How Long Does it Take to Get Pregnant After Sex?
If you are TTC, you know the drill: have sex with your partner, wait until you’ve missed a period, and then take a pregnancy test to find out whether or not you’ve conceived.
But what is actually going on inside of your body during this waiting period? When do you actually become pregnant?
In this article, we’ll be answering some of the most common questions about how long it takes to get pregnant after having sex, what’s happening inside your body biologically, and what types of early symptoms you may experience. We’ll also let you know the best time to take a pregnancy test and when you should make an appointment with your doctor.
How long does it take to get pregnant after sex?
On average, it can take up to 10 days to get pregnant after having sex. This is because it takes up to 6 days for the sperm to travel to the egg and fertilize it. It then takes an additional 3 to 4 days for the fertilized egg to implant itself in the uterine lining. Pregnancy officially begins once implantation is complete.
How long on average does it take for a woman to get pregnant?
Pregnancy charity Tommy’s estimates that among women under the age of 40 who have regular unprotected sex, more than 8 out of 10 will conceive within one year and 9 out of 10 will conceive within two years. The odds are even better for younger individuals, with one study finding that among women aged 19 to 26, approximately 92% will conceive within one year and 98% will conceive within 2 years.
As a rule of thumb, doctors often recommend speaking with a fertility specialist if you are:
- Under the age of 35 and still haven’t conceived after at least one year of trying or
- Over the age of 35 and still haven’t conceived after at least 6 months of trying
If you need help navigating the world of fertility specialists, check out our article 7 Steps to Help Choose the Right Fertility Provider for You.
How long does it take the sperm to reach the egg?
Of the 40 to 150 million sperm ejaculated into your vagina, only around 100 will actually make it to the vicinity of your egg. How long this journey takes can vary, with some sperm reaching the egg within 30 minutes while others can take days to reach it.
Are there symptoms when the sperm and egg meet?
When the sperm and egg meet, the fertilization process begins. This process can take up to 24 hours, and unfortunately, there are no symptoms that you need to be aware of.
We know that it may be tempting to think that any small cramp or headache could be a sign of your egg being fertilized, but that is most likely not the case. Instead, try to relax and avoid overanalyzing potential symptoms and scenarios. Stress is a major hindrance to getting pregnant, and it is absolutely crucial to remain stress-free during this time.
How long after sex does implantation occur?
Once your partner’s sperm has traveled to your egg and fertilized it, it must then travel to your uterus and implant itself into your uterine lining. The entire implantation process can take up to four days. Once implantation occurs, your body will begin to produce key pregnancy hormones that will help to sustain early pregnancy. This includes hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG).
When do pregnancy symptoms begin?
According to research and personal anecdotes, it is possible to experience pregnancy symptoms as early as implantation. On average, implantation should occur around 6-10 days past ovulation (DPO). One of the most common symptoms associated with implantation is implantation cramps which may also be accompanied by light spotting.
However, it’s important to remember that every single individual and pregnancy is different. This means that while some individuals may experience very early pregnancy symptoms, others may not notice until their first missed period.
If you find yourself panicking over not being able to “feel” implantation – don’t worry. Only around 30% of pregnant individuals actually experience implantation cramping. The majority will not notice that they are pregnant until their first missed period, and many others will not notice any early pregnancy symptoms until 6 to 8 weeks after conception.
What are the early symptoms of pregnancy before a missed period?
Again, you may not notice any early pregnancy symptoms before your missed period – and that’s perfectly normal! However, if you pay close attention to your body, you may be able to notice certain “clues”. While these symptoms are not definitive of pregnancy, it’s still important to be aware of them.
Raised basal body temperature
Once implantation occurs, your body ramps up the production of several key pregnancy hormones that are crucial to the early development of your embryo. As these hormones surge and fluctuate, this can cause your basal body temperature (BBT) to rise slightly. If you track your BBT regularly, you may notice this slight increase when charting your temperature in your diary.
Heightened sense of smell
An estimated two-thirds of pregnant individuals experience a more heightened sense of smell (also known as hyperosmia) while pregnant, and you may even notice this symptom before your first missed period! Again, changing hormone levels are to blame, with elevated estrogen levels often named as the culprit.
Fluctuating hormone levels can also lead to increased blood flow. And this increase in blood flow can cause the breasts to feel more tender, sensitive, and even swollen. You may also notice changes to your nipples – for example, your areolas may darken and/or grow in size.
Another very early sign of pregnancy is implantation bleeding, which simply looks like light bleeding or spotting. This can occur when the fertilized egg implants itself on the uterine lining. Not everyone experiences implantation bleeding, and many mistake it for the start of their period.
Creamier cervical mucus
In addition to light bleeding or spotting, you may also notice that your vaginal discharge appears creamier than normal. This type of discharge, often referred to as leukorrhea, is completely harmless and is caused by elevated estrogen levels. In terms of color, leukorrhea can be milky white, off-white, or clear. Its texture is usually thin and stretchy, and it will not have a strong odor.
Last but not least, mood swings are another common early symptom of pregnancy. Again, all of the early pregnancy hormones surging through your body can cause you to feel easily fatigued, irritated, excited, tearful, and everything in between! Don’t worry – your body will adjust and your emotions will feel less volatile after the first trimester.
When can you take a pregnancy test?
The wait between sex and taking a pregnancy test can feel like a lifetime. However, it’s important to wait and only take a pregnancy test when the time is right. This avoids the potential disappointment that can come with getting a false-positive or a false-negative result.
So when can you take a pregnancy test?
According to science and medical professionals, you should wait until the first day of your next missed period before taking a pregnancy test. This gives your body plenty of time to produce enough hCG to be detected by an at-home pregnancy test.
In some cases, you may be able to test as early as 12 days past ovulation (12 DPO). However, you will need to have been meticulously tracking your cycle and ovulation patterns in order to estimate this day precisely. Not only that, but hCG can still be too low to be detected by a pregnancy test at this time – so don’t be discouraged if you take a test and see a negative result at 12 DPO.
For more information on the science behind when to take a pregnancy test, check out our article When to Take a Pregnancy Test Based on Science and Ovulation.
For more information about hCG pregnancy tests, check out our article hCG Pregnancy Tests: Are They Accurate & How to Read Results.
When to see a doctor
You should book an appointment with your doctor as soon as you find out that you are pregnant. This initial appointment will help to ensure that your pregnancy starts off on the right track.
At this appointment, your doctor will likely measure things like your height, weight, and blood pressure to determine the risk level of your pregnancy. They may also take a blood test.
Other things that you can discuss include:
- Your medical and pregnancy history
- The types of antenatal classes available to you
- Which foods to avoid/incorporate while pregnant
- The types of prenatal vitamins to take
Your doctor will also be able to answer any questions you may have about your pregnancy and what to expect.