A common reason why it can take couples longer than they expected to conceive, is not having sex at the right time during a woman’s cycle. A woman has a fertile window of approximately six days per cycle, commencing five days before ovulation and including the day that she ovulates.
We all know that scheduling sex is not always fun, especially when trying to conceive (TTC). Increasing the frequency of baby making after your period is a relaxed way to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Baby making regularly (every two to three days) during your fertile window will give you the best chance of getting pregnant. However, if this is not possible, two times per week is adequate.
Many couples will be having sex less often than recommended; this could be due to work commitments, travel or simply choice. These couples may decide to maximise their chances of conception by trying to predict their fertile window and when ovulation is taking place. There are several ways you can do this:
- Looking for signs of ovulation
- Use of an app or website to calculate ovulation
- Use ovulation tests and fertility monitors
Looking for signs of ovulation
Monitoring your fertility indicators is a natural and inexpensive way to get in tune with your body when TTC. The key fertility indicators that women frequently use to predict their ovulation include:
Cervical mucus: The probability of conception is highest when your cervical mucus can be described as slippery, clear and of egg white consistency. You may also notice an increase in the volume of cervical mucus at the same time. (19)
Basal body temperature (BBT): BBT is your lowest body temperature in a 24-hour period. It is important to take your temperature as soon as you wake up before you do anything, even get out of bed. You should expect a rise in your BBT of around half a degree when ovulation occurs. (20) A limitation to this method is that you may only realise that you have ovulated after it has happened, and your fertile window could be over until your next cycle. However, if used in conjunction with observing your cervical mucus, you can effectively determine when you are fertile.
Ovulation calculators and apps
A number of websites and mobile phone apps are now available that offer predictions of ovulation dates and your ‘fertile window’. Most of these are based on the calendar method and work by asking the user to enter the date of their last menstruation and their average cycle length (the number of days from the first day of your period to the day before your next period). However, these tools are not accurate for everyone because many are based on the assumption that all women have a 28-day cycle and ovulate on day 14, which is often not the case, especially if you have irregular cycles.
These tools can be useful though to keep a record of your cycle dates and give you a rough guide of when you are fertile to use in combination with observing your natural fertility indicators. It is essential with all ovulation calculators and apps that you understand how to use them fully and their limitations before relying too heavily on them.
Ovulation tests also known as Ovulation Predictor Kits (OPKs)
Your luteinizing hormone (LH) levels can be used as another fertility indicator. A surge in LH triggers ovulation and can be detected in a woman’s urine 12 to 24 hours before ovulation, helping to identify the 2 most fertile days of your cycle. Some of the newer ovulation tests can detect both oestrogen and LH and help to identify around 4 fertile days each cycle.
Ovulation tests are not suitable for everyone. Some women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) may have high levels of LH even when they are not ovulating which can lead to misleading results. Other women may have a naturally low baseline levels of LH than won’t be detected by a standard ovulation tests even during their LH surge, leading to false negative results.
Some women find that using an OPK can add stress to their fertility journey. Having sex every 2-3 days after your period is a relaxed way to ensure that you are having sex during your fertile window.
A fertility monitor is an electronic device that helps you to track your cycle to learn more about your body and when you are fertile. Many fertility monitors are linked to an app that will visually display your data, which can be very helpful. Fertility monitors track various fertility indicators such as hormone levels in your urine, body temperature and pulse rate. In general, they offer you much more than a standard ovulation test, including prediction of more fertile days (some can predict your entire fertile window), storage of personal information such as cycle length, sexual intercourse dates and allow you to share your data with your Doctor or partner. At the moment, most fertility monitors are designed for women but watch this space as technology solutions are currently being developed for men too!
Unfortunately, not all fertility monitors are suitable for women with irregular cycles or PCOS, so if this applies to you, please check first before buying one.
Avoid storing sperm
Many men believe that if they don’t ejaculate for a long period of time, then when they ejaculate the next time, they will produce lots of super swimmers, but this is actually a myth. When the sperm exit the sperm production factory, they are then stored until the point of ejaculation. The optimum time of storage is usually just two or three days, which means you ideally want to be ejaculating sperm within two or three days of them leaving the production line, meaning more fun time for you too.
If you want to learn more about your body and understand the best time for baby making check out our #cyclesavvy campaign. We have developed a series of videos with fertility expert Kate Davies, Fertility Nurse Consultant, to help you understand your fertility better and maximise your chances of getting pregnant.
NHS. Infertility Diagnosis. [Online] 2017. [Cited: 18 July 2019.] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/infertility/diagnosis/.
How can I tell when i'm ovulating. NHS. [Online] 2019. [Cited: 18 July 2019.] https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/womens-health/how-can-i-tell-when-i-am-ovulating/.
WebMD. Charting your fertility cycle. [Online] 2019. [Cited: 18 July 2019.] https://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/fertility-tests-for-women.
Clearblue. Healthcare Professionals, Fertility and ovulation products. [Online] [Cited: 18 July 2019.] https://uk.clearblue.com/healthcare-professionals/fertility-and-ovulation.
NHS. Polycystic ovary syndrome, causes. [Online] 2019. [Cited: 18 July 2019.] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/polycystic-ovary-syndrome-pcos/causes/.
Last updated 27/09/2019 Next review due 27/09/2022