If you are trying to get pregnant (conceive), you have the best possible chance of success if you are aware of your menstrual cycle and the changes that happen to your body during that period. It helps to know when you are fertile and able to get pregnant. A woman’s fertile time is usually a few days per month in the middle of her menstrual cycle and represents the time when a woman ovulates.
There are three ways to track your fertile times: Basal body temperature method, Calendar method, and Cervical mucus method (ovulation method).
Many women experience miscarriages or pregnancy losses, or cannot conceive at all (infertility). Infertility in women can be caused by age, health problems (like PCOS), uterine fibroids, endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease, and negative lifestyle factors. Infertility in men may be caused infertility in men are sperm gene defects, negative lifestyle choices (alcohol and drugs), toxins (lead, pesticides), STDs, diabetes, and prostate or testicle problems.
There are several treatment options for infertile couples including drugs, surgery, intrauterine insemination (artificial insemination), assisted reproductive technology, third-party assistance, adoption, and foster care.
This article offers tips for those desiring to have a baby, offers advice on what to do when trying to conceive to determine your fertile period, and discusses options for those who are having trouble conceiving.
When can a woman get pregnant during her menstrual cycle?
Being aware of your menstrual cycle and the changes in your body that happen during this time can help you know when you are most likely to get pregnant. See how the menstrual cycle works.
The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. But normal cycles can vary from 21 to 35 days. The amount of time before ovulation occurs is different in every woman and even can be different from month to month in the same woman, varying from 13 to 20 days long. Learning about this part of the cycle is important because it is when ovulation and pregnancy can occur. After ovulation, every woman (unless she has a health problem that affects her periods or becomes pregnant) will have a period of 14 to 16 days.
Knowing when you’re most fertile will help you plan or prevent pregnancy. There are three ways you can keep track of your fertile times. They are the: 1) basal body temperature method; 2) calendar method; and 3) ovulation method (cervical mucus method).
Taking your temperature to conceive
Basal body temperature is your temperature at rest as soon as you awake in the morning. A woman’s basal body temperature rises slightly with ovulation. So by recording this temperature daily for several months, you’ll be able to predict your most fertile days.
Basal body temperature differs slightly from woman to woman. Anywhere from 96 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit orally is average before ovulation. After ovulation, most women have an oral temperature between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit. The rise in temperature can be a sudden jump or a gradual climb over a few days.
Usually, a woman’s basal body temperature rises by only 0.4 to 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit. To detect this tiny change, women must use a basal body thermometer. These thermometers are very sensitive. Most pharmacies sell them for about $10.
The rise in temperature doesn’t show exactly when the egg is released. But almost all women have ovulated within three days after their temperatures spike. Body temperature stays at a higher level until your period starts.
You are most fertile and most likely to get pregnant:
Two to three days before your temperature hits the highest point (ovulation)
12 to 24 hours after ovulation
A man’s sperm can live for up to three days in a woman’s body. The sperm can fertilize an egg at any point during that time. So if you have unprotected sex a few days before ovulation, you could get pregnant.
Many things can affect basal body temperature. For your chart to be useful, make sure to take your temperature every morning at about the same time. Things that can alter your temperature include:
Drinking alcohol the night before
Smoking cigarettes the night before
- Getting a poor night’s sleep
- Having a fever
- Doing anything in the morning before you take your temperature – including going to the bathroom and talking on the phone
- Early Pregnancy Symptoms and Signs
- Not all women have the same signs and symptoms during pregnancy, and the symptoms vary from mild to severe. Early symptoms that you might be pregnant include:
- Low back pain
- Implantation bleeding
- Mood changes
Using the calendar method to conceive
This involves recording your menstrual cycle on a calendar for eight to 12 months. The first day of your period is Day 1. Circle Day 1 on the calendar. The length of your cycle may vary from month to month. So write down the total number of days it lasts each time. Using this record, you can find the days you are most fertile in the months ahead:
To find out the first day when you are most fertile, subtract 18 from the total number of days in your shortest cycle. Take this new number and count ahead that many days from the first day of your next period. Draw an X through this date on your calendar. The X marks the first day you’re likely to be fertile.
To find out the last day when you are most fertile, subtract 11 from the total number of days in your longest cycle. Take this new number and count ahead that many days from the first day of your next period. Draw an X through this date on your calendar. The time between the two Xs is your most fertile window.
This method always should be used along with other fertility awareness methods, especially if your cycles are not always the same length.
Using the Ovulation Method to Conceive
The cervical mucus method (also known as the ovulation method) involves being aware of the changes in your cervical mucus throughout the month. The hormones that control the menstrual cycle also change the kind and amount of mucus you have before and during ovulation. Right after your period, there are usually a few days when there is no mucus present or “dry days.” As the egg starts to mature, mucus increases in the vagina appear at the vaginal opening, and are white or yellow and cloudy, and sticky. The greatest amount of mucus appears just before ovulation. During these “wet days” it becomes clear and slippery, like raw egg whites. Sometimes it can be stretched apart. This is when you are most fertile. About four days after the wet days begin the mucus changes again. There will be much less and it becomes sticky and cloudy. You might have a few more dry days before your period returns. Describe changes in your mucus on a calendar. Label the days, “Sticky,” “Dry,” or “Wet.” You are most fertile at the first sign of wetness after your period or a day or two before wetness begins.
The cervical mucus method is less reliable for some women. Women who are breastfeeding, taking hormonal birth control (like the pill), using feminine hygiene products, have vaginitis or sexually transmitted infections (STIs or STDs), or have had surgery on the cervix should not rely on this method.
When to see your doctor if you are having problems getting pregnant. You should talk to your doctor about your fertility if:
You are younger than 35 and have not been able to conceive after one year of frequent sex without birth control. You are age 35 or older and have not been able to conceive after six months of frequent sex without birth control. You believe you or your partner might have fertility problems in the future (even before you begin trying to get pregnant). You or your partner has a problem with sexual function or libido.
Happily, Ferty9 doctors are able to help many infertile couples go on to have babies!