Getting pregnant comes easily to some women, while others have a more difficult time. It is important to know how your body works, in order to increase your chance of conception. Learning about ovulation (the release of an egg every month) is key.
Why does ovulation matter?
A woman’s ovaries release an egg every month, about 14 days before the first day of her period. When a couple has sexual intercourse and does not use birth control around the time of ovulation, a man’s sperm swim to meet the woman’s egg. When a sperm penetrates the egg, it’s called fertilization or conception. The fertilized egg (embryo) then travels to the woman’s uterus (womb), where it burrows into the lining of the uterus and begins to grow.
A woman’s egg is fertile for only 12 to 24 hours after its release. A man’s sperm can live up to 72 hours after intercourse. So the best time to have sex if you’re trying to conceive is:
- A few days before ovulation
- The day of ovulation
When do I ovulate?
Figuring out when you ovulate can be tricky. Some women have their menstrual cycle like clockwork, while others have no idea when their period will come. Every woman is different.
It is easier to tell when you ovulate if you have a regular cycle.
A regular period is one that comes at about the same time each month. Many women have cycles that last between 25 and 28 days, but others can have a regular cycle that lasts up to 35 days. To determine if you have a regular period, calculate your cycle length:
- Start by counting the first day that your period begins as day one.
- Count each day after that until you get your period again.
- Start over with day one.
If you count for a few cycles and all your periods are about the same number of days, then you have a regular period. Not every cycle will be the exact same number of days, it can be normal to have a few days more or less each month.
If your cycle is regular: Use the March of Dimes ovulation calendar to help you figure out when you can get pregnant.
If your cycle is irregular, there are other ways you can determine when you may ovulate.
- The temperature method: Use a basal body thermometer to take your temperature every day before you get out of bed. This is a thermometer that can measure really small changes in your temperature. You can buy one at a drug store. Your temperature rises about 1 degree just as you ovulate. Have sex as close as you can to this rise in temperature for your best chance of getting pregnant.
- The cervical mucus method: Pay attention to the mucus in your vagina. It gets thinner, slippery, clearer and more plentiful just before ovulation.
- Ovulation prediction kit: Ovulation prediction kits test urine for a substance called luteinizing hormone (LH). This hormone increases each month during ovulation and causes the ovaries to release eggs. The kit will tell you if your LH is increasing. You can purchase ovulation prediction kits at pharmacies.
How long will it take to get pregnant?
The timing is different for every woman. Generally speaking, if you have been trying for more than one year, (or six months if you are age 35 or older) you should see your health care provider. Get help along the way: schedule a preconception checkup.
Have more questions? Email or text us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.