Ovulation is one of the most critical aspects of conception for couples to keep in mind. Yet, for many, ovulation can be shrouded in mystery. How does the importance of ovulation translate to everyday life? How can you tell if you’re ovulating, and what should you do to increase your chances of getting pregnant? Here is a one-stop list of things to consider while you’re ovulating that can answer all your questions.
1. track your cycle
Ovulation is the part of the menstrual cycle in which a mature egg is released from the ovaries and can be fertilized by sperm. A woman’s “fertile window,” which is about 5 days before and 24 hours after ovulation, determines the time in which intercourse can result in conception and pregnancy. Therefore, it is important to track your menstrual cycle to figure out when you will be ovulating.
For an average cycle of 28 days, ovulation occurs around day 14, with the first day being the start of a woman’s menstrual period. However, menstrual cycle length and timing of ovulation vary from person to person. To more closely predict the time of ovulation, many use over-the-counter ovulation tests, menstrual cycle tracker apps, or ovulation calculators.
2. watch for signs of ovulation
Beyond using a calendar or tracker, ovulation also produces some physiological changes that can help you determine when you are most fertile during your menstrual cycle. Right before ovulation, you might notice your vaginal secretions become clear, wet, and stretchy, while after ovulation cervical mucus becomes thicker, cloudy, and less noticeable.
Your basal body temperature — your body’s temperature at rest — also slightly increases during ovulation. Use a thermometer specifically designed to measure basal body temperature, and record your temperature first thing in the morning throughout the month to determine a pattern. Fertility will be highest two to three days before an increase in basal body temperature.
3. having timed intercourse
Timing your intercourse around the time you will be ovulating can greatly improve your odds of conception. If intercourse isn’t occurring within the fertile window surrounding ovulation, then an egg will not be available in the fallopian tubes for fertilization, and pregnancy will not occur. Since it can be difficult to perfectly predict when ovulation will occur, experts recommend having intercourse on the tenth day of the menstrual cycle, and continue having intercourse every other day until the day after ovulation occurs.
4. odds of success
Even for those who are monitoring their ovulation and having timed intercourse, conception might not happen on the first try. On the day before ovulation — the most fertile day of the menstrual cycle — the maximum odds of conceiving are still 42%. For those aged 20-44, on average 68% of women will conceive after three months of trying, and 92% will conceive within one year.
5. how ovulation works
Understanding the logistics of ovulation can also help those trying to conceive get a better idea of how to improve their odds. Midway through a woman’s menstrual cycle, a spike in the hormone LH causes a follicle in the ovary to rupture and release a mature egg into the fallopian tube. For fertilization to occur, sperm must already be waiting in the fallopian tube to meet with the released egg. Although sperm can live up to 5 days, it is recommended that intercourse should occur in the 72-hour window prior to ovulation to increase odds of conception.
6. stop contraception
Some modes of contraception, such as condoms, do not affect fertility or chances of conception. However, other contraceptives, such as the combined contraceptive pill and contraceptive injections, might require some time before the menstrual cycle returns to normal and conception can occur. Therefore, when predicting your ovulation and planning your future intercourse, it can be helpful to speak with your healthcare provider about how long your particular birth control might affect your menstrual cycle.
7. stop smoking and drinking alcohol
Smoking and drinking alcohol can negatively impact fertility, and also harm the future offspring if pregnancy does occur. Therefore, while trying to conceive during ovulation, it is important to quit smoking and alcohol in order to protect the health of both you and your future baby.
8. maintain a healthy body weight
Maintaining a healthy body weight can be important for improving fertility and odds of conception. Those with excess body fat might have higher levels of estrogen, which can interfere with ovulation. Those who are too thin might also have irregular periods and ovulation, which can make it more difficult to conceive. It might be beneficial to speak with your doctor about the lifestyle changes you can make to improve the regularity of your ovulation and increase your chances of getting pregnant.
9. take prenatal supplements
If you are trying to conceive, taking prenatal supplements can get your body prepared for the possibility of growing a baby. For example, taking folic acid can prevent neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, from developing in a fetus. Consider speaking with a healthcare provider about which prenatal supplements you might need as you continue trying to conceive.
10. know when to talk to your doctor
If you haven’t conceived after having timed intercourse for one year, or six months if you are over the age of 35, it might be time to speak with a mate doctor to figure out the cause of your issues with conceiving. You should also speak with a doctor if you have a condition such as endometriosis or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), as these conditions can affect fertility and lower the odds of conception. Trying to conceive can often be a long and frustrating process, but having expert medical advice can be the key to better understanding the best way that you can start a family.