People ovulate at different times throughout the menstrual cycle. So the only way to make sure you’re timing sex correctly is by tracking your unique cycle. Unfortunately, misunderstanding the fertile window is one of the biggest mistakes people can make when trying to conceive. And if your cycle is irregular, it can be especially difficult to pinpoint ovulation, as it may not be at the same time from cycle to cycle.
Timing sex with ovulation
To get pregnant through intercourse, sperm must travel through the cervix and into the fallopian tube. There it will fertilize the awaiting egg and form the embryo that develops into a baby. An egg is only available to be fertilized for about 24 hours each cycle, but a sperm cell can live up to five days, making a total of six days in which sex can lead to intercourse during each cycle. Of these six days, sex is most likely to lead to conception on the day of ovulation and the two days prior, so you may want to plan for intercourse on each of these days.
One study reports that people who have sex every other day during the fertile window have a 22% chance of conceiving each cycle, while those who have sex every day during the fertile window have a 25% chance of conceiving. Even though it’s a small edge, you may want to consider having intercourse every day of the fertile window if you can.
How can I tell when I’m fertile?
If you know when you ovulate and are fertile, timing intercourse is a piece of cake. But pinpointing the fertile window may not be easy for everybody. Thankfully, there are several indicators of fertility that you can track in your Ovia account to help you determine the best time.
Cervical fluid helps usher sperm along to your waiting egg. It is one of the body’s main fertility indicators because it changes in consistency throughout the menstrual cycle. Cervical fluid may be thick and white, like school glue, immediately following a period, then become watery. It becomes thin, stretchy, and clear when approaching ovulation, indicating you’re in the fertile window. Since this is the type of cervical fluid that’s best able to bring sperm to your egg, recognizing changes in consistency can be a valuable tool in pinpointing your fertile window.
Basal body temperature
Your basal body temperature is your lowest body temperature during a given day. Usually, it occurs immediately upon waking in the morning. Due to the influence that certain hormones, like progesterone, have on your body temperature, you may notice fluctuations throughout your cycle that correlate with an upcoming or past ovulation. Some people notice an ever-so-slight dip in basal body temperature in the day or so before ovulation. More frequently, they’ll notice a spike about 24-48 hours after they ovulate. While this post-ovulatory spike isn’t particularly helpful for a single cycle, tracking the increase can help predict ovulation and the fertile window across multiple cycles.
Ovulation test strips search for the presence of luteinizing hormone (LH), as the level of LH in the body surges in the 24-36 hours before ovulation. Tracking with ovulation test strips is an excellent way to confirm an upcoming ovulation, but it’s important to use other methods too. Ovulation tests can only clue you in about a day or two of your fertile window.
Your body gives you other hints about when you might be fertile. Many people notice one-sided abdominal cramping or lower backaches, known as mittelschmerz pain during ovulation. The release of an egg from an ovary can sometimes cause discomfort. Other symptoms may include a heightened sex drive, breast tenderness, or light spotting.
Other things to consider
When timing sex around your ovulation and fertile window, you have about an equal chance of conceiving whether you have intercourse every day or every other day (though every day has a slight edge). Determining precisely when you ovulate can be difficult. But it’s easier once you get into a rhythm of listening to your body’s natural signs and logging them in the Ovia app so we can do all of the analysis for you!