Whether you’re trying to conceive or using natural family planning for birth control, timing is everything. Knowing when you’re most likely to get pregnant each month will help you to maximize the window of opportunity or practice abstinence during your fertile periods. Track your cycle for a few months to get familiar with the signs of ovulation, and if you find it difficult to pinpoint the precise date, opt for an ovulation predictor kit that will help to remove the guesswork.
A woman’s cycle can be divided into three sections: a pre-ovulation period of infertility, a fertile period and a post-ovulatory infertile period called the luteal phase. Ovulation takes place during your fertile period each cycle -- an egg is released from an ovary -- and you are able to conceive. In general, ovulation occurs around cycle day 14 of a normal 28-day cycle.
Many women veer from the standard norm, and ovulation can take place several days before or after this calculated average. In general, ovulation takes place approximately 14 days prior to the start of your next menstrual cycle, explains the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. If your cycles are longer than 28 days, ovulation likely takes place after cycle day 14. Alternatively, if you experience shorter cycles, ovulation probably occurs before.
Recognizing Fertility Signs
Monitoring for signs of fertility each cycle can help you to pinpoint when ovulation occurs. Take your temperature before getting out of bed each morning -- your basal body temperature -- and record the reading on a chart. There may be a slight dip in temperature on the day of ovulation followed by a sustained rise in temperature of 0.4 to 1 degree Fahrenheit, advises the American Pregnancy Association. Tracking your cervical fluid is another way to identify your fertile period. As ovulation approaches, your cervical fluid changes from tacky or sticky to clear and stretchy -- like egg whites -- the American Pregnancy Association explains.
Maximizing the Fertile Period
While ovulation only takes place on one day each cycle, your fertile period is a bit wider. Sperm can survive in the vaginal environment for up to 5 days, advises the New Jersey Natural Family Planning association, so it is possible to conceive from intercourse in the days leading up to ovulation. Furthermore, the egg that is released from the ovary at ovulation remains fertile for a period of up to 24 hours, the American Pregnancy Association explains. Therefore, your fertile period ranges from approximately 5 days prior to ovulation and continues for a day afterward. Intercourse each day -- or every other day -- during this period confers the greatest likelihood of conception for healthy, fertile couples, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine.
Women under the age of 35 have a 20 percent chance of conception each cycle when intercourse takes place during the fertile period if both partners are healthy and do not have subfertility or infertility issues, states the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM). Approximately 85 to 90 percent of women conceive naturally within one year, according to the National Women's Health Resource Center's Healthy Women website.
Women under the age of 35 should try to conceive naturally for at least 12 months before seeking a medical evaluation. Beyond the age of 35, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine recommends women speak with their health care providers about assisted fertility after 6 months of trying to conceive.