Fertility and Ovulation
Blame sex-ed class, or the lack of conversation around the dinner table pertaining to sexual health, but a shocking amount of woman (and men!) don’t know the basic facts of when a woman is most fertile.
Never fear, there are some simple ways a woman can understand and learn when she is ovulating.
Its All About The Six Days
According to data, there are about 6 days each cycle where a woman has a chance of conceiving.
They include the day of ovulation (meaning the entire 24 hours after the egg is released and travels down the fallopian tubes) and the 5 days just before ovulation. Outside of this window, the chance of conceiving significantly drops.
In fact, the day two days before ovulation presents the best chance of all, followed by the day before and the day of ovulation.
This critical six day window is commonly referred to as your fertile window. Knowing when this six day window occurs in your cycle is important to increase your chance of conceiving (Or, to avoid becoming pregnant!).
Since the day of ovulation can vary month to month, a woman’s 6 day fertile window varies and can be difficult to predict based on how long the menstrual cycle is in length.
A much better approach is to look at all the days of the moth and see, based on statistical data, what the probability is of being in your 6 day fertile window for each day. To say it differently, what are all the days during your cycle when there is a chance you are in your fertile window and therefore can become pregnant?
THE FERTILE PHASE OF YOUR CYCLE
The fertile phase of a woman’s cycle includes the fertile window (those 6 days of the month where intercourse can result in pregnancy) AND all the days in the cycle in which a woman may be within the window. That is, the fertile phase incudes any day in your cycle where sexual intercourse could result in pregnancy.
For a woman to define the fertile phase of her cycle, she needs to first understand when she is ovulating. Ovulation can be identified by using ovulation strips (bought from a local drug store), however, there are various other signs and symptoms that can suggest ovulation.
According to the Wilcox study, most women have a 5% or greater chance of being in their fertile window anywhere from day 6 to day 21 of their cycle (Counting from day 1 being the first day a woman bleeds).
Remember, if you are using oral contraceptives (birth control pills) or other hormonal medications for contraception, the goal of these therapies is to inhibit ovulation (ie these medications are to stop a woman from ovulating to prevent pregnancy). Therefore, signs of ovulation would not pertain to an individual using these medications.
Also, if you have recently given birth, ovulation is delayed. In all of the studies combined, ovulation started, on average, between 45 and 94 days after a woman gave birth. However, in two studies women started ovulating as early as 25 and 27 days after giving birth (ie there is a chance you could become pregnant again very soon after delivering your baby!).
Ovulation often takes a longer time to resume in woman that breast feed their babies, however you can still become pregnant (despite your period not yet returning). Exclusive breast feeding decreases risk of pregnancy, but not by 100%. If you are exclusively breast feeding your baby, it can take up to an average of 15 months for your menstrual cycle to return.
Signs of Ovulation
Despite the fact that ovulation varies from woman to woman, the biological changes that occur during ovulation are fairly consistent for each person.
There are primary symptoms of ovulation are a bit more common in woman, however some woman also experience what is known as secondary signs of ovulation.
Primary Symptoms of Ovulation:
• Increase in cervical mucus volume (a woman will often notice this increase in mucous in her underwear, or when she wipes after she uses the toilet. Additionally, during sexual intercourse, there may be a noticeable amount of natural lubrication)
• Thinning of cervical mucus (some woman note that it appears more like a “raw-egg white” in texture)
• Spike in basal body temperatures (this can be noted by a woman taking her temperature as soon as she wakes on a daily basis and charting her temperature. When the temperature spikes, and maintains this elevation over the next few days, it is another sign of ovulation)
• Change in cervical position or firmness
Secondary Symptoms of Ovulation:
• Light spotting
• Pain on one side of the lower abdomen (note that the side of pain may change from month to month and ovulatory pain is typically a dull ache and not a sharp or shooting pain)
• Breast tenderness
• Increased libido
• Heightened sense of smell, taste or even vision
If you do not notice these signs and symptoms, that is OK, some woman have very subtle ovulation signs that can be difficult to pick up on.
However, if you are of child bearing age (typically between 15 years – 40 years of age) and period is irregular, or you have months where you do not bleed and you also do not experience signs of ovulation, we would recommend you speak to a health care provider.
Irregular cycles can be due to a variety of reasons, however between 1 in 10 and 1 in 20 women of childbearing age have a condition known as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). These woman do not always ovulate each cycle and hormones are often in an unbalanced state. As a woman gets older, her periods naturally become more irregular as her hormones begin to decrease and she is no longer as fertile.
This stage of life is known as perimenopause (around menopause) and often begins around the age of 45-48 years old. Menopause is defined as one full year without a menstrual period. The average age a woman experiences menopause is 52 years old.
This article first appeared in nowcure.me, the one stop shop to find tips & tricks to a happier and healthier you!