There are a few ways to get pregnant. Knowing your fertility and ovulation patterns helps increase your chances. Your doctor can help you plan a healthy pregnancy.
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. To find your best birth control match, explore different birth control methods and visit your nearest Planned Parenthood health center.