Why it might take longer to get pregnant

There are a number of reasons why you might find that getting pregnant takes longer than you expect. 

One possible problem is that ovulation may not occur every month.

If you've recently stopped taking hormonal contraception, ovulation may be delayed or irregular for a short time.

If you've been using a contraceptive injection, ovulation may be delayed or irregular for up to a year.

If you're worried that you might not be ovulating, see your doctor.

Even if there are sperm waiting for the egg when you ovulate, you may not become pregnant in the first few months of trying.

Sometimes fertilisation does take place but the egg does not implant securely and is lost in the next period.

Your chances of becoming pregnant decrease as you get older as the quantity and quality of eggs deteriorate with age.

It can take longer and be more difficult to get pregnant if you are over 35. However, many women over 35 have healthy pregnancies and babies.

There may be a problem with the number or quality of your partner’s sperm.

Sperm production can be damaged by mumps, untreated sexually transmitted infections, injury to the testicles, excessive heat (such as hot baths), tight fitting underwear, alcohol, smoking or recreational drugs, or there may be unknown causes.

If you're worried that it's taking an unusually long time for you to conceive, there may be a problem your doctor could help you or your partner with.

Because some couples do take longer than others to conceive, many doctors prefer you to have been having sex without contraception for at least a year, 2–3 times a week, before referring you for fertility tests.

If you're over 35, or if you have any known medical or fertility problems, you may be referred for help after six months.

There are ways to help couples conceive if they're having problems getting pregnant. These will not always be successful, depending on the reasons for the infertility.

Do remember that:

  • around 80–90 out of 100 couples become pregnant within one year
  • around 95 out of 100 couples become pregnant within two years.

If you don’t get pregnant at once, you're not unusual and it doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a problem. Don’t be worried if you don’t get pregnant after several months of trying – this is normal.

Do go to your doctor for further help after trying for a year, or six months if you are 35 or over.

Some women do get pregnant but the pregnancy fails – this is called a miscarriage and is common. This can happen to women of any age. If this happens to you, there is a high chance you will be able to have a successful pregnancy in the future. However, some women who have a miscarriage, or more than one miscarriage, may require specialist help.

You can find out more information from your doctor, nurse or midwife, or by contacting the Miscarriage Association (tel: 01924 200799, www.miscarriageassociation.org.uk).

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This website can only give you general information. Our information about planning a pregnancy is based on evidence-guided research from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.

Contact your doctor, practice nurse or a contraception clinic if you're worried or unsure about anything.