How Long Should It Take to Conceive Naturally?

We asked a fertility doctor how many months you should spend trying to conceive naturally before seeing a reproductive specialist. His answer: It depends on your age and medial history. Read more details here.

Text, Font, Pink, Line, Magenta,
(Image credit: Hearst Owned)

Either six months or a year, depending on your age. “The general rule is that if you are under 35 years old and have been trying to conceive for one year or you are older than 35 and have been trying for six months without success, then it’s time to see a specialist,” says Aaron K. Styer, M.D., reproductive endocrinologist and co-medical director of CCRM Boston. Trying to conceive (or TTC in internet-speak) means having sex without birth control during the timeframe of ovulation.

Surprised? You're in the majority. According to an original survey Marie Claire conducted in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 55 percent of Millennial women believe it should take just five months (or fewer!) to get pregnant.

Of course, that timing is just a guideline; your personal medial history may mean you want to talk to a doctor sooner. For example, if you’ve had a miscarriage within your year or six months of trying, that’s perfectly normal—in fact, approximately one in four pregnancies end in miscarriage. But if you have more than one miscarriage during this timeframe, it’s a good idea to go ahead and see a specialist so you can rule out issues that cause recurrent miscarriages—which include a range of ailments, including autoimmune disorders, PCOS, diabetes, and uterine anomalies—to make sure those factors aren’t hindering your ability to get pregnant.

Those aren’t the only people who might want to book an appointment with a fertility specialist. Dr. Styer explains that if a woman has had irregular or painful periods, a history of abdominal or pelvic surgery, or has previously had more than one miscarriage, then she might want to see a reproductive endocrinologist before trying to conceive on her own.

The same goes for men who already know they have a history of low sperm count, poor sperm motility (e.g. the sperm do not swim or move quickly), or abnormal sperm morphology (i.e. the shape of a man’s sperm cells are irregular).

So if you’re, say, 29 and have been trying without success for eight months, don’t freak out yet. Give it a little more time. (That said, if you think it’s time to call a specialist, call one. That’s what they’re there for.)

When choosing your fertility specialist, Dr. Styer recommends doctors who, first and foremost, have solid training under their belt (five years of practice after completing a fellowship in infertility treatment and assessment), and board certifications in both obstetrics and gynecology and reproductive endocrinology and infertility.

Need to whittle down the field of candidates? Look for someone who is “a known local and national expert in infertility”—you’ll find their name as the author of peer-reviewed publications, citation in periodicals, interviewed in articles about infertility and its treatment, and participation in lectures and education forums on their specialty.

But most importantly, he says, look for someone with “a reputation for being responsive and transparent with patients and sensitive to the stressors of infertility.” Your doctor is both your teammate and coach in navigating the world of infertility and its treatment, so be sure to pick someone who has both the credentials to help you tackle your situation knowledgeably and the personality to help you see your way through the ups and downs of the process.

The Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology (SART) publishes the success rates of all member clinics, which you can search by zip code, then compare to national averages.

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.