So you’ve talked about it and know that it’s time that you expand your family with an extra little bundle of joy. Apart from eating well and keeping healthy, a key component to getting pregnant is - having intercourse at the right time!
Technically and scientifically speaking, you will only get pregnant successfully if and when you have sex during the female ‘fertile’ period, which is when you are ovulating.
What is ‘ovulation period’?
Each month between 15 to 20 eggs mature inside your ovaries. The ripest egg is released and swept into one of your fallopian tubes - your fallopian tubes connect your ovaries to your uterus (womb). Once there, this egg then waits to be fertilised (waiting for mister right sperm, you could say). So in essence, ovulation is the term used to describe the period where one or more eggs are released from one of your ovaries.
When is the best time to have sex if I am trying to conceive?
While sperm can live for up to 2 to 6 days, an egg is only around for 12 to 24 hours. So based on this, each woman will have a fertile window that only lasts up to 6 days - and that too depends on each woman’s individual cycle. However timing intercourse to fall in the six days leading up to and including ovulation day, is your best bet for the highest chance of conception.
So the statistic goes like this: If you have sex five days before you ovulate, the probability of pregnancy is about 10%; The probability of pregnancy rises steadily until the two days before and including the day of ovulation.
As soon as the ‘fertile window’ ends, the chance of getting pregnant declines rapidly. In fact in as little as 12 - 24 hours after you ovulate, you will no longer be able to get pregnant during that cycle. However if you’ve had sex three days before your ovulation period, then the chances for getting pregnant are around 27% - 33%.
(Adapted from data by Wilcox, A.J. et al. NEJM (1995) 333:1517)
So based on this info, it is really important to find out where your ovulation period lies if you want to get pregnant.
Myth: All women ovulate in the middle of their menstruation cycle
The general belief is that women ovulate mid-cycle, but this belief is rather misleading. It really depends on each woman’s cycle. Some women have 28 day cycles, some 26, some 30 day cycles and more. In fact, each month can also vary slightly due to hormonal changes that are affected by diet and stress levels as well.
Typically women ovulate 2 weeks or 14 days before their next period - not mid cycle. So if you have a 28 day cycle, then you’ll ovulate on day 14, but if you have a 35 day cycle, you would ovulate around day 21, not day 17 (Note: Day 1 is the first day of your period). This of course makes it harder for women who have irregular periods to trace their ovulation period thus making it harder for them to pinpoint the optimal period for intercourse.
Are there any signs and symptoms during ovulation?
Unfortunately, while most women experience some symptoms during their premenstrual period (hello PMS!), most women don’t during the ovulation period. Only a very small percentage may get sensitive and tender in the lower abdomen, some may get a sore back, or even experience some change in their discharge. There are some cases where women get a little extra ‘frisky’ during this time too, but that is completely subjective. These changes are not significant enough for a woman to track down the big day easily, but luckily there are other accurate methods that can help us to work out the day.
1. Check your pee with an Ovulation Predictor kit
Probably one of the easiest and fastest methods you could use is an Ovulation Predictor Kit. You can get a kit from your local pharmacy and do the ovulation test at home. Ovulation predictor kits are able to pinpoint your date of ovulation 12-24 hours in advance by looking at your levels of luteinizing hormone, or LH, which is the last of the hormones to hit its peak before ovulation actually occurs. All you have to do is pee on the stick and wait for the indicator to tell you the result. If the result is positive, that means you are going to ovulate within the next 12-24 hours.
The Good: Straight forward, no messing around, accurate, convenient.
The Bad: Expensive - only for one time use, and you’ll need to use it a few times a month.
2. Keeping track with a Calendar
If you’re good at remembering to keep track of days, then counting through your calendar can be useful to predict your ovulation day. The menstrual cycle begins from the first day of one period (day one) to the first day of the next period - that would count as a full cycle. And your own cycle may vary slightly from month to month. But generally, the ovulation period is 2 weeks before your next period. By keeping a menstrual calendar for a few months you’ll get an idea of what’s normal for you.
So based on the above calculation,
- If your cycle is 28 days, your ovulation day may fall on day 14, and the best time for intercourse may be on days 12, 13 and 14.
- If your cycle is 35 days, your ovulation day may fall on day 21, and the best time for intercourse may be on days 19, 20 and 21.
- If your cycle is 21 days, your ovulation day may fall on day 7, and the best time for intercourse may be on days 5, 6 and 7.
The Good: Economical, convenient.
The Bad: May not be accurate as menstrual cycle may vary from month to month. May not be a good method for those who have irregular periods. You will need to be diligent in keeping track.
You may use the ovulation calculator provided by some websites too, if you don’t want to count manually.
3. Basal body temperature (BBT)
BBT is the baseline reading you get first thing in the morning, after at least three to five hours of sleep and before you get out of bed, talk or even sit up. To measure this accurately you’ll need a special basal body temperature thermometer. Your BBT rises about half a degree Celsius after ovulation has occurred which is what you wanna look out for when you’re charting your temperature so you can work out your own pattern of ovulation. The way it works is that just before ovulation, your BBT will reach its lowest point and then rise immediately and dramatically (about a half a degree) as soon as ovulation occurs. It’s not enough to track your BBT for just a month, you’ll need to track it for at least three months in order to help you to see a pattern to your cycles, enabling you to predict when ovulation will occur in future months — and when to hop into bed accordingly.
The Good: Economical, you will spend time listening to your body more.
The Bad: Be prepared to be very patient as you require at least three months in order to get an accurate reading of your ovulation day. May not be an easy method for those who have irregular periods every month.
4. Cervical mucus test
This is for those who don’t mind keeping an eye on the changes to their mucus (and knickers). Around the time of ovulation, you may notice your vagina’s mucus is clear, slick and slippery - like the consistency of egg whites. This is a good sign of when ovulation is happening. The change in hormones causes the mucus to change, making it more slippery and wet because this is better for intercourse and for the sperm, causing you to increase your chances of conception.
Changes in mucus during ovulation:
- Clear to transparent
- Quantity increase
- Slippery, wet also egg-white like texture, where it can pull up to 10cm long
The Good: Economical, teaches you to understand the changes in your body, for most women it is quite easy to notice these changes.
The Bad: Need to be patient and observant, best to use this method in conjunction with one or more other methods to ensure the best results.
5. Saliva test via Lipstick Microscope Analyser
If you’re not into peeing on a stick, then the saliva test might be your next best bet. This little gadget will look at your saliva under a lipstick-like microscope, and analyse the levels of estrogen in your body through your saliva - which is pretty cool if you think about it. If you are ovulating, the microscopic pattern will reveal a fern plant pattern on the windowpane. I used it myself and I love that I can bring it anywhere, plus it is very exciting to get a good ‘fern’.
The Good: Handy, light, reusable, cheaper than the ovulation predictor kit.
The Bad: Not all women get a good ‘fern’, it is very hormone dependent, and some women do not have hormone levels that can be detected. Need to strictly follow the instructions in order to get accurate results.
I hope that the tips above will help you figure out your ovulation day to increase your chances of getting pregnant. However in order to get pregnant, there are other things that you will need to take into consideration, after all, everyone is different. So seek professional advice if you need further support. And remember, don’t stress, just relax and enjoy the journey!