What is ovulation? Ovulation is when your ovary releases an egg. This window of opportunity for the egg to get fertilized is actually pretty short: 12 to 24 hours. However, sperm are able to survive for a lot longer (from 3 to 6 days) and still fertilize the egg. Ideally, having sex the day you ovulate would maximize your chance of pregnancy, but even having intercourse a few days before ovulation can result in a successful pregnancy, since sperm can survive for so long. However, having intercourse after ovulation though is likely going to just result in a missed opportunity.
So how can you best predict the optimal time to have intercourse and get knocked up? Ovulation usually occurs halfway through your menstrual cycle, roughly day 14. The average woman has a 28 day cycle counting from the first day of one period (day one) to the first day of the next period. But, as with everything pregnancy-related, there's a wide range of normal here (anywhere from 23 to 35 days). If your menstrual cycle is not within this range, you should consider consulting with your doctor because you are not likely ovulating and may need an evaluation to figure out why.
How to predict the big "O" (no, not that one..get your mind out of the gutter)?
Get an online app! There are multiple apps that can help you predict your fertility window. All you have to do is enter your last menstrual period and it will calculate your fertility window. Remember to have intercourse on everyone of these days 1-2 times per day to maximize your chances (a common misconception is that having intercourse so frequently will affect the quality of your partner’s sperm). Personally, my favorite ovulation app is “Glow” because it’s very easy to use and gives a percent of successful pregnancy based on the day and your personal profile based on information you enter. Really, though, there are hundreds of apps out there so download a couple of them and play with them until you are comfortable- remember most of these apps are free!
Buy an ovulation predictor kit. You can buy these kits at any pharmacy. They look like pregnancy tests, and all you have to do is pee on a stick. These tests are looking for a rise in luteinizing hormone, which peaks 12-24 hours prior to ovulation. They are pretty accurate and can really help you predict ovulation. The downside to these tests is they can be pricey- $20-50 per kit per cycle.
Don't waste your time with these...
1. Charting your basal body temperature: the idea is that you chart your temperature first thing in the morning. During the first half of your cycle estrogen dominates and your temperature will be lower than it is in the second half of the month, after ovulation. This is tedious and generally a complete waste of time because by the time you see a rise in temperature, ovulation has already occurred and you have missed your precious window of opportunity to have intercourse- ughhh...
2. Cervical mucous tests: the idea is to check your cervical mucous everyday- closer to ovulation will go from white/ cloudy and stretchy to copious thinner clearer and a slippery consistency similar to an egg white. If you try to stretch it between your fingers, you'll be able to pull it into a string a few inches long before it breaks. Now I know what you're thinking..pretty gross right? The only thing I have known this test to do is cause my patients a lot of confusion and anxiety.
So, now you know a little more about how to plan intercourse in order to increase the odds of pregnancy. Scheduled sex probably sounds a little tedious, but it should still be fun for you and your partner. Just relax and don’t put too much pressure on yourselves, and then practice should make a perfect baby!