You are ready to get pregnant. Now. Once you mentally prepare yourself, waiting is the last thing you want to do. This guide provides tips that will help make it more likely you’ll conceive soon after you start trying.
Get to Know Your Cycle. The biggest secret to getting pregnant is to know when you ovulate, and when to time intercourse in relation to ovulation. Ovulation occurs when an egg is released from your ovary, but women ovulate on different schedules. So how do you know when you ovulate?
Length of Your Cycle. First, you’ll need to know the length of your menstrual cycle. You calculate this by the number of days between your first day of full flow and the first day of your next full flow. For women with 28-day cycles, ovulation usually occurs around Day 14, plus or minus one to two days. If your cycle ranges between 24 to 34 days, you will normally ovulate between Days 13 and 20.
Timing is everything. Once you know your time of ovulation, getting busy is the next step. Since most women release an egg once each menstrual cycle, there are only a few days in each cycle that allow for pregnancy. Although many believe your most fertile days are 27 to 72 hours after ovulation, the best times are actually two days before and on the day of ovulation. This is because once you ovulate, your egg is most receptive to sperm for the next 12 to 24 hours--not 72. But if you have intercourse only on the day you ovulate, you will have only a 12-hour opportunity to conceive. Also, sperm can live three to five days, so ideally you want to have intercourse before you ovulate for the sperm to reach the fallopian tube, where fertilization occurs, before the egg. Make the sperm wait for the egg, not the other way around!
Detecting Ovulation. Popular methods to detect ovulation include tracking your basal body temperature (BBT) and cervical mucus and using ovulation prediction kits (OPKs).
Basal Body Temperature (BBT): But fertility doctors don’t recommend using Basal Body Temperature. BBT is the rate of your body temperature at rest and is influenced by the hormones in your body. Your BBT will decrease slightly right before ovulation and peak in temperature when ovulation has occurred. Although BBT is a great way to learn about your cycle, and to confirm that you have ovulated, using it to time intercourse is difficult, as once your temperature hits peak, ovulation has already occurred, and the best time for baby making is over. Too late! Also, many factors can affect your BBT, including irregular sleep patterns, unusual stress or exercise, and drinking coffee at night.
Cervical Mucus: Just before ovulation, the consistency of your cervical mucus will become thinner and stretchy to allow sperm the best chance to swim through. After ovulation the consistency becomes a bit thicker again. In general, over your cycle, cervical mucus can go through the following phases, starting out sticky or dry, becoming creamy, then thinning to a wetter consistency around ovulation, and then becoming the texture of raw egg white during this time, and finally returning to sticky or dry. The wet and raw-egg stages signal ovulation is about to happen or happening, and timing intercourse during these phases can increase your chances of conceiving.
Tracking cervical mucus doesn’t work for everyone. For example, women with PCOS may have ovulation-type mucus several times in a cycle. Also, antihistamines and some fertility treatment drugs, such as Clomid, dry up mucus. See your fertility specialist if you never get mucus with the consistency indicating ovulation, in case that may be one of the reasons for your infertility. In any case, you might want to confirm that you’re indeed about to ovulate with an ovulation predictor kit, and you might also want to confirm that you actually ovulate by getting a single progesterone blood test after ovulation from your doctor.
Ovulation Predictor Kits.OPKs use test strips to detect levels of luteinizing hormone, or LH, in your urine. When LH surges, a woman usually ovulates within 12 to 36 hours. You should begin testing two to three days before the day you expect to ovulate and continue until the test indicates that you are on the verge of ovulating. If your cycle is irregular, you can start testing on day 11. The best time to have intercourse is two to three days prior to ovulation, the day of a positive OPK reading, and the day after the positive OPK.
Ovulation Predictor Kit’s don’t work for everyone. OPK’s may not work well for 5% to 10% of women, because the OPK dipstick has trouble detecting their particular LH. If you don’t have regular menstrual cycles, or the kit has not identified ovulation over two menstrual cycles, your fertility doctor can confirm whether you have ovulated with a blood test for serum progesterone, the hormone that prepares the lining of your uterus for the embryo to implant.