Your Chances of Getting Pregnant Every Day of the Month
When sex coincides with your most fertile ovulation days, you'll increase your chances of getting pregnant. Get to know each phase of your cycle to make conception faster and easier.
To hit the baby-making bullseye, you've got to aim for certain sweet spots of fertility in your cycle. Here's your guide to the best chances of getting pregnant throughout the month so you can plan accordingly.
Chances of Getting Pregnant on Your Period
In essence, menstruation is the monthly shedding of the endometrium, the inner membrane of the uterus. Menstruation lasts between three and seven days for most women. By the third day, levels of progesterone and estrogen are rising and working to rebuild your endometrium. Around day four, follicle ripening begins to go on the uptick, meaning the ovaries will start preparing eggs for release.
Unless you're a very early ovulator (the average timing for ovulation is 14 days before the start of your period—track yours by using a basal body temperature chart or an ovulation predictor kit), there's little chance your man's sperm will actually have any eggs to work with during this phase of your cycle.
Your chances of conceiving: Almost zero. It's not detrimental to have intercourse, though, and some women see menstruation as a breather from the rigors of frequent procreation-oriented sex.
Chances of Getting Pregnant Right After Your Period
"I recommend having sex frequently—two to three times a week, but every other day if you can—shortly after you stop menstruating to cover your window of pre-ovulation," says Kelly Pagidas, M.D., a fertility specialist with Women & Infants Center for Reproduction and Infertility in Providence.
Here's why: Around day seven of your cycle, you'll notice a vaginal discharge that seems a little springy to the touch. Within a few days, it will turn white and creamy, a cue that your fertility is returning once again. It doesn't mean the egg has been released yet, but it indicates that ovulation is on the way and that your cervical mucus is a friendly environment for sperm.
Remember, you can get pregnant right after your period, even if you're not yet ovulating. That's because sperm can live up to five days if it's trapped in fertile cervical mucus—so it behooves you to get a few of his swimmers in place. "One study showed that people who had sex only one time during this phase, even four to five days before ovulation, still got pregnant," says Steven R. Bayer, M.D., a reproductive endocrinologist at Boston IVF fertility clinic in Boston.
Your chances of conceiving: Good. An egg isn't technically released during this phase, but you'll want to step up your sexual routine in the event that you ovulate earlier than planned.
Chances of Getting Pregnant During Ovulation
Welcome to prime time for conception! No matter the length of menstruation, ovulation generally starts about 14 days before your next scheduled period. When it happens, your body temperature rises about a half a degree (detected by a basal body thermometer)—but bear in mind that this also takes place after you're already ovulating, which could be too late for conception.
"That's where ovulation test kits become so helpful," Dr. Bayer explains. These kits detect a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH) that happens about 36 hours before you ovulate. After the test kit shows this surge, Dr. Bayer recommends having sex in the next 24 to 36 hours. Sperm can survive for some time in the reproductive tract, so it will be ready to meet the egg once it's released during ovulation.
Another good indication of fertility is a change in the consistency of your cervical mucus. "You'll see vaginal discharge that increases in amount and has the consistency of egg whites, signaling it's the perfect time to have intercourse," Dr. Bayer says. Test yours by sticking your index finger and thumb in your vagina to get a sample, then tapping your finger and thumb together. If the consistency is thin and spreads easily between two fingers, you're good to go.
Your chances of conceiving: High, if you have sex within 36 hours of detecting an LH surge. Any released eggs live no longer than 12 hours. In fact, it's best if his swimmers meet your egg within four to six hours of its release. Data show that having every-other-day sex is just as effective as doing it every day, so no need to go crazy getting busy every hour (unless you really want to!).
Chances of Getting Pregnant After Ovulation
Also known as the luteal phase, this final portion of your cycle lasts a minimum of 12 days and a maximum of 16 days. Progesterone starts to rise, signaling that the ovaries don't need to release any more eggs this month. Your cervical mucus will dry up and create a plug to prevent any additional sperm from entering the uterus.
It takes about six days for any fertilized eggs to travel to your uterus. If one implants in your endometrium, you'll start to see the rise in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), the hormone measured by home pregnancy tests, within a week.
Your chances of conceiving: Low. Once the egg has been released, there's not much that can be done until next month. But there's certainly no harm in having sex if you're in the mood!
Don't sweat it if it's time for your cycle to start over again and you're still not pregnant. You may not have tracked your most fertile days accurately, in which case your guy's swimmers never had the chance to work their magic. The vast majority of couples who are trying to conceive do so within a year, with only about half achieving their goal by 6 months. Talk to your doctor or a fertility specialist about any concerns regarding your chances of getting pregnant.
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