Conception

How likely am I to get pregnant?

Everything you need to know about the chances of pregnancy after unprotected intercourse.

What are the chances of getting pregnant? This is a very recurring question on our site, which is asked both by those who are looking for a child and by those who want to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.

Let’s start with a statistic: on average, a healthy couple under the age of 35 who has regular, unprotected intercourse has about a 25% chance of conceiving each month .

Given that regular intercourse means every 2 or 3 days throughout the cycle (ie between periods), the odds may seem quite low.

On the other hand, it is equally true that a single intercourse at the right time may be sufficient for pregnancy to occur.

How does the probability of getting pregnant vary during the cycle?

Unlike men, women are only fertile for about 12-24 hours, which corresponds to the period of time in which the oocyte remains viable after ovulation. However, since male sperm cells are able to survive 3 to 5 days in the female vagina and uterus, a woman’s fertile period actually lasts about 6 days, which is 5 days before and on the day of ovulation .

But how many are the chances of pregnancy in this time interval and how do they vary?

A 2013 study analyzed the odds of conceiving for each day of the menstrual cycle compared to the day of confirmed (not assumed!) ovulation.

The results showed that the maximum probability of becoming pregnant occurs when sexual intercourse takes place from two days before ovulation to the day itself , as shown in this table.

Report day Probability of pregnancy
6 days before ovulation 0%
5 days before ovulation 8%
4 days before ovulation 16%
3 days before ovulation 14%
2 days before ovulation 27%
1 day before ovulation 21%
Ovulation day 36%
1 day after ovulation 2%

This means that having unprotected intercourse on the most fertile days of the cycle increases the likelihood of getting pregnant even if it does not guarantee pregnancy.

How many attempts to get pregnant?

Many women and men planning for their first child assume that the wait will be very short and are disappointed to discover that the pregnancy does not arrive on schedule. This is because expectations are often far from reality.

Only 25% of couples are successful on the first attempt, while most manage to conceive within 6-12 months of starting the study.

For others, the wait takes longer, but experts recommend not waiting to request couple counseling if pregnancy does not arrive after 1 year of targeted attempts (6 months if the woman is over 35 years old), to assess whether there are no fertility problems.

Very often it simply takes a little more time to catch the stork, but since fertility tends to decrease with age, it is always better to plan ahead and consult your gynecologist to perform any further investigations.

Probability of getting pregnant based on age

female age

A woman’s age greatly affects the likelihood of becoming pregnant. This is because the quality and quantity of oocytes (called ovarian reserve) decreases over the years.

In particular:

  • fertility is highest between the ages of 20 and 24 , with an 86% chance of becoming pregnant;
  • begins to decline slightly until age 35 , when the probability is around 52%;
  • drops dramatically after 40 , with a probability of less than 30%.

That said, many women get pregnant without problems after the age of 35-40. However, if after 6 months of targeted intercourse the search has been unsuccessful, it is advisable to consult the gynecologist.

male age

Male fertility is also related to age, although to a lesser extent.

According to a 2004 study , a man’s likelihood of conceiving a child within 12 months decreases by 11% each year .

How to increase the probability of getting pregnant?

  • Even before starting the search for pregnancy, it would be advisable to undergo a pre-conception visit . This will allow you to receive all the advice to facilitate conception and highlight in advance any conditions that can reduce the probability of pregnancy.
  • Stress, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle or excessive exercise can negatively affect the chances of conceiving. Conversely, a healthy lifestyle and regular and moderate physical activity increase the chances of pregnancy.
  • Too much or too little weight can have negative effects on fertility. For this reason, when trying to become pregnant, it is important that both future parents eat a healthy and balanced diet.
  • To increase the chances of conceiving, the ideal is to have frequent and regular sexual intercourse , i.e. about 3-4 times a week.
  • Alternatively, there are several methods you can use to monitor ovulation and have intercourse targeted during the fertile period .

Questions and answers

Is it true that those who already have a child are more likely to get pregnant?

No, the probability of getting pregnant does not change whether the woman or man has had other children or not.

Therefore, in both cases, it is important to always use effective contraception if you do not want to become pregnant .

Can you get pregnant the first time you have unprotected sex?

Yes, a single unprotected sexual intercourse is enough to conceive a child , as long as this takes place in the woman’s fertile days. The likelihood of conceiving in just one intercourse is about 25% for women under 35 .

To avoid the risks of an unwanted pregnancy, it is essential to adopt an effective contraceptive method from the first intercourse .

When to take a pregnancy test after intercourse?

The test should never be performed before the first day of a period delay. In this way you avoid both wasting pregnancy tests (which are absolutely not cheap), and above all the probability of obtaining false negatives is greatly reduced .

The advice is to take the test in the morning as soon as you get up with the first pee which is more concentrated, in order to facilitate the detection of the pregnancy hormone (beta hCG). Some women use ovulation tests instead of pregnancy sticks . Also avoid this because it could create useless illusions!

Eventually, to anticipate the times and be on the safe side, you can have a dosage of beta hCG in the blood prescribed starting 12 days after ovulation is ascertained.

Kathryn Barlow is an OB/GYN doctor, which is the medical specialty that deals with the care of women's reproductive health, including pregnancy and childbirth.

Obstetricians provide care to women during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, while gynecologists focus on the health of the female reproductive system, including the ovaries, uterus, vagina, and breasts. OB/GYN doctors are trained to provide medical and surgical care for a wide range of conditions related to women's reproductive health.

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