When you’re ready to get pregnant, you may want it to happen right away. But the reality is most people don’t conceive on the first try (even if itseems like they do). So, how many cycles does it typically take? How does your age factor in? And how long can you expect to wait if you’re using alternative methods?
In this article, we’ll explore the average time it takes people to get pregnant from four common methods of conceiving: heterosexual intercourse, intravaginal insemination (IVI), intrauterine insemination (IUI), and in vitro fertilization (IVF). No matter which method you plan to use to build your family, we hope having the right information will help make your journey to parenthood a little smoother.
Factors affecting your fertility
When it comes to fertility, a lot of factors come into play, but age has the most significant impact. Fertility isn’t as simple as it may seem. Many people think that as long as they’re having periods it means they’re fertile. And that if their mother went into menopause at 50, then they have until they are 50 to conceive. Unfortunately, fertility doesn’t quite work like that and eggs become less viable as you age. Females are born with all the eggs they will ever have in their lifetime, but the number and quality of those eggs decline with age. Sperm count and mobility are also impacted as you get older.
Fertility is shaped by other things as well. For starters, health plays a big role, and conditions like ovulation disorders or endometriosis greatly affect our ability to conceive. Sometimes, our medications for other health conditions can affect our fertility. Then, there are abnormalities in the structure of the uterus, cervix, or testicles and issues like damage or blockage in the fallopian tubes.
Lifestyle choices are also key players. What we eat, whether we maintain a healthy body weight, habits like smoking or drinking alcohol — all of these can influence fertility. Being too stressed can have an impact too. Lastly, there's the environment around us. Exposure to certain toxins can also play a part in our fertility health.
How many cycles does it take to conceive with heterosexual Intercourse?
Knowing how long it typically takes to conceive can be helpful, especially if you're trying to get a feel for what to expect. But keep in mind, these are just average figures. Your experience will be shaped by your personal mix of factors, making your journey totally unique.
For those who are young, healthy, and not facing any fertility challenges, getting pregnant can happen relatively quickly. On average, it takestwo to three menstrual cycles to conceive, and around30% of people will conceive within the first month. However, it’s worth noting that it can take 6 cycles or even up to a year for some folks! And that can be completely normal. If you are under the age of 35, most doctors (and insurance companies, if they cover infertility) will consider other fertility treatments like IUI and IVF after one year without success. If you are over 35, that time period shortens.
Now, here’s where things get tricky.
We know that age plays a major role in our ability to get pregnant. For people aged 35-39, the chance of conceiving spontaneously is about half that of women aged 19-26. Age also affects howlong it may take to get pregnant. In a study of almost 3,000 couples, 62% of people aged 28–30 got pregnant within six months compared to 28% aged 40–45. Within a year, the percentage of people aged 40-45 who conceived increased to 56%.
So, how long will it take you? It’s impossible to tell. But one helpful thing you can do to try to speed up the time it takes, no matter your age, is totrack your cycle.
The only way to get pregnant is to have sperm and egg meet, but not everyone ovulates at the same time — or even in a predictable pattern. Tracking your cycle can help you identify your most fertile days, increasing your chances of conception.
Now, if you’ve been trying to conceive for a while, or if intercourse isn’t an option for you, you might be exploring additional ways to make a family. And if you’ve been trying to conceive with intercourse for a year with no success, definitely check in with your doctor. Next, let’s take a look at how many cycles you may expect to try other methods.
Intravaginal Insemination (IVI)
Depending on your personal circumstances, you might be looking at intravaginal insemination to try to conceive.IVIis a great alternative to intercourse and is a do-it-yourself method typically performed at home. The IVI process involves placingsperm from a partner or donor into a specially-designed syringe, like theMosie (the first FDA Cleared at-home IVI insemination kit), and depositing that sperm near your cervix.
Sometimes changing the insemination variable can change everything. If intercourse isn’t working or isn’t an option, you may want to consider IVI. IVI may be helpful for people who ovulate who want to relieve the pressure from timed intercourse, aren’t able to have penetrative intercourse due to sexual dysfunction, or folks who are using donor sperm to try to conceive. It’s also a good option if you are facing a diagnosis like unexplained infertility and hoping to try one more thing at home, before moving on to more invasive or expensive fertility procedures.
When trying IVI, it is suggested to check in with your doctor if you haven’t found success within 6 cycles. Home insemination experts at Mosie Baby suggest trying IVI for 3 to 6 cycles. It is worth noting that success rates are similar to those with heterosexual intercourse, and there are IVI success stories from families where intercourse was not working. Similarly to heterosexual intercourse, age can have an impact on how long it can take to conceive with this method of conception.
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI)
IUI is a process that involves inserting washed sperm directly into the uterus using a catheter in a clinical setting. A fertility specialist usually does the procedure, but it can also be performed by a trained midwife.
With all methods of conception, timing is everything. Your doctor will want to perform the procedure as close to ovulation as possible to improve the chances of sperm reaching an egg.IUI bypasses the vagina and cervix, so it may be helpful for couples with sperm number and quality problems, or cervical mucus complications.
IUI has a success rate of around8-11%per cycle, with40% of peopleconceiving after six cycles. Using IUI in combination with fertility medications such asClomid, Letrozole, or injectable hormones increases the success rate by about15-25%.
For people aged 35 to 40 years old, the success rate of IUI with Clomid shifts to around7-9% per cycle, and for people over the age of 40, it’s about 1-4% per cycle. Interestingly, your odds of successfully conceiving increases with the number of attempts you make with IUI up until about six cycles.
In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)
In Vitro Fertilization is a powerful fertility treatment that involves removing eggs from the ovary, fertilizing those eggs with sperm in a lab to create embryos, and then carefully placing them into a person’s uterus. The process can be done with the birth parents’ eggs and sperm or with a donor egg or sperm.
IVF is most often used for people facing issues like blocked or damaged fallopian tubes, severe male infertility, or unexplained infertility that hasn’t responded to other treatments. It’s also an excellent path for LGBTQ+ people and single parents hoping to use a surrogate.
People younger than 35 have over a47%chance of conceiving on their first IVF cycle.
People ages 35 - 37 have a nearly 40.5% success rate, and people over 40 have an 8.2% likelihood of conceiving.
Embracing your unique fertility journey
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or confused about how long you might have to wait to get pregnant — especially when you might need to try some of these methods of conceiving multiple times.
Thankfully, with technology and our growing understanding of fertility, there is more hope than ever for people who wish to have a baby. While some might find success in the first few cycles, your journey may take longer. We’re rooting for you and hope you find your successful path soon.