Knowing Your Fertility Window

There are several reasons women of child-bearing age may want to be familiar with their fertility window. For some, it is because they wish to practice natural family planning. While far less reliable than other methods of contraception, this is the method of choice for certain women due to their religious beliefs and other factors.

However, those who most often need to be intimately familiar with their fertility window are women in the exact opposite situation; they are actively attempting to get pregnant and need to target the time when they can most likely conceive.

For this reason, it is wise to begin by ensuring you have a keen, clear understanding of your body’s reproductive cycle and how it works.

It is all about your menstrual 

In many ways, your menstrual cycle is what helps your body prepare for pregnancy. A typical menstrual cycle is 28 days long, though some women may have cycles as short as 21 days or as long as 35 days. Those are still considered normal cycle lengths.

You may be very familiar with how you feel on the “outside” at different times during your menstrual cycle. You may know your menstrual period is coming because your breasts become tender or you experience abdominal pain. You may feel sluggish at certain times during the month. But as the classic saying goes, what is on the inside counts.  

Specifically, you will need to focus on the fact that approximately halfway through your cycle, if all is in balance and functioning properly, one of your ovaries releases a mature egg. The egg is aspirated, or sucked, into one of the fallopian tubes, where it awaits fertilization by an arriving sperm cell. 

In addition, the lining of the uterus becomes thicker to accommodate the implantation of the fertilized egg. This is the ideal time for conception to occur.

Suppose you are trying to get pregnant during ovulation but don’t succeed. In that case, it could be that fertilization did not occur or that the fertilized egg could not implant itself into the uterus. In this case, the uterus lining will be shed, which means you will have your period that month, generally within two weeks.

Accurately tracking ovulation

While this process appears simple, the reality is that accurately tracking your fertility window can be more complex than simply counting days, especially if you are a woman whose menstrual cycle is not regular. 

Nevertheless, thankfully there are tools available that can help. To give you the best chance of accurately pinpointing your fertility window, it is worthwhile to try any or all of them as may be needed.  

  • The calendar method – Women have been using this method for family planning for decades and it is easy to employ. To achieve reliable data, you will need to undergo this tracking method for several months in a row. Simply mark the first day of your menstrual cycle on a calendar (or in a period-tracking app if you have one) and then mark the first day of the following menstrual cycle. The time in between indicates the length of your cycle. Generally, women ovulate 12 to 14 days before the onset of a new menstrual cycle and their “fertility window” starts 2 to 3 days prior to ovulation since the sperm can survive that long in the reproductive tract, through the day the egg is released, and the day after since the egg may remain viable for 12 to 24 hours, for a total of about 4-5 days. However, if you have irregular periods, this might not be the best method for you as achieving accuracy would be difficult.
  • Ovulation predictor kits – This is an at-home tool you can purchase at any drug store. It tests your urine for levels of luteinizing hormone. When the test indicates “positive”, ovulation should occur within 24 hours, so having sex daily for the next few days may result in pregnancy. Once again, if your periods are irregular, there is a chance that these tests might not work, particularly if polycystic ovarian syndrome is the underlying cause of your irregularity.
  • Cervical mucus method –The consistency of your vaginal mucus changes with the hormone fluctuations that happen during your menstrual cycle. When your mucus is heavy, slippery, and wet – resembling raw egg whites – it is likely that you are ovulating. It may take several cycles! To recognize the differences in your mucus, chart your observations for a few months to become more familiar with this method.
  • Basal body temperature method –If you take your temperature each morning using a basal thermometer, which is more sensitive than a regular thermometer, you should see your body temperature rise during ovulation. However, it may be too late to conceive since you have already ovulated when the rise is detected. Therefore, use this tool instead to help you monitor your ovulation pattern, similar to how you would use the calendar method.

Will these methods work?

While using any or all of these methods cannot guarantee pregnancy, you can more accurately gauge your fertility window and get an overall better picture of your body’s operation. Suppose your periods are irregular (i.e., outside the regular 21-35 day window). In that case, it is recommended that you schedule an appointment with a fertility specialist who can help you discover the best ways to increase your chances of conceiving.

At Advanced Reproductive Medicine, we take pride in our ability to help our patients become parents in the most efficient, effective, and safe way possible. We are always eager to help you realize your dream of starting a family of your own. For more information or schedule a consultation, call us at 732-339-9300.

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