When you start trying to get pregnant, it can seem simple.
Come off birth control, have sex, get pregnant, have a baby!
But conception can sometimes be tricky, and you might need to learn a little bit more about your cycle to increase your odds.
Or maybe you’re just starting on your journey to conceive a baby and want to do all you can to succeed quickly.
In each cycle, on average, a couple’s chance of getting pregnant is about 25%; having a baby isn’t always as straightforward as you might think.
One of the first and most important questions to ask is: When do you ovulate?
Finding out when you ovulate can make a huge difference in how quickly and easily you get pregnant.
Let’s look at what ovulation means, and how you can find out when you ovulate.
How long does ovulation last?
Ovulation simply means that a mature egg has been released from the ovary.
From the ovary, it travels down the fallopian tube and into the uterus.
If the egg is fertilised by a sperm after being released from the ovary, it becomes a zygote.
If the zygote implants into the wall of your uterus, you’re pregnant.
If the egg is not fertilised by a sperm, it is shed, along with the built-up lining of the wall of the uterus when you start your period, and your cycle starts again.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s extremely important to have intercourse at the right time for the sperm to meet the egg.
If the sperm enters the uterus too soon or too late in your cycle, there will be no egg available for it to fertilise, and you won’t become pregnant.
To get pregnant more quickly, having sex close to the time of ovulation is key.
So when does ovulation happen?
How many days after your period do you ovulate?
It’s important to note that every woman’s body is different.
When you ovulate won’t necessarily be the same point in the cycle as when your friends ovulate.
Maybe your cycle is regular, or perhaps you never know when to expect your period.
It’s generally thought that a typical cycle is 28 days, but a recent study found that only 12.4% of women studied actually had a 28-day cycle.
A cycle of between 23 and 35 days is considered to be normal.
What does this mean for ovulation?
When do you ovulate after a period?
Exactly when a woman ovulates depends on her individual cycle.
The typical cycle length is said to be 28 days.
The cycle is made up of 4 main parts:
- The menstrual phase
- The follicular phase
- The ovulation phase
- The luteal phase.
When trying to figure out when you ovulate, the most important phases to look at are the ovulation phase and the luteal phase.
The luteal phase is the time after you ovulate and before you start your period.
It can also be key to showing you when you ovulate.
Although the menstrual phase and the follicular phases can vary in length, the luteal phase tends to remain steady at about 14 days.
This is good in one way, and difficult in another.
If your cycles are regular in length, you might be able to pinpoint when you ovulate, based on the luteal phase.
You can probably make a good guess at when you ovulate by counting 14 days back from when you can expect to start your period
If your cycles are irregular, however, it can be much more difficult.
This is because you don’t know when your next period will start, and so you can’t calculate your time of ovulation. In that case, you might need to use some other methods.
Reproductive health specialist Dr. Andrew Orr stresses how few women are fertile when they’re typically thought to be in the fertility window:
“A paper in the British Medical Journal says that, statistically, ovulation is more likely to occur between days 18-28.
There is a 10% probability of being in your fertile window during days 10-16, which is commonly known as the fertile window.
Around 70% of women are fertile outside of these times”.
This can all sound very disheartening.
How can a woman know when she’s ovulating and likely to get pregnant?
How to calculate ovulation
There are several ways to figure out when you’re likely to ovulate.
Here are a few ways to assess the signs of ovulation:
- Use an ovulation predictor kit
- Measure your basal body temperature
- Monitor your discharge
- You might feel a pinch near one of your ovaries
- You might feel light cramps in your lower belly or back
- Practise natural family planning
Ovulation predictor kits measure the luteinising hormone (LH). In response to a surge in the levels of luteinising hormone, the egg is released and travels down the fallopian tube.
Using ovulation tests can be a useful tool for discovering your fertile days.
Indicator strips assess your hormone levels.
LH hormones surge in the days leading up to ovulation. By checking the level of these hormones, ovulation test kits can estimate when you will ovulate.
By using these consistently you can keep an eye on your hormones and get to know your cycles.
This will help you to work out whether you ovulate regularly on the same day of each cycle.
A basal body thermometer (BBT) measures your basal body temperature.
This is your temperature first thing in the morning.
You’ll need to buy a special thermometer and make sure to use it exactly as intended.
It involves taking your temperature as soon as you wake up each morning.
Basal body temperature is important because it indicates that certain hormones are starting to rise in your body.
Pregnancy hormones, such as progesterone, warm your body after you’ve ovulated.
A rise in your body temperature can tell you that you’ve already ovulated, but it’s not a clear indicator of when you will ovulate.
It can help you to get to know your cycle better for the future, though.
When do you ovulate before a period?
By the time you’re trying to have a baby, you’ve probably been having periods for a while.
You’re likely to be familiar already with the symptoms of your menstrual cycle.
Symptoms are things like:
- Breasts that are sensitive to touch
- Mood swings
- Increased appetite.
Most women are less likely to be familiar with ovulation symptoms.
Here are some signs of ovulation:
- A pinching sensation near one of your ovaries
- Light cramping in your lower belly or lower back
- Light spotting.
