If you’re trying to conceive, you will probably want to know when the right time to have sex is, a woman can only get pregnant during a short window in her menstrual cycle called the fertility window. To better understand when your fertility window is, you need to understand how your cycle works.
Understanding your cycle.
In a nutshell, your cycle starts on the first day of your period, (sometimes referred to as Cycle Day 1 or CD1) and goes on till the day before your next period. Typically most cycles last about 28 days but its normal to have cycles that are as short as 21 or as long as 40 days.
About half way through your cycle ovulation will occur, this is when your body releases an egg to be fertilised. Pregnancy is technically only possible from the five days before the day after you ovulate. This is because while an egg can only live for about 12-24 hours of being releases, sperm can live for up to 5-7 days in a woman’s body, so if you have sex anywhere from 5 days before you ovulate you could get pregnant.
You have the highest chance of conceiving if you have sex on the actual day you ovulate, this chance goes decreasing the further away from ovulation you have sex, so typically if you are trying to conceive you’ll increase your chances if you have sex on multiple days during your fertility window. Now you just need to figure out when that fertility window is.
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Sounds simple enough right? Well, yes and no… it's easier for some women than for others. However if you want to track more accurately when in the month you ovulate, there are some methods you can use, for even more accuracy you can use more than one method.
The length of your cycle - Ovulation usually occurs 10 to 16 days before your next period starts, so if your cycle is regular you may be able to work out when you ovulate. You can use a good old calendar or one of the many period trackers to track your cycle and when your fertility window is likely to be. However, according to an Australian study, more than half of the fertility and period tracker apps are ineffective at predictive ovulation, so you may want to use this in combination with one of the other methods.
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- Observing cervical mucus and cervical position - around the time of ovulation you may notice you cervical mucus gets wetter, clearer and more slippery. Another way to detect ovulation would be to check the position of the cervix itself. At the beginning of your cycle your cervix is usually low, firm and closed. When you are about to ovulate it pulls up, softens a but and opens just a little to let Sperm through. For this method to be effective you would need to check your cervix and or cervical mucus on a regular basis and better even chart them or keep a record of them so that you can tell when there is a change. Checking your cervix may not be for everyone, some women can easily observe the changes and others have a more difficult time. Do what works for you.
- Tracking your temperature - You can track your ovulation days using your basal body temperature. You would need to take your temperature reading using a basal body thermometer first thing each morning, before you get out of bed and do anything (talk, sit, walk you get the picture right?) The fluctuations in your hormones cause your basal body temperature to change at different points of your cycle, it will drop to its lowest at ovulation and then rise immediately after ovulation occurs. Keep in mind that unless you use this method over a few months to see the pattern in your cycles that will enable you to predict your fertile days, if you use it over just one month, it will only serve as evidence that ovulation has occurred and not help to predict when it will likely occur.
- Ovulation predictor kits - OPKs work by measuring an increase in Luteinising Hormone (LH) that occurs shortly before ovulation takes place. LH plays a key role in ovulation and is the hormone that actually facilitates the release of the egg from the ovary. Around the middle of a woman’s menstrual cycle, LH levels will sharply rise: this is called the LH-Surge, a necessary precursor to the discharge of the egg. And because the LH-Surge occurs typically one to two days before ovulation, if you can detect the surge with an OPK, you can accurately predict your most fertile time of the month to conceive.
Get your Ovulation Predictor Kit here
Keep in mind that even when you are ovulating there is no guarantee that you’ll conceive, be patient and keep at it. Have fun trying.
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