Getting pregnant can be harder than you think—here’s why

Medically reviewed by Neka Miller, PhD on July 15, 2021. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Deciding to start a family is one of the most exciting steps that you can take with your partner. However, while the process can seem fairly straightforward, for some people getting pregnant can actually be more challenging than you might think. So why is getting pregnant so difficult for some?

From a woman’s ovarian reserve to a man’s sperm health, the reasons can vary. Keep reading to learn more about these and other reasons why conceiving may be more difficult than anticipated.

It Takes Time

While there are certainly couples who get pregnant after trying just one time, the reality is that most couples do not conceive right away. About 80 percent of couples get pregnant after six months of trying; roughly 90 percent of couples will conceive after a full year of trying.

There is no set-in-stone timeline for getting pregnant. It’s important to try regularly for at least a year before you get help from a fertility specialist.

It Takes Timing

Timing is everything when it comes to a woman’s fertility and getting pregnant. While it can seem as simple as introducing a sperm cell to an egg, there is a lot more going on. Your chances of getting pregnant are at their highest when you are ovulating and the days immediately prior, known as the fertility window or fertile days.

Ovulation refers to the process of the ovaries releasing a mature egg. That egg is fertile for up to one day, and sperm cells can live in the uterus and fallopian tube for about five days. This means that your average fertility window lasts about six days (the five days prior to ovulation and the day of ovulation).

Remember that this is merely when your chances of getting pregnant are at their highest. You can ostensibly get pregnant at any point of the month. While the chance is low, it’s even possible to get pregnant during your period. Enjoying a healthy sex life where you have sex at least three times per week is a good way to increase your chances and build up a healthy relationship with your partner.

Recent Birth Control

Birth control is a common part of modern living, and many people use it beyond just preventing conception. Birth control can help to reduce the side effects of menstruation, keep hormones under control, and potentially even prevent acne.

If you’ve been using birth control for any reason, immediately quitting won’t instantly eliminate the contraceptive chemicals from your body. So, if you just went off birth control and are wondering, “How fertile am I?” know that many women may take at least six months after quitting birth control before they even start having regular menstrual cycles. More regular cycles also mean more regular ovulation, so you may have to wait after quitting birth control before you can even expect to conceive.

Related: How to increase your chances of getting pregnant

Sperm Health

While a single person may carry the baby, getting pregnant still requires two parties. Far too many people blame infertility or fertility problems on the woman and her ovaries, but male fertility and a man’s sperm health are just as important to the equation. Male infertility, low sperm count, poor sperm motility, and abnormal sperm morphology all contribute to poor sperm quality and a reduced risk of conception.

Stress and Pressure

It can be annoying to hear, but many couples end up conceiving once they stop worrying so much about it. There is some science to that. Stress can have an immense impact on your health. Cortisol, the main stress hormone, can negatively affect ovulation or even disrupt regular menstrual cycles entirely. Excess stress can also reduce sperm count and quality.

Putting too much pressure on unexplained infertility and the procreative aspects of sex can also cause active harm to your relationship with your partner. Sex can and should be fun and enjoyable for all parties involved, whether you are trying to conceive or not.

The fact is, there are so many factors involved with pregnancy. If you have been trying to get pregnant for at least a year with no luck and suspect you might have fertility issues, it may be worth seeing a fertility treatment specialist with your partner for an infertility evaluation and consider trying an at-home fertility test for women.

Potential signs and symptoms of diminished ovarian reserve

Why some women have a low egg count

"How fertile am I?"


1. Infertility FAQs. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. URL. Accessed July 15, 2021.

2. Getting pregnant. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed July 15, 2021.

3. Birth control pills for acne? Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed July 15, 2021.

4. Birth control pill FAQ: Benefits, risks and choices. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed July 15, 2021.

5. Male infertility. Mayo Clinic. URL. Accessed July 15, 2021.

6. Ilacqua A, Izzo G, Emerenziani GP, Baldari C, Aversa A. Lifestyle and fertility: the influence of stress and quality of life on male fertility. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2018;16(1):115. Published 2018 Nov 26. doi:10.1186/s12958-018-0436-9

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