If you are trying to get pregnant, it can be difficult to figure out the best time to try to conceive. A women’s menstrual cycle can change from month-to-month making it difficult to know the days that you are ovulating. Below we will attempt to shed light on your ovulation cycle and how you can target the days you are most likely to get pregnant.
Many women are surprised to discover later in life that you are not able to get pregnant at any time of the month. In fact, there are only a few days during the menstrual cycle in which pregnancy is possible and that is during the time of ovulation.
When a mature egg is released from the ovary, ovulation occurs. The egg moves down the fallopian tube, where it can be fertilized. When the egg is released, if sperm are present, conception can occur. The three days leading up to and including ovulation represent the best chance for conception to happen.
The egg and sperm are only alive for a short time (sperm longer than eggs), and they need to come together at the right time in order for pregnancy to occur. Starting as early as twelve hours after ovulation, pregnancy may no longer be an option in that specific cycle, as the egg is no longer in the fallopian tube.
Know When You Are Ovulating
Knowing when you are ovulating allows you to time when you have sex which increases your chances of getting pregnant. If you are going through the IVF process, knowing when ovulation is occurring is just as important.
First Day of Your Cycle
Start out by understanding the length of your menstrual cycle. Record the first day of your period — the day you start bleeding — as day number one. Keep track of the number of days until you start bleeding again. That is the length of your menstrual cycle. Most women typically fall within twenty-eight days for a cycle length, though some cycles are as short as twenty-one days, while others are as long as thirty-five days.
Ovulation generally occurs about halfway through the menstrual cycle. So if your cycle lasts 28 days, ovulation is usually going to occur around day 14. Cycles can vary depending on a number of factors, including stress levels, nutrition, health, and other lifestyle factors.
Physical Signs of Ovulation
There are a few physical signs to look out for to predict ovulation. These include:
- Rise in body temperature (typically half a degree to 1 degree)
- Breast tenderness
- Feeling bloated
- Cramps in your side
- Light vaginal spotting
In addition, if there are higher levels of LH (luteinizing hormone), this is a good indicator for ovulation. This can be tested using an at-home ovulation kit.
Other Ways to Calculate Ovulation
Understanding and listening to your body are the best ways to determine the right times to have sex to increase the chances of getting pregnant.
Keep in mind, though, that if you’re using body temperature as an indicator, when you see that spike in temperature, ovulation has already happened. Give yourself time to chart out these changes as they occur so that you can really get a good sense for the timing of your ovulation. Using an ovulation calculator or ovulation calendar can help.
An ovulation calculator estimates the likelihood of ovulation on certain days in your cycle. It can help you to identify the most fertile days along the way. Many of these ovulation calculators are available in the iphone app store, allowing you to track your ovulation on your phone.
The calculator works by using the first day and the last day of your last period, along with the total length of your cycle, to give you a range of days when you might release an egg. Having sex in this range could increase your chance of pregnancy.
Peak fertility days are the two most fertile days in the fertility window. These are the days before ovulation starts and the day that ovulation begins.
Ovulation calendars can also help you to estimate how likely the possibility of ovulation is on specific days in your cycle, identifying the most fertile days. The ovulation calendar considers the first day of your last period and the total length of your cycle to leave you with a range of days in which pregnancy could occur.
In reality, there is no difference in these tools. They are essentially the same in the way that they work. For some, though, it is easier to use a physical calendar, rather than an online tool, to chart information and to have a visual representation. This is especially helpful when you’re trying to keep track of things like body temperature and the start and end times of your cycle.
Keep in mind that everyone is different. There are no two women with the same ovulation cycles or menstrual cycles. Again, there are factors to consider that impact changes in your cycle. In short, there is no method that can provide one hundred percent accuracy for fertility.
Tracking Irregular Periods
If you are having trouble consistently calculating your period’s onset within a day or two, you might be experiencing irregular periods. If you have irregular cycles, these methods might seem frustrating or more confusing.
Irregular periods make it difficult to track ovulation and the best times to have sex in order to get pregnant. Talk with your doctor about your medical history, your lifestyle, and any medications that you might be taking, as they can impact your cycle and the accuracy of an ovulation calendar or an ovulation calculator.
By charting your cycles, you can spot patterns in the ways that your cycles flow. This is also good information to share with your gynecologist or fertility specialist. For more information see Missing a Period – What Does it Mean?.