When Are You Fertile

Your Body, When to Conceive and How to Find Help

Trying to conceive feels like forever when you just want a baby to snuggle in your arms. You might begin to see pregnant women and babies everywhere you go, and it seems like it ought to be easy, yet it is hard to know where to start. Equip yourself with information about your ovulation cycle, how to track fertility, determine your fertile window and when to contact your doctor for extra help. Information is power and can help you feel focused as you take steps toward growing your family and living your dreams.

Ovulation Cycle

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When Are You Most Likely to Get Pregnant?

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The normal ovulation cycle is between 25 and 35 days long and begins on the first day of a woman's menstrual period, when her uterus sheds its lining. The first part of the cycle is the follicular phase, when follicles in the ovary mature in preparation for ovulation and release increasing levels of estrogen. High levels of estrogen tell the body that a mature egg is ready to be released from the follicle, and most women will then ovulate between cycle day 10 and cycle day 21. When the follicular phase ends with ovulation, the luteal phase of the cycle begins. The luteal phase, normally 10 to 16 days, is marked by a rise in progesterone that prepares the uterine lining for implantation of a fertilized egg. When implantation does not occur, progesterone levels drop, and the cycle begins again. When a fertilized egg does implant, progesterone levels remain elevated to prevent menstruation and support the pregnancy.

Track Your Fertility

Your body gives you clues before and after ovulation occurs. The consistency and electrolyte balance of cervical mucous changes prior to ovulation so that it becomes elastic and resembles the feel of egg whites. After ovulation, basal body temperature rises by as much as a degree, confirming that ovulation has occurred. Ask your doctor about how to safely perform cervical mucous checks and take your basal body temperature each morning in order to track your fertility. Fertility apps are available for most smartphones and can help you estimate your fertile window and track symptoms during your cycle. Some fertility monitors and ovulation prediction kits detect levels of luteinizing hormone (LH) in your urine to give you a heads-up that ovulation will happen soon. Other fertility monitors come with probes that detect changes in saliva, cervical mucous and basal body temperature without the use of urine strips.

When to Try for a Baby

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Can You Get Pregnant a Week Before Your Period?

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Women are most fertile in the five or six days leading up to ovulation through 24 hours past ovulation. It is normal to track your cycle for a few months before you have a reliable sense of when your fertile window occurs. Over time, you will see a pattern in your cycle length and ovulation day which will provide clues about your fertile window. For instance, if fertility tracking shows that you typically ovulate on cycle day 18, your fertile window likely begins on cycle day 13 and continues through cycle day 19. You are most likely to get pregnant during this time, and it is the ideal time to try for a baby. Even when you and your partner time things perfectly, it is completely normal to try for a few months before conceiving. Within two years of trying, 95 percent of couples successfully conceive a baby.

Finding Help

If you have trouble conceiving, your doctor or midwife can do a physical exam, check your hormones, do ultrasounds to confirm ovulation, check uterine lining thickness and run basic blood tests. If you need more expertise, your doctor or midwife will refer you and your partner to a reproductive endocrinologist, who specializes in diagnosing and treating infertility in a wide variety of ways in both men and women. When cycles seem normal, doctors recommend that couples under 35 seek medical help after one year of trying, while those between 35 and 40 make an appointment after six months and those over 40 should visit the doctor right away. If you suspect something is awry with your cycle, you experience discomfort or need reassurance, it never hurts to follow your gut and make an appointment sooner.

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