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Quick GuideBoost Your Fertility: Ovulation Calculator, Pregnancy Planning and More
Tips for trying to conceive*
*Trying to conceive facts medically edited by: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
- If you are trying to get pregnant (conceive), you have the best chance of success if you are aware of your menstrual cycle and changes that happen to your body during that time.
- It helps to know when you are fertile and able to get pregnant. A woman’s fertile time is usually a few days per month in the middle of her menstrual cycle and represents the time when a woman ovulates.
- There are three ways to track your fertile times: 1) basal body temperature method, 2) calendar method, and 3) cervical mucus method (ovulation method).
- Many women experience miscarriages or pregnancy losses, or cannot conceive at all (infertility).
- Infertility in women can be caused by age, health problems (like PCOS), uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and pelvic inflammatory disease, and negative lifestyle factors.
- Infertility in men may be caused infertility in men are sperm gene defects, negative lifestyle choices (alcohol and drugs), toxins (lead, pesticides), STDs, diabetes, and prostate or testicle problems.
- There are several treatment options for infertile couples including drugs, surgery, intrauterine insemination (artificial insemination), assisted reproductive technology, third party assistance, adoption, and foster care.
This article offers tips for those desiring to have a baby, offers advice on what to do when trying to conceive to determine your fertile period, and discusses options for those who are having trouble conceiving.
When can a woman get pregnant during her menstrual cycle?
Being aware of your menstrual cycle and the changes in your body that happen during this time can help you know when you are most likely to get pregnant. See how the menstrual cycle works.
The average menstrual cycle lasts 28 days. But normal cycles can vary from 21 to 35 days. The amount of time before ovulation occurs is different in every woman and even can be different from month to month in the same woman, varying from 13 to 20 days long. Learning about this part of the cycle is important because it is when ovulation and pregnancy can occur. After ovulation, every woman (unless she has a health problem that affects her periods or becomes pregnant) will have a period within 14 to 16 days.
Knowing when you're most fertile will help you plan or prevent pregnancy. There are three ways you can keep track of your fertile times. They are the: 1) basal body temperature method; 2) calendar method; and 3) ovulation method (cervical mucus method).
Taking your temperature to conceive
Basal body temperature is your temperature at rest as soon as you awake in the morning. A woman's basal body temperature rises slightly with ovulation. So by recording this temperature daily for several months, you'll be able to predict your most fertile days.
Basal body temperature differs slightly from woman to woman. Anywhere from 96 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit orally is average before ovulation. After ovulation most women have an oral temperature between 97 and 99 degrees Fahrenheit. The rise in temperature can be a sudden jump or a gradual climb over a few days.
Usually a woman's basal body temperature rises by only 0.4 to 0.8 degrees Fahrenheit. To detect this tiny change, women must use a basal body thermometer. These thermometers are very sensitive. Most pharmacies sell them for about $10. You can then record your temperature on our special Basal Body Temperature Chart (PDF, 555 KB).
The rise in temperature doesn't show exactly when the egg is released. But almost all women have ovulated within three days after their temperatures spike. Body temperature stays at the higher level until your period starts.
You are most fertile and most likely to get pregnant:
- Two to three days before your temperature hits the highest point (ovulation)
- 12 to 24 hours after ovulation
A man's sperm can live for up to three days in a woman's body. The sperm can fertilize an egg at any point during that time. So if you have unprotected sex a few days before ovulation, you could get pregnant.
Many things can affect basal body temperature. For your chart to be useful, make sure to take your temperature every morning at about the same time. Things that can alter your temperature include:
Drinking alcohol the night before
- Smoking cigarettes the night before
- Getting a poor night's sleep
- Having a fever
- Doing anything in the morning before you take your temperature - including going to the bathroom and talking on the phone