Getting pregnant


  • If you think you’re pregnant, take a home pregnancy test. If it’s positive, call your provider to get a blood test to confirm that you’re pregnant.

  • If you’re having unprotected sex, you can get pregnant if you have sex any time from 5 days before to the day of ovulation.

  • Use the March of Dimes Ovulation Calendar to find out when you ovulate so you know when to have sex to try to get pregnant.

  • When you stop using birth control, the kind you use may affect how soon you can get pregnant.

  • If you’re having trouble getting pregnant, don’t give up! It may just take time. Talk to your provider if you’re worried that it’s taking too long.

How do you know when you’re pregnant?

You may be pregnant if: 

  • You miss your period. 
  • Your breasts are big and sore. The area around your nipples gets darker. 
  • You have to urinate (pee) a lot.
  • You feel sick to your stomach or throw up. 
  • You feel tired all the time. 
  • You feel moody. 
  • You feel bloated. This means your body feels full or like it’s swollen. 

If you have any of these signs and symptoms and you think you may be pregnant, take a home pregnancy test and call your health care provider. Your provider can give you a blood test and a physical exam to confirm that you’re pregnant. Home pregnancy tests can give you a false-positive result — this means the test says you’re pregnant but you’re really not. This is why it’s a good idea to see your provider to make sure you really are pregnant. 

How does pregnancy happen?

Each month your ovaries release an egg about 14 days before the first day of your period. This is called ovulation. When you and your partner have unprotected sex around the time of ovulation, his sperm swim to meet your egg. Unprotected sex means you don’t use any kind of birth control to help prevent pregnancy. 

When the egg and sperm meet, it’s called fertilization. The fertilized egg (also called an embryo) moves through your fallopian tubes and attaches to the wall of your uterus where it grows and develops into a baby. When the embryo attaches to the uterus, it’s called implantation. 

You can get pregnant if you have unprotected sex any time from 5 days before and the day of ovulation. The more often you have sex during this time, the more likely you are to get pregnant. Your egg is fertile (can become an embryo) for 12 to 24 hours after ovulation. Your partner’s sperm can live inside you for up to 72 hours after you have sex. 

How do you know when you ovulate?

You can get pregnant up to 5 days before and the day of ovulation. Here are some ways to help you figure out when you're ovulating:

  • March of Dimes Ovulation Calendar. Use our tool to help you figure out when you ovulate. 
  • Basal body temperature. Your basal body temperature is your temperature when your body’s at rest. Use a basal body thermometer to take your temperature every day before you get out of bed. This is a thermometer that can measure really small changes in your temperature. For most women, your temperature rises slightly (0.5 to 1°F) when you ovulate. The 2 to 3 days before your temperature rises are the best days to try to get pregnant. Taking your basal body temperature can tell you when ovulation has already happened, but if you track it over a few months, you may be able to predict when you’ll ovulate in the future. Note that things other than ovulation, like having a fever, drinking alcohol or getting a good night’s sleep, can affect your temperature. 
  • Cervical mucus. Pay attention to the mucus in your vagina. It increases and gets thinner, clearer and slippery just before ovulation. For the best chances of getting pregnant, have unprotected sex on the days when your mucus is the most thin, slippery and clear. Another way to check cervical mucus is to check it twice every day. If it increases for 2 days in a row, it’s a good time to have unprotected sex to try to get pregnant. 
  • Ovulation prediction kit. Use this kit to test your urine for a substance called luteinizing hormone (also called LH). This hormone increases each month during ovulation and causes the ovaries to release eggs. You know you’re ovulating when your LH increases.

If you’ve stopped using birth control, how long should you wait before trying to get pregnant? 

There’s no right or wrong amount of time to wait. You can start trying to get pregnant right away. But the kind of birth control you used may affect how soon you start ovulating. For example:

  • If you were using birth control pills, you may begin ovulating about 2 weeks after you stop taking them. But your periods may not be regular for a month or 2 after. Your period is regular if it starts the same number of days apart each month. 
  • If you were taking Depo-Provera, it can take 10 months or more after your last shot before you ovulate regularly. Depo-Provera is a birth control shot that you get every 3 months. 
  • If you had an implant or an intrauterine device (also called an IUD), you can start trying to get pregnant as soon as you have it removed. An implant is a tiny rod inserted under the skin of your upper arm. It releases a hormone called progestin that prevents you from releasing eggs. An IUD is a t-shaped piece of plastic that’s placed in your uterus to prevent you from getting pregnant.  
  • If you were using a barrier method of birth control, you can start trying to get pregnant as soon as you stop using it. A barrier method keeps a man’s sperm from reaching a woman’s egg, and some help protect against sexually transmitted infections (also called STIs). An STI is an infection, like HIV and syphilis, you can get by having unprotected sex with someone who’s infected. Barrier methods include dental dams and male and female condoms. A dental dam is a square piece of rubber.

Are there things your partner can do to help improve his sperm?

Yes. Your partner may be able to make his sperm healthier and to make more sperm to help you get pregnant. Here’s what he can do:

  • Get treated for health conditions, like diabetes, kidney problems and being obese, that may affect his sperm. Diabetes is when you have too much sugar (called glucose) in your blood. Being obese means you have an excess amount of body fat and your body mass index (also called BMI) is 30 or higher. To find out your BMI, go to
  • Talk to his provider about any medicines he takes. This includes prescription and over-the-counter (also called OTC) medicine, supplements and herbal products. A prescription medicine is medicine a health care provider says you can take to treat a health condition. You need a prescription (order) from a provider to get the medicine. OTC medicines, like pain relievers and cough syrup, are medicines you can buy without a prescription. Supplements, like vitamin B and C, are products you take to make up for certain nutrients you don’t get enough of in food. Herbal products, like Ginkgo biloba or green tea, are made from herbs (plants that are used in cooking and medicine). Ask your partner to talk to his provider to make sure the medicine he takes doesn’t affect his sperm.  
  • Stop smoking, drinking alcohol and using drugs that can affect his fertility (his ability to get you pregnant). Street drugs that can affect your partner’s fertility include marijuana and cocaine. Anabolic steroids also can affect his fertility. An anabolic steroid is a man-made form of testosterone (a male hormone). Providers may prescribe steroids to treat certain hormone problems and diseases, like cancer and AIDS. Some athletes and bodybuilders use steroids to improve physical performance and appearance. If your partner needs help to quit smoking, drinking alcohol or using certain drugs, encourage him to talk to his provider.
  • Talk to his provider about chemicals that can affect fertility, including metals (like lead) and radiation and chemotherapy for cancer.

What if you’re trying to get pregnant, but you don't get pregnant right away?

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for 3 or 4 months, keep trying. It may just take more time. You may want to think about fertility treatment (medical treatment to help you get treatment) if:

  • You’re younger than 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for more than a year.
  • You’re older than 35 and have been trying to get pregnant for 6 months.

Your provider can give you and your partner some tests to help find out why you’re having trouble getting pregnant. If there’s a problem, there’s a good chance it can be treated. 

For more information

Last reviewed: June, 2017