Most women won’t feel any ovulation symptoms, so it’s more difficult to rely on them to figure out when your ovulation occurs.
Practising natural family planning for a few months before trying to get pregnant can be a useful tool for learning about your menstrual cycle and the signs of ovulation.
This method can include using contraception when having sex around your fertile days, until you’re confident that you know when your ovulation occurs.
If you take the time to learn about your cycle in this way, it can give you enough information and awareness to increase your chances of getting pregnant when you and your partner decide you’d like to have a baby.
You can also ask your doctor for advice on this method.
How can you tell if you are ovulating?
Another way to increase your chance of getting pregnant is to keep an eye on your cervical mucus.
Most women have probably never been given information about cervical mucus before but it’s an important part of getting pregnant.
What is cervical mucus?
In a word, it’s discharge.
Most women are familiar with discharge.
It changes throughout the cycle, and even throughout pregnancy.
Read more about the different types of cervical mucus.
What does ovulation discharge look like?
Day 1: The first day of a woman’s period is the first day of her menstrual cycle. Periods bring a type of mucus that includes blood and the lining of the uterus. The chance of getting pregnant on the first day of a woman’s menstrual cycle is almost zero.
Days 1-9: A woman’s typical period length is 3-5 days. If you’re concerned that your period is outside of the average menstrual cycle length, see your doctor for more information.
As the woman’s menstrual cycle progresses towards the ovulation phase, she might begin to notice signs of ovulation as the egg is released into the fallopian tube.
You might have noticed that at a certain point in your menstrual cycle, you have a lot of discharge.
For the average woman, this is a sign that she’s entering her fertile days.
This is called the fertility window, and the chances of the woman becoming pregnant if intercourse occurs during this window is, on average, 25%.
If you’re trying to achieve pregnancy, using your mucus as a sign can provide useful information about how to proceed.
A sign you should be looking for when you’re waiting for ovulation is a discharge of egg white consistency.
Egg white consistency discharge will be:
- In large amounts.
As mentioned, ovulation usually occurs, on average, on day 14 of a woman’s cycle.
We’ve already seen the chances of ovulation actually occurring on this day, so if you want to achieve pregnancy, you should get in tune with your cycles to increase your chances.
Start to look out for egg white consistency in your discharge for a sign that you might be close to ovulation.
Ovulation period for pregnancy
If you have a short cycle length, it could be a bit more tricky to pinpoint this ‘egg white’ discharge.
And it will be more difficult to pinpoint ovulation based on discharge.
This is because it’s possible to get pregnant if you have sex while you have your period.
Dr. Andrew Orr says there’s a “1-6% chance” of achieving pregnancy if you have sex while you have your period.
The reason is this:, although average cycles are 28 days long, they can be anywhere from 23 to 35 days long.
Even though the chance of getting pregnant on day one of your period is almost zero, if you have a short cycle and long periods, there’s a chance that sperm entering your uterus when you had sex during your period can result in pregnancy.
As long as the egg and sperm meet around ovulation, pregnancy can occur.
If you experience short cycles, you might have to rely on other methods than checking mucus.
Although you will still see the same type of mucus, your chances of getting pregnant will be decreased unless you have sex as often as possible.
Are you most fertile at the beginning or end of ovulation?
As mentioned, the most reliable way to track your cycle and know when ovulation occurs is by tracking your luteal phase.
The luteal phase usually remains steady.
You are likely to be able to pinpoint the time of ovulation by taking these steps:
- Track your cycles until you know when your next period will arrive
- Count 14 days back from your next period
- Count 5 days back from that day.
Those 5 days are most likely to be your fertile days.
Having sex on those days is the most likely way to bring on pregnancy.
Do you ovulate for only one day?
Once the egg is released from the ovary, it has 24 hours to be fertilised.
This means that you need to make sure that you’ve had sex within 5 days of ovulation occurring.
Ideally, you would have had sex every day during your fertile period.
While some people suggest that the best results for pregnancy come from having sex every 2-3 days until ovulation, this might not be ideal.
Dr. Andrew Orr gives the advice that daily sex will yield better results.
“Storing sperm or long intervals without ejaculation does not make sperm better. It actually makes it worse. You need regular ejaculation to have good quality sperm”.
You can consider your fertile days to include up to 24 hours after ovulation.
To increase your chances of pregnancy during your fertility window, read about the female orgasm here.
After 24 hours, the egg dies and your chance of getting pregnant is again close to zero.
As you pass ovulation, you’ll notice the amount of mucus decreases.
If you’re having trouble figuring out when you ovulate, it might be worth talking to your doctor.
Your doctor will probably want to assess your cycle length and period length.
You might be asked for information such as:
- The first day of your last period
- General questions about your menstrual cycle
- Whether you experience any symptoms of ovulation
- How often you have sex.
Make sure to keep track of any details that might be discussed with your healthcare provider.
Another option is to try working with an ovulation calculator.
You can use one here.
The bottom line is that you are very likely to have a fertility window, and if you have regular sex, your chance of getting pregnant is high.