Defining OvulationOvulation is the process by which a mature egg is released from a follicle that has developed in your ovary. For healthy women, with normal hormone balance, ovulation is something that occurs monthly. For women with 28-day cycles, ovulation occurs around day 14. Fertilization of the egg can only happen for 12 to 24 hours after ovulation. This time frame is when you are most fertile and the likelihood of becoming pregnant is much higher. Your chances of getting pregnant are best if you have sex when you are ovulating.
Why Is My Chance of Getting Pregnant During Ovulation Higher?You are most fertile three to four days before ovulation and about 12 to 24 hours after ovulation. Sperm are able to survive for three or four days in the female reproductive tract and your egg can live for 24 to 48 hours following ovulation. These two facts create approximately a 5 day period that you need to have sex if you want to get pregnant. After the 12-24 hours, your egg will disintegrate. You will not get pregnant from having sex at any other time during your cycle. Having sex close to the time of ovulation will increase your chances of getting pregnant. In women, who experience regular cycles, there is a 25 percent chance of becoming pregnant each cycle. This means that 75 to 85 percent of women will become pregnant within one year if they are having intercourse without birth control. Of course, this makes knowing your fertile days even more important. Noticing your hormonal and physical changes each month can provide some clues about when ovulation is close.
Your Age and Your Chances of Getting Pregnant Each MonthKnowing when you ovulate isn't the only thing that affects your chances of getting pregnant. Unfortunately, your age can also affect your chances of getting pregnant each month. ASRM outlines your chances of getting pregnant each month in their Age and Fertility. A Guide for Patients report. They state: "A woman’s best reproductive years are in her 20s. Fertility gradually declines in the 30s, particularly after age 35. " At 30, you have 20% chance of getting pregnant each month. If you are not having sex during your fertile period around ovulation, that percentage will drop to almost nothing. By the time you are 40, that success percentage drops to below 5%. That means less than 5 women out of 100 will successfully get pregnant in any given month at 40."
How do I Know When I'm Going to Ovulate?The easiest way to determine when you will ovulate is using ovulation predictor kits. As stated above, they will let you know you will be ovulating soon. Ovulation comes with many physical signs, giving you a good idea as to when it will occur. Some physical signs that you might experience include:
- Breast Tenderness
- Discomfort in the Lower Abdomen – About 20 percent of women experience discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen when the egg is leaving the ovary. This condition is known as "mittelschmerz" at can last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
- Changes in Cervical Mucus – Before ovulation, cervical mucus is generally cloudy and thick in nature. Right before ovulation, it becomes clear, slippery, and stretchy and resembles raw egg whites.
- Basal Body Temperature Shifts – Right after ovulation, your body temperature can increase anywhere from 0.4 to 1.0 degrees Fahrenheit. You need to track your BBT for several months to accurately determine when you are ovulating though.
TL;DR - Too Long; Didn't Read SummaryYour chances of getting pregnant are highest when you have sex at ovulation and are in your 20s. If you meet these criteria, you have about a 25% chance of getting pregnant each month of trying. The older you get, your odds of getting pregnant each month decreases. Having sex at non-fertile times is fun, but won't get you pregnant.
Wilcox AJ, Dunson D, Baird DD. The timing of the “fertile window” in the menstrual cycle: day specific estimates from a prospective study. BMJ: British Medical Journal. 2000;321(7271):1259-1262.
"Pregnancy." Trying to Conceive. Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2017. https://www.womenshealth.gov/pregnancy/before-you-get-pregnant/trying-to-conceive.html
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