Nearly 60% of women say they wish they knew how long it would take to get pregnant before they started trying, new survey shows.

Woman with pregnancy test
People often underestimate how long it can take to conceive. (Getty Images)

It's easy to assume that you'll get pregnant whenever you want, but research has shown that isn't the reality for many women. Now a new survey finds that some are caught off-guard when conception isn't as seamless and easy as they'd hoped. The survey, which was commissioned by First Response in collaboration with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association, polled 1,000 American women who were actively trying to get pregnant in the last 12 months. The majority — 77% — said that they didn't think about their ability to conceive until after they decided to try for a baby. Nearly 70% said that they were worried about their ability to become pregnant, which became more intense the longer they tried to conceive. And nearly 60% said that they wish they knew how long it would take to get pregnant before they started trying.

Many said there was a tough emotional impact of trying to conceive as well. More than 60% of the women said they wished they knew in advance how emotional the journey would be, and 39% said they wished they knew how lonely they would feel.

Reproductive experts say these feelings are common. With that in mind, here's what you need to know about typical conception timelines, and when you should see a medical professional.

Conception is complicated and it's difficult to apply a one-size-fits-all timeline to everyone looking to get pregnant. However, in general, most healthy couples conceive within a year of trying, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Here's breakdown of how likely a woman is to get pregnant after a year of trying without reproductive assistance, according to age:

  • 20-24: 86%

  • 25-29: 78%

  • 30-34: 63%

  • 35-39: 52%

CCRM Fertility says these are the odds of getting pregnant each month without medical intervention, broken down by age:

  • 25: about 25%

  • 30: about 20%

  • 35: about 15%

  • 40: about 5%

Every person and fertility journey is different, but doctors generally look at a certain timeline when it comes to what's considered a normal range with conception. "If you are less than 35, most couples should be pregnant within 12 months of trying," Dr. Bana Kashani, an infertility specialist in Orange County, Calif., tells Yahoo Life. "If you are over 35, you should seek a consultation with a fertility specialist after six months of trying unsuccessfully."

But that means that you're having "regular, unprotected intercourse multiple days a week," and have predictable ovulation, along with no known abnormalities with your anatomy or your partner's anatomy, Dr. Asima Ahmad, co-founder of Carrot Fertility, tells Yahoo Life.

If you're having infrequent intercourse that's not timed to ovulation or have a health condition such as fibroids, polycystic ovary syndrome or vaginismus, the timeline may be different, Ahmad says.

This is a common issue, Dr. Tamar Gur, a reproductive psychiatrist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells Yahoo Life. "Sadly, so much of reproduction for a variety of political, emotional and societal reasons is just not spoken about," she says. "Because we don't talk about it, people think that if they have unprotected sex once, they might get pregnant. We really terrify women into thinking that one act of unprotected sex will lead to pregnancy every time."

While Gur emphasizes that women can get pregnant from having unprotected sex once, she also says that that is not often the case. "So imagine a woman's surprise if she's having unprotected sex several times a month and doesn't get pregnant," Gur says. Many women also "take measures to avoid pregnancy" for years, and can be surprised when they don't conceive when they're ready, Kashani says.

"This can make a woman feel like they are alone and that everyone else is getting pregnant before them, when in reality most couples don’t get pregnant when they first try to conceive and that is normal," she says.

Ahmad agrees. "Most of us were not educated on the fact that people may face challenges getting pregnant, that one can have a miscarriage or even what we should expect when it comes to menopause," she says.

When couples use reproductive assistance like IVF to get pregnant, it can also feel isolating, Gur says. "Women doing IVF for many years speak to loneliness being the most painful part of the process when, in fact, infertility is a common problem," she says.

If you're having trouble conceiving, Gur recommends speaking with an ob-gyn first. "If anything, you should see an ob-gyn before you're planning to conceive because they can talk to you about prenatal vitamins and other important things to do before you try to conceive," she says. "You want to make sure you're doing everything necessary to have a healthy start for your pregnancy." If you're not getting pregnant on a predicted timeline or if you have an underlying health condition, your ob-gyn will likely refer you to a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist.

"The reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist will do a comprehensive workup for you and your partner to determine the cause of your symptoms and/or infertility and then discuss personalized treatment options with you," Ahmad says.

But Kashani says you can also see a fertility specialist before you have difficulty conceiving. "Although there are suggested time frames about when to see a fertility specialist, you can see a doctor to discuss your fertility and future goal at any time point," she says. "There is no harm in initiating testing such as a blood work to check your fertility hormones, a pelvic ultrasound or a sperm test at any time point in your journey to conceive."

Kashani says that, ultimately, "the more information you have, the more empowered you are to be able to make choices about your fertility."

If you're starting to try to conceive, Gur recommends finding a good support system to help you along the way, as well as focusing on healthy, stress-relieving measures that work for you, like regular exercise, meditation and getting plenty of sleep. "This is a marathon, and trying to conceive is just the first leg of the race," she says.