"I received an urgent call from my wife to come home. 'Why?', I asked. She explained that it was the right time to conceive. I told her I could not come home and she started to cry. She insisted that I call the airlines back to see if I can get a flight home," explained Charles* to Priya CEO, Lauren Costantini.
"I was working 80/hours a week as President of a popular sportswear company and consequently, I traveled a lot. I had clients in Florida and I needed a break from several months of a grueling schedule. I had planned a long weekend away for some rare alone time to play golf and even borrowed a bike from a friend to do a long ride for the much needed R&R.
We were both 42 years old at the time and had been trying to conceive our third child to no avail. The first two took no time at all and this time my wife was watching her temperature carefully during her cycle. Right after I finished up some challenging meetings, I got that urgent call from my wife. She explained that there is only a 48-hour window to get pregnant. Who knew?
I told her changing my flight this late would cost big bucks. She urged me to call the airline and to ask them to rebook me. I was able to cancel my hotels & tee times with no additional costs, but the airlines told me the cost to rebook was $1200. The agent would not budge saying there were no free flights left. I called my wife back and told her it was $1200 minimum to come home. This was in the 1990s and that was a ton of money to us at the time. I told my wife I could not come home.
When I told her it wasn’t possible, she insisted through tears. She said that since I was a million milage flyer, surely they could figure something out. So I called United Airlines back and pushed hard and told the agent I needed a seat. She said no dice; 'it’s $1200.” So I said, 'I am going to give you an excuse the likes of which you have NEVER heard.' So she said,'Okay lay it on me, I'm curious. What's the emergency?' So I said, 'I need to get home because my wife is ovulating.'
At that the agent yelped in laughter and said, 'you are right, I've never heard that one before. Let me talk to my manager.' She put me on hold and got back on the line and told me they said, 'under the circumstances, we have found you a seat, but you need to pay the normal $100 change fee.' Then she said, 'have fun wink, wink. Good luck.'
I was home the next day and exactly 9 months later my son was born. That was the least romantic sex I have ever had. But the whole thing was worth it, of course."
We are so grateful that Charles* shared his trying to conceive story with us! His wife nailed it with timing her ovulation. Timing intercourse has been found to help couples reduce the time it takes to get pregnant and even help some to avoid unnecessary ART treatment (source). Conception is only possible from approximately five days before up to several hours after ovulation, but two days before ovulation give you the highest chance of conception.
The key to maximizing your chances of getting pregnant each month is to find your fertile window and have intercourse during that window. If you have intercourse during your fertile window and live sperm inside of you, your body will work like a catcher’s mitt waiting for the egg. This will significantly increase your chance of getting pregnant. So be sure to have intercourse every day starting two to four days before you expect to ovulate and then the day of ovulation.
Your chances do go down if you have sex every other day, but not by all that much, so if having sex every day during fertile window isn't feasible, every other day should be fine. There is newer research showing that if men have low sperm count that having more sex during the fertile window is more effective than 'saving' it up (click here for more information on the research behind the frequency of intercourse for trying to conceive).
The fertile period can be identified by different methods including urinary fertility monitoring, calendar charting, observing changes in cervical mucus and basal body temperatures or follicular maturation on ultrasound. While Charles's* wife was spot on with finding her fertile window, many women find it difficult to pinpoint the correct window. A study found that only 13% of the women in the study could correctly identify when they were fertile. That means 87% of women in the study trying to get pregnant were missing their opportunity to conceive (source).
Ovulation typically occurs halfway through your cycle, but this varies from woman to woman and even month to month in individuals, so it is best to use your own biomarkers to pinpoint your individual fertile window.
Below are the steps you can take to find your fertile window and the science behind the methods:
- Track your cervical mucus cycle: cervical secretions; changes in cervical secretions are suggestive of a preovulatory estrogen effect. If you notice when your cervical mucus becomes increasingly more slippery, clear and stretchy, your body is getting ready for ovulation.
- Track Luteinizing Hormone (LH): LH is a hormone produced by your pituitary gland. Your body always makes a small amount of LH, but just before you ovulate, you have an LH surge. Products that test for this LH surge, which usually happens 1-1½ days before you ovulate, must be carefully used for accuracy. To track LH, you will need to purchase LH sticks that detect your levels via urine. Typically you will urinate on the sticks soon after your cycle ends every morning until you ovulate.
- Track your temperature: basal body temperature rises shortly after ovulation, approximately 0.5 °F, as a result of progesterone release from the corpus luteum. This method requires dedication to waking up the same time every morning and charting the results. The temperature rise can be unreliable and is usually identified retrospectively.
- Calendar Method: if you have a regular cycle that does not vary more than two days each month, you may be able to predict ovulation using the calendar calculation. Ovulation occurs approximately 14 days before the onset of menstruation. However, many women do not have such regular cycles and therefore their luteal phase may vary individually from 10 to 16 days, making it harder to predict ovulation by calendar calculations alone. Using a cycle tracking app is a great way to help keep charting of these biomarker parameters more simple. You can also use the data to show your doctor if necessary.
Here is a table of Advantages and Disadvantages of each method from Timing Intercourse to Achieve Pregnancy: Current Evidence by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
During your non-fertile window days, actively work on connecting with your partner and try to keep sex spontaneous to prevent burnout and unnecessary stress. Check out this post on realistic ways to keep the romance alive during this time, which may be super fun or may be super stressful. Have fun ;)
PS. If you have a fun trying to conceive story and would like to share, please submit it to j.dayton@prima-temp.
*Name has been changed to protect privacy