Trying to Get Pregnant
Childbirth Connection

When should I go off birth control if I want to get pregnant?

When to go off your birth control method to get pregnant depends on the kind of birth control you’ve been using.

  • If you have been using barrier methods of contraception, such as condoms and diaphragms, you may get pregnant as soon as you stop using them.
  • If you have been using hormone-based methods such as the Pill, implants or injections, it may take a few months before your periods become regular and you can get pregnant.
  • If you have been using an intrauterine device (IUD), you will need to have it removed before trying to get pregnant.
  • If you have been using natural family planning, you may get pregnant as soon as you change the timing of your sexual activity.
Remember that you may not get pregnant immediately after going off birth control. In fact, only about 20 percent of women who want to become pregnant in a given month actually conceive.

What if I’m having trouble getting pregnant?

If a couple is having sex regularly, most women will conceive within six months and almost all women will become pregnant in one year. If you do not become pregnant after a year, you should visit your health care provider. Only after a year of trying to conceive do medical personnel consider you to be “having trouble getting pregnant.”

Having trouble getting pregnant may be due to timing, stress, age, premature withdrawal or pulling out by the partner, reduced vaginal lubrication or more complicated medical factors, such as infertility issues. A pre-pregnancy checkup can help you find out if any of these factors might affect your ability to get pregnant and save you and your partner unnecessary stress.

Timing: Knowing your body, particularly when you ovulate, helps you plan conception. Ovulation is when your hormones and egg are ready for fertilization. The best time to have sex resulting in conception is immediately before, during or after ovulation. Once you know you’re ovulating, you have a 24-48-hour window of opportunity to become pregnant. Remember, sperm can live 24-72 hours in the woman’s reproductive system, so conception can happen if you have sex a day or two before or after ovulation.

Here are ways you can tell when you are ovulating:

  • Mittleschmertz, a slight cramping, midway between periods.
  • Increases in your basal body temperature (BBT), measured by taking your temperature every morning when you wake up before you get out of bed. Charting your BBT, day after day, can show when you are ovulating because your temperature will rise.
  • Sticky and watery vaginal cervical mucus. Usually this mucus is minimal and clear, but when it resembles uncooked egg whites, it indicates ovulation. The more you can stretch it between your thumb and index finger, the closer you are to ovulation.
  • The amount of luteinizing hormone in your urine (there is a surge right before ovulation), measured by an ovulation predictor kit.

As a woman over 35, are there any special issues I need to consider?

Most women over 35 have successful pregnancies, minimal pregnancy complications and healthy babies. However, there are some changes and risks:

  • Your fertility (the ability to conceive) naturally changes with age. As you approach age 35 and steadily after that into your 40s, the number of eggs in your ovaries and those eggs’ ability to become fertilized and grow into embryos declines.
  • The older you are when you become pregnant, the greater your risk of having a miscarriage (pregnancy ends during the first 20 weeks); complications during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, high blood pressure and placenta abruption (when the placenta detaches from the uterine wall); or a baby with chromosomal problems resulting in birth defects.
If you are concerned, see your health care provider. While some risks increase with age, being in good overall health and having healthy behaviors will go a long way toward supporting a healthy pregnancy. Age shouldn’t prevent you from trying to get pregnant.

Related partner resources

Creating Your Reproductive Life Plan

Getting Pregnant Infertility