The general principle of how to get pregnant is simple, but in reality, it can be a lot more complicated than simply having unprotected sex frequently. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant, you may be wondering what’s taking so long. If no other issues are present (such as not having viable sperm), getting pregnant is like many things in life: all about timing. The fertile window is pretty much the only time during your cycle that you can get pregnant; if you miss your fertile window, you miss your chance to get pregnant that cycle. If you need help with figuring out when you ovulate and how to find your fertile window, you’ve come to the right place! The fertile window is determined by the day you ovulate, so we will explain what you need to know about ovulation to maximize your chances of getting pregnant.
What is Ovulation?
Without any health conditions or drug interventions, ovulation normally happens once per month when a mature egg is released from the ovary. Every woman is born with millions of eggs, but only about 400 eggs actually go through ovulation (Nagourney 2013). Your body starts to mature an egg after menstruation and produce other hormones to thicken the lining of your uterus, which creates a sperm-friendly environment. The egg is released from the ovary and is swept along the fallopian tube. If sperm has made its way up the fallopian tube, the egg will be fertilized and travel down to the uterus, where it will implant. The egg only lives for about 24 hours (What to Expect), so if no sperm are around to fertilize the egg, the lining of your uterus is shed, and the cycle begins again.
Tracking Ovulation and Finding Your Fertile Window:
The fertile window is considered 6 days long, including the day of ovulation. This is because sperm live about 3-5 days inside a woman’s body (American Pregnancy Association), and your egg lives about 24 hours. But even within the fertile window, timing is important; generally, for the best chance of getting pregnant, unprotected sex needs to happen 2 days before ovulation (Graham 2002) so the sperm is in the fallopian tube to meet the egg when it’s released (USC Fertility).
Tracking ovulation has not historically been an easy task, but now we have tools and research available to help us identify this important event. If you have an irregular period, check out this blog Q&A with expert in women’s health, Dr. Apetkar. In the meantime, follow the steps below.
4 Steps to Help Find Your Fertile Window:
Download a period tracking app like Kindara and start tracking your cycle. This will enable you to record data on how long your period is, which will help identify your estimated fertile days. If you need to see your doctor, you will have this information handy to help with your care.
Keep an eye on your cervical fluid because it changes as your cycle progresses and can be a good indicator of where you are in your cycle. Generally your cervical fluid will become clear, slick, and slippery, which is often referred to as eggwhite cervical fluid due to its resemblance to egg whites. This is the most fertile cervical fluid and provides the best medium for sperm, but everyone is different and your cervical fluid may not get to the eggwhite stage (American Pregnancy Association).
Measure and record your basal body temperature (BBT) every morning at the same time before getting out of bed. Your BBT will rise the day after ovulation has occurred and should remain 3/10s of a degree higher than the previous 6 temperatures for 3 days to confirm ovulation (Weschler 2015). This will help identify if you are ovulating or not and can help guide you for the next month. You can also use it to compare your results with your ovulation predictor kit.
Purchase your choice of ovulation predictor product (LH sticks or saliva test). You can buy most ovulation predictor kits at grocery stores or online. Have these ready soon after your period ends; you may need to start testing earlier than you may think.
For more details about charting when trying to conceive, check out this resource. If you have questions or concerns about your cycle or are unsure if you are ovulating, contact your healthcare provider.
Can I Just Use an App to Predict my Fertile Window?
Although many apps and websites offer fertility predictions to help you conceive, these tend not to be accurate (Healthy Women), so if you rely on them to calculate your fertile window, you may miss it entirely. Ultimately, only you can measure your individual biological clues and be the judge of where you are in your cycle each day.