F*ck, your period has started. Again. Every month, there’s frustration and disappointment when seeing blood stains in your underwear. If you want to become pregnant, the very last thing you want to know about is menstruation. However, do keep on reading. Because knowledge of the menstrual cycle is a must. Especially if you want to increase the chances of pregnancy.
– BY YAYERI VAN BAARSEN –
Sex every day? Not necessary at all
Having sex every single day so you’ll get pregnant as soon as possible? Not necessary at all. Your partner’s sperm cells can be the world’s best swimmers, but if you have intercourse outside your fertile window, this won’t help a thing. In fact, too much sex can be counterproductive. If you have sex several times a day for a longer period of time, the sperm quality decreases because the sperm count gets too low.
Important is to have intercourse at the right moment. During ovulation, which on average is on day 14 of your cycle. But also a few days earlier. Sperm lives for about three days in a female’s body and before conception, the sperm cells need to swim all the way to the fallopian tube.
Forgot to have sex on day 14? No worries. There aren’t many women who have a menstrual cycle of exactly 28 days every single month. Sometimes your period already starts on day 27, the next month it hasn’t begun yet on day 31. Because ovulation happens about two weeks before the start of your next menstruation, women with a long cycle could ovulate on day 16 or 17. If you have a short cycle, it could already be on day 12. That’s why you shouldn’t get too hung up on the calendar.
When exactly is that ovulation?
After ovulation, the egg stays alive for one day max; hence why the fertile window is from a few days before to only one day after the ovulation. A woman is most fertile in the hours just after ovulating. But when exactly does ovulation happen?
One way to find out is by checking your temperature every morning, directly after waking up. The day after ovulation, it rises with 0.3 to 0.5°C. Straight back into bed with your partner when this temperature rise occurs? Unfortunately, you’re probably already too late. This method is best used to gain insight in your cycle: track your basal body temperature every day, make a chart and after a few months you see exactly on which day you ovulate. If you always have a regular cycle, that is… And don’t forget that other things (such as illness, alcohol consumption, even waking up a few hours later than usual) can also influence your body temperature.
Ovulation tests measure the concentration of luteinising hormone (LH). About one to two days before ovulation, levels of this hormone are at their highest: the so-called LH-surge. Get an ovulation test kit (also called ovulation predictor kit (OPK), dip a test into your urine every day and when the LH are at peak levels, you’ll get a positive result. In other words: the best time to have sex if you want to conceive.
Some women don’t need a calendar or test; they can feel it when they’re ovulating. Ovulation pain (also called mittelschmerz) feels like a one-sided sharp pain in the lower abdomen, at the level of the ovaries. It resembles menstrual cramp, but doesn’t last as long. Ovulation pain can be accompanied by tender breasts and/or ovulation bleeding; light bleeding during ovulation, exactly halfway through your cycle.
Don’t feel a thing? Check your discharge. Your cervical mucus becomes see-through and stretchy in the fertile period. Is your discharge clear, shiny, and elastic enough to pull threads between two fingers without it breaking? Then that’s the perfect time to have sex. A lot of women experience an increased libido as they approach ovulation, which means they feel more horny and have a greater interest in sex when they’re fertile. Pretty handy!
Clever girls get pregnant in time
To increase your chances of becoming pregnant, have sex every other day from after your menstruation until after ovulation – and possibly every day in the days surrounding ovulation. Still no positive result on the pregnancy test after a year? Visit your GP or gynaecologist. If you have a very short (less than 24 days) or very long (more than 35 days) cycle, or a condition that can cause fertility problems such as PCOS or endometriosis, you should contact a doctor immediately. Over the age of 35? Don’t wait a full year. Make that appointment already after half a year of trying to conceive without success.
Getting a degree, travelling the world, building a career. The average menopause age is 51; plenty of time to start trying for kids when the biological clock really starts ticking. Or isn’t there? Well, not always. Realise that your fertility already decreases from the age of 30. If you’re older than 35, the chances of becoming pregnant go down even more. In your forties? There’s a high chance that you’re already in the middle of the perimenopause. That’s why the heavy periods that bother many women between 35 and 50 aren’t a sign of fertility. They’re actually a sign that you aren’t very fertile anymore… In other words: clever girls get pregnant in time.
Corona vaccines and becoming pregnant
It’s a hot topic: the possible link between corona vaccinations and menstrual disruptions. But what about the corona vaccine and getting pregnant? Don’t let rumors scare you. There are no indications that corona vaccines can cause infertility, says Lareb, the Dutch Knowledge Centre for Adverse Drug Reactions (ADRs). Also the NHS claims there’s no evidence the Covid-vaccinations have any effect on your chances of becoming pregnant, and recommends the Pfizer BioNTech or Moderna vaccines for pregnant women. There hasn’t been any evidence that the vaccine can cause harm to the pregnant woman or the unborn baby.
However, lots of women have reported changes in their menstrual cycle after being vaccinated. Their periods are later, earlier, or way heavier than usual. These post-vaccine menstrual irregularities are probably linked to body’s normal immune reaction. Most women will return to their normal pattern after a couple of months.
If your cycle is messed up for a few months, it’s of course trickier to exactly predict when you’re ovulating (and thus when you’re fertile). This can make it a bit harder to conceive in the first few months after the vaccination. Mind you: more difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Although the chances are very small: you can even get pregnant when menstruating!
Period! is an independent, online magazine about all aspects of menstruation. Period! is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you’re suffering from medical complaints, always visit your doctor or GP. Editorial articles can contain affiliate links. Sponsored collaborations can be found in the category Spotlight. Do you have any questions? Check our Contact page.
Photo above: Drew Hays via Unsplash. Photo in the middle: Amr Taha via Unsplash.
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