Ovulation: Achieve and Conceive?
Are you hoping to hold your own little bundle of joy soon? Trying to get pregnant can be a lot of fun, but for many couples it can be frustrating too! Understanding the basics about ovulation can help you to take some steps that could increase your chances of conceiving.
The Menstrual Cycle
A woman's menstrual cycle (starting from the first day of the period to the first day of the next period) is usually between 23 and 35 days long. Although ovulation can be irregular, it typically occurs 12 to 16 days before the start of your next menstrual period. In a 28-day cycle, ovulation often occurs on the 14th day. During ovulation, an egg is released into the fallopian tube, where it waits to be fertilized—something that must occur within 24 to 48 hours for pregnancy to take place. If the egg is not fertilized, menstruation will usually occur in about two weeks.
Aside from estimating ovulation using the calendar of your cycle, the following methods can help you determine when you are fertile:
Rise in Basal Body Temperature
Right after ovulation, many women have an increase in basal (early morning) body temperature (approximately 0.5°-1.6°). By taking and recording your temperature every morning before rising, you should note a pattern over the next few cycles. Plan to have intercourse during the two or three days before your temperature normally rises. The downside of this method is that you must be vigilant in taking and recording your temperature every day for several months.
You may be able to determine ovulation by observing changes in your body. One change is that your cervical mucus becomes clear, slippery, stretchy, and similar to raw egg whites. This mucus helps to increase the movement of the sperm through your uterus to the fallopian tubes where it meets the egg. Some women also experience discomfort, achiness, or twinges of pain in the lower abdomen during ovulation. Known as mittelschmerz, the discomfort may last for a few minutes or several hours.
Ovulation Test Kits
Easy-to-use kits for determining ovulation are available in many stores. They involve urinating on test strips which change color when you are ovulating. They have an accuracy rate of up to 98%.
Increasing Your Chances of Conceiving
- Have intercourse frequently. It will not decrease male fertility, but will increase your chance of getting pregnant during your fertile period.
- Track your cycle. The closer intercourse is to ovulation, the more likely you will become pregnant. Since the egg can only be fertilized 24-48 hours after ovulation, it will probably be difficult to get pregnant if you have intercourse either after or more than six days before this peak time.
Other Facts About Conception and Infertility
- You will not necessarily conceive in the first few months of not using birth control. It may take up to a year.
- Healthy couples can have fertility problems.
- Unless you have a perfect, consistent 28-day cycle, which is not the norm for most women, you are not necessarily most fertile on day 14.
- Infertility can affect up to one in six couples.
- Even if conceiving your previous child was easy, it doesn't always follow that subsequent pregnancies will be easy to achieve.
- Women in their twenties can have fertility problems too.
- Lubricants can kill sperm, so do not use them if you are trying to conceive.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Last reviewed July 2007 by Ganson Purcell Jr., MD, FACOG, FACPE
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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