Using birth control correctly has made it easy to prevent unwanted pregnancies. But when the time comes to start a family, not all women know how to increase the chances of conceiving. While letting nature takes it course will usually result in pregnancy at some point, giving Mother Nature a helping hand can help a woman get pregnant faster. One of the best ways to increase the likelihood of pregnancy is to use an ovulation calculator, which helps a woman identify the optimum day for conceiving. But to use the calculator most effectively, it will help to understand how the ovulation cycle works.
How the ovulation cycle works
Baby girls are born with ovaries filled with hundreds of thousands of eggs. The ova remain dormant until puberty, at which point the pituitary gland produces hormones that stimulate the ovaries to produce the female sex hormones, including estrogen. The secretion of these hormones causes a girl to sexually mature and begin ovulating, which typically occurs around every 28 days or so.
Ovulation is regulated by a complex system of hormonal and chemical secretions from the ovaries, the hypothalamus in the brain, and the pituitary gland, which controls most hormonal secretions. Women can ovulate anywhere between every 22 to 30 days, although it’s typically around every 28 days. Ovulation occurs mid cycle, so for most women it’s around the fourteenth day, or two weeks before the start of menstruation. Women with longer cycle you will ovulate later; with a short cycle it will happen earlier.
During ovulation, the ovaries release eggs into the fallopian tubes, which are no wider than a sewing needle. The fallopian tubes are lined with tiny hairs that push the egg toward the uterus.
If the egg is fertilized by a sperm, it moves to the uterus, becomes implanted in the uterine lining, and grows for the next nine months. If the egg is not fertilized while in the fallopian tube, it dries up and exits the body about two weeks later, along with blood and tissue from the inner lining of the uterus, in a process called menstruation.
An egg is able to be fertilized for only about 12 to 24 hours. That means the most fertile time of your menstrual cycle is approximately two to three days before and after ovulation. Sperm can live in the body for three to five days, which gives a window of about five to seven days to get pregnant.
There are several ways to determine the optimal time to get pregnant. It’s possible to identify ovulation by changes in the body such as fertile cervical mucus which occurs during ovulation. Cervical mucus is thicker and more slippery than normal vaginal discharges, which helps keep the sperm alive as it travels to the egg.
Right before ovulation, a women’s level of Luteinizing hormone (LH) increases. So when the hormone is at its highest, it means the woman is about to ovulate. You can buy LH test strips at the pharmacy to check hormone levels in urine.
The traditional way is to take your temperature with a basal thermometer, which is designed to show the slightest of body temperature changes, as soon as you wake up. In the majority of women, body temperature rises slightly right after ovulation occurs each month and does not go back to normal until the woman’s period begins. This time of elevated temperature is the optimal time to become pregnant. Some women write down their temperature on a calendar in order to see the pattern that emerges.
However, many women use an ovulation calculator to help identify their peak fertilization time. To use the calculator, input the exact date your last period started and the average number of days between cycles. The calculator then calculates the fertility window, the ovulation date, and the estimated pregnancy due date.
Other calculators ask for your average luteal phase, which is the number of days from ovulation to the end of your menstrual cycle. If you do not know yours, use the average of 14 days for most women. But you can be more accurate by charting the signs of ovulation through the methods previously mentioned to get an average of your luteal phase and use that info for the calculator.
Just a reminder: ovulating is not the same as being fertile—the ability to produce offspring. If after an extended length of time you fail to get pregnant, you may want to consult with a physician to see if there are any physical factors or conditions affecting you or your partner’s fertility. That’s why tt is always advisable to work closely with your doctor once you decide to get pregnant. Have a thorough physical to make sure you are in optimum health and aren’t suffering from any condition that could compromise your health or the fetus’s, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
Also, talk to your doctor about nutrition. It is also a good idea to prepare for pregnancy by getting eight hours of sleep, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet. Your doctor may suggest taking certain vitamins and adjust your diet to improve your chances for conception, such as reducing or cutting out processed meats, refined sugars, and dairy products for a few weeks.
Weight can also affect fertility so instituting an exercise plan that helps you drop a few pounds can also help conception and improve your overall health.