before your period starts. Following this, if your cycle is 28 days long, your fertile window would happen sometime between days 10 through 17.

However, a study on 221 women found that only 10% ovulated on day 14, even if their cycles were exactly 28 days. So, the timing of your fertile window can be earlier or later than days 10 through 17 — it is unique to you.  

Fertility awareness method

It can be difficult to know exactly when you're ovulating by counting days. One method of finding out when you may be ovulating is called the fertility awareness method.

In this method, you pay attention to signs you may be ovulating and have sex every other day during that time to increase your chances of getting pregnant. The two main signs that can predict ovulation are changes in your cervical mucus and your basal body temperature — or your BBT.

Cervical Mucus

The vaginal discharge — or mucus — produced by your cervix changes throughout your cycle. As you get closer to ovulation, your cervical mucus increases and becomes thinner and more slippery. After ovulation, it becomes thicker and less noticeable. To increase your odds of becoming pregnant, have sex every other day when you notice your cervical mucus increasing.

Basal Body Temperature

Your BBT is your body's temperature when you're completely at rest. Your basal body temperature usually rises slightly during ovulation and remains higher until the end of your cycle. This increase is small — usually 0.5 to 1 degree Fahrenheit. You should measure your BBT first thing in the morning before you get out of bed or have anything to eat or drink.

Your BBT will only tell you if ovulation has already happened, so it's not a good method to use alone for determining ovulation. Your most fertile days are two to three days before your temperature increases. However, it's a good method to help pinpoint and track when ovulation has happened. 

The Gunshot Method

If monitoring your cervical mucus and BBT seems too complicated, the gunshot method is a simpler way to time intercourse. This method is a simple option if you're just beginning attempts at conception.

With the gunshot method, you simply have sex every other day during the middle third of your cycle. This ensures there's always an appropriate amount of sperm available to fertilize an egg.

A method even simpler than the gunshot method is just having sex two to three times weekly every week. By doing this, you can avoid the uncertainty of trying to predict your fertile days.

Because your time of ovulation can vary even when your cycles are regular, there's no calendar-based method of predicting ovulation that's completely effective. This method may not work if you have fertility issues, but it's a good way to get started trying.    

When to talk to your doctor

Although it's normal not to become pregnant immediately after you start trying, you may want to talk to your doctor if you:


Stages of Pregnancy: Week by Week See Slideshow
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: "Fertility Awareness-Based Methods of Family Planning."

American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM): "Age and Fertility."

The BMJ: "The timing of the “fertile window” in the menstrual cycle: day specific estimates from a prospective study."

MU Healthcare: "Planning a Pregnancy After 40."

UPMC HealthBeat: "Signs You Should Talk to Your Doctor About Infertility."