Watch your menstrual cycle and know how timing matters for fertility

Pregnancy planning involves getting the fertility window right, and there are various ways to track your ovulation. Know about it all!

pregnant with PCOS
Track your fertility period if you want to conceive. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Radhika Sheth Updated on: 12 August 2022, 20:04 pm IST
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Fertility has a lot to do with timing! Not just when it comes to age, but also about timing your intercourse at the right time of the month. A woman ought to keep an eye on her menstrual cycle and know her fertility window.

What is fertility window

Although women are born with close to 2 million eggs, only 300 to 400 are released by ovulation during their lifetime. Usually, only one egg is released every month. The egg travels along one of the two fallopian tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus. If the timing is right, the sperm may fertilize the egg. If fertilization does not happen within 24 hours of the egg being released from the ovary, the egg dies. Sperms can survive for about 72 hours, so knowing the time of ovulation can help couples plan sex at a time when they are most likely to conceive.

Fertility window is the time during the menstrual cycle when the chances to conceive are maximum. For most women, it is the five days prior to ovulation, the day of ovulation and the day after ovulation. Calculating the monthly fertility window can help identify the optimal time for couples trying for a baby to have sex.

Know the basics of fertility
A pregnancy occurs when a sperm fertilizes an egg. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Know when you are ovulating:
Identifying the day of ovulation is the most important step in defining a woman’s fertility window to maximize her chances of getting pregnant. There are a few different fertility awareness methods which couples can use to plan a pregnancy (and, to avoid a pregnancy by couples opting for natural family planning as a method of contraception). Using a combination of these methods is likely to be more reliable.

Ways to track your fertility and ovulation

  1. Calendar method

The calendar method can be used to track the length of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Each month, the first day of the menstrual period should be marked on a calendar. The number of days between the first day of two consecutive periods, is the length of the menstrual cycle. A more accurate estimate is when this menstrual calendar is tracked for a period of at least six months. Nowadays, there are apps available to track periods. Check out the Health Shots Period Tracker which makes life much easier for you!

Ovulation is about 14 days before the start of a new menstrual cycle. The fertile window is the five days before ovulation, the day of ovulation and the day after ovulation — so about seven days in total.

However, in case of irregular periods, the calendar method is not accurate.

period tracker app
There are several period apps available to track your fertility window. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Cervical mucus method:

During the menstrual cycle, hormonal fluctuations change the quantity and consistency of the cervical mucus.

The maximum probability of getting pregnant is around ovulation when the mucus is wet, stretchy, and slippery, like the consistency of raw egg whites.

So, by checking the vaginal mucus and charting the results, the probable day of ovulation and the fertility window can be identified.

3. Basal body temperature method:

A woman’s basal body temperature rises slightly during ovulation, by 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature should be measured each morning using a basal body thermometer as the first thing, even before getting out of bed. A basal thermometer is more sensitive than a regular thermometer. These results, when charted, would show a sustained rise in the basal body temperature after ovulation.

Once the rise in your temperature is identified, ovulation generally has already occurred, which is why basal body temperature method is not good at predicting the fertility window. However, if charted and tracked for 3 months or more, it is a good tool to monitor a woman’s pattern of ovulation.

4. Ovulation predictor kits:

Ovulation predictor kits are home-based tools to help predict ovulation. These tests may be helpful in women who have regular periods but are still not sure of picking up natural signs of ovulation (cervical mucus or a rise in basal body temperature). Ovulation predictor kits test urine for levels of a hormone called LH (luteinizing hormone). When the ovulation predictor test turns positive, ovulation would typically occur within 24 hours, indicating the time the couple should try naturally. These kits might not be reliable in case of irregular periods.

Fertility
Remember you have to work together to plan a pregnancy. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How to make the most of your fertility window

For the best chances of pregnancy, the couple should have sex every day or alternate in the fertility window.

Some women have irregular periods, which means that periods are not in the 21-to-35-day range or cycle intervals vary by more than seven days each month. This calls for a consultation with a fertility specialist.

This irregularity may be due to a hormone imbalance and could make it difficult to calculate the fertility window using natural family planning methods.

In addition to tracking ovulation to determine one’s fertile window, it is important to schedule preconception counselling with a doctor. There are many tests and lifestyle modifications that can help increase the chances of a successful planned pregnancy.

Here are some fertility tips for couples trying to conceive:

Do’s:

* Take care of yourself. Consume a healthy diet, indulge in adequate exercise, avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
* Identify your fertility window and have sex daily or every other day in this period
* See a fertility specialist if you have irregular periods
* If you are under 35 and have been trying to conceive for more than a year, or if you are over 35 and have been trying for over six months, you need to see your doctor.

Don’ts:

* There are no specific positions that increases your odds of conceiving.
* Avoid using lubricants and vaginal douches. These may negatively affect sperms and prevent them from reaching the egg.

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About the Author
Dr Radhika Sheth Dr Radhika Sheth

Dr Radhika Sheth, Consultant Fertility Specialist, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, Mumbai (Malad and Vashi)

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