Pregnancy commonly occurs through unprotected vaginal intercourse. When a man ejaculates into the vagina, the sperm can move through the cervix (or neck of the womb) and the uterus and then into the fallopian tube. If a woman has ovulated (released an egg) a day or two before or after the arrival of the sperm, one of the sperm may fertilize the egg which results in pregnancy. The cells of the fertilised egg then divide rapidly to become an embryo. The embryo takes about a week to travel along the fallopian tube before it attaches to the wall of the uterus (womb) to develop into a foetus and finally a baby. The whole process takes forty weeks (about nine months) from the woman’s last menstrual period.
For successful reproduction it is necessary to have quality sperm, the egg must be released at the right time, the fallopian tubes and lining of the uterus must be healthy and a woman’s hormones need to be at optimum levels in order to release the egg, prepare the endometrium (lining of the uterus) and support the pregnancy until the placenta (the afterbirth) develops and takes over this role.
Pregnancy can also be achieved with assisted reproductive methods which do not involve sexual intercourse.
How long does it take to get pregnant?
Pregnancy could occur every time there is unprotected intercourse. In general, a healthy fertile couple has a good chance of getting pregnant with in a year of trying but this will vary between couples. Having unprotected sexual intercourse about three times per week particularly around the time of ovulation will increase the chance of conception.
Most women have a good chance of becoming pregnant in the first 12 months of trying. However there are many factors, including age, which may impact on fertility. It is a myth that infertility is always a “woman’s problem.” About one third of infertility cases are due to problems with the man (male factors); one third are due to problems with the woman (female factors) and other cases are due to a combination of both or to unknown causes.
Urine and blood tests
The detection of a hormone (hCG) in blood or urine is the basis of all pregnancy tests. This hormone is released into the blood stream after the embryo implants, an event that occurs about 1-2 weeks after ovulation. Early in a pregnancy the concentration of hCG rises rapidly and this fact is sometimes used to monitor a developing pregnancy. The normal range of hCG is quite wide and is not useful in estimating how advanced a pregnancy might be. There are different types of pregnancy tests and although most are quite accurate they can sometimes be incorrect especially if the test is done too early.
An ultrasound is an examination that can be done through the vagina or the abdomen and uses sound waves to create an image of the inside of your body. An ultrasound can detect a pregnancy at about 5 weeks (3 weeks after ovulation) and can be used to date a pregnancy when a woman has a history of irregular periods or is uncertain of when her last normal period commenced.
Learn about staying healthy during your pregnancy.