I Want to Get Pregnant—Where Do I Start?

We talked to a fertility expert to find out when exactly you should start having sex to optimize your chances of getting pregnant naturally based on your ovulation (with tips on how to track it!).

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So you're ready to have a baby—congratulations! Here's how to optimize your chances of getting pregnant naturally:

If you're a woman with a male partner, the first step is to identify the time of the month when your ovaries release an egg, also known as ovulation, explains Aaron K. Styer, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist and co-medical director of CCRM Boston.

“You can easily predict your ovulation through commercial, over-the-counter kits that use urine to detect a specific hormone that signals the start of ovulation,” Dr. Styer offers, though he notes that you can also calculate the approximate time of ovulation without spending any money.

Typically, ovulation happens fourteen days before the predicted onset of your next period. If you get your period at regular intervals, which can be tracked with something as simple as a calendar, then you can work backwards to figure out the window in which you will be ovulating.

Dr. Styer recommends that couples trying to conceive have sex every day or every other day (your call) starting four days before ovulation until the day after. (Typically, an egg is able to be fertilized for approximately 24 hours after release.)

If you’re not having regular periods—something that can look different for every woman, but is generally defined as a period that lasts the same duration month after month and happens on a set cycle, whether that’s every 24 days or every 34 days or anything in between, according to Dr. Styer—are a single woman without a male partner, are a female couple in need of a sperm donor or a male couple interested in learning more about your family building options, go ahead and book an appointment with a gynecologist or a fertility specialist (a.k.a. a reproductive endocrinologist) to start assessing your fertility and discussing your treatment options.

In addition to maintaining a generally healthy lifestyle (eating right, exercising regularly, and not smoking), Dr. Styer tells us that acupuncture, mind-body therapy (like meditation), and dietary supplements (like a prenatal multivitamin, vitamin D3, Omega 3 fatty acid, and Coenzyme Q10) are all measures that can be taken to help keep your body—and mind—healthy and strong before and during pregnancy.

Still have questions about getting pregnant? Check out our fertility FAQ here.

Editors’ note: We use the terms “woman” and “female” in this article to refer to people with internal reproductive organs; however we understand that not everyone with internal reproductive organs identifies as a woman or a female. We use the terms “man” and “male” to refer to people with external reproductive organs; however we understand that not everyone with external reproductive organs identifies as a man or a male.

Jennifer Gerson

Jennifer Gerson is a Maggie Award-winning journalist whose reporting on reproductive rights, women's health, and sexual violence regularly appears in Cosmopolitan, as well as The Guardian, Yahoo, Allure, Teen Vogue, Mic and other national publications.