If you’re trying to get pregnant this year, you need to understand the mechanics of when you can conceive. Whether a woman or a man, trying through intercourse or looking into artificial insemination, it can only help to understand your body, or your partners, and the processes and changes it goes through that lead to better or worse chances at conception.
With an understanding of what your body’s doing, and an ovulation monitor that can help to track it, you stand a better chance of getting pregnant when you plan to – and you boost your chances of successfully conceiving at all!
Two Halves of a Cycle
The menstrual cycle can be divided into two halves, with ovulation as the fulcrum in the middle, and your period as the bookend around the rest. From the end of your period your body is in what’s known as the Follicular Phase. Your ovaries cultivate a group of immature eggs – around 15 to 20 – in small sacs called follicles. This process is driven by two hormones: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH), and they encourage these eggs to mature. Eventually one outpaces the others, and this egg is favoured, while the others are painlessly reabsorbed by the body.
When the egg is fully mature (at around fourteen days, though cycles vary), a surge of the luteinising hormone causes the ovary to eject the egg into the fallopian tubes, and it starts its journey towards the uterus.
The Luteal Phase
The Luteal Phase isn’t as discussed as the Follicular Phase but it’s as important to fertility. After your ovaries have ejected the mature egg, your body shifts its attention to the uterus, hormones driving a thickening to the endometrial lining so that, if the egg is fertilised successfully it has a generous cushion to bed into and begin the process of growing into a foetus and then a baby.
The Luteal Phase can last around 11 to 17 days – the menstrual cycle is a flexible process! If it’s shorter than 10 days you may experience problems conceiving, so it’s well worth tracking and understanding your cycle.
Within this cycle – frequently 28 days long, but often varying, there is a relatively small window of time in which sex can result in pregnancy. Sperm can survive in the body for up to 3 days, while an egg has a 12 to 24 hour fertile life after being ejected from the ovaries. This gives you a window of four days in which sex can result in pregnancy – and understanding your cycle helps to narrow down that window and help you conceive successfully when you want to!