Inability to conceive despite repeated attempts may leave couples bewildered and desperate, looking for reasons of the same. While it may be attributed to serious ones like male and female infertility, the reasons might be as simple as wrong timing of their attempts at conceiving. In more specific words, the couple may be trying but not timing it right.

Technically speaking, the woman can get pregnant only during a specific period of time during her menstrual cycle, neither before that and nor after that. For this reason, it becomes all the more important for a woman to understand her menstrual cycle so that she can hit the bull’s eye when it comes to timing her conception attempt.

Fertile Window: Timing it right!

As said earlier, there is a specific time during the menstrual cycle when the woman is best prepared for conceiving, that is the egg is best equipped to be fertilized by the sperm. On the average, this period falls nearly five days before ovulation and extends through to the day of ovulation. This six day period is the best time to try conceiving by having unprotected sexual intercourse.

The fertile window reflects the time when the woman’s egg is most receptive for the sperm to fertilize it; as the mature egg moves down from the ovaries ad travels through the fallopian tubes. Additionally, it also takes into account the lifespan of the egg (approximately 24 hours) and that of the sperms (about 5 days), so that they are in a favorable position to combine for successful conception.

For a couple that has sex outside this fertile window, the chances of conception are practically zero. On the other hand, they increase to 10% if the attempt is carried out 5 days before ovulation, steadily rising till two days before ovulation and up to the day of ovulation, reaching the peak of 27-33%. Gradually, the chances of pregnancy decline after this period and a woman is no longer able to conceive 12-24 hours after she has ovulated.

Understanding ovulation

Ovulation is the release of mature egg from the ovary, following which it travels through the fallopian tube where it can get fertilized by the sperm under favorable condition. Every woman has a unique menstrual cycle and ovulation marks the period which is taken as a yardstick for her ability to conceive.

The average length of the menstrual cycle is 28 days, beginning at day 1 of her menstrual period and ending on the day when she has her next period. Typically, ovulation occurs at around day 14 of the cycle, with day 12, 13 and 14 being the most favorable days for conception. The rule of six day fertile window applies to all, though the exact days may vary from women to women, depending upon the length of her menstrual cycle. For instance, a woman who has a 21 day cycle ovulates on day 7 and day 5, 6 and 7 are most fertile while the one who has a 35 day cycle ovulates on day 21, with day 19, 20 and 21 being the best for conception.

When ovulation takes place, there is an increase in estrogen levels which results in thickening of uterine lining so that it becomes receptive for the fertilized egg. At the same time, there is a upsurge in the levels of another hormone called LH or luteinizing hormone, which triggers the release of mature egg from the ovary. Ovulation is timed at 24-36 hours after LH release and the best time for fertilization is up to 24 hours after ovulation, which represents the peak fertility period.

Ovulation Tracking

The menstrual cycle of a woman may not work like clockwork, which makes it important to track it for finding the most suitable timing for ovulation and thus, conception attempt. The following methods may be used for ovulation tracking:

Basal Body Temperature (BBT) is a useful parameter for gauging the fertility of a woman and finding the exact time when she ovulates. The basal body temperature thermometer is a special kind of thermometer which is used to record the BBT every morning before leaving the bed. The temperature is charted on a daily basis and a rise by about half a degree indicates that the woman is ovulating. In this way, she can determine a pattern of ovulation by recording BBT for a few months and get to know about her fertile window, which happens to come 2-3 days before the peak BBT and 12-24 hours after ovulation. The BBT remains high till the woman gets her period and the chance of conception go down three days after the initial spike in the temperature.

Cervical mucus consistency is another way to establish the timing of ovulation. The normally sticky and cloudy cervical mucus changes consistency similar to that of egg whites, clear and slippery, when a woman ovulates. This happens for a period of 3-4 days which indicates the fertile window.

Ovulation predictor kit refers to the calendar method of ovulation tracking. This kit works on the basis of records of 8-12 previous menstrual cycles to get average figures about the timing of ovulation. The average length of menstrual cycle is estimated and 17 days are subtracted from it to chart the time when the testing should be started. For instance, a woman who has 28 day cycle needs to start using the kit on day 11 (28-17) and a positive test indicates that she is most likely to ovulate within 24-36 hours period.

Once a woman is able to understand and track her menstrual cycle, she can know all about the fertility window. Accordingly, it is possible to try for conception or for that matter, look for natural contraception by avoiding sexual intercourse during these days.

Gaudium IVF is one of the top IVF clinics in India and is renowned for bringing the advanced treatment for male and female infertility, in addition to effective gynecological solutions for diverse conditions faced by women of reproductive age. The clinic counsels and educates patient o important aspects like timing the conception attempt right.

Contact for a free second opinion and expert advice from Dr Manika Khanna, the top infertility specialist in India.