Women's Health

Understanding Your Menstrual Cycle, and Pregnancy

Apart from being healthy, Sex Or intercourse at the right time (to be technical about it), is needed for you to get pregnant, and the best time to try and conceive is during the ‘fertile window’ of the menstrual cycle. This, however, is different for different women.

There are only six days during any cycle when a woman can get pregnant – the five days leading up to ovulation (because sperm can live for up to 5 days in a woman’s body) and the 24 hours after ovulation (the ovum lives for only 12-24 hours). Getting pregnant is all about timing, and you want to make sure the conditions are right for egg and sperm to meet. For the observant ones, your menstrual cycle can give you clues about when your body is ready to start the process.

Understanding Ovulation

Ovulation is when a mature egg is released from the ovary, pushed down the fallopian tube, and becomes available to be fertilized by any viable sperm.

Just about every month, an egg will mature within one of your ovaries, and as it reaches maturity, the egg is released by the ovary where it enters the fallopian tube to make its way towards meeting a sperm in the uterus.

At this point, the lining of the uterus will be thickened to prepare for the fertilized egg, but if no conception occurs, the uterine lining, as well as blood, will be shed.

The shedding of the unfertilized egg and the thickened uterine wall is known as menstruation.

Key Facts Of Ovulation:

  • Each woman is born with millions of immature eggs that are waiting for ovulation to begin.
  • An egg live 12 – 24 hours after leaving the ovary
  • One egg is usually released each time of ovulation
  • Ovulation can be affected by stress and sicknesses
  • Some women may experience some light blood or spotting during ovulation.
  • Implantation of a fertilized egg normally takes place 6-12 days after ovulation.
  • It is possible that a menstrual period can occur even if ovulation has not occurred, and vice versa (Ovulation can occur even if a menstrual period has not occurred).
  • If an egg is not fertilized, it breaks up and is absorbed into the uterine lining.

How to Chart Your Menstrual Cycle

Most women have a 28-day menstrual cycle, and the first step is to learn the days when you’re most fertile. You have about 6 days each month when you can get pregnant, and that includes your ovulation day (the day that one of your ovaries releases an egg) and the 5 days before.

There is a need for you to chart your menstrual cycle and record how long it lasts, and since the length of your cycle can vary slightly from month to month, it’s best to keep track for a few months.

  • Day 1 is the first day of your period,
  • Once you have an average length of your cycle, subtract 18 days from the length of your shortest cycle.
  • This is the first day you’re likely to be fertile.
  • Next, subtract 11 days from the length of your longest cycle, and that is the last day you’re likely to be fertile.
  • Having sex between those two dates will present the best shot at getting pregnant.

Basal Body Temperature (BBT)

It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the signs that your body is ready to ovulate, and checking your basal body temperature (BBT) is one way to do this.

The BBT is your temperature first thing in the morning. It is believed that just after you ovulate, it rises slightly (sometimes by less than a degree) and stays higher until your period starts.

If you record your temperature every day, you can spot the slight changes that mean one of your ovaries has released an egg.

You can also use the ovulation calculator on this site if you know the date of your last period, the length of your cycle and your cycle is regular. The calculator will help identify your ‘fertile window’ and predicted ovulation date.

The Fertile Window

The fertile windows are the days in a woman’s menstrual cycle when pregnancy is possible, and pregnancy is technically only possible during the five days before ovulation through to the day of ovulation. These six days are the ‘fertile window’ in a woman’s cycle.

If a woman has sex six or more days before she ovulates, the chance she will get pregnant is practically zero, and if she has sex five days before she ovulates, her probability of pregnancy goes up (about 10%).

The probability of pregnancy rises steadily until the two days before and including the day of ovulation, after which the probability of pregnancy declines rapidly. About 12-24 hours after ovulation a woman is no longer able to get pregnant during that cycle.

For women with regular cycles between 26-32 days, it is much easier to simply know that you can get pregnant as early as day 8 of your cycle and on all the days in between, through day 19 of your cycle.

If you have intercourse often during this time, you have an extremely high probability of getting pregnant, and as you become more familiar with your cycles, you will begin to notice fertility signs such as secretions or light cramping which may help you pinpoint ovulation.


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