When’s the best time to get pregnant? Here are a few tips to help you track your fertility:
Find your most fertile time
Fertility tracking is a great way to recognize your ovulation patterns and identify your most fertile time of the month.
The menstrual cycle explained
Normally, a woman’s menstrual cycles goes through three distinct phases, including the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase, and the luteal phase.
The follicular phase. Menstrual bleeding marks the first day of your menstrual cycle, and the first day of the follicular phase. Menstrual bleeding is the result of the uterus shedding its lining, along with the egg that failed to become fertilized during your last month’s cycle. During the follicular phase, follicles in your ovaries that contain tiny, unripe eggs, start to develop. One of these eggs will become the dominant egg and develop more quickly than the others. This egg will be released from the ovary during the next phase of the menstrual cycle, the ovulatory phase.
While the follicular phase is usually 10 to 14 days long, many factors can affect the phase including stress, travel, and health changes, causing it to last longer than two weeks. Also, some women naturally have a longer than average follicular phase every month.
The ovulatory phase. Once the follicular phase is complete and your dominant egg has matured, your body experiences a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH). Following this LH surge, the egg will burst out of its follicle, traveling out of the ovary and into the fallopian tube.
Once in the fallopian tube, it will be available to be fertilized by sperm. Fertilization can occur while the egg is alive during a brief 12 to 24-hour window of time. This window, called the ovulatory phase, marks your most fertile time of the month.
The luteal phase. The luteal phase follows ovulation. During the luteal phase, the follicle of the released egg begins to close, and your body releases another hormone called progesterone. Progesterone will help the egg implant in your uterus if it is fertilized.
If fertilization does not occur, progesterone levels will decrease, and menstrual bleeding will begin around two weeks after ovulation.
If fertilization does occur, the egg (now called an embryo) hatches and will dig its way into your uterine lining, as pregnancy begins. While the follicular phase varies widely, almost all women experience a 12 to 16-day luteal phase each month.
Planning sex for conception
According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM), women are likely to get pregnant if they have intercourse two days before their egg is released from its follicle. However, some women find themselves pregnant after having sex a week before ovulation, while other women become pregnant when sex occurs two days after ovulation.
If an egg can only survive for 12-24 hours, why is there such a long fertile window? Here’s why! Sperm can live up to five days, or maybe a bit longer, inside your body. If you have sex one week before you ovulate, and the sperm are still alive when your egg is released, pregnancy can occur.
On the other hand, since the egg can survive up to 24 hours after being released, pregnancy can occur even if sex takes place a day or two after ovulation. Most of the time, your fertile window includes the four days before ovulation and ovulation day.
To maximize your chances of conceiving, according to the ASRM, have sex daily, or every other day, during this fertile window. If your partner has a low sperm count he may want to avoid daily ejaculation to allow his sperm counts to replenish for conception. If this applies to you, a doctor can advise you in this situation.
To learn more about predicting ovulation, click here.
- American Pregnancy Association: Understanding Ovulation
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Age and Fertility: A Guide for Patients
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Optimizing Natural Fertility